Before Reggie Bush left the cramped visitors' locker room Saturday, the running back could not help but think that college football has at times become easy for his Southern California team.
"In a sense we do" feel unbeatable, Bush said. "Our own enemy is ourselves if we are not focused."
The Trojans also could prove to be their own worst enemy in the Heisman Trophy race. With three weeks remaining in the regular season to pad one's resume, the chase appears to be a dead heat between Bush and Texas quarterback Vince Young, who continues to pile up impressive numbers with each rout of a Big 12 softy.
Because top-ranked USC is dominating opponents with increasing ease, the program's Heisman favorites -- Bush and quarterback Matt Leinart -- do not need to record such gaudy statistics. Who would have guessed that USC would steamroll California, 35-10, without Bush scoring and without Leinart, last year's Heisman winner, throwing a touchdown pass?
Bush, who is considered one of the most scintillating college players in recent years, emerged as the Heisman favorite after USC's victory at Notre Dame on Oct. 15, during which he scored three touchdowns and shrewdly assisted Leinart into the end zone for the game-winning score, a move since tabbed "the Bush Push."
Since then, Bush has only rushed for more than 100 yards once, when he ran for 113 against Stanford on Nov. 5. Saturday he averaged 4.8 yards per carry while rushing for 82 yards. He wasn't needed as much as usual; teammate LenDale White rushed for 90 yards and three touchdowns, and Leinart rushed for two scores.
After the game, Bush shrugged off questions about whether he was frustrated, saying there will be other games in which he will be needed and that the primary focus is winning. When asked whether he is ever bored because of the ease with which his team wins, Bush said no, explaining that he also relishes watching teammates such as White shine.
With only two remaining unbeaten teams, the schools in the best position to win the national title -- and have players win the Heisman -- are Texas and USC. When No. 2 Texas defeated Kansas, 66-14, Saturday in its final home game, fans hollered "Rose Bowl!" and "Heisman!" as the Longhorns, Young among them, left the field.
Young's elusiveness in the open field has been no secret. But the junior has become a better passer this season; he threw a career-high four touchdown passes Saturday. Afterward, Kansas linebacker Nick Reid called the difference in Young from last season like "night and day."
"Vince is phenomenal," Kansas Coach Mark Mangino told reporters after the game. "You can see why a lot of people think he is the front-runner for the Heisman. I do not have a vote, but to me he looked like a Heisman Trophy guy tonight. What is so impressive is that he throws from his hip and is right on the money."
Unfortunately for Young, what was perhaps the best passing game of his career came on a day when virtually no one noticed. On Oct. 15, young completed 25 of 29 passes for 336 yards as the Longhorns beat Colorado, 42-17. Other events of the day, most notably USC's epic victory at Notre Dame and Michigan's last-second triumph over Penn State, overshadowed Young's brilliance.
Nevertheless, Young's season's worth of work is Heisman-esque. He became the first quarterback on a visiting team to lead his team to a night win at Ohio State. And he helped undo years of Longhorns frustration against Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. When Texas exhibited vulnerability on Oct. 29 at Oklahoma State, Young nearly single-handedly powered his team to victory, accounting for 506 total yards, including a career-high 267 on the ground.
While Young is the clear-cut leader and offensive star at Texas, USC has two headliners and probable Heisman finalists in Bush and Leinart. Since the Notre Dame game, Leinart has played the best he has all season, which could earn the quarterback some votes that would have otherwise gone to his teammate.
"The Heisman has never been the focus for me," said Bush, adding that he would rather have another national title.
Lyles Out for the Season
Virginia starting safety Nate Lyles remained hospitalized Sunday and will miss the rest of the season after suffering an injury while diving headfirst in an attempt to make a tackle in the first quarter of Saturday's 27-17 victory over Georgia Tech. He was carried from the field on a spine-board stretcher and immediately taken to University of Virginia Medical Center.
"Everything is going positively," Cavaliers Coach Al Groh said. "He'll stay in the hospital tonight for further evaluation. They're still doing some testing and evaluations for his long-term prognosis."
Lyles's season-ending injury means the Cavaliers could play No. 7 Virginia Tech in Charlottesville on Saturday without both their starting safeties -- junior Tony Franklin, a defensive captain, was among four players suspended from playing in the Georgia Tech game. Groh said those players "will have to satisfy me and satisfy some protocols" to return to the team. "It's too early to say yes or no," Groh said. . . .
Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson, who suffered a concussion in the Terps' win at North Carolina on Saturday, was "better than anticipated" Sunday and could play Saturday against Boston College, Coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Wilson's head hit North Carolina running back Ronnie McGill's leg in the fourth quarter Saturday, and the Maryland junior was unconscious for about 20 seconds. Wilson's backup, sophomore Isaiah Gardner, has a groin injury that will likely keep him out of two days of practice . Friedgen said Gardner should be able to play against Boston College. Friedgen also said he would take a look at backup place kicker Obi Egekeze in practice this week. Starter Dan Ennis missed two field goals and an extra point against the Tar Heels.
Texas's Foe Undetermined
It is still unknown who Texas will play in the Big 12 title game in Houston on Dec. 3. Three schools are still in contention to represent the Big 12 North after Iowa State beat Colorado, which still has the inside track to return to the conference championship game. Colorado (7-3, 5-2) will earn the berth by beating Nebraska on Nov. 25. Iowa State (7-3, 4-3) needs a two-way tie with Colorado in the division to earn the bid. And Missouri (6-4, 4-3) needs a three-way tie with the Cyclones and Buffaloes to win the tiebreaker.
"Well, I think everyone recognized what just happened to us," Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon told reporters after the 30-16 loss. "We know how detrimental this was to our season and to our record. Some guys are letting it roll off their backs and some are just thinking about things. It's pretty tense in there."
Staff writers Mark Schlabach and Dan Steinberg contributed to this report.