Bowl Traces, Part IV

This final chapter should be dubbed the Get-Back-To-Work Version, but here's to football vacations and where they lead. ... The Rose Bowl is one of the national championships after the wizards running college football kept overrated Oklahoma in the equation. Where did this talk of the greatest team in college football history come from anyway?

Not Keith Jackson. The greatest announcer in college football history sets the scene in Pasadena with Woodland Hills' Steve Breaston (6-1, 176, So.) awaiting the USC kickoff at the Michigan goal line. "He strikes fear in your soul if he has the ball and a little room," Jackson says of a kid many of us watched on Friday nights here in Western Pa. Breaston will be a pro some day, but right now the guy to watch at Michigan is Braylon Edwards (6-3, 205, Jr.), who blows by Will Poole (6-0, 190, Sr.) like he's Terrell Owens blowing past Chad Scott. Difference is Owens didn't drop his touchdown pass. Edwards did. Of course, Poole didn't turn around and "lose the ball in the lights" as Scott claimed he did before falling on his face. Poole got lucky, but it'll be difficult to forget that image. It will also be difficult to forget that Poole transferred from Boston College because -- reportedly and allegedly -- he stole money from a teammate. Throughout the rest of the game, Poole is outstanding. He looks like a quality leader out there for USC. Perhaps Poole only stole a tip jar from a teammate. It worked for Rod Woodson, didn't it? Poole shows more than just coverage ability as he blasts QB John Navarre (6-6, 228, Sr.) and forces a fumble to get USC off and running. By the way, Navarre is NOT the Michigan QB you want to be looking at next April. Drew Henson (6-4, 223), even though he hasn't played since New Year's Day 2001, is the preference. In his last game he led Michigan past Auburn, 31-28, in the Citrus Bowl. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns. The only leading Navarre will do is in the next Frankenstein movie. The big Michigan tackle, Tony Pape (6-6, 304, Sr.), isn't showing much either. No feet. And he's supposed to be the best Michigan lineman? It's time to reconsider the talents of RB Chris Perry (6-1, 228, Sr.). Michigan backs must be judged with skepticism because everything's set up for them, from the top-shelf O-line to the play-calling. It's a running environment, but if this Michigan line is as average as USC's making it out to be here, Perry might be worthy of a second-round pick. USC sophomore quarterback Matt Leinart (6-5, 220, So.) must also be given more credit than he initially earned. After Carson Palmer played so well last year, it was assumed Norm Chow's system had everything to do with Leinart's success this year. Chow is a brilliant coach, but, wow, Leinart puts everything on the money, has quick feet and a strong arm. He also has the best set of receivers in the country. Sophomore Mike Williams (6-5, 230, So.) is big, fast and acrobatic. We've heard all about him this season. The surprise to this East Coaster is the other WR, Keary Colbert (6-2, 210, Sr.). He scored two touchdowns, one after a stunning, running one-handed catch. He also caught a deep ball that led to a missed field goal and had a third TD jolted away on a big hit by Marlin Jackson (6-1, 199, Jr.). Colbert is a senior and someone to remember in the third or fourth round. Better make a shirt-pocket note, Kevin. Take the kid with your last name. ... The Orange Bowl pits Miami and Florida State, two great, talent-laden teams. But the reason the 42 future pros here aren't in a more meaningful game is because starters Nos. 43 and 44 can't play quarterback. It's difficult to believe these two schools can't put anyone under center better than Brock Berlin (6-1, 213, Jr.) and Chris Rix (6-4, 217, Jr.). Here's Kellen Winslow (6-5, 243, Jr.) now. The Miami TE is glaring at Berlin after he wildly overthrew a third-and-three pass. Pair Winslow with a quarterback like Philip Rivers in the NFL and nobody stops the sticks from moving. Rivers would be the Dan Fouts of the upcoming decade. Figure on Bill Cowher putting a better defense out there than Don Coryell ever did for those San Diego Chargers and you have a serious contender