Holiday Bowl Breakdown: Iowa Vs. USC
Breaking down Friday's Holiday Bowl between Iowa and USC.
Time and place — 7 p.m. (CST), SDCCU Stadium, San Diego.
TV — FS1 (Gus Johnson, play-by-play; Joel Klatt, analyst; Jenny Taft, reporter)
Radio — Hawkeye Radio Network. Also on Sirius Ch. 138 and XM Ch. 196.
Records — Iowa 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten), USC 8-4 (7-2 Pac-12)
Series — USC leads, 7-2.
College Football Playoff — Iowa is No. 16, USC is No. 22
Associated Press — Iowa is No. 19, USC is No. 22.
Coaches — Iowa is No. 19, USC is No. 23
Spread — Iowa -2 1/2
Over/under — 52
Moneyline — Iowa -135, USC +115
• Iowa is 8-8 in bowl games under coach Kirk Ferentz since 2001. Only Ohio State and Wisconsin have won more among Big Ten teams during that time.
• Iowa is 2-0-1 in Holiday Bowls. The Hawkeyes defeated San Diego State and Wyoming and tied BYU.
• Iowa's next win will be the 162nd under Ferentz, tying him with Joe Paterno for fourth all-time among Big Ten coaches.
When Iowa has the ball
This is a chance for Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley to make history.
Stanley is going for his third bowl victory, something that only Ricky Stanzi (3-0) has done.
He is the fourth Iowa quarterback to start three bowl games — only Chuck Long (2-2) has done four.
His impressive career includes a 26-12 mark, including 11-3 in trophy/bowl games.
Ferentz talked about Stanley and what he has meant to the Hawkeyes on Thursday:
Stanley should have a full group of wide receivers — Brandon Smith, who played just one play over the final five games of the regular season because of an ankle injury, is expected back.
Those kind of options have helped Stanley have a solid senior season.
This also could be a key game in the development of freshman running back Tyler Goodson, who started the final three games of the regular season and rushed for a team-high 590 yards.
USC's defense gave up 1,998 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns this season, so the Hawkeyes should be able to control the ball if they get an early lead.
Middle linebacker John Houston led the Trojans with 100 tackles, including 63 solos, this season. Strong safety Talanoa Hufanga had 76 tackles despite missing three games.
When USC has the ball
The Trojans are going to throw it. A lot.
True freshman Kedon Slovis got his first taste of game action late in the first half of USC's season opener against Fresno State, and he's taken control of the job. Slovis was the Pac-12's offensive freshman of the year and the newcomer of the year after throwing for 3,242 yards and 28 touchdowns.
"I'm a quarterback coach by trade and to watch a young man grow from game one to where he is now, that's what you want to see as a head coach, especially at the quarterback position," USC coach Clay Helton said on Thursday. "I thought our team would grow as our quarterback grew, and as he got better and more confident, more comfortable and became a better quarterback throughout the season, so did our team.
"So he's a huge reason that we're sitting here today in San Diego."
Wide receiver Michael Pittman leads the Trojans with 1,222 receiving yards and 95 receptions. Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns each have 68 catches.
"It's a tough preparation and it's going to be tough to play them out on the field because they have got really outstanding players," Ferentz said. "Their receiver core is as good as we've seen. Just talked about the quarterback, he's extremely impressive, for any age, but for a freshman, it's uncanny how poised he is back there. He's slippery. It's going to be a challenge for us."
Helton is just as complimentary about Iowa's defense, which has allowed just 13.2 points per game, sixth best in the nation. The Hawkeyes held seven opponents to their season low in scoring.
"It's one of the best defensive fronts we've faced all year, and I think they do a great job on first and second-down efficiency," Helton said. "They are so well-coached. You don't see them missing assignments or getting out of gaps and if they get you in third-and-long, they are elite. I truly believe their pass rush on third down allows them to play advantage coverages because they can rush four and get to you, and that's always a deterrent for offenses.
"You have to stay in that third-and-manageable against them, and that's how they are, that bend-but-don't-break, because they get off the field. You look at that third down percentage efficiency, it's one of the top 20 in the country, and as well as their defense, and it's the reason that they are only giving up 13 points a game."
The Hawkeyes have a chance at a 10-win season, their main goal since their Big Ten West Division hopes crashed in the loss to Wisconsin.
They've been relaxed since then, and they should be that way in this game.
If anything, the Hawkeyes have an emotional edge. Their helmets will be missing the Tigerhawk logo to honor former coach Hayden Fry, who died last week. It will be the last game for Stanley and the other seniors, and it could be the last game for defensive end A.J. Epenesa, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Geno Stone, who may leave a season early for the NFL.
Helton's job status seemed tenuous at the end of the season, and the Trojans have been through the roller coaster of whether he was going to stay or be let go
This is a game where the Hawkeyes want to get control early on the young Trojans. The first quarter will set the tone.