O/NSO - Rose Bowl preview

A cardinal and gold generation of national championship dreaming, expectations, and just plain frustration and disappointment will play itself out on New Year's Day in Pasadena when the No. 1 ranked University of Southern California Trojans (11-1) look to exorcise the ghosts of the past twenty-five years against the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (10-2) in the 90th Rose Bowl game.

The Obvious – A cardinal and gold generation of national championship dreaming, expectations, and just plain frustration and disappointment will play itself out on New Year's Day in Pasadena when the No. 1 ranked University of Southern California Trojans (11-1) look to exorcise the ghosts of the past twenty-five years against the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (10-2) in the 90th Rose Bowl game.

The Not So Obvious – USC has never lost a bowl game when ranked No. 1, but regardless of Thursday's outcome, coach Pete Carroll has unequivocally returned the Trojans to the powerhouse days of legendary coach John McKay, although not yet in terms of duration. For McKay it was 15 years, but Carroll appears well on his way if he doesn't eventually get the itch to return to the Sunday game.

The Obvious – At stake Thursday for the Trojans is a probable split national championship, and many respected media members are calling the 2004 Rose Bowl game the main event, reducing the Sugar Bowl to a championship wait-and-see status.

The Not So Obvious – Respected ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski says, "If USC wins, no matter what happens in the Sugar Bowl, it's moot-court heaven." Even ABC has been promoting their telecasts of the Rose and Sugar Bowls with a comical argumentative piece debating the validity of the two "championship" games.

The Obvious – The Pac-10 champion Trojans come into the Rose Bowl a 6 1/2-point favorite to beat the Big Ten champion Wolverines and claim some part of the national title.

The Not So Obvious – In USC's past nine Rose Bowl appearances, the game's outcome has been decided by 10 points or less. Perhaps the game's best prediction yet is by the weatherman, who is forecasting 65 degrees and partly cloudy skies.

The Obvious – By virtue of the Rose Bowl's location and the fact that USC plays UCLA in Pasadena every other year, even Michigan coach Lloyd Carr agrees that this year's Rose Bowl game is considered a USC home game.

The Not So Obvious – Location, location, location. When considering placing a couple of Christmas bucks on Thursday's game, remember that Michigan has lost three of its last four games played on the West Coast. Throw in the fact that USC is 4-1 against the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl since 1970 and 9-3 in overall Rose Bowl appearances since that time, Trojan fans have a right to be guardedly optimistic.

The Obvious – While many USC and some Michigan players have some Rose Bowl stadium experience, playing in the Bowl when she's all dressed up for the annual New Year's Day bash can be "shock and awe" even for the most hardened of participants.

The Not So Obvious –In the Detroit News this week, Michigan linebacker Scott McClintock said, "It (Rose Bowl) was amazing. I didn't know it was going to look like that. It was freshly painted, and we were taking pictures everywhere. I can't wait for the game and see what it looks like when it's filled up. The location is most impressive. I come from Pittsburgh, and I like being around the hills, and this is down in the valley with hills around it. I really enjoyed it."

The Obvious – The USC Trojans are the number one team in the country, but No. 4 Michigan has plenty of experience when it comes to playing highly-ranked clubs.

The Not So Obvious – In facing the top-ranked Trojans, Michigan will be facing its fourth top 10-ranked opponent in five games. Expect this Michigan club to put up one helleva fight and an upset of Troy is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Folks, the Trojans best bring their "A" game to Pasadena on Thursday. The game figures to be a match of gladiator proportions.

The Obvious – One of the big complaints by Trojan fans over the years is that ESPN's Gameday crew of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso never come to Los Angeles to do a USC game, no matter what the circumstances.

The Not So Obvious – Well, Trojan fans, Pasadena is not Los Angeles and the Rose Bowl is not the Coliseum, but the 2004 Rose Bowl is the "circumstances." The ESPN trio will be at the Rose Bowl on Thursday morning doing their thing, so get out the goofy garb and the cardinal and gold face paint. USC's only Gameday experience was a 1995 South Bend loss. Michigan is 13-4 overall in Gameday appearances and 6-3 on the road.

