USC Football Faces Illinois In Rose Bowl

Dec. 20, 2007

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No. 6 USC, making an unprecedented sixth straight BCS bowl appearance, takes on No. 13 Illinois in the 94th Rose Bowl in a traditional Pac-10/Big Ten matchup. It's the fourth Rose Bowl trip in the past 5 years for the Trojans (and third in a row). USC is playing in a record 32nd Rose Bowl, while Illinois is making just its fifth trip (its first since the 1984 game). Although the teams have played 12 times in history (most recently in 1996), with Troy holding a decided series edge, they've yet to meet in Pasadena...but they almost once faced off in Russia! The Rose Bowl stadium has been USC's home away from home, as this will be Troy's 48th game there. USC traditionally has fared well in BCS games, against the Big Ten, in January, on New Year's Day and in season enders. USC is aiming for its sixth consecutive AP Top 4 finish and 11-win season (no school has had 6 straight 11-win years), all under head coach Pete Carroll, the nation's winningest active coach who has already notched his 75th Trojan victory in just 7 years. The Trojans are one of the nation's premier post-season teams, with 29 wins in 45 bowl games. It will be the 78th game in a row that Troy, winner of 73 of its last 82 games, has been in the AP Top 25. Illinois is the alma mater of USC president Steven Sample. Both teams are riding 4-game winning streaks, with USC having won its unprecedented sixth consecutive Pac-10 title by beating crosstown foe UCLA in the regular season finale. Trojan QB John David Booty is in the school's career Top 6 in passing and total offense. Both Carroll and Booty have stellar records against ranked teams. TBs Chauncey Washington, who needs 104 yards to hit the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in 2007 and is in the Top 25 on the school's prestigious career rushing list, and exciting Joe McKnight have propelled USC's running game. All-American TE Fred Davis, the 2007 Mackey Award winner, owns the school's career and season receptions record for tight ends. He and WR Patrick Turner are in USC's career receiving Top 25. OT Sam Baker, a 3-time All-American first teamer, anchors the Trojan offensive line. USC's defense--the Pac-10's best--remains the club's strength, as statistically the Trojans are in the national Top 7 in every category (including second in total defense). It features 2-time All-American DT Sedrick Ellis (the 2007 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year) and DE Lawrence Jackson--who between them have 77.5 tackles for a loss and 47 sacks-- on the line, plus the nation's premier linebacking corps led by LBs Keith Rivers (a 2007 All-American) and Rey Maualuga and a secondary with CB Terrell Thomas, All-American S Taylor Mays and S Kevin Ellison. The game could come down to how well USC's stingy rush defense can contain the Illini's potent running attack. Under 2007 Big Ten Coach of the Year Ron Zook, Illinois posted college football's biggest turnaround this season (after just 2 wins in 2006), including victories over No. 5 Wisconsin and No.1 Ohio State (the Buckeyes are playing in the BCS Championship Game), and reached its first bowl since 2001. The Illini offense is fifth nationally in rushing (the first time it has topped 3,000 yards rushing in a season), thanks to the play of 2007 All-American and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year TB Rashard Mendenhall. The nation's eighth-ranked rusher, he set a school record with 1,526 yards on the ground in 2007. QB Juice Williams has almost 2,300 yards passing and running this year. They operate behind a front that hardly ever gives up a sack, headlined by All-American OG Martin O'Donnell. WR Arrelious Benn was the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Illini defense is led by All-American first team LB J Leman, who has 124 tackles, CB Vontae Davis, an All-Big Ten first teamer, and S Kevin Mitchell and DE Will Davis, who are among the nation's leaders in interceptions and sacks, respectively. PK Jason Reda is the school's all-time scoring leader. The game is sold out (a crowd of at least 81,000 in the 88,450-seat Rose Bowl will establish several USC season attendance records). It will be shown live nationally on ABC-TV. ESPN's College GameDay will emanate from the Rose Bowl.

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