Mike Williams, USC’s record-setting freshman wide receiver and Becky’s former academic tutee, celebrates after scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the Trojans’ huge Orange Bowl win.
What can I say? The final score pretty much says it all. The Trojans won big — no, won huge — Thursday night. Carson Palmer’s legitimacy as Heisman Trophy winner is now pretty much unassailable, and USC is clearly one of country’s best teams. If I were a voter, I’d have a tough time keeping them out of the Top 2 in the season’s final poll (especially if Miami blows out Ohio State tomorrow night).
It was great to see how happy Pete Carroll was after the game. And it was hilarious to hear the Trojan Marching Band playing “Tusk” and the ‘SC fans jubilantly chanting “U-C-L-A SUCKS!” … a true, but totally irrelevant, fact. (Or, maybe not so irrelevant. It was the Trojans’ 52-21 whooping of UCLA that really got them going on their incredible end-of-season tear. 134 to 51 over the past three games!)
Now, if only the Orange Bowl winner could play the Fiesta Bowl winner for the national title!
UPDATE, 01/03/03, 12:30 AM Eastern time: USCTrojans.com has an article online. And how about this? “Palmer led scoring drives of 79, 80, 99, 85 and 61 yards.” Fight on, Carson!
And this: “The Trojans outscored UCLA, Notre Dame and Iowa 134-51 in their final three games, a finish that may be impressive enough to vault them to second in the final rankings behind the Fiesta Bowl winner. It would be USC’s highest finish since 1979.”
Here are more pictures of the Orange Bowl from the AP and Reuters.
UPDATE, 1:46 AM Eastern time: Some newly posted pictures…
USC coach Pete Carroll holds the Orange Bowl trophy and flashes a victory sign while MVP Carson Palmer looks on and smiles.
Less than three weeks after hoisting the Heisman Trophy, Trojan quarterback Carson Palmer hoists the Orange Bowl MVP trophy.
In other Trojan sports news, the men’s basketball team won its Pac-10 opener over Washington State, 97-90 on the road, behind a career-high 35 points from Desmon Farmer.
The Herald also had this to say about the Heisman Trophy balloting between Palmer and Banks:
“Leave it to the state of Florida to settle a question about voting. This time, there was no need to count the chads or look at the dimples.
Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer took care of that and more Thursday night, leading the Trojans to a 38-17 demolition of Iowa in the Orange Bowl and leaving no doubt he earned the Heisman Trophy.”
UPDATE, 2:20 PM Eastern time: From the Los Angeles Times’s Bill Plaschke:
No Playoff, so No Just Payoff for Trojans
MIAMI — One more week.
The USC football players stalked away from the steaming rubble of another broken opponent Thursday night, their shoes caked in Iowa gold, their socks splattered with Hawkeye black.
Their fans chanting, their eyes misting, they were brimming with heart and awash in history and lacking but a single thing.
One more week.
One more game.
One chance to play the winner of tonight’s Fiesta Bowl and prove what anyone who has been within shouting distance of them already knows for absolute fact.
This is the best team in the country.
Miami wouldn’t hang with them, Ohio State wouldn’t touch them, and Iowa was overwhelmed by them, 38-17, in an Orange Bowl that surely turned college football experts green.
“Tell them to put this in their pipe and smoke it!” shouted Omar Nazel afterward as the Trojans hugged and swaggered across the Pro Player Stadium field to the beat of the Trojan band.
Kareem Kelly shook his head in awe as the Iowa players staggered past him to safety, their breath gone and their pride whacked.
“We’ll play the Fiesta Bowl winner, next week, put it on pay per view!” he said, pausing to consider the strong tenor of his statement. “Take that back. We’ll play them in two days!”
USC wasn’t the best team at the start of the season, it wasn’t the best team at the end of October, but it is impossible to imagine anybody better right now.
Not just beating the nationally third-ranked Iowans, but turning them into the football version of a Farmer’s tan?
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in one of these,” said Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes’ coach.
Gaining 550 yards against a Big Ten powerhouse, including running for 247 yards against the nation’s second-ranked rushing defense? …
If this game had been played before the Heisman Trophy had been awarded, Palmer would have been invited to New York all by himself.
Now the Trojans become this year’s team that ends the season with helmet in hand, begging for a playoff.
Which they would win, even if you add Georgia and Oklahoma to Miami and Ohio State. Who has the Trojans’ combination of speed and defense? Who makes the same sort of in-game adjustments? With eight consecutive victories with at least 30 points in each game, who is hotter?
“It’s not about how we could handle Miami, or any other team,” said cornerback Darrell Rideaux. “It’s about how could they handle us. Nobody is playing better defense than us right now. And how are they going to handle our speed on offense?” …
Heading toward the locker room [at halftime], the Trojans experienced the same feeling they had at halftime of the win over Notre Dame.
“We were running, they were walking,” said safety DeShaun Hill. “That told us all we needed to know.”
