USC shows resolve as bowl season opens, cracks into top 15 of UPS Index
College football’s bowl season got off to a high-flying start
last Saturday with Southern California making the biggest statement
– and pushing itself inside the top 15 of the UPS Team Performance
Index – among four opening-weekend matchups featuring no shortage
of offensive fireworks.
Using an advanced proprietary formula highlighting offensive
yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, various special
teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards
disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those
numbers across 125 FBS schools.
From there, overall balance is measured across all of a team’s
individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence
in those areas as well as overall winning percentage and strength
In a topsy-turvy season marked by early disappointment and a
subsequent coaching carousel, the Trojans (10-4) somehow found
their groove late in the year, winning six of their last seven
games to notch double-digit victories. Their last one was one of
their most impressive, coming against a Fresno State team that went
into Thanksgiving undefeated and just a month ago had visions of
busting into a BCS game.
But the Bulldogs (11-2) were no match for the inspired group
from Los Angeles, falling 45-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl. While
Fresno’s otherwise stellar season came to a disappointing close,
Southern Cal’s disappointing start was now a distant memory.
“After all of the adversity that’s hit us, this win means
everything for us,” USC safety Dion Bailey said. “We’ve had four
head coaches and were able to get 10 wins. I’ll never forget this
Lane Kiffin began the year in charge at Troy, but was replaced
after his defense was shredded in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State
that dropped the team to 3-2. Assistant Ed Orgeron took over and
steadied the ship, going 6-2 in an interim role, but resigned when
Washington’s Steve Sarkisian was named the head man earlier this
Another assistant, Clay Helton, took the reins for the bowl
game, meaning the storied program will have had four different head
coaches within one year.
“I can’t say how proud I am of this team,” Helton said. “We had
to see: Were we going to use it as an excuse to be on our
third-string head coach, or were we just going to say, ‘We’re not
going to fail today.'”
The Trojans not only didn’t fail, they thrived on both sides of
the ball. Their offense blew the game open early with 35 first-half
points, while their defense held an explosive Fresno State unit in
relative check. The Bulldogs came into the game ranked fifth in the
FBS in scoring at 45.3 points per game.
As a result of their well-rounded effort, Southern Cal jumped
three spots to No. 14 in the Index.
USC wasn’t the only team to light up the scoreboard last
weekend. The eight schools in action averaged 34.5 points apiece,
providing some up-and-down-the-field excitement that is hopefully a
harbinger for the next 27 bowl games – 11 of which will be played
over the course of the next week.
At the head of the offensive list was San Diego State, which put
up seven TDs in a 49-24 rout of Buffalo in the Famous Idaho Potato
Bowl. Not far behind was Colorado State, which eked out a 48-45
barnburner in the New Mexico Bowl. And in the other game of the
weekend, Louisiana held off Tulane 24-21 in the New Orleans
Thanks to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ performance in that victory, they
climbed a week-high 12 spots in the Index to No. 74. The Rams moved
Louisiana relied on a stout defense and timely special teams
play to help boost their overall balance. Corey Trim returned an
interception 82 yards for a touchdown, Sean Thomas had a pair of
interceptions and Hunter Stover hit a go-ahead field goal in the
fourth quarter for the school’s third straight New Orleans Bowl
“We preached turnovers,” Thomas said. “Going into the game, we
knew we had to help our offense out a lot.”
On the other end of Index movement, Buffalo fell five spots and
Washington State four.
Outside of Fresno State – which fell two spots to 28 – and USC,
however, none of those teams rank in the top 60.
In the big picture, Florida State, Alabama, Stanford, Auburn and
Central Florida make up the top five, respectively, with the
Seminoles 1.7 points ahead of the Crimson Tide as their
national-title game matchup against the Tigers looms on Jan. 6.
Of the games this week, a handful of Top 25 Index teams are in
action, including No. 8 Louisville against Miami in the Russell
Athletic Bowl, No. 19 Bowling Green against Pittsburgh in the
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, No. 24 Northern Illinois against Utah
State in the Poinsettia Bowl and No. 25 Notre Dame against Rutgers
in the Pinstripe Bowl.