The two best defenses in the NCAA meet in an instant classic in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
Rose Bowl Game Overview:
One of the greatest coaches in the history of college football meets the best coach in a generation as the No. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions of Joe Paterno meet the No. 5 USC Trojans under Coach Peter Carroll. The historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, will be lit up as thousands of fans with Rose Bowl tickets flock to the football sanctuary. Defense is the overriding factor in the Rose Bowl as the USC Trojans match their No. 1 defense against the No. 4 defense of the Penn State Nittany Lions.
USC Trojans Offense:
The USC Trojans roster and depth chart are stuffed with running backs of every skill set and size. Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable, and Staffon Johnson all carry the load equally, with Joe McKnight picking up the most total yards. FB Stanley Havili plows holes for all of them behind a quick and aggressive offensive line. QB Matt Sanchez has all the tools to be great and ties together high football intelligence with a cannon arm and quick feet. Fans with Rose Bowl tickets may not be treated to any superstars at the WR position but the USC Trojans have a solid unit.
USC Trojans Defense:
The USC Trojans defense is ranked at the top of the NCAA, and they have achieved this with lightning speed. MLB Rey Maualuga is a beast of a player that can overpower blockers or move sideline to sideline to make stops. Rose Bowl tickets will feature four-year starter OLB Brian Cushing, who excels at the outside pass rush and the blitz. DT Fili Moala is a top NFL prospect and can be devastating from the three technique. The true strength of the USC Trojans defense is the safety combination of Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison, who both use their exceptional size to deliver hits or defend deep passes.
Penn State Nittany Lions Offense:
The transition to a wide-open offense has been made possible by great QB Daryll Clark, who can sit in the pocket or take off on the run. Penn State Nittany Lions MVP WR Derrick Williams has deadly speed and can line up at any skill position on the offense. WR Deon Butler is far less flashy than Derrick Williams, but he provides a constant stream of catches. RB Evan Royster came out of nowhere to lead the Penn State Nittany Lions in rushing and can pound defenses when Daryll Clark gets pressured. Rose Bowl tickets will showcase C A.Q. Shipley anchoring a great and experienced offensive line.
Penn State Nittany Lions Defense:
The Penn State Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in defense and are barely behind the USC Trojans in total defense and points allowed. OLB Navorro Bowman appears to be the next product of "Linebacker U" and shows ability that reminds many of LaVar Arrington. When Navorro Bowman cannot make plays, fellow LBs Josh Hull and Tyrell Sales hunt down the ball. The dominant play by the LBs is made possible by huge DTs Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma. Fans with Rose Bowl tickets can see a fantastic front seven that is topped off by bookend DEs Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin.
USC Trojans Road to Victory:
The Penn State Nittany Lions suffered their one loss of the season because of a steady ground attack of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The USC Trojans will look to follow the mold put forth and will dish the ball to their platoon of running backs. With two mountains clogging the middle of the field, the USC Trojans will rely on speedy RB Joe McKnight to make plays on screens and tosses rather than trying to outmuscle the beefy front seven. Fans with Rose Bowl tickets can expect to see QB Mark Sanchez unleash his big arm to deep-threat WR Damian Williams off of play action.
Taking on the balanced offense of the Penn State Nittany Lions will be hard because they can excel at any area. Since this is the case, the USC Trojans will attempt to shut down the run so they force the Penn State Nittany Lions to pass against their tough secondary. The USC Trojans have only given up just over seven points a game, and they should be able to manipulate the offense to their will. LBs Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing are two former Rose Bowl MVPs, and they should make life difficult for Evan Royster. FS Taylor Mays needs to light up WR Derrick Williams a few times to slow him down.
Penn State Nittany Lions Game Plan:
There is a similar roadmap laid out to defeat the USC Trojans defense as there is for the Penn State Nittany Lions. In their one loss, the USC Trojans were unable to stop the run of the Oregon State Beavers. With this in mind, Evan Royster will get the ball as often as possible, and the tough runner will need to break some tackles. The USC Trojans are soft on the defensive line with the exception of DT Fili Moala, and fans with Rose Bowl tickets could see Evan Royster running wild if the Penn State Nittany Lions can get hats on Rey Maualuga on dive and inside zone plays.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are ranked No. 4 in total defense in the NCAA because they can rule the line of scrimmage with their front seven. The USC Trojans probably don't stand a chance of running inside thanks to Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma so the defense must focus on containing the edges. USC Trojans QB Mark Sanchez is prone to throwing interceptions with intense pressure so bringing Navorro Bowman on the blitz to supplement Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans could force turnovers. The defense can focus on man coverage since the USC Trojans lack a big-time receiver.
2009 Rose Bowl Game Outlook:
Offense will be the name of the game for most Bowl Games this season, and the BCS National Championship Game could have more than 100 combined points. While there will be a ton of sizzle on the airwaves in these games, fans with Rose Bowl tickets will get the steak. It is fitting that the oldest Bowl Game in history gets a meeting of two great defenses. The Rose Bowl will not be pretty, but fans of defense or old-school football will love Rose Bowl tickets. This will be the kind of football that Joe Paterno loves.
The Penn State Nittany Lions have a strong disadvantage as most Rose Bowl tickets will be bought by USC Trojans fans thanks to the proximity of Los Angeles, California. But traveling to the West Coast is not the only thing that will tire out Joe Paterno's crew. The depth at running back for the USC Trojans means they can constantly put in fresh legs and varying styles to wear out the defense to eventually set up play action, while the Penn State Nittany Lions only have one great runner in Evan Royster. Fans with Rose Bowl tickets will likely see the USC Trojans limp out of the Rose Bowl with a victory but not without plenty of bruises and busted lips to go with it.