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January 7, 2008

Trend points to big year for Trojans

NEW ORLEANS Based on a current trend, expect USC to play in next season's championship game, though there is no hint of what team the Trojans would face.

LSU's appearance in Monday night's championship game marked the second consecutive season a team returned to the area in which it had won a national title four years previously.

In 2003 the last time the BCS championship game was played in New Orleans LSU defeated Oklahoma, 21-14.

Meanwhile, Ohio State faced Florida for the championship last season in the Phoenix area after having defeated Miami 31-24 there in 2002.

In 2004, USC defeated Oklahoma 55-19 in Miami. The game returns to Miami next season.

And if that trend continues, Texas fans can look forward with great anticipation in the 2009 season, when the championship game will be held in Pasadena, Calif. Texas defeated USC in the Rose Bowl for the 2005 national championship.

Happy returns

LSU has 10 seniors in its starting lineup, so the Tigers figure to face a rebuilding year in 2008.

Ohio State, on the other hand, could be preseason No. 1 if none of its juniors leave early to enter the NFL draft.

That's not likely, though.

The Buckeyes have 10 juniors listed as starters on their two-deep chart, and at least three are expected to leave.

Linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive end Vernon Gholston and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins all project as high first-round choices. Offensive tackle Alex Boone and receiver Brian Robiskie also could be tempted to leave early.

LSU has six junior starters, and defensive end Tyson Jackson reportedly is considering leaving early. But Jackson had just 2.5 sacks this season and he figures to be better served to return for his senior year

College players are eligible to enter the NFL draft three years after leaving high school.

Two-time losers as winners

LSU (11-2) entered Monday's game hoping to become the first team in 47 years to win a national championship with two losses.

Minnesota was voted national champion in 1960 with an 8-2 record, but the champion was decided in a much different way then.

Back then, the Associated Press and United Press International services crowned their national champion before the bowls. Minnesota finished the regular season 8-1, then later lost to Washington 17-7 in the Rose Bowl.

Since then, two others have won national titles with more than one blemish on their records.

Alabama, which went 9-1-1, was awarded the 1964 championship by AP and UPI, although undefeated Arkansas also made a claim to the crown. Colorado was the 1990 national champion with an 11-1-1 record.

Record run

Chris Wells' 65-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game, which staked Ohio State to a 7-0 lead, was the longest run in a BSC championship game.

The previous longest run covered 64 yards by LSU's Justin Vincent against Oklahoma in 2003. Vincent did not score.

Wells' run tied for the second-longest allowed by LSU this season. Arkansas' Peyton Hillis also had a 65-yard touchdown run.

In that same game, a 50-48 Arkansas win in triple-overtime, the Razorbacks' Darren McFadden also had a 73-yard touchdown run.

Third time's a charm

Success on third down often is a telling statistic, and it definitely was in the first half when LSU converted eight of 10 chances on third down.

The Tigers failed on their first third down because of a wild snap that resulted in a 17-yard loss and had an incomplete pass before a 32-yard field goal, which was LSU's first score.

LSU converted five consecutive third-down opportunities en route to scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions to take a 24-10 halftime lead.

Two of those touchdowns were scored on third down as quarterback Matt Flynn hit Brandon LaFell with a 10-yard touchdown pass on third-and-5 and Jacob Hester barely crossed the goal line on third-and-goal from the 1.

Ohio State was 2-of-7 on third down in the first half.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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