The Obvious – The Trojans come into Thursday's game against the Wolverines with gaudy team statistics including 443.9 offensive yards per game, 310.5 defensive yards per game, and giving up 18.8 points per outing.

The Not So Obvious - Despite those three very impressive statistics, the Wolverines are even more impressive with 447.8 offensive yards per game, 272.4 defensive yards allowed, and giving up just 15.9 points per game. The Trojans, however, gain the advantage in points per game at 42.2 while Michigan averages 37.2.

The Obvious – There are many similarities between the 1978 USC national champs and Pete Carroll's 2003 juggernaut. Much has been made of the fact both teams had a third-year coach (Robinson/Carroll), left-handed quarterbacks (McDonald/Leinart), left tackles that wore No. 77 (Munoz/Rogers), an upset away loss (Arizona/Cal), tailbacks named White (Charles/LenDale), and played Michigan in the Rose Bowl for a national title.

The Not So Obvious – One dissimilarity on New Year's Day is that the 1978 Trojans won their half of the national championship wearing their cardinal home uniforms, but Thursday afternoon Carroll's club will be donning their white visitor's attire.

The Obvious – There is little argument that USC and Michigan will present to the other the toughest opponent for the season. The winner of the game will rest on the ability of one's team's strengths to take advantage of the other team's weaknesses.

The Not So Obvious – The strength of the Trojans' defense, Wild Bunch 2, is well aware that in both of Michigan's losses this season, Michigan All-American tailback Chris Perry, the Wolverines' major offensive calling card, was held well under 100 yards rushing. C.P. had 26 yards at Oregon and 74 yards at Iowa. Conversely, Michigan's offense, especially the Wolverines stellar receiving unit, is well aware of the Trojans' shaky secondary.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense presents Michigan defense a galaxy of explosive performers in Matt Leinart, MikeWilliams, Keary Colbert, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Hershel Dennis, and all orchestrated by the near legendary Norm Chow, the Trojans' famed offensive coordinator.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan's defensive unit has no first-team All-Big Ten selections, and if the game turns out to be an offensive extravaganza, it won't be because Michigan coach Lloyd Carr didn't study the Trojans' offense juggernaut under Norm Chow. Carr says, "What I think in studying Norm Chow down through the years, one of the things he's doing with this team more than any of the other teams I've seen of his in the past, he's throwing the ball down the field. They're going to stretch you vertically and horizontally, so that presents a challenge for us."

The Obvious – The Michigan offense presents USC's defense with a galaxy of explosive performers in Chris Perry, John Navarre, Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, and an offensive line that is both veteran and extremely physical.

The Not So Obvious – You can also bet that Pete Carroll and his defensive staff have been studying the work of UM offensive coordinator Terry Malone, who in his second season at the UM offensive controls, has led the Wolverines to 446 point, the most since 1902. Malone was one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant. The Trojans' Norm Chow was the award winner last year.

The Obvious - The Wolverines best chance for victory will be to mount an early lead before Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow systematically unwraps Lloyd Carr's hard-hitting defense.

The Not So Obvious -Look for a series of play-action passes early by Michigan quarterback John Navarre in attacking the Trojans' perceived secondary weakness to slow up the USC front four. Oregon State's offense took advantage early against a hyped Trojans' defense, burning the USC secondary by throwing deep off play-action with tailback Steven Jackson. You can also bet that Pete Carroll's team may be seeing a Michigan offensive plan similar to the one used by Cal's Jeff Tedford, especially early in the contest.

The Obvious - USC's All-America punter Tom Malone (49.2 ave.) may be as prominent as any performer come Thursday, especially when punting in the direction of Michigan's dangerous punt-return threat Steve Breaston (14.1 ave. return), the former heralded prep star from North Braddock, PA.

