MIAMI — If it's true that the game isn't over until the fat player leaves the stadium, then Oklahoma had to be a little concerned when they saw Shaquille O'Neal leaving the Orange Bowl with 4:01 still to play ... in the third quarter.
Most of your former L.A. residents, of course, are used to leaving early, but this No. 1 coronation took on the look of a BCS exhibition game after Oklahoma made the mistake of ticking off the Trojans by scoring first.
The 55-19 national championship exclamation point and the fact that USC will probably get another head start on the rest of the BCS nation when next year's preseason polls come out, speak to the most important attribute in college football these days: the head coach.
USC has Uncle Pete, and Miami Dolphin owner Wayne Huizenga has Louisiana State's Nick Saban to coach his team next year. You ought to be thrilled that Huizenga doesn't have higher standards.
Huizenga was chatting seriously with Carroll before the start of the Orange Bowl, and how would you have felt today knowing that, had Huizenga not already filled the Dolphins' vacancy?
The 49ers might have an opening if they dismiss the guy USC wanted to hire in the first place, Dennis Erickson.
But Uncle Pete had a chance to go there two years ago and never pursued it because he knew the 49ers' ownership wouldn't spend the bucks necessary to win.
Right now it doesn't appear as if Uncle Pete is going anywhere, but after the spanking he gave Bob Stoops, until now the darling of college football coaching, the suitors are going to come calling.
That's how it started with Saban, who said "No thanks" only to eventually change his mind. That's how it started with Stoops, who said no way at first but who is now holding the door open to leaving one day.
USC is a private institution, so little is known about Carroll's contract. A school spokesman would only say that Carroll signed a five-year deal four years ago, and while standard procedure is to roll those deals over each year, how do you like his bargaining power now?
I've joked with him that he's my choice to coach Los Angeles' new NFL team, and his response: "2008, huh? Interesting."
The Bruins extended Karl Dorrell's contract by two years recently, in part because he kept the score close against USC, and that's what football in Los Angeles has come to these days.
I'VE BEEN behind Carroll as long as I've been a die-hard Trojan fan. A solid two years now.
There's no need to go back much further than that and rehash newspaper commentary that had USC settling for an NFL also-ran after failing to land their top three choices.
The Trojans have had three BCS assignments in a row and they've demolished the competition. While that has put USC back on the big-time football map, Carroll has had a remarkable ability as field commander to prepare his team for every big game, every distraction and accept it as business as usual.
There might not be any tougher job in the country than coaching a team picked No. 1 before the season and keeping it there, week-after-week as every motivated giant killer takes aim.
"This a great moment for the University of Southern California for us to get an opportunity like this, and cash it in," Carroll said. "Hard to believe now, but we took this step by step."
The Trojans have won 22 in a row, begin next season on top of the world with the incentive to finish the year in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl.
"I just want to see if we can keep doing well," Carroll said, still taking it step by step.
"When you look back and someone says you got a record here or there, that's cool, but that's not what we're doing here. We're just trying to do well."
IMMEDIATELY after USC had taken a 28-7 lead over Oklahoma, the scoreboard operator posted an announcement for Sooner fans interested in drowning their sorrows: "Alcohol sale ends at the end of the third quarter."
BEFORE THE game I was chatting on the sidelines with Will Ferrell only to be interrupted by the Oklahoma cheerleaders who asked if they could have their picture taken. Ferrell said, "Sure," apparently thinking that they were talking to him.
IT WAS a reunion of former big-time L.A. sports figures on the sideline with O'Neal, Pat Riley and Gary Sheffield. I guess Paul Lo Duca couldn't get a ticket.
By the way, Sheffield asked, "What's going on with the Dodgers?"
For the record, he had a big grin on his face.
IT WAS also a reunion of the Simpsons: Jessica, Ashlee and O.J.
I ran into Jessica, who was coming out of a women's restroom on the luxury suite level, saw Ashlee's lips move while watching a muted TV on the same level (so I can't
say for sure if she was actually
singing), but never crossed paths with O.J., thank goodness, who reportedly had plans to attend the game.
THE TROJANS were playing in the FedEx-sponsored Orange Bowl, but as several e-mailers pointed out, they shipped Orange Bowl tickets to their season-ticket holders via DHL.
THE NEW YORK POST'S Mark Cannizzaro wrote this week: "If you watch the Jets offense and wonder if their offensive coordinator has any feel for the game in his play calling, you're not alone.... It's likely that Herman Edwards has seen enough of this and [he] will lose his job whenever the Jets' postseason is finished."
Just thought you might be interested in an update on the Trojans' previous head coach, Paul Hackett.
T.J. Simers can be reached at email@example.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.