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Rose Bowl: USC 52, Penn State 49, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?

Rose Bowl: USC 52, Penn State 49, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?


USC got by Penn State 52-49 in a thriller of a Rose Bowl. What are the five things that matter, and what’s next for both teams in 2017?


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Greatest Rose Bowl ever?

No, of course 2006 Texas over USC – the Vince Young game – will be the gold standard of all college football games, and it was for the national title, but this belongs in the team photo of the all-time greatest Rose Bowls.

There might not have been any defense until the game-changing late pick, but it was an epic shootout with brilliant offensive performances, tremendous plays left and right, a questionable late play call for a USC interception, and a walk-off field goal for the Trojan win.

1997’s Ohio State comeback to beat Arizona State and Jake Plummer cost the Sun Devils a national title – and allowed Steve Spurrier to win his only championship. That was bigger and every bit as good as this, 1980 USC’s win over Ohio State kept the Buckeyes from a national championship, and 1963 USC over Wisconsin 42-37 for a national title probably takes the No. 2 spot behind 2006.

But whatever.

For a whole new generation of college football fans, this will be the game they’ll remember. This will be their frame of reference for just how good bowl games can be. This was special on its own, no matter what happened in the history of the greatest of all bowl games. This will be the measuring stick for how good a non-playoff bowl can be.

Welcome to your 2017 Heisman race

Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Derrius Guice will be front and center in the 2017 Heisman chase, but USC’s Sam Darnold and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley each put on a show for the ages to get on the map.

Darnold will be the star of preseason stars after throwing for 453 yards and five scores, with five carries for 20 yards, including a brilliant game-winning drive with no timeouts left to pull off the win.

Barkley got a month off to rest up, and he showed off just how good he could be with 194 yards and two scores, and with five catches for 55 yards and a score. He looked quick, flashy, and unstoppable at time against a defense full of next-level caliber athletes who can run, too.

Throw in Trace McSorley’s 254 yards and four scores – granted, with three key picks – USC Deontay Burnett’s 13 catches for 164 yards and three scores, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s seven grabs for 133 yards and a touchdown, and Penn State’s Chris Godwin’s nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and the passing games had their superstar performances to help the cause.

But this was Darnold’s and Barkley’s game. They’re the ones who made it so special.

The saving grace for the Pac-12

After the miserable non-conference season, and after a horrible bowl campaign with Colorado getting pantsed, Utah struggling against a mediocre Indiana, Washington State losing to Minnesota, and with Washington’s loss to Alabama – no shame there, though – Stanford’s win over North Carolina was the lone bright spot for the league.

Considering the Cardinal’s win over Kansas State was the only decent non-conference win, the Pac-12 needed something special, and USC provided just that. No one will remember this Pac-12 season, but everyone will remember the Rose Bowl.

The Pac-12 will soon be better – these things go in cycles – but winning the Rose Bowl over the Big Ten champion always matters. This year, even though there wasn’t a national title involved in the equation, it matters a wee bit more.

What’s next for Penn State in 2017?

The sky’s the limit – and the expectations through the roof – for a loaded Penn State team, depending on who’s returning.

The combination of Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley in the backfield is as good as any in college football, but does star receiver Chris Godwin leave early? If he does, Penn State is still loaded at receiver. Four starters are back on the line, meaning it’s possible for ten starters to be back – at worst nine. Best of all, the depth is finally coming into place.

The defense loses end Evan Schwan, safety Malik Golden, and star LB Brandon Bell, but everyone else is back. The linebacking corps is terrific around Jason Cabinda in the middle, while the line should be a rock with a good rotation around the interior.

What’s next for USC in 2017?

Welcome to the Sam Darnold show. JuJu Smith-Schuster will be NFL bound, and RB Justin Davis is gone, but Ronald Jones returns to the backfield and the receiving corps is just good enough to be fine with Darnold making everyone better. The key will be replacing NFL starting tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner, but the interior should be a rock.

Adoree Jackson and Leon McQuay will be off the next-level, and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu is done on the nose, but the Trojans should have a loaded D coming back. Seven starters should be returning along with a whole slew of key reserves. This is a deep, deep team that should come up with a far stronger rotation.