As if the USC Trojans haven't had enough troubles lately, they'll now be without senior quarterback and captain Matt Barkley when they take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the 79th edition of the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas (2 pm ET, CBS).
The early Sun Bowl odds listed Southern Cal as a 10-point favorite, but with word that Barkley will miss the game with a sore shoulder, most sports books tracked by OddsShark.com have dropped the Trojans to -7.5 points.
USC was supposed to win the Pac-12 this season and play in the BCS national championship game. Instead, the Trojans turned into one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Southern Cal started 2-0, but lost its conference opener at Stanford 21-14.
The Trojans then won four games in a row to get to 6-1, but lost back-to-back at the hands of Arizona and Oregon, giving up 101 total points in the process. USC then beat Arizona State, but completed its regular season with losses to UCLA and Notre Dame.
In the end, the Trojans sit at 7-5 overall and 5-4 in Pac-12 play.
In Barkley's place redshirt-freshman Max Wittek, who went 14-for-23 passing for 186 yards with two interceptions against Notre Dame, will get his second collegiate start.
On the other side of this match-up Georgia Tech hoped to contend in the ACC's Coastal Division this season, and while they eventually “earned” the right to represent the Coastal in the conference championship game, they probably didn't deserve it.
The Jackets opened the season at 2-1 but then lost three in a row, including an upset at the hands of Middle Tennessee. Tech then won four of its next five, putting up 110 points in beating North Carolina and Duke back-to-back.
That was enough to give them the Coastal Division's berth in the ACC championship game, with both North Carolina and Miami on probation.
The Ramblin' Wreck then lost their rivalry game against Georgia 42-10, then put up a decent fight but fell to Florida State in the conference title game 21-15.
The Yellow Jackets then had to get an exemption from the NCAA to play in a bowl game with a losing record, at 6-7.
On the season Southern Cal out-gained opponents by a 452-396 yards per gain (YPG) margin, but was out-rushed 156-155, thanks in part to giving up 426 yards on the ground in that loss to Oregon.
Georgia Tech out-gained opponents this season 447-387, and out-rushed foes 313-148.
Playing well below expectations, USC is 3-9 against the spread (ATS) this season. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has somehow been able to go 8-5 against the numbers.
Because of probation, this will be USC's first bowl game in three seasons, and first under Head Coach Lane Kiffin.
Georgia Tech, playing in a bowl for the 16th straight season, and is 0-4 in bowls under Head Coach Paul Johnson. Last year the Wreck lost to Utah in this same Sun Bowl 30-27.
Sun Bowl Pick: USC, after a 1-4 finish to the regular season, must be disappointed, playing in a minor bowl against a team with a losing record. There is a feeling the Trojans might be happier staying in Los Angeles for New Year's Eve than playing football in El Paso. Georgia Tech should beat the spread against USC (courtesy of PickShark.com).