Here we are, the Rose Bowl Game. On Monday, two of the hottest teams in the nation, Penn State and USC, will face off in the Grandaddy of Them All.
Penn State will take its nine game winning streak, a conference championship, and one very big chip on their shoulder into this one as USC will be taking an eight game winning streak into a game neither of these two teams thought they would be in back in September. This New Year’s six Bowl will be on January 2nd instead of New Year’s Day because of the NFL games on Sunday, but it should be a better game than most of the ones played on Sunday. This game features two explosive offenses loaded with skill position talent and two quarterbacks getting hot at the right time.
Location- Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Time- 5PM (EST)
Opponent- USC Trojans (9-3)
Ranks- PSU-5 USC-9
Line- USC -7
Last Meeting- 38-24 USC ( 2009 Rose Bowl)
Injuries- OT Brendan Mahon will not play, WR Saeed Blacknall and LB Manny Bowen have been suspended for a violation of team rules and will not play.
Not only is this a great match-up between two great teams, but there’s plenty of battles to keep an eye on during the game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Grant Haley
One of the most exciting players in the nation is USC wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster, with 63 receptions for 781 and 9 touchdowns, he is not an easy guy to cover.Penn State junior corner back Grant Haley will have the assignment of covering the future NFLer. Haley has been a solid defender all year, but Smith-Schuster might be his toughest assignment all year. If Penn State keeps Smith-Schuster in check, they’ll have a good chance in this one.
Saquon Barkley vs USC front 7
Saquon Barkley has been a star all year for Penn State, but he dealt with some injuries late in the year and Trace McSorley’s passing attack took over. For Penn State to have success on Monday, they’ll need to establish a running game. USC gives up 133 rushing yards a game, they’ve already faced Christian McCaffrey and the dreaded Alabama running attack, they’ll be ready for Barkley. The offensive line will have to block big time run stuffer Stevie Tu’kolovatu(6’1 320) in order for Barkley to find running lanes. If Barkley gets going, the offense will be hard to stop.
Chris Godwin vs Adoree Jackson
This match-up pits Penn State’s top receiver Chris Godwin against one the nation’s best defensive backs in USC’s Adoree Jackson. Godwin has grabbed 50 catches for 795 yards and 9 touchdowns, while Jackson has been a stud with four picks and 11 pass break-ups this season. Without Saeed Blacknall, Godwin will have to come up big, unlike he did in the Big Ten Championship game, for the offense to have a chance to get a passing game going.
Sam Darnold vs Trace McSorley
Two of the hottest quarterbacks in the nation going head to head in the Rose Bowl, what more could you want? Darnold took over for Max Browne after USC’s 1-3 start, and the rest is history. Darnold has throw for 2,633 yards, 26 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions in nine games this year. McSorley has been a stud lately going for 8 TDs and no picks in his last two games. McSorley has thrown for 3,360 yards with 25 touchdowns and only five picks. McSorley’s receivers have been great all year and he’ll need them to continue that if he’s going to win this battle.
Joe Moorehead vs Clancy Pendergrast
Penn State’s offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead has done a fantastic job all year making in-game adjustments and finding ways to out-smart his opponents. He’ll be going against USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who’s unit only gives up 22 points a game. Moorehead’s offense scores and average of 36 points a game and they haven’t scored less than 38 in a game since they played Ohio State. In fact, the offense is averaging 45 points a game since they beat the Buckeyes. USC’s defense is fast and athletic, Moorehead will have to find ways to neutralize this, even without his best big play wide out.
This will be the 10th meeting between two of the most historic programs in the nation. USC leads the series 5-4 with the last meeting being a 38-24 victory in this very game back in 2009. The first meeting was way back on New Year’s Day 1923, a 14-3 USC victory. The two teams didn’t meet again until the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, a 26-10 Penn State victory. The teams faced each other five times back in the 90s with two being played in Los Angeles, two USC victories, two were played in State College, both Penn State wins, and one neutral match-up at the Meadowlands, a 24-7 Nittany Lion victory. That was the last time Penn State beat USC, 1996, USC has won the last two games. Penn State ranks 8th in all time wins with 867 while USC is 10th with 822, USC does have 10 National Championships, compared to Penn State’s four.
Who would’ve thought back in September when the Nittany Lions were 2-2 that they would be playing in the Rose Bowl. The same could be said for the Trojans, they were 1-3 when the calendar turned to October. This game will feature two exciting offenses and two defenses that have been playing at a high level as of late. The key for Penn State in this one will be to try to get an early lead and not have to make a historic comeback like they did in the Big Ten championship game. If the Nittany Lions go into the half with the lead, they’ll be in good shape. Not having Manny Bowen at linebacker will hurt Penn State’s defense and their ability to get after the quarterback and stop the run. USC is good, very good, they’ve been playing arguably the best football in the nation the past eight weeks. They’ve been playing so good that many people were lobbying for them to make the playoff despite their three losses. Sam Darnold has turned this program around and Penn State must find ways to get after him and shut down his dangerous weapons he has at his disposal. James Franklin and Joe Moorehead will need receivers DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins to step up without Saeed Blacknall, who practically carried the receiver corps in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Penn State will be playing this game with a chip on their shoulder after being snubbed of a match-up with Alabama in the playoff semi final. They’ll come out ready to play, both teams will, Barkley and his offense must start fast and set the tempo. This game has the makings of a shoot out, but it could also turn into a defensive slug fest if both offenses struggle. Penn State has proven that it cannot be counted out all year, and the same applies in this one. They’ll fight untill the end like they have all year, and that fighting has put them in a game that no one expected to see them in. USC’s talent will be the difference in this one, I think it’ll be a very exciting game, but I got to give the upper hand to the Trojans, although Penn State has proven that you can never count them out, especially with the way Trace McSorley has been playing.
Prediction: USC 41 Penn State 35