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Rose Bowl Pick

USC

vs.

Penn State

1/2/17

Both Rose Bowl teams were considered for the playoff, but due to early-season losses, couldn't make up for it despite great runs to end the season. With both teams having good against the spread records, the Trojans were a -6.5 point favorite as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook over the Nittany Lions.

USC became an afterthought early in the year when they lost three of their first four games, including a 52-6 beat down against Alabama on a national stage. But after a quarterback change to freshman Sam Darnold, things changed immediately for the Trojans as Darnold looked miles better than original starter Max Browne. That led to eight-straight wins including against Colorado and more importantly at Washington 26-13, who made the playoff.

As for the Nittany Lions, they also started with early losses, first at Pittsburgh, then in a blowout at Michigan. But slowly, they picked up wins and gained confidence after topping Ohio State then blowing out Iowa. That all culminated in a 38-31 comeback win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, but unfortunately not an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Both defenses will have tall tasks in this game, but both have stood up to challenges this season. Penn State just allowed 31 to Wisconsin and may have bigger questions surrounding them against quarterback Sam Darnold. He completed 68.1% of his passes for 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions to go with 8.41 yards per attempt. The best thing about Darnold was that he remained consistent no matter the matchup, including the win at Washington. That's made possible with help from receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, but also a solid running game. Ronald Jones finished the year rushing for at least 121 yards in four of the final games while Justin Davis and Aca'Cedric Ware provide solid backup help.

The Nittany Lions aren't overly great in any specific area on the defensive side and had trouble containing the Wisconsin ground game. All signs point to USC having some kind of success. But on the other side, USC has a tough test as well, against an underrated offense. The Trojans played well defensively for most of the season and once again that was highlighted when they allowed 13 points to the Huskies.

But this Penn State offense can't be taken for granted as they've scored at least 38 points in their last six games and dropping 38 points against the Badgers is no easy feat. The Nittany Lions also have a fantastic one-two duo at quarterback and running back. Trace McSorley is another top young quarterback, having thrown for 25 touchdowns and five picks this season to go with 9.39 yards per attempt. Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki lead his receiving corps, but the running game is the most important part of this offense. Saquon Barkley had another great season as just a sophomore with 1,649 total yards and 19 touchdowns.

Like Penn State, USC has a solid overall defense led by one of the best defensive backs in the country, Adoree' Jackson. With two of the hottest teams in the nation, this result could go similarly to the Big Ten title game when both offenses found ways to score. Led by Darnold and McSorley, the Rose Bowl should end up being one of the best non-playoff bowls.

The Trojans have covered in six straight, but are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. the Big Ten. USC fell to Wisconsin 23-21 in last year's Holiday Bowl. The Nittany Lions are 8-0-1 ATS in their last nine overall, but just 1-4 ATS in their last five non-conference games.

Our Pick - Penn State +7

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