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Rose Bowl Preview: USC vs Penn State

Trojans and Nittany Lions look to extend win streaks in the Rose Bowl

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Rose Bowl is the one bowl game that most college football fans watch. The history, pageantry, and the beautiful surroundings all add up to appointment television. This year the game has the classic Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup. It’ll be the USC Trojans taking on the Penn State Nittany Lions.

What do the fans have to look forward to?

This will be a game in which both teams come into The Rose Bowl Game on long winning streaks. Penn State will be riding a nine game winning streak and also have the title of Big Ten Champion. The Trojans, after a rough start, roll into The Rose Bowl Game on an eight game win streak.

The USC Trojans are one of the biggest brands in all of college football. There are many media types that want the team to make it back to the big stage. After changing the course of their season the Trojans may just be on their way back to the top of college football.

The course of the Trojan season changed once they decided to make Sam Darnold their starting quarterback. Darnold has been nothing short of spectacular once he was given the keys to the Trojan offense.

“It’s really great, I guess you could say, to be back on the map. We want to be the team that turns around the whole program. We have the potential to do that. But Penn State is a really great team.” Sam Darnold said recently.

What Darnold brings is a steadiness and calm demeanor for the Trojans. Sam Darnold will use this calmness to put more pressure on the defense with his feet when plays break down. Darnold is a crafty scrambler who will keep his eyes down field and be looking for his favorite target in JuJu Smith-Schuster.

JuJu will be playing on Sundays. No doubt about it.

However, he’s one of the many skilled players that will be looking to make big plays for the Trojans. Juju Smith-Schuster has the size at 6’2”, 220 lbs and strength to catch any ball thrown his way. The Penn State secondary will have their hands full with JuJu. He just may be the best receiver that Penn State has seen all season and will almost certainly be double teamed. It will be imperative for the Trojan offense to get him the ball in different ways.

While the Penn State defense will be concerned with Sam Darnold and JuJu Smith-Schuster there is also another player that will be game planned against.

Penn State fans better know the name Ronald Jones II.

Jones showed everybody in the Pac-12 that he is more than capable about being the main running back for the Trojans once he was given the chance. Ronald Jones II, who has the speed to take any run to the house, finished the year with 1,027 yards rushing. However, Jones rushed for 742 yards and nine touchdowns in the final five games. He is a force to be reckoned with.

With the Trojans having a big three on their offense, what do the Nittany Lions have to do to make life miserable for the USC defense?

Make no mistake about it. The Penn State offense is no joke either. The Nittany Lions have a talented quarterback in Trace McSorley. This sophomore quarterback was number one in the nation in yards per completion at 16.3. McSorley also led the Big Ten with 3,360 yards passing this season.

Trace McSorley is also a quarterback that can make plays with his arm and legs. His ability to also extend the play when things break down will test the Trojans defense.

One of the biggest testaments to how dangerous Trace McSorley can be was shown in the Big Ten Championship game when he led a furious comeback to beat Wisconsin. McSorley took apart the Wisconsin defense to the tune of 21-31, 384 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.

The one thing any quarterback loves is a solid running game and Penn State has that.

Saquon Barkley, the 2016 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is somebody that the speedy USC defenders have to be aware of at all times. He rushed for 1,320 yards and had 16 rushing touchdowns. Barkley is the guy that can keep the Trojan defense honest. If Penn State can get Barkley going it’s going to open up the passing game.

Trace McSorley will be looking to pick apart the secondary of Trojans with a plethora of receivers and tight end Mike Gesicki. The Nittany Lions big play receiver, Saeed Blacknall, won’t be playing due to violating team rules. The timing for Penn State couldn’t be worse. Blacknall looked to be coming into his own in the Big Ten title game with 155 yards receiving.

One place that the Nittany Lions will be looking to try and take advantage of is the secondary of the Trojans. Now, the Trojans do have the extremely talented Adoree Jackson, but the rest of the Trojan secondary has given up many big plays all season. Even if Jackson is successful in shutting down his man, the Nittany Lions have enough fire power to go down field for a big play.

With that said, look for receivers, DeAndre Thompkins and DaeSean Hamilton to make the deep plays downfield.

I expect this Rose Bowl to be a very entertaining game. There is a ton of offensive firepower and two great defenses. It’s going to be fun to watch.

I believe the Trojans edge out the Nittany Lions.

Final score: USC 38 Penn State 35