"Maybe the most risky team in the country right now", Penn State coach James Franklin said of USC. "The Rose Bowl? It doesn't get a whole lot better than that". "These are the things you dream about as a little kid".
Penn State will take on No. 9 USC in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual. Since then, both programs were rocked to their foundations by scandals and NCAA sanctions.
Penn State rose three positions after winning the Big Ten to fifth, which would be an unlucky spot if that is also the Nittany Lions' position in the committee's rankings. On Monday, the Associated Press announced its own All-Conference teams, selecting Saquon Barkley as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (and First Team All-Big Ten at running back) and head football coach James Franklin as the Big Ten's Coach of the Year.
"There's no ideal system", Franklin said. That game doubled as the final game in for Ohio State's pre-Chris Ash era pass defense, which surrendered 378 passing yards and five touchdowns to Tajh Boyd and 227 receiving yards to Sammy Watkins.
The Trojans' current eight-game winning streak is their longest since the Carroll era. The Trojans have won eight straight following a 1-3 start that included a blowout loss to Alabama.
Penn State will make its fourth appearance in the Rose Bowl, including three against USC.
After USC began the season 1-3 - its worst start in 15 years - it was fair to wonder if the Trojans would reach bowl eligibility, let alone the Rose Bowl.
So even though Penn State missed out on a playoff berth, Franklin said this team has nothing to feel defeated about. And when the Nittany Lions trailed by three touchdowns to Wisconsin during Saturday's Big Ten championship, their win probability dropped to just 3 percent. Coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were hired and fired amid regular turmoil in the athletic department over the past half-decade, but the capable Helton stepped in twice to run the team before finally getting the full-time job late last season.
The unbeaten Crimson Tide (13-0) is in the playoff for the third straight season and is the top seed for the second time.
The Trojans' last appearance in the "The Granddaddy of Them All" came after the 2008 season when it also matched up with Penn State.
YOUNG QBs: The game matches two gifted young quarterbacks who became stars this season.
Of all the realistic playoff contenders, Washington was the team in most need of a "statement win" over the weekend, if only to make sure that its Baylor-esque non-conference slate (Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State) would not totally undermine its near-evisceration of the Pac-12, where the Huskies boasted a scoring margin of plus-205 in conference play. Penn State lost to MI.
MATCHUPS: USC's solid defense must face a Penn State offense that has scored at least 38 points in six consecutive games.
In the end, Penn State's loss to Pitt and the severe nature of its road defeat to MI proved to be too much to overcome in the eyes of the committee despite its status as a conference champion and its head-to-head triumph over Ohio State.
Though the biggest bowl games left like the Sugar, Orange and Cotton won't officially announced their selections until later this afternoon, Penn State is obligated to go to the Rose on January 2 in Pasadena, California because it won the Big Ten title.
Police used pepper spray and mounted officers in riot gear to disburse what they called an "unlawful disturbance" following No. 5 Penn State's 38-31 win over No. 8 Wisconsin.