Posted: Friday January 6, 2006 12:17PM; Updated: Saturday January 7, 2006 8:40PM
Mack Brown's Longhorns made sure nobody will have to read any stories about a possible USC four-peat next season.
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LOS ANGELES -- Waking up the morning after Wednesday night's Rose Bowl (actually, it was closer to the afternoon) felt a lot like waking up to a brand new world.
For those of us who cover college football nationally, one storyline had towered over all others the past three years: USC, USC, USC. And while the Trojans' return to prominence has certainly been a boon to college football, what with the nation's second-largest city suddenly showing a renewed interest in the sport, one could argue that Texas' dethroning of them did a service as well.
It's no secret that, as is often the case with teams that win a lot, many pockets of college football fandom across the country had been developing a pretty severe case of USC backlash. If the Trojans had carried their winning streak into next season, it would have ensured at least nine more months of USC overload, and I'm not so sure the Mailbag's Ohio State, Oklahoma or Tennessee minions could have handled the inevitable onslaught of four-peat stories (not to mention all the LSU fans who would be writing in to point out that the Trojans were only going for a three-peat).
As it is, college football figures to return to a more egalitarian landscape. USC will certainly remain among the sport's elite (a bevy of high-school hot shots are expected to pledge their services to the Trojans at Saturday's U.S. Army All-America Bowl), but now we won't have to start every conversation about the national-title race with the words "Besides USC ..."
As you might expect, I received a ton of e-mails about my early top 10 for 2006 (I'll address a few of them a bit later). To be honest, based on the initial research I did in compiling it, I can honestly say that if Vince Young doesn't return to Texas, next year's field could be as wide open as any in recent memory. Usually, there's at least some discernible pecking order on paper. For instance, it didn't take a rocket scientist to guess last August that the Rose Bowl might pit USC against the winner of the Texas-Ohio State game. Take Young out of the equation, and there's not much separating No. 1 on that list from No. 7. Heck, you could swap out about eight of those top-10 teams for eight other teams entirely.
Certainly, there's an element of fun when everyone's chasing No. 1, but it's even more fun when no really knows who's No. 1.
What was Pete Carroll thinking? That was one of the worst coached games I've ever seen. Vince Young is a monster, no doubt, but any fool had to know he'd run for it that last play. In fact, where was the pass-rush the whole game? The Texas line just isn't THAT good. Those calls on fourth down, particularly at the end of the game, were some of the worst calls I've ever seen. --Josh, Washington D.C.
It's easy to pile on the coach when it doesn't work, isn't it? The decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 came from exactly the same mindset as the decision to go for the win, despite having no timeouts, at Notre Dame. When Matt Leinart got in on the sneak, Carroll was hailed for his boldness. Now suddenly he's a moron? Maybe I'm in the minority, but I thought it was absolutely the right call. Texas hadn't stopped LenDale White all game. More important, USC hadn't stopped Vince Young all game. Given the choice between trying for a 2-yard gain with White for the win or punting back to Young, I'd take my chances with White.
If you're going to get on Carroll for something, I would think it would be his clock management. He basically wasted his first two timeouts of the second half, then used the last one prior to Texas' final two-point conversion, when the timeout could have come in handy in trying to drive for the tying field goal. In general, however, I don't think you can blame the loss on coaching. Simply put, USC didn't have enough talent and experience on defense this season to slow down an offense the caliber of Texas'. All the scheming or game-planning in the world couldn't overcome it. It's a testament to just how powerful the Trojans' offense was that they were able to win 12 games and come within seconds of the 13th without a top-notch defense.
Is Reggie Bush overrated? If the Texas defense can shut him down like they did, how do you think he will do in the NFL? --Jeremy Walker, Baton Rouge, La.
I'm not going to say the guy's overrated when he had what was unquestionably a bad game and still accounted for 279 yards. If not for one, incredibly mind-numbing decision, I don't even know that we'd be calling it bad, either, just not as good as White's. I do wonder, however, whether NFL types are going to reconsider Bush's previous no-brainer status as the No. 1 pick. He's a guy who depends so much on his speed and being able to get to the outside, yet against Texas, you saw that it is possible to at least contain him a bit with a fast defense. A lot of those runs around the end were the same type of plays he was able to break for 20 or 30 yards against Fresno State's and UCLA's overmatched defenses, but the 'Horns got to the corner and cut him off for a 5- or 7-yard gain. And in the NFL, all the defenses are fast.