Penn State vs. USC Prediction, Rose Bowl Preview

Penn State vs. USC prediction and Rose Bowl preview. Two of the hottest teams in college football meet when the Nittany Lions and Trojans square off in the Granddaddy of Them All.

Penn State vs. USC Rose Bowl Preview

When: Monday, Jan. 2 – 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV Broadcast: ESPN

Penn State’s rise back to the national stage fell short of the College Football Playoff, but the Rose Bowl isn’t a bad consolation prize. Nittany Lions are making their first trip to Pasadena since the 2008 season, and their fans will be seeing a familiar opponent. Once again, USC will be on the opposing sideline as two of the hottest teams in college football meet in the Granddaddy of Them All.

What To Know About Penn State

The Nittany Lions finished fifth in the final College Football Playoff rankings after winning their last nine games, and coach James Franklin has every right to be upset. They beat Ohio State, which lost only that game and got the No. 3 seed in the Playoff despite not winning the Big Ten East. Penn State did that, then beat Wisconsin, 38-31, in an epic come-from-behind victory in the conference title game. Despite winning the best conference in college football, the Nittany Lions were left out in favor of the Buckeyes.

Trace McSorley set single-season school records with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes after throwing four TDs in the Big Ten title game. Saquon Barkley won the conference’s offensive player of the year while helping a unit that led the Big Ten in plays of at least 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards.

What To Know About USC

USC enters the Rose Bowl with a nice winning streak of its own. The Trojans have won eight straight following a 1-3 start that included a blowout loss to Alabama. But they bounced back and beat Colorado and Washington – the Pac-12 runner-up and Playoff-bound Huskies – while winning each of their last six games by double digits.

Freshman Sam Darnold has been stellar since taking over under center, throwing 26 TD pass and completiting 68.1 percent of his passes. Ronald Jones II ran for over 1,000 yards and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry over his last five.


Offense: Even – Penn State averaged 6.43 yards per play. USC averaged 6.39. Both teams can move the ball, and move it quickly.

Defense: USC – The Trojans will be tested by the explosive Penn State offense, but they allowed the second-fewest plays of at least 10 yards in the Pac-12.

Special Teams: Even – Both teams blocked three kicks this season, with Penn State’s blocked field goal return for a touchdown beating Ohio State.

Coaching: Even – James Franklin helped Penn State overcome a 2-2 start, and Clay Helton got the Trojans back from a 1-3 start to bring their teams to the Rose Bowl.

Intangibles: Penn State – The Nittany Lions are going to come out fired up after barely missing out on a Playoff berth.

Matchup To Watch

Barkley vs. USC’s run defense

Barkley had a pair of 200-yard rushing games and was arguably the best back in the Big Ten this season. But the Trojans ranked second in the Pac-12 in yards per carry allowed at 3.87, and if they can slow Barkley, they could hold the edge.

Betting Odds

Spread: USC -7
Over/Under: No line as of post

Penn State vs. USC Prediction

This will be a back-and-forth game with plenty of excitement. Both offenses score touchdowns on their first two possessions, but Penn State gets the final blow in the fourth quarter on a McSorley touchdown pass to provide the difference.

Penn State vs. USC Final Score Prediction: Penn State 41, USC 37

Campus Insiders Staff Picks

Brian Stultz: USC
Jeff Bartl: Penn State
Rich Cirminiello: USC
Robert Judin: USC
Jordan Cornette: USC

MORE: Final College Football Playoff Rankings