King Kaufman's Sports Daily

USC fly-swats Oklahoma for the national championship. Gee, maybe the Pac-10's pretty good. Ashlee Simpson, on the other hand ...

By Salon Staff
January 6, 2005 1:00AM (UTC)
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USC's 55-19 shellacking of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl Tuesday night was one of those games in which the final score didn't represent how lopsided it was. And not just because the Sooners scored nine points in garbage time. USC's 55-3 run after falling behind 7-0 didn't represent how lopsided the game was. Words can scarcely do it justice.

Southern Cal did everything but steal Oklahoma's lunch money and hold the Sooners upside down over a toilet in the boys bathroom. And the only reason they didn't take the lunch money was that football uniforms don't have pockets.


I have some free time today. Would anyone like to talk about how the Pac-10 is a weak conference?


It's kind of a national religion east of the Rockies to say that the Pac-10 is soft, whichever team wins it -- in any sport -- is overrated and everybody else is merely second-rate. That won't change with this National Championship Game butt-kicking any more than any of the other bowl-season butt-kickings administered by Pac-10 teams over the years have changed it. But it's as silly an idea as ever.


Oklahoma won the Big 12 the way you would win a first-grade spelling bee, their only challenge coming from Texas, which just seems to be hexed when it comes to beating Oklahoma. The Sooners wouldn't have won the Pac-10. They might have finished second, but it's not a stretch to picture them finishing fourth.

If you want a weak conference, look no further than the Big 12. Is it some kind of accident that for two years in a row Oklahoma has looked dominant all year long and then been exposed as paper Sooners when they left the conference and faced a top-notch defense in the title game? Running back Adrian Peterson, who looked like Eric Dickerson reborn during a stellar freshman year, looked like nothing special Tuesday night.

He is special, don't get me wrong, but USC bottled him up the way no Big 12 team could. And it's not as though USC habitually bottled up Pac-10 running backs this year. J.R. Lemon, J.J. Arrington and Dwight Wright all had good games against the Trojans. What's going on here? These are the questions I'd be happy to discuss.



This game turned on a series of Oklahoma blunders. With the score tied 7-7, Oklahoma's Mark Bradley thought it would be a good idea to try to pick up a rolling punt inside his own 5, surrounded by Trojans. He immediately had it knocked out of his hands. USC recovered, quick touchdown, 14-7.


Then quarterback Jason White, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, thought it would be a good idea to throw a pop fly of a pass into quintuple coverage. Interception. On the ensuing drive, Marcus Walker, on a corner blitz, thought it would be a good idea to stop in mid-rush, leaving no pressure on USC quarterback Matt Leinart, this year's Heisman winner, as receiver Dwayne Jarrett promenaded down the left sideline with nary a care in the world. Fifty-four-yard touchdown, 21-7.

Next possession, White threw one to Eric Wright, who unfortunately for White was wearing cardinal and who returned it to the 10. Three plays, touchdown, 28-7. And so on.

But make no mistake: Without these mistakes, USC still would have won in a rout. The muffed punt was flukey, a brain cramp, but otherwise, it was just one team playing better than the other. Leinart made great throw after great throw and his receivers made some great catches. Bush and LenDale White ran all over the place. USC got plenty of points off of turnovers and short fields, but they also put together four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more. Except for an impressive opening drive, Oklahoma's offense was nonexistent.


It wasn't Oklahoma's night, sure, but playing their best game, the Sooners lose to the Trojans by plenty. This was no fluke. If these teams could play 10 times without USC getting bored of the whole thing, they might not all be five-touchdown blowouts but the Trojans would win all 10.

"I don't have to down-talk Oklahoma," said Reggie Bush, USC's sophomore general yard-gainer. "Everyone saw the way we played, saw the way Oklahoma played. It's really pretty self-explanatory."

It is, and it was all over long before the children of all nations got anywhere near the field to dance around and twirl their ribbons during the always-endless, always unwatchable Orange Bowl halftime show, which turned out to be the most entertaining Orange Bowl halftime show I've ever seen.


This may have had something to do with the fact that I rarely watch it, but with the possibility of any further football entertainment so remote I figured I'd sit through this year's, especially after I heard the public address announcer call it "The biggest jam of the New Year, featuring multiplatinum recording artist Kelly Clarkson, country music sensation Trace Adkins and superstar Ashlee Simpson!"

There were scattered boos for superstar Ashlee Simpson, proving that the fans in Miami had no ear for surrealism. Or sarcasm.

Clarkson sang her current single, the video for which hilariously has this most famously manufactured pop star in history banging it out onstage in a club, garage-band style. Her microphone malfunctioned briefly at the start, and she spent the entire rest of the song -- an upbeat nose-thumbing breakup song during which she's supposed to look all defiant and tough-chicky -- looking like bullets were whizzing by her head.

People in no physical danger rarely look so scared. Anyone who's ever played one real club gig never wears that look onstage again. First-class entertainment, and an appropriate accompaniment to Oklahoma's meltdown.


Next came Adkins. I'm not a fan, but he quickly showed professional capability that wasn't going to be any fun so I fast-forwarded to the superstar.

Oh, my. I've been to karaoke Tuesday at Big Jim's Trucketeria, friends, and I've never seen anything like this. Sweetheart, pick a key. Learn a move or two. Try lip-syncing. Oh, wait, never mind that last one. It was a staggering display of incompetence matched only by the Oklahoma secondary. I can't remember ever seeing a performer so devoid of singing ability, stage presence, looks or anything else anyone not related would want to see twice.

When Simpson's song mercifully ended, the crowd united in booing. Sooners and Trojans, fat cats and cheap seaters, locals and tourists, 77,912 strong, they found one thing all night they could agree on: Boo!

It was great. Then the football players came back, the butt-kicking resumed, and it got kinda boring. Ashlee Simpson, superstar, is a tough act to follow. She won't be around much longer. I'm going to miss her.


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