Rose Bowl Preview: Michigan vs. USC 2007

Although Michigan is the higher ranked team, USC seems to be the predicted winner by most experts and has the betting line down to even money. Why? The Rose Bowl is practically a home game for them and they have an advantage of five wins in nine games over Michigan and have won the Rose Bowl 21 of 30 attempts. Michigan's Rose Bowl Record is 8 wins in 19 attempts. Previous games have shown USC wins in 2004, 28-14, 17-10 in 1990, 17-10 in 1979, 14-6 in 1977, 10-3 in 1970; Michigan wins in 1989 by 22-14, 20-19 in 1958, 16-6 in 1957 and 49-0 in 1948. History and home field advantage may play a part in this game, but the team who executes the best and is the hungriest for the win with sustained effort over four quarters will prevail.

Offense: On offense, USC has a clear advantage! Their passing offense averages over 250 yards per game, and Pete Carroll is arguably the best coach in NCAA football. Their scoring offense is ranked 19th nationally averaging over 30 points per game. 1st team All-Conference Quarterback, Josh Booty, averages over 240 yards per game in total offense and has thrown 25 TDs with 9 picks for a +16, and his favorite targets are Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett. The twosome average 11 receptions and 155 yards per game with 18 TDs. Smith was the team's MVP in 2006. Patrick Turner is their 3rd receiver. Michigan's cornerbacks, All-American Leon Hall and Morgan Trent will be hard-pressed to contain them, but USC doesn't have the depth that Ohio State showed with their receivers.

USC's offensive line is rugged! They protect Booty while allowing 18 sacks on the season, and provide power to support three running backs, C.J. Gable, Chauncey Washington and Emmanuel Moody; Gable and Moody are true freshmen. USC is ranked 57th in rushing offense with 134 yards per game with Washington running for 9 TDs, Gable 4 TDs and Moody has 2 TDs. The "kiss of death" in this game would be for us to let USC establish a running game. I don't think any of their runners bolt for 50 yard TDs as we saw in the Ohio State game. Their offensive line is led by tackles, Sam Baker and Kyle Williams plus center, Ryan Khalil who was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy. Jarrett and Baker were voted 1st team All-Americans; the other two starters are Drew Radovich and Chilo Rachal. The tight end is Toledo's Fred Davis, and he has 35 receptions on the season which is similar to Michigan's tight end production; also, their fullback is used similar to Michigan's scheme of H-Back with Oluigbo, and their fullback is Thomas Williams. UCLA was able to force two sacks, one turnover, 7 punts, 14 first downs, thwarting one of two USC red zone opportunities and holding them to 6 of 17 in 3rd down conversions, zero second half points and 55 yards in net rushing in winning the Gauntlet Trophy on December 2nd. Michigan's #1 ranked defense will have to come up with an outstanding effort like the Bruins; they'll have to force turnovers and sacks on Booty. Senior All-Americans, Woodley, Hall and Harris, will have to come up big on New Year's Day!

Defense: On defense, Michigan will have a tough time moving the ball against a solid Trojan team that is led by linebackers, Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Dallas Sartz. They are big, fast and active threatening the blitz in every passing situation. Rivers leads the team with 3 forced fumbles. The pass rush features ends, Brian Cushing and Lawrence Jackson, and tackles, Sedrick Ellis and Chris Barrett; the team has 34 sacks and 37 tackles for loss for the season. Sartz and Jackson are their two leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. Rivers, Maualuga and Ellis were named 1st Team All Conference. If Henne does find the time to throw, USC has great covers in corners, Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris. Thomas has 12 pass break ups and 2 picks this year. Safeties Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison are very athletic and as big as most team's linebackers. Mays leads the team with 3 picks, and was one of three players chosen as Conference Freshmen of the Year. Our receivers, Breaston, Arrington and Manningham will have to play their best game in getting open and making big plays. Hopefully, we can even find out tight ends: Ecker, Butler and Massey for some key first down throws. The Trojan pass efficiency defense only allows 108 yards per game which ranks them 19th nationally Mike Hart will also have a tough time getting started against a Trojan defense that is ranked 19th in the nation against the run allowing only 97 yards per game. The USC defense allows only 15 points per game ranking them 13th nationally, and they are ranked 20th in total defense; they were ranked first in their conference in most important defensive categories. We will need to create time of possession advantage by holding the ball while keeping the ball away from their offense.

Special Teams: Steve Breaston had a huge Rose Bowl in 2005 against Texas with a record 315 all-purpose yards, and he may need to have another big game on Monday. USC is ranked 96th in punt returns and 75th in net punting, but is ranked 18th nationally in kickoff returns with Gamble as their deep man. Desmond Reed returns punts and kickoffs. Their field goal kicker, Mario Danelo, has made 11 of 12 with his longest being 43 yards; he has made 83 of 86 point after touchdown conversions. Greg Woidnek average 38.6 yards per punt. Troy Van Blarcom kicks off and has 37 touchbacks in 69 kicks so Breaston may have a chance to return some. Breaston, Mesko and Rivas should give us an edge in this area, and hopefully this will lead us to field position advantage.

USC has won three 4th quarter games with Washington, Washington State and California while losing to UCLA and Oregon State on the road in games decided in the 4th quarter. I think this game will come down to who plays the best in the 4th quarter, too. I think this game will be 14 to 10 Michigan at half, and we convert three red zones plus one big play into points while holding USC to 13 points in three red zone attempts for the win. I think Michigan wants to win this game more, and has more to prove after the Ohio State loss and poll votes.

Michigan 24 USC 13

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