Louisville will look to end the season on a high note against one of the most prestigious football programs in the country in USC. Lincoln Riley will be finishing off one of the worst seasons in his career but will also have an opportunity to jump-start the immediate future of his program in this bowl game. Riley will be without some important players but he has done a great job bringing in talent since his arrival and we will all get to see how he can utilize that talent.
Caleb Williams is the most well-known player for either program but will not be playing this week. Williams will be sitting out as he prepares for the NFL draft. After winning the Heisman last year, many expected another run at the award but the team’s struggles ended that possibility pretty quickly. Miller Moss will replace Williams under center.
Moss is an experienced backup with a full season of games under his belt over three seasons. Moss has mostly played in mop-up duty but when he has been in the game he has been effective and accurate. He hasn’t been put in a position to have to throw the ball down the field or make many decisions, he has shown just enough to lead me to expect a solid performance. Moss can run fairly well if things break down and he has looked comfortable when he’s gotten on the field going back to his freshman year.
Running back will be another position that will have some unknowns. Marshawn Lloyd is headed to the NFL so I expect Austin Jones to get the bulk of the carries. Jones has over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns since the start of last season and he has an opportunity to showcase what he can do for NFL scouts.
While he only weighs 200 pounds, Jones runs like a much bigger back. He routinely sheds tacklers and runs through arm tackles. I was also impressed by how he transitioned from being a tough runner to realizing that he needed to turn on the jets and outrun people.
Zachariah Branch. That’s it. That’s the entire section about USC’s receivers. One of the most explosive players in the country, Branch will get touches in every way possible and he can score any time he touches the ball. UofL will focus on him as there aren’t any other proven threats. Here’s to hoping that the plan to stop him succeeds.
USC is ranked 107th in sacks allowed but the fact that more than half of their tackles for loss on the year have been sacks says a lot about their performance on the offensive line. PFF ranks the line as one of the better groups in the country which makes it pretty obvious that a lot of the sacks that were given up should be attributed to the quarterback.
USC’s running backs all averaged over 5.5 yards per carry individually which would lead me to expect an even larger focus on the running game from Riley. He has an offense that will be missing key players but his line has blocked well in the run game and the reliance on Caleb Williams won’t be an issue. I think he will get Branch the ball often but his running backs will be the key to the offense behind this offensive line.