Wisconsin Badgers vs. USC Trojans: Predictions


The Wisconsin Badgers take on the USC Trojans in the Holiday Bowl

The Wisconsin Badgers will look for their first victory against a team with a winning record when they take the field in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl against the USC Trojans.

Related Story: Badgers-Trojans: Holiday Bowl Game Info

The Badgers will look to finish the season with 10 wins, while the Trojans want to cap a season in which their record doesn’t reflect the success they have had and the adversity they have faced.

Here’s how Badger of Honor staff writers think the Holiday Bowl will play out.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

Jon Rzepecki: Wisconsin’s defense is in prime position to show a West-Coast audience how the rest of the nation plays defense before Iowa rolls into Pasadena two days later. It may or may not be Dave Aranda’s last game at the helm of this squad, so this game will provide plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills.

If Aranda isn’t done, then the power of the defense comes solely from Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel, who should contain the USC run game and pressure the Trojans dropbacks. I don’t expect a lot from the offense, and hopefully, Clay Helton doesn’t either. I think the Badgers escape San Diego with a close shave and Stave becomes the program’s all-time leading passer.

Wisconsin 26, USC 24

Erik Buchinger: Wisconsin benefited from a soft schedule to a 9-3 regular season record, and the Badgers are in need of a signature win. Wisconsin has yet to beat a team with a winning record, and USC gives the Badgers one final chance. Whether Corey Clement will be available for the Holiday Bowl is still uncertain, but it sounds like there is a good chance he will be active.

Obviously, the Badgers are much better with Clement in the backfield, although their rushing attack played its best game in the season finale against Minnesota as Wisconsin used its seventh offensive line combination. USC ranks No. 45 in stopping the run and No. 116 in pass defense, so hopefully Joel Stave can get off to a good start in his final game as a Badger. He will likely have a healthier Austin Traylor to throw to as well as Rob Wheelwright, who will return to the field after missing the final four games of the year.

Wisconsin has the top scoring defense in the country but has yet to play an offense as good as USC. The Trojans will be the only team inside the top 30 in points per game that Wisconsin will face this year.

In the end, the combination of USC quarterback Cody Kessler and All-American wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will be too much for Wisconsin’s offense to overcome as the Badgers leave San Diego with a close loss.

Wisconsin 17, USC 23

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Rayan Vatti: As good as Wisconsin’s defense has been this year, they have faced nothing that will prepare them for the speedy, explosive USC offense. Cody Kessler is the best quarterback the Badgers have faced all year. He rarely makes mistakes, as he has only thrown 6 picks all year, even though he takes a lot of shots down field. JuJu Smith-Schuster is not only the best receiver they have faced all year, but he is one of the best in the country, with 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The rest of the Trojan’s receivers also have big play ability, especially after the catch. For Wisconsin to contain the USC offense, they are going to need to tackle well in space, Darius Hillary will need to slow down Smith-Schuster, and the Badgers need to get pressure on Kessler. Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel should be able to take care of the last part, and Hillary hasn’t been beaten deep all year. With Dave Aranda calling plays, one of the elite defenses in the country should be reasonably successful.

But putting up points may be a problem. As porous as USC’s defense is, the Badgers offense has not been much better. With Corey Clement (probably) back, the Badgers may have some more success running the football. But like many other Wisconsin games this year, it will come down to the arm of Joel Stave. And I think that he will end his Wisconsin career on a high note, with a successful 2-minute drill leading to a game-winning field goal by Rafael Gaglianone as time expires. After bad breaks against Iowa and Northwestern, this team is due for a big win.

Wisconsin 27, USC 24

Jim Oxley: The Badgers offense hasn’t had enough firepower to properly reward the great defensive effort so far this season, but with the extended period of practice time, Wisconsin has put in a few wrinkles and will make enough happen to get on the scoreboard. The Badgers have had a chance to get healthy, which means Corey Clement, Robert Wheelwright and Austin Traylor may all be available for an offense that has seen little time with all three healthy.

Meanwhile, the defense is looking to prove it’s worthy of its current standing as the best scoring defense in the country, and will look to hold a high-powered USC attack to just a few scores. If the Badgers defense can keep USC under 30 points, Wisconsin’s offense should be able to do enough to pull out a victory for the Badgers.

Wisconsin 31, USC 28

Next: Predictions for all Big Ten teams in bowl games

Stay tuned to Badger of Honor for more on the Holiday Bowl.