Dec. 31, 2 p.m., El Paso, Texas (CBS)
USC take by WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz: It wasn’t the bowl scenario USC envisioned when the 2012 season began, but it offers the Trojans a chance to end the disappointing year on a good note.
One of the big storylines will be the status of senior quarterback Matt Barkley, who sat out the regular-season finale against Notre Dame with an injured shoulder. It remains to be seen if he will be able to play in the bowl game.
Barkley is the Pac-12 career leader in passing yardage (12,327) and touchdowns (116). Max Wittek got the start against the Irish in Barkley’s place and performed well enough to have USC fans talking optimistically about his role next season.
No matter who is at quarterback, they will have Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to throw to, and the pair is as good as it gets. Lee set the Pac-12 single season receptions mark this season with 112 catches to go along with 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy and the Biletnikoff Award. Woods set the USC career receptions mark this season, and currently has 249.
On the other hand, it was a season to forget for the Trojans defense. Not a single USC defender earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and the unit gave up so many points (24.6 per game) and yards (396 per game) that Monte Kiffin announced his resignation effective after the bowl game. T.J. McDonald and Wes Horton are among the seniors who will be playing their final game for the Trojans.
The Trojans finished the regular season 7-5 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-12.
Georgia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Georgia Tech needed a bowl-eligibility waiver from the NCAA just to play in this bowl game. That pretty much sums up how good the Jackets were (or weren’t) this year.
Because Miami self-imposed a postseason ban, Georgia Tech backed into the Dr Pepper ACC championship game, which it lost 21-15 on Saturday to Florida State. It wasn’t for a lack of effort -- Georgia Tech was in position to actually win the game and play in the Discover Orange Bowl, as it had the ball and a chance at a game-winning scoring drive on its final possession late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tevin Washington threw an interception with about a minute remaining, though, and that sealed the Jackets’ postseason fate, dropping them to 6-7 and making that waiver of the utmost importance.
Georgia Tech dug itself into such a deep hole this season, it seemed an improbable candidate to win the Coastal Division, let alone play in a bowl game. The Jackets were 2-4, had lost a miserable home game to Middle Tennessee, and had just one ACC win heading into the bye week, when coach Paul Johnson decided to fire defensive coordinator Al Groh. While the move didn’t magically fix the Jackets’ defense, it did spark enough of a turnaround to keep the season from unraveling entirely. Georgia Tech won four of its next five games to cling to hopes of winning the division. Of course, it couldn’t have done it without the assist from Miami. Now Georgia Tech is looking for its first bowl win under Johnson (0-4), and will have to go back to El Paso, Texas, for the second straight season to try and find it. Unfortunately for the Jackets, they’ll have to do it against USC.