USC Trojans: Orwin Smith

Hyundai Sun Bowl primer

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
5:30
AM PT
Who to watch: This could be another national showcase for USC wide receiver Marqise Lee to prove that he is the most dynamic player in the country. Lee won the Biletnikoff Award winner and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after a season which saw him set a conference mark for catches (112 -- the leading total nationally) and receiving yards (1,680). He also led the conference in kickoff return yardage. Lee left USC practice early on Saturday with an undisclosed leg injury and did not return but is expected to play in the game.

What to watch: The most compelling matchup should be the USC defense against the Georgia Tech “flexbone” triple-option offense. The Trojans have struggled in 2012 against various versions of the option, and Tech executes its run-based version at a very high level -- it was No. 4 in the nation with more than 312 rushing yards per game. The Yellow Jackets have a talented senior at quarterback in Tevin Washington, and he has an impressive 19 touchdowns on the ground. Look for USC senior safety T.J. McDonald to be very aggressive near the line of scrimmage in run support.

Why to watch: There have been a lot of questions about how motivated the Trojans would be for the Sun Bowl after a disappointing 7-5 season following their preseason No. 1 ranking. That perception was helped by some disparaging player tweets toward the host city of El Paso, Texas, and a late arrival to a bowl dinner. USC coach Lane Kiffin has preached to his team for the need to stay focused on the game, and the performance of his team will show how well that message was received. Georgia Tech is certainly an opponent that is capable of taking advantage of any lack of game readiness.

Prediction: USC 31, Georgia Tech 21

At the end of the day, the Trojans will simply make more plays than the Yellow Jackets. Lee isn’t the only playmaker on the USC offense, there are guys such as Robert Woods, Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal who can explode at any time. This could be the final college game for Woods, who will announce after the game if he is leaving school early for the NFL draft. The Trojans will enter the game without Matt Barkley, who will sit out with a shoulder injury, but Max Wittek can get the ball downfield with his strong arm. Georgia Tech A-back Orwin Smith will help keep things close for the Yellow Jackets. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury but is averaging over nine yards per carry this season.
LOS ANGELES -- After taking part in an early evening practice on Wednesday, the Trojans went right back to the grind Thursday afternoon, impressing USC head coach Lane Kiffin with their ability to bounce back with another strong bowl game workout after such a short break.

“It’s not easy, they’re coming back after a later practice yesterday -- less than 24 hours off for back-to-back, full-padded, full-tackling practices -- that’s very unusual,” Kiffin said. “So, I thought they responded well.”

The unorthodox schedule over the last two days occurred primarily because of finals, but Kiffin believes that there is also some strategic value in it.

“One of the things about bowl games is trying to get players to buy into the [idea] that it’s not a soft, long time atmosphere -- rather than tell them, ‘Well, we still have 10 more [practices or] we still have 9 more,’ " Kiffin said. “The problem with that is then you’re finally practicing, and you’ve had a long layoff of having really physical stuff. So our plan has been to have a couple of really hard ones right now, almost as if you’re playing a game.”

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