The Trojans finished off the regular season with the best defense in the nation and just one blemish on their record, but were left out of the BCS national championship game.
Many have speculated that the Trojans would be disappointed with another trip to the Rose Bowl, but Pete Carroll insists that nothing could be further from the truth.
"We're pumped about this opportunity, excited, feel honored that we have this matchup," Carroll said. "Everything else you hear to the contrary is written by people from the media side of it. That's not our guys talking.
"The goal of our program year in and year out since we've been here the last eight years has been to get to the Rose Bowl and win that thing. We know that the Rose Bowl is within our control and that's what we shoot for around here.
"That's all we've ever shot for."
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was excited for the traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup.
"I think everybody is excited about this opportunity," Sanchez said. "What we have is a classic Pac-10/Big Ten matchup with Penn State, Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions on New Year's Day. It's going to be something special."
The coaching matchup alone is worth the price of admission.
The chance to see college football's top coach, Pete Carroll, face off against a living legend like Joe Paterno, who is the all-time leader in victories among major college coaches with 383, certainly adds intrigue to the matchup.
Carroll has set the standard in recent years with seven straight BCS bowl appearances, but even he is amazed by the eighty-two-year-old Paterno.
"To have a chance to work against and coach against Coach Paterno is a great honor," Carroll said. "We're going to give him everything we got, but we know we're up against the best of all time.
"He's stood for college football and for football in general as a true icon in every sense of the word."
Penn State enters the game as the Big Ten Champion with an impressive 11-1 record, their only loss coming on a last second field goal against Iowa.
"We're delighted to have an opportunity to go out there to Pasadena and play against a team with the caliber and tradition of Southern Cal," Joe Paterno said. "We realize we have a very formidable challenge in playing a team of the quality of Southern Cal, a team I think is one of the two or three best teams in the country."
Two of the nation's top defenses will battle it out on New Year's Day.
USC is home to the best defense in the country, and Penn State isn't far behind.
The Trojans are first in total defense (206.1ypg), and scoring defense (7.8ppg), while the Nittany Lions are fifth in total defense (263.9 ypg) and fourth in scoring defense (12.4 ppg).
"These are two teams that have accomplished a lot, championship teams that have done a bunch of good things," Carroll said. "We match up so unbelievably close statistically, it should be a great game.
"Maybe this is the best game in the country."
This will be the thirty-third Rose Bowl appearance for USC and the third trip to Pasadena for Penn State.
Joe Paterno is the all-time leader in bowl wins with 23.
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