THE ROSE BOWL matchup will be no reprise of the 55-19 beating that Southern Cal put on Oklahoma in last season's Orange Bowl. Texas quarterback Vince Young will gash the Trojans' defense with the so-called zone-read option. From the shotgun Young reads USC's defensive end. If the end stays home, he puts the ball in the belly of his tailback. If the end crashes down the line, Young keeps it and heads for the corner.
"Do your homework," USC coach Pete Carroll told a visitor last week, pointing out that Oregon had tried a similar "read" play, and the Trojans had shut it down. But Ducks quarterback Kellen Clemens points out that he's no Vince Young. "Where I couldn't get the corner," says Clemens, "I think Vince is going to be able to make some plays. I think he'll have some success" with the zone read.
This game will be decided in the third quarter; that's when it should become clear whether Carroll, he of the deservedly ballyhooed halftime adjustments, has figured out how to stop Young. The third quarter is also when Trojans running back LenDale White tends to go off. With Longhorns defensive coordinator Gene Chizik deploying five and six defensive backs, hoping to get enough speed on the field to contain Reggie Bush, Texas could become vulnerable up the middle--White's turf.
In the end the Trojans have too many weapons and a field general supremely adept at getting the ball to all of them. Matt Leinart is ready to remind the nation what all the fuss was about in February, when he decided to return for his senior season. USC is the pick. For the score and a look at who will win 23 other bowl games, turn the page.
SWAN SONG After beating Florida State in Miami, Penn State's Joe Paterno will turn the reins over to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley.
STREAKBUSTERS Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn will throw four touchdown passes on Nov. 25 to end USC's winning streak at 45 games.
GATOR RISING Finally comfortable in Urban Meyer's offense, Chris Leak will lead Florida to an upset of LSU in the SEC title game.