BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Anticipated all season, set up with matching blowouts and relentlessly hyped for the past month, the Rose Bowl everyone's been waiting for is finally here.
No. 1 Southern Cal against No. 2 Texas, with their perfect records, potent offenses, glittery stars, rich tradition and eye-popping pageantry - playing for the national championship in Pasadena tonight.
The game of the year! The game of the century! The game of all time!
Or just another day at work for two-time defending champ Southern California?
"This is what we have really prepared to do and hopefully built ourselves toward this," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday. "You can't get a big enough game for us."
Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush have led the Trojans to 34 straight victories. Against Texas, they'll become the first Heisman duo to play together in a college game as Southern Cal goes for a record third consecutive national title.
The Longhorns also are 12-0, and they've won 19 in a row. Heisman runner-up Vince Young is the dynamic dual-threat who leads an offense that has more than matched Southern Cal touchdown for touchdown.
Texas puts up 51 points per game, Southern Cal 50. The Trojans are favored by a touchdown.
"We don't have to be the best team of all time, just tomorrow night," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
It's already the best game Bowl Championship Series officials could have imagined in their eight-year history. No doubts about who belongs this season.
Plus, the weather will apparently cooperate. After storms soaked the area earlier this week, clear skies are in the forecast.
Everything, it seems, is set.
"These two teams have been talked about every day for a month," Brown said. "Good teams enjoy the hype."
Young returns to the site of his breakout performance.
The 230-pound quarterback with sprinter's speed made last year's Rose Bowl look like a pickup game, running for 192 yards and four touchdowns to beat Michigan, 38-37.
"From the Rose Bowl, it kind of just took off and carried over," Young said. "A lot of guys on the team, we knew what it takes and understand what we need to do to play well to get to this point."
Young brought a new dimension to Texas. The guy many thought would never complete enough passes to lead a team to a championship threw for 2,769 yards and 26 touchdowns this season.
The Longhorns began the season ranked No. 2 in the country behind Southern Cal - and that's the way it stayed as each team stormed through unbeaten seasons, punctuated with fierce finales on Dec. 3.
Texas wrapped up its return to the Rose Bowl with a 70-3 rout of Colorado for the Big 12 championship. A few hours later, Southern Cal locked up a second straight trip to the BCS title game with a 66-19 romp over UCLA.
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