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Keys to the game

93RD ROSE BOWL / USC VS. MICHIGAN

January 01, 2007|GARY KLEIN

No. 8 USC (10-2) vs. No. 3 Michigan (11-1)

Today at the Rose Bowl, 2 p.m., TV: Channel 7. Radio: 710, 830

1 Protective measures: USC's offensive line must hold off a Michigan front seven that helped the Wolverines amass 41 sacks and probably has been salivating since watching the tape from UCLA's win over the Trojans. End LaMarr Woodley, the Lombardi Award winner, leads the charge for a line that will try to discombobulate quarterback John David Booty. Meanwhile, the Trojans' defense will try to replicate its 2004 Rose Bowl performance, when USC blitzed from all angles and recorded nine sacks. Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne is more mobile than John Navarre, but he's no Troy Smith. USC has 29 sacks.

2 Balancing act: Booty needs to be poised and on point, and USC must rebound from its anemic 55-yard rushing effort against UCLA. It won't be easy against a Michigan defense that ranks first nationally against the run, giving up only 43 yards per game. Freshman C.J. Gable will be the starter for the Trojans, though junior Chauncey Washington appears healthy for the first time this season and could be a workhorse in this game. Michigan running back Mike Hart averages 126 yards a game and is a key to helping the Wolverines buy time for Henne.

3 Turnovers: USC played its last game on Dec. 2, Michigan on Nov. 18, so both teams could be mistake-prone. Michigan is ranked second nationally in turnover margin and has lost only three fumbles. The Trojans are 42nd in turnover margin.

*--* USC CATEGORY UM 30.3 Scoring 30.2 14.9 Points given up 14.6 253.3 Passing offense 185.8 134.7 Rushing offense 189.2 388.0 Total offense 374.9 196.0 Passing defense 211.1 97.7 Rushing defense 43.0 293.8 Total defense 254.1

*--*

-- GARY KLEIN

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