Obvious/Not-So-Obvious (bye week edition)

The Obvious – USC Coach Pete Carroll has seemingly modeled his third-ranked Trojan program after an NFL franchise, so it is appropriate that after going 3-0 playing pre-season (AKA – non-conference) foes, this week presents a welcome bye in preparation for their nationally televised Pac-10 opener at California on September 27th.

The Not So Obvious – While much has been said this week about Pete Carroll's staff working with future Trojans stars such as Booty, Smith, and Lewis, the bye has been more important for injured Trojans such as Darnell Bing, Jacob Rogers, and even reserves like Van Brown, hoping to heal in time for USC's Pac-10 opener in Berkeley.

The Obvious – The Trojans are ranked No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No.4 by the Associated Press.

The Not So Obvious – In the famed Sagarin football ratings, the Trojans' computer ranking is No. 4. The top three in order are Miami, Florida State, and Oklahoma.

The Obvious – There have been many opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of Pete Carroll's squad, especially from opponents that have tested the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious –Hawaii receiver Britton Komine having played the Trojans said, "Athletically, I don't think we're inferior, but they were fundamentally sound. Their corner, Marcell Allmond, told me ‘I would love to play you close, but I gotta listen to my coaches.' They're a disciplined team, fundamentally sound, and they get the job done."

The Obvious – Hawaii coach June Jones recently compared their next opponent, UNLV, to the Trojans and said, "Their (UNLV) offense , looks maybe, I'll tell you, equivalent to USC's. Their quarterback (Kurt Natkes) looks a little better, probably just as much skill at wide receiver. Their running back, I don't know, somebody said he got hurt against Wisconsin, but looks better than the back at SC. So they've got some players on offense."

The Not So Obvious – Let's see, Hawaii did thrash the Trojans 61-32, right? They didn't? Well I'll be darn. Must have been a misprint.

The Obvious – The Sporting News was once the bible of baseball, but for the past several years, it has expanded to cover all sports including college football.

The Not So Obvious – The Sporting News view of the current Trojans comes in the form of their Scouts' View evaluation which this week said, "Southern California has one of the best defenses in a long time. Their front four plays hard, is well-coached, can run and is physical. USC does a great job of keeping things simple for quarterback Matt Leinart. They don't get him into trouble much. He takes three steps back and gets rid of the ball quickly."

The Obvious – The Trojans metal will be strongly tested in the next five weeks which will include road games at Cal, Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Washington.

The Not So Obvious – It's hard to believe that Trojan fans will see their heroes at home only once in the month of October (11th) against Stanford. If the Trojans can wade through Cal and the testy Sun Devils, that 7 p.m. evening affair with the Cardinal will have a bit of a romantic, moonlight flavor.

The Obvious – The Trojans have handled three teams defensively that were pretty much one dimensional. Auburn ran, BYU passed, and Hawaii passed even more. Offensively, the Trojans faced defenses that varied in schemes as Auburn had size and speed, BYU a myriad of sets and blitzes, and Hawaii, which was more conventional and , quite frankly, easier to block..

The Not So Obvious – What we don't know is what will happen when the Trojans face a balanced, potent offense and a defense that tries to take some of the BYU concepts. It says here that this Pac-10 is not as balanced as years past, but once conference begins, teams all start with a clean slate so emotion comes into play. In addition, with the Trojans in the national eye, all remaining teams on the schedule will be "up" to play Troy, and they'll certainly will try to make Sunday's papers with an upset.

The Obvious - There may be a number of pro coaches that may follow Carroll's success into college according to the Trojan coach in a recent article in the Marin Independent Journal. Carroll said, "I am probably championing the cause of guys coming in this direction from the NFL to college."

The Not So Obvious – In the same article, Carroll discussed his peace of mind at being at USC and his future. Carroll informed, "I think I am so well suited for it (college). I ve been so comfortable in phases of it, I can't imagine that I didn't do it earlier. I just didn't know. I just an NFL guy. I had been there so long, and I was loving that. I thought that was all I needed. But this turned out to be even better."

The Obvious – Although Dominique Bryd has done a fine job improving each week as the starting tight end, injured Alex Holmes is still having an effect with his presence on the sidelines during games.

The Not So Obvious – Holmes can still be seen wearing his familiar No. 81 on the sidelines during games and is one of the first players to congratulate a teammate on a good play.

The Obvious – With the week off, the spotlight returned to the status of freshman quarterback John David Booty.

