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It's in the Defense...No Offense

You can say what you want about the USC and Michigan offenses but the key to winning the Rose Bowl will be on Defense, and if you want to win championships most of the time you win it on defense. The key to a successful defense is SPEED. Being able to get around an offensive lineman in order to pressure the QB is the backbone for success. You can have big guys that can move the line back but in the era of the mobile QB that doesn't always work.

Any big time coach knows this and is always looking for the best combination of size and speed. I can assure you that Pete Carroll knows this as he has used speed before when he beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl 3 years ago. The Michigan O line had very few answers for that tough Trojan Defense.

From the Detroit Free Press:

No one ever compliments Michigan's team speed. Speed is a commodity teams have where the sun always shines. At least that's the perception in college football these days. The Pacific-10 and Southeastern conferences are fast; the Big Ten is slow.

Never mind that Michigan players dot the NFL landscape. Or that Ohio State sent the better part of its defense to the NFL last year. Or that Wisconsin, home to gargantuan linemen, also routinely sends cornerbacks and receivers to play on Sundays.

Even Michigan's defensive coordinator, Ron English, came to Michigan thinking he'd find a big disparity in speed.

This is a good article but I am left feeling that the author is trying a little to hard to convince us of the speed that the Michigan defense has. We all saw how Michigan played this year and with players like Branch and Woodley it would be foolish to not take them seriously.

The speed issue has become a story line here at the Rose Bowl, as it often is when Michigan arrives. Sure, Texas' Vince Young ran wild against Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. But the game was decided by a field goal at the end, after Michigan had hung 37 points on one of the swiftest defenses in the country. (Young repeated the feat against USC the following season.)

... "Speed is overrated," said Michigan safety Jamal Adams. "The best quote I ever heard on speed came from Bobby Bowden, who said that he'd take execution over speed, because a 4.3 guy who can't execute can only get out of position faster."

But to me there is a bigger issue in regards to speed and you can find it in that quote above. We have all seen how aggressive the SC defense was in many games this year, so aggressive that at times they over played the ball particularly in our linebacking corps. Speed is important but so is execution and that is one thing that concerns me with the SC defense.

There is no doubt that they are fast and they can hit, see Maualuga's hit on Bruin QB Pat Cowan. But it isn't always about the speed or the hit but more about being in the right place to make the play, execution. On the other side, dealing with Woodley and Branch will be key and that means linemen like Kyle Williams need to settle down and focus. I can assure you that his multiple false start penalties in the UCLA game were committed because he psyched himself out trying to contain the speedy bruin pass rush. He faces the same thing here so it's imperative that he doesn't put himself in the same position.

Those are my only real worries about this game. Some are expecting this a low scoring game. I'm not so sure about that after watching the UM/tOSU game and the USC/UCLA game. I think it will be a moderate to high scoring game. While both defenses are great offensive powers, with similar passing games, both teams at times can be a little too much to handle. But I certainly don't think that either one of these teams will come out looking lethargic, there is just too much on the line.