The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl is clearly the best matchup on the opening weekend of bowl games since it features a pair of ranked teams in USC vs. Fresno State. With two ranked teams there will be a ton of talent on the field on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET/ABC), so lets get to know a few of those players.
Derek Carr, quarterback: This is one of those obvious players to put on the list. Carr has had an excellent season by throwing for 4,866 yards, 48 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Even when he struggles he puts up good stats but this game against USC will be more difficult since the Trojans have the 33rd best pass defense in the country.
Carr is not the most mobile quarterback when the blitz is on and USC's defensive line will be even better than Utah State's who they faced in the Mountain West title game. In that contest against the Aggies, Carr was sacked multiple times.
Davante Adams, wide receiver: The redshirt sophomore could be suiting up for the last time as a Bulldog, so fans better take the chance to watch him on Saturday. Adams is extremely good at ball control and finding a way to come down with a catch, even if it is off the mark. He is a deep threat and will test any USC defensive back they line up, even if it is more than one.
Austin Wentworth, offensive line: Placing an offensive lineman here might seem odd, but Wentworth is very important in helping keep Derek Carr upright and not being chased down. Wentworth was a first-team all-Mountain West selection so he needs to take care of business on his part of the line.
Cody Kessler, quarterback: The Fresno State defense is fairly vulnerable in the passing game, but Kessler has not played well this season. He has not thrown for over 300 yards all year and has had less than 200 yards in the air in three of his last four games. Add on that the top two running backs are out for USC and that adds a lot more pressure for Kessler to perform well. Plus, Fresno State's front seven is very good at getting to the cornerback, too.
Javorius Allen, running back: With Silas Redd out and Tre Madden likely having the same outcome, Allen becomes the Trojans main source of offense on the ground. The sophomore has talent as he has 12 touchdowns and 699 yards, but depth because an issue if he becomes injured or fatigued.
Marqise Lee, wide receiver: Injuries have hampered Lee for the better part of the season, so this is a chance for him to have one last big game in a Trojan uniform before he takes off to the NFL. If he is fully healthy then this could be a troubling matchup for Fresno State's secondary.
This was an offensive heavy edition of key players so here is a snippet from Mocking the Draft about Fresno State's defensive front going up against USC's offensive line:
The only matchup worth watching in the trenches would be between USC right tackle Kevin Graf and Fresno State sophomore linebacker Ejiro Ederaine, who has filled up the stat sheet this season and been the Bulldogs' main source of quarterback pressure. Senior defensive end Andy Jennings had some preseason buzz but has been mostly a disappointment for Fresno State.
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