Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2005 11:51PM; Updated: Friday August 26, 2005 1:38AM
Will Matt Leinart (left) and Pete Carroll be owners of a third straight title after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4? Not if you follow history.
3) USC is No. 1 in every major college football poll. Is a third consecutive title a foregone conclusion?
Absolutely not. Even in the days before scholarship limitations and widespread, saturation television coverage (leveling the playing field in the hunt for recruits), no college football team won three consecutive national championships. A statistic so deep, in a sport so venerable, cannot be ignored.
There's little doubt that Pete Carroll has figured out the system. He's collected top-notch athletes two-and three-deep at some positions and installed offensive and defensive schemes that make a joke of the opposition on many Saturdays. (Last winter now-departed offensive guru Norm Chow told me that he thought Carroll seemed "bored,'' sometimes at the Xs and Os work on the college level). Then there's the famed Carroll Enthusiasm, so much better suited to motivating teenagers than professionals (even if Carroll despises that analysis, which he does). You've got Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. It's like The Perfect Storm.
That said, I'm not expecting the Trojans to pull off Title No. 3. Why not? Because I believe in history. There's a reason nobody has won three in a row. Stuff happens. I'm not smart enough to tell you today what will derail the Trojans, whether it will be an injury to Leinart or Bush, the loss of Chow, the dropoff in production from the defensive front or maybe just some opponent that plays the perfect game (much like California did two years ago, forcing USC to dig out of a one-loss hole to claim it's first half-title). College football is unpredictable and chaotic. It's easy to pop in the DVD of USC's Orange Bowl stomping of Oklahoma and assume that every game will look like that this fall, but it's a new season.
All I'm saying is this: It's too early to engrave the trophy.
4) Speaking of USC -- nice segue there -- World Champion sprinter Allyson Felix, who attends Troy and goes to all the football games, but does not run for the track team, might be adding the 400 meters to her 200-meter specialty. Good idea?
Definitely a good idea. Felix is gifted and mature. She'll run fast at 400 meters. But if she's looking to guarantee a second gold medal at the '07 World Championships in Osaka or the '08 Olympic Games in Beijing, she's going to need to do some serious work at the longer distance.
Her U.S. teammate, Sanya Richards (at 20, only one year older than Felix) ran 48.92 seconds for 400 meters last Friday night at the prestigious Weltklasse Meet in Zurich. That makes Richards the youngest of only nine women ever to break 49 seconds in the quarter, and the second-fastest American, behind Valerie Brisco, who ran 48.83 in 1984.
From an overall Team USA perspective, it's a nice problem to have. However, if you're an individual trying to maximize your medal count, it's a challenge. (Justin Gatlin is similarly challenged. The best 100-meter runner in the world has to deal with a bevy of strong countrymen in the deuce).
5) Four-legged racing. Do you think Nick Zito made the right move by putting Bellamy Road in the Travers instead of the King's Bishop Stakes?
First of all, Zito knows his horse better than I do. That said, he was facing a gnarly decision in where to put Bellamy Road for his return to the races.
If he entered GeorgeSteinbrenner's spring monster in the seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes, he's taking on unbeaten Lost In The Fog, facing a terrific -- and terrifically tough -- sprinter on the sprinter's turf off a long layoff. On the other hand, the Travers is 10 furlongs. Bellamy Road has only run four races in his life and only one of them was at a mile and a quarter -- the Kentucky Derby. In that race, the favored Bellamy Road faded to seventh place after chasing a blistering pace. Then again, there doesn't appear to be a lot of speed in the Travers, which might allow Bellamy Road to get an easy lead, like he did in his epic Wood Memorial, a performance that many have called the best Derby prep in history. (A hollow title, of course, when followed by a seventh in the Derby).
If Zito is trying to win yearend titles, I thought he might have been better served in the King's Bishop. From there he stair-steps up to longer distances and if he loses to Lost In The Fog, it's no shame. Of course, he's also sprinting -- which requires sharpness -- and then trying to go longer, which is also problematic. He'll probably be the Travers favorite and a loss will be more damaging to his reputation. A tough call, all the way around.
Bottom line: The racing world is still waiting -- hoping -- to see Bellamy Road duplicate his Wood. If it happens, he beats anybody at any distance. If it never happens again, it's one sweet memory and nothing more.