During the Minnesota game, something clicked with this team and they caught some magic. Right now, I’d have a hard time picking against them, regardless of the opponent. That’s not very good analysis, but sports are sometimes irrational. It’s the reason I wish they had gotten a crack at the Playoff. Perhaps the extra time to prepare for the Rose Bowl will alter things, but I expect to see the same, familiar script. Penn State starts slow, hangs around well enough, wins in the second half.
Penn State 31, USC 21
As I said in the impact player roundtable, I'm not that concerned about our offense scoring points. I'd anticipate we score somewhere in the mid-30s with an average output, and possibly into the 40s if the USC defense decides to take a few plays off. What worries me is our ability to stop the Trojans from scoring - they've been about as dangerous on offense during their win streak as Penn State has during its own win streak. What favors our defense is the heavy rotation of defensive linemen, so that by the fourth quarter the opposing offensive line is becoming gassed, and that our back seven is athletic. If we can limit Sam Darnold and the pass game, I think we win handily. As it is, I expect a high-scoring shoot-out type game, and our fourth quarter dominance to be the deciding factor.
Penn State finds itself in a first half hole, rallies to make the half time score respectable, and then turns the jets on in the second half.
Penn State 38, USC 28
I have bad memories of the 2009 Rose Bowl, where I painted my face blue and white for the first (and last) time and had to endure endless choruses of "Tribute to Troy" and the sea of Trojan fans flashing the V. Darnold, Smith-Schuster, and Adoree Jackson don't help my concerns, and with the suspensions of Blacknall and Bowen, Penn State will be down two of their important playmakers. Barkley should be able to have success, but it's only a matter of time before USC stacks the box and forces McSorley to beat them. I have a lot of faith in Trace, but this is one of the more athletic defenses he has faced this season (at least since Michigan or Ohio State).
USC jumps out to a 10-point lead and leads by 17 at halftime, and Barkley, McSorley, and the rest fight to make it a three-point margin at the end.
I really, really hope I'm wrong, but I think USC holds on with a Jackson deflection/pass breakup to seal it.
USC 38, Penn State 35
IDK IDK IDK IDK IDK
I'm not convinced that USC is that great, but we haven't had much of a reference point for them. The same could be said by many about Penn State if they haven't seen them much this year. The loss of Bowen really hurts in pass defense, and while PSU has depth at wideout, Blacknall may be the biggest game wrecker of them all. USC is going to score on PSU, I don't doubt that at all. but how much will PSU score on an average USC defense. They may have Adoree shadow Godwin, but I don't think USC matches up well with Gesicki or Hamilton. How will the OLine handle an athletic USC front? Will Darnold get rattled in a big game?
I'll go optimistic here because it feels weird predicting PSU to really let me down. Trace guts one out and Saquon stakes an early claim for the 2017 Heisman with a big day.
Penn State 37, USC 31
We've had a month to hear about how USC is just about everything you could hope for in a team. They're hot, they're on an 8-game winning streak (EIGHT GAMES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!), they beat Washington, a playoff team, on the road (DON'T YOU KNOW WASHINGTON IS LIKE THE BEST EVER --I mean they might be but that's beside the point), they have one of the best SOS ratings in the country, their quarterback hasn't thrown an incompletion since the Stanford game (which is why they're on an 8-GAME WIN STREAK FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!), their defense has sacked the opposing quarterback 50 times in each and every game, including the game against Alabama, and some other stuff that I forgot because USC is just that good.
I'm sick of hearing it. I'm just about ready for the game to be played, for Penn State to have a ridiculous lead at halftime, and for everyone else to just STFU about Penn State's "fluke" of a season already.
Penn State 56, USC 17
This year's Penn State team hasn't yet faced the efficient passing game that Sam Darnold and JuJu Smith-Schuster are going to throw at it. The good news is that the blue and white aerial assault has evolved at a rapid pace over the past two games. It's not crazy to think that a shootout-style game favors the Lions and not the team playing close to home. With both squads having not lost a game since September, this one should be close no matter how many points are scored. If all these other bowls are any indication, that gives the edge to the underdog.
Penn State 34, USC 27
I'm excited for this game. Mainly because it's a pretty even matchup , and an exciting matchup, especially at QB. Darnold and McSorely and their high scoring offenses mean it's going to be close. PSU will be down in the first half and will struggle to get on top and get in control. It's going to be a 2nd half game with the lead jumping back and forth between PSU and USC. Adoree Jackson (who I'm really excited to watch) and the USC defense will be effective pass defenders so our running backs will have to bring their best effort. Our defense has to get to Darnold and rattle a QB who's been steady as they come.
Penn State 35, USC 31
The "City of Angels" will be the "City of Moxie" after Trace McSorley is done with it.
Penn State 48, USC 35
USC has the more talented team with an NFL franchise QB at signal caller and two super duper elite athletes at corner in Marshall and Jackson. Therefore, my head says pick USC win this game. My heart says otherwise, however, and this PSU team is all heart. As Bill O'Brien once said "They're a bunch of fuc... er fighters."
