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Staff Predictions: 103rd Rose Bowl

No. 5 Penn State (11-2, 9-1 Big Ten) will take center stage in Pasadena this afternoon as it faces No. 9 USC (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12) in the Rose Bowl for the third time (1923, 2009). Our staff writers think the Nittany Lions will come out on top in a close battle of perennial powers.

Joe Pickard: Penn State 37, USC 34

I’m taking Penn State in a close one. The Nittany Lions have proved they can play with the best of them, beating No. 2 Ohio State early in the season and No. 7 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship a few weeks ago. Penn State has to continue to dominate the 2nd half of games because a hot USC will try to jump out to an early lead as Wisconsin did.

James Franklin has done a tremendous job keeping the guys focused on the game and limiting distractions, so even with the allure of the Rose Bowl, I think Penn State won’t come out flat or unprepared. Too many people have counted out Penn State, including Vegas, with USC listed as a 6.5 point favorite. I’m expecting Trace McSorley will end his first season as starter with another ring on his finger, this time as Rose Bowl Champs.

Robbie Rockwell: Penn State 42, USC 35

I’m anticipating a shootout in Pasadena on Monday, with our Nittany Lions coming out on top. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley have proven the Lions boast one of the best offenses in the nation, and after seeing what they did to Wisconsin’s secondary, I have complete faith they will be able to find the end zone frequently, with Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton having big days as well. The suspension of Manny Bowen will hurt the defense, but not to the point of crippling it.

California native Koa Farmer will do just fine in replacement, and I think the defensive line are going to have a field day in the USC backfield, with Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan recording a few sacks. USC is a seven-point favorite for whatever reason, but Penn State has been ruled out and underestimated all year only to pull out a win in the end. I think this will be the case, and the Lions end the season on a high note

Ethan Kasales: Penn State 31, USC 27

We’re in store for another classic Rose Bowl clash between these two storied schools. However, the Nittany Lions should avenge their 2009 loss to the Trojans thanks to some more second-half heroics. I expect Sam Darnold and USC to get out to an early lead, taking an advantage into the break like so many teams this season, but Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin will shine when it matters most. I see Penn State scoring 14 unanswered points in Pasadena to claim only its fourth 12-win season in program history.

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