I can’t help but wonder how things might have gone differently had Mark Bradley not played that second punt so badly. Analysts talk all the time about how a single play often changes the game. I would think the first thing any special teams coach would teach a return man is, “if the ball gets behind you and the opponent is swarming to it, let them down it!” Instead, Bradley shoved a USC player away from the ball, scooped it up and shoveled it directly to another Trojan! Not only did that set up the go-ahead touchdown for USC (and they never trailed again), it was an absolute momentum-killer for OU. I mean, the final score was 55-19, but who knows if Jason White throws up a desperate jump ball for an interception, or if OU commits the other turnovers, or if USC dominates like they do, without that play. Even Coach Stoops was flabbergasted. He came as close as I’ve ever seen to calling his own player out in a press conference after the game.
The really unfortunate part is that now for the next year we’re stuck with Auburn fans bitching that their team should have been there instead, and how they would have beaten USC, which is a bunch of bullshit. The Tigers would have gotten crushed by either team. The other unfortunate aspect is that now USC will be the Miami/Florida State of the decade, consistently overrated in every poll for the next ten years because of their back-to-back championships. In years when there aren’t enough undefeated teams to make a title game, they’ll get the nod, even when there are other teams with better credentials, just because of that.