Game Day: Nebraska vs. USC

2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. USC rush defense

Ameer Abdullah is four weeks further into his recovery than he was for the Huskers' last outing, and NU will need the senior I-back's best against USC. Nebraska likely will have two first-time starters on its offensive line (Paul Thurston at center, Matt Finnin at right tackle) and the Trojans allow just 132.5 yards per game and 3.9 per carry. It's been a tough road for the Huskers of late, with just 179, 118, 174 and 161 yards rushing in their last four games.

Nebraska pass offense vs. USC pass defense

Tommy Armstrong has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in three of the last four games, but was sharp against Minnesota (12 of 19 for 223 yards) and rallied against Iowa with four touchdowns. USC starts two freshmen in its secondary and allows 267.7 yards passing per game, so if NU can protect Armstrong he could have some success — and maybe Kenny Bell can pad his school-record stats one final time.

USC rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Nebraska tightened up against Iowa after Wisconsin and Minnesota punished the Huskers' run defense, but USC will be a sturdy test with junior tailback Javorius Allen (1,337 yards, nine TDs). The Huskers' injuries defensively will be something to watch, because they will need all hands on deck against the Trojans.

USC pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

The Huskers allow opponents to complete just 47.5 percent of their passes and have as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns allowed (12). A lot of those statistics were compiled against Big Ten teams, however, so USC quarterback Cody Kessler (3,505 yards, 36 TDs), receiver Nelson Agholor (97 receptions, 11 TDs) and the rest will be way more to handle. Kessler has had four or more touchdown passes in six of 12 games, something NU can't allow to happen here.

Special teams

Each team has one of the more flamboyant punt returners in the nation with De'Mornay Pierson-El for NU (17.8 yards, three TDs) and Agholor for USC (10.6, two TDs). The Trojans throw in a kickoff return threat with Adoree' Jackson (27.7, one TD). The coverage units are similar, but USC has been a tad more reliable with its field goal kicking, albeit with fewer attempts.

Intangibles

It's hard to look at all that has happened to Nebraska in the last month and not wonder if it has taken a toll. The team also will be in the hands of an interim head coach against a USC program that has won 66.7 percent of its previous bowl games. The Trojans will be staying on the West Coast and playing on grass, own a huge edge in turnover margin and don't have some of the same injury questions as the Huskers.

Key matchup: NU secondary vs. USC's Nelson Agholor

Nebraska saw just one Big Ten receiver with more than 60 receptions (Illinois freshman Mike Dudek), so it will have to brace for the likely onslaught of targets to USC junior Nelson Agholor (97 catches, 11 TDs). That will call for solid performances from cornerbacks Josh Mitchell and Daniel Davie against the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who has had at least seven receptions in eight games and as many as 16 against Cal.

Our take

Nebraska is 1-2 in three previous Holiday Bowls, and couldn't have looked better in 2009 or worse in 2010. This one will require some mental toughness and fortitude after the Bo Pelini drama that started Nov. 30 and was slow to go away. USC has showed signs of wanting to return to the upper tier and its wins over Stanford, Arizona and Notre Dame were better than any Husker victory if you go by the Sagarin ratings. As with any bowl game, though, who knows?

Our prediction: USC 40, Nebraska 24

Live updates

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Game Day

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will broadcast live Saturday at 5:30 p.m., then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History page is your new home for taking a look back into the history of one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks.

BRT app

iPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Carriker Chronicles: John Parrella on his mantra, coaching the 3-4 defense, being back at Nebraska and more

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Wednesday's episode, Carriker talks to Nebraska defensive line coach John Parrella about his "All Gas, No Brakes" mantra, coaching the 3-4 defense, being back at Nebraska and…

Barfknecht: New Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos’ age is no reason to question his capabilities

Contrary to current popular opinion, Social Security eligibility isn’t required to land a high-profile position in Nebraska’s athletic department. It may seem that way with Mike Riley, 64, as head football coach and now Bill Moos, 66, as athletic director.

NU coach Mike Riley says bye week comes at 'fortunate time' with myriad of Huskers recovering after tough few weeks

A lot of Nebraska players are pretty banged up this week, coach Mike Riley said on the Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday afternoon.

Former Husker Scott Frost running scout team to prepare UCF for Navy's option offense

Former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost knows a thing or two about the option offense, and he's using that knowledge to ready UCF to face it.

Nebraska A.D. Bill Moos' contract includes $500,000 for potential bonuses, half based on football performance

New Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos’ contract indicates that football is on the minds of those who gave it to him.

Carriker Chronicles: A full analysis of new A.D. Bill Moos

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. Tuesday, Carriker takes an in-depth look at Nebraska's hiring of Bill Moos to be the next athletic director.

Regents, not intimately involved in search, give resounding support of Bill Moos hire

Members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents expressed support and even delight Monday over the hiring of Bill Moos as Nebraska’s athletic director.

