University of Southern California
Location: Los Angeles, California
Head Coach: Clay Helton (2nd year, 15-7; .682)
Conference: Pac-12 (South Division)
Rose Bowl Facts
Stadium: Rose Bowl Stadium (Capacity 92, 542)
Location: Pasadena, California
First Game: January 1, 1902 (Michigan defeated Stanford, 49-0)
Last Game: January 1, 2016 (Stanford defeated Iowa, 45-16)
Penn State / USC Series History
First Game: January 1, 1923 (USC won 14-3)
Last Game: January 1, 2009 (USC won 38-24)
Overall: USC leads 5-4 (.556)
Current Win Streak: USC, 2
Penn State and USC both played in their first bowl game in the 1923 Rose Bowl. That game was also the first Rose Bowl Game played in the current location.
Last Season (8-6 overall, 6-3 conference in 2015)
The University of Southern California started the 2015 season 3-2 under head coach Sarkisian, defeating No. 8 Arkansas, No. 8 Idaho, and No. 19 Arizona State. Sarkisian was later fired in October 2015 after reportedly appearing intoxicated at booster events and at a practice.
After taking over as head coach mid-season in 2015, Clay Helton led the Trojans to a 5-4 record for the remainder of the 2015 season, with key wins over No. 3 Utah and No. 22 UCLA, a No. 25 ranking, and a spot at the Holiday Bowl. The Trojans lost their bowl game to Wisconsin 23-21.
Four key players from the Trojans were drafted in the April 2016 NFL draft, including linebacker Su’a Cravens, taken in the second round, and center Max Tuerk and quarterback Cody Kessler, both taken in the third round.
This Season (9-3 overall, 7-2 Pac-12)
The start of Southern California’s 2016 season was tainted by some disciplinary issues, most notably with linebacker Osa Masina and defensive end Don Hill being suspended for their involvement in sexual assault investigations in the pre-season. Linebacker Jabari Ruffin was ejected from the first game after stomping on Alabama player Minkah Fitzpatrick’s groin, earning him a suspension for part of the next game. And cornerback Isaiah Langley served a suspension, missing the first game against Alabama, after a May arrest for suspicion of trespassing, intoxication and resisting arrest at a UCLA fraternity party.
The Trojans started off with a loss in their first game against No. 1 Alabama, quickly followed with a win against Utah State, and then saw their only two other losses to No. 7 Stanford and No. 24 Utah, winning the rest of their games for 2016. A season highlight included an impressive win against No. 4 Washington.
Southern California ended their regular season at 9-3 overall and 7-2 in Pac-12 play, finishing second in the Pac-12 South Division behind Colorado.
In the Trojan’s last game on November 26, USC defeated Notre Dame 45-27. Adoree' Jackson returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns and also caught a scoring pass. Quarterback Sam Darnold passed for 205 yards and two TDs, and Ronald Jones II rushed for 134 yards and an early score. Ajene Harris returned an interception 33 yards for a score before halftime and JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to cinch the win.
Southern California returned 54% of their offense this year (and PSU returned 53% of theirs).
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold replaced starter Max Browne in September. Darnold, a 6’4” dual-threat, mobile quarterback, has been able to successfully evade the rush and stay unrattled throughout the season, completing 213 of 313 pass attempts for 2,633 yards and 26 touchdowns. His .681 completion percentage leads the Pac-12 and ranks sixth in FBS. It’s no surprise that Darnold was chosen as the 2016 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.
The offensive line boasts All-Pac-12 second team right tackle Zach Banner, and a solid left guard in Damien Mama. The Trojans have kept Darnold well-protected, only allowing 0.92 sacks per game (first in the Pac-12 and sixth in FBS)
Sophomore Ronald Jones II and senior Justin Davis are the Trojan’s top backs. Jones leads the team in rushing stats with 11 touchdowns, 1,027 yards on 157 carries and an average of 6.54 yards per carry. Davis boasts 2 touchdowns, 564 yards on 104 carries, and an average of 5.42 yards per carry.
Even with junior wide receiver Steven Mitchell out with a knee injury, USC’s receiver corps is deep. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who might have the best name of the USC squad, leads the Trojans in receiving with 63 receptions for 781 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Sophomore wide receivers Darreus Rogers and Deontay Burnett are also top targets, as are receiver Steven Mitchell, and tight ends Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Tyler Petite (who isn’t at over 6’4”).
The Trojans boast an experienced defense, returning 77% of their defense this year, as compared to PSU returning 63%. With that experience, the Trojans have been able to hold teams to an average of 22.2 points per game, ranking them at No. 24 in scoring defense against and No. 4 in the Pac-12.
Junior cornerback do-it-all Adoree' Jackson, who also sees time as a wide receiver and punt returner, is a key to the Trojan’s defense. Jackson boasts 51 tackles (41 solo, 9 assists) ranking him 4th on the team, along with 2 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions and breaking up 11 passes. Jackson was named the 2016 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and the recipient of the 2016 Jim Thorpe award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.
Linebacker Cameron Smith and defensive end Porter Gustin lead the Trojan’s defense in tackles, with Smith boasting 79 tackles (43 solo, 36 assisted), 7 TFL and 1 sack. Gustin is right behind with 64 tackles (40 solo and 24 assisted),12 TFL, and 5.5 sacks.
The Nittany Lions will also need to keep an eye on Michael Hutchings with 64 tackles (32 solo, 32 assisted), 6 TFL and 3 sacks.
The Trojans lost their starting kicker and punter at the end of the 2015 season, and have been relying on Matt Boermeester at kicker and Australian transfer Chris Tilbey at punter.
Boermeester, whose father was a kicker at rival UCLA, made 15 of 20 field goal attempts in 12 games and is 48 of 49 extra points. Tilbey, in 12 games, has 46 punts, 1740 yards, with an average of 37.83 yards, and a long at 53 yards.
Adoree’ Jackson has been a key punt returner for the Trojans, and is one of six players in FBS to return multiple punts for touchdowns this season (2). He’s at the top of the conference for punt returns at 19 returns for 302 yards and an average of 15.89 yards per return.
Check out more on Southern California football on Conquest Chronicles, the SB Nation blog for the Trojans.