LOS ANGELES (CNS) – USC will make its first bowl appearance following a two-year NCAA ban New Year’s Eve in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech while UCLA will become the first Los Angeles-area school to play in San Diego’s Holiday Bowl, facing Baylor Dec. 27, organizers announced today.
“It’s very exciting, especially for two years sitting at home, not being able to go to a bowl game,” Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said on a conference call with reporters.
Kiffin said he is anticipating quarterback Matt Barkley to play. Barkley missed USC’s 22-13 loss to Notre Dame Nov. 24 because of a shoulder sprain sustained in the Trojans’ 38-28 loss to UCLA one week earlier.
USC (7-5) will be making its third appearance in the Sun Bowl.
Its first was a 17-16 loss to Michigan State in 1990, best remembered for a sideline exchange of words between Trojan quarterback Todd Marinovich and coach Larry Smith after Smith took Marinovich out of the game with nine minutes, one second to play and USC trailing 17-13. It would prove to be Marinovich’s last college game.
The Trojans lost to Texas Christian 28-19 in the 1998 game.
USC is playing in the El Paso, Texas-based Sun Bowl because it has the third choice among Pacific-12 Conference teams, after the conference champions and any additional teams were chosen to participate in Bowl Championship Series games.
The Sun Bowl’s other team comes from Atlantic Coast Conference, either the loser of the conference’s championship game or third choice after the ACC champion and any additional teams were chosen to participate in Bowl Championship Series games.
Georgia Tech fell to 6-7 with its 21-15 loss to Florida State in Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game. It needed a waiver from the NCAA to accept the Sun Bowl invitation as NCAA rules customarily ban teams with losing records from playing in bowls.
UCLA coach Jim Mora said he spoke with several seniors before the start of the team’s banquet today “and to a man they were all excited about getting to play one more time and getting to play in the Holiday Bowl.”
“They like to play together, they like to compete together,” Mora said.
The Holiday Bowl has the second choice among Pacific-12 Conference teams and fourth choice from the 10-team Big 12 Conference, after the conference champions and any additional teams were chosen to participate in Bowl Championship Series games.
The Bruins are 9-4, while Baylor, which will also be making its first Holiday Bowl appearance, is 7-5, ending the regular season with three consecutive victories.
“I love the idea of staying in Southern California for this game,” said Mora, who was a San Diego Chargers assistant coach from 1985-91. “I think it will give our fans a chance to come down and watch us play one more time. It will give us more exposure.”
Both Kiffin and Mora said the additional 15 practices bowl teams are allowed under NCAA rules will help their teams for next season.
“It’s great to get more practices for our young players, for our future, to have these practices that we’ve not had over the last two years,” Kiffin said.
Mora said it was “like an additional spring” practice period.