WR JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. CBs Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary
Eleven USC players have between 100 and 400 receiving yards this year. Then there's JuJu Smith-Schuster with nearly 1,400. He is what turns a good passing attack into a dangerous one. The Trojans scored over 30 points in each of the six games Smith-Schsuter earned 100 yards and a touchdown, averaging over 40 points per those contests.
The sophomore standout has not had one of those games since Nov. 7, however, partially due to ankle and hand injuries that hampered him down the stretch. Teams in USC's final four games did a great job of preventing huge plays from Smith-Schuster, something that will be one of the top priorities for Wisconsin on Wednesday night. At 6'2" with a big body, a willingness to go over the middle and an eagerness to run after the catch, JuJu is a problem in open field. Throw in the speed to stretch the field vertically, and he is a big play waiting to happen. It will largely be on Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary to stay with him and prevent that from happening.
OLBs Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel vs. OTs Zach Banner and Chuma Edoga
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One way to keep Smith-Schuster from breaking the game open will be by putting pressure on USC quarterback Cody Kessler. That task belongs to starting outside linebackers Schobert and Biegel, fresh off a season in which the two combined for 17.5 sacks. USC's line took a hit during bowl prep when it was announced that starting left tackle Chad Wheeler would not be traveling with the team. This forces right tackle Banner to the left side while Edoga steps up on the right.
It will be interesting to see how Banner, who comes in at a Rob Havenstein-like 6'9 and 360 pounds, handles Wisconsin's speed rushers. On the other end, Edoga, a freshman making his second career start, will be one to watch in any situation to see how he holds up. When Wisconsin needs to get into the backfield, look for the right side to be the point of attack.
CB/RET/WR Adoree' Jackson vs. Well, Everyone
Adoree' Jackson is one of those special athletes that is a joy to watch on the football field. That is, until he is beating your team in every facet of the game. Legitimately a three-way player, Jackson starts at cornerback, is the team's second leading receiver and handles both punt and kick returns. Only a sophomore, Jackson held similar responsibilities as a freshman last year and the results have been positive. In his career, he already has four return touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns under his belt.
When he gets on the field offensively, Jackson is a playmaking threat that USC otherwise does not have on the perimeter next to Smith-Schuster. His prowess as a return man could prove to be disastrous against a UW special teams unit that has been shaky this year. Yet, his most consistent impact will be on the defensive end; and that impact could also be his biggest if he is able to shut down the Badgers' most relied upon player, Alex Erickson.
NT Antwaun Woods vs. C Michael Deiter
There won't be many battles on the field where USC has an experience advantage over Wisconsin, but the Trojans definitely do with its defense in the trenches. The most crucial of those matchups will be between Wisconsin's interior line, specifically Deiter, and USC's man in the middle, Woods. Woods, a fifth year senior, is the anchor of the 3-4 defense and is relied upon to eat blockers and allow the athletic players behind him to make plays. Deiter, who moved to center to replace the injured Dan Voltz, will almost surely receive a good amount of help, but requiring too much will result in another paltry Badger rushing attack.
If Deiter can step up to the occasion and allow the guys next to him to release into the second level, Wisconsin could dominate with a power run game in traditional fashion against USC's smaller defense that will be without its leading tackler.