LOS ANGELES -- If USC coach Pete Carroll was greatly upset
that the Trojans will not play for the national title in the
Sugar Bowl, he sure didn't show it.
He simply moved the championship game west.
In an untraditional manner, the Rose Bowl got its first
traditional matchup in three years: the Pac-10 and Big Ten
champions playing, No. 1 USC against No. 4 Michigan.
"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. This is the national championship game for us,
and Michigan is a great opponent," Carroll said Sunday after the
Trojans were No. 1 in both polls but No. 3 in the BCS standings
behind Oklahoma and LSU.
"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. We
have a fantastic opportunity and a great matchup, so we're going
for it. It's clear as a bell to me. We're the top team in the
country by the people that chose, and we want to hold that position
by playing a great game."
The last time the Trojans won a national championship, in 1978,
it was a split title. USC finished No. 2 in The Associated Press
poll behind Alabama but No. 1 in the coaches' poll. Because the
final coaches' poll now is determined by the BCS title game, USC
only has a shot at the writers' championship.
When the final BCS standings were aired Sunday afternoon, many
of the USC players watched quietly in their campus dining hall, not
showing any emotion.
There was a cheer afterward when Carroll told them, "You're the
No. 1 team in America."
Tournament of Roses president Mike Riffey showed up and
presented Carroll with a bouquet of roses. Riffey obviously was
pleased with this year's 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," Riffey said. "They slid to No. 3 obviously in the BCS,
but that's not our concern at this point.
"I think we're going to have the national championship game
right where we are. We're going to thoroughly enjoy having the
Pac-10 and Big Ten back with us again."
Still, wide receiver Mike Williams acknowledged the obvious --
that the Trojans would have preferred to go to play in the Sugar
"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 from this
"The one thing I think 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."
A victory over No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl should make the
Trojans national champions, Williams said.
"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? But we don't play LSU or we don't play Oklahoma, so
you'll never know," he said.
Still, he said he has no real complaints with the BCS.
"I think people get away from the fact that we're not
undefeated," he said, referring to the Trojans' triple-overtime
loss at California on Sept. 27. "I don't have a problem with the
BCS. Because of what coach Carroll's doing here, we're not going to
lose too much.
"The BCS is going to work in our favor, one way or the other.
We're going to be fine, whether the BCS hangs around for another
six years or another 20 years."