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DIRECTV Holiday Bowl What To Watch For: USC Trojans

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 UCLA at USC Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ZACHARIAH BRANCH IS GOING TO MAKE SOME PLAYS

I’ve made it a point to be honest when UofL is facing a great player and they are facing a great player in Zach Branch. The true freshman All-American has scored touchdowns four different ways this season and his role on offense will only grow in the bowl game with USC down a few starters.

Branch is the type of player I call a “loose pitbull” because when he gets the ball, defenders immediately pause. He does a great job of setting up blockers on returns and picking his spots to create a seam. He can make people miss in the open field or run by them. I also think it’s impressive how he uses his quickness in his route-running.

Miller Moss is an inexperienced quarterback and I would be surprised if Lincoln Riley doesn’t get the ball out of his hands quickly and into Branch’s hands in space.

It should go without saying that Louisville should not kick the ball to Branch under any circumstance.

JEFF BROHM NEEDS TO REMOVE THE GOVERNOR ON THE OFFENSE

UofL will be without two key players on offense but Jeff Brohm should change some things up on offense. I think the Cards should put as much pressure on USC’s putrid defense as they possibly can. I’ve been looking for Brohm to hunt big plays more often but I think the offense needs something different.

Brohm’s offenses at Western Kentucky went fast. Brohm’s offenses have typically finished at or above 1,000 plays but barring something out of the ordinary, his 2023 squad will finish just above 900 plays with an extra game this year.

Jack Plummer knows the offense well enough to run a fast-paced offense and big plays can be born out of confusing the defense and keeping them off-balance. Brohm should let it rip and use speed to put his offense over the edge against a defense that has been preparing for what they’ve seen all year.

USC WILL BE MISSING SOME PLAYERS BUT THEY STILL HAVE PLENTY OF TALENT

The Trojans will come into this game without their top passer, receiver, and rusher. But, I think the impact of those missing players is being overblown a bit. Caleb Williams is obviously a massive loss that could make my whole point moot if Miller Moss can’t meet the moment but I don’t think the other players are a huge loss.

USC recruits at an elite level and Lincoln Riley did a good job utilizing the portal to add some players who could help immediately. As I pointed out earlier, Zach Branch is a future star who will slide right into an increased role. Austin Jones had 7 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry as the backup running back. Tajh Washington is also the Trojan’s leading receiver and he will be suiting up.

Also, as bad as the USC defense has been this year, they are not expected to be down more than a couple of players for the game. Jeff Brohm would do well to turn this into a track meet because he has more to work with but it won’t be an easy matchup with the depth of talent USC has.