The Obvious: Remember the good old days when Pete Carroll would “drag” yet another Pac-12 championship team to the Rose Bowl, and USC fans would complain it was like a consolation prize because the expectation was the national championship game?
The Not So Obvious: Well, it’s not been since the first day in 2017 that the Trojans have graced the sacred grounds of college football’s most celebrated cathedral in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day. Hard to believe it has been that long ago when Clay Helton – remember him? – and quarterback Sam Darnold, or was it the other way around, led the way into the Granddaddy of Them All. And what a Rose Bowl it was with the magnificent Darnold frantically leading a Trojans’ fourth quarter comeback, and placekicker Matt Boermeester applying the lethal 46-yard field goal to crush the hearts of the Penn State Nittany Lions and Joe Paterno, 52-49, as time expired.
The Obvious: In 2023, the Trojans could return for another trip to the Rose Bowl on January 1, which would be a USC first for second-year head coach Lincoln Riley.
The Not So Obvious: The carrot for this run at the roses is that the 2024 Rose Bowl will be the site of one of the two CFP semi-final games, and you can bet the Trojans will be aware of that option throughout this upcoming season. The rub to it all is the Men of Troy must first win the Pac-12 Conference, which would be the final melancholy conference triumph with the cardinal and gold headed for the Big Ten in 2024.
The Obvious: It would seem that winning the Pac-12 would be the ticket to getting to Pasadena if the Trojans were to get a CFP invite for post-season play.
The Not So Obvious: Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!” Just gaining entrance into the CFP semi-finals will also have a major string attached – like bracket seedings. The Trojans will have some options, but being seeded No. 1 or No. 2 would be a good start to be placed in Pasadena.
As Lee Corso might laugh and say, “Not so fast, my friend” to the Trojans in the 2024 Rose Bowl if they win the Pac-12.
(Photo above by Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Obvious: FYI, the other CFP semi-final game is slated for the Big Easy, the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s night.
The Not So Obvious: Now, let’s say for the sake of argument that the SEC (Georgia or Alabama) gets the No. 1 seed in the CFP four-team tournament. It might mean if the Trojans were the No. 4 seed, they’d likely be playing an SEC powerhouse not far from Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The key is don’t be the No. 4 seed if an SEC team is seeded No. 1. Got it? Now, if a Big Ten team (Ohio State or Michigan) gets the No. 1 seed, Pasadena would be the logical spot if the Trojans were No. 4, although it might seem like a USC home game. IMHO, there would be too many reasons for a Big Ten vs Pac-12 championship to meet in the Rose Bowl, especially in the final year of a four-team CFP before expansion to 12 teams. Call it one final toast to the nostalgic and traditional road of college football history.
If the Trojans don’t get seeded by the CFP in Pasadena, the other placement would be the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
(Photo above courtesy of Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
The Obvious: If the Trojans did make the No. 1 seed, they will definitely go to the Rose Bowl, no strings attached.
The Not So Obvious: The Trojans could manage to get themselves into the Rose Bowl if they are the No. 2 seed and the SEC is the No. 1 seed. The Trojans’ opponent probably wouldn’t matter. However, if the Trojans are No. 3, they could still play in the Rose Bowl if an SEC team is the top seed and headed for the Sugar Bowl, which means a No. 2 seeded SEC or Big Ten team would have to play in Pasadena. Bingo, the Trojans play in the Rose Bowl.
The Obvious: With the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff arriving in 2024 and the Rose Bowl havimg been recently designated as a quarterfinal location, there’s no guarantee, of course, that the Trojans would be placed in the right seeding that would place them in the Granddaddy.
Could USC and Michigan play each other in the 2024 CFP national semi-finals in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day?
(Photo above by John Pyle/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
The Not So Obvious: Now getting back to the 2023 season. What an irony it would be if the 2024 Rose Bowl turned out to be the Pac-12 and the Big Ten in a CFP semi-final on New Year’s Day. Everything traditional about college football would be on display, the last big hurrah between these two evolving conferences. Oh, the irony? The Trojans will be in the Big Ten after this upcoming season, and a new chapter will be born – ready or not.
The Obvious: And finally, does it really matter the Trojans’ opponent if they can get into the CFP Rose Bowl? The good news is the Trojans will have their chance at getting to Pasadena this season, but it will take a great USC team to get there along with some luck along the way.
The Not So Obvious: Can the USC Trojans make one of the four CFP seeds? It won’t be easy, nor should it be, but the possibility of a trip to Pasadena on New Year’s Day is legitimate, and you can bet you won’t hear complaints about going to the Rose Bowl this time around from Trojans fans or the Tournament of Roses.
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