Las Vegas Bowl: No. 25 USC vs. No. 20 Fresno State, Trojans’ offensive keys to victory


Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

1. Give Buck a shot to run wild

With Silas Redd not expected to be available for the Las Vegas Bowl, and Tre Madden’s availability in question, Javorius Allen once again will be heavily relied upon.

In four of the Trojans’ last five games, Allen rushed for over 120 yards and totaled 10 touchdowns.  Fresno State opponents have rushed for an average of 147.66 yards per game, but Allen’s productivity with rely heavily on the depleted offensive line.

Starting offensive linemen Marcus Martin and Aundrey Walker suffered season-ending injuries in the Nov. 30 loss to UCLA.

If the offensive line can create running lanes, Allen has more than proven he can do the rest.

2. Protect Cody Kessler

As a team, the Bulldogs have recorded 39 sacks, which has them tied for first place in the nation.  Consistently giving Cody Kessler time to go through is progressions was an ongoing battle for much of the season.

The Trojans surrendered 33 sacks on the season, good for an average of 2.54 per game. Against the Bruins, the Trojans gave up six sacks.

The offensive line will have another formidable challenge on their hands, and if they struggle to protect Kessler, it could result in a long afternoon for the entire offense.

3. Break big plays

Despite being apt at getting to the quarterback, the Bulldogs are susceptible to allowing big plays.

The Bulldogs defense was gashed for 68 plays of 20 or more yards, 39 plays of 30 or more yards, and 20 plays of 40 or more yards.

If the offensive line and Kessler do their jobs, that should bode well for dynamic athletes the Trojans have on offense.

4. Avoid predictability

Since taking over the play calling duties, Clay Helton has show flashes of keeping the opposing defense off balance.  However, Helton has also had his fair share of perplexing play calls.

At this point in the season, the Trojans have one final game to lay everything out on the line.  Helton shouldn’t call plays with reckless abandon, but more aggression than normal may be in order.

5. Win the special teams battle

Under John Baxter the Trojans had steadily seen improved place from their special teams.  In 2013, that play seemed to be an up and down roller coaster.

Andre Heidari largely struggled through the first seven games of the season before making eight of his last 10 field goal attempts.  The Bulldogs have a prolific offense and if the Trojans need to settle for a field goal attempt, Heidari must convert.

Similarly, the punting unit has been a bag of mixed results.  Kris Albarado kicks was very much in sync with the coverage and the Trojans were often able to tilt the field in their favor.

However as the season wore on, the results left much to be desired.  Derek Carr is a more than capable quarterback who doesn’t need to be given the added benefit of a short field.

Trojans defensive keys to victory