Now all anyone needs to know is that USC’s greatest season in a quarter of a century has ended in two months of conquest.
And one game too soon.
UPDATE, 2:55 PM Eastern time: More newspapers…
From the Los Angeles Daily News front page
The Cedar Gapids Gazette front page
The Des Moines Register front page
The Iowa-rooting Register settled the Palmer-Banks debate thusly:
You feel for Brad Banks. Helluva kid. Superbly talented, humble, cheerful, reverent, the perfect Sunday brunch guest. He deserves nothing less than a future of blue skies, apple pie and a contract in the NFL.
But, God love him, he was no Carson Palmer on Thursday.
The Orange Bowl was billed as a matchup of the two top vote-getters in the Heisman Trophy race. Based on Thursday night’s debacle, you’d have thought it was the widest gap since Nixon stomped McGovern. …
Don’t get me wrong. Banks didn’t so much lose the game for Iowa so much as Palmer won the thing for the Trojans. The man was a pest. A very large, very accurate pest, but a pest nonetheless. …
Rest assured, Hawkeye fans, that justice will be served. Palmer will get what’s coming to him, and soon. He will be selected with the No. 1 pick in the NFL by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Meanwhile, the Daily News seconded the L.A. Times’s notions of the Trojans’ national pre-eminence:
“We think if anyone can give Miami a game, we can,” defensive lineman Bernard Riley said.
“We wanted to make a statement that we were the best team in the country,” wide receiver Mike Williams added. …
Iowa (11-2) never had been blown out this season, but USC didn’t seem surprised.
“They haven’t played USC,” offensive coordinator Norm Chow said.
Great may be an understatement after watching the Trojans dissect every aspect of Iowa’s game plan like a medical student on cadaver day at the morgue.
By the way, isn’t it unfortunate that while the Daily Iowan website has a full article about the Orange Bowl (as well as a ton of pregame coverage, all of it published over winter break while the paper is on hiatus), the Daily Trojan has nothing on its website newer than… Dec. 5?
Publishing anything on the website that doesn’t appear in the newspaper is too complicated for the DT, which is evidently still stuck in 1997 or so. Oh, well. Those of at USC — including DT staff — have come to expect such mediocrity.
UPDATE, 4:03 PM: Carson Palmer longs for a date with Miami, too. “I definitely think we could give them a run for their money,” he says. Pete Carroll graciously adds, “I don’t want to take anything away from what they’re doing. We don’t get to play them. That’s just a fun argument and discussion that Trojan fans will be talking about all offseason.”
Here’s another fun item of discussion: Let’s say the unthinkable happens tonight and Miami doesn’t beat Ohio State. Let’s say, moreover, that the Fiesta Bowl is a dreadful display in which neither team plays well — in fact, both teams look awful. Ohio State wins, 9-6, or something like that. Obviously the Buckeyes are undisputed Coaches Poll national champions, thanks to the BCS contract. But is it possible that a few sportswriters — one or two, at least — in the AP poll will look beyond the statistics, consider what’s happening on the field, and give USC a couple of first-place votes? Hmm.
Speaking of the BCS, the timid reform proposal being considered by the NCAA still won’t guarantee that the best team wins the national championship. Why? Well, think about it. If we had a college “Super Bowl” after the four current BCS bowls, matching up the Fiesta Bowl winner against the team judged second-best, who would play in it? Georgia, most likely. But everybody knows two-loss USC is playing better than one-loss Georgia, and deserves the shot at Miami (or Ohio State).
Actually, if the NCAA instituted such a reform, they’d probably go back to a setup more closely resembling the old conference tie-in system for the initial bowls. So we probably would have had Ohio State vs. Washington State in the Rose Bowl, Miami vs. Iowa in the Orange Bowl, USC vs. Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and (still) Georgia vs. Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, with the appointed top two teams selected to play in the College Super Bowl. So, unless either the Cougars or Hawkeyes could pull the upset, we’d be exactly where we are now: Ohio State and Miami playing for the title, with the probably-better winner of USC-Oklahoma left out.
Somewhat better would be a three-game playoff matching the winners of Rose vs. Fiesta and Sugar vs. Orange (or vice versa, whatever), and then the winners of those post-BCS bowls against each other. But it would still be far from perfect. Consider: what about teams like Kansas State who are denied a BCS bid in the first place despite being more deserving than midget conference champs like Florida State? (Remember that USC, too, almost didn’t make it into a BCS bowl at all!) And what about the Boise States, the minor-conference teams who never get a chance to prove themselves? Does NCAA football have a Gonzaga lurking in its midst? Is there any reason to believe it doesn’t?
Until the NCAA embraces a system that allows head-to-head matchups to determine the national champion — and not pollsters, computers, unbalanced schedules, unequal conferences, barely relevant early-season games and flukey regular-season losses — we’ll never know who the best team in the nation is. (Here’s a hint, though: it’s USC.)