LOS ANGELES -- Points have come in bunches at the Rose Bowl recently.
Only once in the last 10 years have the Rose Bowl participants combined to score fewer than 42 points, and that was nine years ago when Wisconsin beat Stanford 17-9 for the last victory by a Big Ten team. The other totals during that time were 69, 58, 51, 48, 42, 75, 79, 50 and 56.
Why so much scoring?
"I have no idea. Maybe because the offenses are wide-open in a bowl situation," Southern California defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Monday.
"There's no explanation for it. It's any given day," Penn State tailback Evan Royster said. "I think it's because the offenses have a lot of time to prepare for this game. That's the only thing I can think of."
The weather is usually ideal, too, and that should be the case again Thursday when No. 5 USC and No. 6 Penn State play in the 95th Rose Bowl game.
The Trojans and Nittany Lions have potent offenses, averaging 37.5 and 40.2, respectively. But their defenses have been among the nation's best, with the Trojans giving up only 93 points for an NCAA-leading average of 7.8 per game. The Nittany Lions are not far behind at 12.4.
The Trojans are tops in the country at 206.1 yards allowed per game, while the Nittany Lions have given up an average of 263.9 yards to rank fifth.
"You wouldn't think it would be (a high-scoring game) because of these two defenses," Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. "We realize they're big, fast, strong, all that. You've got to mix it up. We've got to play our game, which is sort of wide-open. We've got to keep them off-balance.
"I'm not sure there's anyone as a group that's better than (the USC defense). They really are that good. They justifiably are the No. 1 defense in the nation."
The Trojans have an exceptional linebackers, led by Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, both of whom weigh more than 250 pounds and cover plenty of ground. All-America safety Taylor Mays, a 6-foot-3, 235-pounder, is the fastest player on the USC roster.
"They're very fast, one of the fastest defenses we've seen," Penn State wide receiver Deon Butler said. "It definitely could be (a low-scoring game) because both defenses are tremendous in their own right. Their offense is probably getting tired of hearing about their defense, like they don't exist."
The Trojans (11-1) allowed only 22 points after halftime this season.
"For years here, we don't alter anything we've done against opponents regardless of what their makeup was or their personnel or where they come from," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "These guys have played rock-solid through all but a quarter and a half all year."
Carroll referred to USC's only loss, a 27-21 setback at Oregon State on Sept. 25 in a game that ultimately cost them a chance at the national championship. The Trojans trailed 21-0 at halftime.
USC gave up only 56 points in its last nine games, pitching three shutouts and holding five other teams to 10 points or less.
"I think we got to a point as a team, we didn't care who we played," Mays said. "We would have played anybody, anytime."
The Nittany Lions (11-1) can relate to playing one bad game, having been knocked out of national championship contention by a 24-23 loss at Iowa on Nov. 8 on Daniel Murray's 31-yard field goal with a second left.
All-American defensive end Aaron Maybin, fellow defensive lineman Jared Odrick and linebacker Navorro Bowman lead the Nittany Lions.
"They're definitely good. They're nothing like we've seen before," said USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has passed for 2,794 yards and 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. "I know they fly to the ball. They're something special in their own right. They'll be a fun challenge for us."
Both teams were at their best defensively against No. 10 Ohio State, which will face No. 3 Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. The Trojans overwhelmed the Buckeyes 35-3 at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sept. 13, and the Nittany Lions rallied for a 13-6 triumph at Ohio State on Oct. 25. The Buckeyes (10-2) averaged 32.6 points in their other 10 games.
The Trojans are 5-2 under Carroll in bowl games including 3-1 in the Rose Bowl. They're playing in their fourth straight Rose Bowl game and 33rd overall, where they have a 23-9 record.
"We know they are a formidable opponent, but we need to prepare the way we know how and coach Carroll has a knack for preparing us for these big-time games on a national stage like this," Sanchez said. "I think we'll be just fine."
The Nittany Lions are 23-10-1 under 82-year-old coach Joe Paterno in bowl games. They're playing in their third Rose Bowl and first since beating Oregon 38-20 in the 1995 game. They lost to USC 14-3 in the 1923 game.
"Once the game starts, you have to go out and play your best and hope for the best," Penn State quarterback Darryl Clark said. "It will be all about execution. It will be really important, every time we have an opportunity to score points, we do it."
Avoid the Roads During Rose Time
Fans planning to attend the parade and Rose Bowl matchup between USC and Penn State were urged to avoid driving to Pasadena and instead ride the Metro Gold Line.
Rose Queen Courtney Lee joined Metro officials at the Del Mar station Monday to encourage participants to take public transportation to the New Year's Day events.
Metro bus and rail lines will be free from 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve to 2 a.m. on New Year's Day.
Anyone headed to the Rose Bowl on game day can take the Gold Line to the Memorial Park station, walk to the Parsons parking lot and ride a shuttle to the football game. Shuttle service will begin at 10 a.m.