The best bowl matchup outside of the final 4. Penn State and USC are a combined 17-0 since October 1st. Those 17 wins include victories over, Ohio State, Washington, Wisconsin, and Colorado just to name a few.
The Trojans started out the season with an embarrassing 52-6 loss to number one Alabama. USC’s season turned after coach Clay Helton inserted Darnold into the starting lineup for Max Browne, who has since transferred to Pitt. With Darnold at the helm, the Trojans were suddenly a high-powered offensive attack. USC likely has the most talented wideout in the game, though, in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Plus do not overlook running back Ronald Jones. The scary thing about USC is the defense maybe better than the offense, especially in the secondary, the USC secondary that features Jim Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and cornerback Iman Marshall.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Coach Kirk Franklin has returned the Nittany Lions to the glory days. The main difference is that back in the glory days the Nittany Lions were more of a three yards and a cloud of dust team, nowadays they are a spread uptempo team that can light the scoreboard up. The Nittany Lions are led by QB Trace McSorley who has evolved into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. His 16.3 yards per completion ranks No. 1 nationally and his 3,360 yards passing led the Big Ten heading into the bowl season.
Keys to the game
Can Penn State limit Sam Darnold?- The standout redshirt freshman finished his season with 2,633 yards, a 68% completion rate, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Darnold has all the traits of a first-round NFL draft pick—his pocket awareness is advanced for a player of his age, he can flush the pocket to pick up big yards on the ground, and he’s most effective on mid-range throws, which open up deep shots. He’s one of the most complete QBs in the nation, and Penn State will need to consistently pressure him if it wants to keep pace. Darnold will have a big game I feel because the Lions will have a hard time pressuring him.
Can USC get to Penn State QB McSorley?- McSorley was tested by an excellent Wisconsin defense and prevailed because of the mismatches they created in the Badgers secondary. The problem here is USC is strong up front and the problem they cause is they have a great secondary. USC up front dominated a strong Washington team, and I feel Washington is very similiar to Penn State on offense, they both can run the ball and throw, so they are very balanced offensively.
Penn State can not fall behind early- USC is not Washington, a double-digit deficit will result in a loss here. Penn State will need to come out and play well offensively the entire game.
I expect this to be a great football game! I believe USC is better offensively and defensively, not by a lot but they are better. I look for USC to pull away late. USC 38 Penn State 27