Rose Bowl Is Sanchez's Launching Pad

Mark Sanchez completed 64% of his passes, threw 30 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, had a passer rating of 159 and led an 11-1 team to the Rose Bowl.

At most colleges that would get a street near the stadium named after you. But at USC, quarterbacks are now judged in national title games and Heisman Trophy ceremonies.

Matt Sanchez was very good this past season, but he was not THAT GUY. He was not Caron Palmer or Matt Leinart, and whether or not that was his fault or the team around him is irrelevant. Such are the standards at USC these days.

But Sanchez can be that guy — and the Rose Bowl could be the launching pad for his trip to the stratosphere of college football. A big win will have the Trojans near the top of the polls next year. Another big game from Sanchez will have him at the top of preseason Heisman lists. That was how Leinart did it — his performance against Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl put he and the team on the map for the next season, and the result was a national championship and a trophy given out in New York.

Big things have been expected of Sanchez since his days at Mission Viejo High School, where the team was 27-1 when he was at the helm. And in his first year at USC he was good, maybe the only pass he’d like back was one with less than three minutes to go in the Oregon State game, an interception that sealed USC’s fate that night in Corvallis.

But good gets overlooked sometimes in a program where the spectacular is now expected. The USC defense this year is spectacular (Penn State is about to find out just how much better than Iowa USC is). Rey Maualuga is spectacular.

Not that Sanchez is about standing out. He does not bask in the fame the way Leinart did. But next year the spotlight is going to find him in a way it hasn’t in the past.

Sanchez has drawn interest from the NFL — he is currently considered a late first, early second round pick — but with no rookie salary cap coming into play next year he likely will be back on the USC campus in the fall.

And he will be the BMOC. Just how big? Ask again just after the Rose Bowl ends.

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