What you need to know: Rose Bowl
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and when and where you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Need-To-Know Details: vs. USC, Monday, January 2, with a 5:10 p.m. (ET) kickoff, broadcast on ESPN.
Records: Penn State (11-2, 9-1 Big Ten), USC (9-3, 8-2 Pac 12).
Venue: Rose Bowl Stadium.
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 61 degrees, with sun and areas of low clouds.
The Overview: Though neither fan base could reasonably expect their team to make the Rose Bowl earlier this season, this matchup is what this game deserves. With so many mismatched teams playing in irrelevant bowls, having two historic programs play in the perhaps the most famous college football game of all time just feels right.
The Line: Penn State +7
All-Time Series: USC leads 5-4.
Last Time They Met (2009): USC toppled Penn State 38-24 in the Rose Bowl, also the last time each team played in the prestigious game.
Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions play all 60 minutes. Numerous players, Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley chief among them, have noted offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as one reason for the team’s supreme confidence level. And after winning the Big Ten Championship with a 21-point comeback, Penn State is in every game, no matter the circumstances. If the Lions don’t worry about anything other than playing all 60 minutes, expect another victory.
USC Wins If: The Trojans avoid a letdown. Southern Cal has won eight consecutive games, not allowing more than 27 points during the streak. Expect USC to come out strong, though avoiding a letdown in the second half, where Penn State has thrived all season, will be critical. And although this somewhat amounts to a de facto home game for Southern Cal — USC also just played at the Rose Bowl Stadium on Nov. 19, defeating UCLA — the Trojans will have to contend with the tens of thousands of Penn State fans who will make the cross-country trip.
Count On: Something you haven’t seen from the offense all year. Call this more of a hunch than anything, though with this game expected to be one of the most-watched bowl games this year, and with offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead having nearly a month to construct a game plan, don’t be surprised if the affable offensive guru challenges the USC defense in new ways.
Keep An Eye On: Penn State’s punt return coverage. USC cornerback Adoreé Jackson is one just six FBS players to return multiple punts for touchdowns this season (two), and with Penn State benefiting from the superb play of punter Blake Gillikin, this often overlooked matchup could be crucial.
Trivia Tidbit of The Week: Penn State and USC will meet in the Rose Bowl for the third time, with the first two games taking place in 2009 and 1923. The latter was also the first game held at the stadium’s current location.
*Season Record: 11-2
*Season Record Against the Spread: 8-4-1
Prediction: Penn State 34, USC 28
*HappyValley.com season predictions