On one sideline was Paul McDonald, the Trojan quarterback for the last national championship team at USC in 1978, and the reality is drawing near that the Trojans could be adding another national title trophy to the Heritage Hall in the next few days. It's not to look past Michigan, the Wolverines have a fine football team, but the sense is that this is our time. For Trojan fans who have seen the good times and then were forced to live through the not so good times the energy and feeling surrounding this program is one that we should all appreciate. Who among us watching McDonald in the 1979 Rose Bowl would've predicted that it would take 25 years for USC to once again reach this rare place in the college football landscape? Certainly not this writer. I got my Trojan education from those teams of the late 70's and basically thought it was our birthright to spend New Years Day in Pasadena and line up every few years to collect a shiny trophy signaling the Men of Troy as the finest team in the land. That was simply the way things were done and there was no need to change.
Fast forward 25 years and you have a Trojan program that was starving for this moment. The genuine smiles on the faces of longtime alums and fans, those who have truly ridden the roller coaster through the Smith and Hackett years, are an indication of how good things are right now. You have people sharing stories of where they were the last time USC competed for the title along with memories of past Rose Bowl games of Trojan lore. It's a good time to be a Trojan. On the field those same alums are watching a USC team that is legit in all facets, this isn't being done by smoke and mirrors, this is a well built football team that is ready for the long haul. One thing about Trojan fans is the fact that we've seen talented football and we know that the kind of ball being played by the Cardinal and Gold right now is deserving of a national title. This resurrection has been led by Pete Carroll, a coach who seems to be the right man at the right time to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. With Carroll and Nowm Chow the Trojans have a 1-2 punch calling plays that gives us a competitive edge no matter which coaches are roaming the opposite sideline. Once again, it's not to say that the opponent doesn't have fine coaches in their own right but I'll take my chances with our guys any day.
The Rose Bowl game will officially kickoff in less than 72 hours and it should be a good one. How will the variety of Trojan offensive weapons fare against the solid Wolverine defense? Can the Trojan defense handle the impressive balanced attack Michigan will bring to town? Which unexpected player will rise up to deliver a play that could change the outcome of the game? The answers to these and many more questions will come soon enough. The match-up itself couldn't be more perfect with two tradition rich programs battling in the annual Rose Bowl featuring the champions of the Pac-10 and Big 10. Each team has spent the past week trying to get ready for the game while also taking part in the wide array of events planned by the bowl committee and how each coach keeps his team focused with all the distractions will go a long way toward determining the ultimate winner.
There is little for Trojan fans to do now but wait for the game, no matter how long that wait may seem. We've been patient, we've been loyal and now the time has come for the payoff. For those fortunate enough to attend the game, there will be few sights better then entering the Rose Bowl and seeing the finely painted "USC" end zone with the San Gabriel mountains rising majestically behind the grand old stadium. Soon after that the Trojan Marching Band will be welcomed onto the field with the familiar sounds of "Conquest" filling the air. There will be ghosts of past Trojan greats coming to mind, from the Charles White performance in 1980 to the Keyshawn Johnson dominant effort in 1996. Of course, USC and Michigan have a distinct history of their own in this game with the Trojans having defeated the Wolverines most recently in 1990 and also in 1978, a win which ironically gave USC their most recent national championship. To further add to the irony, that national title was a split title with USC gaining the nod from the AP writers, a scenario that once again could prevail if the Trojans can take care of business on Thursday. It should be a great game.