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Rose Bowl: USC vs. Michigan

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At the end of the regular season I felt that Michigan was the second best team in college football. However, right or wrong, I am one of those guys that did not want to see a rematch between Michigan and Ohio State. That's probably another reason we need to have a playoff.

Michigan has the best defensive front in America – bar none. I broadcasted the Michigan-Wisconsin game early in the season and said then that Alan Branch and Lamarr Woodley were two of the best defensive linemen in the country. They lead a defense that is No. 1 in the country against the run, giving up only 43 yards per game.

That forces offenses to be one-dimensional, and that is the one thing Southern California can't afford to be. Twice the Trojans were held to fewer than 100 yards rushing this season, and they lost both those games.

If USC is to overcome the run defense of Michigan it will take a great performance by quarterback John David Booty. He is completing 62 percent of his passes and has thrown 25 touchdowns to nine interceptions. A key for Michigan here is if they are able to put pressure on Booty without having to blitz.

USC has two big-play receivers in Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith who can really burn you if you show them too much man coverage (which you usually play when you blitz). Overall, offensively, USC has failed to generate the firepower that it did last year, and the Trojans are averaging "only" 30 points per game.

Finally, look for Michigan to try to control the ball with a running attack led by tailback Mike Hart, who has rushed for 1,515 yards. If he can force the Trojan secondary to get involved in run support you'll probably see quarterback Chad Henne going over the top to speedster Mario Manningham.

Michigan has been on a mission ever since last season when it finished 7-5. The Wolverines replaced some coaches in the offseason, refocused their attention on the little things that make you win ballgames, and came within three points of playing for the national championship.

They do have a strong nucleus of talent coming back next year, and with a win in the Rose Bowl I expect the Wolverines to open the 2007 season as the No. 1 team in the preseason polls.

Pick: Wolverines