2007 Rose Bowl
Dec. 22, 2006
#3/3 Michigan (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) vs. #8/7 USC (10-2)
After a one-year hiatus, Michigan (11-1, 7-1) returns to Pasadena, Calif., for the third time in four seasons and will battle the Pac-10 Conference co-champion University of Southern California Trojans (10-2, 7-2) in a rematch of the 2004 Rose Bowl. The Wolverines dropped a 28-14 decision to the Trojans in that game to push USC's series lead over U-M to 5-4-0. Not only will
The Trojans, on the other hand, are appearing in their 31st Rose Bowl game and also making their third trip in the past four years, but enter this year's game on a two-game losing skid at the facility by a total of just seven points. USC is coming off a record fifth consecutive Pac-10 title this year under the nation's winningest active coach in Pete Carroll. Despite both schools losing tough final regular season games that prevented them from playing in the BCS Championship game, this year's contest should feature two teams hungry to end on a win.
Quarterback Chad Henne was in no shortage of offensive weapons this year and did a good job of distributing the ball to keep opponents on their toes. In his junior campaign, Henne threw for 2,199 yards and 20 touchdowns. If it wasn't on the ground, it was in the air, where a trio of stable receivers helped the Wolverines when they were faced with long yardage. Despite being sidelined for three games with a knee injury, first-team All-Big Ten sophomore Mario Manningham accounted for a team high 624 yards, supplying 19.5 yards a catch and nine touchdowns in the regular season. With the target on Manningham's back, senior Steve Breaston and Adrian Arrington found themselves open enough for Breaston to haul down a team high 51 catches and Arrington to add seven touchdowns. Also receiving post-season honors on the offensive side of the ball was tackle Jake Long who was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree as well as being named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
On the ground, a healthy Mike Hart returned this year to prove he is a force to be reckoned with. At 5'9" this stubborn running back was hard to tackle, ranking third in the nation in rushing with 1,515 yards. The Wolverines converted 60% on red-zone touchdowns, with great assistance from Hart who pounded in 14 scores.
First year coordinator Ron English has been the difference this year in turning around the Wolverine defense, a difference of 40 spots in the national rankings and 1,132 less yards to be exact. Sitting atop the nation in rushing defense this year, the Wolverines have stifled opponents on the ground allowing only 43 yards per game and 516 yards total. A vast improvement from last year's 41st ranking (1646 yards). The unit yielded more than 26 points on only one occasion this season in the Wolverines' 39-42 loss against No. 1 Ohio State. Leading the team with 95 tackles is inside linebacker David Harris.
Leon Hall is one of the premier cover corners in the country, intercepting three and breaking up 15 passes on the year. His teammate Jamar Adams may not get much publicity but credit him with 2 interceptions for 66 yards. The Michigan Wolverines have flattened opposing quarterbacks 42 times this year with DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley accounting for 11 sacks. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year also recovered four and forced just as many fumbles. The defense is rounded out by its fourth first-team All-Big Ten selection in DT Alan Branch.
The graduation of former Trojan players Matt Leinhart and Reggie Bush didn't seem to hinder this year's USC's offense which is ranked in the national Top 25 in passing yards and scoring. Leading the way is first-year starting QB John David Booty, who tops the Pac-10 in passing efficiency and total offense. His favorite targets, All-American Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, have combined for more than 151.8 receiving yards per game. The duo has combined for 18 touchdown grabs, while Jarrett, who is the Pac-10's career touchdown reception leader, needs just two grabs to equal the USC pass catching career record. Smith leads the Trojans in catches and is 25 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. Although USC's offense relies more on Booty's arm than a ground route, tailbacks C.J. Gable and Chauncey Washington found room for 1,145 rushing yards this season. The duo ran behind lineman like 2-time All-American OT Sam Baker and Rimington Award finalist Ryan Kalil, another All-American.
While USC's offense was getting acquainted the young Trojan defense stood their ground despite featuring just one senior starter in All-American DT Sedrick Ellis. The rest of the line has come together to form the Pac-10's best. Opposing teams averaged a little more than 97 rushing yards per game against the Trojans. The linebacker core is deep with Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers,
In the secondary, CB Terrell Thomas will try to put pressure on Henne's passing game. Thomas has broken up 12 passes and has recorded two forced fumbles on the year. Safety Taylor Mays has been a big factor in setting offenses back, making three interceptions for a total of 40 yards. He also has 58 stops on the season.
Keys to the Game...
Both teams feature two of the best defenses in the nation and share versatility and speed on offense. However, it will be about mental edge and who wants it more after suffering heartbreaking losses at the end of the season.
Perhaps the best player to player matchup in any BCS game,