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College Football | Orange Bowl / USC vs. Iowa

Breakdown

January 02, 2003|Gary Klein

USC run offense vs. Iowa run defense

* USC relied on a pass-oriented offense to reach the Orange Bowl, but the Trojan running game opened up the aerial attack. The Trojans are averaging 133.8 yards rushing. Senior tailback Justin Fargas is motivated to complete his only season as a Trojan in style and has gained more than 100 yards in three of his six starts. Backup Sultan McCullough is the Trojans' leading rusher with 738 yards and is capable of breaking outside Iowa's formidable run defense. The Hawkeyes give up only 68.2 yards a game, second best in the nation.

Edge: Iowa

**

USC pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense

* Quarterback Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy after passing for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns. Palmer typically throws after quick drops or on roll-outs, but the fifth-year senior took advantage of play-action fakes late in the season and had plenty of time to throw deeper. Mike Williams (75 receptions), Keary Colbert (65) and Kareem Kelly (43) form one of the best receiver trios in the nation. Tight end Alex Holmes came on late in the season, and Fargas and fullback Malaefou MacKenzie are threats. Iowa gives up 270.9 yards passing per game. Strong safety Bob Sanders, an All-Big Ten player for the second year in a row, leads the secondary. Free safety Derek Pagel and cornerback D.J. Johnson have four interceptions.

Edge: USC

**

Iowa run offense vs. USC run defense

* The Hawkeyes average 222.1 yards rushing. At 5 feet 8 and 177 pounds, running back Fred Russell is tough for defenders to find because he plays behind one of the nation's tallest -- and best -- offensive lines. Russell averages 5.8 yards a carry and has scored nine touchdowns. Quarterback Brad Banks leads the nation in passing efficiency, but he scares the Trojans because of his running ability. Banks averages 32.2 yards rushing and is adept at throwing on the run. USC has not allowed an opposing running back to gain more than 100 yards. The Trojans played against two Russell-sized backs this season. Kansas State's Darren Sproles gained 78 yards, UCLA's Tyler Ebell 56.

Edge: USC

**

Iowa pass offense vs. USC pass defense

* Banks finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up behind Palmer by passing for 2,369 yards and 25 touchdowns with only four interceptions in 258 attempts. Wide receiver Maurice Brown has a team-best 42 receptions and 10 touchdowns. He averages 21.5 yards a catch. All-American tight end Dallas Clark has 39 catches and four touchdowns. USC gives up 201.6 yards passing per game, but that includes eight games in the pass-happy Pacific 10 Conference. Two-time All-American safety Troy Polamalu leads the Trojan secondary and is rarely positioned in the same spot two plays in a row. Marcell Allmond, Darrell Rideaux and free safety DeShaun Hill rarely get beat deep. Reserve safety Jason Leach has a team-best three interceptions.

Edge: Iowa

**

Special teams

* Iowa's Nate Kaeding won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker after making 22 of 25 field-goal attempts and 55 of 56 extra points. David Bradley averages 39.2 yards a punt. USC's weak spot all season has been kickoff return coverage. The Trojans surrender 23 yards a return, which does not bode well against the Hawkeyes. Jeremelle Lewis averages 26.7 yards a kickoff return and returned one 94 yards for a touchdown against Michigan State. C.J. Jones averages 22.5 a return. USC kicker Ryan Killeen has made 15 of 21 field-goal attempts and 42 of 44 extra points. Tom Malone averages 42.2 yards a punt.

Edge: Iowa

**

Coaching

* USC's Pete Carroll is 0-1 in bowl games after losing to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl last season. Carroll, the defensive coordinator for the Trojans, and offensive coordinator Norm Chow had the Trojans playing better at the end of the regular season than perhaps any team in the nation. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is 1-0 in bowl games after beating Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl last season. The Hawkeyes also were playing well at the end of the regular season, but their last game was Nov. 16.

Edge: USC

**

Intangibles

* Neither team has played a game for weeks. USC finished the regular season Nov. 30 against Notre Dame. Iowa's last game was Nov. 16 against Minnesota. If it rains, the conditions probably would favor Iowa because of its rushing attack. Iowa is a fast starter, outscoring opponents, 157-35, in the first quarter. USC finishes fast. The Trojans have outscored opponents, 101-20, in the third quarter and 132-77 in the fourth.

Edge: USC

**

Prediction

* Both offenses might struggle at the outset as they try to regain their timing after long layoffs, but USC's passing game features a variety of short throws that should allow Palmer to find his rhythm. The Trojans' speed on offense and defense is, collectively, unlike anything Iowa faced in the Big Ten. If the Trojans avoid turnovers, the special teams play adequately and the defense contains Banks, USC should win.

Score: USC, 35-16.

-- Gary Klein

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