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Will this finale be different?

Rose could be an epic ... unless Texas pulls an OU

Posted: Sunday December 4, 2005 9:08PM; Updated: Sunday December 4, 2005 9:55PM
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Oklahoma was supposed to give Dwayne Jarrett and the Trojans a test in last year's Orange Bowl ... but then the game started.
Oklahoma was supposed to give Dwayne Jarrett and the Trojans a test in last year's Orange Bowl ... but then the game started.
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After the long-anticipated USC-Texas Rose Bowl had been sealed Saturday, a reporter at Pete Carroll's postgame press conference rattled off the game's various storylines before asking the Trojans head coach, "Can it get any better than this?" Carroll let out a slight chuckle before replying, "You better check out those articles from last year."

By any reasonable standard, Trojans-Longhorns is an even matchup with all the makings of a classic. Unfortunately, four little digits can't help but dance around the back of the skeptic's brain: 55-19.

It was this time a year ago that college football pundits like this one were falling all over themselves with hyperbole in an effort to properly place that season's Oklahoma-USC Orange Bowl showdown in historical perspective. Just like this year, the Sooners and Trojans were the preseason Nos. 1 and 2 teams, both undefeated, both with a Heisman quarterback and superstar tailback.

"A perfect matchup," Carroll called it at the time.

"I think this will be great for America," proclaimed OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long.

As it turned out, the only thing great about the game for most Americans was that they were able to get a full night's sleep after tuning out sometime in the second quarter.

And so, with the Trojans' winning streak now at 34 games, with last year's Orange Bowl superstar, Matt Leinart, back under center, and with running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White averaging somewhere in the vicinity of 138 yards per carry, it's natural to wonder, Why will this year's game be any different? Is Texas -- the one team in the country scoring more points (50.9 per game) than USC (50.0) -- truly a worthy adversary? Or, like Oklahoma, are the 'Horns another Big 12 pretender?

Will the 2006 Rose Bowl be different than the 2005 Orange Bowl?

Three reasons why it will

• Unlike the 2004 Sooners, whose secondary had looked shaky much of the regular season -- and which Leinart and his receivers exploited to the tune of 332 yards and five touchdowns -- this year's 'Horns have shown no discernible weaknesses (unless you count their inability to stop the option against Texas A&M, something that isn't likely to enter the equation in this one).

• While Leinart, Bush and the rest of the Trojans' epic offense have dominated to the tune of 580 yards per contest, they've yet to face a defense anywhere near the caliber of Texas'. The 'Horns rank sixth nationally in yards allowed (280.3 per game); the highest-rated USC opponent to date has been Cal -- at 47th.

• Don't be fooled by the UCLA game -- the Trojans' defense is definitely mortal. Games like Fresno State and Notre Dame don't happen by accident. Against the Bruins, USC's defensive line was able to manhandle UCLA's injury-depleted offensive line, disrupting the Bruins' timing-based attack. That's not likely to happen against the 'Horns' rock-solid O-line. And UCLA didn't have Vince Young.

"I really don't think the year before relates to this year," said Texas coach Mack Brown when asked about his conference rival's poor showing against the Trojans. "We feel like they're clearly the No. 1 team in the country -- but we feel like we're a good team too."