SI Presents: The Great Pigskin Debate

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Democratic consultant James Carville rarely see eye-to-eye, especially on USC and the Fighting Irish Interviews by Don Yaeger
August 22, 2004

Who will play for the national championship?

RICE: Georgia and USC, but with a couple of caveats, one being that [Trojans receiver] Mike Williams's situation is resolved in USC's favor. He's a great player caught in a tough situation. I really think [Bulldogs quarterback] David Greene has a lot of talent, but Georgia seems to stumble late in the season. If they can avoid a late season fall, Georgia has the talent to be there.

Who wins?

RICE: I'd have to pick USC to win that game.

Who will win the major conference championships?

RICE: In the ACC, I'd pick Miami, though Florida State seems talented, and I like [quarterback] Chris Rix. I have a soft spot for guys with talent for whom it never seems to come together. The Big East is diminished, but you'd have to say West Virginia. In the SEC you'll probably see LSU versus Georgia in the championship game, and that's a toss-up, though I like Georgia. LSU is a school that lost so much talent they could go all the way or fall hard. The Big 12 is between Oklahoma and Texas, and I'll pick Texas. In the Big Ten, it's an Ohio State--Michigan battle, and it will come down to their game. I don't see anyone else in their league.

How will your pal Ty Willingham and Notre Dame do this year?

RICE: Really well. I like [quarterback] Brady Quinn. Having one season under his belt, being thrown into the fire as he was, is going to be great for him. But I don't know if they've got enough speed for it all to come together.

Handicap the Heisman race.

RICE: It comes down to Jason White at Oklahoma and Matt Leinart at USC. I think White wins it because Oklahoma has a good season and Leinart is a junior.

Which coach is on the hottest seat?

RICE: I'd have to say Mike Shula. The expectations of Alabama fans are so high and so tough. I lived there, and I understand how tough they are. It is going to be tough for him to win with the scholarship limits the NCAA placed on Alabama. The other person you have to talk about is Ty Willingham. Anytime you're at Notre Dame, you're on the hot seat.

What's your upset special?

RICE: USC getting beat by Washington State. You don't want to go to Pullman in late October, that's for sure. They'll have to fly into Moscow, Idaho, and bus over. There could be snow, it could be a miserable place, and Washington State may need to win to get into the Rose Bowl.

What is a typical Saturday like for you watching games?

RICE: I'm in the office early, but I try to get out by early afternoon. Like most fans I go back and forth with my TV remote and watch as much as I can of games that matter to me.

As a former provost of Stanford, what's your take on the BCS?

RICE: I'm not a provost anymore. I'm a college football fan. As a college football fan I sure wish we had a playoff. I am not at all a fan of the BCS. It proved itself last year to be ineffective. What sport does not have the opportunity for a playoff to determine its true national champion?

Do you ever watch games with the President?

RICE: We watch at Camp David. He's great to watch them with. He's a great fan of sports and really knows his sports.

Do you ever root against Texas?

RICE: All the time. But never with him in the room.

Do you have a favorite team--and superstitions to help them?

RICE: I root for Notre Dame and Stanford. I, like most fans, am superstitious. I've had seasons where things were going well enough that I made sure to always wear the same shirt.

Did you wash the shirt between games?

RICE: Absolutely. I've never understood taking superstition that far.

How did you develop your passion for football?

RICE: My father was a guidance counselor and an assistant football coach at a high school. When my mother was pregnant, he was sure I would be his all-American linebacker. When I was born, he decided that he was going to teach me everything there was to know about the game anyway. I guess he didn't get an all-American linebacker. All he got was a national security adviser. You take it as you can.

What will happen in the national championship game?

CARVILLE: Southern Cal plays Miami, and Miami will beat USC handily. Southern Cal doesn't play anyone. Miami's got better athletes, and SC will get worn out watching them score. Everyone expected I'd say my Tigers, but while LSU will be good, I can't pull the trigger on a team that's got Auburn, Florida and Georgia on the road and an inexperienced quarterback.

Who wins the major conference championships?

CARVILLE: In the ACC, Miami. LSU wins the SEC. The Big East--who cares? I mean West Virginia, but, again, who cares? The Big 12--man that's a tough, tough one. I'm going to go against all common sense and say Mizzou, because one of my upsets is Oklahoma State beating Oklahoma and that gives Missouri the edge. Well, maybe I'd better backtrack and go with Oklahoma. In the Big Ten, I thought about this, and I can't get the words out, but I am going to try: Minnesota. You know, I can't believe I didn't say Ohio State. Well, maybe I should say Ohio State. I'm going to be gutless, just like Michigan, and change my pick to Ohio State. Southern Cal in the Pac-10.

How will Notre Dame do this year?

CARVILLE: Not well. Notre Dame's problem is that no one in the athletic department ever took a class in the history department. They don't realize what happens when hubris and arrogance take control. All that arrogance usually leads to you getting your butt kicked, and that's what's going to happen to Notre Dame. For all those years they had their NBC contract, and they had all the nuns praying for them. Well, there aren't as many nuns as there used to be.

Handicap the Heisman race.

CARVILLE: The running back from Texas, Cedric Benson. With a close second to the running back at LSU [Justin Vincent].

Which team will fall the hardest this season?

CARVILLE: Michigan. Put the New England Patriots in Michigan uniforms and they'd lose two out of three to Ohio State and two out of three Rose Bowls. Michigan plays dull, uninspired, gutless football, year in and year out. Other than that, I like them fine.

Which coach is on the hottest seat?

CARVILLE: Ron Zook at Florida. Mack Brown at Texas. If either one loses three, they're probably fired.

What's your upset special?

CARVILLE: Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, Minnesota beats Michigan at Antarctica. Or Ann Arbor, if you want to call it that.

What is a typical Saturday like for you watching games?

CARVILLE: If LSU is on, leave Daddy alone. When an LSU game is on, I'm usually on the phone with somebody in Louisiana watching every play. But I have a satellite, so I'm three seconds behind the guy that doesn't have it. That three seconds screws up my life. If the speed of light travels at 186,000 miles a second, I don't see why it takes three seconds to get a satellite signal to my TV.

What's your opinion of the BCS?

CARVILLE: I'd place it somewhere between syphilis and gonorrhea.

Which team do you always root against?

CARVILLE: I am torn about Tennessee. I love the fans, but that orange is the most hideous color I've ever seen. And I can't stand Rocky Top.

Do you root against the President's Texas Longhorns?

CARVILLE: I certainly don't root for them. The thing about UT is they're arrogant. I just haven't figured what they have to be arrogant about.

Do you do anything superstitious to help LSU?

CARVILLE: Not really, but then I've never seen a need to change underwear between Labor Day and New Year's, either.

How did you develop your passion for football?

CARVILLE: In the South you get your passion for football from your mother's milk. I can't remember exactly when the passion kicked in, but it was sometime after I started eating food but before sex.

For more from Rice and Carville, go to SI.com/football/ncaa.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE (University of Denver, '74)

2005 ORANGE BOWL PICK: USC over Georgia

ON THE BCS: "It showed itself last year to be ineffective."

JAMES CARVILLE (Louisiana State University, '70)

2005 ORANGE BOWL PICK: Miami over USC

ON THE BCS: "It's somewhere between syphilis and gonorrhea."

"Looking every bit the experienced looper, Lendl was all business as he counseled his daughter."

--CADDIE DEAREST, PAGE 30

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