Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Happy holidays: Wisconsin accepts bid to play USC in Holiday Bowl

Badgers, Trojans will meet for first time since 1966
Jason Chan

San Diego in late December doesn’t sound like too bad of a time.

That’s where the Wisconsin football team is headed to take on USC in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 30. For the first time in five years, UW will not play its bowl game Jan. 1 or later.

The game will be played at Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the San Diego Chargers.


No. 25 USC (8-5, 6-3 PAC-12) is coming off a PAC-12 South championship, but a loss in the conference championship game to Stanford, 41-22.

USC’s season has been tumultuous to say the least. Former head coach Steve Sarkisian was removed from his head coaching duties Oct. 12, as a result of his substance abuse.

The Trojans were 3-2 at that point in the season. After losing to Notre Dame that week, they won four of their next five games and finished the season winning five of their last six before the PAC-12 Championship Game.

“I know it’s a heck of a football team,” UW head coach Paul Chryst said. “I give them a lot of credit for overcoming what all happened at the beginning of the year and finish the way they did.”

Clay Helton took over the helm for the Trojans after Sarkisian’s departure, and his performance since prompted USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to give Helton a five-year extension and take the interim title away.

Haden served on the College Football Playoff Committee along with UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez until late October when he stepped down for health reasons.

The offensive attack for USC helped them put up 34.9 points per game, a mark which ranks 30th in the country. The unit will go up against UW’s defense, which allowed just 13.1 points per game throughout the regular season, ranking first in the nation.

The offense is led by efficient quarterback Cody Kessler, who has thrown for 3,315 yards. He’s thrown 28 touchdowns and takes care of the ball, throwing only six interceptions this season.

Alongside Kessler is a two-headed backfield comprised of Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis. Each have rushed for more than 900 yards and have combined to score 13 touchdowns.

Kessler’s favorite target is wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’s third in the nation in receiving yards with 1,389, which came on 85 catches and 10 touchdowns this year.

“I’m looking forward to watching them, as far as our matchups and their matchups,” Chryst said. “I’ve seen bits and pieces of them. Certainly [a] really talented team.”

The Badgers have played nine bowl games in California, all of them in Pasadena as participants in the Rose Bowl. All time, Wisconsin is 12-14 in bowl play. UW has lost six of its last eight bowl games, and Alvarez has served as head coach in two of the last three, losing the Rose Bowl to Stanford in 2013 and defeating Auburn in the Outback Bowl this year.

The program has now advanced to 14 straight bowl games, meaning it has won at least six games in a season. That stretch is now tied with Boise State for the sixth-longest active streak in the country.

This will be Chryst’s first postseason game as head coach for UW. In two bowl games as head coach of Pittsburgh, Chryst was 1-1. His team lost 38-17 against Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl in 2012 and defeated Bowling Green 30-27 in 2013 in the Little Caesars Bowl.

As an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Chryst was 4-4 in bowl games.

USC and Wisconsin have squared off six times in the program’s history, and the Trojans have won every time. All six meetings took place between 1953-56, with two of those instances coming in the Rose Bowl.

Chryst said his team would be excited to play in the bowl game no matter who the opponents turned out to be. The fact that it’s a program like USC, which consistently garners national respect, is cause for the Badgers to rise up to the challenge.

“I think any time now that it becomes real, you know who you are playing, they are going to be really excited about it,” Chryst said.

Nick Brazzoni contributed to this story. 

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