When No. 5 Penn State plays in its first Rose Bowl since 2009 on Monday, the Nittany Lions will be without a suspended starter on both sides of the ball -- and they already were touchdown underdogs to No. 9 Southern Cal.
On Wednesday, Penn State's James Franklin, the Big Ten Coach of the Year, announced that junior wide receiver Saeed Blacknall and sophomore linebacker Manny Bowen were both suspended due to a violation of team rules. Both were listed as starters on PSU's initial depth chart for the Jan. 2 game in Pasadena. PSU remains +7 on college football odds at all of SBR Forum's top sportsbooks.
Blacknall missed three games earlier this year due to injury but did make seven starts and played in nine overall. He led the team with a 23.1-yard average per catch, with 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He had six catches of 20 or more yards. Blacknall was a big reason the Nittany Lions rallied to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game as he had career highs with six catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns (on receptions of 40 and 70 yards). DeAndre Thompkins, who started six games while Blacknall recovered from his injury, likely will start. Thompkins has 25 catches for 431 yards and a TD this year.
The loss of Bowen, the starting strongside linebacker, might hurt worse because PSU has lost five linebackers to season-ending injuries this year. Bowen is tied for fourth on the team with 68 tackles and tied for second with 8.5 tackles for losses. He was credited with two sacks and three quarterback hurries. Bowen made a career-high 12 tackles in Penn State's upset over Ohio State and had a key fourth-quarter tackle for loss against Minnesota. Likely starting for Bowen will be Los Angeles native Koa Farmer, a converted safety who played in all 13 games and started one.
Penn State is just 1-4 ATS on college football picks in its past five non-conference games. But then USC is 1-4 ATS in its past five vs. the Big Ten.