by Robert Ferringo - 12/28/2005
Two powerhouse teams. Two schools seeped in tradition. Two Heisman Trophy winners.
Too good to be true.
This year's Bowl Championship Series title game will feature the No. 1 University of South California Trojans and the No. 2 University of Texas Longhorns at 8 p.m. EST on Wednesday, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The game has the makings of a classic, with the winner claiming the crown as the king of college football.
USC (12-0) has won 34 consecutive games and is on the verge of becoming the first team in college football history to win three straight Associated Press national championships. The Trojans feature last year's Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Matt Leinart, and this year's recipient, running back Reggie Bush.
Texas (12-0) hails from the Big 12 Conference and is riding to the Golden Coast on a 19-game winning streak. The Longhorns are the defending Rose Bowl champions, having defeated Michigan, 38-37, last year in a similar match-up of elite programs. Quarterback Vince Young accounted for more than 350 total yards and all five Texas touchdowns en-route to being named the Most Valuable Player.
The opening line on the game was USC at -6. The spread has since shifted to -7.5, and even as high as -8, to accommodate the heavy action on the popular Trojans. The total has held firm since opening at 71.
Thus far this season USC has faced only one line lower than two touchdowns, and has routinely been posted as a 30-plus favorite. The result is a modest 6-6 mark against the spread. Texas has also faced monster numbers this year, but finished the regular season at 10-2 against the spread. The Trojans have gone 7-5 against the total, while the Longhorns are presently 10-1-1.
Leinart (254-for-391, 3,450 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs) is a three-year starter and the conductor of the symphony that is the USC offense. Southern Cal possesses the nation's second best unit in regards to total yards (580.2 ypg) and scoring (50.0 ppg).
While Leinart may be the conductor, the sweetest music comes from the lithe stride of Reggie Bush's legs. The junior back has accounted for an (amazing) 2,611 total yards as a runner, receiver, and kick returner. Bush is the most explosive offensive player in the NCAA, and trying to contain him will be the focal point of the Texas defense.
Who could possibly be averaging more points than USC? That's right - Texas. The Longhorns post 50.9 points per outing, led by the Swiss Army Knife game of Young. The mobile quarterback was this season's Heisman runner-up after tabulating 3,619 total yards and 35 touchdowns.
Quite naturally, since all of the pre-game hype has focused on the two high-flying offenses, the game will likely be decided by which defense makes the most plays. Texas holds a distinct advantage in this category.
The Longhorns boast the 10th-best total yardage defense in the land. Their unit also surrenders a meager 14.6 points per game, sixth in the country. Texas has only relinquished more than 20 points on four occasions, with 29 being the most managed against them all season.
Leading tacklers Michael Griffin and Michael Huff will lead the charge to stop Bush. Also, lineman Brian Robinson leads the Longhorns with seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
Southern Cal's defense is ranked 46th in total yardage. Their secondary has been suspect at times, and is 96th in the nation. However, the 227.3 yards per game that they allow is as much a function of USC's offensive domination. Their high-scoring crew usually posts a large early lead, forcing teams to abandon the run and play catch-up.
Texas employed a no-huddle offense to perfection in the Big 12 championship game, resulting in a season-high 70 points. Don't be surprised to see them break that out at some point in the game, though Southern Cal should be prepared. Going no-huddle against a team like the Trojans would be a gamble, because if it doesn't work they're giving Leinart, Bush, and Company extra possessions.
Though the game is technically at a neutral site, the Trojans are playing in their backyard. Southern Cal is 21-8 at the Rose Bowl in their illustrious history, including a 3-0 record since 1990.
Texas isn't fazed. The Longhorns were road underdogs at one other time during the season. On Sept. 10, Texas rode into The Horseshoe in Columbus to face Ohio State as a 1.5-point dog. Led by Young, the Longhorns left the Buckeye State with a 25-22 victory which vaulted them into the BCS title hunt.
Both teams last suited up on Dec. 3 in their respective conference championships. Since then each club has had it's own "off-field distraction". Leinart was briefly declared ineligible by his school after an appearance in a SportsCenter promo. He was quickly reinstated. Texas has seen two starters, cornerback Cedric Griffin and tailback Ramonce Taylor, questioned about an alleged early-morning assault on Dec. 10.
Here are some final tidbits about the 2006 Rose Bowl:
-- The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country have met at the Rose Bowl three other times. USC is 1-1 in two of those games. Texas beat Navy in the other.
-- Texas is the third all-time in both winning percentage and overall victories.
-- With a win, USC will tie Alabama for the most bowl wins in college football history. Southern Cal's overall postseason is 28-15.
-- Over the past five seasons, Texas has college football's best record at 55-8.
-- USC has won 16 straight non-conference games.
-- The Longhorns have beaten the last eight ranked teams that they've faced.
-- The Trojans are 4-0 all-time against the Longhorns. The last time the schools met was in 1967.
-- This will mark the sixth time that USC enters a bowl game ranked No. 1 by the AP. They've won every time.
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The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's football picks service.