Friends, Trojans and countrymen, lend me your ears….and your roses.
No. 5 USC is playing in their fourth consecutive Rose Bowl today and you need to be convinced that it will be worth your while to tune in.
What's that you say? You think this game is going to be a bore like the last two years. Well just open your minds for a bit and I'll tell you why it's not.
I come not to bury Penn State but to praise them. Unlike Illinois last year, Penn State is a Top 10 team worthy of being in a top-tier bowl game.
At 11-1, their only loss came on the road to Iowa, who'll be playing in the Outback Bowl today.
A one-point loss to a team playing in a New Year's bowl game. You want to talk about a team on the verge of being undefeated? Just like the Trojans, here's a team that was a play or two away from 12-0.
What's that you say? Yes, I know Iowa finished fifth in the Big 10, but they were behind four ranked teams. They're still playing today, doesn't that mean something? Moving on…
Since October, the Nittany Lions were ranked in Top 10 and rose as high as No. 3 in the Associated Poll. That's right, folks, they beat four ranked teams and played tough competition all year.
And it's arguable they did it in the third-toughest conference this year.
Hey, quiet back there! Yes, I know USC has not lost to a Big Ten team since 1996. So what if their last three Rose Bowl victories came by an average of 20 points, it's a competitive Penn State team here! Anyways…
For the first time since 2004, we actually have both conference champions in the Rose Bowl. You traditionalists out there should love that.
And unlike that banged-up Ohio State team that the Trojans thrashed in September, Penn State is coming at full strength. Let's introduce you to some of their key weapons.
They have All-American defensive end Aaron Maybin, only a sophomore, and All Big-Ten senior Derrick Williams, a dangerous threat at wide receiver and return specialist.
And let's not forget quarterback Darryl Clark, who's passed for 2,319 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for nine more on the ground.
Geez, you folks are too tough. Yes, the Trojans shut down an option quarterback last year in the Rose Bowl. Yes, the Trojans have an All-American safety in Taylor Mays to shut Williams or fellow flanker Deon Butler down.
And if I hear one more person talk about SC's record against the Big Ten, I'll….
I'll quit playing devil's advocate and start keeping it real.
Since losing to Oregon State, the one word to describe this team is hungry. As in hungry to show their defense was worthy of being called the best of the Pete Carroll era.
As in hungry to show that Mark Sanchez could indeed lead this offense and Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable would prove that Pac-10 coaches would be fools for not giving them All Pac-10 consideration.
They didn't dominate every opponent since losing to the Beavers, but when they didn't, they remained consistent and didn't waver from the game plan.
Oh, and there is the small fact that the Trojans have no problem gearing up for a big game. Just ask Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Nebraska and Notre Dame the past few years if they didn't take USC's best shot in their meetings.
So to all of you who are watching the Rose Bowl, don't be surprised if USC does pull out the victory by double digits. Be surprised if Penn State puts up a fight and convinces folks they are better than Ohio State.