Familiarity for USC, NU in SD

Holiday Bowl opponents USC, UN won't be in for a new experience Dec. 27 with all the recent connections these teams share with one another, their coaches and San Diego.

You have to like how this turned out unless you're planning to head home Back East over Christmas. USC with its 50 bowl appearances against a Nebraska program with 51 -- and now coming in as the first Big Ten team to San Diego since 1994 -- sounds good to us.

That's especially true since not one of those 50 USC bowl games has been at San Diego's Holiday Bowl, which kicks off at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN at the aging Qualcomm, still a good place to watch a football game.

So good town. Good opponent. Good trip for USC fans who love their weekender to the Bay Area and can now take it south. Always been a good game -- at least every time we've gone.

Both teams ranked -- USC 24th, Nebraska 25th in the College Football Playoff rankings released Sunday. And there are all sorts of connections. Nebraska was one of the few powerhouses willing to schedule USC home and home in 2006 and 2007 during Pete's heyday even if it cost them a couple of losses in a four-game series that shows no Cornhusker wins against the Trojans.

Then there's the Mike Riley factor as the new Nebraska coach gets a second close look at the Trojans this season after having his Oregon State team clobbered 35-10 by USC two and a half months ago. He's not going to be coaching this game with interim coach Barney Cotton taking over. Not that that's necessarily an advantage as USC showed last year at the Las Vegas Bowl behind interim Clay Helton as Sark watched from the press box.

The gentlemanly Mike is also familiar with San Diego. He was the Chargers head coach as well as a Trojans assistant.

Interestingly, the Lincoln newspaper published both ballots of Riley and the dismissed Bo Pelini in this latest coaches poll. Riley had Nebraska 21st, one spot ahead of where he had USC, while Pelini had Nebraska No. 20, five spots ahead of USC.

But don't leave Steve Sarkisian out of this matchup filled with familiarity. It's his fourth matchup against Nebraska since 2010 and the Huskers' third trip to Qualcomm since 2009, where it lost to Sark's Huskies 19-7 in 2010.

There's also the "Anchorman" factor, with the Lincoln paper already leading with a reference to that legendary San Diego TV newsman, played of course by USC alum and former SID office employee Will Ferrell, who can come out of hiding for this game now that the NCAA sanctions are over.

And for those of us hoping to get an opponent the Trojans could focus on and the fans could look forward to, the 9-3 Huskers, who outlasted Iowa 37-34 in overtime Thanksgiving weekend to end the regular season, fit that bill.

There's I-Back Ameer Abdullah for starters, with 1,523 rushing yards and 18 TDs, a Top 15 guy in the nation in rushing, rushing TDs, all-purpose yards and scoring. But he's not alone: Quick QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. leads them along with All-Big Ten WR Kenny Bell and All-Big Ten DE Randy Gregory.

And then there are the Nebraska fans, who you hope turn out for the chance to come to California in the midst of a Midwest winter. They'll get 6,000 tickets to start for what could be a nice holiday weekend in San Diego for a USC team trying to set the tone for 2015.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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