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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Florida, USC in Rose Bowl -- just not against each other

Gators should be in Pasadena playing for a BCS title against Texas about a week after the Trojans play Penn State on New Year's Day.

September 03, 2009|Chris Dufresne

Fans of defense, jet-quick tailbacks, superstar coaches and pulp-free orange juice are finally going to get their wish:

USC and Florida in the Rose Bowl.

"It would be awesome," Florida senior quarterback Tim Tebow speculated this summer during a visit Los Angeles. "It would be exciting. I have so much respect for SC."

Tebow took an official visit to USC before deciding on Florida, where he has won the Heisman Trophy and helped the Gators to two national titles.

Unfortunately, there is one teeny-tiny problem with this expected match-up: Florida and USC will be playing in Pasadena on different days.

This is the year, remember, Granddaddy gets two games as part of college football's double-host format. The Rose Bowl will stage its traditional Jan. 1 game followed by the Bowl Championship Series title game Jan. 7.

We have Florida and USC as part of the festivities -- against different opponents.

Our projected BCS bowl lineup, subject to the precarious and fickle nature of the BCS, the vagaries of conference tiebreaker rules, bad officiating, a tipped-pass off a player's helmet, hackers infiltrating Jeff Sagarin's computer, or the renegade in the USA Today poll who refuses to vote his archrival No. 1:

BCS TITLE GAME

Florida vs. Texas

It's not Florida-USC but . . . it's better? This pick is as much about preseason poll position and scheduling as it is about the talent.

If Florida and Texas don't lose, this is probably your game because these teams begin the year at No. 1 and No. 2 and play in two of the tougher conferences -- Southeastern and Big 12.

In 2004, USC and Oklahoma started No. 1 and No. 2, both went undefeated and met for the BCS title. Same thing happened in 2005 with USC and Texas.

Florida and Texas also get breaks in scheduling. Florida's toughest nonconference game is Florida State, but the game is in Gainesville. The Gators' other out-of-league opponents are Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International. Florida also would not have to play preseason top-10 teams Alabama or Mississippi until the SEC title game.

Texas' toughest non-conference game is at Wyoming, with the season defined by a three-game conference stretch against Oklahoma, Missouri, and Oklahoma State. Texas swept those schools in 2008.

ROSE BOWL

USC vs. Penn State

A rematch of last year's lopsided game is tolerable because the Rose Bowl gets to keep its traditional Pacific 10 vs. Big Ten matchup while also pitting Nos. 1 and 2 in the title game. The perfect scenario would be Penn State and USC being ranked Nos. 3 and 4.

Penn State has a roll-over nonconference schedule and gets Big Ten favorite Ohio State in Happy Valley. There's a chance the Nittany Lions could be undefeated and left out of the title game but in position to make a statement in Pasadena before the BCS championship.

USC is down to two returning starters on defense now that cornerback Shareece Wright has been declared academically ineligible. The offense should be potent but will start with true freshman Matt Barkley at quarterback. With away games this year at Ohio State, Oregon, California and Notre Dame, the Trojans may drop a game or two along the way -- but not enough to keep them from another Pac-10 title.

SUGAR BOWL

Mississippi vs. Boise State

The New Orleans-based bowl is thrilled to get Ole Miss and the entire extended Archie Manning family to replace Florida as the SEC anchor. Boise State is a must-take by finishing in the top 12 despite losing one game -- we'll let you take a quack (hint) at guessing which one, by one point.

FIESTA BOWL

Oklahoma vs. Rutgers

The Fiesta selects Oklahoma as a replacement for Texas but passes on Boise State after the entire city of Norman signs a "never again" petition.

The Fiesta acquiesces and welcomes the Big East champion Scarlet Knights, who recover from a shocking loss to Howard on Sept. 12 to finish 11-1.

Oklahoma is officially on BCS-bowl lethargy watch after losing its last five major bowls. The Sooners were rolling early in the century, winning the national title in 2000 and then the Rose Bowl after the 2002 season. Since, though, the Sooners have lost three BCS championship games and two Fiesta Bowls.

ORANGE BOWL

Notre Dame vs. North Carolina

The Irish finish 9-3 and become BCS eligible on the cut line (No. 14), then big-foot several higher-ranked schools to save the Orange Bowl from a ratings disaster repeat of last year's Cincinnati-Virginia Tech game.

Butch Davis' North Carolina squad earns the automatic bid as Atlantic Coast Conference champion. The Tar Heels then get back to the important work at hand: basketball.

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com; twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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