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No Controversy Heading into This Year's Rose Bowl


College football now has the championship pairing most people wanted and expected. This past weekend, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas each finished undefeated seasons and crushed their final opponent to set up the national title game, the Rose Bowl, on January 4th. Commentator John Feinstein joins me now. Good morning.

JOHN FEINSTEIN (Commentator): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Well, for once, there's no controversy at all about the two teams and their championship game.

FEINSTEIN: You're right. For once, the BCS got lucky. There are only two undefeated teams, unlike last year when there were three or unlike the year before when there were none. And Southern Cal and Texas, as you said, destroyed their opponents on Saturday. Southern Cal beat a good UCLA team and Texas was ahead 70-to-3 in the third quarter against a not-so-good Colorado team.

MONTAGNE: Well, given then these last weekend's performances, does that mean the system works?

FEINSTEIN: No. No, it's no...

MONTAGNE: I didn't think you thought so.

FEINSTEIN: Absolutely not. It means the system got lucky this year. We still don't know, because of the way the system works, how Southern Cal would have done had it played against Southeast Conference teams or Big Ten teams. And the same with Texas. They might very well have beaten them, but until you get a system where teams have to play one another in postseason where everyone gets a chance, not just two teams get a chance to play for the national title, whether undefeated or not, you won't have a fair discussion on who the national champion is in many years. This year we do.

MONTAGNE: So let's talk a little bit about USC-Texas. There will be a lot at stake for them, but for different reasons.

FEINSTEIN: Well, Mack Brown, the Texas coach, has been close to greatness on a number occasions, but has never gotten to the championship game or had a chance to win a national championship. This is his best team. They finally beat Oklahoma, which had been their jinx team every year, this year. And on the other hand, Southern Cal, they've now won 34 straight games. They have a chance to win an unprecedented third straight national championship. Reggie Bush is almost certainly going to win the Heisman trophy, their brilliant running back. So it will be a matchup of superstars and probably the highest rated college football game we've seen in many years.

MONTAGNE: And do any of the other bowls intrigue you?

FEINSTEIN: Oh, yeah. There's one other bowl that intrigues me. Penn State, Florida State in the Orange Bowl because it's the two winningest coaches of all time, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, both of whom have been much criticized, especially Paterno, who had three losing seasons in four before this year. They came within one play, Renee, Penn State, of going undefeated. And that's where the system would have really failed. If Penn State had gone undefeated this year and didn't get a chance to play for the national championship, it would have been a travesty. That's what I mean when I say the BCS people got very lucky.

MONTAGNE: And John, just briefly, I hear that your favorite game of the season was this past Saturday, Army-Navy.

FEINSTEIN: Army-Navy. It doesn't decide national championships. It's still the most emotional football game of the year. Navy won for a fourth straight year. They're going to a bowl for a third straight year, Renee, which is great, but the game was more competitive than it had been in a while and it's still the best moment in college sports every year when the two teams stand together for the playing of the alma maters, especially when we're at war as we are right now.

MONTAGNE: John, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein. His latest book is "Next Man Up: Behind the Lines in Today's NFL."

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
John Feinstein
Every week since 1988, Morning Edition listeners have tuned in to hear reports and commentaries on events such as the NBA Finals, Wimbledon, the NFL playoffs, the MLB All-Star game and the U.S. Open golf championship from award-winning author John Feinstein. He has also contributed to The Washington Post and Sporting News Radio since 1992, America Online since 2000 and Golf Digest and Gold World since 2003.

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