USC and Penn State played a fun game of football Monday night. It was exciting. The narrative swung back and forth. Many points were scored. It was a far better Rose Bowl than the past two blowouts. Many will argue it was the best game of this bowl season, with few quibbles. It was a fun evening of football.
Of course, it’s 2017. Instant historicism is inescapable. Immediately this became an “all-time classic” with folks comparing it to the 2006 Rose Bowl title game between USC and Texas. That is a step too far. Here are a few reasons why.
It Meant Very Little. Texas were playing for a national title. These teams, not traditional rivals, were playing for pride in the Rose Bowl Presented By Northwestern Mutual. Penn State was upset to be in that game. USC didn’t even win the Pac 12 South. Both teams overcame the adversity of looking crappy enough in September to have their coaches in the hot seat. This game was fun. The scenery was pretty. But, it was just a bowl game.
The Finish Was Underwhelming. Great games build to a crescendo. This game didn’t. USC pulled within one score at 8:15 in the fourth quarter. From there forward: Punt, Punt, Punt, USC driving down the field on pass interference calls, Trace McSorely throws a duck interception, field goal by USC to win the game. The Orange Bowl had a better fourth quarter.
There Was No Defining Moment. College football is about defining moments. There was nothing in this game that will live on in the sport’s lore. There was no Vince Young scamper into the end zone. There was no odd turn of events. The most enduring memories in the immediate aftermath are arm punts and bad officiating. Arguing for one here is talking Sam Darnold’s TD pass into something it wasn’t.
There Was Very Little Defense. Big Ten and Pac 12 powers collided. A Big 12 game broke out. Which is great, if you’re into that sort of thing. This game was not great offenses driving the field against great defensive play. It was teams taking turns springing huge chunk plays on hapless defense. It was fun entertainment. It did not feature a lot of great football.