The Not So Obvious – While Malone has not been in too many pressure kicking situations during the Trojans' regular season, it figures that Michigan will come hard and heavy looking to upset the All-American's confidence and timing from the outset. There is a history of blocked punts of Malone. It figures to be a cat and mouse game between special team coaches as to when Malone will be rushed and when UM sets up the return for Breaston (6-1, 176), who ranks third in the nation for punt-return yardage.

The Obvious – In the Trojans' last seven games, Troy has scored 40 points and had a winning an average winning margin of 27 points.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans' offensive explosions have been dynamite in the second half, Michigan's offense has done most of its damage in the first half outscoring their opponents in the first quarter 102-17 and 118-48 in the second quarter. In fact, under coach Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines have a 55-10 record when they score first in a game, something they did 11 of the 12 games played this year.

The Obvious – Officials working the game will be from the Big 12 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – When the Trojans played in their last Rose Bowl in 1996, the officials were also from the Big 12 and the head referee that day was Randy Crystal.

The Obvious – Thanks to the aggressiveness and athleticism of both defenses, quarterback Matt Leinart of USC and John Navarre of Michigan will need as much courage as they will skill to guide their team's potent offenses.

The Not So Obvious – While both quarterbacks are first-team all-conference, the big difference is still in experience with Leinart having started 12 games for the Trojans while Narvarre has started 41 games for the Wolverines. Of course when it comes to Rose Bowl experience, they are of equal value – they have none.

The Obvious – The Michigan secondary finished in the top six nationally in pass defense (167.1 yards per game) and in pass efficiency.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojan secondary is considered a weak link, the Wolverines' veteran secondary is considered a strength and brings a total of 76 starts amongst the four D-backs. USC's fleet and physical receivers will be challenged by the likes of All-Big Ten corner-turned-safety Marlin Jackson (6-1, 189) and extremely physical strong safety Ernest Shazor (6-4, 217). Look for the UM secondary to attempt to intimidate the Trojan receivers with jamming at the LOS and excessive aggressiveness.

The Obvious – When the Trojans defeated Michigan in 1979 for the national championship, the Rose Bowl attendance was 105, 629.

The Not So Obvious – With changes having been made to the old bowl since that time, the current Rose Bowl holds a listed capacity of 91,159.

The Obvious – One of the real treats for first-timers to the Rose Bowl is taking a tour of the famed saucer.

The Not So Obvious – Due to our beautiful world situation, "For security reasons, all Rose Bowl tours have been cancelled until further notice."

The Obvious – Normally the arriving USC and Michigan team busses with police escorts would descend down separate Rose Bowl driveways down into the locker areas beneath the stadium.

The Not So Obvious – With the issue of security, both team busses will arrive and drop off the players from both teams outside the gates, thus creating a "Trojan Walk" for USC fans below the main entrance Rose Bowl sign around 12:00 – 12:15 p.m. With players from both teams exposed to their fan base, it figures to be quite a " rock star walk" for each entourage.

The Obvious – One of the key battles in the trenches will be the battle of Trojans' All-Pac-10 nose guard Mike Patterson (6-0, 285) and Michigan center Dave Pearson (6-3, 297).

The Not So Obvious – Patterson will again use his quickness and leverage to disrupt the Wolverine's 2003 Academic All-Big Ten center. Pearson, who was a linebacker in high school, will test Patterson's quickness advantage. Pearson played prep ball with former UM quarterback and baseball player Drew Henson.

The Obvious – The Wild Bunch 2 will be seeing perhaps their best tailback of the year in Michigan's Chris Perry (6-1, 220, a finalist for the Heisman and winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation's premier running back.

The Not So Obvious – With superior ability to run, catch, and block, the most impressive part of Perry's game is his ability to cut outside and change direction at full throttle once past the line of scrimmage. Perhaps Perry's cutting ability was part of his training at Fort Union Military Academy in Virgina, the same school that produced Ohio State's Eddie George. Of course, leave it to the Michigan Rose Bowl Media Guide to mention Perry's connection with George but not Eddie's connection with Ohio State.

