USC came with a No. 1 plan

Craig James
Yahoo! Sports

PASADENA, Calif. – Now those computers are scratching their heads or their CPUs or whatever it is they scratch. The folks who vote in the polls seem pretty smart. USC proved its title worthiness on the Rose Bowl's soft grass, and emphatically.

I said when the Bowl Championship Series pairings were announced that Michigan's offensive line was the envy of every team in America. But the Trojans' front seven pummeled them. Chris Perry never had a chance.

USC devised – and executed – a brilliant defensive game plan. The sophistication level that Pete Carroll dealt with during his years in the NFL has enabled him to game plan above and beyond the usual college coach. Give him 3½ weeks of preparation and the caliber of athletes he has assembled, and most teams aren't going to be able to deal with it. Not even great teams like Michigan.

Of course, Carroll's assistants have brains, too. Norm Chow has built an offensive machine that was totally prepared for any situation that arose on Thursday. Chow has groomed a first-year starting quarterback (Matt Leinart) who had numbers that stack up favorably with his Heisman Trophy-winning predecessor.

Leinart even caught a touchdown pass, but the play that summed up the day for me was when USC had third and 12 at its own 31 with about 8 minutes left. One Wolverines stop and Michigan could get the ball back with a chance to cut the deficit to a touchdown.

Michigan blitzed and Leinart calmly hit tight end Gregg Guenther Jr., of all players, up the middle for 18 yards and a drive-prolonging first down. Leinart didn't have to guess where Guenther would be. He just went straight to the tight end.

We'll be keeping an eye on Leinart in lots of future Heisman watches – again.

With so many gifted young players returning and a tremendous staff, USC will be the likely preseason No. 1 next year. In both polls. And the rest of the Pac-10 has a lot of catching up to do to deny the Trojans many return trips to Pasadena.

Before I catch the plane, I've got to give a big tip of cap to the USC marching band. After the game had ended, they treated us and the many remaining fans to a marvelous rendition of a bunch of different songs. The cheerleaders and fans chimed in, and it was an awesome display of school spirit during a shining moment for the university. Fight on.

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