- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

LOS ANGELES — All-American quarterback Vince Young has a Texas-sized chip on his shoulder.

While the college football world braces for Wednesday night’s Rose Bowl showdown between top-ranked USC and No.2 Texas, Young keeps audibling to the same play: disrespect, on two.

“To hear some people talk, there will only be one offense in the game this week and only one team in the Rose Bowl,” Young said Saturday. “But who am I to run my mouth about something like that?”

Probably the same guy who first exhibited a rather ugly Avis complex at last month’s Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony, where moments after finishing runner-up to USC’s Reggie Bush in one of the most lopsided votes in the award’s history, Young said:

“I’m just disappointed for my fans, especially my teammates, my family back at home. … I’m just basically emotionally upset. This gives me a little bit more edge to go out there and play now.”

Wow, stick that moment in the bitter bridesmaid hall of fame. And it seems a month of soaking in the holiday spirit hasn’t done much to ease Young’s angst.

The Longhorns’ dual-threat dynamo is feeling even more underappreciated as the Rose Bowl hype builds to a crescendo. Basically, Young isn’t feeling enough love in Los Angeles. During Saturday’s press conference, he bemoaned the lack of respect being given to all things Longhorn — from the Texas defense to his backfield mates … to the team’s backups.

“You’ve got Quan Cosby coming from [pro] baseball, coming in making plays. [The media] doesn’t say anything about him,” said Young of the team’s 23-year-old freshman flanker, who has just two starts and 13 catches to his credit. “For these guys to do what they’re doing, not caring about [publicity], and just keep playing and knowing that their teammates and their family and their coaches respect them a whole lot, I really applaud them for doing that.”

At some level, one has to appreciate Young’s pluck and solidarity. He’s a fantastic team guy. But he’s also suffering from a serious case of myopia. Because if the media has been fascinated with the Trojans this season and fixated on exploring their stories this week, it’s with good reason.

Quite frankly, the Trojans (12-0) are in the midst of one of the most remarkable runs the sport has ever seen at any level. They’ve won 34 straight games, are vying for an unprecedented third straight Associated Press national title and have earned every ounce of the last two Heismans.

Behind Young, the Texas offense is superb, even electric. But the Trojans offense is downright epic, likely the most dynamic the college game has ever seen, and with apologies to the Indianapolis Colts, quite possibly the most talent-laden at any level.

As a unit, the Trojans led the nation in total offense by an immense margin. Their 580.3 yards a game are fifth highest in the game’s history. And three of the four teams that rank ahead of them in that category (BYU in 1983 and Houston in 1989 and 1990) played in decidedly inferior conferences.

The Trojans averaged a mind-numbing 7.54 yards a play and 6.55 yards per rush this season and still have outside shots at topping the NCAA Division I-A records in those categories held by Army (7.9 in 1946) and Nebraska (7.0 in 1995), respectively.

Individually, USC is the first team in history to boast two 1,000-yard rushers (Bush and power back LenDale White), a 3,000-yard passer (2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart) and a 1,000-yard receiver (6-foot-5 sophomore game-breaker Dwayne Jarrett).

Bush might well be the best back on the planet. The 6-foot, 200-pound junior made a mockery of the NCAA record for yards per carry by backs with more than 150 totes, gaining 1,658 yards on just 187 carries (8.9 yards) to decimate the mark established by Nebraska’s Mike Rozier in 1983 (7.8 yards). USC’s “President” recorded a ludicrous 36 plays of 20 yards or more this season, scoring 18 touchdowns on plays that averaged 31.4 yards. There’s a reason Bush won the Heisman by racking up the highest percentage of available points in the award’s history.

And Leinart will finish his career with the fifth highest pass efficiency rating in history. The fifth-year senior enters the Rose Bowl with 10,238 passing yards, 98 touchdowns and just 22 interceptions. And only Toledo’s Chuck Ealy (35-0 from 1969 to ‘71) has won a higher percentage of his starts than Leinart (37-1).

Throw in White, Jarrett, fellow flanker Steve Smith, tight end Dominique Byrd and an offensive line boasting a combined 143 starts, and it’s tough to find USC’s offensive equal in the game’s history.

“Watching them is like a highlight tape, it’s not game film,” said Texas linebacker Rashad Bobino, who unlike his quarterback has an appreciation for historical context. “Watching Reggie Bush running over people, Matt Leinart fitting balls in holes, Dwayne Jarrett, LenDale White running through people, tight ends dragging defenders. And their guards, oh, my God, taking linebackers and just throwing them 15, 10 yards back. Looking at them, it’s like, ‘This is a team? Man, I see why they’re No. 1 in the nation.’”

And they’re No.1 on a sports landscape that loves offense and superstars, Hollywood and high octane. When your only other dynasty options are Bill Belichick’s methodical New England Patriots or dispassionate Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs, it’s easy to understand why America is fascinated with the Trojans.

The fact of the matter is that Wednesday’s title game is all about the Trojans. And even if the Longhorns (12-0) shock the world and defy the oddsmakers by pulling off the upset, Young and Co. had better come to grips with the reality of their supporting-actor status. Because even a Texas victory is likely to feel more like a USC loss.

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