WOLVERINES READY TO FEAST.
Did you hear? They're coming with major attitude. Snarling and breathing flames. Here come the Michigan Wolverines, and they are one ticked-off football team.
They feel cheated, and understandably so. They were jumped over in the final Bowl Championship Series poll by Florida, all because voters weren't interested in a rematch in the national championship game.
So they're coming to the Rose Bowl to meet USC, ready to prove to the Trojans and poll voters and every living American that they are the team that should have been matched up again against Ohio State for the title.
They're looking for a good pounding, to make a statement, to show up pollsters and bellyachers who didn't believe that 42-39 loss at Ohio State was deserving of a trip to Arizona.
USC just happens to be the team they have to take it out on. The Rose Bowl just happens to be the stage.
Nothing personal. They're on a mission and not interested in anger management.
So if steam's rising from their pores, veins are bulging, voices raised another octave, they're eyeing the Trojans like meat on a plate, hey, that's just the way it is.
Now there's nothing like an irate overgrown weasel, but you have to wonder if this ticked-off approach could prove beneficial to the Michigan cause.
``They might have something to prove, but you can't put lipstick on a pig and turn it into a horse,'' said USC defensive end/zoologist Lawrence Jackson. ``It is what it is.
``They're going to be the same team we've seen on film throughout the course of the year. They might have a little bit more intensity, but they still have to play. We'll see what happens.''
There were suspicions the Trojans were unable to play at the same high level for four consecutive weeks when they were beaten 13-9 by UCLA in their final regular season game.
The Bruins appeared the more intense, focused team. The one that played like something big was at stake. A USC victory, and it would be the Trojans playing Ohio State in the national championship game.
If USC had simply been able to take care of business against UCLA, Michigan doesn't complain as loudly at being stiffed by the voters. One more reason for Michigan to take it out on USC.
USC, naturally, should be a little upset by its situation, too. The Trojans had a shot at the national championship and were outplayed by a team they were supposed to knock into RanchoCucamonga.
``Yeah, everybody's pissed off,'' USC linebacker Dallas Sartz said. ``No wants to be here. We had bigger plans, to be in the national championship game, but what happened, happened, so we're here playing in a great game against a great team, so you can't be too mad about it.''
Sartz has heard about the Wolverines coming in with attitude, and he figures that simply makes for a level playing field.
``It's going to be the Pissed Off Bowl Game,'' Sartz said.
The 11-1 Wolverines haven't played since that Ohio State game on Nov. 18, so they've had plenty of time to evolve from despondent over the loss to incensed over getting snubbed by the BCS.
Playing all fired up can benefit a team, but not always.
``It definitely can,'' USC linebacker Brian Cushing said. ``A team can convert energy in a positive way. But it can go in a negative way, too, thinking, `We shouldn't be here,' and having a negative outlook on the game.
``As far as us, we treat every game the same. Not who it is and what it is. This is an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl against a great team like Michigan, and so the enthusiasm level is definitely up and the focus is there.''
There is that, of course, but this is less about the Trojans being able to rebound from a difficult loss than going up against a team with an extra spring in its step, a team playing with heightened intensity because it is seriously fuming.
``There's always going to be a little more violent fire in the belly when you have a chip on your shoulder,'' Sartz said. ``But what it all comes down to is, it's still going to be the same team out there. Same offensive schemes, same defensive schemes, same players. It's not going to change anything too much.''
Jackson said he's seen it work the other way plenty of times, too. Teams come out all fired up, the adrenaline ultimately wanes and then trouble sets in.
``I don't think they can play the whole game that way,'' Jackson said. ``Especially when Matt (Leinart) and Reggie (Bush) were here, you saw teams come out really excited and it kind of worked against them.
``After you come out at halftime, we generally just kicked your butt because you don't have anything left. We motivate ourselves. We have pride. That's what's going to get us over the hump. Not being in the Rose Bowl game or losing to UCLA.''
Jackson is the epitome of Pete Carroll's even-keeled approach of treating each game as a separate universe. Not getting too high or low.
But now it is the opponent charging into the Arroyo Seco like Visigoths from the north, hide the women, children and USC song girls.
The Wolverines are coming, and they are not happy. Maybe they'll play all fired up. And maybe it won't mean a thing.
``There's nothing you can possibly do about it,'' Sartz said. ``Those guys are going to play their game, we're going to play ours.''
And the emotional factor will be worth watching.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 27, 2006|
|Previous Article:||DAILY NEWS ALL-AREA FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR DYNAMIC DUO TYLER, CLAUSEN WREAKED HAVOC FOR OAKS CHRISTIAN.|
|Next Article:||ROSE BOWL: EXPERIENCE BENEFITS HENNE.|