"It ain't over 'til it's over," that noted philosopher, Yogi Berra, once observed, which pretty much sums up the not-quite-finalized pairing of No. 5 Southern California (10-1, 7-1 Pac-10) and No. 6 Penn State (11-1) in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl.
Although the Big Ten co-champion Nittany Lions appear to be locked in for their first trip to Pasadena since the 1994 team went undefeated, USC still has to take care of business against crosstown rival UCLA (4-7, 3-5) tomorrow in, of all places, the Rose Bowl, which serves as the Bruins' home field.
Lest anyone assume that a victory for the Trojans, who are more than a four-touchdown favorite, is a mere formality, consider this: In 2007, when USC needed only to defeat a no-chance UCLA team to advance to the BCS national-championship game, the Bruins pulled off a 13-9 upset that again demonstrated that the only thing that's certain in college football is that nothing is certain.
The architect of that shocker, UCLA defensive coordinator and former USC assistant coach DeWayne Walker, again will be on the sideline for the Bruins.
If nothing else, this will be the most colorful USC-UCLA game in a quarter century. USC coach Pete Carroll said the Trojans will wear their cardinal home jerseys, despite the fact they are the visiting team, while host UCLA will wear its powder-blue home jerseys. By refusing to dress in its road whites, USC will forfeit a first-half timeout in accordance with NCAA regulations.
Carroll said his arrangement with first-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel for both teams to wear home attire means the resumption of a tradition. From 1949 through '51, and again from 1957 through '82, both teams wore their dark home jerseys.
Who will catch Hazelton?
When Vidal Hazelton was one of the most heavily recruited wide-receiving prospects in the nation in 2005, his two finalists were USC and Penn State. Hazelton chose the Trojans.
But after a breakout 2007 season in which he caught 50 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns, Hazelton, a 6-2, 210-pound junior from Long Island, N.Y., has been a nonfactor this season with only four receptions.
On Tuesday, Hazelton was granted a release from his football scholarship and is free to transfer.
To Penn State, maybe? The Lions lose their top three wide receivers, all seniors, following the Rose Bowl. But a source close to the situation indicated that Penn State coach Joe Paterno is "not interested" in pursuing Hazelton.
Toledo selects Beckman
Although Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno had been rumored as a possible candidate to fill the head-coaching vacancy at Toledo, that job has gone to Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.
Mascot to miss Rose Bowl
The Associated Press reported that the PSU senior who plays the Nittany Lion mascot will miss the Rose Bowl after being suspended for violating team rules.
The school suspended James Sheep, of Chambersburg, Pa., yesterday, a week and a half after being charged with DUI. *