By beating rival UCLA 28-7 Saturday, Pac-10 power Southern Cal clinched a conference title and the short trip to Pasadena. The Trojans wrapped their regular season at 11-1 overall and 8-1 in the Pac-10.
Since the Crimson Tide and Gators squared off in the SEC title game Saturday, at least one was assured of winning and -- presumably -- advancing to the BCS title game. Florida won the game and seems to be set for the BCS title tilt.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma crushed Missouri in the Big 12 championship game Saturday night. The Sooners now appear to be a lock of the BCS title game.
So that leaves USC, a team many hyped as the best in college football in the preseason, facing the Big Ten champion Nittany Lions (11-1, 7-1) in the Rose Bowl.
This will be the second matchup between Penn State and Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. The first came on the first day of 1923, when the Trojans dispatched the Nittany Lions 14-3.
The teams have squared off in only one other bowl -- the 1982 Fiesta, where the Nittany Lions throttled Marcus Allen-led USC 25-10.
While arena league-style shootouts have become all the rage in the Big 12 and SEC, defense figures to play an important role when Southern Cal and Penn State have at it. Heading into this weekend's action, the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, allowing 210.55 yards per game. The Lions ranked fifth in that department, allowing 263.92 yards per outing.
Offensively, the teams are similar in yardage produced. State ranked 15th nationally as of last week with 455.17 yards per game while USC was 16th at 450.82. The have the same general ratio (about 50-50) of rushing yards to passing yards.
The Trojans pounded the Buckeyes at home (35-3) but were stunned by the Beavers on the road (27-21). The Nittany Lions drilled Oregon State at home (45-14) and rallied to beat Ohio State on the road (13-6).
Including the two previous bowl matchups, the Nittany Lions and Trojans have met eight times down through the years, with each program having won four games.
Penn State's Joe Paterno is college football's all-time leader in bowl victories with a 23-10-1 record and is the only coach to win the Rose, Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls.
The Nittany Lions have won three straight bowls, five of their last six and nine of their last 11.
Southern Cal has won two straight bowls and is 5-2 in the postseason in seven seasons under Pete Carroll. Carroll is 5-1 in BCS bowls since arriving at USC.
The 2009 Rose Bowl will be played in Pasadena Jan. 1 and is scheduled to kick off at 2:10 p.m. PST. It will be carried live by ABC.
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