Photo via Mark Holtzman
Who: #9 USC vs #5 Penn State
When: January 2, 5PM EST
Where: Pasadena, California
Winner: Penn State
On the surface this seems like a pretty close matchup. One team has two losses and the other has three. However, I don’t think USC can compete at the same level as the Nittany Lions. First, they were absolutely trashed by Alabama in the season opener. Yeah, a lot of teams get thrashed by Alabama, but top ten teams should be able to at least hold their own. Next, they lost to Stanford, and to a Utah team who lost to Colorado and Washington. If they were the same caliber as Penn State, they would have won those games.
Penn State’s only two losses were a surprise early season loss to Pitt and a loss to Michigan. They beat Wisconsin, Ohio State, and several other powerful programs throughout the season. Simply put, I think they’re better equipped to win this one and show the world that they belong in the college football playoff.
Penn State has a great QB and RB duo that should be hard for the Trojans to beat. Trace McSorley has 760 yards in his last two games, as well as eight touchdowns and 16.3 yards per completion. Saquon Barkley has 19 touchdowns and 1,302 yards rushing along with 23 receptions.
USC’s Sam Darnold’s NFL-level talent and reliable WR Juju Smith-Schuster is a pair that should worry the Penn State defense. Darnold has 2,633 passing yards with 26 touchdowns on the season, while Smith-Schuster averages 12.4 yards per catch.
Most of the predictions I’m seeing say that USC will win this contest. Vegas has them at -7, but I just don’t see it. Sure, it’ll be a really close game, but ultimately the Nittany Lions have more talent and determination. More talent and determination is usually a good recipe for success. Have to go with Penn State to beat USC.