Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
by Russell Levine
After 28 games and clichÃ©s too numerous to count, the 2005 college bowl season is now complete. Texas was the victor and USC the vanquished in a Rose Bowl that will rank with the greatest games ever played, but what about the sport as a whole? Here's a look at some of the winners and losers of the departed bowl season:
Yes, Young is an obvious choice to top this list, but his performance in the Rose Bowl deserves still another look. The numbers read like something out of a video game: 30-of-40 passing for 267 yards, with no interceptions or sacks, and 200 yards rushing on 19 carries with three touchdowns. Oh, and he brought his team back from a two-score deficit in the final minutes (for the second straight Rose Bowl), and scored the winning touchdown on fourth down.
Young's performance was not just one for the college football ages, it could have a major impact on the upcoming NFL draft. Before the Rose Bowl, the 6-foot-5-inch, 233-pound Young said he planned to return for his senior season and USC's Reggie Bush was one of the safest bets ever to be taken first overall.
But Sunday, with the entire NFL spastically whispering Young's name, the Houston native officially announced his eligibility for the draft -- and the Texans own the first pick. You do the math. Yes, Young has a quirky throwing motion, but his athletic ability is unparalleled, perhaps even by Bush or Michael Vick. The Texans are already facing a decision on the future of franchise quarterback David Carr. Retailers better pre-emptively stock up on no. 10 Texans jerseys.
The much-maligned Bowl Championship Series put on perhaps its best-ever four-game slate, capped by an over-hyped Rose Bowl that still managed to exceed expectations. Ratings records were set. Even the ugly-duckling matchups -- West Virginia-Georgia in the Sugar and Florida State-Penn State in the Orange -- worked out as the Mountaineers stunned Georgia and four-loss Florida State gave 10â€“1 Penn State all it could handle. None of this is good news for the people who annually root for the BCS to go down in flames so that a playoff system can rise from the ashes.
Texas's conference was supposed to be a joke, especially the weak-sister North Division. But the Big 12 went 6â€“2 in bowls, best record of all 11 Division I-A conferences. In addition to the Longhorns' Rose Bowl triumph, Oklahoma stunned 10â€“1 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl and Nebraska upset Michigan in the Alamo Bowl.
The esteemed ABC announcer may well have called his final game in the Rose Bowl, and if so, what a way to go out. True, Jackson is not as sharp as he once was, but he is the voice of college football and that Southern drawl is still smooth as silk. As a poster on one college football blog wrote, Jackson "could read the yellow pages for two hours, and I'd listen the whole time. He just sounds like college football." Amen.
It's conceivable that with both Bush and Young in the NFL draft (Bush's decision to go pro is thought to be a foregone conclusion), Young could be selected first overall, which would be an upset of Douglas-Tyson proportions based on pre-bowl season expectations.
Leinart, who was brilliant in the second half of the Rose Bowl, likely did nothing to hurt his draft stock. What hurt his stock was returning to school for his senior season. He was a lock to go first overall last year, but could fall to third or lower this year, costing him millions.
Look, I love college football as much as anyone, but the length of these games is ridiculous, capped by a near five-hour Orange Bowl as Penn State beat Florida State in triple overtime. Incoming BCS coordinator Mike Slive says he hopes the games can start earlier next year, but start times are not the problem. The NCAA needs to implement rule changes to shorten games, such as not stopping the clock on first downs except in the final minutes of each half. The only thing more laughable than the term "student-athlete" is that the official broadcast window for a college football game is 3 1/2 hours.
It was a tough year for the conference often considered the nation's best. A year after undefeated Auburn was denied a berth in the BCS title game, the Tigers were trampled by Wisconsin, one of a pair of stunning bowl losses for the conference. SEC champion Georgia was beaten by the pride of the Big East, West Virginia, in the Sugar Bowl.
The "Worldwide Leader" didn't win any friends in the Lone Star State with its weeklong series on whether the 2005 Trojans were the greatest team in history. That was followed by College Gameday's Lee Corso all but pleading with Young to turn pro after the Rose Bowl. None of this can be good for the network's ratings deepinthehearta.
The bowl season was surprisingly devoid of horrendous coaching decisions. It's usually a time for coaches who've had too much time on their hands to unveil double-reverse passes and fake punts at the most inopportune times.
But I didn't see a whole lot of that this bowl season. Sure, Pete Carroll could rightly be taken to task for leaving Reggie Bush on the sidelines during the critical fourth-and-2 play against Texas, but it wasn't an egregious error given the way the Trojans were running the ball up the gut with LenDale White.
Instead, I'll reach into the pro ranks for this week's winner: Tom Coughlin of the Giants. There were a lot of things not to like about the Giants' performance against Carolina, but the one that stood out was the idea that Terrell Buckley could hold up in man coverage against Steve Smith. I get that the Giants were devastated by injuries, but surely there was a better plan than leaving one of the NFL's most dangerous wideouts singled up with a guy that was on his couch a month ago?
1. Texas (2): Second poster on this article had it about right.
2. Southern Cal (1): I still think going for it on fourth-and-2 was correct.
3. Penn State (3): Was it a one-year wonder? They lose a lot of talent.
4. Ohio State (4): If Tressel had kept the pedal down, they could have scored 50 on ND.
5. West Virginia (12): Gets the edge over LSU based on result vs. common opponent Georgia.
6. Louisiana State (9): Where was that effort the last time out at the Georgia Dome?
7. Alabama (11): Great defense vs. great offense: take the defense.
8. Virginia Tech (13): Enjoy the 7th round, Marcus Vick.
9. Georgia (5): Oh, the dangers of taking opponents lightly.
10. Wisconsin (19): Where did that come from?
11. Auburn (7): Big Ten teams aren't that slow, are they?
12. Miami (Florida) (10): Michael Irvin wants to get more involved.
13. Notre Dame (6): Attention stud H.S. corner: Charlie Weis wants you.
14. TCU (17): Again, how did you lose to SMU?
15. Florida (16): Urban's first year was a success.
16. UCLA (15): Defense optional in SoCal.
17. Oregon (8): Thank goodness they'll be using three different helmets next year. Unis were getting bland.
18. Boston College (18): Hail the smurf-turf streak busters.
19. Oklahoma (25): Mack Brown's winning streak over OU could be short-lived.
20. Louisville (16): Gave a decent account of themselves minus Brohm.
21. Clemson (22): One of college football's strangest teams of 2005.
22. Texas Tech (23): Moving them up after better-than-expected effort vs. Alabama.
23. Florida State (NR): Lot's o' young talent in Tallahassee.
24. Nebraska (NR): Callahan earns another year.
25. Tulsa (NR): Poll filler.
Dropped out: Georgia Tech (20), Michigan (21), Fresno State (24)
Games I watched: Nearly all of them. It was the most wonderful week of the year.
Portions of this article appeared in Monday's New York Sun