LOS ANGELES - Jay Leno has a bit for
The Tonight Show
in which the lantern-jawed comedian walks the streets here asking rudimentary questions to apparently some of the dumbest people in America.
Many of the questions for "Jaywalking" are geography-related. Hilarity ensues. Yesterday in the banquet room at the Marriott during Rose Bowl media day, we quizzed Southern Cal players on their familiarity with State College, Pa. The sampling showed that America's youths know their geography better than recent studies illustrate.
"I don't even know what the landscape is like out there," defensive tackle Fili Moala said. "Is it like Virginia? We were there this year. It's on the coast, right?"
Just as many Penn State players had never been to Southern California before last week, many Trojans have never visited the center of the Keystone State.
Before they arrived, the Lions imagined Los Angeles in stereotypical ways - with beautiful weather, beaches, women and celebrities at every turn. They were spot-on except for the celebrity spotting, unless Brent Musburger counts. The Trojans, on the other hand, could think of only one thing when the topic of State College was broached.
"It's cold there, right?" quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "I had a friend that transferred back because it was too cold."
Today's forecast in State College calls for highs in the upper 20s and a chance of a coating of snow. In Los Angeles, it's going to be 70 and sunny - for the seventh straight day. Oh, the monotony.
"A lot of these guys wouldn't be happy anywhere outside Southern California," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "Every time we go to a road trip, they complain about 50-degree weather."
Cushing was raised in Park Ridge, N.J., and is one of the few Trojans to have been to Penn State. The Lions recruited him, but he chose to visit during the summer before his senior year of high school.
His teammates "ask what the school looks like," Cushing said. "And I tell them, 'It's a big campus, kind of in the middle of nowhere.' "
And it's cold.
Guard Jeff Byers probably has the best idea of what it's like to attend Penn State. The fifth-year senior lived in several colder climates and has recently called Fort Collins, Colo., home. Colorado State is in Fort Collins, once deemed by Money magazine the best place to live.
"I actually have a buddy in one of my classes that went to Penn State as an undergrad," Byers said. "He was telling me how they would always go fly-fishing after classes . . . and drink."
A Penn State student has been known to tip back a brew or two.
"That's all there is to do in L.A., too," Byers said plainly. "You go to the beach and what else?"
When Penn State coach Joe Paterno first arrived at Penn State in 1950, there was no place to get a drink. The Brooklyn-born Italian American could not even find a proper plate of spaghetti. It was, he once said, "a cemetery." Fifty-nine years, 383 wins, and 50 packed-to-the-gills-bars-on-football-weekends later, State College is downright cosmopolitan.
Still, judging by the Trojans, you'd think all the Lions did for fun was go cow-tipping.
"Even if they say we're farm boys, I say, 'Yee-haw,' " Penn State defensive end Josh Gaines said. "It's cool. I like that title. Growing up in Indiana, it was always the farm boys that gave us the toughest time."
If the Lions can give the Trojans a tough time tomorrow and pull off an upset, State College will indeed turn into its popular moniker.
"Happy Valley," USC linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "Is that what they call it?"