The No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions will take on the No. 9 USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl. The game is scheduled for Monday, January 2nd. Kickoff is set for 5:00 EST at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Oddsmakers have the Trojans as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 60 points.

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Rose Bowl Vegas Spread Preview: Penn State vs USC

The Nittany Lions (11-2) were one of the big surprises of 2016. No one was giving them a shot in the Big Ten East. It was suppose to be Ohio State or Michigan. Penn State proved the experts wrong. After opening Big Ten play with a 10-49 loss at Michigan, they won their final 8 conference games. None more bigger than their 24-21 win against Ohio State, where they rallied from 14 down in the 4th quarter. They kept it going with a 38-31 win over Wisconsin the Big Ten title game.

Much like Penn State, the Trojans (9-3) closed out the season on an absolute roll. USC started out 1-3 with blowout losses to Alabama (6-52) and Stanford (10-27). They proceeded to win their next 8 games. The most impressive being a 26-13 win at Washington, who won the conference and is in the playoffs.

Rose Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: USC -6.5

I like the chances of history repeating itself. The last time these two teams played in the Rose Bowl was against each other in 2009 (2008 season). The Trojans won that meeting 38-24 (led 31-7 at half) as a 9-point favorite.

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Playing in the Rose Bowl has worked out well for USC in the last few decades. This will the Trojans 8th appearance in this bowl since 1990. They have gone 7-1 with the last 4 wins all coming by at least 14 points. The only loss was to Texas in the 2005 BCS Championship Game. A big reason for their success is how close this is to home.

As impressive as the Nittany Lions’ run has been to close out the season, I just don’t trust them. They lost by 39 to Michigan and should have lost to Ohio State and Wisconsin. Those are hands down the 3 best teams in the Big Ten.

USC on the other hand is a team I feel is better than their record. The turning point of the season was when Sam Darnold replaced Max Browne at quarterback. If Darnold would have opened the season as the starter, I think USC would have won the Pac-12. What they did to Washington on the road, really speaks volumes to how good they are.

I just don’t see the Nittany Lions defense being able to stop USC’s offense. Not to take anything away from the Big Ten, but they don’t have a lot of elite quarterbacks. I believe Darnold is the best QB they will have played all season.

Another big thing here is the speed of the Trojans. We have seen a lot of these Big Ten teams struggle in non-conference play against these fast and athletic teams. Just look back to last year’s Rose Bowl, when Iowa was destroyed by Stanford. Speaking of that, Penn State is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games. They are also 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games played on a neutral site.