Penn State 45, USC 24
I am deeply concerned about whether PSU is going to get consistent enough pressure on Sam Darnold to throw USC off their game, because if Darnold is allowed time in the pocket, he will have the ability to pick PSU’s secondary apart, not unlike what Mark Sanchez did the last time the Lions and Trojans met in Pasadena. Look for Brent Pry to throw in countless blitzes, as I don’t think the defensive line alone is going to be able to get to Darnold.
The other matchup I will be eyeing is how PSU’s receiving corps fares against USC’s secondary, led by Adoree Jackson (who also doubles up as the Trojans’ dynamite return man). Look for several deep shots from Trace to one of his targets in an effort to keep the Trojan defense on its heels. I would also bet the farm on a wheel route to Saquon Barkley happening at some point during the game.
Blake Gillikin’s leg will become especially important, as he will want to make sure the punts have enough hang time to ensure the punt coverage unit can swallow up Jackson before he has the opportunity to break a big return.
Logically, I’d probably be inclined to pick USC in a close one, but this is a Nittany Lion team that has defied logic all season long, and I’m sure as hell not about to write them off in the biggest game of the players and coaching staff’s careers.
Penn State 34, USC 31
Do you think Mark Emmert will be watching this one?
Former Indiana President Myles Brand led the NCAA from 2002 until his death in 2009. No school received a post-season ban during his tenure. Brand decried the "arms race" over which he presided, but did nothing to alter its course. Consequently, the sporting public viewed the NCAA as a slow, plodding, feckless monolith whose purpose was to absorb insults, and insulate member institutions from outrage. (The sporting public was right.)
Mark Emmert took the reins in 2010, and sought to change that perception and role. He fought to increase the sanctions on USC - and got them, walloping Tommy Trojan with a 2-year bowl ban and 30 scholarship reduction because Reggie Bush was fast. He next took what he could get out of Ohio State for tattoo-gate in the spring of 2011 - which wasn't much by the new USC standard, but still a ton compared to Brand - and later that fall, he began the NCAA's first (and hopefully last) foray into criminal prosecution with the Sandusky Scandal.
Speed of decisions, force of efforts (including illegally paying Nevin Shapiro's attorney to ask questions), and severity of punishments - these would be Emmert's re-bar in a newly poured NCAA foundation, one that would (hopefully) transform the institution's role, and forestall all of the anti-trust / monopoly, licensing rights, organized labor, and medical/concussion lawsuits that actually began during Brand's tenure. Because, you know, big time college sports is actually RICO-level stuff.
Lolnope. Emmert and his appointed cronies were exposed as possibly criminal but definitely morally bankrupt, and it all blow'd up in his soft, bloated face. Emmert kept his job (barely), but now he must keep his mouth shut, limit appearances (so as not to get heckled / mocked), and, more or less, accept the same role that Myles Brand quietly played for seven years, because feckless is a far superior position publicly to morally bankrupt / possibly criminal.
Anywho - it's kinda funny that the two schools for whom power-grabbing Emmert most over-reached in a gambit that ultimately blew up in his face, are now playing each other for a ton 'o cash in the granddaddy of 'em all. But, you know...2016. What a crazy year it was.
As far as the actual game goes - A'doree Jackson is awesome. But Moorhead doesn't target your top DB, he targets your 4th DB, or your run-first safety in coverage, or whatever weakness you're trying to hide. So I like that. On the other side, the Sam Darnold kid can sling it. Freaking beautiful release, and stupid accurate, even on the move. I think we're gonna see some points scored by both offenses. For magic and various assorted other reasons, give me Penn State, of course.
PSU Some, USC Something Less
This should be an especially entertaining Rose Bowl between two very evenly-matched teams who are both entering the game playing at an extremely high level. When you look at the way the teams match up and the trajectory of both seasons, it’s hard to imagine anything but an incredibly hard-fought game that goes down to the wire.
If I’ve learned one thing about the 2016 Penn State squad, it’s not to doubt them. Each week throughout the season, pundits would predict the Nittany Lions were due for a loss, and each week they would go out and take care of business. Despite their youth, they are one focused bunch. A victory against USC won’t be easy, but I’m not going to start betting against them now.
Trace McSorley continues his incredible hot streak by tossing for 313 yards, and Mike Gesicki comes down with two touchdowns, while Saquon Barkley scores on the ground and through the air. Brandon Bell closing out a brilliant career as a Nittany Lion with another epic performance, collecting 16 tackles and two forced fumbles. Garrett Sickels contributes two sacks, and Evan Schwan comes up with another late in the game to help close out the victory.
Penn State 34, USC 28
All the narrative headed into this game appears to be how hot of a team USC is right now--indeed, they've been the favorites per Vegas since the matchup was announced. But last I checked, the Nittany Lions had more top ten wins, and a longer winning streak. Before the announced suspensions of Manny Bowen and Saeed Blacknall, I'dve liked Penn State big, but since this team has weathered worse this season, the coaching staff puts the players in a position to win in Pasadena too.
PSU 34, USC 28
Player on the spot: Koa Farmer. With Bowen out, it's likely we'll see more of Brandon Smith in a rejiggered linebacker corps--but we'll also see a lot more of Cali native Farmer, who'll be juiced to perform at home and has looked, like much of the team, better and better as the season has rolled on.
Don't be surprised if: Penn State actually has a lead headed into halftime. A foreign concept, I know--but with nearly a month to prepare, Joe Moorhead comes out with fire.