for years. Winslow would be an outstanding pick for the Steelers, who do have bigger needs than tight end, but, look at free safety Sean Taylor (6-3, 225, Jr.). He can play a little bit. Taylor's another perennial Pro Bowler-to-be whom the Steelers should snap up if given the chance, even though they don't have a great need for another safety either. At pick No. 11, the Steelers should think about future team captains and Hall of Famers. That is all on that topic. FSU RB Greg Jones (6-1, 255, Sr.) has been relegated to short-yardage situations, obviously because he hasn't recovered fully from the previous season's torn ACL. He can't cut, but, boom, he just ran over Taylor for a first down. A few plays later, Miami DT Vince Wilfork (6-2, 344, Jr.) splatters an FSU RB. The talent is unbelievable here. More Hurricances, please. Oh, wait. The Steelers are still looking for their FIRST player from Miami. That's a crime, particularly since Larry Coker has cleaned up that mess down there. These kids seem to have a lot of heart and character. What they don't have is a QB. ... Where the heck is the Cotton Bowl? Oh, here it is, channel 53. My, how the mighty have fallen. No yellow first-down line, either, cheapskates. A couple of ex-jocks are jabbering in a three-man booth but by now I've grown numb to it all. I fear only Musberger. Ole Miss' Eli Manning (6-5, 218, Sr.) is off to a fast start with a beautiful, floating TD pass to his fullback. It was probably his fourth option. This Manning is just as smart as his brother, but doesn't seem as uptight as Peyton Manning (6-5, 230). They both walk up and down the line to make their audibles, and they use many of the same hand signals. Hmm. The announcer just said Peyton reviews film with Eli. What a nice big brother. Wonder if he had time to look at the Denver Broncos a little bit this week. It's becoming a chore watching Eli, though, because he's a guy the Steelers have no chance of drafting. He'll be in the top three of the draft. Some scouts might like Miami Ohio QB Ben Roethlisberger (6-5, 242, Jr.) as a better athlete, but others like the maturity of the fifth-year senior Manning. Wonder if this will be another Manning-Ryan Leaf (6-5, 245) situation, where the better athlete is a certified nut job. As for Oklahoma State, folks, it's becoming a blur. WR Rashaun Woods is clearly talented, but Tatum Bell? Josh Fields? Nothing else stands out, probably because it's become so tedious. How do scouts do it? How can they sit through hours of Ball State, Pitt, Hawaii, Okie State? It's probably not the dream job we think it is. ... The captains from Clemson and Tennessee walk to midfield for the coin toss to start the Peach Bowl. Instead of shaking his opposing captain's hand, Clemson RB Duane Coleman (5-10, 185, So.) slaps him in the face! This absurd start has my attention, and it's Coleman running 8 yards for the game's first touchdown. He was shut down the rest of the way, and more often than not was down there gettin' the business from tacklers. Perhaps the pre-game slap was the reason for another undisciplined performance by Phil Fulmer's Tennessee team, which piled up 119 yards in penalties in the 13-point loss. Vols QB Casey Clausen (6-4, 225, Sr.) will probably be another favored sixth-round pick, but as stated earlier it's franchise QB or nothing for the Steelers. Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst (6-4, 206, So.) is the son of former Green Bay QB Charles David Whitehurst. He has some talent and good bloodlines, but is still fairly raw. ... The exhausting Tim Brandt takes us into the Fiesta Bowl. The news here is that Kansas State QB Ell Roberson (6-1, 205, Sr.) will play despite being accused of sexual assault two nights earlier. According to the police report, Roberson left his girlfriend to get a cigar from teammate James McGill. At that room, Roberson had sex with an acquaintance of McGill's, who claimed to have been asleep under the covers and thought Roberson was McGill. So that great rock of leadership, Coach Bill Snyder, receives all of the info, starts and plays Roberson. The team is beaten, mainly because of Roberson's poor performance, and then Snyder revokes Roberson's scholarship. I don't know who