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Trojan antidote

Looking forward to the National Title game, but already tired of the hype? If so, you should enjoy Jonathan Chait's piece at Slate, "Trojan Farce." I sure did.

Chait's wrath is cast upon the boys at ESPN (naturally), who have been comparing the '05 Trojans to the great champions of old, even though they still have one game to play against a formidable Texas team. And they're getting it all wrong, from Chait's point of view:

For instance, the ESPN crew discussed a hypothetical game between USC and the 1997 Michigan Wolverines. That Michigan team had a spotty offense, but its defense was phenomenal, allowing less than nine points a game. The Wolverines had probably the best pass defense in college history, with 23 interceptions and just five touchdown passes allowed. It had Charles Woodson, who bucked history by winning the Heisman Trophy as a defensive player, along with three other future NFL cornerbacks. They held what was then the highest-scoring team in the history of the Pac 10 to 16 points.

What did ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit predict as the final score? 34-17, Trojans. ESPN's Mark May? USC, 49-14. Will the reader please note that mediocre defenses like Arizona State and Notre Dame held USC well below 49 points this year?

My favorite, though, was the matchup with the 1991 Washington Huskies. That team outscored its opponents by a staggering average margin of 42-9. Herbstreit's conclusion? "There's no way that that defense could stop SC." May: "It wouldn't even be close."

Chait has much more, and a track record in sniffing out this stuff (see the notes at the bottom). I'm with him on every point, although I find one ESPN pundit's observation believable: that Bush and Leinart (while spectacular) are the beneficiaries of a superb offensive line. The Longhorn defense will neutralize that to some degree. So I expect a dogfight, and will take Texas and the 7.5 points.