5 Thoughts - Rose Bowl
USC 49 ...
2008 CFN Rose Bowl Preview
2008 Rose Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, &
1. USC might
have won in a blowout, but this just isn’t the USC that was
everyone’s preseason No. 1. The defense is certainly special, and
winning the Rose Bowl is always great no matter what else happened
during the year, but this isn’t a typical USC offense despite all
the points put up in the debacle. To be USC, there has to be
more big play ability from the receiving corps, and there needs to
be more from the quarterback. John David Booty was fine with a nice
stretch over the second half of the year, but he got 15 days to
throw, like he did last year against Michigan, had his choice of
open targets to hit time and again on short to midrange throws, and
more often than not, Fred David and Joe McKnight did the rest.
There’s no question this is one of the best teams in America, but
don’t just assume this is the same national championship caliber
Trojan team of past seasons. Illinois just isn’t that great.
2. Get the Joe McKnight hype machine rolling. While not Reggie Bush,
he’s just as fluid, almost as quick, and as exciting as anyone in
college football. Now the goal will be to figure out how to use him.
He’s not going to be a 30-carry-per-game back who’ll be a tough
workhorse, but he has to have the ball in his hands at least 15
times and he has to get the ball in space as much as humanly
possible. He’s great at creating his own holes and has the talent to
make anyone miss one on one, but when he has the ball on the move,
forget about it.
3. Why did Illinois insist on staying with Juice Williams for so
long? The offense needed more of a downfield passing threat as the
game went on, and while Williams had his moments and came up with a
few good strikes to move the offense, Eddie McGee should’ve at least
got a series or two just to see if he could add a little more of a
spark early on. The passing game has to be more than just a few
little screen passes. It’s possible head coach Ron Zook is sending a
message for 2008 and beyond; this is Juice’s team. By leaving in his
starter, Zook is saying he’ll sink or swim with one of the key
players who got the Illini to Pasadena, and can get them back with a
little bit of tweaking. Illinois beat Ohio State by getting big
plays early from the passing game. There’s a ceiling on what
Illinois can do if Williams doesn’t improve.
4. Let this be a lesson to the Rose Bowl, the BCS, and everyone who
tries to force tradition over great matchups. The Big Ten – Pac 10
thing in the Rose Bowl only matters if you have the two champions.
If it was Georgia vs. USC, there would’ve been more of a buzz, it
would’ve been a far better game and would’ve held far more
significance. Do we really know anything more about USC? Beating
Georgia would’ve settled a lot more debates and would’ve cleared up
the season a lot better. Illinois was a deer caught in the
headlights from the start. All week long this didn’t seem like a
team ready for primetime with a happy-to-be-here attitude (no matter
what was said in interviews) compared to the
been-there-done-everything Trojans. Sometimes teams have to take
their lumps before they can get to the next level, but do they have
to come in the Rose Bowl? Illinois didn’t belong in the BCS, and it
5. Illinois head man Ron Zook won national coach of the year honors,
but is he really more than a top-notch recruiter? The jury is still
out on that one. He wasn’t great in bowl games at Florida, his
Illini team wasn’t even remotely close to being competitive for most
of this game, and there weren’t many adjustments that worked to slow
down the Trojans on either side of the ball.
Worst Rose Bowl ever? The Miami blasting of Nebraska for the 2001
national title wasn’t pretty, but Rashard Mendenhall and Arrelious
Benn home runs aside, this was the ugliest Rose Bowl since the last
time Illinois came to Pasadena and soiled itself in a 45-9 loss to
UCLA in 1984. So what went so wrong? Is Illinois really this bad? Of
course not. It needed to get more from both lines never took
advantage of the early momentum swings. It’s not like the Illini
didn’t show fight and it’s not like it quit, but it seemed like it
knew it was over early, found a little bit of a spark with a few big
plays, and then went right back to getting its doors blown off. Now
it’ll be interesting to see how Zook and his team handle this and
build off it. Still incredibly young, this could be the ultimate
motivational tool going into next year.