LAS VEGAS - Mountain West Conference Champion Fresno State (11-1) will face one of college football’s most storied programs, Southern California (9-4) of the Pac-12 Conference, in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
"We are ecstatic to be hosting one of the top matchups in our game’s history," 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. We know our city is excited to host a program with the national recognition and rich history of a USC and pit the Trojans against one of the top offensive teams in college football in Fresno State. We expect a full stadium and a lot of people watching on ABC on Saturday afternoon December 21."
USC 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 here just once before when they played Utah on Christmas Day in 2001.
"We are extremely excited to have been invited to participate in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl," said USC football interim head coach Clay Helton.
Helton takes over for regular season interim head coach Ed Orgeron (6-2) who left the program after the final game agisnt UCLA when he was told he would be hired as the permanent head coach. Orgeron took the interim role when had coach Lane Kiffin was fired after a 3-2 start.
Steve Sarkisian was announced on December 2 as the new head coach. The former BYU quarterback was an assistant for 7 years at USC under Pete Carroll and coached alongside Lane Kiffin for 2 years as co-offensive coordinator.
Helton said, "It is a tremendous honor and a great reward to our team and what they have been able to accomplish in the 2013 season. We look forward to our trip to Las Vegas and the challenge of competing against one of the better teams in the country in Fresno State."
Fresno State, which accepted its bid after winning the inaugural Mountain West Championship game, 24-17, over Utah State, will return to this city for the first time since playing Utah in the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl.
"The Bulldogs are thrilled to be playing in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against USC," said Fresno State head coach Tim DuRuyter. "We know that the team and all Bulldog fans are in for a fantastic week. We also know the challenge of playing against a Pac-12 school and look forward to competing against a very talented Trojan squad on national television."
Of course, Fresno State would have been more thrilled with a slot in a BCS bowl game, but that opportunity vanished with a 62-52 loss at San Jose State in the final regular season game.
This will mark only the third meeting between the two California programs but the second in the postseason. Fresno State downed USC 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim and the Trojans beat the Bulldogs 50-42 at home in a regular-season game on Nov. 19, 2005.
The Congrove Computer Rankings give USC a narrow 0.24-point margin of victory, projecting this to be the closest contested game of the bowl season.