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GEORGIA TECH vs. USC
Monday, Dec. 31, 2:00 pm
CBS No offense to the Sun Bowl, but one has to assume the USC Trojans are less than thrilled to be here. USC was the top ranked team in the preseason, and Matt Barkley flat out said he had returned for his senior year because he believed this USC team could win a national title. Not only did they not win a national title, but the Trojans lost five games during an extremely disappointing regular season. The Sun Bowl might be a nice bowl destination for some schools, but USC can’t be overjoyed about this game. On the other side of this matchup is the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is here despite losing more games than they won this year. Georgia Tech put up a valiant effort in the ACC Championship Game against Florida State, but they eventually fell, 21-15. Paul Johnson’s team can still run the option as well as anyone in the country, but they can’t throw and they have had trouble stopping anyone on the defensive side of the ball.
There are plenty of storylines to go around in this one. USC alone has plenty of storylines to talk about heading into this game. Lane Kiffin has been rumored to be on the hot seat at USC. He might not lose his job if the team loses this game, but it will put that much more pressure on next year’s team to succeed. Kiffin said he’s been assured he’ll be back next year, but we know there have been coaches who have been told that who never came back. An embarrassing performance here would probably make USC administration have some long and difficult conversations. Monte Kiffin, Lane’s father, has already resigned after the Trojans defense put in several pathetic performances this season. This is Matt Barkley’s last game as a college player. He missed the regular season finale with Notre Dame due to shoulder injury, but reports say he should be ready to go in this one. Barkley clearly wants to leave town on a brighter note. His team hasn’t had the success he had hoped for, but Barkley has put together another very good season. There are a lot of NFL teams that would really like to have him on their roster.
Georgia Tech has had one of the best running games in the nation for the past few years, and that is no different this season. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 313 yards per game on the ground, which is fourth best in the country. Senior quarterback Tevin Washington is good at running the option, but he has been terrible throwing the football. Lately, Georgia Tech has been rotating freshman Vad Lee into the game. Lee looks to have a higher upside, but he obviously will have to work through some growing pains. Al Groh was fired as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator in October. A few years ago, Groh was considered one of the hottest coaching prospects in college football. He implemented a 3-4 defense at Georgia Tech, and it didn’t work out well. The defense actually improved a tiny bit statistically this season, but they still allowed more than 40 points in six different games. Charles Kelly is now the team’s defensive coordinator, and he is focusing on trying to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback. Needless to say, Georgia Tech better get some heat on Barkley in this game or they’ll be in quite a bit of trouble.
Will USC be motivated for this game? That really is the biggest question that needs to be handicapped in this one. There is no question that USC has far more talent on its roster than Georgia Tech does. Still, even with top-notch talent, the players have to show up and be hungry for a win. It’s hard to determine how the team as a whole will respond to this game, but I do think Barkley will be ready to end his career with a great game. I don’t think Georgia Tech has the personnel to stop USC and its strong passing attack. Georgia Tech has been able to run the ball on almost everyone, and they should be able to run it against USC as well. The problem I see for Georgia Tech is they could very well get behind quickly and be forced to throw it more often than they want to. Understand and most everyone knows that I follow this team as much as anyone. USC's issues are the result of one person and that is Coach Kiffen. His play calling, his halftime adjustments and his practice methods have created an unstable team this year. Obviously some overthrows by Barkley and stupid penalties are also the cause but I think in this game USC’s talent will show up to make a late-season statement. Look for USC to cover, and look for this one to go over the posted total. I will come back with a more definitive play closer to game time but no matter what the numbers say I am taking USC in a game that has the makings of a rout. With all the injury issues will be sticking with what I believe and playing the Over as I stated weeks ago.