• John Skinner

2017 Rose Bowl Preview

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

SC must play extremely disciplined defense to contain Penn State’s talented backfield: This will be the best offensive unit that SC will have faced all year.  Penn State comes in with one of the best backfields in the nation with sophomore signal caller Trace McSorley having thrown for 3,360 yards and 25 touchdowns while also running for 563 yards with six rushing TD’s.  All-American RB Saquon Barkley was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year while rushing for 1,302 yards and 19 touchdowns.  This is an extremely balanced offense that combine major elements of a spread attack with a power run game that has put up a lot of points on some good Big Ten defenses.  They have scored over 30+ points in every game since their 24-21 victory over Ohio State.

The SC defensive line will need to create the organic pressure they have greatly improved on over the second part of the season to temper this offensive attack or SC will have to score 40+ points to win.

Darnold vs. McSorely could be battle of 2017 Heisman finalists…but Darnold holds an advantage in the Red Zone: It goes without saying that both QB’s featured in the Rose Bowl saved the seasons for their teams and helped both become the hottest teams outside of Alabama entering the final stage of the season.  A quick look inside the numbers though shows that Darnold has a profoundly bigger impact in the Red Zone, which could be the difference in a close game. Since October, Darnold was the best signal caller in the nation in the red zone with a 264.0 passer efficiency rating while going 26-39, with 18 TD’s and 0 INT’s while McSorely had only a 109.5 efficiency rating while going 13-27, with 6 TD’s and 0 INT’s.

Darnold vs. McSorley Part II- McSorely with an advantage on deep passing and passing when under duress: When it comes to passing for 20+ yards, no QB in the nation has completed more passes than McSorley since October.  He’s an explosive QB who evades the rush in similar fashion to Darnold and is extremely accurate with the long pass. McSorley is 31-70 with 12 TD’s and 1 INT on passes longer than 20 yards, which is good for 5th in the nation while Darnold is just 13-31 with 5 TD’s and 3 INT’s.

Though Darnold appears to be amazing under pressure to SC fans, and he is, Mcsorley has been even more impressive completing 26-69 for 687 yards, 5 TD’s and 1 INT while Darnold was 23-44, 295 yards, 3 TD’s and 3 INT’s.  ESPN Stats & Informarion defines duress as situations when defensive pressure forces players to throw early, off-balance or as they were getting hit.  Darnold was 5th best in the nation but McSorley was 3rd only behind Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson.

Bottom line…these QB stats leady many analysts to believe this should be an extremely entertaining Rose Bowl game.

Fantastic article on Sam Darnold and his mentality since childhood:  Sam Fortier wrote a fantastic article on theringer.com about Sam Darnold that is worth checking out.  Article: Pocket Awareness

Running Back's Jones and Davis both 100%: For the first time since the middle of the season, both of SC’s top running backs are fully healthy and ready to make a statement.  Jones averaged almost 150 yards per game in the final five games of the season but having both Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware healthy will not only give the Trojans additional running threats but they also are better receiving threats than Jones.

WR Smith-Schuster will finally be healthy: Potential first round NFL draft pick WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has played most of 2016 pretty banged up but finally feels close to 100% for the Rose Bowl. He has been playing at about 65% over the past four games.

Penn State will be without two key players for Rose Bowl:  WR Saeed Blacknall and LB Manny Bowen were suspended from the Rose Bowl for violating team rules.  Bowen ranks second on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and Blacknall had six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game.

SC will be without Olajuwon Tucker and Kevin Smith, both of whom are academic casualties but they are not considered critical players.

The continued emergence of TE Imatorbhebhe should impact Rose Bowl favorably for SC: Despite only having 15 catches this season, redshirt freshman TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe is becoming a favorite target of Darnold in practice and throughout the second part of the season.  He is a match-up nightmare for linebackers and four of his 15 catches have gone for touchdowns.  He can attack the field vertically like a wide receiver and gives the Trojans an advantage when it comes to big-play threats.

SC offensive line vs. Penn State Defensive line probably defines the game:  Penn State has 39 sacks this season, good for second in the Big Ten and tied for 10th in the nation.  The have at least three sacks in six of the past seven games.  However, SC has only yielded 11 sacks in 12 games, which is the best in the Pac-12 and tied for 6th nationally.  If Darnold is able to avoid getting sacked multiple times, he should be able to take advantage of SC’s speed advantage at WR and TE and create multiple scoring opportunities for the offense.

Betting info: SC opened as a 7 point favorite and the line dropped to 6.5 points before recently going back to 7 and briefly trending to 7.5.   SC finished the season 7-1 against the spread “ATS” while Penn State was a perfect 8-0 ATS.   SC is historically a strong bowl team being 9-3 straight up and 8-4 ATS in their last 12 blow appearances.  The total points scored is predicted to be 61 points.  The total has gone under in seven of SC’s last eight games.

NCAA continues to lose ground in theTodd McNair case: An appellate court overturned the NCAA’s attempt to change judges in former SC assistant football coach Todd McNair’s defamation lawsuit against the organization.  McNair sued the NCAA in 2011 after it sanctioned him and USC following the extra-benefits investigation that shackled SC with the harshest NCAA sanctions since SMU was given the death penalty and McNair was hit with a five-year show-cause penalty making it virtually impossible for him to coach again at an NCAA school.

The NCAA has been trying to delay and keep this case from going to court for over five years but it looks like now it will finally proceed.  Preliminary information about the case seems to clearly favor McNair and his lawyers are extremely confident.  This could be a devastating case for the NCAA if it reaches the court room.

McNair part II: I have heard rumors over the past year that the NCAA has offered McNair $12 million to settle but he turned it down and is confident he could obtain $20M+ in a judgement plus the NCAA being publicly shamed and leading to an apology to USC.

Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-Bits:

*SC plays Western Michighan September 2nd at the Coliseum followed by a September 16th match-up with Texas. . .SC scheduled Western Michigan as a “filler” game and is probably paying them a hefty fee for the appearance yet undefeated Western Michigan will be playing Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow prior to the Rose Bowl game and traditional power Texas finished the season with a 5-7 mark.

*Expect JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree’ Jackson to declare for the NFL draft.

*The USC defense held five opponents to less than 100-yards rushing during the recent eight game winning streak.  They have won those eight games by an average margin of nearly 20 points.

*Penn State QB McSorley threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns in Penn State’s victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

*Coaching rumor mill- Offensive Coordinator Tee Martin was a finalist for some FCS head coaching jobs.  The feeling is that if SC has another great year on offense with Darnold at the helm, Martin will land one of these jobs due to his recruiting prowess and success as SC’s offensive coordinator over a two year period.

*Penn State has only given up 13 passing touchdowns this year but they have yet to face a passing attack at the level of the Trojans.

*Rose Bowl tickets are going for more money on the secondary markets than any bowl game except the national championship game.

*USC accepted only 16.5% of the high school seniors that applied last year and costs for a year of school at SC are roughly $70,000 a year.