USC's 'Brand Name' Makes It Attractive Option for Alamo Bowl

Adam Maya

USC will not officially find out its bowl destination until Sunday midafternoon. One of its potential landing spots, the Valero Alamo Bowl, won’t be able to make a decision on who will be heading to San Antonio from the Pac-12 until then either.

But the choice could become clear following Friday night's Pac-12 Championship Game between Utah and Oregon.

A Ducks win would ensure the Utes are out of the College Football Playoff while almost certainly clinching New Year’s Six bowls for both teams. Utah, almost a touchdown favorite in Santa Clara, could also punch its ticket to the CFP with a convincing win and send Oregon to the Rose Bowl in the process.

If the Pac-12's top two teams are in NY6 bowls, USC is guaranteed to go to the Alamo Bowl given its three-game lead over the next-best teams in the conference.

The real drama begins on bowl selection Sunday if No. 5 Utah wins the conference championship game and doesn’t make the CFP. It means the Utes are going to the Rose Bowl and Oregon, currently No. 13 in the CFP rankings, is in jeopardy of falling out of a NY6 spot. Only six of the 60 teams to be selected for NY6 bowls since its 2014 inception have landed outside the top 12 in the final rankings.

The Alamo Bowl committee would then likely have a decision to make between the Ducks and Trojans. In a Thursday interview with SI, Alamo Bowl CEO Derrick Fox outlined why USC is an attractive option for his New Year’s Eve contest.

“We have not had USC out here before and that would be a key brand name in college football,” he said. “Had a good year and finished strong, winning five of the last six, very exciting football team. So yeah, we’re very much interested in them.”

Oregon, of course, has several factors working in its favor, including a better record in conference play and overall, a division title, and a 32-point win over USC just last month. But it’s also been to the Alamo Bowl twice in the past six years.

“You got to just kind of weigh that out and see what happens on Friday night,” Fox said. “If they (the Ducks) do lose, how badly do they lose? In that case, that would be two of the last three they would have lost. Two and a half weeks ago they’re talking about being a semifinal team, and then how does their team and fan base respond afterwards?”

The Trojans or Ducks would automatically play in the Holiday Bowl if not selected by the Alamo.

Fox noted that another determining factor for his committee is having an enticing pairing between the Pac-12 and Big XII. It’s unlikely that No. 6 Oklahoma or No. 7 Baylor would fall out of a NY6 bowl after Saturday's meeting in the Big XII title game, leaving Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State as the Alamo Bowl’s remaining options.

USC deciding to retain Clay Helton earlier this week, which eliminated the possibility of an interim coach for the bowl game, is another positive development for the Trojans’ Alamo Bowl bid. That none of their key players are expected to pass on the bowl game to prepare for the draft helps as well.

“If we’re fortunate enough to have USC and Coach Helton, we’d love to have them,” Fox said. “From our perspective, it’s great, and we’re happy that they made the decision that they did.”

There’s been some discussion about USC finding its way into the Rose Bowl. The scenario is extremely unlikely given the team’s No. 22 ranking. Fox explained that if Utah were in a national semifinal, the Rose Bowl committee would have some flexibility in its Pac-12 selection. But history says a blowout loss for Oregon isn’t likely to drop them near the Trojans, who are currently nine spots behind.

“If it’s close, there is an element of choice there,” Fox said. “I think they have to be very close.” 

-- Adam Maya is a USC graduate and has been covering the Trojans since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJMaya.