SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/01/2008 08:25:00 PM
The Scene Before Kickoff
NEW ORLEANS – We’re about a half-hour from kickoff here at the Sugar Bowl, but the Sugardome is already full and loud. Despite the impressive turnout from Hawaii, it’s still an overwhelmingly pro-Georgia crowd and they got mighty loud when the band played the school’s fight song.
Warriors fans got pretty loud themselves, however, when the Hawaii players did their traditional ha’a war chant just before leaving the field following pre-game warm-ups. It was quite a sight to behold watching an entire college football team perform what is essentially a choreographed dance in front of a packed 80,000-seat dome before the start of a BCS bowl. It was one of those truly, “only in college football moments.”
∙ The grandest college football tradition of all, of course, is usually the Rose Bowl, but to the surprise of absolutely no one, this year’s turned out to be an absolute stinker. In a near carbon copy of last year’s game against Michigan, USC’s offense looked largely stagnant in the first half, but QB John David Booty – with the help of freshman tailback Joe McKnight – began pouring it on after halftime, and Illinois’ repeated turnovers sure did not help the Illini.
What always amazes me about Pete Carroll’s teams is that, like a lot of teams, his was obviously hoping to end the season elsewhere both last season and this one, yet unlike many of those, whose dejection ultimately surfaces in the form of a flat performance, his still come out and dominate like the national championship is indeed on the line. And that’s despite the fact neither last year’s or this year’s Trojans offense was anywhere near the level of their 2002-05 predecessors.
∙ It’s time for me to turn my attention to the game at hand. I have no idea how it’s going to play out. I’m only certain of one thing: With Colt Brennan throwing 40-50 times and FOX cramming in the commercials, don’t expect it to end much before 1 a.m. on the East Coast.
Absolutely nothing went for Illinois today. From moment one, when they got jobbed on that Havili "non-fumble", it was clear that USC was destined to win. Throw in fluke plays like the fumble when Illinois was down 21-10 and the botched lateral that turned into a 64-yard play, and it's rather clear that Illinois had no mojo working. Illinois did themselves no favors with their atrocious playcalling in the first half, which the "objective" announcing crew of Musburger and Herbstreit turned into some sort of canonization of the USC defense. On top of that the USC offense simply was not very good and benefitted from luck all day long. Contrary to anything "Booty's balls are in my mouth" Herbie said, JD played scared and cowered everytime he was pressured, as proven by the countless falls he took just to spare himself a hit. USC's wide receivers are still a liability, their running back situation is still a circus, and their offensive line still has noticeable lapses in concentration. Nothing has changed with this USC team, just a couple wins in a row against exposed teams like ASU, UCLA, and Illinois that have given the media an excuse to tab this classless group of criminal thugs as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
USC blows out Illinois, UGA blows out Hawaii. I still think UGA-USC could have been THE BCS bowl this year. To bad, we had to see Illinois rep the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl. Better hope OSU wins against LSU to save some Big 10 face. I am all for tradition in college sports but this game could have been great for the college post season.
Sorry, Stewart, I was surprised by the USC performance.... I agree you have to give USC credit for playing well in their "consolation" BCS bowl but they have no one but themselves to blame for that this year or last. They've shown flashes of greatness over the last couple years but I still don't think they're a great team (this year's Rose bowl was a couple turnovers away from being alot more interesting). Maybe next year....
Re: Hawaii's pre-game dance, it's actually not an "only in college football moment," the New Zealand rugby team (consistently the best team in the world, though they always lose the big one) does a very similar pre-game dance, called the "haka" (similar to Hawaiian "ha'a" as the Maori and Hawaiian languages are related).
Ah . . another USC win in the spotlight. Complete with a "back flip" and dancing players on the sidelines.
Great selection, Rose Bowl Committee . . what's next? USC vs Minnesota? Iowa?
I must agree with Doug Flutie on the "flipper" who scored. Put him on the sideline and don't let him reenter the game.
No doubt USC is a good team. They (barely) beat UW. They (barely) beat WSU. Kudos.
Just a couple of questions. First, when does the BCS give us a playoff so we can see the pride of "El Lay" compete for the crystal bowl (seriously). Second, and barring acceptable answers to the first question, when will the Rose Bowl Commmittee actually break from tradition and give us a good game (such as USC vs WVU, USC vs OU, USC vs VT, USC vs UGA, USC vs Texas Tech, USC vs Auburn, USC vs Kansas, USC vs Mizzou, USC vs UF, USC vs LSU, USC vs Boston College, USC vs anyone other htan a lower ranked team from the Big 10? I think the Trojans could compete . . and we fans would enjoy it . . so why not?
In the meantime, congratulations to USC for another Hollywood performance.
You deserve better, Trojans . . I admire your willingness to "play anyone anywhere" but think you need some help from your home field caretakers.
No matter what team/conference you root for, I think we can all say that the BCS this year was a disaster. The earlier New Year's day bowl games should not outshine the BCS bowls, but they easily did this year. Furthermore, it is still uncertain whether the two best teams are playing for the title.
All of these facts cry out for a playoff system, even more so than previously disputed BCS bowl games. Can you imagine a playoff this year? Wouldn't it be great to watch UGA play USC, with the winner meeting the LSU-OSU winner for the title? It would be fantastic football and sooooo much better than the crappy games we got this year. Perhaps one day college football will move beyond the 20th century and seek to crown a true champion.