Date: Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Rose Bowl | Pasadena, California
Best moment: There really wasn’t one moment that stands out from the rest for USC, but quarterback Sam Darnold's insertion into the starting lineup definitely qualifies. He was sensational after taking over the job, and from that point on, USC was the best team in the Pac-12.
Lowest moment: Coach Clay Helton said his lowest moment was after the loss to Utah, but what happened in Arlington, Texas, to start the season was a true humiliation. The Trojans' 52-6 loss to Alabama won’t soon be forgotten. It goes down as one of the worst losses in program history.
Key player: Darnold would be a good pick, but Adoree' Jackson is must-see TV. Few in college football can affect the game like he does, and the one-time Olympic hopeful is now preparing for what could be his final game in a USC uniform. Look for him to go out in style.
Motivation level: High. The Trojans were undeterred by a 1-3 start, so the chance to finish off a remarkable turnaround should be motivation enough. Nine straight wins to close the season is something few teams can say they accomplished. -- Kyle Bonagura
Best moment: The 24-21 upset win over then-No. 2 Ohio State. Fans rushed the field and players mimed making snow angels after one of the biggest home wins in Penn State’s 129-year football history. Penn State last beat a top-two team in 1990, but this was bigger. It signified the return of the Nittany Lions to the national stage, and the Big Ten title game comeback win against Wisconsin only solidified that.
Lowest moment: The blowout loss to Michigan. Quarterback Trace McSorley apologized to fans after the humiliating 49-10 loss and swore that wouldn’t happen again. Penn State’s defense was missing six starters -- and all of the Nittany Lions' starting linebackers were injured -- but that didn’t take the sting away from the team's worst loss of the season.
Key player: RB Saquon Barkley. He’s widely regarded as the best Penn State running back in more than a decade -- the best since 2002, when Larry Johnson Jr. crossed the 2,000-yard plateau. Barkley ran the fastest 40-yard dash in the spring (4.38 seconds) and broke a team record by power-cleaning 390 pounds. Put simply: He’s special.
Motivation level: Very high. Earlier this season, the talk was still about what Penn State was. For the first time in a long time, it’s now about what Penn State is. This team still carries a chip on its shoulder, and it hasn’t been in a major bowl since the sanctions hit in 2012. -- Josh Moyer