USC to face Texas in Rose Bowl on Jan. 4
LOS ANGELES -- The anticipation of a Southern California-Texas matchup in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi began long before the season.
One by one, the other top teams lost, leaving the Trojans and Longhorns standing alone as the nation's only unbeatens. Both had to survive late-season scares, and both rolled to one-sided victories to finish the year.
That being the case, it was formally announced Sunday that USC and Texas will play for the national championship on Jan. 4 in Pasadena.
"It's a perfect matchup for everyone concerned," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said on a conference call. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for us, to be able to play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It's the goal of our program. We've done everything we can do to focus on that. It's all we could ever ask for."
USC will bring a 34-game winning streak into the title game and is shooting for an unprecedented third straight national championship. Texas has won 19 straight, including a 38-37 triumph over Michigan in last year's Rose Bowl.
USC and Texas, both 12-0, have been ranked 1-2 all season.
"This game is what everyone wants to see," USC star Reggie Bush said. "It's what we want to see. We want to see the best team. You aren't the best until you beat the best.
"It's going to be like a home game for us."
Texas coach Mack Brown said he'll bring his team west on Dec. 28 -- after a break for Christmas.
USC won't have to travel because the Rose Bowl is only about 15 miles from the campus.
"It'll be a tremendous challenge for us, but a great opportunity," Brown said. "I've really admired what Pete's been able to do -- he's taken a program that was struggling and made it the dominant program in college football. And he's done it with a smile."
Both coaches were certainly smiling Saturday after Texas beat Colorado 70-3 and USC trounced crosstown rival UCLA 66-19 to set up their anticipated matchup.
Both figure to be in New York as Heisman Trophy finalists next weekend, although Bush is regarded as the front-runner to win the award that went to Leinart last year.
Leinart returned to school for his senior season, passing up a huge payday from the NFL, for just this kind of opportunity.
The Trojans and Longhorns each had plenty of nervous moments during the regular season.
USC needed to rally from halftime deficits to beat Oregon and Arizona State. Then came the wild finish at Notre Dame, when Leinart threw a 61-yard pass to roommate Dwayne Jarrett on a fourth-and-9 play before scoring on a 1-yard sneak in the final seconds to give the Trojans a 34-31 triumph.
Finally, USC rallied for a 50-42 win over Fresno State on Nov. 19 thanks mainly to Bush, whose 554 yards rushing in the final two games are the most ever by a Trojans player in back-to-back games.
Texas, seeking its first national title since 1969, needed to rally for a 25-22 victory at Ohio State on Young's 24-yard scoring pass to Limas Sweed with 2:37 remaining.
The Longhorns dispatched rival Oklahoma and previously unbeaten Texas Tech with ease, but had to come from behind for late-season victories over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Brown was reminded of the great buildup before last year's national championship game at the Orange Bowl, where USC overpowered Oklahoma 55-19.
The Sooners, like the Longhorns, play in the Big 12.
"I really don't think the year before relates to this year," the Texas coach said. "What does make you be so respectful of what Southern California has been able to accomplish is 34 straight wins.
"To see where Pete's brought his program the last three years -- that's where we want to go."
Carroll said USC's long winning streak isn't something he thinks about and doesn't add pressure to his job.
"I don't care about it, to tell you the truth," he said. "It's not anything that we talk about. Our players think that way, also. The amount of pressure that builds is there if you allow it to affect you.
"It's been a number of years that we've been dealing with focus and attention. It's going to be there, it exists, we have to handle it. I don't feel the pressure mounting. We're just trying to win the next game. Every single game we play is a championship game for us."
That might be true, but the next game is really a championship game.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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