This Jan. 1 Penn State (11-1) will be making the trip to The Rose Bowl for just the third time in school history, and for the first time since 1995. Their opponent USC (11-1) on the other hand, will be taking the short trip to Pasadena for the 33rd time in school history, and the fifth time in six years.
Of USC's previous 32 appearances in "The Granddaddy of Them All," they've won 23 of them. With The Rose Bowl being a traditional Big Ten Champ vs. Pac 10 Champ game, 16 of USC's 23 wins have come against the Big Ten representative.
In the past three Rose Bowls that USC has played a Big Ten team, USC has won by a combined 109-49. And in the third week of this season, USC and Ohio State squared off in the Coliseum in what was supposed to be a game that decided who'd make the National Championship Game in Miami.
USC continued their trend against the Big Ten as they cruised to a 35-3 win over Ohio State, and instantly became everyone's favorite to be playing in Miami on Jan. 8.
So why do both teams end up meeting in The Rose Bowl, rather than the National Championship? Both teams were upset in last second fashion to conference rivals. USC lost to Oregon State in Corvallis 27-21, and Penn State lost to Iowa in Iowa City 24-23. National Championship hopes for both teams were ultimately lost due to these losses.
What most people consider one of the better matchups of the bowl games, USC fans, and some of the media don't agree. Many think that the game will be just another USC drubbing of a Big Ten team, and they deserve the National Championship instead.
Here's an idea USC, don't go 11-1 with your only loss to a huge underdog like you have the past three years!
The following FACTS are why this won't be a blowout.
Joe Paterno has appeared in 34 bowl games, and has a 23-10-1 record in those games. That's a .697 winning percentage. Pete Carroll has appeared in seven bowl games, and has a 5-2 record. That's a .714 winning percentage. Both these coaches know how to get their teams ready to play in big games.
Both teams have above-average defenses, Penn State has only allowed 149 points this season and USC has allowed only 93.
Penn State has one of the best front four in the Nation with defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans, and defensive tackle Jared Odrick, between the three of them they have 19.5 sacks, and 32.5 tackles for a loss.
Behind them could be the next great linebacker at "Linebacker U," Navorro Bowman who has 98 tackles on the year. Penn State also has two good cornerbacks in Lydell Sargeant, and Tony Davis.
Penn State's safeties are a classic example of bend but don't break, but they seem to break every once in a while. Anthony Scirrotto showed signs of being a star his sophomore year, but never seemed to progress from there. Mark Rubin is great against the run, but mediocre against the pass, and against USC QB Mark Sanchez, both of them could have a long day.
The media-darling USC defense is obviously the most intimidating defense in the nation. With names like Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiava, Clay Matthews, Fili Moala, and Taylor Mays being household names by now, and the fact that they're all on the same team is very intimidating.
Almost as intimidating as the 5' 6" freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State who ran for 186 yards on the mighty USC defense, and lead the Beavers to a victory over the then-No. 1 Trojans.
The same Jacquizz (not that there's more than one in this world) had a successful game against Penn State as well with 22 rushes for 99 yards. But more impressively Penn State steam rolled Oregon State 45-14.
Yes, the same team that USC lost to. Though conveniently the common opponent brought up is Ohio State, and USCs 35-3 win over them, but Penn State only managed to beat them 13-6.
The Ohio State team USC played didn't have the Heisman favorite at the time, Chris "Beanie" Wells playing for them, and the game was at the Coliseum. Penn State was able to beat Ohio State at the Horse Shoe, with a healthy Beanie Wells.
Obviously the same argument can be brought up about the USC–Oregon State game. It was away, in a hostile environment, etc. But what really irks me is when the media, or a USC article says how much Oregon State progressed from the Penn State game to the USC game.
Wow! What a difference 19 days makes. If that's the case, then imagine how much better Ohio State was 42 days after playing USC, when they played Penn State.
Anyways, both teams have potent offenses as well. Penn State scored 482 points this year with one of the most talented offenses in school history lead by QB Daryll Clark.
And USC didn't seem to miss a beat with the departure of John David Booty, scoring 450 points with 2005's No. 1 QB recruit Mark Sanchez looking like he had the job since the day he got there.
Sanchez threw for 28 touchdowns, rushed for two more, and was intercepted 10 times. Catching everything was predominantly Damian Williams and Patrick Turner.
Williams has 707 yards receiving, and eight touchdowns with his 48 receptions. Turner has 667 yards receiving, with 10 touchdowns in his 45 receptions.
With fewer receptions but just as impressive stats, Ronald Johnson has 29 receptions for 488 yards, and six touchdowns.
Clark threw for 17 touchdowns, ran for another nine, and was intercepted four times. Clark also has three good receivers in Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams. Butler leads the team in receiving, with 43 receptions for 713 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Norwood has 38 receptions for 605 yards and five touchdowns, while Williams has 40 receptions, 451 yards, and four touchdowns.
But they don't call Penn State "Linebacker U" for nothing, nor do refer to USC as "Tailback U" for nothing. It's no secret that USC has a stable of running backs; USC has three running backs that have over 600 yards in Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, and CJ Gable.
Between the three of them there's 19 touchdowns, and just under 1,900 yards. All three running backs possess the skill to be starting stars anywhere, but it's USC, and they all complement each other perfectly.
Penn State's not too shabby at the running back position either, largely due to the wonderful job that the offensive line does for the feature back Evan Royster.
Royster a 1,200-yard rusher brings with him to Pasadena 6.5 yards per carry, and 12 touchdowns, and his backup Stephon Green isn't bad either. Green has 521 yards so far this season, with four touchdowns on top of that, but what Green really possesses is speed.
Greens 4.2-second 40-yard dash provides speed to complement Royster's patience, and they've worked well together all year. Wide receiver Derrick Williams, and QB Daryll Clark are often involved in the running game as well. Williams has rushed for 226 yards, and three touchdowns, and as stated earlier Clark for nine touchdowns and 265 yards.
On Jan. 1, none of these stats will matter. Both teams will be walking onto the field confident. But only one will leave confident, as the other will leave heart broken. A lot will be found out in the 2009 Rose Bowl.
Is the Big Ten as weak as they're made out to be? Is USC's defense as great as it's made out to be? Did USC deserve a shot at the National Championship? Did Penn State? Did Penn State even deserve to play in the Rose Bowl?
These questions can only be answered by the team, and if there's nothing else for Penn State to play for other than winning "The Granddaddy of Them All," all they have to do is look to the sideline, and see the real granddaddy of them all, Joe Paterno.
This game will be not be a blowout. It will be a well-played game with some of the greatest coaches ever squaring off against each other. I can see a minor mistake being the turning point of the game in a low scoring affair.
With both coaches known for preparing their teams wonderfully this could be one that goes in the history books.
Penn State is not "just another Big Ten victim" for USC.