Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Preview: It Will Be FS Offense Vs. SC Defense

Well, lookie what we have -- a good old-fashioned Golden State grudge match about to be waged a bit to the east here in Las Vegas.

Did you know that this is the first time in history that two teams located in the same state will square off against each other in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl? And considering that Southern California of the Pac-12 Conference brings a storied national brand of success and that Fresno State of the Mountain West boasts one of the nation’s top offensive attacks that just helped the Bulldogs win themselves a league title -- well, you’ll excuse bowl organizers for being a bit giddy about this year’s lineup.

“We are ecstatic to be hosting one of the top matchups in our game’s history,” RPLVB Executive Director Dan Hanneke said. “Both teams spent a lot of time in the national rankings this season and neither has been in Las Vegas in more than a decade.”

Adding more spice to the rivalry recipe is that the two proud institutions have met each other in the sport of football just twice before today -- with each side winning once.

All of this helps the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl continue to grow in stature. In fact, the RPLVB is now the 16th-oldest current FBS bowl game and 2013 marks the eighth consecutive season that at least one of our teams is nationally ranked in all major polls, as Fresno State stands No. 21 AP/20 Coaches/20 BCS. Also, it’s the third time that both teams gathering here at Sam Boyd Stadium were included in the final BCS top 25 rankings as the Trojans were 25th on that list.

Looking at the numbers, something’s got to give as Fresno State’s high-flying offense, which ranks fifth in the country with 45 points a game behind MW Player of the Year David Carr at QB, meets a stingy USC defensive unit that stands 21st nationally after giving up just 21 points per outing behind pass-rushing force Devon Kennard.

USC, which will serve as the home team, comes into the bowl after finishing in a tie for second place in the Pac-12 South Division with a league mark of 6-3. The Trojans have played Vegas just once before when they lost to Utah on Christmas Day in 2001.

The visitor, Fresno State, accepted its bid after winning the inaugural Mountain West Championship game, 24-17, over Utah State. The Bulldogs return to this city for the first time since playing Utah in the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl.

Overall, Fresno State has a record of 11-13 in bowl games dating back to 1937’s Little All-American Bowl staged in Los Angeles. The will mark the third time the Bulldogs will face off against a team from the conference now known as the Pac-12. Fresno State defeated USC 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim and downed UCLA 17-9 in the Silicon Valley Football Classic played in San Jose in 2003. Head Coach Tim DeRuyter’s squad lost to SMU in last year’s Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl and he was the interim head coach for Texas A&M when the Aggies downed Northwestern in the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

USC will be making only its second bowl trip since 2009 but the fabled Trojans hold an all-time mark of 32-17 in the postseason, dating back to their first appearance in the Rose Bowl back in 1923. Interim head coach Clay Helton is at the controls today as newly hired Trojan leader Steve Sarkisian is merely a very interested spectator.

Since the first Las Vegas Bowl was played in 1992, nine of the 12 teams that currently make up the Mountain West in football have appeared in the game a combined 15 times, compiling an 8-7 record. That includes trips by recently added Boise State, Nevada, Utah State and Fresno State when they were members of other conferences.

Current members of the Pac-12 conference have forged a 7-8 overall record in Las Vegas, including 5-7 when they were members of the league at the time of the appearance All but Stanford, Washington State and Colorado have appeared in this event at least once.

Overall, the Mountain West and Pac-12 have met head-to-head 11 times in Las Vegas, with the MW winning seven of those battles.

While this marks only the third meeting between the two California programs, for the second consecutive year the RPLVB will feature a matchup of teams that don’t regularly face each other but will open the following season by playing again. Last year’s game saw Boise State down Washington 28-26 and then the teams tussled in Seattle on Aug. 31, where UW got is revenge, 38-6. So whatever happens today, the loser won’t have to wait long to get another shot as USC and Fresno State open the 2014 season with a regular-season clash at the Coliseum on Aug. 30.

The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl is owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television (ERT). Today’s game will be televised nationally on ABC for only the second time in the bowl’s history. The 2012 game attracted 33,217 fans to Sam Boyd Stadium and provided an estimated total of $26.8 million in economic impact courtesy of tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors to Southern Nevada. In fact, in its first 21 years of existence, the bowl attracted more than 405,000 out-of-town visitors and pumped nearly $226 million into the local economy in non-gaming revenue alone.