Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette took his second kickoff return of the season to the house and scored touchdowns three different ways in the team’s 49-24 victory over the USC Trojans in the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl. Along with Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP A.J. Epenesa’s 2.5 quarterback sacks, the Hawkeyes went on a 21-0 run to end the contest.
4 Stanley at the top of his release point
Iowa's Nathan Stanley completed 18-of-27 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the team's victory. Stanley, 6'5 240, passed for 68 touchdowns in his Hawkeyes career.
6 Smith-Marsette BEST SHOT of him spinning vs USC KO coverage
Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette (No. 6 seen spinning on USC's Isaiah Pola-Mao) finished fifth nationally in kickoff returns this past season (29.6 yd/avg, 2 TDs). His 2019 Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP performance featured three touchdowns (KR, REC, RUSH) and nearly a fourth on a near touchdown pass.
73 Jackson attempting to turn his hips vs 94 Epenesa on turn-out block
USC's Austin Jackson (No. 73 pictured) gave up a sack and some quarterback pressures versus Iowa's A.J. Epenesa (No. 94 pictured), but he used his immense athleticism and strength to thwart him on occasion.
94 Epenesa uses outside arm-over after pull-through maneuver
It was Epenesa's superior technique, however, that ultimately proved to be the difference in the much-anticipated matchup between the two all-conference performers. On this repetition, Epenesa uses an outside arm over and pull-through maneuver to cross Jackson's feet.
74 Wirfs bends back 26 Mauga
The Iowa Hawkeyes also have two offensive tackle prospects that will be playing on Sundays. Right tackle Tristan Wirfs' (No. 74 seen pictured blocking USC sophomore linebacker Kana'i Mauga, No. 26 pictured) power was evident for much of the night. He was effective pulling in space and displayed agility on outside reach blocks in their variety of offensive run schemes.
Ferentz thankful he's receiving the MVP trophy
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz won the ninth bowl game of his tenure in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes won its third consecutive bowl game.
The USC Trojans will try and defend their Pac-12 Championship after losing quarterback Sam Darnold in the first round of the NFL Draft. USC has three options currently battling it out in camp for the position: freshmen JT Daniels (6’2, 205) and Jack Sears (6’3, 205), as well as sophomore Matt Fink (6’3, 190). No matter who wins the competition, the quarterback will have a strong running back and defense to depend on. Sophomore running back Stephen Carr (6’0, 210), who suffered a back injury in 2017, ran for 363 yards in eight games last season and 119 of those came in Week 2 against Stanford. On defense, the Trojans have a lot of talent at defensive back and linebacker. Senior safety Marvell Tell and senior linebacker Cameron Smith (6’2, 250) are both All-American talents that should make their way to the NFL after the season. If the Trojans can get production in the trenches and from their quarterback, look for them to win the Pac-12.
Troy’s player to watch
7 Marvell Tell III 6’2 195 FS-senior
Marvell Tell has the sideline-to-sideline range and ability to help in run support that NFL scouts covet. Tell finished last season with 85 tackles and three interceptions. The senior safety earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2017 and projects as one of the best free safeties in college football. If Tell can maintain his productivity, he could have a chance to be an early-round selection in next April’s NFL Draft
Game of the season
September 8th against Stanford
USC defeated Stanford twice last season and will be tested again during the second week of the season against the Cardinal. In the Pac-12 championship last season, Stanford lost to the Trojans 31-28. This matchup will pit potentially the two best teams in the Pac-12. Stanford is one of the favorites to win the North division alongside Washington and USC is the odds-on favorite to win the South division. Look for David Shaw and the Cardinal to bring their best game to the Coliseum.
DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch
35 Cameron Smith 6’2 245 LB-Senior
While Smith does some crossing over at times in the box, his instincts make up for it. He routinely wins with his key-and-diagnose. There is, however, some stiffness present in his game and he’ll have to prove to NFL scouts that he can cover over the course of the next year. His ability to finish on the ball in zone coverage is an added bonus. The four-year starter is not a smacker, but he is a sound tackler capable of lining up the defense from snap-to-snap.
Prediction: 10-2 overall
The Trojans will win one more regular season game than they did a year ago. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting two losses for the Trojans: one on the road against Stanford and another at home against Notre Dame.