RADIATOR SPRINGS, Calif. -- Penn State coach James Franklin said it might take some time for his Nittany Lions to get accustomed to the three-hour time difference after a six-hour flight. But not the weather. Definitely not the weather they rolled out Tuesday at Disneyland.
Bright sun. Temperature in the 70s and that was in the shade. By the way, you'd better have brought your shades and the sun screen. Definitely the sun screen.
And people everywhere. This was not the California Adventure Park of 2008, the last time USC was here. More media. And way more people on a day when the main Disneyland was limited to season pass-holders. And everybody else sent over to California Adventure where they found their way to Cars Land, the first time the Rose Bowl teams ended up here.
Although no Will Ferrell. The USC alum had been a fixture here for Pete Carroll's teams. But his year it'ss more people. fewer stars.
But back to Route 66, where the press conference for the teams held between Flo's V-8 Cafe, Luigi's Tires and the Cozy Cone Motel -- a busy place. And a welcoming one when the Disney VP for California Adventure, Patrick Finnegan, greeted everyone and noting that he was a USC alum. And referenced the first and last times these teams had met -- 1923 and 2009. Both Trojans wins.
Trojans fans liked the sound of that but the USC vibe went the other way, a bit, when the president of the Rose Bowl, we'll just call him Brad the Bruin, got up to reference his favorite Rose Bowl -- that 41-38 Texas win over USC in 2006. So this wasn't an all-USC day here.
But it was a "Welcome to Southern California" moment even if by far the largest group of fans here for the press conference for both coaches and four players per team were Trojan fans. It wasn't really close. Penn State folks are still working their way here, it would seem.
But Franklin had decided to "come a day early to get our body clocks adjusted," he said. Both teams start game week practice tomorrow. Penn State at StubHub Center. USC at home.
"That really helps," Sam Darnold said of his USC team that arrived back in town Monday night and moved into the team hotel after a morning meeting Tuesday. "We're meeting in the same place at the McKay Center.
"We're practicing in the same place and yes, we have played a game there [in the Rose Bowl] this season," Sam admitted. What he would not admit, despite being asked multiple times, was that USC had any sort of home field advantage over Penn State.
"I don't think we do," Sam said none too convincingly each time he was asked. And he was never going to admit it.
"No, not at all," he said with a shake of the head and a little grin. No matter how many times someone asked him. Nothing he was going to say to make it look like this USC team was thinking it had an edge.
And as it turned out, one place USC looked like it might take a hit -- in casualties, academic or otherwise, for the Rose Bowl didn't exactly play out. While Franklin admitted for Penn State: "We have some guys that won’t participate for reasons that we won’t get into right now — for violations of team rules, we’ll leave it at that,” he said.
As for USC, as was rumored last week, there were a pair of academic losses -- just not the two named incorrectly in some media.
Clay Helton said that the two who won''t suit up for the Rose Bowl are defensive reserves -- linebacker Olajuwon Tucker and D-lineman Kevin Scott, not the starters rumored. Franklin said he did not have the final academic results for PSU yet.
But Tuesday wasn't about specifics or matchups all that much. Heck, it wasn't even about September, as emcee Rob Fukuzaki of Ch. 7 discovered when he referenced the struggling starts each team had. "Let's not talk about the losses," Franklin said, "but the [nine-game] win streak."
And when Franklin referenced his team's win streak, the team that he most likens to USC was "Ohio State" -- as far as "athletes and talent, they're very talented," he said each time he was asked. "The scheme is probably different."
The opponent that most resembles USC in the way they throw the ball, Franklin said, was Indiana. And that's worrying the Penn State fans because the Lions had no real answer for Indiana, having to come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Hoosiers 45-31 despite being outgained 454 yards to 409 including 344 yards passing by IU.
"It's not 'three yards and a cloud of dust" any more," Franklin said. Offensively there isn't as much difference in what these teams are trying to do.
But when asked what was the ride he was most looking forward to on his first visit to Disneyland, Franklin just stared ahead. "I'm not a big ride guy," he finally said. "Whatever my kids want to go on." ,
Asked a different question, Zach Banner, in perfectly fitting Mickey Mouse ears, was questioned about which ride he most did not want to get on. You don't have to "meet me at the Teacups," he said. Who knows if he could fit into a teacup. Although he and Sam shared the same car for Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.
There, Clay was beat to the red car by JuJu Smith-Schuster and had to settle for the yellow one, which still worked with his cardinal coaching shirt and USC cap.
But this was the last day when these teams could forget football for a few hours. Starting early Wednesday with a press conference for the USC offense at the StubHub Center, this will be Game Week 3 for the Trojans.
And just to leave them with something to think about, Clay wanted his guys to realize the opportunity they have here "when they look back in 25 to 30 years, not only can they be the Rose Bowl champs but the owner of the Victory Bell and the Shillelagh," Clay said. And for a football team that's been playing games since 1888, that's a long time to make the kind of mark this team can make.
"In 123 or 124 years," Clay said, but who's counting, "only 12 USC teams have ever done that."
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