Shatel: Bill Moos not only can raise money, but stands ground with big-money donors

I’m hearing that some of the big-money folks are making their unhappiness known over Mike Riley’s football program.

Mad Chatter: Happy anniversary, Husker fans! May your next 10 years be better than the last 10; Joe Maddon's blunder and the injured NFL

Bill Moos may be a friendly face, but your skepticism is warranted.

Carriker Chronicles: Recapping Nebraska's loss to Ohio State

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. Monday, Carriker takes an in-depth look at the statistics behind Nebraska's 56-14 loss to Ohio State.

'Rural boy' Bill Moos, who oversaw turnaround at Washington State, named new Nebraska A.D.

Moos, who has been director of athletics at Washington State since 2010, will begin his tenure in Lincoln on Oct. 23.

McKewon: Blackshirts are beat up, but passive scheme, confusion hard to understand

Nebraska’s defensive coordinator presided over a Blackshirts surrender that produced more sorrow on my Facebook page and in my Twitter/email message inbox than I can recall since the 2012 Big Ten championship game.

Bill Moos calls himself 'a fierce competitor' when introduced as Huskers' new athletic director

Bill Moos said Sunday that his motto has always been the same in 25 years of athletic administration and won't change as he takes over at Nebraska: "Honor the past, live the present, create the future."

Hiring is all about fit to Athletic Director Bill Moos, who brought Mike Leach to Washington State

For Bill Moos, his first course of action at Nebraska will likely focus heavily on figuring out who fits at Nebraska, and who doesn’t.

Chatelain: Bill Moos' connections to Mike Riley add twist to situation

Picture this scene: Oregon State’s head coach (Mike Riley) sitting down with Oregon’s athletic director (Bill Moos) and telling Beaver football stories.

Shatel: Bill Moos seems solid, but he'll be judged by football success

Somebody asked Bill Moos about boots, so he rattled off a couple of his favorite brands. And sports writers nodded in agreement.

Barfknecht: New A.D.’s straight talk cuts through surprise, doubts

If there had been a national betting pool on Nebraska’s hire for athletic director, today would entail offering refunds.

Barfknecht's Big Ten rankings, Oct. 16

World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten football teams, as published in The World-Herald on Oct. 16.

From Mike Bellotti on down, those who served with and for Bill Moos praise his leadership

Bill Moos was always open with Mike Bellotti. So open that they had conversations about what would happen if Moos — then the Oregon athletic director — ever had to fire his football coach.

Huskers head into bye week looking for answers

There was a lot of talk about recovery on Saturday after one of Nebraska’s worst conference home losses ever.

Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos career timeline

Bill Moos came full circle in 2010 when he was hired as athletic director at Washington State, returning to Pullman after being an all-conference football player for the Cougars in the early 1970s and starting his career in athletics administration…

Dave Rimington accomplishes goals during short time as interim A.D., likes Nebraska's future under Bill Moos

The former Nebraska center stated three goals when he was introduced as the interim athletic director on Sept. 26. All three got done under his watch, Rimington said Sunday.

Carriker Chronicles: Gut reaction to Nebraska hiring Bill Moos as A.D.

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Sunday's episode, Carriker gives his gut reaction to Nebraska's new athletic director, Bill Moos.

Poll: How do you grade Nebraska's hiring of Bill Moos as A.D.?

What do you think of the hire? Vote in the poll below and leave comments sharing your thoughts.

Who is Bill Moos? What you need to know about the Nebraska athletic department's new leader

Bill Moos will take over as Nebraska A.D. on Oct. 23, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Ronnie Green announced Sunday. Who is he?

In murky waters: Huskers, unable to stop Buckeyes, suffer one of their worst home defeats

Nebraska football coach Mike Riley, captain of this pigskin Titanic, looked cold as he passively watched his program sink, perhaps for good, during Ohio State’s 56-14 evisceration of the Huskers.

Barfknecht: Looking for good news? New Nebraska athletic director should be in place soon

Look for Nebraska to introduce a new athletic director this week. It’s not official, but three sources with ties to NU’s administration indicated Saturday interviews took place late last week and that a decision is either imminent or already made.

Chatelain: Nebraska football can't go on like this anymore

For the sake of all those national champions and All-Americans, for the thousands who grew up and grew old on the planks of Memorial Stadium, for the pride and dignity of a state and its flagship university. Make. It. Stop.

Shatel: Nebraska's boss spoke loud and clear Saturday night after spiritless performance by Mike Riley's Huskers

You could see and hear the boss calling for change. And it seems inevitable now, change will come to Nebraska’s football program. Many want it now, of course, after the embarrassment that unfolded at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

Nebraska-Ohio State: Tracking the offense, defense

World-Herald staff writer Evan Bland takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' 56-14 loss against the Buckeyes.