USC Trojans vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview
Where: Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California
When: Monday, January 2, 5:00 PM ET
TV Broadcast: ESPN
Writer’s Pick: Penn State Nittany Lions
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Betting on the USC Trojans (TBA)
It was a tale of two seasons for the USC Trojans. The first part saw Max Browne starting at quarterback, which did not end well. The Trojans went just 1-2 to start the season, although those two losses came against ranked teams in No. 1 Alabama and No. 7 Stanford.
Head coach Clay Helton decided to replace Browne with redshirt freshman Sam Darnold for the Utah game. The Trojans lost that game 31-27, but they haven’t lost ever since. They’ve won their last eight games in a row, and have gone a very impressive 7-1 against the spread.
Darnold was one of the revelations of the college football season. He passed for 2,633 yards with 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His 68 percent completion percentage was 6th-best in the country, and his quarterback rating was 9th. Darnold was also helped by an impressive rushing attack which racked up 5.27 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, their defense played an equally large part in their success. They were 25th in the country in scoring defense and 30th in total defense. That defense completely shut down Washington’s balanced offense, and limited it to just 13 points and 276 total yards as the Trojans handed the playoff-bound Huskies their only loss of the season.
However, the USC defense is susceptible to deep balls. The Trojans gave up 13 pass plays of 40 or more yards, one of the most in college football.
Betting on the Penn State Nittany Lions (TBA)
Penn State football made its way back up the ranks of college football this year with an excellent season. They went 11-2, with a close loss at Pitt and a blowout defeat at Michigan, and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2008.
The Nittany Lions haven’t lost since going down at the Big House. They’ve gone 9-0 in their last nine games, which includes their marquee win over No. 2 Ohio State.
Penn State’s passing offense is as explosive as they come. The Lions ranked just 38th in passing yards per game, but their 9.4 yards per carry was tied for 9th. They were also tied for 3rd in the country in passing plays of 40 or more yards, and could have a couple more against a USC team that will give up some big plays.
The explosiveness of that Lions offense was never more evident than in their Big Ten championship game win over Wisconsin. Sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley went for 384 yards and 4 TDs to lead the Lions back from a 28-14 deficit to win, 38-31.
McSorley did an excellent job marshaling the team’s attack, which ranked 22nd in scoring offense. The sophomore had 3,360 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and just 5 interceptions.
Make no mistake, though, this is a very balanced Penn State team. They have one of the more talented backs in the country in Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 1,302 yards and scored 16 rushing TDs. Meanwhile, the defense gave up just 23.4 points per game, tied for 33rd nationally.
McSorley and Penn State outduel Darnold and USC, 38-35, in a closely-contested Rose Bowl.
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