USC's quest for a third consecutive national title already includes victories over 11 opponents that probably considered a matchup against the top-ranked Trojans as their national-championship game.
LOS ANGELES — USC’s quest for a third consecutive national title already includes victories over 11 opponents that probably considered a matchup against the top-ranked Trojans as their national-championship game.
USC survived every challenge and has moved one victory from clinching a spot in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl, this season’s Bowl Championship Series title game.
Standing in the way today is what could be USC’s toughest opponent: 11th-ranked UCLA.
“We’ve faced everything thrown at us, everything you could imagine,” USC quarterback Matt Leinart said. “But it’s different when you play UCLA and they play us.”
The 75th game between the rivals is among the most highly anticipated matchups in the history of the series. For the first time since 1988, the teams have a mere one loss between them. They feature dynamic offenses led by two of the nation’s best quarterbacks, Leinart and Drew Olson, and two game-breaking running backs and kick-return specialists, USC’s Reggie Bush and UCLA’s Maurice Drew.
USC (11-0 overall, 7-0 Pac-10) riding a 33-game winning streak, has defeated UCLA six straight times. The Bruins would like nothing more than to end both streaks.
UCLA came close last season, losing 29-24 in a game that was not decided until the final minute.
“We know USC is a good team; I mean, their record speaks for itself,” Bruins offensive lineman Shannon Tevaga said. “But we feel that we should have won last year.”
USC players, not surprisingly, thought the score should not have been as close.
But the Trojans said this week that UCLA has proven it is a team to respect.
“They know how to win,” USC safety Darnell Bing said. “You can’t take a team like that lightly.”
UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, a former Washington offensive coordinator, said, “Your program is what your program is in terms of its foundation. You can’t make wholesale changes right now. That’s not what has gotten us to this point. We’re 9-1 and we feel pretty good about what we’ve done.”
UCLA’s offense has carried the load. The Bruins average 40 points a game, fifth nationally.
“You can try and shut down our run game, but then our passing game will just blaze you,” said Drew, who averages 81.6 yards rushing a game.
Olson, a senior, ranks first nationally in passing efficiency. He has completed 68 percent of his attempts and has 30 touchdown passes with a mere three interceptions.
Olson will operate against a USC team that leads the nation in turnover margin. But the Trojans’ defense looked shaky at times in comeback victories at Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame and surrendered 42 points against Fresno State two weeks ago.
Texas seeks Big 12 title
Texas coach Mack Brown is a big fan of Colorado coach Gary Barnett.
“There’s no one that I would rather see win football games, other than against us, than Gary Barnett because of the job he’s done at Colorado,” Brown said. “All he’s overcome the last few years, and now they’re playing in the championship game three out of four years.”
Texas (11-0, 8-0 Big 12) is a heavy favorite over Colorado (7-4, 5-3) in today’s Big 12 title game in Houston. A win would send the Longhorns to the Rose Bowl to play for the national title. In the 2001 Big 12 title game in Irving, Texas, Colorado won and denied Texas a shot at the national championship.
“Anytime you’re an underdog, especially as big as we are, you tend to fight a little bit harder,” Buffs quarterback Joel Klatt said.
Friday night’s game
Louisiana Tech 40, at No. 23 Fresno State 28
Matt Kubik threw three touchdown passes and Tech (7-4, 6-2 Western Athletic) capitalized on five turnovers to deny Fresno State (8-4, 6-2) a share of the WAC title. Boise State and Nevada are WAC co-champions.
• Calling the Bowl Championship Series “deeply flawed,” the chairman of a congressional committee has called a hearing on the controversial system used to determine the national champion. NCAA Division I-A football does not have a playoff.
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, charged with regulating America’s sports industry, announced it will conduct a hearing on the BCS on Wednesday, after this season’s bowl matchups are determined.
“College football is not just an exhilarating sport, but a billion-dollar business that Congress cannot ignore,” said committee chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican.
Compiled from Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press