No. 9 USC Football Meets No. 5 Penn State In 103rd Rose Bowl Game

    Zach Banner
    Dec. 20, 2016

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    USC Rose Bowl Media Guide

    *No. 9 USC and No. 5 Penn State--the hottest teams in college football right now with a combined 17 consecutive wins--face off in the 2017 Rose Bowl Game. The 103rd version of “The Granddaddy Of Them All” is a classic Pac-12/Big Ten meeting between collegiate programs with storied gridiron traditions.

    *While it will be the 10th meeting between USC and Penn State, it will be just the third time the teams meet in Pasadena. Their most recent matchup came in each squad’s last Rose Bowl appearance, as Troy prevailed in the 2009 Rose Bowl.

    *It’s a 94-year-old rematch of the first Rose Bowl Game played in the current Pasadena stadium, the 1923 edition that was the initial bowl contest for both schools (the coaches almost came to blows in that one!).

    *USC will be making an unprecedented 33rd trip to the Rose Bowl Game, where it has won 75% of the time (including 11 of the past 13). Troy, one of the nation’s premier bowl teams, has been victorious in nearly two-thirds of its 50 bowl appearances (including 8 of the past 10).

    *The Pasadena stadium is USC’s home away from home. The Trojans have played more than 50 games there, including a win last month over crosstown foe UCLA. In fact, Troy played the first-ever football game in the Rose Bowl Stadium (versus California in 1922).

    *USC, aiming for a 10-win season, has fared well historically against the Big Ten, in season enders, on Mondays, in January and on Jan. 2.

    *USC’s appearance in the 2017 Rose Bowl keeps alive an amazing streak: the Trojans will have played in the Rose Bowl Game during the term of every U.S. President since 1929.

    *After starting off 1-3 in 2016, the Trojans are on an 8-game winning streak (their longest since 2008-09), including decisive regular season-ending victories over traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame.

    *USC is playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. All 3 of Troy’s losses in 2016 have been to AP Top 25 teams away from home.

    *Both USC and Penn State own 2016 wins over a team playing in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

    *Clay Helton, a 2016 Bryant Award finalist who already has 5 wins over ranked opponents in his 22-game coaching career (twice over Top 5 teams), has seen USC get hot due to a revitalized offense (9 straight games with 400-plus total yards) and an aggressive defense (holding foes to season low points 6 times in the past 8 outings). Mobile QB Sam Darnold, a Manning Award finalist and the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year who is second in ESPN’s TQR and statistically is the country’s top frosh signalcaller (he owns the USC frosh TD pass season record, 26), has been the starter during the win string. He distributes passes to a deep group of wideouts--including WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is USC’s No. 5 career receiver, and Darreus Rogers (in USC’s Top 20)--and tight ends. The experienced offensive line, led by All-American first team OTs Zach Banner (a Senior CLASS Award finalist) and Chad Wheeler, has helped USC rank among the nation’s leaders in fewest sacks and TFLs. Explosive TB Ronald Jones II (10 rushing TDs and 4 100-yard efforts in the past 6 games) along with veteran TB Justin Davis headline USC’s ground attack. Troy’s defense has held 6 foes under 100 rushing yards this year and has 20 sacks in the win streak. Leading the defensive charge are the likes of LBs Cameron Smith, Michael Hutchings and Porter Gustin and DTs Rasheem Green and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. And, of course, there’s dynamic unanimous All-American CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson, the 2016 Thorpe Award winner (and Hornung Award/Lott Trophy finalist) who is equally dangerous roaming the secondary (4 picks in 2016) or on special teams (he’s in the national Top 10 in punt returns and kickoff returns). PK Matt Boermeester has 15 field goals and 40 touchbacks this year.

    *James Franklin, the Big Ten Coach of the Year, has Penn State (fifth in the final CFP rankings) riding a 9-game winning streak, including in the Big Ten Championship Game. Key performers on an offense that is averaging 36.7 points are RB Saquon Barkley, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year who has run for 1,302 yards with 16 TDs and caught 23 passes, QB Trace McSorley, who is 14th in the nation in passing efficiency who has thrown for 3,360 yards with 25 TDs and just 5 interceptions, WR Chris Godwin (50 receptions, 9 TDs) and TE Mike Gesicki (47 catches). Leading tacklers for a unit that is ranked third nationally in tackles for loss, 15th in sacks and 22nd in total defense (352.0) are S Marcus Allen (101 tackles), LB Brandon Bell (87 tackles, 7.5 for loss) and DE Garrett Sickels (12.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks). All-Big Ten first team PK Tyler Davis has hit 22 field goals in 2016.

    *The sold-out Rose Bowl Game (89,105 capacity) will air live nationally on ESPN and ESPN Radio, following a visit from the network’s College GameDay pre-game show (USC has won nearly 75% of the time with that popular show on site).

    *Two USC Olympic greats (Allyson Felix, Janet Evans) will be 2017 Rose Parade Grand Marshals. Ex-USC TB Ricky Ervins will go into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.