MIAMI (AP) -- Carson Palmer has yet another trophy for his shelf: Orange Bowl MVP.
The Heisman Trophy winner dominated his duel with Heisman runner-up Brad Banks, throwing for 303 yards and a touchdown to help No. 5 Southern California beat No. 3 Iowa 38-17 Thursday night in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
Palmer led scoring drives of 79, 80, 99, 85 and 61 yards, helping the Trojans to a 16-minute advantage in time of possession. They mounted long touchdown marches on their first three possessions of the second half to blow open a game that was 10-10 at halftime.
"I knew I'd have a target on my chest coming into this game,'' Palmer said. "Brad Banks was as deserving as any of the candidates, and because of that I knew they were going to be coming after me. I think we slowed them down a little bit.''
Banks was limited to 204 yards passing and failed to lead the
Hawkeyes' normally high-powered offense to the end zone until the
final minute. Their biggest play came when C.J. Jones returned the
opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, an Orange Bowl record.
Southern California (11-2) beat a Top 25 team for the seventh time this season. USC won its final eight games and snapped a nine-game winning streak by Iowa (11-2).
"We didn't think it would be this easy,'' said Mike Williams, who caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Palmer. "After the kickoff, they didn't do anything.''
The Trojans outscored UCLA, Notre Dame and Iowa 134-51 over their final three games, a showing that might be impressive enough to vault them to second in the final rankings behind the Fiesta Bowl winner between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Ohio State. That would be USC's highest finish since 1979.
"We're playing terrific football right now,'' coach Pete Carroll said. "We'd like to just keep on going.''
Palmer completed 21 of 31 passes, feasting on a defense that ranked last in the Big Ten against the pass. His 65-yard bomb to Kareem Kelly set up Southern Cal's first score, but mostly Palmer made short throws to keep drives alive.
"He was the better quarterback tonight,'' Kelly said. "The Heisman showed up.''
Banks, a Florida native who had dozens of relatives watching from the stands, went 15-for-36 and threw his first interception since Oct. 19.
"It was just a great ballclub we faced tonight,'' he said. "They had a great game.''
Iowa's muscle was a concern for Southern California coming into the game, but instead the fleet Trojans wore down the Hawkeyes. USC gained 363 yards in the second half to finish with 550.
"They weren't used to our speed,'' Kelly said. "We're a second-half team, and we came out with a lot of fire.''
The matchup was dubbed the Rose Bowl of the East because Pasadena is the more traditional ultimate postseason reward for both teams, but USC thrived in the unfamiliar setting. Justin Fargas rushed for 122 yards, including touchdowns of 4 and 50 yards. Williams caught six passes for 99 yards, including his 14th touchdown reception of the season to tie an NCAA freshman record.
After Jones scored on the opening kickoff, more than 40,000 Iowa fans in attendance had little to cheer about.
"USC is a great team with a lot of speed, and that's something we didn't handle too well,'' Iowa receiver Maurice Brown said.
While Iowa fans sat mostly silent, such former Trojans stars as Keyshawn Johnson, Tony Boselli and Rodney Peete rooted from their team's sideline. There were no sightings of O.J. Simpson, who lives in Miami and showed up at a USC practice last week.
The Hawkeyes were hurt by 13 penalties, two turnovers and several missed opportunities. In the first half, they had first-and-goal at the 2 and at the 1, but they came away with only three points from the two possessions.
A sack by Matt Grootegoed stymied the first threat, and Iowa settled for a 35-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding.
The Hawkeyes earned a first down at the 1 with 10 seconds left in the half, but after Banks overthrew Brown in the end zone, they sent in the field goal team. Consecutive false-start penalties pushed the ball to the 11, and Bernard Riley then blocked Kaeding's 29-yard attempt, ending the half with the score tied.
"That was tough, coming down there and not putting up any points,'' Banks said. "That was something we really needed.''
Iowa never recovered from that deflating sequence. USC took the lead for good by driving 80 yards on the first possession of the second half and scoring on Williams' acrobatic catch.
A punt then pinned the Trojans at their 1, and on third down a scrambling Palmer was stopped short of a first down. But Bob Sanders was flagged for a late hit, sustaining a drive that ended with Fargas' long touchdown sprint.
Another Iowa punt was followed by another USC score, Sultan McCullough's 4-yard run.
"We got better as the game when on,'' Carroll said. "It was really pleasing.''
Playing for the first time since Nov. 16, the Hawkeyes still managed a quick start. Jones took the opening kickoff at the goal line, broke into the clear thanks to a block by Jermelle Lewis and scored untouched.
The Trojans quickly came back. Palmer's first pass was negated by a penalty. His second was the long strike to Kelly, setting up Fargas' 4-yard touchdown run.
USC spent much of the second quarter in Iowa territory but couldn't score until the final 72 seconds, when Ryan Killeen kicked a 35-yard field goal after Lewis lost a fumble at midfield.