Culpepper's Commentary: Rose Bowl Preview

There isn't a Texas fan alive that wouldn't love to be in that stadium built in 1933 that puts 90,000 plus in the stands for the Rose Bowl every year.

Texas got 22,000 tickets and 34,000 Longhorn fans put in orders the first week they went on sale. USC got the exact same number. At $175 per ticket the two school’s supporters will shell out over $7,000,000!

They are the lucky ones -- the other 50,000-odd tickets go on sale to Lord knows who. On eBay you can get one of them between the 40 yard lines for $3500!

Remember, this is a first for the Bowl Championship Series. The BCS has two teams that have been number one and two since the season started. There is no controversy. The stars of USC and Texas will cross in combat on January 4th.

Let’s focus on the Trojans of USC:

    1. Reggie Bush -- Heisman Trophy winner and perhaps college football's most exciting player with the football. A threat not only on running plays but on passes he catches out of the backfield and returning punts.
    2. Matt Leinart -- The classic drop back quarterback that has guided USC to 34 straight wins.
    3. Dwayne Jarrett -- At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds he is the equal size-wise of Texas wideout Limas Sweed. His 60-yard catch and run against Notre Dame with less than a minute left on 4th and 9 was 2005’s single most dramatic play.
    4. LenDale White -- This is the hammering tailback in the Trojan attack. He supplies the inside power game for USC.
    5. Steve Smith -- USC’s "other" receiver. Not as big a Jarrett but has outstanding speed and great hands on the deep ball. He caught two TD passes vs. Oklahoma last year.
    6. Dominique Byrd -- At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds he is a typical tight end for USC. Highly recruited and has proven to be a stellar inside receiver.
    7. Darnell Bing — This strong safety at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds brings big hits and experience to the Trojan defense.
    8. Pete Carroll -- The head football coach of USC carries his talent for enthusiasm, defensive know-how and two back-to-back national championships to this contest.

For four years USC has been near the top of every recruiting survey. This year, only Arizona State and Fresno State challenged USC for four quarters in the West Coast area. And the Trojans have been in only one "war" and that was on their trip to South Bend. Notre Dame played with talent and spirit and almost upset USC.

To face this Hollywood production are the Texas Longhorns:

    1. Offensive Line -- Three members of this group had fathers that played in the NFL and two of them had dads that played at Texas -- Kasey Studdard and Lyle Sendlein. The Texas offensive line averages 6-foot-4, 310 and has the edge and experience on the USC defensive front. Left tackle Jonathan Scott from Dallas Carter High School at 6-foot-7, 315 will be a first round NFL draft choice. Right guard Will Allen at 6-foot-6, 315 along with Studdard are the enforcers of this group.
    2. David Thomas -- The Texas tight end is from Wolfforth, Texas Frenship High School. His parents are schoolteachers, David is a top student and is a clutch receiver as well as an outstanding blocker. Count on big plays from Thomas.
    3. Wide Receivers -- Quan Cosby from Mart, Texas, Billy Pittman from Cameron, Texas, Ramonce Taylor from Belton, Texas and Limas Sweed from Brenham, Texas are a collection of small town Texas talent. Sweed and Taylor are legitimate deep threats and Cosby and Pittman make the first down catches.
    4. Jamaal Charles -- If Texas has anyone close to Reggie Bush it is true freshman Charles from Port Arthur’s Memorial High School. He has world class track speed, a love of contact and is dangerous on flare passes and screens out of the backfield.
    5. Vince Young -- Heisman runner-up at 6-foot-5, 236 is exactly what the Trojan defense hasn’t faced in the last two years. If necessary, Young can win a game with his running. He is taller than any USC defensive lineman which is important when he sets to pass. A true product of Texas high school football from Houston’s Madison High School. No doubt the leader of this football team.
    6. The Texas Defense -- USC has faced no group like this accumulation of size and speed all season.

Defensive ends Tim Crowder from Tyler and Brian Robison from Splendora are playmakers from the outside.

The Texas interior rotates continually throughout the game because Coach Mack Brown and staff were able to recruit the top defensive linemen in the state of Texas for the last four years. Rod Wright at 6-foot-5, 315 from Houston and Frank Okam matching Wright at 6-foot-5, 315 from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas are the starters but Larry Dibbles at 6-foot-2, 285 from Lancaster High School, Derek Lokey at 6-foot-2, 275 from Denton Ryan High School and true freshman Roy Miller at 6-foot-2, 300 from Killeen are in and out to keep fresh troops in the middle. This will be a key against USC -- fresh pressure.

The Texas linebackers are not big, but they are fast. I believe LenDale White can punish this group with power plays and it will be a factor to watch as the game goes along. Jorvorskie Lane, the 240-pound back from Texas A&M, ran over the Longhorn linebackers and White could do the same. Coach Chizik is well aware of this possibility and will shift his front to try to offset the blocking patterns when White is in the running back position. Senior Aaron Harris from Mesquite is the most experienced of the group, and the linebacker corps will have to play its very best game to stop the USC running game. I mean giving up their body to stop the big Trojan runner by closing the hole with all they have. They might not make the tackle, but they give their teammates time to close in for the stop. This is crucial.

The Longhorn defensive backs could be the difference between winning or losing this football game. Safeties Michael Huff at 6-foot-1, 205 from Irving’s Nimitz High School and Michael Griffin at 6-foot, 205 from Austin’s Bowie High School are the ones who have to make the plays on Reggie Bush when he bounces to the outside, as well as defend passes to the middle of the field. Huff is one of college football’s top blitzers -- Leinart will look where Huff is aligned before every snap on passing plays!

Texas cornerbacks Aaron Ross at 6-foot-1, 191 from John Tyler High School and Cedric Griffin from San Antonio’s Holmes High School must battle the USC wideouts on every catch. Griffin at 6-foot-2, 205 should match up well against Jarrett.

What Ross and Griffin both bring extra to the table, besides excellent coverage skills, is big hit ability. It was Cedric Griffin that tackled Oklahoma’s great but injured back Adrian Peterson with such force early in the first quarter that the Sooner coaches saw that a limping superstar had no business on the field with such a war going on. It was a different Mack Brown team in 2005! And it's a different team than the Sooners put on the field vs. the Trojans last January.

The way I see this football game is USC pounding LenDale White for big yardage and Bush going wild in the second quarter but Texas will rally in the second half for the victory. Texas 45, USC 41.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

Horns Digest Top Stories