“Cry ‘Havoc’, and let slip the dogs of war”
William Shakespeare: Marc Antony
It seems ironic that we’d be using this quote about Penn State. The last time Joe Paterno read the World’s Greatest Playwright, it was before the Indiana game of 2004. Penn State were 2-9, and Nittany Lions program – almost like their coach’s career- were stumbling around like a punch-drunk fighter.
Parterno’s words turned into inspiration, and the Nittany Lions went on to beat Indiana – and win their next game. In 2005, the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Title and the Orange Bowl. 2006 and 2007 brought forward two more winning seasons and two more bowl victories.
In 2008, Penn State was just one game – or one kick at Iowa, to be exact, from joining the ranks of the unbeaten and being in the National Championship Game. But on January 1st , 2009, Penn State will be once again under the focus of the world: they play USC in the Rose Bowl. It’s up to them to show the world’s college football stage that they can paint The Tournament of Rose Blue and White.
THE REGULAR SEASON
If Penn State can complain mightily that they were one game away from the National Title game in Miami, then USC can do that as well.
Unlike the BCS disaster that was the Big XII South this year, there was no great problem for these two conference-winning behemoths: the Nittany Lions lost on the road in cold Iowa in the second last kick of the game, while the top-ranked (at the time) Trojans were dreadful in the first half of their game at Oregon State because turning things around in the third and fourth quarters.
Ironically, both teams had their biggest games against Ohio State. USC brutalized the Buckeyes 35-3 in Los Angeles on the second day of the season, while Penn State won on the road in Columbus (probably a harder feat) 13-6.
Both defenses – which ranked in the nation’s top five – didn’t really look back after the losses.
The safeties at USC – Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison have been so good that they’ve been idolized by ESPN The Magazine – and they’ve only given up 1,474 yards….all season.
Penn State’s defensive ‘backfield’ - which features Lydell Sergeant and Antony Scirotto – was 12th (2016 given up).
But it’s in the trenches that both sides will have a ‘Battle Royale’.
On Penn State’s side, defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans have been virtually unstoppable all season long (apart from Evans’ small clash with the law earlier this year). Linebacker Navarro Bowman’s also a stud. They’re coached by probably the best defensive coordinator in the land: Tom Bradley.
On the USC: watch out for wandering linebackers Rey Maluaga and Brian Cushing. Cushing once informed VFA that he would have like to played for Penn State – but it’s probably certain that he won’t be too upset about missing out on Happy Valley when he’s counting his NFL millions. Maluaga can say the same.
Both teams will also say this: they both haven’t faced an offense like each other’s this year. Have both defenses actually faced Grade ‘A’ quarterbacks this year? Seriously? Both offenses will post the ‘D’s the biggest tests.
Penn State certainly has the pick of the wide receivers, with Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood all blessing Happy Valley with unbelievable numbers over their school career.
Derrick Williams was back to his best in 2008, proving to be an ‘everyman’ for the Spread ‘HD’. He should probably think about starting if current incumbent Darryl Clark gets hurt! His back-up, Pat Devlin, has already left Happy Valley, with the rumours having him going to Delaware.
Clark, though, has been fantastic for the Nittany Lions. He threw for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns this year, and controlled the high-octane offense. He’s also a threat out of the pocket, which could be an X factor for a blitz-happy Trojan defense.
Speaking of X-Factors, Joe McKnight will be hoping for a Rose Bowl like he had in 2008. Although he didn’t exactly tear up the world this season, he’s a frightening proposition for any defense- even something as good as Penn State’s. He’ll be catching balls thrown by an exceptional Mark Sanchez – who ranked higher than Darryl Clark in the end-of-season quarterback stats.
On the ground, Penn State’s rushing game (Evan Royster, Stefphon Green) is as good as USC’s CJ Cable and Stafon Johnson - both of whom are considering the NFL – but this game’s going to be about the defense.
Expect something low-scoring.
View From America’s Prediction: Sorry Lions – close, but no cigar. USC 21, Penn State 17