#5 Penn State Football Preview: Rose Bowl vs #9 USC Trojans



In a big time bowl game, but you couldn’t ask for more of a contrast in culture than you’ll get between these two institutions.

#9 USC and #5 Penn State football bring two fan bases that are about as different as night and day, but equal in their determination  to see their heroes triumph in “the grand daddy of them all,” the 103rd Rose Bowl. 

It’s an edition that will be very fun to watch too.

SPREAD: USC -6 1/2


No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Penn State football 4PM CST kickoff Approximately

Broadcast TV: ESPN, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Samantha Ponder

Said former Penn State quarterback and current ESPN Analyst Todd Blackledge:

“Were it not for the fact that you have about a month layoff at the end of the regular season, I think you would have had the two hottest teams in college football, arguably two of the hottest teams in college football, in the way USC played down the stretch and the way Penn State played down the stretch.”


#9 USC Preview

The Trojans have playmakers all around, JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the nation’s top receivers. Adoree’ Jackson, a cornerback who makes occasional appearances as a receiver, is another game-breakler. Both could be first or second round draft picks come April.

By winning the Pac 12 Freshman of the Year Award, Quarterback Sam Darnold has established himself as the next great signal caller in the land of Troy. This team has grown and developed in correlation with his season arc. Darold’s best trait is his consistent ability to spread the ball around to several different backs and receivers.

His ability to excel in this area makes him difficult to game plan against.


Many were critical of USC’s decision to not go and try lure a big name, and instead just retain interim coach Clay Helton. These criticisms became amplified when the Trojans started just 1-3.

However, they have not lost since week four and keeping Helton has now proven to be the right call.

PSU and USC share unique historical connections to the Rose Bowl. Both schools played their very first bowl game in the 1923 Rose Bowl, which was coincidentally the very first Rose Bowl to be played in today’s location. 

The Rose Bowl is all about tradition of course, as Tevye would sing “tradition! TRADITION!!” What is the true Rose Bowl tradition though? For that, you need to go to this link and read about the actual origin story of bowl games.

This game might end up shaping up like the 2012 Rose Bowl (end of 2011 season) in which Oregon beat Wisconsin 45-38. That game was both the hottest in air temperature, and the highest scoring Rose Bowl in Rose Bowl history at the time.

These two teams also met in the 95th Rose Bowl, played in 2009, and won by USC 38-24. 

#5 Penn State Football Preview

To watch this offense is to love watching college football. Watching QB Trace McSorely connect with DeShean Hamilton and all the other receivers, balanced out by Saquon Barkley rushing the football on the ground…this is to watching football what pizza is to eating food. Here’s a link to much more on him


McSorely shattered Matt McGloin’s school record for single season passing yards, and earned second team All-B1G honors.

Barkley made a fierce run at the Big Ten Conference football individual awards, having claimed the Otto Graham–Eddie George Offensive Player of the Year, and Alan Ameche–Ron Dayne Running Back of the Year Awards.

He was also First Team All-Big Ten and shared the Chicago Tribune Silver Football, (or should we call it the TRONC Silver football) which goes to the B1G MVP. He was also “everybody’s All-American” to quote the title of an old classic film, as Saquon made three All-America teams.


Penn State football Blast from the Past

At the conclusion of the 1981 season, in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, Penn State upset a heavily favored and much more talented USC team. They actually beat them more soundly than the 26-10 final margin would indicate.

Blackledge discussed the hows and whys of that result

“My recollection when we played USC that particular year, that was an extremely talented USC team,” Blackledge said.


“They had Marcus Allen coming off of a Heisman-winning season.

“But I do sense that with their team, there was a little bit of a disappointment of not playing in the Rose Bowl. We were fired up to go to the Fiesta Bowl and to play them.”

“We had been to the Fiesta Bowl the year before and played Ohio State, had a great experience in Phoenix and Scottsdale. It was a great treat for us.”

“I think in that case, as talented as they were, I don’t know if they were as thrilled to be there as we were. I think sometimes in bowl games or in match-ups, that becomes a factor.”

“Now this year, I don’t think there’s any such thing. I think this year’s game is going to be extremely competitive and extremely entertaining.”

penn state football recruiting-PSU

Why the history lesson here? Because past is prologue, as Shakespeare famously said. 

This Penn State football team is angry that they didn’t make the playoff. PSU firmly believed that they were going to be in the final four, not the Rose Bowl. How will that affect their motivation here? Will the Nittany Lions comes out with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove?

Or will the Rose Bowl just be an exhibition game, for which they’ll feel luke warm?

Or as essayist and philosopher George Santayana is immortally quoted: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”


Prediction: Penn State football 37, USC 31

How motivated or not this Penn State football team  may or may not be, I just think they’ll find the way to get it done. 

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.

He also consistently appears on numerous radio and television talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and Sound Cloud.

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