There was a time when playing in the Holiday Bowl in consecutive years would be frowned on by Southern California.

After all, the Trojans have played in 32 Rose Bowls and prefer a trip to Pasadena.

These haven't been normal times for the Trojans, though. The past several seasons have been marked by NCAA sanctions, coaching changes and other upheaval.

So the Trojans (8-5) aren't looking at Wednesday night's matchup against No. 23 Wisconsin (9-3) as a consolation prize for being routed by No. 5 Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

"We're very proud to be here," coach Clay Helton said. "This is not only one of the elite bowl games for our conference, it's one of the elite bowl games in the nation. For us to be back down in San Diego, it is a tribute to what these seniors have accomplished."

Those seniors, including quarterback Cody Kessler, have led the Trojans through a wild ride.

"I've been so proud of our seniors," Helton said. "We've gone through some adversity here, from coaching changes to sanctions. And to really see a bunch of seniors lead us kind of out of the darkness and into the light, to be part of a Pac-12 South championship and be part of the Pac-12 Championship Game, it shows the progress that we're making right now in the program.

"It can be a great jump start to our season coming into next year and we're so glad to be playing such a quality team in Wisconsin."


•Washington State coach Mike Leach, fresh off a 9-4 season and Sun Bowl victory, had his contract extended a year and is signed through the 2020 season.

•Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott says he didn't know his driver's license had been suspended when he caused a fender bender last weekend. The team says he won't face university disciplinary action.