=== Barkley-less Trojans take on Yellow Jackets in Sun Bowl ===
 
 El Paso, TX (Sports Network) - The USC Trojans are set to tangle with the
 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
 
 USC is back in a bowl game after a two-year NCAA postseason ban, and the team
 is making its first trip to Texas since the 1998 Sun Bowl. It has been a
 rather disappointing season for the Trojans, who opened the year as the top-
 ranked team but stumbled down the stretch, dropping four of their final five
 contests to fall out of the national rankings. Still, the Trojans' 32 bowl
 victories are the second-most of any program in the country, and they enter
 this tilt hungry for No. 33.
 
 "After not being in a bowl the past two years, we look forward to playing in a
 bowl with the tradition of the Sun Bowl," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin.
 "Georgia Tech is a very well-coached team and will present a challenge on both
 sides of the ball, especially with their great ability to run the ball.
 
 "Although our season didn't go as well as we hoped, we appreciate the
 opportunity we now have to play another game and attempt to go out on a
 winning note."
 
 Georgia Tech is making its 16th consecutive bowl appearance, which is the
 fourth-longest active streak in the nation. The Yellow Jackets shook off a 2-4
 start to win their final four ACC regular-season games and capture the
 league's Coastal Division title. They were granted a NCAA waiver to qualify
 for a bowl game after a loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship dropped
 the Yellow Jackets below .500.
 
 USC leads the all-time series, 2-1, although this marks the first meeting
 between these two teams since 1973. Georgia Tech is playing in its second
 straight Sun Bowl after last year's overtime loss to Utah in El Paso.
 
 The decision by Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley in the offseason to return
 for his senior year was a bit of a surprise, given his potential high NFL
 draft status. After an up-and-down 2012 campaign, questions still linger about
 whether Barkley made the right call, especially since Barkley will miss this
 bowl game due to a sprained right throwing shoulder.
 
 Barkley did manage to throw for 3,273 yards and 36 touchdowns in 11 games and
 in the process became the Pac-12 career passing leader. However, he also threw
 15 interceptions, with nine of those picks coming during a four-game stretch
 late in the year that saw the Trojans lose three of four. Barkley was replaced
 by freshman Max Wittek for the regular-season finale against Notre Dame after
 suffering the sprained shoulder at UCLA. Wittek will get the nod in this
 contest.
 
 Wittek's gameplan is similar to Barkley's in that he will look early and often
 to unanimous All-American receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee,
 who also earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors and finished fourth
 in the Heisman Trophy voting. Lee, the nation's leading receiver, set Pac-12
 single-season records for receptions (112) and receiving yards (1,680). Fellow
 wideout Robert Woods was an All-American last season and owns the school
 record for career receptions. In the backfield, Curtis McNeal (696 yards) and
 Penn State transfer Silas Redd (817 yards) lead the way. They'll look for
 running lanes behind an offensive line that features Rimington Award finalist
 Khaled Holmes at center and freshman All-American Max Tuerk at tackle.
 
 Defensively, USC really slipped as the season progressed. Over their last five
 outings, the Trojans allowed an average of 35.6 points. Still, they came to
 play against Notre Dame, and the players will no doubt want to leave it all on
 the field for respected defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who will be
 calling his final game at USC. One area where the Trojans really excel is
 getting into the backfield, as they rank fourth in the nation in sacks and
 eighth in tackles for loss. It all starts with defensive end and Hendricks
 Award finalist Morgan Breslin, whose 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss are the
 most by a USC player since 2003. Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Leonard
 Williams gets plenty of push from his tackle spot, as evidenced by his 13
 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Safety T.J. McDonald, a 2011 All-American,
 leads the team with 99 tackles.
 
 Georgia Tech's offense is predicated around the spread option under mastermind
 Paul Johnson, a two-time ACC Coach of the Year since joining the league in
 2008. Since 2008, the Yellow Jackets have rushed for more yards than any FBS
 team. This season, they rank fourth nationally in rushing offense (312.5 ypg)
 while averaging 34.5 points. Quarterback Tevin Washington orchestrates the
 option attack, having rushed for 638 yards and an impressive 19 touchdowns to
 go along with 1,173 yards passing. Those 19 rushing TDs are the second-most in
 the nation by a QB this season, and his 37 career rushing scores stand as the
 ACC record for quarterbacks. Running backs Orwin Smith (673 yards) and Zach
 Laskey (637 yards) also help out in the ground game, as the Yellow Jackets
 average a very efficient 5.5 yards per carry as a team. Senior offensive guard
 Omoregie Uzzi earned first-team All-ACC honors for the second straight season.
 
 Georgia Tech's defense has had its ups and downs over the course of the
 season, but the unit enters the bowl game on a high note. The Yellow Jackets
 held Florida State scoreless during the second half of the ACC Championship
 and have not allowed a fourth-quarter point in three games. Strong safety
 Isaiah Johnson paces the squad with 87 tackles, while fellow defensive back
 Jemea Thomas is second on the team with 82 stops. Thomas has also notched a
 team-best four interceptions and six pass breakups. Junior linebacker Jeremiah
 Attaochu has wreaked havoc behind the line of scrimmage, posting 12.0 tackles
 for loss and 10.0 sacks. Still, Tech ranks in the middle of the pack
 nationally in virtually every statistical category, allowing 387.0 total yards
 (53rd) and 29.9 points (77th).
 
 
 
 12/31 08:33:19 ET