Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rose Bowl Pre-Game: Auld Lang Syne

What does “auld lang syne” actually mean? I have no idea … something about not forgetting old stuff.

It’s one of those things for which everyone has an explanation and each one seems to make sense, especially when you’ve had a few to drink. In the end, it doesn’t matter much once the New Year comes … we’re singing (or mumbling) any “auld” version of the song.

Of course, what does matter is USC Football, and when 2007 comes, the Trojan Family will know the words and what they mean … Fight On!

No doubt, tomorrow is an important day in the history of USC Football. It’s another Rose Bowl, another BCS bowl game, another classic match up with Michigan, our brethren of college football tradition and national status.

There have been lots of “consolation bowl” psycho-babble and X’s and O’s analysis over the last week (since the 13-9 tragedy, really), but one piece by Bruce Feldman at gets to the heart of the matter:
Make no mistake, there are some internal concerns about whether the USC program is on the brink of a downward spiral.

The loss to UCLA not only ruined the Trojans' bid to win their third national title in four seasons, but it also marked the end of an amazing NCAA-record streak of 63 games in which they had scored 20 or more points. It was the low point of a very inconsistent season for a team that was supposed to be carried by its defense. However, the defense just didn't make a lot of big plays. […]

The offense was nowhere near as dangerous as 2005. Of course, that had to be expected, right? [...] Still, no one expected the Trojans to lose to two unranked teams, Oregon State and UCLA. USC lost games it had been finding ways to win.

No wonder the Trojans' matchup with Michigan in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi is so vital to USC. There is also plenty of talk that this game is a battle for No. 1 … in 2007. […]

The Trojans figure to return seven starters on offense and 10 on defense to play a road-heavy schedule. Plus, we keep hearing about all of these great No. 1 ranked recruiting classes USC has stockpiled. And yes, the Trojans appear to be on their way to another ballyhooed recruiting class again this February.

It all sounds fantastic, but it would become a very long offseason if the Trojans can't stand up to Michigan. This is a crossroads game for USC. The Trojans must finish this season off on a strong beat. They have to snuff out any lingering doubt that grew from the UCLA debacle, which was indicative of a very un-Trojan-like season. […]

Of course, maybe it was just inevitable. USC had won 34 consecutive games and back-to-back national titles before its loss to Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl. […]

Some former Miami coaches [who also had a 34-game winning streak from 2000-03] say it is virtually impossible to sustain that level. Great players jump to the NFL early. Assistant coaches move on. Younger players don't know what it took to get to that level. Worse still, they say, it takes a whole lot of great breaks to win 34 straight and eventually the breaks start going the other way. It is all such a delicate mix.
USC Football is indeed at a crossroads, and perhaps 2007 will define the Pete Carroll Era more than any other year. Forget about the first six years, it’s the next one (and however many following) that will tell us if this beautiful run is truly historic.

As we’ve said, the future is bright, and if a 10-win season with a Rose Bowl berth during a re-building year is the worst that Pete Carroll will give us, I’ll take it.

We’ll just have to see what 2007 shows us. It all starts tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Fight On! Beat the Wolverines!

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