Aug. 5, 2005
By Dennis Dodd
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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CHICAGO -- There's a unique opportunity for the Pac-10 and Big Ten in 2005. For the second time in BCS history, the Rose Bowl is the site of the national championship game after this season. Assuming that USC is the prohibitive No. 1 favorite going in, that puts the pressure on the Big Ten to make it a 1-2 natural matchup for the national championship.


Heisman winner Matt Leinart is expected to lead USC to a Rose Bowl berth. (Getty Images)
That's something that hasn't happened in 37 years.

It seems amazing the last time the Rose Bowl's anchor teams met while ranked 1-2 in the Associated Poll was Jan. 1, 1969. Ohio State beat USC 27-16. A "rematch" of sorts could be looming, although considering the strength of the Big Ten, Ohio State is in for a battle to win the league. Michigan was named the favorite this week at the Big Ten preseason media days.

"Anyone going in against USC would be the underdog," Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "That would be a little bit of motivation, I think."

Only twice in history have the 1-2 teams in the AP poll from those conferences met in Pasadena (the other year was 1963). That shows how much fans of both leagues care about such an occurrence. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has said in the past he valued a Rose Bowl berth over a national championship shot.

But this year, the stars are aligning for a Big Ten vs. Pac-10 championship game in the shadow of the San Gabriels on Jan. 4. No. 4 Michigan, No. 9 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa all start the season ranked in the top 10 in the coaches poll. USC, which brings a 22-game winning streak into the season, is led by Heisman winner Matt Leinart.

"We definitely want to get there no matter who we're playing, but we'd definitely like to get a shot at USC," Michigan running back Michael Hart said. "Whoever wins the Big Ten this year and goes undefeated, they have no choice but to put you in the national championship game because the Big Ten is so strong this year."

There is some recent history. Michigan was the victim 20 months ago when the USC started its championship run with a 28-14 victory over the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.

To say Carr is obsessing over that game might be too strong, but he does remember it. Michigan was trailing only 7-0 in the second quarter when John Navarre's pass hit Braylon Edwards' heel. USC's Lofa Tatupu intercepted and ran it back to the Michigan 3. USC scored easily to make it 14-0.

"They got a hell of a break when the ball hit Braylon in the heel," Carr said. "We never got back in it. If you look at the teams (they beat), they get them down, they kill them."

The year before, USC beat Iowa 38-17 in the 2003 Orange Bowl.

"To me the surprising thing was where they had been to," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "The year before we played them, they had lost to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. We saw it coming, obviously, because they finished (2002) pretty strong."

No wonder the biggest barrier in establishing the BCS was the Rose Bowl.

The Granddaddy didn't want to give up the tradition and more-than-half century exclusivity of matching the Big Ten and Pac-10 champs. Seven years into the BCS, there's no doubt that tradition and exclusivity has been nicked. In only five of the seven years have Big Ten and Pac-10 teams met. In the 2002 postseason, convoluted BCS rules resulted in that Iowa-USC matchup in the Rose Bowl.

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It was more than hard for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his Pac-10 counterpart Tom Hansen to give up that exclusivity in 1998 when the BCS was formed. The Rose joined a four-year rotation for the BCS title game as determined by the dreaded BCS formula.

Miami and Nebraska invaded Pasadena in 2002, ending more than 50 years of Big Ten-Pac-10 matchups. The Rose had to settle for Oklahoma and Washington State in 2003 when the Orange invoked a little-known BCS financial exception that allowed it to take USC and Iowa.

"We knew we were going to have some disruption of tradition, to be honest with you," Delany said this week. "We've had more disruption of tradition than we counted on."

Before last season, there had been only 34 AP No. 1 vs. No. 2 games in the 67-year history of the poll. Only 14 of those came in bowl games, only two in the Rose Bowl.

"We wanted that inflexibility," Delany said. "That was a desire. Even though we didn't have championship games, we were still doing 25 ratings. It was still one of the top four or five sports properties."

The Rose's position is enhanced in the new double-hosting format that debuts in 2006. The bowl will have to take a non-BCS school (now granted easier access) once every eight years. Once every four years (along with the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange) it will play host to two games -- the first will be the traditional Rose Bowl, followed a week later by the BCS title game.

Any talk about a playoff starts and stops with the Rose Bowl. It isn't going to give up its traditional partners, which means a I-A playoff is moot for the near -- and possibly long-term -- future.

"I sense no melting," Delany said of the presidents who oversee the BCS.


The quotable Joe
Leftovers from Joe Paterno's two-hour sit down during earlier this week at the Big Ten media days.

On entering his 40th year of coaching at Penn State:

"If they didn't have a calendar I wouldn't know how old I am. I got my picture in the old Brooklyn Eagle. I was sitting in my room looking at it. My dad said, 'Keep looking at that. It's not going to be in again.'

