BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- The Texas Longhorns arrived in
California last year feeling unwanted, dismissed by their West
Coast hosts as the swaggering braggarts who bumped the Pac-10 out
of the "Granddaddy" of bowl games.
Things certainly have changed with their return.
Texas is being welcomed with open arms, or least as warmly as
could be expected in the hometown of The Rose Bowl (Presented by Citi) opponent Southern
Cal, and the only thing everyone's talking about this year is the
matchup unbeaten college football titans.
"It's the matchup everybody wanted since last year," Longhorns
coach Mack Brown said before his team broke for Christmas break in
Austin. "The two teams have the responsibility to make sure the
game lives up to its billing."
The Longhorns finished practice on Dec. 22 with instructions for
the team to meet at its hotel by Wednesday night. Practice resumes
Thursday morning and the ceremonial pregame countdown begins with
both teams being welcomed at Disneyland.
Tens of thousands of Texans will be pouring into the Los Angeles
area over the next week to give Hollywood a distinctive
Many of them came last year for the novelty of watching their
team playing in the Rose Bowl. They hope this trip will end with
Texas' first undisputed national championship in 36 years.
Last season, the Longhorns supplied much of the annual Bowl
Championship Series controversy when Brown pleaded for his team to
get in and the Longhorns leapfrogged ahead of California.
It upset the college football purists as it meant the Rose Bowl
wouldn't get its traditional Pac-10 team. Mother Nature didn't seem
too pleased either, dumping a week of rain and chilly temperatures
on the area.
It wasn't until quarterback Vince Young guided the Longhorns to
a thrilling 38-37 victory over Michigan -- decided on the final play
by a wobbly kick off the right foot of Dusty Mangum -- that the
debate finally settled down.
The Longhorns hadn't even left the field when they started
talking about coming back.
"We all said our ultimate goal was to get back there and win,"
defensive tackle Frank Okam said. "You could see each piece of the
puzzle fitting into place. The biggest piece is still sitting out
there and that's the national championship."
Last season, the Trojans played in the BCS title game in the
Orange Bowl in Miami, 2,700 miles and three times zones away. With
the Trojans practicing and playing within a few miles from home for
this one, the Longhorns expect a circus of celebrities and media
hype around the game.
"It's going to be a Super Bowl-type atmosphere," defensive end
Brian Robison said.
The Longhorns earned their Rose Bowl berth by going 12-0 for the
first time in school history. They started the season ranked No. 2
and kept pace with No. 1 Southern Cal by winning at Ohio State,
beating Oklahoma for the first time in six years and averaging 50.9
points per game. They won their first Big 12 championship since
Rose Bowl officials made several appearances at Texas games
during the regular season, including the Longhorns' 52-17 drubbing
of then-No. 8 Texas Tech back in October, in anticipation they
Meanwhile, Texas kept an eye on the Trojans and their 34-game
"When the rankings came out in the preseason, that's something
that we thought about that would be fun to do at the end of the
year," senior tight end David Thomas said. "We thought it would
be cool to both go undefeated and play each other."
Texas players say they won't be intimidated by a Trojans team
that boasts two Heisman Trophy winners in Reggie Bush and Matt
Leinart and is being mentioned among the great dynasties in college
"I don't know why people think this game is going to scare
us," said Young, who passed for 2,769 yards and 26 touchdowns and
also leads the team with 850 yards rushing. He finished second to
Bush in this year's Heisman balloting.
"We're not going to be scared," Young said. "We're going to
be pumped. Nervousness is not a part of the University of Texas."