TONIGHT: NO. 1 SOUTHERN CAL VS. NO. 2 OKLAHOMA
The Orange Bowl is being portrayed as a game for the ages, a matchup of unbeaten teams that are statistically similar, that have a slew of all-star caliber players and that have been destined for this game since the start of the season. The Trojans (12-0) are led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart. The Sooners (12-0) are led by Jason White, who was third in the Heisman balloting after winning the award last season. Each has a Heisman finalist in the backfield. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson rushed for more than 100 yards in 11 of 12 games; USC's Reggie Bush lines up in the backfield but also plays receiver and returns kickoffs. Both defenses are allowing less than 14 points per game. "Hopefully the buildup will be matched by the play, and we'll put together a great football game that will be worthy of this kind of billing," said coach Pete Carroll, whose Trojans shared the national title last season with LSU; Oklahoma lost to LSU in the BCS title game in the Sugar Bowl. For the first time in history, teams that began the season ranked Nos. 1 and 2 are meeting in a bowl game. It is the first time two Heisman winners have faced off and the first time four Heisman finalists have played in the same game. The programs have combined to win 13 wire service national championships, including two in the past four years. Given the apparent closeness of the matchup, the game could hinge on a big special-teams player or turnovers.
_ BOB HARIG, Times staff writer