"That's always been in the back of my mind. I don't look back. Every once in a while in the middle of the night you sit back and think about some of the things, all the letters I get from kids who played on teams, and I get a little nostalgic."

On retirement:

"If I could coach 10 more years, I'd coach 10 more years. I feel healthy, I love to coach. Now, if you say to me, how do you adjust to that with friends who are dying, family members that you have an obligation to, then it starts to chip away."

On Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who is stepping down after this season to concentrate on his AD duties:

"Barry was a kid out of high school that I turned down because he was too fat and too slow."

On criticism from the outside:

"If we don't go to a bowl game you're (media) POed, the fans are POed. I understand human nature enough that I don't let it affect me.

"If Darrell Royal called me up and said, 'Joe you're doing a lousy job,' that would bother me."

On his condition:

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"I've been up since 4:30 this morning, OK? I still get by on five hours sleep. I walked six miles yesterday, up and down hills, 85 degrees. I don't feel like an old man. You guys want to make me feel like an old man."

On speculation this could be his best team in years:

"Talk's cheap. You gotta get it done. You put the Ohio State kicker (Mike Nugent) on our team, and we win seven games. That's how close the league is."


Absence makes the heart grow harder
Now that the flurry of preseason media days is over, it occurred to this Internet scribe the amazing amount of big-time players who weren't allowed to appear.

Remember, these preseason deals are a two-way street. They allow reporters to gather information about players and coaches for the upcoming season in an informal interview setting. Hotels, resorts, ballrooms, etc. They also allow programs to put on their best face for the public. Theoretically, they would want to promote their best players while coaches spew happy talk about them.

Not this year. The lack of stars at the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and SEC was sometimes stunning. To summarize:


In Houston, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops did not bring Adrian Peterson. All Peterson did as a freshman was finish second in the Heisman voting and establish the freshman rushing record. Rumor has it that Peterson might be in the doghouse for slacking off this summer. Who exactly was being punished here? Peterson missed out on traveling to traffic-clogged downtown Houston on a 95-degree day to face reporters in an equally clogged hotel.

In Chicago, Lloyd Carr didn't bring the two keys to his offense -- sophomores Chad Henne and Michael Hart. Henne threw 25 touchdown passes as a freshman. Hart ran for 1,455 yards as a first-year player. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel left Ted Ginn Jr. at home. The two schools aren't known as being particularly media friendly. Guess they've got enough TV bucks stashed away that print doesn't matter.

Where the heck was Miami's Devin Hester at the ACC media days in Hot Springs, Va.? Arguably the league's best player and a Heisman contender was left home in favor of offensive tackle Eric Winston and defender Thomas Carroll. Two nice guys, but Hester could be the best return man in the country and is reportedly going to become a full-time cornerback. Seems to be a story or two there.

Is there a better poster child for Urban Meyer's offense at Florida than Chris Leak? But he was left home from the SEC shindig in Birmingham too.
A lot of coaches bring only upperclassmen as a "reward" for their accomplishments. Helps promote the program -- blah, blah, blah. So what does that say about the likes of Peterson, who might be the best player in the country?

Sure, the likes of Michigan and Oklahoma don't need the publicity, but consider this: Reporters (not necessarily this one, mind you) might remember the absence when it comes time to vote for awards. Not in spite, but it's easier to vote a guy national honors if you've met him, interviewed him and written about him.


Quick hits

Another reason for the coaches to reveal their ballots: A record 60 (of the 62) voters cast first-place votes for No. 1 USC in the preseason coaches poll that was released Friday. Who among us wouldn't want to know who the two "dissenters" are? The coaches are revealing their final ballots starting this season; why not reveal the preseason ballots? Wouldn't hurt anyone. We'll say it again: It's borderline unethical for the coaches to have such a stake in awarding millions of dollars in BCS money to, essentially, themselves.

You can't accuse USC of favoring one Heisman candidate over another. MattReggieTV.com was supposed to debut Friday on the school's athletic website. Streaming video will feature the behind-the-scenes lives of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Watch out Real World.

From the blotter: Nehemiah Ingram is now in a place where it's somewhat legal to mug someone. The infamous Temple basketball player who broke an opponent's arm when ordered to foul hard by coach John Chaney, is walking on to the football team as a tight end.

After spending 258 days in jail in the last year, star Iowa State defensive lineman Jason Berryman has been reinstated by coach Dan McCarney. Berryman was convicted on theft and assault charges. At least it was worth it. Berryman was arrested for beating up a student and stealing $4 and stealing a cell phone from another. Why was he reinstated? Consider that with the addition of Berryman, Iowa State might just have become the favorite in the Big 12 North.