Last year’s Rose Bowl game had everything the “Granddaddy of Them All” is supposed to. It featured the Pac-10 and Big Ten champs — in Southern Cal. and Michigan, respectively — and even national championship implications, even though it wasn’t supposed to.

It all makes this year’s game between No. 12 Michigan — coming off an upset loss to Ohio State in November — and No. 6 Texas — which snuck pass Cal in the BCS Standings thanks to some help in the coaches’ poll — somewhat of a letdown.

Michigan Passing Offense vs. Texas Passing Defense:

This matchup comes down to how freshman Chad Henne performs in his first bowl game. The honorable mention All-Big Ten quarterback has grown exponentially during his freshman season. In his last game, Henne threw for 328 yards against Ohio State, but a fourth-quarter interception on the Buckeyes’ goalline ended any chance of a Michigan comeback. Texas’s secondary is mediocre, but it features a talented safety duo. Junior Michael Huff, a first-team All-Big XII performer this year, is arguably the nation’s top strong safety, while senior free safety Phillip Geiggar earned second-team All-Big XII honors.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan Rushing Offense vs. Texas Rushing Defense:

True freshman running back Mike Hart burst onto the scene this year, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors with 1,396 rushing yards. Hart is coming off his least productive effort as a starting running back — 18 rushes for just 63 yards against the Buckeyes. The Texas rush defense gives up just 106 yards on the ground per game (14th in the nation). Up front, the Longhorns feature two talented defensive tackles in Larry Dibbles and Rod Wright — both second-team All-Big XII picks. But the defense is paced by all-everything linebacker Derrick Johnson, who has racked up some gaudy numbers (128 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and an unbelievable eight forced fumbles).

Edge: Texas

Texas Passing Offense vs. Michigan Passing Defense:

The Longhorns’ efforts to run the ball with quarterback Vince Young and running back Cedric Benson may hinge on how effective Young is through the air. Texas managed just under 164 yards passing per game — a number bested by 104 Division I teams. Wide receivers Tony Jeffery and David Thomas are the team’s two leading pass catchers, but neither posted more than 400 yards receiving this season. Michigan coughed up 241 yards passing to Ohio State’s meager aerial attack, and cornerbacks Marlin Jackson and Leon Hall will likely be in man-to-man coverage as the Wolverines try to stuff the run. If the Longhorns have success in this category, it will be a long day for Michigan’s defense.

Edge: Michigan

Texas Rushing Offense vs. Michigan Rushing Defense:

With the second-ranked rushing attack in the nation, Texas features one of the country’s best one-two punches. Case in point: In the Longhorns’ 26-13 victory over Texas A&M to close the year, Benson and Young combined for 272 yards — 168 and 104 yards, respectively. Quarterbacks with the ability to run — like Michigan State’s Drew Stanton and Ohio State’s Troy Smith — have dominated the Wolverines this season, so Young should be a handful. And with starting defensive end Larry Harrison likely out due to legal problems, the result is potential trouble for the Wolverines. Michigan will probably stack seven or eight defenders in the box — and even that might not be enough.

Edge: Texas

Special Teams:

If a big play is made on special teams, it will most likely come from Steve Breaston. He was just getting back in a groove, and now he’s had over a month to rest. Punter Adam Finley has been solid for the most part, and kicker Garrett Rivas finished the season 16-for-21 on field goals. Michigan’s kickoff coverage has been stellar all season long.

The Longhorns are solid on special teams, but not outstanding. Their punt and kick return units are near the bottom of the Big XII, and punter Richmond McGee averages less than 40 yards a punt. As for their kicking game, when Texas scores, it scores in sevens; kicker Dusty Mangum drilled 45 extra point but hit on just 10-of-14 field goals.

Edge: Michigan

 

Intangibles: Michigan is eager to get rid of the bitter taste of its regular season-ending loss to Ohio State and last year’s loss to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said recently that last year, his team had too many distractions in Los Angeles leading up to the game. As a result, this year the team will spend less time in California and stay in a different hotel.

The Longhorns might not know what to expect when they get to Los Angeles, but they’re so ecstatic to be in a BCS bowl, it shouldn’t matter. Their wait has been a long one, and Texas coach Mack Brown said he was well aware of the pressure to show everyone that Texas is deserving.

Edge: Push

 

Prediction: Michigan 27, Texas 24

 

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