LOS ANGELES -- Take all of this for what it is worth but USC's two biggest stars from Thursday say they're coming back.
Receiver Damian Johnson said before the Rose Bowl that he was definitely coming back from his redshirt junior season in 2009. That was before his 10-catch, 162-yard career day against Penn State.
A USC source told me that Sanchez' father told him that the quarterback is definitely coming back. Sanchez threw for 413 yards (second-most ever in the Rose Bowl) and four touchdowns.
"I don't know how I could leave all this," Sanchez told reporters after the 38-24 victory. "That's what I'm planning on."
Departing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was asked if this was Sanchez' last game.
"I don't know. I know he's a tremendous quarterback, he's extremely bright. He's got great physical tools. He prepares himself mentally and physically better than anyone I've been around. I don't know what that equates to. I just know what he is."
If both players return, USC's offense could be the most productive at Troy since 2005, the last season for Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. The defense is another issue. The offensive line returns intact. Williams and Ronald Johnson are rounding into go-to receivers for Sanchez who has struggled in general to develop one as a starter.
The nation's No. 1 defense is another story. It figures to lose 10 starters if, as expected, safety Taylor Mays comes out early.
"It's about what's best for me," Mays said.
Code breaking from your favorite translator: He's gone.
As for that rebuilt defense ... USC got its last national championship game with a unit that wasn't exactly a juggernaut in 2005. It finished 48th nationally giving up 361 yards per game.• While Sanchez' future is uncertain, Sarkisian did coach his last game at USC before going to Seattle for take over the sinking ship known as the University of Washington.
"It's been seven great years of my life," Sark said. "Four straight Rose Bowls to be part of, three straight wins. For Mark and I, watching him grow up as a freshman until this point now I'm really happy for him."
"More than anything we've got to develop a belief in winning. This team believes in winning. That's the first thing we have to carry up there."
• Williams is the most productive on-field member of the Springdale Five.
Four of the five highly-recruited members of Springdale (Ark.) High School followed their coach Gus Malzahn to Arkansas in 2006. Since then, a cross-country drama has played out. Malzahn left Arkansas after a year to go to Tulsa. He recently took the OC job at Auburn.
They eventually scattered to the four winds. Williams and quarterback Mitch Mustain transferred to USC. Mustain is now the No. 3 quarterback behind Aaron Corp and Sanchez. Williams led the Trojans in receiving. Tight end Ben Cleveland is still at Arkansas having caught one pass in 2008. Receiver Andrew Norman transferred to Tulsa in 2007, then returned to Arkansas as a walk-on in 2008.
Offensive lineman Bartley Webb signed with Notre Dame but reportedly gave up football because of a shoulder problem.
"I wouldn't ever say that (I'm the most accomplished)," Williams said.• It still boggles the mind that Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer was considering redshirting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. In winning a tidy, if not exciting, Orange Bowl, Taylor is now 13-2 as a starter.
The Hokies should go into next season as ACC favorites. Again. Tech's dominance of the league was not what the suits envisioned when they expanded the league but until Miami and Florida State show us more, the league is going to stay out of the state of Florida.• Speaking of which, that was the ACC's first BCS bowl win (and second ever) since 2000. Virginia Tech was involved in that one too, as the loser from the Big East against FSU.
• South Carolina quarterbacks threw an incredible 27 interceptions this season and have coughed up a total of 69 in Steve Spurrier's four seasons. After a disappointing 31-10 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl you've got to ask yourself how much the OBC has left before he starts hitting from the tips for good.
• For whatever its worth, the Pac-10 has clinched best record in the bowl season (5-0). It's hard to put much stock in a series of exhibition games but if we're going to damn the Big Ten for being 1-5 in bowls, we might as well credit the Pac-10.
That doesn't remove the fact that the league had two of the worst programs in America -- Washington and Washington State -- and continues to be USC and the Little Nine.• Not a bad comeback for Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz in the Gator Bowl. He fumbled away a ball that was a returned for a touchdown and threw a pick that led to another score. After leading a second-half rally Ganz was named the MVP of the Gator.