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Louisville Cardinals and USC Trojans battle in the Holiday Bowl

Holiday Bowl Parade 2017_11 Uploaded on January 2, 2018
'Holiday Bowl Parade 2017_11' Photo Credit: Port of San Diego via Flickr

On Wednesday the 27th of December the Louisville Cardinals and USC Trojans will do battle in the Holiday Bowl from San Diego, California. With #15 Louisville coming into the contest at 10-3 after losses to Kentucky and Florida State in the ACC Championship. USC enters at 7-5 after losing their final three games of the season. This game will offer both teams some redemption and a building block going into the off-season and next year. Who will make the most of it, time will tell when the teams kick off. Let's dig into the matchup and some key factors in the game.

Quarterback - Miller Moss vs Jack Plummer. The quarterback position has the biggest spotlight and this game will be no exception. For the Trojans, 2022 Heisman winner, Caleb Williams has opted out of the contest to prepare for the NFL Draft. Enter Miller Moss, the sophomore quarterback who has gotten limited snaps as the backup to Williams will lead the Trojans' offense. Unlike Williams, Moss is a pure pocket passer who has a solid arm and quick release. In his first meaningful game action, he is a question mark for coach Lincoln Riley. For Plummer, he has found his offense and led the Cardinals to a second-place finish in the ACC. He is putting the finishing touches on a career year setting high marks in yardage and touchdowns. He's got a solid arm and can throw the ball to all areas of the field. He can also extend and create opportunities with his feet. Advantage - Louisville Cardinals. With Williams out and getting ready for the NFL, the experience of Plummer will show up to lead.

Offensive weapons - This one is tough to find a needle mover of a matchup. With Brenden Rice, Mario Williams, and MarShawn Lloyd all opting out for the Trojans. Meanwhile, Jawhar Jordan and Jamari Thrash have both opted out for the Cardinals. For the Trojans, Tahj Washington said the bowl game will be the final one for his Trojans career. Washington is a speedster who can line up all over the field and shows solid route-running ability. He's got a quick first step off the line and shows no fear of running into traffic and making contested catches. Will Zachariah Branch step into a larger role for the Trojans offense, he is already a prolific returner for the Trojans. Will Washington's running mate on offense come from playmakers? For the Cardinals, missing their leading receiver as well as their leading rusher is huge. Chris Bell and Isaac Guerendo will have to step up for the game as the Cardinals turn the page on 2023 and head into the off-season in a bigger way than they have.

Defense - TJ Quinn vs Mason Cobb. As the saying goes defense wins championships. Louisville finished second in the ACC allowing 307 yards per game and just under 20 points per game. While USC struggled on defense, finishing next to last in the Pac-12 allowing 439 yards per game and 35 points per game. Mason Cobb led the Trojans as the team's leading tackler while defensive end Solomon Byrd made a living this season in opponent's backfields leading the team in sacks with six. Cobb shows a good closing speed and quickness in his reading/reaction to opposing offenses. He's got the athletic ability to drop into coverage as well as attack the quarterback. For the Cardinals, the defense is led by leading tackler TJ Quinn who plays physically and through the whistle. He shows good range in his coverage areas and closes quickly to make tackles. His running mate on defense is the team's sack leader, Ashton Gillotte. With 11 sacks on the season, he has made his mark tormenting opposing quarterbacks. He's shown a solid ability to beat blockers in a variety of ways. He also sheds his blocks well to make the tackle. Advantage - Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals know how to play defense and have been stingy all season. They will need their best game on Wednesday for the Cardinals.

Prediction - Louisville wins by 10. While the game lost some of its appeal with the various opt-outs for both teams, the game is still poised to be good. Both teams have the weapons to take control of the game on offense and defense. While the game stays close, the defensive effort by the Cardinals proves the difference maker.


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