The Obvious – Despite a rousing victory over Oregon State in the season finale, the Trojans defense gave up a whopping amount of passing yardage to Beaver quarterback Derek Anderson, who threw for 485 yards.

The Not So Obvious – While senior Wolverine quarterback John Narvare, one of only two Michigan quarterbacks to start all four years, is a non-scrambler like Oregon State's Anderson, he is certainly head and shoulders over Anderson as a signal-caller. In Michigan's 30-27 loss at Iowa, Narvarre threw 49 times for a school-record 389 yards, so the Trojans' defensive backs will be well challenged if he is allowed to survey the Trojans' secondary landscape.

The Obvious – Both schools have an elite group of receivers with the Trojans leading with All-American Mike Williams (6-5, 230) and Michigan with All-Big Ten Braylon Edwards (6-3, 205).

The Not So Obvious – Both receivers are near images in yards per catch with Williams at 14.1 and Edwards at 13.7. Even the touchdown ratio is near even with Big Mike hauling in 16 touchdowns and Braylon accounting for 14 scores. They're both even when it comes to uniform number. Both wear No. 1.

The Obvious – The Trojans defeated Michigan in the 1970 Rose Bowl 10-3 on a 33-yard pass from USC quarterback Jimmy Jones to the late Bob Chandler.

The Not So Obvious – One of the stars of the game for Michigan was tight end Jim Mandich, who caught eight passes for 79 yards. Big Jim later went on to the Miami Dolphins. Mandich's son, Mike, is a 245-pound reserve tight end for the Michiganders.

The Obvious – This will be the second time that a Michigan team will face a Wild Bunch defense. The original WB was part of the 1970 win over the Wolverines that held UM to three points and 162 yards rushing.

The Not So Obvious – This year's Wild Bunch edition will be looking to make life miserable for UM quarterback John Navarre. Navarre will be looking to avoid the fate of Wolverine's 1970 quarterback Don Morehead, who was held to 60 yards passing. Should this year's Wild Bunch "get" to Navarre, waiting in the wings is backup redshirt freshman Matt Gutierrez, the former never-lose Concord De La Salle star.

The Obvious – One of the fine souvenirs of any Rose Bowl is the ticket itself, which turns out to be a Trojans' "home field advantage."

The Not So Obvious – On the colorful front of this year's ticket is a picture of legendary Trojan tailback Charles White wearing his visiting white jersey. On the reverse side of the ticket are nine logos of the different marketing partners.

The Obvious – There was once a time when parking at the Rose Bowl was actually free when arriving on the golf course, north of the stadium.

The Not So Obvious – Just before the Trojans' last 1996 Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl Football Management Committee was in unrest over what to charge for parking. There was a somewhat heated discussion on what should the handicapped parkers be charged. Some members in the meeting pointed to the other bowls and what they charged the disabled. For Thursday's 90th Rose Bowl Game, parking will be $20.00 for all cars unless you are driving a motor home. The hotel on wheels will cost ya $40.00. Consider it green fees.

The Obvious – Thursday's Rose Bowl will be televised by ABC with Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts mikeside.

The Not So Obvious – The Rose Bowl Game was first televised in Los Angeles back in 1948 by KTLA. The first national telecast was by NBC in 1952, and the same network aired the first coast-to-coast color telecast of a college football game with the 1962 Rose Bowl.

The Obvious – Another key battle inside the "pit" will be provided by Michigan's two-time All-Big Ten offensive guard David Baas (6-5, 314), who may see his honors tested repeatedly by the Trojans' third-team All-America tackle Shaun Cody (6-4, 285).

The Not So Obvious – This will be a big-time match. It will be a coast-to-coast battle as Baas hails from Sarasota, Florida, and Cody from Hacienda Heights, California. In high school, Baas threw the shot put 53-11 and is a sports management and communication major. Cody also played tight end at Los Altos (17 yards per catch) and is majoring in sociology.

