Even if it is less than enthused about playing in another Rose Bowl and against another supposedly subpar Big Ten opponent, Southern California has two reasons to avoid losing today to UCLA, a heavy underdog.

The Trojans' minuscule national-championship hopes would be doused. And, in the far more likely scenario, they would drop into the Holiday Bowl, and Oregon State would win the Pacific Ten tiebreaker and head to the Rose Bowl to face Penn State.

As much as the Trojans and their followers are lamenting another trip to nearby Pasadena - for the fourth straight season and fifth time in the last six years - the Holiday Bowl doesn't inspire them, either.

Fifth-ranked Southern Cal (10-1 overall, 7-1 conference) will meet UCLA (4-7, 3-5) at, yes, the Rose Bowl at 4:30 p.m. today.

The Trojans are 33-point favorites and boast the nation's best defense in terms of yards and points allowed per game with 211 and 7.8, respectively.

The Bruins' offense, on the other hand, is 110th in yards gained with 295 per game and 107th in scoring with an average of 18.6 points.

In other words, neither Oregon State nor the Holiday Bowl should get its hopes up.

Of course, in 2006, when Southern Cal was a victory away from clinching a berth in the national-title game, the marginally better-than-they-are-now Bruins knocked off the Trojans, 13-9.

All that awaits sixth-ranked Penn State (11-1) is its opponent in the Rose Bowl.

The Nittany Lions ended their regular season two weeks ago knowing that Pasadena was their likely destination.

Their slim national-championship aspirations were eliminated last weekend, but Oregon's victory over Oregon State meant the Lions would probably get a more attractive foe in Southern Cal.

The Trojans have virtually no shot at climbing over four teams - two apiece in the Southeastern and Big Twelve Conferences - and into the national-title game. For that reason alone, there has been grumbling from the Trojans about staying home once again.

And then there's the prospect that a victory, no matter how large, over another Big Ten team would do little to boost their chances of laying claim to at least part of the national championship.

In Southern Cal's last four Rose Bowl games against Big Ten opposition, the Trojans won all four by an average score of 37-17.