Team unity has been one of the biggest reasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' successful turnaround in 2005. But that chemistry will be temporarily disrupted as two players will square off on Wednesday, January 4 and root for their respective alma maters in the BCS national championship game.
Chris Simms, who quarterbacked Texas from 1999-2002, and Brian Kelly, who was a cornerback at Southern Cal from 1994-97, have school pride riding on the outcome of the game between the two-time national champion Trojans, who enter the Rose Bowl as the nation's number one team, and the number two-ranked Longhorns. Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds caught up with Kelly and Simms at One Buccaneer Place to get their analysis on the BSC title game.
CB BRIAN KELLY DISCUSSES WHY THE TROJANS WILL WIN
"We've been there before, and I think the biggest mismatch that nobody is talking about is (Texas head coach) Mack Brown versus (USC head coach) Pete Carroll. That pretty much speaks for itself. Mack Brown has a history of struggling in the big games and preparing his teams. They've never been in this situation before. We're familiar with it. We're talented enough to beat them, but more so, we have more experience."
QB CHRIS SIMMS EXPLAINS WHY THE LONGHORNS WILL BE VICTORIOUS
"I think we're an extremely talented team with a lot of depth at just about every position. In my mind, we've got the best player in the country playing quarterback. I know (Heisman Trophy-winning running back) Reggie Bush is awesome, and I'm not taking anything away from him or (quarterback) Matt Leinhart. But I think without (quarterback) Vince Young, Texas is 9-2 this year. If the Trojans didn't have Matt Leinhart or didn't have Reggie Bush, I think they would still be undefeated. Vince is a big difference maker.
"This is a National Championship game that happens to be in the Rose Bowl. To us, it's a home game. You have to look at it like that, too. They've got some traveling to do and it's going to be more hoopla for those guys. We'll be more comfortable, confident and relaxed. Matt Leinhart is a quarterback who has been in that situation before and we'll have a better game."
SIMMS STATES THAT TEXAS WINNING THE ROSE BOWL LAST YEAR HELPS THE LONGHORNS
"I think the fact that we won the Rose Bowl last year gives us an advantage. Just the fact that we were there last year helps. It's not a new surrounding. The events that lead up to the game won't be anything new. We'll be strong as far as the crowd goes out there. I wouldn't be surprised if we're at least split or even have more than USC has in terms of fan base in the stands. We're strong out in California. Last year we were 70-30 when we played Michigan, and Michigan was supposed to travel strong."
KELLY SAYS THAT STOPPING VINCE YOUNG IS THE KEY FOR USC
"I was a little worried about stopping Vince Young when it looked like we would be playing Texas in this game about a month ago, but our defense has been playing better over the last couple of games. Pete Carroll has a great defensive mind and will get those guys prepared and know the strengths and weaknesses of that offense and be able to exploit some matchups. We'll win this game with a great game plan from Pete Carroll."
SIMMS SAYS THAT WINNING THE BATTLE OF THE TRENCHES IS THE KEY FOR TEXAS
"We've got a lot of talent, especially up front. I would say that along the offensive and defensive lines, that's where we can kind of pound away. If we can limit some of their big plays - watch out. If it becomes kind of a tight, slow-paced game, Texas can control both sides of the line of scrimmage. Then it will only be a matter of time before we pull away."
KELLY'S USC OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE PLAYERS WHO MUST STEP UP
"I think the key guy on that offense is going to be running back LenDale White. If we can get a power game going and control the clock, that will be huge and will likely mean that we'll win. On defense, I think Darnell Bing, the safety, is going to have a big game for us. Bing can keep the big run from happening and he's going to control the middle of the field if they try to have some passing game going. Bing can stop Vince Young in the open field and limit his big runs. Those are the two guys I'm counting on to have big games and step up for us."
SIMMS' TEXAS OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE PLAYERS WHO MUST STEP UP
"On offense, without a doubt the key is number 10 [quarterback Vince Young], but I don't want to say that. I'll say (receiver-running back-return man) Ramonce Taylor. You know Vince is going to do his thing, but we need one other guy on offense to make some spectacular plays. He'll do it. I think Taylor will have a big game. On defense, the defensive line has to do a good job, but (safety) Michael Huff, who is the Jim Thorpe Award winner, is going to have to play big. There will be about five or six times where he will be in the open field against Reggie Bush and he has to make sure that he makes those tackles to stop a 10-yard gain from becoming a 50-yard gain."
KELLY'S PREDICTION: USC 38, Texas 23
SIMMS' PREDICTION: Texas 23, USC 17
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