Friday, January 02, 2004

ROSE BOWL: USC 28, Michigan 14 One of the interesting things about actually going to a game, rather than seeing it on TV, is that you watch a different event from the rest of the world. Leaving the Rose Bowl, I wondered if SC had done enough to hold onto the AP title. Both the score and the stats were superficially close, and although John Navarre spent a great deal of time on his fanny yesterday, he did manage to move his team pretty consistently between the thirty-yard lines. It wasn't until I began listening to the national talk radio shows that I got the full measure of how dominant USC looked.

The Trojans have perhaps the most exciting offense since the Andre Ware-led, run-and-shoot teams at Houston in early-90's. Unlike the Cougars, however, USC doesn't operate a gimicky attack; they just happen to do the same thing that other teams do, but do it better. The two TD passes to Colbert are a perfect example: both times the receiver got open; the ball was slightly off-target; but the receiver made the play look easy. The final touchdown, a pass from star receiver Mike Williams to QB Matt Leinart, is one that all teams, college and pro, try at least twice a year. The difference was the Trojans executed the play as if Leinart were just another back, and it worked perfectly.

Another aspect of the game that bears scrutiny is that the four scoring drives for the Trojans lasted a total of 2:44 and only twelve plays. Through three quarters, Michigan led the time of possession by a margin of 30-15. After the Wolverines scored (assisted by a questionable interference call) to cut the margin in half, USC retained possession for ten of the final eleven minutes of the game, effectively squashing any comeback hopes for the Wolverines. The one weak area for the Trojans, the running game, kicked ass in the fourth quarter, helping to run out the clock. USC is the best team in the country.


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