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Sunday, January 01, 2006

To The Rose Bowl

I'm going to the Rose Bowl game to cheer on my Trojans. This media hype, especially this bizarre USC v. The World thing set up by ESPN, is frustrating me and the karma gods. Let's hope the gods are asleep at the wheel.

I wanted to set down my prediction, just for my own sake, just so it is there and I can't retract it (with ease at least).

I'm certainly more than a casual fan in this situation. I love USC football but being from Texas I grew up rooting for the Longhorns and as such I've seen every USC game in their entirety and probably 2/3rds of the Longhorn's games. Not that I necessarily always know what I'm looking for.

I'm scared of Texas, and as Heismanpundit points out, there's reason to be:

The 2004 Oklahoma Sooner line was believed (falsely) by the media to be the best line in the country...As it turns out, [they] couldn't knock anyone back 10 inches in the Orange Bowl. The reason? Their style of play. Despite having pretty good talent, the Oklahoma line was made up primarily of what some scouts call 'time buyers'. They spent much of their time backpedaling to protect Jason White and, when they ran, they utilized a zone blocking scheme that wasn't downhill and aggressive, but lateral and passive...The Texas line is different. It is no more physically talented than that OU group, but it has a different mentality. The Longhorn line is more smashmouth, more run-you-over.
Even I could see during the Orange Bowl that the way our front seven played was the key to the game. Forcing pressure and turnovers and just absolutely dominating AP. I know a lot of people figured OU's defense would have good success against our offense and that would be the key to the game, but for me, it was always a fear, despite being #1 in rushing defense, that that OU line would open up holes for Peterson.

It is the same fear this year. I may be buying into the hype and I may be wrong, but I don't think this Texas defense can stop USC, but as Heismanpundit points out their offense might gain a lot of yards on the ground against our defense. No one seems to have much faith in this defense. But there is hope,

The much-maligned Trojan defense is actually perfectly suited to take on Texas. The teams that have come the closest to beating the Trojans in the last 34 games have been successful at nickel-and-diming their way down the field with a short and intermediate range passing attack. USC's defense is actually designed to prevent the big play--it hasn't given up a pass completion of longer than 45 yards in the last 21 games, for instance. The Trojans focus on stopping the run, while giving up the underneath stuff in the passing game, gambling that they'll tackle their opponents well and force turnovers or that teams will make mistakes or lose their patience (once they fall behind). It's the kind of defensive strategy that has been able to keep things together despite numerous injuries and personnel losses. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, they do not have the kind of short and intermediate passing game at their disposal that they need. Texas is a big-play offense--just the kind of offense for which the Trojan defense is designed to stop. What's more, while Young is an improved passer, the Texas passing attack will probably be one of the more rudimentary the Trojans have faced all season--it certainly will be more so than Oklahoma's last year.

I read an op/ed in a Las Vegas paper by a college football oddsmaker up there who pointed out that the Big 12 (outside of Texas Tech) runs the simplest, least complex offenses in the nation, while the Pacific 10 conference teams run the most balanced, complex, and NFL like.

If USC can overcome the karma factor, can ignore and handle all the attention being lavished upon them, then even if that attention fires up Vince Young to have the game of his life, I think USC will win.

Predicted Stats
Vince Young - 15/28, 195 Yds, 1 TD, 2 Int / 9 Rushes, 65 Yds, 1 TD

Jamaal Charles - 17 Rushes, 115 Yds, 2 TD

David Thomas - 4 Catches, 32 Yds, 1 Fumble Lost

Limas Sweed - 3 Catches, 44 Yds, 1 TD

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Matt Leinart - 26/35, 324 Yds, 3 TD, 1 Int

Reggie Bush - 13 Rushes, 71 Yds, 1 TD / 3 Catches, 61 Yds, 1 TD

Lendale White - 17 Rushes, 102 Yds, 1 TD

Dwayne Jarrett - 7 Catches, 142 Yds, 2 TD

Predicted Score
USC 45 -- Texas 28

I guess I don't fear Texas' ability to run too much if I'm picking against them by three scores. Oh well.

My prediction is a little different than my NCAA 06 Simulation. And a little more than what the What If Sports sim predicts.

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