WHO: No. 5 Penn State (11-2) vs. No. 9 USC (9-3)
WHAT: The 103rd Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
THE SKINNY: The Granddaddy of Them All is not a College Football Playoff Semifinal this season but it has that that sort of feel with a high caliber matchup between two of the hottest teams in the country that each has a pretty good case to be in the final four.
The Nittany Lions head West as Big Ten champions after a magical run that included beating Ohio State in a thriller and Wisconsin in the conference title game thanks to a remarkable comeback. The team has not skipped much of a beat defensively from last year behind defensive end Garrett Sickels (12.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks) and safety Marcus Allen (101 tackles) but it’s the offense that has really helped spark the team’s run to the roses.
Quarterback Trace McSorley has really impressed with 25 touchdown passes against just five interceptions on the year and forms a potent backfield tandem with tailback Saquon Barkley, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Head coach James Franklin has done a masterful job of bringing this team together to regroup from some painful early losses to finish the season playing as well as anybody but there’s still one task left on the table for Penn State to accomplish.
That would involve beating USC, who is no stranger to starting off the year in ugly fashion. The Trojans made it through the first month of the season with a 1-3 record and plenty of talk that the school needed to fire recently named head coach Clay Helton. Instead the team lived up to their motto and fought on, running off eight straight wins that included a throttling of playoff participant Washington up in Seattle.
A change at quarterback has proven to be the spark that set the team off and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold is a key cog to USC’s recent success, looking less like a young signal-caller and more like some of the big time QB’s who have come through the program in recent years. He’s able to lean on an experienced offensive line and has a deep stable of playmakers to distribute the ball to, including wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Ronald Jones II. Defensively, Thorpe Award winner and superstar return man Adoree’ Jackson headlines a talented group of players that can throw just about every look out there that you can imagine.
All that makes for one of the most compelling games of the postseason as the two teams return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since meeting back in 2009 (a 35-24 USC win). Each program has been through the ringer of NCAA sanctions and extensive coaching turnover since that point and will be looking to show the rest of the country that they are back among the college football elite with a win. Talent favors the Trojans in this one but the Nittany Lions haven’t let that stop them this year and won’t go without a fight to begin 2017 in what should be a fantastic game.
THE PICK: USC 34, Penn State 27
The Iowa Hawkeyes are about to host a top-four team at Kinnick Stadium this Saturday night, and it seems there is slightly more trouble trying to sell out the game than anticipated. According to Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen (and not the NCAA president by the same name), Iowa still had 4,000 tickets for this week’s game against No. 4 Penn State sitting in the box office as of earlier today.
Price concerns for the game coupled with a delay in knowing the kickoff time apparently had some influence on the unexpected ticket availability this close to the game.
Schools are becoming more and more commonly known for having higher-priced tickets for the more marquee games on their home schedule, and Iowa is no exception. Iowa has tiered ticket pricing for their home games, and Penn State being the defending conference champion with a decent traveling fanbase made this week’s matchup an ideal fit for being priced in the higher tier. Later this year, Iowa’s home game against Ohio State will also be priced at $95. $95, for some, is not worth the effort to go to a game and tailgate all day. It may be fine for a good number of fans, but it’s not for everybody.
Having to wait to know what time a game will kickoff can be a nuisance for those football fans who like to plan ahead. And while a primetime game may be great for exposure, it can be a cumbersome chore for some fans who would much rather stay home and not have to deal with a late-night drive home.
So if you are looking to get a ticket to the game this weekend in Iowa City, you may have a good chance to pick up a ticket.
This weekend when Indiana takes the field, the Hoosiers will be honoring former head coach Terry Hoeppner. To do that on the 10th anniversary of the former coach’s passing, Indiana’s uniforms will have a slight modification to the numbering. Rather than a traditional white block numbering on the front and back, Indiana’s uniform numbers will feature a pattern mimicking Hep’s Rock, which was introduced to the program by the former head coach and remains a fixture within the program.
Hoeppner passed away at the age of 59 in the summer of June 2007. Hoeppner had planned to step away from coaching to focus on a battle with brain cancer that summer, but he fell victim to the disease on June 19, 2007. Though he may have only coached for Indiana for two seasons, his impact on the program was noticeable in helping the program build a foundation. The Hoosiers won four and five games in the two seasons coached by Hoeppner, but the 2007 team carried on his mission to “Play 13” by advancing to the Insight Bowl (now known as the Cactus Bowl). Members of the 2007 bowl team (Indiana lost to Oklahoma State in that bowl game) will be in Bloomington to celebrate the life of Hoeppner, who remains an inspiration for the program to this day.
As Houston prepares for a game that could quickly become a shootout of sorts with Texas Tech, the Cougars could have one more wide receiver good to go this weekend. D’Eriq King is expected to make his season debut for the Cougars this week after missing the past two games coming off an offseason knee injury.
Houston head coach Major Applewhite announced on the radio he feels his young wide receiver option is finally ready to get back at it, and it could come at no better time.
As a freshman in 2016, King caught 20 passes in 10 games for 228 yards and a touchdown. King was expected to be a contributor to the offense this season. Having a healthy receiver is going to be key against a Texas Tech offense that will not shy away from the pass.
LSU could very well be without its most potent offensive weapon when it looks to bounce back from an embarrassing Week 3 loss.
Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee. The star running back hasn’t practiced at all this week, even as Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury.
On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, however, the head coach acknowledged that it could be much worse than he’d been letting on, so much so that the Guice could miss the Week 4 game against Syracuse.
“I don’t know if Derrius is going to play,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t dress out yesterday in pads. He’s very questionable right now.”
Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.
Should Guice be unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) would likely be next in line to shoulder the running-game load.