Jason Leach started in place of Polamalu, who didn't talk after the game.
Polamalu was on the field for an extra point after Iowa's C.J. Jones returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but he did not return until the fourth quarter, when he played only one down.
Junior offensive lineman Eric Torres suffered an ankle injury with 3:15 left in the first quarter and was taken to the locker room on a cart a few minutes later.
One very relieved person standing along the sidelines was Tom Hansen, Pacific 10 Conference commissioner. Going into the Orange Bowl, his conference had a 1-5 record in bowl games, UCLA with the victory over New Mexico.
But then, the Trojans weighed in, and Hansen stood proud.
"This is a wonderful win for USC and the conference," he said. "This night is special, and this win is particularly rewarding and refreshing."
If he had not already done so, walk-on Greig Carlson probably cemented scholarship status with a career-best 41-yard punt return with 7:46 left in the second quarter.
Iowa did not allow a return longer than 14 yards during the regular season.
The first quarter went a full hour and became a statistics-lover's fantasy.
* Iowa's 100-yard return with the opening kick was the first time that has happened in the Orange Bowl. It was also only the second kickoff returned for a score in the game's 69 years, the last being a 90-yarder by Tulsa in 1945.
* The kickoff return by Jones was the first time in 18 bowl games that Iowa had returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
* USC became only the second Iowa opponent this season to score on its first possession against the Hawkeyes. The other was Michigan State.
* When Kareem Kelly made a 65-yard catch on the first USC series, it established an NCAA record for completions in 47 consecutive games.
Kelly caught three passes to become USC's all-time leader in receptions. He finished his career with 204 catches, surpassing the record of 201 set by Johnnie Morton from 1990-93.
Florida Senator Bob Graham, previously a chicken plucker and intelligence watch officer, worked the sideline as a member of the chain gang.
It was the 386th "Workday"' for Graham, who committed to working 100 jobs while campaigning for governor here almost 30 years ago.
Rodney Peete, Tony Boselli, Keyshawn Johnson and Brian Kelly were among the former USC players on the Trojan sideline.... USC's victory was its first in five games in Florida.... USC is 26-15 and Iowa is 9-8-1 in bowl games.... The Florida Sports Foundation estimates that the Orange Bowl will have a $112 million impact on the South Florida region.