Penn State is headed to the Rose Bowl for just the third time in its history, and is making its first appearance since the 1994 season in the Granddaddy of all bowl games.
The other Penn State Rose Bowl appearance came at the end of the 1922 season. That was also the last time Penn State and USC battled in this game. Though they have played each other eight times, they have only met twice in bowl games - once in the Rose Bowl and once in the Fiesta Bowl (1981 season).
Overall, this will be their first meeting since 2000 when USC won 29-5 in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium. The series is tied 4-4 with Penn State's last win coming in the 1996 Kickoff Classic which was also played at East Rutherford.
Joe Paterno will make his 35th bowl appearance with Penn State and boasts 23 victories, both of which stand as NCAA records. Overall, the school has built a 26-12-2 record in postseason play, including a 9-2 mark since joining the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions have won their last three bowl games, including triumphs in the Orange, Outback and Alamo Bowls.
Pete Carroll is making his making his 8th bowl appearance at USC, and has taken the Trojans bowling every year since he took over as head coach in 2001. He is 5-2 in those games. Aside from a Las Vegas Bowl trip in 2001, all of his bowl appearances have been in BCS games with 4 Rose Bowl games and 2 Orange Bowl games.
This is USC's fourth consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl. The Trojans are 30-16 in their 46 previous bowl games.
Among all teams with at least 20 bowl appearances, Penn State has the best winning percentage at .675 and USC is 2nd at .652. USC ranks 2nd in bowl wins with 30, and Penn State ranks 3rd with 26 (Alabama is the leader with 31).
Statistically, these teams are extremely close. Penn State has outscored its opponents by an average of 27.8 points, while USC's average margin is 29.7. The Trojans and Nittany Lions rank 14th and 15th in total offense, and they are 1st and 5th in total defense.
Penn State QB Daryll Clark threw for 2,324 yards with 17 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He also ran for 265 yards and 9 scores. RB Evan Royster amassed 1,202 yards at a rate of 6.5 yards per carry and scored 12 TD's, but hasn't topped the 100-yard mark since week 8 against Michigan and 6 of his TD's came in the first two games of the season. Three different receivers have at least 38 catches - Jordan Norwood (38), Derrick Williams (40) and Deon Butler (43). Penn State center A.Q. Shipley won the Dave Rimington Award.
USC QB Mark Sanchez threw for 2,794 yards with 30 TD's and 10 INT's while throwing at least 2 TD passes in 10 games. Three different rushers gained over 600 yards - Joe McKnight (646), Stafon Johnson (642) and C.J. Gable (604). The receivers were led by Damian Williams with 48 catches for 707 yards and 8 touchdowns, while Patrick Turner caught 45 balls for 667 yards and 10 scores. Three others had at least 20 receptions. The Chuck Bednarik Award committee voted LB Rey Maualuga the nation's top defensive player.
Both schools came ever-so-close to undefeated seasons. Penn State's lone defeat was by a single point at Iowa, 24-23. USC's only setback came at Oregon State, 27-21. The Trojans backed into this game when the Beavers lost to Oregon in their final game. Otherwise, USC would have almost certainly played in the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio State would have been left out of the BCS bowls.