LOS ANGELES -- And the winner is: the Rose Bowl.
Amid the controversy over the BCS rankings, officials for the
Jan. 1 game in Pasadena suddenly have reason to celebrate.
The Rose Bowl will feature what made it a big attraction in past
years -- the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions -- and have the country's
No. 1 team to boot.
Southern Cal found itself in a unique position on Sunday, ranked
No. 1 in both polls but No. 3 in the BCS standings and out of the
BCS championship game. So instead of going to New Orleans' Sugar
Bowl, the Trojans will stay home for the holidays and bus to
Pasadena to face No. 4 Michigan.
Rose Bowl officials predict high national interest, high
television ratings, and high demand for tickets after two years
without the traditional Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup.
"This is just huge, with the (BCS) No. 3 and the No. 4 sitting
there. I think it's great they (the Trojans) are No. 1 in both
polls," Tournament of Roses president Mike Riffey said. "They
slid to No. 3 obviously in the BCS, but that's not our concern at
"I think we're going to have the national championship game
right where we are."
Although the Trojans (11-1, 7-1) would have preferred to play
either Oklahoma or LSU in the Sugar Bowl, they also will consider
their game against the Wolverines (10-2, 7-1) their shot at a
"We're real proud of where we are, excited as can be to be
playing in the Rose Bowl and to be the No. 1 team in American
playing for that," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "This is the
national championship game for us, and Michigan is a great
"The fact that there's a little controversy just makes it that
much more interesting."
USC athletic director Mike Garrett said the BCS system is "fine
but needs to be tweaked," and that he believes everything worked
out just dandy for the Trojans.
"We get to play in the Rose Bowl, have a chance to win a
national championship, and we get to hound the BCS to be even
better," he said. "So three positive things come out of this."
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said he didn't think this Rose Bowl
would be overshadowed by the BCS title game.
"The entire country is aware of this situation," he said. "In
both polls, the media and the coaches, USC is No. 1. There is not a
chance it will get lost."
The bulk of the Trojans' players watched quietly Sunday
afternoon in their campus dining hall as the final BCS rankings
were aired. There was no noticeable response when it was announced
USC was third behind Oklahoma and LSU.
The players did cheer shortly afterward when Carroll told them,
"You're the No. 1 team in America."
Wide receiver Mike Williams indicated the Trojans were a bit
disappointed that they weren't going to the Sugar Bowl to play
either Oklahoma or LSU, the only other teams in the country with
just one loss.
"The USC family (fans) would like to see us in New Orleans, and
I've apologized to people who came up and told me they already have
their ticket and things like that," Williams said. "The Sugar
Bowl is where the national championship game is, so of course we
want to be there. It would have been a new experience for this
"The one thing I can say is that we are the No. 1 team in the
nation, and that is undisputed. If we went out and played either
one of those teams (LSU or Oklahoma), we'd give them their best
games and we'd probably win. But right now, that's a whole
different thing. So we'll just deal with it and move on."
Carr is happy to be returning to Pasadena.
"I have always looked on it as the single greatest tradition in
college football," the Wolverines coach said in a Rose Bowl
conference call. "We are delighted to represent the Big Ten and
play a great Southern Cal team. We are excited to play in a
championship game in the greatest bowl of all."
Carr said he didn't know much about the Trojans because, "I
didn't expect to be playing them. I expected USC would be in the
Carroll and the USC players seemed to have anticipated USC
finishing third in the BCS rankings, with computer programs in the
end overriding the writers' and coaches' votes.
"I'm not real taken by it or shaken by it all, because this is
a system that chooses, as opposed to the games being played,"
Carroll said. "It's clear as a bell to me. We're the top team in
the country by the people (writers and coaches) that chose, and we
want to hold that position by playing a great game."
When the Trojans won their last national championship 25 years
ago, it was a split title. USC finished No. 2 in The Associated
Press poll behind Alabama, but No. 1 in the coaches' poll. Since
the final coaches' rankings now are determined by the BCS title
game, USC only has a shot at the writers' championship.
"I'm not an expert on this, but if the No. 1 team at the end of
the regular season wins its bowl game, how are they not the No. 1
team outright?" Williams said. "But we don't play LSU or we don't
play Oklahoma, so you'll never know."