'Tis the season to be jolly

It's bowl time . . . time for Trojans fans to look forward and find the fun in a Holiday Bowl get-together with a favored Wisconsin team in a renewal down in San Diego Dec. 30 of this historic rivalry after 49 years.

Time to start looking forward, Trojans.

Your week and then some of looking back and gnashing teeth over the head coaching searches has to come to an end. Sure, this year's search comes on top of those of 2010 and 2013 so we'll give you some time here.

And then there's the overall dissatisfaction with the way the athletic administration is working -- or not. And who is working it.

Then there's the way the Stanford game showed just how much of a step back the regular season has been with the midseason sacking of a substance-abusing head coach who under the best of circumstances was unqualified for the job. Restoring USC post-sanctions football with a young team that needed to show progress week over week with a coach who couldn't show up at practice sober -- much less focused or with a plan -- was not exactly the way to go. And now, except for his self-indulgent lawsuit, he's gone.

Then there's the topic du week -- the firing of four assistant coaches and the hiring of none while others -- Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia -- do not seem to be running in place.

Sure, that's a lot to digest with the holidays coming up. But there's also this. The holidays are coming up. And with the holidays comes the Holiday Bowl. It's becoming a tradition around here.

So time to make the best of it. Folks, we have a football game coming up Dec. 30. It's an easy day trip down I-5. Just remember to bundle up, get there early when the sun is still out and see if your tailgate can keep up with the Wisconsin folks.

Because if there's anything the cheese-heads from Badgerland know how to do, besides overachieve in football and basketball, it's how to have fun at football games. Which is why it's too bad that it's been since 1966 that these historic programs have hooked up.

Growing up in Kentucky, I didn't know much about bowl games. In the 31 years between 1952 and 1983, my UK Wildcats had been to exactly one bowl game. So when the chance came for back-to-back bowl games, even in Birmingham, Alabama, in late December, it was better than basketball before the conference season.

All I can remember about the first All-American Bowl against West Virginia, other than the one-point loss to a neighbor UK had been playing over the years, was the night time temperature way down below freezing. Not a good time.

But the next year, another Kentucky team that would finish 9-3 in 1984 and ranked No. 20, had the good fortune to face -- and beat, a 16th-ranked Wisconsin team. And this was all together a different story from the year before.

Because the Badgers brought their fans with them. And they took over Birmingham. Pretty much the way we expect them to perform in San Diego in a couple of weeks.

Which is why USC fans should put aside most of the angst right now and look at the upside. No. 23 Wisconsin, a three-point underdog [Ed. Note: Original story had the odds flipped] despite its better poll ranking, is a team worth beating. Win this one and it means something. There is carryover value here.

Maybe USC is going in the right direction against one of the nation's premier defenses with some serious size and strength if not speed.

There's also a coach in the game, Wisconsin's young defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, the Redlands guy who might be a possibility for the Trojans open spot.

Then there's this really weird stat the the Wisconsin Scout guys noticed. USC becomes the sixth UW opponent to have lost its coach for one reason or other this season in addition to Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and Rutgers. Yikes.

But also of notice to Andy Baggot of UWBadgers.com is the fact that the five teams USC lost to finished a combined 47-15 and that's counting 6-6 Washington with No. 6 Stanford (11-2 twice), No. 8 Notre Dame (10-2) and No. 15 Oregon (9-3).

And while the Badgers managed to avoid Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in the league, they did face Alabama in the opener (a 35-17 loss) as well as ranked Iowa (a 10-6 loss) and Northwestern (a 13-7 loss) without getting into double digits against either.

Of Wisconsin's six league wins, five came against teams with no more than two Big Ten wins -- three with just one. And of those three nonconference wins against Hawai'i, Troy and Miami of Ohio, those teams averaged just over three wins among them.

So from a USC perspective, a return of Wisconsin to the bowl schedule after 49 years has some fun prospects to it. As it always did. Of course everyone remembers that 1963 Rose Bowl when the top-ranked Trojans held on for the national title and a 42-37 win against the 23-point fourth-quarter run of Ron Vander Kelen, Pat Richter & Co.

But going the other direction, 10 years earlier, USC shut down big Badger running back Alan "The Horse" Ameche, the 1954 Heisman Trophy winner, to win 7-0. As USC has won every one of the six games in this series.

Another reason to approach Dec. 30 (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) with a smile and a positive outlook.

And so we'll finish here with some words of wisdom from a precinct we're likely never ever to cite again when it comes to college football -- Pope Francis. In his Sunday homily, the Pope said: "We can't let ourselves be overcome by weariness. No form of sadness is allowed, even if we would have reason to . . . ."

And this was directed at the great evils facing mankind. Shouldn't USC fans be at least able to get back to enjoying college football for the rest of the year? Have fun with the Holiday Bowl. The Wisconsin fans will.

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


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