Friday, January 3, 2003
Clarett key to Ohio State upset
By Terry Bowden
Special to ABC Sports Online
Bowden's Weekly Chat Show
I know we are all anxious to see the biggest game of them all tonight in the fight for the national championship between Miami and Ohio State (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). With the Hurricanes averaging more than 41 points a game and Ohio State giving up a little more than 12, something has to give.
If Ohio State's Maurice Clarett can include some touchdowns at the end of a few long drives, the Buckeyes have a chance to pull off the upset. But folks, if the score gets much over 25 for either team, the Hurricanes are going to walk away with the championship.
These are the only two undefeated teams in college football, and the Bowl Championship Series has given us a true championship game. Now we just have to wait and see which team wants it the most.
Here is my review of the first three games of the BCS.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by PlayStation2
It would have taken a great performance out of Jason Gesser for Washington State to have had a chance to win the Rose Bowl. But it didn't take long to see that Oklahoma's tenacious defense was not going to let that happen.
The scouting report on Oklahoma was that the Sooners could be beaten in the air. In the two games they lost this season to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, they gave up a total of eight touchdown passes. With the difficulty of sustaining long drives against their defense, it was clear Washington State needed to connect on a few deep balls.
The problem with Washington State was that the way to do that is to start with some type of running attack. If the Cougars could have had any success with the running game -- which they didn't -- it would have caused the Sooners' aggressive defensive backs to come up and support the run. However, with Washington State unable to run the ball and forced to sit in the shotgun, the Oklahoma secondary could stay deep and let the front seven put all kinds of pressure on Gesser, and totaling six sacks. It was pure dominance by Oklahoma.
Add to this the performance of OU's offensive stars, Quentin Griffin and Rose Bowl MVP Nate Hybl, and we ended up with a blowout.
Washington State's secondary had been suspect all year, but the one thing they had done well was shut down a team's running game. But Griffin ripped them apart for 146 yards, and by doing that, took the pressure off of Hybl, who was then able to take apart the secondary for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
It wasn't a great finish at Washington State for coach Mike Price, and I know it's not a game plan he will use at Oklahoma when the Crimson Tide line up against them in their second game next season.
As for the Sooners, with 10 starters back on defense and a coaching staff that has gone 36-4 the last three years, you can already pencil in a preseason top 5 next fall.
Nokia Sugar Bowl
|Derrick Strait and the Sooners defense kept the Cougars off balance.|
When Florida State was forced to start its third-string quarterback against Georgia, its fate was probably already determined in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia is just too strong a team to be beaten by third-string quarterback Fabian Walker. Moving wideout Anquan Boldin to replace him proved to be too little too late.
With the Seminoles missing its top two quarterbacks, all Georgia had to do was bring the pressure from the defensive front seven. With their lack of experience at quarterback, that pressure led to sacks and a couple of interceptions.
Although Mark Richt is known for his offensive genius, his Bulldog defense ended up being the strength of this team.
In just two years at Georgia, Richt has taken all of the coaching skills he learned from Bobby Bowden at Florida State as an assistant coach, and turned the Bulldogs into champions. This year, for the first time in 20 years, they were SEC champions. And Sugar Bowl champions. But look for them next year to be shooting for the national championship.
If running back Musa Smith will stay in college for his senior season, Georgia will have almost all of its weapons in store next year. And with the recruiting job the Bulldogs are doing, look for them to continue to be a factor in the championship picture.
FedEx Orange Bowl
If there was any doubt about Carson Palmer winning the Heisman Trophy, it ended with USC winning the Orange Bowl. Palmer put on a show against Iowa and Heisman runner-up Brad Banks that will be remembered by the USC faithful for a long time. And something tells me he will be the first pick in the NFL draft in April.
However, the key in this game was that Southern California's defense totally shut down Iowa. In fact, the Hawkeye offense was unable to score an offensive touchdown until the last minute of the game.
Iowa had been the most explosive offensive team in the Big Ten all year, but it was clear the Trojans had too much talent and speed on the defensive side of the ball. In spite of this, because of Iowa's aggressive defense, the Hawkeyes were able to keep the game to a 10-10 tie with a chance to go ahead.
In the second half, we got to see a little bit more of USC's offensive talent. Iowa's second-ranked rush defense broke down as Justin Fargas picked up 122 yards, including a 50-yard scamper. It also became apparent that Southern California's fast, tall receivers were too much for Iowa's undersized corners.
It was a great finish for second-year head coach Pete Carroll, who has now put the Trojans back in the national spotlight. And maybe it was just as important that, after 20 years, we finally gave the Heisman Trophy from someone from the West Coast, and in his final game, he delivered.
|Iowa's Brad Banks struggled against the USC defense.|