SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
12/30/2006 04:59:00 PM
Greetings from Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES -- First off, my apologies for going into Blog hibernation the past couple weeks. I’m back for the duration of bowl season.
I arrived here Friday to cover the Michigan-USC Rose Bowl. As I mentioned in last week’s Mailbag, watching ESPN’s bowl coverage the past couple weeks, you would have thought this game was the actual national championship. Every commercial is for this game. Every halftime show involves a breakdown of this game. Why? Because it’s the only BCS game on ABC/ESPN.
With that kind of buildup, I was bit thrown off when I walked into Rose Bowl Media Day on Saturday morning at the Home Depot Center. I’ve covered the past seven BCS title games, involving a whole lot of press conferences and media days, and I can tell you the amount of media at this thing was about a tenth that of a national championship game. Instead of squeezing my way into a pack of 40 reporters surrounding the coach or star player, it was basically me and two other writers interviewing Pete Carroll and Lloyd Carr. The overall mood could be described in one word: mellow.
Nevertheless, I still think Michigan-USC will be a great game. I am not among those who expect the Wovlerines to run roughshod over the Trojans (although I’m admittedly less confident in that USC pick I made several weeks back). Yes, USC is unlikely to have much success running the ball, but by the same token, I don’t think Michigan will be able to get its usual production out of Mike Hart -- I see the Trojans’ linebackers keeping him from breaking off long runs. And I believe the USC coaches will make the necessary adjustments to its protection schemes to avoid a repeat of the UCLA debacle. The question is, will John David Booty get enough time to get the ball downfield to Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, or will he have to dink and dunk the whole time?
∙ The Lloyd Carr retirement rumors float around this time of year every year, and Carr was curiously evasive when a reporter asked him point-blank, “Will you be back next year?” After speaking in generalities about how much he still loves the job, etc., etc., the reporter followed up, “So will you be back next year?” Carr chuckled nervously, hesitated ... then said, “I think I just answered that question.”
While I don’t think Carr is going to be around too much longer, I’d be shocked if he hung it up now. With Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Mario Manningham, et. al., coming back next year, he’s got a chance to coach at least one more national title contender.
∙ The Wolverines will be wearing a special decal on their helmets honoring the late Gerald Ford (who played for Michigan) and Bo Schembechler. It’s a circle with “48” (Ford’s number) and “Bo” inside.
∙ Trojans QB John David Booty has always struck me as a fairly laid back guy (maybe it’s the Cajun accent), but not according to his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin. “[He’s] very professional,” said Kiffin. “For instance, we were sitting around waiting to be picked up [Thursday] morning and I said, ‘Hey, did you go out to the hot tub [at USC’s hotel]?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t bring my swimsuit.’ And I said, ‘Oh, did you forget it?’ And he said, ‘No – business trip.’”
∙ Bowl games aren’t just rewards for the players -- writers too. I know after a long season of hectic road trips to small college towns where the lodging isn’t always five-star, the highlight of my year is coming out to a warm-weather city and staying in the media hotel, which is inevitably a resort-type place I could never afford on my own. For the Rose Bowl, it’s the Beverly Hilton, home of the Golden Globes -- and flat-screens in the bathrooms.
∙ That said, the one negative of covering a bowl game is that you don’t get to see a whole lot of the other games. I was on a plane flying across the country yesterday and missed the Oregon State-Missouri thriller. I was driving back from Media Day today during the dramatic finish of the BC-Navy game.
I have no good excuse, however, for missing the biggest bowl comeback in bowl history last night. I watched quite a bit of it at my friend Bruce’s house in Manhattan Beach, but we gave up on it at 38-14 and went to dinner. Whoops. I feel most guilty because I violated my own rules of common sense, which tell you: There is no lead too big for Glen Mason to blow.