Big Ten

After seven straight TD drives for Penn State, USC scores 17 unanswered to win outrageous Rose Bowl

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USA TODAY

After seven straight TD drives for Penn State, USC scores 17 unanswered to win outrageous Rose Bowl

The 2017 Rose Bowl was one of the most entertaining college football games you will ever see.

Penn State and USC came in as the two hottest teams in the country and delivered an instant classic Monday night in Pasadena. The Nittany Lions trailed by 13 multiple times in the first half but scored touchdowns on seven straight drives in the second and third quarters, only for the Trojans to score 17 unanswered in the fourth quarter and kick a walk-off field goal to send the Lions to a 52-49 defeat.

The teams combined for 101 points and 1,040 total yards in a game that featured back-and-forth offensive action so rapid and so prolific that the scoring summary was a mile long.

The game featured numerous crazy plays including highlight-reel circus catches, two 70-plus-yard touchdown plays and four interceptions, including the one hauled in by USC defensive back Leon McQuay with 38 seconds left in a 49-all game that set up the Trojans' game-winning 46-yard field goal.

The night looked grim for the start for Penn State, with quarterback Trace McSorley throwing two interceptions on his first two passes of the game. USC turned the second into a touchdown and led 17-0 after one quarter, a period in which the Lions amassed just 38 yards of offense.

But the second quarter broke out into the shootout we all expected between these two, which entered the game with a combined 17 straight wins and explosive offensive outputs in many of those games.

A Penn State drive that featured four plays of more than 10 yards finished with a Saquon Barkley touchdown run from 24 yards out. But USC answered right back when the Lions did a strange kickoff that set the Trojans up at their own 40-yard line. USC quarterback Sam Darnold threw his second touchdown pass of the night to put his team back up 13. McSorley hit big-play receiver Chris Godwin for a 29-yard gain on the ensuing drive two plays before finding him in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Darnold followed with another touchdown pass, only for McSorley to hit Mike Gesicki on the ensuing drive for a score.

Before USC missed a field goal at the halftime buzzer, five straight second-quarter drives ended in touchdowns.

USC's 27-21 halftime lead flipped on its head in a monstrous third quarter for Penn State that opened with touchdowns on the offense's first three plays of the half. Barkley busted off a beautiful 79-yard touchdown run on the Lions' first play of the third quarter. To open the next drive, McSorley bombed a pass to Godwin, who made a juggling circus catch off a tip by the defensive back for a 72-yard touchdown. And after Penn State linebacker Brandon Bell came down with a tipped ball for an interception, McSorley waltzed in from three yards out for a touchdown.

And all that occurred in the first five minutes of the second half. In 20 minutes of football following the end of the first quarter, Penn State flipped a 13-0 deficit into a 42-27 lead.

But the madness continued. Darnold threw yet another touchdown pass in response, only for Barkley to catch a touchdown pass from McSorley on the ensuing drive to make it seven straight touchdown drives for the Lions.

The fourth quarter, however, belonged exclusively to the Trojans. A Ronald Jones touchdown run with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the game brought USC within a touchdown of Penn State. Three straight drives ended in punts, and Darnold led a remarkable game-tying drive. After back-to-back first-down throws, Penn State was flagged for pass interference on back-to-back plays. Darnold lasered a 27-yard touchdown pass for the score, tying the game at 49 with 90 seconds remaining.

McSorley & Co. couldn't do anything on the ensuing drive, with McSorley lofting a pass that should've been intercepted only to follow it with another bad pass that was intercepted and returned all the way back to Penn State's 33-yard line. USC booted a 46-yard field goal for the walk-off winner, bringing a thrilling conclusion to a thrilling game.

While the game was remarkable, it can't help but be noticed that Penn State coughed this one away. After 28 points in the third quarter, the Lions' offense was shut down in the fourth, running just 14 plays for 14 yards in the final frame. Penn State weathered McSorley's first-quarter interceptions but lost the game on his final pick. McSorley threw just five interceptions during the Lions' nine-game winning streak before throwing three in this game.

Still, McSorley put up some gaudy numbers, throwing for 254 yards and four touchdowns. Barkley, though, was a bigger offensive star with a jaw-dropping 194-yard, two-touchdown day on the ground plus 55 yards and a touchdown through the air. Godwin caught nine passes for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Darnold, the redshirt freshman, shone for USC, throwing for 453 yards and five touchdowns.

The highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever should not escape the minds of fans anytime soon, but the Big Ten will want to forget this bowl season. Penn State's loss made it a sorry 3-7 showing for the conference in the postseason after being the clear-cut top league during the regular season. Ohio State's blowout loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl looms largest, though Penn State and Michigan being on the wrong end of marquee-bowl thrillers doesn't help.

It still goes down as a sensational season for the Lions, who finished at 11-3 and still own that Big Ten championship. The out-of-nowhere feeling of this campaign certainly won't be around next season, when McSorley, Barkley and a fleet of other players will return for James Franklin. This showing in the Rose Bowl didn't equal a win Monday, but it ought to have fans and observers excited to see what Penn State can do next fall.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?