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2017 Rose Bowl: USC Keys to Victory

Laying out the Trojans’ path to winning the Rose Bowl

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season has paid off very well for the USC football team. Their rough start at the beginning turned for the best as they now are less than a week away from playing in the 103rd Rose Bowl against the fifth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. Despite this practically being a home game for the Trojans, they will need to execute precisely against this scrappy Penn State team.

Give the Ball to your Playmakers

The one thing that USC has is elite athletes in all three phases of the game. The one electrifying athlete that everyone will be watching is All-American Adoree’ Jackson. The junior cornerback was recently named the winner of the Thorpe award which is given to nation’s best defensive back. Jackson, who was also the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, led the team with 11 pass deflections, four interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. He also excelled in special teams where he where he was second in the nation in both punt return and kick-off touchdowns. Penn State will try their hardest to keep the ball away from Jackson in any way which may open up the opportunity for another Trojan to make a play.

Containing the backfield

Penn State comes in with one of the best backfields in the nation which will be very interesting. The signal caller is Junior Trace McSorley who has thrown for 3,360 yards and 25 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 563 yards and six touchdowns. His partner in the backfield will be All-American sophomore running back Saquon Barkley who rushed for 1,302 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Big Ten Offensive Player of the year ranked second the conference in rushing yards and third in the conference in yards per game with 100.2. Penn State’s offense has shown promise all season and has proven they can put up points against good defenses. This will be an interesting test for the USC front seven who is giving up less than four yards a carry but is giving up over 130 yards on the ground.

Execution from Sam Darnold

Redshirt Freshman Sam Darnold has come in and given this team new life on offense. USC is averaging over 36 points per game and has plenty of weapons that Darnold can get the ball to. Penn State has only given up 13 passing touchdowns this year but this will probably be the most athletic group of receivers they have faced. Getting the ball to Juju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rodgers will be a priority. Darnold has showed the ability to stand confident and comfortable in the pocket and deliver accurate throws. With the emergence from running back Ronald Jones, it has been easier for Darnold to perform. This is the opportunity of Darnold to help his legacy as a great Trojan quarterback.

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Rose Bowl Preview / Penn State Nittany Lions - USC Trojans