USC's interest level could give Penn State an edge

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
9:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

USC coach Pete Carroll spent part of last night's Rose Bowl conference call defending his team's desire to play yet another game in Pasadena. 

Carroll said all the right things, reaffirmed his love for the Rose Bowl, how it's always USC's top goal, yada, yada, yada. The coach said claims that USC isn't amped to face another supposedly overmatched Big Ten team stemmed solely from the media. 

"Watch the interviews from our players and coaches," Carroll said. "We're pumped about this opportunity, excited, feel honored that we have this matchup. Everything else you hear to the contrary is written by people from the media side of it. That's not our guys talking. It's never what we've been about. 

"Every single day we walk off the practice field, we see the Rose Bowl at the end of the tunnel, everybody knows that's what we're shooting for. There's no doubt about it. We're all pumped up about this."

There's no doubt Carroll is pumped. He'd be geeked to play in the International Bowl and request the game be moved outside. That's one of the reasons he's so easy to like. 

But it's hard to believe his players are itching to face another Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl after dominating Illinois and Michigan the last two seasons.  

Here's how Trojans defensive tackle Kyle Moore characterized the BCS after his team finished off UCLA on Saturday.

"They did us wrong," he said. "They did us dirty. We were No. 5 [in the BCS poll], we win 56-0 [against Washington], then they moved us down to No. 7. We've been trying to move back to that spot since then. I don't know how this BCS works." 

Enter teammate Patrick Turner

"We've been going to Rose Bowls for a while now," Turner said. "It's like a home game."

The Trojans don't seem too excited, and their interest in the game -- or lack thereof -- could benefit Penn State come Jan. 1. 

Penn State has enough talent to pace the Trojans, but given USC's amazing track record in bowl games under Carroll, any intangible edge the Lions can get will be beneficial. 

Carroll is a master motivator, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if USC gets to the right mental state before kickoff. But Penn State has been disrespected more than USC this season, and there's no doubt Joe Paterno's players will be ready for the Rose Bowl.

The Lions were totally dismissed from the national title picture after a 1-point road loss to a pretty good Iowa team. They inexplicably fell to No. 8 in the BCS standings -- behind inferior squads in Utah and Texas Tech -- and drew criticism for their conference affiliation more than anything they did on the field. 

Penn State has an excellent opportunity to show it's not another Big Ten flop, that it can compete with the nation's best.

The Lions have plenty of reasons to get excited for the Rose Bowl. 

Does USC?

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