USC Football: Struggling Run Defense Signals Tough Bowl Matchup vs. Georgia Tech

Shawn BrubakerContributor IIDecember 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03:  Kenjon Barner #24 of the Oregon Ducks runs away from Jawanza Sterling #29 of the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

USC's 58th-ranked run defense has struggled all season, and drawing a bowl matchup with the fourth-ranked rushing attack in the country is certainly no way to rectify these problems. Still, that's what USC must do in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech if the Trojans hope to win.

Recent history is against the Trojans. In three of their past four games, the Trojans have given up over 150 yards rushing, with Notre Dame racking up 222 rushing yards and Oregon accumulating a whopping 426. 

Especially embarrassing was the 62-51 loss to the Ducks, in which Kenjon Barner rushed for an eye-popping 321 yards and five touchdowns.

Another performance like that will guarantee a Trojan loss. Unfortunately for USC, a repeat performance looks likely against an elite Georgia Tech rushing attack.

Despite a 6-7 record, the Yellow Jackets have managed to rank fourth in the nation in rushing with 312.5 yards per game. 

What makes the Georgia Tech running game special is their ability to run the ball effectively with a variety of players. Nine players have racked up over 100 rushing yards, and six have exceeded 400. 

Orwin Smith leads the way for the Yellow Jackets. Despite ranking fifth on the team in carries, Smith led the team with 673 yards on a stellar nine yards per carry clip. Smith was doubtful for the ACC Championship Game and eventually didn't play, but he should be good to go for the Sun Bowl.

Dual-threat quarterback Tevin Washington might lack the efficiency of Smith, but he runs this offense efficiently and is just a year removed from his stellar 2011 season, in which he ran for 987 yards. Washington is a talented quarterback who will be extra motivated to end his college career in style.

Matt Barkley will be hoping to do the same for the Trojans, but he will need some help from his defense. The Trojan defense must step up and stop the Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack, or it will be an even more difficult offseason for USC.