Rose Bowl: USC (11-1) vs. Penn State (11-1)
Jan 1, 4:30 p.m., ABC
USC take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: There's a chance an impressive win by either team might earn a scattering of protest No. 1 votes in the final national polls. But even without major national title implication, this is an intriguing matchup between a pair of traditional national powers led by big-name coaches who couldn't be more different. The popular storyline will be the Nittany Lions "HD" offense vs. the USC defense. It's interesting to note, however, that the Lions touted offense is nearly a statistical dead heat with a Trojans unit that's been maligned all season. USC averages 453 yards and 37.5 points per game; PSU averages 452 yards and 40 points per game. Oh, and the Lions aren't too shabby on defense themselves, ranking fifth in total yards (264) and fourth in scoring (12.4 ppg). Of course, USC, playing in its fifth Rose Bowl in six years, in many ways is in a no-win situation because of a nationwide lack of respect for the Big Ten. The Trojans also have dominated the Big Ten of late, winning eight straight against the conference by an average of 25 points, including four consecutive BCS bowl games.
Penn State take by Big Ten blogger 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.