The Obvious – The Trojans and Wolverines have been recruiting head-on in California for Pomona Ganesha defensive lineman Eugene Germany (6-4, 250) and Concord De La Salle wide receiver Cameron Colvin (6-1, 190).

The Not So Obvious – Recruiting Ganesha's Germany for Michigan is secondary coach Ron English, who coached once coached at Ganesha. English is quite knowledgeable about the Trojans offense and talent having spent the past five years at Arizona State before moving on to Ann Arbor this season.

The Obvious – The Rose Bowl is almost unanimously accepted as the most picture-perfect place to watch a college football game, especially when it compares to other bowl venues.

The Not So Obvious – However when it comes to food and restroom facilities, it has traditionally left much to be desired. In fact, when the stadium was first built in 1921, it had no bathrooms! Oucccch!

The Obvious – Thursday's Rose Parade and Game will feature the 270-plus Spirit of Troy Marching Band and the 275-member Michigan Band, two of the nation's very finest performing two of the most recognizable fight songs in "Fight On" and "Hail to the Victors."

The Not So Obvious – Ironically, USC's legendary director Arthur C. Bartner was once part of the Michigan Band. For you band lovers, Michigan will also be bringing 12 euphoniums, a higher range version of the tuba.

The Obvious –USC's All-America left tackle Jacob Rogers (6-6, 305) and Michigan's All-Big Ten offensive tackle Tony Pape (6-6, 304) prove that prep recruiting guides are not always true predictors of college and pro potential.

The Not So Obvious – Rogers was a much less heralded tight end coming out of Oxnard High while "Walrus" Pape was a near unanimous prep All-America out of Clarendon Hills, Illinois. The Trojans did, however, try to recruit Pape out of the Land of Lincoln.

The Obvious – Should Trojan wide receiver Keary Colbert haul in four more receptions in the Rose Bowl, the senior will break Kareem Kelly's career school record.

The Not So Obvious – Don't think for a minute that Michigan coach Lloyd Carr isn't fully aware that Colbert may very well be the "silent" killer against his Wolverines. It's hard, of course, to be invisible when you statistically pass the likes of Keyshaun, Swannie, J.J., Affholter, McKay, and Big Hal.

The Obvious – The kicking game as always may be the ultimate factor, so be on the watch for the Trojans' Ryan Killeen (19 of 23 field goals) and the Wolverines' Garrett Rivas (9 of 11 field goals).

The Not So Obvious – Despite his impressive numbers, Killeen seems to have the albatross of kicks missed for his legacy rather than those converted. The kid could put the ultimate eraser on those blotches with a solid performance on Thursday. Game winning kicks in the Rose Bowl tend to leave an ageless memory.

The Obvious – Michigan defensive back Leon Hall and Trojans' linebacker Salo Faraimo both played last year together at Vista High in San Diego County.

The Not So Obvious – While Hall, who has played in all 12 games with the Wolverines and has three interceptions, got much of the ink at Vista, there are those close to the Vista program that felt that Faraimo was the better prospect.

The Obvious – For those Trojan fans that need the extra comfort at the game, USC's home radio crew of Pete Arbogast, Paul McDonald, and Petros Papadakis will be at their usual 1540 frequency.

The Not So Obvious – For those that need a Wolverine prospective, NewsTalk 760 WJR-FM out of Detroit will be beaming out to their legions with Frank Beckmann (Play-by-play), Jim Brandstatter (analyst), and Steve Courtney (sidelines).

The Obvious – A video game is also the way Michigan defensive tackle Grant Bowman describes the Trojans' 2003 offense. In the Detroit Free Press, Bowman said, "It's like a video game. It's not like people are getting those numbers in the real world."

The Not So Obvious - So it figures that Pete Carroll's Trojans will need all their joysticks working on offense AND defense to defeat a determined Michigan team and that's the way it should be. As for a prediction here, as coach McKay used to say at the end of each of his television shows with broadcaster Tom Kelly, "If the Trojans play as well as they can play and they (Wolverines) play as well as they can play, USC will win."

USCFootball.com Top Stories