Depth and a bit of inexperience at the heart of the offensive line could mar the No. 25 USC Trojans (8-5) as they aim for a second straight Holiday Bowl victory when facing the Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) Wednesday night at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The Trojans are hoping to wrap up a tumultuous season by giving new head coach Clay Helton his second bowl win after previously serving as the interim head coach in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2013. But USC will have to do so without reserve cornerback Kevon Seymour, receiver Isaac Whitney, as well as starting left tackle Chad Wheeler.
The senior Seymour, who recorded 24 total tackles and one interception playing 11 games behind starters Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall, suffered a high ankle sprain last week and while he initially hoped to be a game-time decision, Helton has all but ruled him out, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Junior Zach Banner is expected to move into Wheeler’s position after the police and fire departments responded to a report for a “disorderly” person near USC, though Wheeler wasn’t arrested. Wheeler started 12 of the Trojans 13 games this season, missing only Oct. 24’s matchup with Utah due to a concussion.
Banner started all of 2014, but freshman Chuma Edoga will take over at right tackle. Edoga took over for Wheeler against the Utes and USC gained just 116 rushing yards, the second-lowest total of the season, while surrendering 3.0 sacks.
Edoga was a Parade first-team All-American coming out of McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, and he’s hulk of a tackle at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, but Wisconsin’s pass rush generated 26 sacks and surrendered a mere 97.4 rushing yards per game.
The Badgers are also relatively healthy as they head into their first bowl game under head coach Paul Chryst, and they can throw punishing and leading pass rushers Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel towards Edoga’s side of the line all game.
Whitney has missed the last eight games due to a broken collar bone, but when in the lineup he’s caught eight balls for 112 yards and two scores. The Trojans can still rely on leading receiver JuJu Smith and Steven Mitchell Jr. as quarterback Cody Kessler’s top targets, however, the more options the better USC will be against the Badgers No. 1 ranked defense.
Updated odds: The Trojans opened as -3 favorites, and line’s moved even more in their favor to -3.5, according to VegasInsider.
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: USC over Wisconsin, 30-17