Tuesday, January 09, 2007

USC Football: You’re Welcome Florida

The way I see it, the Gators owe us one … make that two. First, USC laid an egg (with a tail) during a 13-9 anomaly to put Florida in the BCS Championship game, albeit controversially over Michigan.

Then, the Trojans dismantled the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl to erase any doubt that the Gators should have been in Glendale, Ariz., for the chance to play Ohio State.

You’re welcome, Gator Nation.

Of course, Florida did a pretty good job erasing any doubt all by themselves last night, but the Gators can thank USC for the opportunity.

One plus resulting from the Trojans’ favor to Florida is that ugla can now stop waxing un-poetically about the bruins’ supposed missed opportunities to hold simultaneous national championships in football and basketball … way back in the 1960s.

Listen to ugla fans, and they’ll tell you they would have done it, if not for USC beating the bruins on the gridiron in ‘67 and ’69 when John Wooden and his partner in crime were stacking hoops talent at ugla:
While there are not exact parallels between the current college football landscape and the previous setup (expecially in the 1960s), it is fairly certain that had UCLA defeated USC in the 1967 Cross-Town Rivalry (a game billed as "The Game of the Century" at the time), Tommy Protho [ugla’s head coach] would have successfully completed the unthinkable: UCLA, that 'basketball-only' school, would have held both the football and basketball men's national titles in 1967. Additionally, UCLA had much the same chance again in 1969 - again losing to USC in the Battle for the Victory Bell. […]

So, just in case you're curious about an earlier team that had just as close a chance as Florida as holding both the basketball and football titles in a given year, that team was UCLA.
We know now that Florida didn’t just come close; it closed the deal last night. Although the Gators didn’t accomplish the feat in the same school year, they did get it done in the same calendar year (sorta), giving the media a chance to crown Florida as the first to take the dual titles. And it’s all thanks to USC.

Maybe the Trojans can be second to pull off the feat next year. (Ha!) I laugh, but with the if-we-build-it-Mayo-will-come Galen Center up and running, who knows? Certainly, ugla won’t have to worry about getting “as close a chance” any time soon. But, I digress …

It was nice to see Chris Leak (above) get his due. I’ve made it a semi-point to follow his career since the time he was a major recruit for USC. He had a diary on ESPN of his recruiting process, and he described in one entry his official visit to Los Angeles:
The thing that stood out the most is how so many different USC players pulled me aside to explain to me what a joy it is to play for Coach Carroll. That really stuck with me. […]

Overall, the visit to USC was great. Though I visited California for Elite 11, this was my first time in L.A. And I have to be honest: It was my best visit. I saw the Staples Center, the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills and the neighborhood where Shaq lives.

Add to that the positive things that so many had to say about Coach Carroll and Coach Chow, as well as the fact that Coach Chow has flown twice from California to visit me in Charlotte and I must say, USC is quickly becoming a very inviting option.
Too bad Leak thought L.A. was too far from home, but when he committed to Ron Zook and Florida, the Trojans turned attention to John David Booty, and that was that. Leak got to play right away, but apparently a black drop-back passer is a concept for which the south isn’t ready, and Leak never got the love he deserved.

After adjusting to Urban Meyer’s “spread option” offense last year, Leak was supposed to be a Heisman candidate in 2006, but when his Bizarro World twin Tim Tebow – a running QB who is white – was inserted to run for first downs and TDs in short yardage, Leak’s role and perceived stature was reduced.

Still, Leak handled the immediate and fervent endorsement of Tebow by Gator fans and the subseqent media-created controversy with class. As Leak said at the post-game presser last night, “When you work hard and you do the right things … eventually your time will come. We’ve been very blessed.”

Blessed, indeed. The Gators got their “dual championship” and Leak’s time came last night … thanks to a rare slip by the Trojans.

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