USC Wins AP Title!

Jan 5, 2004

AP Football Writer

Pete Carroll was right. Southern California had nothing to worry about theselast three days.

The Trojans are champions of The Associated Press college football poll.

USC earned 48 of the 65 first-place votes early Monday to finish No. 1 inthe nation and earn a share of their first national title in 25 years.

The Trojans (12-1) beat out USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll champion LSU, whichdefeated Oklahoma 21-14 in Bowl Championship Series title game Sunday night inthe Sugar Bowl.

USC beat Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl last Thursday to stake its claim tothe title.

'We're glad it concluded in the fashion we all hoped it would,' saidCarroll, the Trojans' coach. 'We're proud of that. We had a terrific footballseason. We're really excited for that.'

The coaches were obligated to crown LSU (13-1) even though USC held the topspot in their poll going into the bowls.

Three of the 63 coaches broke the agreement by voting the Trojans No. 1, butit wasn't enough to win the poll.

'The argument about the system is out there and that's probably good,'Carroll said. 'We did what we could, impressing the people in the AP poll andthe coaches who felt free to vote.'

It's the first split national championship since 1997, when Michigan won theAP poll and Nebraska was the coaches' choice. The BCS started the followingseason with the goal of choosing an undisputed champion.

In each of the first five years, only one major team finished undefeated,making the choice simple. But with three top one-loss teams at the end of theregular season, chaos reigned this season.

'It doesn't bother me,' LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais said. 'It'slike winning the lottery, but you have to share the Powerball with anotherperson. It's still a good deal.'

And with no playoff system in college football, the debate about who's No. 1won't get resolved this season.

'I think there'd be an awful lot of people who would love the matchup,'Carroll said. 'It would be exciting for the country. It's too bad it can'thappen.'

USC was left out of the BCS title game despite being the top team in bothpolls, while Oklahoma made it after losing the Big 12 championship game 35-7 toKansas State.

The Trojans have been involved in three of the 11 split titles in collegefootball history. In 1978, they won the coaches' poll while Alabama won the APpoll, and in 1974, the coaches picked USC while the media picked Oklahoma.

The Trojans hadn't won the AP poll since 1972, when they were the undisputedchampion. That was also the last time a Pac-10 team won the AP title.Washington won the coaches' poll in 1991.

USC has four AP titles overall, tied with Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio Statefor the fifth-most.

There have been nine different champions in the past nine seasons, thelongest stretch in the history of the poll.

In the final, post-bowl AP poll, USC received 1,608 points to beat out LSUby 32 points. Oklahoma was third, followed by Ohio State and Miami.

The top five in the coaches' poll was LSU, USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State andMiami.

Carroll won the title in his third year at USC, capping the Trojans' returnto prominence after years of mediocrity. The Trojans went 31-29 in the fiveyears before Carroll arrived in Los Angeles. After losing five of his firstseven games, Carroll is 27-4.

The Trojans began this season eighth in the poll and made it to third beforelosing 34-31 in triple-overtime to California on Sept. 27. After falling to No.10, USC worked its way up the poll and took over the top spot in the finalregular-season poll.

Michigan, Georgia, Iowa, Washington State and Miami of Ohio rounded out theTop 10.

Florida State was next, followed by Texas, Mississippi, Kansas State,Tennessee, Boise State, Maryland, Purdue, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Utah, Clemson, Bowling Green, Florida and TCU rounded out the poll.

The SEC and Big Ten led all conferences with five teams apiece, followed byfour for the Big 12, three for the ACC, and two each for the Pac-10 andMid-American.

The Big East, WAC, Mountain West and Conference USA each had one team,leaving the Sun Belt conference as the only Division I-A league without a teamin the final poll.

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