Monday, January 01, 2007

BOWL PREVIEW: The Rose Bowl Game

Sometimes, an event is too great for one game to contain. Sometimes, it is colossal. Sometimes, it is ...
... THE ROSE BOWL. Which is not the same thing as THE ROSE BOWL GAME. Which, ESPN will have you know, IS THE GREATEST FOOTBALL GAME TO EVER BE PLAYED. With the exception, of course, of Ohio State-Michigan. And USC-Texas last year. And the whole Cal-Stanford thing.

But it is THE GREATEST FOOTBALL GAME TO BE PLAYED THIS YEAR. that is located on an ESPN network. Not that that matters. At all.

Break out the liquor. We've got a great one for you today!

Yes, now that all the other BCS bowl games have migrated over to FOX -- wildly animated scoreboards, here we come! -- it appears that the only one ESPN cares about is THE MAGNIFICENT ROSE BOWL. Not that there's any corporate interest there at all.

Could this game be better than the title game? Could it be the real title game? If Michigan were to beat USC convincingly, and then Florida wins, could the AP ...

Give up. You lost the title game because you thought you could force the BCS into creating a playoff, and your plan backfired. You don't have the NC game. Fox does. Deal with it.

Is this going to be a great game? Yes. But how in the world could the AP justify jumping Florida over Michigan after a Michigan loss and two Florida wins, and then jumping Michigan over Florida after a Florida win? It's a great game. But it won't decide anything other than who wins the Rose Bowl.

Bowl: The Rose Bowl Game
Location: Pasadena, California
When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET, ABC
Purported reason for existence: To match the Pac-10 champion with the Big Ten champion. Sometimes. If they ask really nicely.
Real reason for existence: To give the people of Pasadena reason to hold a parade.
Teams: Michigan vs. Southern California
Interest level: The Unit. Not the best show on television, but it's still great.
Key player for Michigan (on offense): While Chad Henne and Mario Manningham got a lot of the credit for the offense success going into the season and during the first few games of the year, RB Mike Hart has been stellar rushing this year. He's averaging 5 yards a carrying and putting up 126.2 YPG for a total of 1,515 yards and 14 TDs. Hart has to have a big day for the Wolverines to win.
Key player for Michigan (on defense): DE LaMarr Woodley has been an absolute terror this year, tallying 15.5 TFL and 11.0 sacks while forcing four fumbles and recovering four.
Key player for Southern Cal (on offense): WR Dwayne Jarrett has fewer yards than Steve Smith, but he leads in scores with 10 TDs. That's not to downplay what Smith has done, hauling in eight scoring passes himself. Give the checkmark to both of them. If Michigan only manages to slow down one, it could still be a loooong day for the Wolverines.
Key player for Southern Cal (on defense): LB Dallas Sartz is the best player you've never heard of for USC-West. But he's got the best all-around numbers on D, with 8.5 TFL, 6 sacks, five passes broken up, a pair of fumbles forced and one recovered.
Coaching matchup: Pete "Gosh, golly" Carroll will be at the controls for USC-West and Lloyd "Grrrr" Carr will lead the Wolverines. These are perhaps opposite ends of the intangible continuum. Carroll wins almost every big game he plays, last year's NC and games where Pat Cowan is the opponent's QB being the exception. Carr, on the other hand, has been repeatedly criticized for always hitting the speed bump in the trap game.
Carr: I wish I could hold this smile like that gel holds your hair.
Winner: Michigan. The shredding of the secondary by Troy Smith gives me pause, but that was a different game and the Buckeyes were on a mission. The Wolverines should be able to contain, if not hold, USC-West's offense, and the Trojans don't have an answer on defense. It'll be tight, but Blue pulls it out.

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