National Championship
an Instant Classic

by Eric Gilmore

For once, the national championship lived up to the hype. Considering the month of nonstop coverage, the remarkable game quenched football fans’ appetites. The three-hour plus spectacle was a beacon for college football and the nation that tuned in.

The 41-38 Texas win had superstar characters, subplots, twists and a season full of drama squeezed into a single game. Coaches tried to outwit each other and individuals put on memorable performances. And even though Texas ended up on top, college football was the true winner.

The game was pure. No BCS controversy clouded the game with thoughts of co-national champions. And every viewer understood that the nation’s two best teams decided the championship on the field. There were no Terrell Owens tirades or players griping about how grossly they’re underpaid.

A superior brand of football captured the nation with players only garnering per diem meal contracts. The NFL is great, but college’s allure of amateurism makes it the nation’s best sport. The passion from the players, coaches and fans put the sport on a pedestal unmatched by any professional game.

And what about the players? Two Heisman trophy winners on the USC sideline couldn’t match a poised Vince Young. Young was rumored to be visibly upset, which surprised media types, on his snub of the Heisman trophy three weeks ago. The junior quarterback voiced his displeasure when he scored his third rushing touchdown on a 4th and 5 play with 19 seconds left.

Even USC’s stars made memorable plays. Matt Leinart finished with 365 yards and four points shy of immortality in college football. Reggie Bush’s didn’t crack 100 yards on the ground, but still turned the corner with ease on his lone touchdown run. LenDale White smashed through defenders and the USC record books with three touchdowns.

And the biggest sigh of relief came from the Texas head coach. Mack Brown avoided the “can’t win the big one” questions that were sure to pester him following a loss. Instead, he reversed his legacy and cemented his lore in the University of Texas history.

On the other sideline, where does Pete Carroll go to pick up the pieces? The ex-NFL head coach likely will stay in college having recently signed a seven-year extension at USC. He loses his starting quarterback and probably two star running backs. Instead of finishing on a pedestal with a hint of invincibility, Carroll is now in a neck-and-neck race with the other elite programs.


NFL Draft


Having a severe case of the east coast bias, I rarely ever get to watch USC play live. And with the hour that I went to bed, I highly doubt that I’ll get the chance very often. Even so, I figured I’d take a page out of Mel Kiper, Jr.’s book and do some NFL draft analysis.

According to every report, Young was planning to stay at Texas for his senior season. But after the Rose Bowl, the junior will be forced out. Even so, remember that very few players leave the Texas program early. Derrick Williams, Roy Williams and Ricky Williams all stayed despite guarantees about their draft status.

Despite the tantalizing millions of dollars on Young’s horizon, he needs another year of college. Athleticism isn’t the problem nor is it his leadership. Young isn’t a polished passer, has an unnatural delivery, has little arm strength and doesn’t understand defenses enough for the next level. If he leaves, it’s going to take years for him to develop into a solid NFL quarterback.

No doubt that Matt Leinart will live in collegiate infamy. But Leinart now leaves his bubble of being sprinkled with superior athletes. As Alex Smith can attest, a lowly NFL franchise is vastly different. Leinart is very cerebral, has leadership skills and the intangibles needed for the quarterback position. But pure talent, Leinart is fragile and lacks arm strength and mobility. Imagine the 2004 Heisman winner behind the Houston Texas offensive line. He wouldn’t last very long.

Reggie Bush and LenDale White will both be great NFL running backs. Bush reminds me of a younger Marshall Faulk. White has great potential, but has never been an every down back. Franchises view bruisers such as White as a hot commodity because they can complement a speedier scat back.

USC wide out Dwayne Jarrett is only a sophomore. At 6’5”, scouts are already drooling over him. He has the muscle to overpower smaller corners combined with the height to out jump them on a fade. If he continues to progress, he could be an NFL Hall of Fame player.

Texas safety Michael Huff could end up being one of the best players from Wednesday’s game. At the safety slot, Huff has a nose for the ball. He isn’t a Roy Williams type hitter, but can be a ball hawk like current NFL safeties Sean Taylor or Ed Reed.

Eric Gilmore