Starting now and going all the way through the rest of this week, I'll be posting my Rose Bowl Diary thoughts. Some of it will be analysis, some of it will be random musings on the game, or anything else that comes to mind regarding the big game.
I wondered what the line for the Rose Bowl was at these days, and a quick check showed that the line hasn't budged since I looked last. The Trojans sit at 7.5 point favorites, with the over/under total being at 71 points. I've said several times in this space that the line is set to create action, but it does seem appropriate that the Trojans are favorites. This isn't to say that Texas can't, or won't, win the game, but USC should be favored. Here's why.
Forget the fact that USC is a scary freaking football team. They've won 34 straight games. Thirty-four. It's pretty hard to comprehend just how difficult that is to accomplish (even in the Pac 10), but it's truly amazing when you really give it some thought. Now, while that does NOT mean that USC is necessarily the better team than Texas, it does tell us a lot about them. You can't luck your way into thirty-four straight wins, though you do need some luck along the way.
This USC team is approaching rarified air, and though ESPN has completely pissed me off with their premature coronation of USC as Greatest Team Ever, the discussion will be legitimate if they do beat the Horns.
Reggie Bush Might Have an MJ Switch
The MJ Switch, for those that don't know, is a little button that only the elitest of the elite have in their sport that allows them to flip into an extra special mode when the team needs them most. (On a side note, this important thought just occurred to me. At some point pretty soon, we're going to be saying, "You weren't old enough to see him, but Michael Jordan was the most AMAZING player to watch." Time flies...)
Anyway, Reggie Bush seems to have that switch. In his team's biggest games, when they needed big plays the most, he was right there, leading the charge. Some of his in-season critics pointed to a few mediocre games he had, but those games always came in blowouts, when his team had no need for him. Hey, if Scottie Pippen is on a tear, why force the ball to MJ?
The good news for Horns fan is that Vince Young may have an MJ Switch too. When the going gets tough, VY gets going. And he seems to enjoy the Rose Bowl.
The Ballroom Dance May Have Lulled Us To Sleep
I've been leading the Matt Leinart isn't Joe Namath charge for some time now, but I worry a bit that we're all being lulled to sleep, only to be rudely awakened to a couple of 50 yard touchdown bombs to Steve Smith at the Rose Bowl. One of the more amazing things Reggie Bush has done (and he's done a lot of amazing things) is made Matt Leinart look... well, ordinary!
And Leinart has been terrific! It's pretty ridiculous, but when your teammate is that good, it makes you look like some kind of role player. Despite the fact that you're a star. I'm just saying: all the Reggie Bush hype has sort of diminished Matt Leinart's status (relatively speaking, of course), but if you're like me, as this game gets closer, Orange Bowl memories are quickly creeping in to my thoughts.
ESPN Has Crowned Them Victors Already
Okay, that's actually not a good thing for them. ESPN did that to OU last year, too. Oops.
These Games Are Always Decided By Turnovers
Always. Lost in USC's offensive masterpiece in the Orange Bowl last year was the fact that they forced five(!) Oklahoma turnovers. And guess what? They haven't slowed down. The Trojans lead the nation in turnover ratio. They protect the ball and they take it away ruthlessly.
Texas, on the other hand, has been relatively pedestrian in that capacity. We've put a lot of balls on the ground, though we've been fortunate to recover many of them. When you have an offense as efficient as USC's, you can't give them extra chances.
(I should say, on that note, that the Texas offense is a lot better than OU's was last year. Don't forget that we held the Sooners to under 14 points in last year's loss. I'll have much more on this later in the week.)
Beano Cook Picked Texas To Win
In my book, that's three points tacked on to the spread right there. Truly a brutal bad blow for the Horns.
Texas Gets Outcoached In Big Games
This one won't be too popular, but let's face it: the Texas track record in big games under Mack Brown is pretty dismal. Granted, we've won our last three (two if you don't count this year's rebuilding Oklahoma team), but even in those games, we weren't exactly out there kicking ass and taking names. It took a last second field goal to beat a young Michigan team and a late touchdown to beat Ohio State, who neutralized our offense for 2/3 of the game. I think Vince Young (and Gene Chizik) have done a lot to improve us in this area, but we're going against one of the game's better planners in Pete Carroll.
Add it all up and the Trojnas probably should be the favorites. They've been in the title game, they've won it, they haven't been beat in forever, and they feature two of the three best players in the country. I'm not betting against the Horns here, but I think the line is fair.