The University of Southern California’s campus is just a few minutes away from the Rose Bowl stadium, but we know Nittany Nation travels well. In fact, the Nittany Club pre-sale ended early because the tickets were sold by Penn State alumni in minutes.
Penn State rarely faces the formidable West Coast opponents, and USC will undoubtedly present a challenge.
The Trojans had a tough start to their season, with a 52-6 loss to No. 1 Alabama as their opening game.
Their only other two losses followed shortly after in September, with a 27-10 loss to then powerhouse Stanford, and a 31-27 loss to Utah.
Since then, the Trojans have won eight games in a row, including a 26-13 win over Washington, who is headed to the College Football Playoffs.
Penn State faced a similar season in results. Some early setbacks against Michigan and Pitt gave the Lions the hunger they needed to pursue a 9-0 win streak beginning with the famed Minnesota game, at which the Lions began to identify as a second-half team.
The Nittany Lions have also defeated a Playoff contender, No. 3 Ohio State, as if you needed a reminder.
Penn State and USC have faced each other nine times, with USC winning five of those games. The two teams’ first ever meeting was in 1923 at the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, USC came away with a 14-3 win.
The last time the pair faced off was in 2009, Penn State’s last go at the Rose Bowl. USC proved victorious, coming away with a 38-24 final score.
Although both teams are excellent, they have achieved their excellence in different ways.
USC quarterback Max Browne recorded only 507 yards and two touchdowns this season. Browne notched a 62% completion rate, and relies heavily on the speedy and skilled wide receivers and running backs the Trojans boast about.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, on the other hand, is joining the ranks of Penn State elite QB’s thanks to his jaw-dropping 3,360 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2016. McSorley lags slightly, with a 56% completion rate. McSorley’s scrappiness and confidence in his teammates is what makes him great, and fans can look forward to seeing more of that on January 2.
Penn State fans, this is the moment you have been waiting for. You stayed true when times were hard, you never lost faith. Whether you fly to Pasadena or watch on TV, make sure you cheer in some way for your Nittany Lions on January 2 as they play in the 103rd Rose Bowl!