Whenever the Southern California Trojans look at the television these days, they get angry. When the Michigan Wolverines look in the mirror, they get furious.
That should make for an excellent Rose Bowl game Monday (5 p.m. WRC-TV-4).
USC is steamed because ABC-TV is telling the world that the winner of the Penn State vs. Alabama Sugar Bowl game it is televising will automatically be national champion of college football.
To that, USC answers, "Phooey... If 'Bama beats Penn State, and we look good beating Michigan, then we're No, 1 without a doubt."
Why? Because USC and Alabama would then both end the season 11-1 and since the two teams met on 'Bama's home turf in the third game of the year, with Southern Cal winning, 24-14, who could vote Alabama ahead of USC?
"Yeah, it's as simple as that," says Notre Dame Coach Dan Devine who is an old hand at such pollstering.
Michigan also could end the year 11-1, but it would have little chance in the No. 1 voting, since it has not played a schedule that equals either 'Bama or USC.
Michigan has a far simpler and more forceful motivation. The Wolverines have a case of ruffled fur, wounded price. Its seniors are 0-3 in bowl games and 0-2 in Pasadena, losing the last two years to USC and Washington.
In even worse pain is Coach Bo Schembechler, who has lost all five of his bowl appearances, including four Rose Bowls in the last decade. The Pac-10 sends Schembechler get-well cards whenever he gets the sniffles -- he is one of their great benefactors.
In fact, Schembechler is 0-8-1 in his nine season-finale games at Michigan. The unvarying "book" on him is that in big games he reverts to an even more conservative strategy than normal and that his teams die of asphyxiation.
Nobody, but nobody, has been able to run the ball against big, mobile USC. Opponents have averaged just 91 yards a game on the ground against the Trojans. More important. USC has been even tougher up front against UCLA and Notre Dame, two top ground teams it held to 62 and 53 yards running, respectively.
Michigan's solid backs, Harland Huckleby and Russell Davis, probably are not the equal of UCLA's Theotis Brown and James Owens, or Jerome Heavens and Vagas Ferguson of the Irish. In addition, all three of Michigan's revolving tailbcks are coming off injuries and Schembechler pleads that he is not certain of the condition of any of them.
So that leaves Michigan's All-America option-style quarterback Rick Leach with the ball in his hands.
Even if Leach, who averages only a dozen passes a game, goes to the air, it is questionable if he can prosper there. Leach, a lefty who usually throws off play action, hardly has an NFL quality arm. In fact, the four-year starter may be a better pro prospect as a baseball center fielder than as a quarterback.
Also, USC is hardly unaccustomed to facing quality passers in the Pac-10. Nevertheless, USC's only defensive weakness has been against the pass, allowing 188 yards a game. The Trojans grumble that those yards represent desperate passes against prevent defenses.
Last year, after Michigan fell behind Washington here, 24-0, Leach went to the air for 239 yards and the Wolverines made their defeat respectable, 27-20.
Most assume that USC's major weapon will be Charles White, the nation's total-yardage leader (more than 2,000 yards, including rushing, receiving and kick returning).
That will certainly be the motif of the early going. Michigan's interior defensive linemen will give away 10 to 20 pounds a man to USC's offensive beasts -- an unusual situation. The defensive brain-beaters are almost always bigger.
If White, who rushed for 1,760 yards and a dozen touchdowns, is successful, he will be the first man all season to gain 100 yards against the Wolverines. Michigan may be just a trifle small (by gigantic standards), but defense is its strength. USC probably will have to throw considerably to score more than the 14 points it managed in the meeting here two years ago.
That is where USC has a slightly underpublicized ace in the hole -- quarterback Paul McDonald.
USC has a tailback tradition, but its QB legacy isn't bad either with Pat Haden the most recent example. McDonald is not listed among the collegiate passing leaders because the NCAA's ranking system is based on completions per game.
Under the better NFL system, McDonald would have an elegant 101.6 ranking -- the best in the country. In his last six games, the southpaw junior has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 1,023 yards with 12 touchdowns and just one interception.
If USC's advantages are obvious, Michigan at least has some subtle factors in its favor. The Wolverines have the fewest turnovers in the nation (15), and they have won six in a row since losing to Michigan State. The Trojans, meanwhile, have won seven in a row since losing to Arizona State.
Michigan also has headed the admonitions of its seniors and vastly reduced its conditioning in its two weeks of traning here.
"We were going to go in to Coach Sohembeckler with this great long list of changes on how we should prepare for the Rose Bowl -- less hitting, less junkets and interviews," said Leach with a grin. "So, before we had a chance to, he called a meeting and gave us everything we were thinking about asking for.
"We hope it's the cure. We've (the seniors) accomphshed some great things, but all people talk about is what we've done in the Rose Bowl."