comes off worst in all of this, but Snyder's in the running. Anyway, the game is ferocious in the pits but the guy who interested me as a mid-round D-lineman, Tim Anderson (6-4, 289, Sr.), doesn't show much. In fact the star of the Ohio State D-line, Will Smith )(6-4, 265, Sr.), showed a great burst to make an early play but kind of disappeared later. K-State has a pretty good O-line, so perhaps that has something to do with it. The ACC officials also rear their ugly heads here. They're starting the clock too early after moving the chains on Kansas State first downs. The analyst is screaming "Kansas State is being cheated!" as they fail on their last attempt to tie the score. Nobody really cares about the officiating, though. Just don't complain when they muck up an arena close to you in the near future. ... As feared, Musberger's working the Sugar Bowl, but the real jackass here is Jack Arute, who's gained about 100 pounds and looks like Willard Scott with that stupid smile as he jogs alongside one of the coaches during a pre-game non-interview. Jack, your man-boobs are jiggling. And who is Jessica Simpson and why is she at all the pretentious bowl games? Here, she's wrapped in what appears to be FieldTurf while singing the national anthem. What a disgrace. At least Lynn Swann is on the other sideline, and just as my disgust at the overhype begins to dissipate, LSU's Justin Vincent (5-11, 205, Fr.) rips off a 64-yard run. He would go on to become the game MVP, but he was nothing compared with the future pros all over this field. Oklahoma CB Derrick Straight (5-11, 195, Sr.) is one of them. He caught Vincent from behind and saved a TD as LSU fumbled a few plays later. Straight recovered it and went on to play an outstanding game. His vicious hit on an LSU receiver with 2:25 left forced a fumble inside the LSU 20. Oklahoma recovered and would've been in great position to tie the game, but the Big East officials wrongly ruled the play an incompletion. Musberger, sadly to say, agreed with me. He didn't criticize the great Jason White, though, and he should have. White was awful. Let's hope his supporters, Pittsburgh's Ron Cook and Bob Smizik, are gagging on their Heisman votes about now. As for the rest of the Oklahoma talent, their RT, Jammal Brown (6-6, 313, Jr.), is outstanding, a huge man but not fat and with good feet. DT Tommie Harris (6-3, 289, Jr.) looks like he should be playing end in a 3-4, but for the second consecutive big game doesn't make enough plays to convince me he's a top-11 pick. There's fire every now and then from Harris, but not often enough. He kind of looks like Courtney Brown (6-4, 280) with that size, speed and lack of production. It doesn't help that his genius coach, Bob Stoops, takes him off the field often. For LSU, Marcus Spears (6-4, 295, Jr.) is drawing raves from Musberger, but the real King Kong on that LSU D-line appears to be Marquise Hill (6-7, 294, Jr.). This guy couldn't possibly last into the second round if comes out early. Looks like a potentially dominating 3-4 end to me. Both he and Spears are dropping into zone-blitz coverage and Spears picks one off and returns it for the back-breaking touchdown. LSU Coach Nick Saban's time for the NFL has come, another from what will soon be a barren Bill Belichick coaching tree. The LSU secondary appears to be full of future pros as well. CB Travis Daniels (6-1, 184, Jr.) is a tall, agile cover man who's making plays all over the field. He's jamming receivers at the line and shadowing them deep to break up passes. But he's the corner Oklahoma is picking on. The other LSU corner, Corey Webster (6-0, 197, Jr.), is the All-American. Nickel back Randall Gay (5-11, 179, Sr.) broke up a key deep pass late in the game. At the time, he was in single coverage on Oklahoma's explosive Mark Clayton (5-11, 187, Jr.). LSU hung on to win this thriller. Afterwards, John Saunders and his three-man post-game crew are in the middle of the field. Saunders explained that they moved from beneath the stands because fans in the upper level were throwing bottles at them. Saunders then said that it's OK to throw bottles because it was such a big game. Unfrigginbelievable.

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