MIAMI (Ticker) -- After an extended layoff, Southern California used the first half of the Orange Bowl as a tune-up.
Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer threw for 304 yards and a touchdown and Justin Fargas ran for two scores as the fifth-ranked Trojans dominated the second half en route to a 38-17 victory over third-ranked Iowa.
Southern California had not played since November 30 and showed some rust in the first half, squandering three good scoring chances in the second quarter and entering halftime tied at 10-10.
But Palmer completed 5-of-5 passes on an 80-yard drive to open the second half. He gave the Trojans (11-2) the lead for good with an 18-yard touchdown to Mike Williams, who was the Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year.
Iowa was forced to punt on its next possession and pinned USC at its own 1-yard line. But Palmer ran twice for 21 yards to help get the Trojans to midfield before Fargas exploded with a 50-yard touchdown run for a 24-10 cushion.
"We're a second-half team. That's the way we played all season," Palmer said. "We came out and exploded in the second half. I can't imagine going out in a bigger way than this."
"They have a great football team. They just came out in the second half and outplayed us," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "At halftime, we really felt good about our chances. In the second half, USC totally dominated the game. They were ready to go and beat us at our own game."
Palmer completed 21-of-31 passes without an interception and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. His favorite target was Williams, who caught six passes for 99 yards.
Fargas finished with 122 yards on 20 carries as the Trojans decimated the nation's second-best rushing defense with 247 yards. The Hawkeyes had been holding opponents to just over 68 rushing yards per game.
The Trojans finished their season with eight straight wins following a 3-2 start and snapped Iowa's nine-game winning streak. They won their final five games by a combined score of 217-81.
"This was a fantastic season," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Our kids worked hard for this. I'm thrilled for everyone associated with USC. I wish we could keep playing. I don't want it to end."
Brad Banks, who finished second to Palmer in the Heisman voting, was just 15-of-36 for 206 yards and an interception for Iowa (11-2). He threw a meaningless TD to Maurice Brown in the final minutes for the Hawkeyes' only offensive touchdown.
"It was tough coming down there and not getting any points," Banks said. "That was a great ballclub we played tonight. They had a great game."
Palmer helped keep the ball out of Banks' hands as the Trojans held the ball for 38:06 - better than 16 minutes more than the Hawkeyes.
Iowa's C.J. Jones returned the game's opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown - the longest kick return in Orange Bowl history.
But Palmer responded by leading a 79-yard drive, highlighted by a 65-yard bomb to Kelly, who became USC's all-time leading receiver on the play. Fargas had a four-yard touchdown run three plays later to forge a 7-7 tie.
The Hawkeyes marched their way to the Trojans' 2 on their ensuing possession but had to settle for a field goal after a penalty, two short runs and an incompletion.
USC's Ryan Kileen missed a potential game-tying field goal with 9:46 left in the first half. But linebacker Matt Grootegoed recovered a fumble for the Trojans with 4:20 to go and Kileen kicked a 35-yarder with 72 seconds to go for a 10-10 tie.
The Hawkeyes drove 51 yards to the Trojans' 11 as the first half wound down, but Nate Kaeding's 28-yard field goal was blocked as time expired.
"That blocked field goal was a huge play before the half," Carroll said. "They can't score if we won't let them. It was a big boost at halftime."