Monday, January 01, 2007

Rose Bowl a Preview of Next Year's BCS Matchup

This morning's Los Angeles Times suggests that today's Rose Bowl game between USC and Michigan looks to be a preview of next year's BCS championship:

Eighth-ranked USC and No. 3 Michigan are playing today in the Rose Bowl, not for the Bowl Championship Series title.

But the winner of today's game likely will be No. 1.

In the 2007 preseason polls.

"It's probably the biggest bowl game for next year and everyone knows that," Michigan running back Mike Hart said.

Count USC quarterback John David Booty among the believers.

"I think even the loser will be No. 2 or 3," he said.

If recent form holds, USC or Michigan, both loaded with key junior starters and talented underclassmen, will follow the path of Ohio State. The Buckeyes parlayed a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame last January into a No. 1 preseason ranking and held it from start to finish in the regular season.

Ohio State plays Florida on Jan. 8 in the BCS title game.Some college football observers, looking ahead to the 2008 bowl season, regard this year's USC-Michigan matchup as a possible preview to the next BCS title game in New Orleans.

"I could definitely see that happening," Michigan safety Jamar Adams said. Consider:

• Both teams feature junior quarterbacks who will probably receive Heisman Trophy consideration, especially if they play well today. Booty and Michigan's Chad Henne could be next season's Troy Smith and Brady Quinn, who played in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and finished first and third in recent Heisman balloting.

• Hart, who averaged 126 yards rushing a game this season, returns after finishing fifth in Heisman balloting. All-American tackle Jake Long also will be back. USC returns all of its running backs and All-American tackle Sam Baker.

• The Trojans lose only one starter on defense and expect to welcome back safety Josh Pinkard, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener. The Wolverines return half as many defensive starters, but among them is linebacker Shawn Crable, who announced recently that he would return for his final season of eligibility.
Actually, I'm not worried about next year's BCS championship. In fact, the BCS has messed up New Year's Day for a lot of college football fans. The rotating college championship removes the Rose Bowl as a New Year's Day event every four years. So today's a return to tradition, a chance to enjoy some good, old-fashioned New Year's Day American football.

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