RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
College football's bowl season is building towards a climax. Yesterday, there were six bowl games. Tonight is the Orange Bowl and tomorrow the national championship will be decided when Texas faces Southern California in the Rose Bowl. Commentator John Feinstein joins me now.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So let's begin with yesterday's games. I guess Ohio State vs. Notre Dame was the highlight.
FEINSTEIN: Yeah, six games yesterday and that Fiesta Bowl was certainly the one most people were looking to. Notre Dame had had this rebound season under their new coach Charlie Weis who got a 10-year contract midway through the season. But Ohio State is a team that only lost to Texas, which is in the national title game as you mentioned, and Penn State, which is 10-and-1, and they dominated them and really kind of exposed Notre Dame as a team that played great in one game, the loss to Southern California, but if you look at their nine wins, only two of them came against teams with winning records. So they're not quite ready to build that statue to Charlie Weis just yet after yesterday.
MONTAGNE: What about other teams? Any of them catch your eye?
FEINSTEIN: Yeah, the biggest surprise by far yesterday was West Virginia coming out of the depleted Big East Conference, a conference that lost Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami to the ACC. Some people have talked about whether the Big East will continue to get a BCS bowl bid with all that money because it is so weak. They've lost their other three ball games and West Virginia went into Atlanta, where they moved the Sugar Bowl there from New Orleans and beat the University of Georgia, hanging on with a fake punt, one of the gutsiest, silliest plays I've seen in college football in years in the final two minutes to give the Big East some respectability at the end of this horrible season for the league.
MONTAGNE: You know, and, John, tonight's Orange Bowl--it's not a championship but it certainly is a fascinating matchup.
FEINSTEIN: Well, no question, the two winningest coaches of all time, Bobby Bowden from Florida State, 359 wins; Joe Paterno from Penn State, 353 wins. But beyond that, Renee, everybody, almost everybody in college football was begging Paterno to retire last year, 78 years old, three losing seasons in four, the program seemed to have fallen apart. He comes back this year and not only goes 10-and-1, but they were one play against Michigan from being 11-and-0 and creating chaos in the BCS because then there would have been three undefeated teams and that would have been wonderful. But Paterno, all due respect to Southern Cal and Texas, he was the story of the year in college football.
MONTAGNE: And now to the big game. Can Texas end Southern California's winning streak?
FEINSTEIN: Yes, it can because Southern Cal has been vulnerable on defense all year long. They win games with their unbelievable offense with the two Heisman Trophy winners, Matt Leinart and the runningback Reggie Bush is going to be the number one pick in the NFL draft. But Texas will have to outscore them. This will be a 38-to-35-type of game. It'll be decided well after midnight, but it should be a great championship game.
MONTAGNE: Well, I'm sitting here in Southern California thinking let's just imagine that USC does in fact win a third straight title. So where does that put them in college football history?
FEINSTEIN: They go down--if they win, Renee, it'll be their 35th straight victory. They go down in the pantheon with the Army teams of the 1940s that won three national titles, the Bud Wilkinson Oklahoma teams that had the all-time record with 47 wins. What Pete Carroll has done rebuilding USC is a remarkable story given that he was considered such a failure in the NFL. And they'll keep being good, win or lose tomorrow night, in the future.
MONTAGNE: John, thanks.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein whose latest book is "Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL."
This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.