Coming up roses

USC had little trouble disposing of Illinois in the Rose Bowl, winning 49-17. While it was a great win for the Trojans, in truth it was a win over a team that probably didn't belong there. The Rose Bowl opted to go for tradition with a Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup, rather than the best game which would have been USC-Georgia. One can argue the merits of either opponent, but the result was a supremely talented USC team clobbering a rising Illinois program that wasn't ready for prime time.

Now the focus for USC is on next season. The Trojans will lose numerous members of their top defense to graduation, and possibly several others like Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing. They will also lose some experience on the offensive line and John David Booty graduates as well. But Pete Carroll has kept this team well-stocked, and there is talent at every position. Expect an epic quarterback battle between Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain. Also, expect USC to stay strong on the ground next year as CJ Gable comes back from injury to compete in a crowded backfield with Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, Marc Tyler, and others.

USC also has a spectacularly difficult schedule next season. Their first five opponents all made bowl games this year. The Trojans open at Virginia and then play Ohio State at home. I don't know if any other program in the country would have the guts to give themselves that schedule. Then USC goes to Corvallis to play a quality Oregon State team, before going home for matchups against Oregon and Arizona State. USC finishes up with Notre Dame at home and UCLA on the road, and both of those teams figure to be improved. It should be a fascinating 2008 for the Trojans.

January 1, 2008 9:37 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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