USC flies to El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday for its first bowl game in three years.
One of the big questions to be answered in the coming week is what kind of team will return to Los Angeles after the game.
On pure talent alone, there’s little question that the Trojans will be the better team in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. They are established as a clear favorite in the game and it’s a chance for the Trojans to finish a disappointing season on a good note. Georgia Tech, however, is more than capable of spoiling those plans with a triple option offense that could pose some problems.
A victory in this game for USC goes a long way to putting away the problems of the 2012 season and turning the focus to the future. It would also be a boost of positive momentum for an offseason that will feature a highly ranked incoming recruiting class and many players returning.
A loss has the potential of extending the 2012 season even further down the disappointment scale. Everyone involved with the USC program knows that things went wrong, and they are anxious to put that behind them as soon as possible. The last thing they need is yet another reminder of the season.
It will also be interesting to see where things stand with the quarterback position after the game. Matt Barkley has yet to practice in the bowl sessions and it’s unclear if he will practice once the team returns to the field in Texas. There is a lot of talk that Barkley should play it safe, that he should sit out if his injured shoulder isn’t 100 percent since the upcoming NFL draft process will be so important to his future.
What we don’t know is how Barkley feels about the situation because he hasn’t talked to the media recently. That leaves open the very real possibility that Max Wittek will get the start and this would be another for him to get a jump on the starting job. Wittek looked good enough in his first start against Notre Dame that USC fans will be plenty anxious to watch his progress if he is on the field.
This will definitely be the final game for the USC defense under Monte Kiffin and they certainly couldn’t have picked a more unique match-up for his curtain call. It’s no secret that the Trojans have struggled against teams that run similar systems to the Yellow Jackets. Granted, the vast majority of USC problems have been against spread option teams who throw the ball with more skill that Georgia Tech but there is still enough in common to make this a dangerous opponent.
It’s hard to think that this Sun Bowl could have such a dramatic impact in terms of how the team will move forward, but these are unique times for the Trojans. Now it is time to see how the team responds and turns the page with a transition process that begins with this game.