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Just Sayin' . . . Playin' in Pasadena

Lots to talk about in the runup the next four weeks to playin' in Pasadena . . . We're Just Sayin' here.

Funny how things work out. And how they affect people.

Like USC's Trojans improbably heading off to the Rose Bowl to, as we said the other day, reintroduce themselves to the world of big-time college football. They're back. And USC fans are almost giddy about how this came about -- as they should be.

And as good as that sounds to most of you, the Jan. 2 pilgrimage to USC's second home, the stadium that USC and Penn State inaugurated way back in the 1923 Rose Bowl, also happens to be the official home of the other team in town that hasn't made it there in too long for me to even Google. Just say this, it's not on the tip of anybody's tongue, even Bruin fans, when that last happened.

So a trip to check out how our Bruin Bro's were doing over the weekend was instructive as to the impact locally of getting back to the Granddaddy of all college football bowls that just happens to be their backyard. "Go Colorado," was how the weekend opened over there. Then "They won't hose Colorado, will they?" Finally, "Uh oh, SUC is back." And for thread after thread, five of the first seven topics and for hundreds of posts, they were talkin' Trojans football on a Bruins fans board. And for some of you, that pleasure at an archrival's pain is the cherry on top of this football sundae. But we digress. Time to talk some bowl football here.

*** With No. 5 Penn State the higher-ranked team over the No. 9 Trojans, the Nittany Lions get to be the home team and wear their blue jerseys and occupy the west side of the Rose Bowl. We like that on both counts. USC gets to play in its white jerseys -- a better, more distinctive look and one we never see in LA from the Trojans. And getting to watch that iconic sunset on Jan. 2 is the better way to go for Trojan fans, as well. So good on both counts . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Not a bad way to go. Under-ranked and seven-point favorites. Trojans will take that . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So what do you think about the matchup, we were asked the other day. Love it. Classic Big Ten- Pac-12 game although when we say "Pac-12," we're really talking USC again . . . Just Sayin'.

*** What about the game itself? Again, classic Midwest-West Coast game. Can the guys who will be practicing indoors this month after a season of slogging it out in a conference where no one really throws the ball all that well get out of the snow and cold and get up to speed against a more wide open, more athletic group of skill players -- starting with a dynamic quarterback -- than they've seen all season? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** On the flip side. can the West Coast guys match the physicality they'll surely see from the Big Ten champs. Last year, they couldn't -- or didn't . . . Just Sayin'. 

*** And then there are the coaches. People were measuring the drapes in both their offices in late September for the next guy and here they are, after going 17-0 in October, November and December. How's that for the kind of story -- two stories -- Hollywood loves to tell -- or at least once did? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So you're leaning one way here? Yeah, you'd have to think USC's getting-to-be-dominant defense against both the run and the pass has a better shot at limiting Trace McSorley & Co. than does Penn State against an offense with more weapons and speed and versatility -- and a much more talented quarterback and wide receiving corps -- than Penn State has seen this season . . . Just Sayin'.  

*** But we love the way Penn State plays and the enthusiasm James Franklin has brought to a program that badly needed it. Great job by him . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And as much as USC fans can be excused for looking ahead just a bit to what might be for next season and a Trojan team that should open easily in the Top Five with a sure-fire Heisman Trophy candidate in Sam Darnold, next month will see the exit of so many solid seniors who have taken USC through so much the last five years and then a possible say-so-long moment for Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, this game is a big deal all on its own in a way that makes next year inconsequential. Wait until Jan. 3 to think about that. Send these guys off the right way -- or watch them do that for themselves . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Playing in a game that could well be the top-rated TV game of all 40 postseason bowls, save the championship game, is not a bad way to go out for these guys if they go out the way they've played the last two months -- "in playoff mode," as Clay Helton calls it for the "one-and-done" mantra this team has lived by since losing at Utah. No room for a misstep here even in this final game . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Which is why we're encouraged about the Trojans getting back to the practice field this week with informal collections of players not involved in finals and coaches not involved in recruiting returning to Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields even if we can't cover the workouts because they're unofficial and catch-as-catch-can -- a little bit like in the summer, only with coaches . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Then there will be three weeks of regular game-week full-scale practices building up to Jan. 2. If that doesn't sound like last year's much-criticized seven-practice schedule for the Holiday Bowl, it's not -- by a lot . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Live and learn is the lesson here. Plus even if you tried to go that route, these players wouldn't let you. This is a different team in a far different place . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Last year's Trojan team -- coaches and players -- were more survivors than anything just trying to get through to the finish. These guys are in a different place . . . Just Sayin'.

*** That's what's so cool about this game. This Penn State team is much more than a bunch of survivors themselves as much as they could have chosen to be and and as they've proved over and over in the second halves of games much the way they did with their comeback against Wisconsin Saturday . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Should be fun, which is what this should be all about and once again is for the folks who call Troy home . . . Just Sayin'.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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