Iowa, USC has makings of a classic ... but it's in MiamiPosted: Sunday December 08, 2002 11:35 PM
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- The matchup has the potential to be a classic, even if the locale is a bit unusual.
It's Iowa vs. USC, a Big Ten power against a Pac-10 glamour school meeting in -- the Orange Bowl?
Believe it. In the sometimes topsy-turvy BCS world, a game that seems more suited for Pasadena on New Year's Day will be played Jan. 2 in Miami instead. It's already being called "Rose Bowl East."
"From a tradition standpoint, yeah, we'd love to play in the Rose Bowl," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
"But because of the BCS, things are a little different now. The great thing about this is it's not only a great matchup of two very fine teams, but for us it's an opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl for the first time with the great tradition behind it, a fantastic venue and a fantastic audience."
And a couple of fantastic quarterbacks who are among the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy.
Brad Banks led third-ranked Iowa (11-1) to its first unbeaten Big Ten season (8-0) since 1922. The Hawkeyes tied Ohio State for the Big Ten title, their first conference crown since 1990.
Banks, a senior who never started a major-college game before this year, leads the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 25 touchdown passes against only four interceptions.
Fifth-ranked USC (11-1, 7-1 Pac-10) counters with Carson Palmer, who has thrown for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns. Long before they meet on the field at Pro Player Stadium, Palmer and Banks are likely to be together at the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York next Saturday.
That fact was not lost on the Orange Bowl committee, which had the first pick after the Fiesta Bowl pairing between Miami and Ohio State and used it to grab Iowa. A Bowl Championship Series rule then allowed the Orange to take USC, also wanted by the Sugar Bowl, because it has a higher payoff than the Sugar.
"We anticipate having a possible Heisman Trophy winner," said Keith Tribble, the Orange Bowl's executive director. "We have two Heisman Trophy candidates. We hope the game will be as good as it's built up to be."
Iowa, fifth in the final BCS standings, lost only to Iowa State 36-31 on Sept. 14, a game the Hawkeyes led 24-7 at halftime. The Hawkeyes haven't had a close call since needing a last-minute touchdown to beat Purdue 31-28 on Oct. 5. They have won their last six games by an average score of 38-11.
USC has won seven straight since a 30-27 overtime loss at Washington State, which shared the Pac-10 title with the Trojans and will play in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans capped their surge with a 44-13 rout of Notre Dame.
"We would have loved to represent our conference in the Rose Bowl like the Big Ten does," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Our situation was, Washington State did what they needed to do and congratulations go out to them for getting that opportunity."
Orange Bowl officials had their eye on Iowa for some time. The Hawkeyes were attractive because of their record and their huge fan following. It also helped that 11 Iowa players, including Banks, are from Florida.
The Orange Bowl had the first pick because its host team, Miami, was headed for the Fiesta.
"It was a total package for us," Tribble said. "We saw it as a home run hit to be fortunate to have them there and to be fortunate to have the pick to get them."
By taking Iowa, the Orange Bowl irked the Rose Bowl, which was looking for a traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup. Instead, the Rose had to take Big 12 champion Oklahoma to play Washington State.
Tribble said the intent wasn't to anger anyone. He said he talked to officials from both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl to let them know what he was planning.
"I hope and I think they understand," Tribble said. "Nothing was done to be hurtful in any way. It was done in the sense of us trying to create what was good for the South Florida area, what was good for our economy and what was good for our bowl. We had an opportunity to do that and we did."
USC was guaranteed a BSC bowl because the three teams ahead of it -- Miami, Ohio State and Georgia -- got in as conference champions. Orange officials saw a unique opportunity with USC available and took advantage of the BCS rules to select the Trojans.