Cam Smith vs. Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley has proven to be one of the most dynamic tailbacks in the country this season. Running for 1,302 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, Barkley has showcased his speed, strength, and explosiveness this year. Cam Smith is the Trojans best linebacker and a huge difference maker for the defense. Smith will need to utilize his athleticism to react quickly in the run game to shut Barkley down. A big part of Penn State's run game is a slight delay during the QB to RB ball exchange. During this slight delay Barkley is able to use his outstanding vision and patience to read his blocks and see holes before they happen. Cam Smith will need to play the run very carefully and maintain his gap integrity. If he takes himself out of a play, Barkley will certainly take advantage of that opportunity. Barkley is also utilized as a pass catcher out of the backfield often and should be accounted for at all times.
Adoree Jackson vs. Chris Godwin
Adoree Jackson is one of the most dynamic football players in the country. His impact on this game will be felt in all three aspects of offense, defense, and special teams. His biggest contribution will need to be on the defensive side of the ball to give the Trojans the opportunity to win this game. If there is one thing that a critic may say Jackson lacks, it is size. If there is one thing that all the Penn State Wide Receivers have in common, it is size. All of Penn State's top receivers are over 6 feet and all have the ability to go up and get the football. Trace McSorley has been able to be a gunslinger this year at the Quarterback position because he has faith in his big receivers to go up and make plays for him. Chris Godwin is the Nittany Lions best receiver. With 9 touchdowns on the year he has shown the ability to use his body to his advantage in order to make plays on jump balls. We have seen in the past that Adoree Jackson has been able to use his superb leaping ability to contest jump balls, but with a Quarterback that tosses it up as much as McSorley, is Adoree susceptible to giving up a big play? We shall see.
USC Safeties vs. Mike Gesicki
Leon McQuay, Marvell Tell, and Chris Hawkins will certainly have a huge role in stopping Penn State Tight End, Mike Gesicki. At 6-6/ 252 pounds, Gesicki is a huge matchup problem for any team he faces. Not only is he a big body, he is extremely athletic and is keen to making big plays downfield. When a crucial play is needed for Penn State, Gesicki has been there all year to answer the call. Penn State loves to get Gesicki isolated in single coverage and taking a deep shot downfield with him. If the safeties for USC are not up to the task of stopping the Tight End, he could be in for a huge day receiving. The safeties will be crucial in limiting big plays.
Ronald Jones vs. Brandon Bell
Ronald Jones has been excellent for the Trojans during the second half of the season. Going for over 1,000 yards on the year with 11 touchdowns he has been a big factor in the USC turnaround. Once the running game gets going for USC, the entire offense really starts to open up. After the run is established, play action passes and RPO's become more effective for Sam Darnold. In order to disrupt the flow of USC's offense, the run has to be stopped. Linebacker Brandon Bell is Penn State's leading tackler and locker room leader. Bell will have to make a big impact on the game if the Nittany Lions want to prevent Sam Darnold and the USC offense from really hitting on all cylinders. If Jones is able to continue the production he has had in the past few games, the Trojans should have a very good night.