USC and Fresno State are set to clash for just the third time in school history in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, and the respective offenses that these teams run couldn't look more different. The Bulldogs bring a lethal, pass-happy spread offense that absolutely gasses opponents, while USC runs a slower pro-style scheme anchored by a very effective running game.
Where Fresno State's offense can score and score often, USC's offense has a knack for scoring fast and then petering out as the game goes on. The Trojans find themselves favored going into this game by six points, per Vegas Insider, but it could easily become a blowout by Fresno State if the Trojans defense gets tired early, and the offense is unable to respond.
In some ways, these teams are very similar. The Trojans and Bulldogs average a similar amount of yards per play, as well as overall time of possession. They are similarly efficient in the red zone as well.
|Yards per Play||6.01||6.67|
|Time of Possession||35:25||29:12|
But in all the offensive categories that matter most, Fresno State's offense is vastly superior to USC's.
|Plays per Minute||2.01||2.93|
|Plays per Game||65.3||85.6|
|1st Downs Per Game||19.5||29.5|
|3rd-Down Conversion Rate||34.10%||44.51%|
|4th-Down Conversion Rate||46.15%||68.97%|
The Bulldogs are averaging nearly a full play more per minute than the Trojans are, which could be a problem for USC if this game turns into a shootout. They also gain over 10 more first downs per game and score nearly 17 more points in six less minutes than the Trojans do.
Thanks to quarterback Derek Carr, Fresno State moves the ball incredibly efficiently through the air and stands to absolutely shred USC's weak secondary. Stud wide receiver Davante Adams will be helping in that endeavor: He has an FBS-high 122 receptions for 23 touchdowns on the season and is poised to do some serious damage.
Carr also has only been sacked 11 times on the season, a testament to how capable his offensive line is.
Will USC cover the spread (-6)?
That said, the Bulldogs haven't faced a defensive front as menacing or as aggressive as USC's is, which suggests that Carr's ability to be himself could be hindered a bit. But if not, it's going to be a long afternoon for the Trojans.
The only area where USC dominates Fresno State statistically is in the running game, and it will likely be the effort of the Trojan horses on the ground that carries USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Contrary to popular belief, USC's offense really hasn't been that much more productive since Lane Kiffin got the ax. Rather, it still struggles with the same problems it faced when he was at the helm (unproductive spells), and one in particular will undoubtedly have an impact on this bowl game:
With Clay Helton calling plays, #USC's outscored opponents by an average of 20.4-9.9 in 1st half. 2nd half they've been outscored 9.75-11.5.— Max Meyer (@TheMaxMeyer) December 19, 2013
Because USC's offense moves at a snail's pace compared to Fresno State's, the Trojans will have to make every single offensive possession count. If they don't, Fresno State can very easily dominate this game, as the Bulldogs already bring in an offense built on scoring quickly.
Again, USC is favored in this game, which suggests that Vegas thinks the Trojans can prevent the Bulldogs from scoring. But that will matter little if the Trojans can't score themselves.
USC's ability to light up the scoreboard consistently will be a huge facet of this game and will likely be the biggest difference between an exciting Las Vegas Bowl and one where the Trojans get mired in their own mediocrity.