January 4, 2006
Keith Jackson:
Is there anything better than the granddaddy of all college football announcers calling the granddaddy of all title games? (8 ET, ABC)
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Will you join the majority of fans who think USC is going to win tonight's Rose Bowl? Or will you take Texas to shock in an upset? Depends on which rose-colored lenses you're looking through.

QBs: Matt Leinart (arguably the greatest college QB ever) versus Vince Young (arguably the best QB of 2005). No player in CFB is more valuable to his team than Young is to Texas.
Advantage: Texas.

Threats: USC has Heisman winner Reggie Bush; Texas has a player, Ramonce Taylor, who many consider "Bush Lite." Take the real thing.
Advantage: USC.

Coaches: Pete Carroll has done this title-game thing before; Mack Brown has been playing with house money since the Oklahoma game.
Advantage: USC.

Experience: USC is working on a 3rd straight title (2.5, if you're not rounding up); Texas won in Pasadena last year, edging Michigan 38-37 in a Young break-out performance (5 TDs).
Advantage: Even.

Hand signals: USC fans hold up the two-finger bunny-ears; Texas fans hold up index finger and pinkie like they're at Ozzfest.
Advantage: Texas.

Mascots: USC has Traveler the horse; Texas has Bevo the, uh, bovine? Steaks trump dog food.
Advantage: Texas.

Fans: USC features rich SoCal hotties in tank tops; Texas fans often sport a cowboy-themed look. "Brokeback" mania has turned anything cowboy into the new hotness.
Advantage: Texas.

Intangibles: In the ultimate bulletin-board material, ESPN asked users to spend December voting on where this USC team fits in among the Top 10 teams all-time. Presumably, Texas thought this was premature.
Advantage: Texas.

Quickie pick: Texas. No one gave Ohio State a chance against that Miami juggernaut in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, either.

Rose TV Ratings
Will tonight's game be the most-watched BCS title game? The current standard is the 18.4 rating of the above-mentioned '03 Fiesta Bowl between Ohio St. and Miami. If any game was going to top it, this would be the one. Can you remember any college football game with this much anticipation?

But will it be the most watched bowl game in a decade? That was another Rose Bowl, the 1996 edition featuring college football's greatest Cinderella story (Northwestern) versus USC and future No. 1 NFL pick Keyshawn Johnson. The rating needed to break that mark is 19.4.

Orange Wrap
By the time the third OT was completed, I think Methuselah coaches Joe Paterno had turned 90 and Bobby Bowden 88. Penn State and FSU fans had certainly earned some new gray hair as field goal after field goal missed their marks and the game progressed.

Steve Novak: Marq C sets mark for pts in Big East debut (41)
Chauncey Billups: Should-be All-Star scores career-high 37
Pirates: Swoop in and sign OF Jeromy Burnitz out from O's
Norv Turner: "Just lose, baby?" Raiders fire head coach
Bob Weiss: Nate McMillan replacement lasts all of 30 games
John Collins: Browns prez loses power fight with GM Savage
But it was such a fitting end for these retro coaches: Paterno caps the greatest coaching job of his career with a thrilling win in the longest BCS game ever; Bowden loses it thanks to the Noles' ol' reliable missed field goal.

UConn Stunned
"Where's my laptop?!" UConn starting PG Marcus Williams' return to the lineup from suspension was supposed to kick the unbeaten No. 2 Huskies to a new level. Perhaps it still will down the road.

But for now, Williams was mocked by Marquette's frenzied fans' jeers (treatment he can expect on the road all season long), and the Golden Eagles buried UConn by 15 in both teams' Big East opener. Marquette earned some serious cred for the league's new imports.

(Hindsight isn't fair, but perhaps the Huskies should have scheduled at least one road game in their last 7 before traveling to Milwaukee to play a fired-up team making its Big East debut.)

Leftwich to Start
Of the 4 NFL Wild Card playoff games this weekend, the game with the most fan consensus of the outcome is that the Pats will beat the Jags in Foxborough.

But the game also includes the biggest wild-card decision: Jack Del Rio's choice to start QB Byron Leftwich for the first time since a late November ankle injury.

Leftwich is certainly more of a threat to the Pats' worst-ranked AFC pass defense than backup David Garrard.
"I haven't felt this good since May or June... I feel fine. I didn't hurt my arm. I still know how to throw that ball."

Crazylegs-ish Garrard is still available, if the Jags want to throw a wrinkle at the defending champs, who remain a heavy fan favorite (contrary to Tom Brady's whining; see DQ'ed).

Quickie: My Bad
"My Bad": New for 2006, a semi-recurring Quickie gimmick in which I go back to a topic I might have missed or downplayed the day before, thanks to your e-mails, gripes and pleas.

Today: Marcus Vick's kick. Was I mentioning him as a Heisman contender in '06 yesterday?

My bad: Vick blatantly stomped on Louisville star DE Elvis Dumervil's calf (on tape!), then brushed it off afterward as an accident. Even the VA Tech AD said he was "embarrassed." For all of his ability, this is Vick's new defining play.

(Then again, Christian Laettner had an even nastier display of thuggery when he stomped on Kentucky's Aminu Timberlake in the 1992 East Regional final of the NCAA Tournament. And Laettner won college hoops player of the year with that attitude.)

Hot/Not for '06
Today on Page 2: My annual "What's Hot, What's Not" list for 2006, the original online sports trend-spotting watch list for the new year.

Who is the new Tom Brady?
Who is the new Anna Benson?
What is the new poker?

Check back on Page 2 around noon-ish today.

(By the way, I loved "Lazy Sunday" as much as anyone, but "Mr. Pibb plus Red Vines equals Crazy Delicious" has quickly been overplayed from cool to cliche. Time to move on, friends. Double-true.)

Tom Brady:
For this bit of nonsense: "I think we've been probably disrespected more than any team in the league this year." Oh no he DIDN'T just play the "D" card!
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Rose Coverage
Page 2 Index
Best BCS title games
'03 Fiesta
ESPN era's top title game?
'99 Fiesta
Vols nudges FSU, 23-16
'00 Sugar
FSU out-guns VA Tech
'04 Sugar
Co-champ LSU defeats Oklahoma
'05 Orange
Dynasty? USC wallops Oklahoma

Preemptive move: Gregg Williams' 3Y deal to stay with Redskins should signal that he's the new head coach whenever Joe Gibbs decides to retire.

NFL coaching moves: The Lions have reportedly contacted ex-Saints coach Jim Haslett (zzz) and 49ers assistant Mike Singletary ("wow!" factor)

NFL Awards Season: Cadillac Williams wins the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. (And how about an honorary nod to Kyle Orton?)

Here's hoping that sublime Penn State LB Paul Posluszny's knee injury in the Orange's 4th quarter isn't serious.

Tejada Watch: The Orioles have reportedly rejected Boston's offer of Manny and Clement. Did it really take a pro GM to turn that down?

Admit it: The Orange Bowl would have been much more fun if, WWE-style, Paterno and Bowden vowed that the game's loser would have to retire.

More Review: There's a reason I called my OSU No. 1 in '06 lead item from yesterday "preposterously premature." Look for more thoughtful analysis in August.

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