No thorn in 1-2 Rose Bowl

Southern California, Texas erase any doubts that they, and only they, belong in title game

College Football


LOS ANGELES -- After years of controversy, there was a sense of calm about the Bowl Championship Series selection process yesterday.

Two undefeated teams, two invitations to the BCS title game, zero complaints.

It was almost boring.

Southern California and Texas, which finished the regular season with perfect 12-0 records after respective routs Saturday, will meet in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 4.

The winner will be declared national champion.

It marks the second straight year in which teams that spent the entire season in the top two spots will play for the title, but unlike last year, when Auburn was also unbeaten, there is no unhappy third party.

In fact, there were barely any complaints about the other BCS matchups as well.

In a game pitting the two winningest - as well as oldest - coaches in septuagenarians Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, No. 3 Penn State (10-1) will meet Florida State (8-4) in the Orange Bowl in Miami on Jan. 3.

In a battle of 9-2 teams, Notre Dame, long the favorite to receive the first at-large berth, will play Ohio State, the second at-large team, in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan. 2.

Coming off its upset of LSU Saturday in Atlanta, SEC champion Georgia (10-2) will return to the Georgia Dome to face Big East champion West Virginia (10-1) in the Sugar Bowl., also on Jan. 2.

About the only team that could have filed a grievance was Oregon, which lost once and had tried to lobby for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl on the basis that both the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish had lost twice.

"I certainly understand that there are teams that are not in these four games that have had a great season, as we have every year," BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said yesterday. "I must say that there's a lot of consensus that we have quality matchups among highly regarded teams in this year's BCS games."

A year after talking his team into its first BCS game and then backing it up with a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, Texas coach Mack Brown knows what his Longhorns are facing in the school's first national championship game in 36 years.

"They do have the No. 1 team in the country," Brown said of the two-time defending champion Trojans. "They've just blown people out right and left and that will be challenge for us. But that's fun."

The Trojans will take a 34-game winning streak into the Rose Bowl after their 66-19 demolition of UCLA on Saturday at the Coliseum. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have quietly put together a 19-game winning streak of their own and are coming off a 70-3 blowout of Colorado in the Big 12 title game.

"We're sitting here at 19 straight wins and there is a tremendous amount of pressure on kids and coaches to keep it going," said Brown. "And these guys have done it now for three straight years."

USC defensive end Frostee Rucker summed up the feelings of his teammates who gathered to watch the announcement.

"Mellow," said Rucker. "We've been here before."

Said USC quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, "We're looking forward to that matchup. We're not going to talk about that for a while, we'll prepare when we need to prepare. It's nice to see that 1 and 2 the whole season finished 1 and 2. Two undefeated teams, no controversy, it will be a great atmosphere and great game."

Weiberg took heat for the selection process last year when many thought Auburn was more deserving than Oklahoma of playing USC, and then watched the BCS criticized more after the Trojans crushed the Sooners, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl.

Yesterday, Weiberg seemed relieved that the system worked.

"Anytime we have a matchup that is widely lauded as being a great matchup in the championship game, you can really see the benefit of a system like this in which through the bowls we're able to bring together the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams that otherwise wouldn't have come together through the [old] bowl system," said Weiberg.

Though the outcome of the game will have nothing to do with the national championship, there will be a lot of interest in the Orange Bowl because of Paterno and Bowden.

"I hope it doesn't come down to where it's Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno because he can't run and I run slower," said Paterno, who turns 79 later this month and will be three years older than Bowden.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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