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January 01, 2008
by Ryan Hudson
Rose Bowl Presented by Citi
Jan. 1, 4:30pm
Teams: #13 Illinois Fighting Illini (9-3) vs. #6 Southern California Trojans (10-2)
Betting Line: USC is favored by 13.5 points.
Brief History: Nicknamed "The Granddaddy of Them All," the Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game running, and often considered the most prestigious. Originally titled the "Tournament East-West football game," the Rose Bowl was first played on January 1, 1902, starting the tradition of New Year's Day bowl games. The inaugural game featured Michigan crushing Stanford, 49-0.
Fun Fact: The first Rose bowl game was so lopsided that for the next 15 years, the Tournament of Roses officials ran chariot races, ostrich races, and other various events instead of football. But, on New Year's Day in 1916, football returned to stay as Washington State University defeated Brown University in the first annual Rose Bowl.
Notable Schwag for the Players: Sony Bravia surround sound system, Sony headphones, Fossil watch, Under Armour backpack and New Era cap.
Preview: On paper, this is the most lopsided of the BCS bowl match-ups. USC is making its 32nd appearance at the Rose Bowl, and its third straight after beating Michigan 32-18 last season. Illinois last appeared in 1984, when they lost 45-9 to UCLA. Today will mark just their fifth time playing in the Rose Bowl.
The Trojans are led by quarterback John David Booty. After he, fractured the tip of his middle finger against Stanford and missed the next three games, Booty has returned to play well, guiding his team to four straight victories. The senior, who completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,106 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions, has thrown eight TDs and one interception in the last four contests.
USC's second-ranked defense, which allows 258.8 yards per contest, has given up an average of 12.7 points during its four-game winning streak - more than three fewer than its season average of 16.0. The Trojans allow just 79.2 rushing yards per game, and that run defense will be tested by Illinois' fifth-ranked rushing attack that averages 266.2 yards and is led by Big Ten offensive player of the year Rashard Mendenhall. The junior set single-season school records with 1,526 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
He's complemented by sophomore quarterback Juice Williams, who threw for 1,498 yards with 13 TDs and nine interceptions, and ran for a career-high 774 yards. Williams, the first Illinois quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a career, teams with the powerful Mendenhall to try and lead the Illini past the mighty Trojans.