Big Ten: Rose Bowl first take

Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi

December, 6, 2009
12/06/09
8:40
PM ET
Oregon (10-2) vs. Ohio State (10-2)
Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)

Ohio State has been the team of the decade in the Big Ten, dominating the conference and experiencing both highs and lows in postseason play. But throughout Jim Tressel's incredible run, the Buckeyes have never been to Pasadena. They make their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1997 and hope to snap a three-game BCS bowl slide that has damaged their national reputation.

The Buckeyes once again played their best football in November, beating two top 15 opponents and arch-rival Michigan to lock up their fifth consecutive Big Ten championship. The defense has carried this team throughout the fall, posting three shutouts, nearly two more, and tying for third nationally in takeaways (33).

Still, Ohio State hasn't faced an offense that remotely resembles Oregon's in terms of firepower. The spread system has given the Buckeyes problems, and Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is a dangerous man at the controls. Ohio State must be extremely sound in its tackling, much like it was for most of the Fiesta Bowl against Texas, and keep Masoli and running backs LaMichael James and LeGarrette Blount from getting into the open field.

The Buckeyes likely can't match Oregon score-for-score, and Tressel's offense has endured obstacles this season. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor limited mistakes and spurred a potent rushing attack while operating in a scaled-down system down the stretch, but he'll likely be called upon to do more against Oregon.

The teams share two common opponents: Purdue and USC. Oregon dominated USC but struggled to beat Purdue, while Ohio State lost to both.

Will the Buckeyes' BCS fortunes change in a new setting? We'll find out Jan. 1.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A Penn State team that struggled to gain respect despite dominant results gets a chance to earn plenty against college football's most respected program in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi.

The Nittany Lions will be underdogs in their first Rose Bowl appearance since Jan. 1, 1995, and they'll face a USC team that has captured the last two Rose Bowls and hasn't lost to a Big Ten team since falling to Penn State in the 1996 Kickoff Classic.

Penn State's toughest challenge will be finding ways to decode a USC defense that statistically could be one of the best in college football history. The Lions' Spread HD offense is most effective when aggressive, and junior quarterback Daryll Clark will have to attack a talent-stocked Trojans secondary with senior wide receivers Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.

Though the Lions have an excellent offensive line and strong rushing attack with Evan Royster, Clark and Williams, they might need to take some risks down the field to set up the run.

Points could be hard to come by for Penn State, and the Lions need to be polished on defense and special teams to beat USC. The Lions' underrated defense ranks fifth nationally and boasts standouts in end Aaron Maybin and linebacker Navorro Bowman. Williams is one of the nation's top return men and needs a strong performance to help Penn State win the field-position battle.

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