The Not So Obvious – There question at this point isn't if Booty can be the starter. The question is whether the kid can find any minutes as the No. 2 guy, if given that opportunity. It says here you can always bring him out of his redshirt year in an emergency, but all would be better served if the kid remained behind the curtain until spring.

The Obvious – USC is recruiting linebacker-fullback Sekeli Faaeteete (6-2, 210) from San Leandro High, and those tantalizing rumors say the Trojans are No. 1 on his list.

The Not So Obvious – When the kid was in Samoa last summer, he played some rugby and did so well that he was asked to sign with a professional rugby team. In 2002, Faaeteete rush for 946 yards and 16 touchdowns for the San Leandro Pirates.

The Obvious – The Trojans are still looking mighty good in the recruiting of linebacker Keith Rivers from St. Mary, Florida.

The Not So Obvious – The Orlando Sentinel had a very extensive high school football preview edition in a recent Sunday paper, and Rivers was the coverboy for the tabloid edition.

The Obvious – The Trojans flexed their attendance muscles for their first two home games drawing over 70,000 for each contest.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans have now played before over 70,000 fans the past seven straight games.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart has truly earned his starting spot considering the pressure he was under from competition, media, and fans to hold on to his spot prior to the Auburn game.

The Not So Obvious – There should be no doubt now that Leinart, who has connected on 51 of 85 passes for 647 yards and six touchdowns, has the right stuff to take the Trojans where they want to go. It was felt here from the beginning that all the kid lacked was a pat on the back and the assurance that he could do it. The feeling here is that he will get even better as the season continues and will become the quarterback that most knew when he was one of the best in the country at Mater Dei.

The Obvious – With the USC taking a week off, you can bet that selected Trojan coaches will be spanning the nation and taking in some "Friday Night Lights" and, boy, don't those plane trips gets a little shorter when your excited to promote your program.

The Not So Obvious – One high school game this week that will probably NOT be a must on the Trojans' recruiting schedule will be an Orange County tussle between Costa Mesa Estancia (1-0) and Santa Ana Century (1-1) at Orange Coast College. It will be a match-up of Trojan coaching blood as former Trojan assistant and media commentator Craig Fertig facing first-year Century coach Kevin Pola, nephew of USC running back coach Kennedy Pola.

The Obvious – The happiest unit on the Trojan team welcoming the bye has to be the Trojans offensive line which, despite last Saturday's running success, will be more than happy to heal from lingering injuries.

The Not So Obvious – The happiest of those players has to be offensive tackle Jacob Rogers, who has been suffering from a foot injury almost since camp started. The All-American candidate has unable to put in a true full week of practice and has been going on true grit.

The Obvious – Trojan fans may feel as though something is missing this weekend thanks to the bye and may want to check out other Pac-10 teams on the tube.

The Not So Obvious – As of now, the Cal/Illinois game is not being televised into Los Angeles, but you might want to check out UCLA at No. 1 Oklahoma (12:30 p.m., ABC) or Arizona State at Iowa (ESPN, TBA). The best game, however, is Michigan at Oregon and probably needs to seen at sports bar or ESPN Game Plan at 12:30 p.m.

The Obvious – There is no player on Troy's vaunted defense that is anymore valuable up to this point than All-Pac-10 linebacker Matt Grootegoed.

The Not So Obvious – There are very few players in Trojan history that hit the way Grootegoed hits. On an early tackle against Hawaii, No. 6 hit the receiver so hard, he was a human version of "shock and awe". Simply put, Grootegoed is tackling penicillin shot.

The Obvious – It is always interesting to listen to the style of television announcers from the various networks that do Trojan games.

The Not So Obvious – Whether it's Vern Lundquist on CBS or Tom Ramsey on FSN, they just can stop referring to the Trojans as "Southern Cal." Maybe it's okay as long as you do it on national television.

The Obvious – This week will help a number of true freshmen in continuing their learning process and a chance to make some lasting impressions on the Trojan coaching staff.

The Not So Obvious – While quarterback John David Booty figures to get a lot of reps with the first unit, the freshmen players who figures to gain the most from the extra time are receiver Steve Smith and running back Whitney Lewis, who could make up a lot of ground after getting off to a slow start.

The Obvious - Without fanfare, freshman defensive tackle Manuel Wright saw his most extended action yet in the Trojans' lopsided victory over Hawaii

The Not So Obvious – Wright has really trimmed down since camp and came very close last Saturday to sacking Rainbow Warrior quarterback Timmy Chang. As Wright had just exploded by his offensive line opponent and was honing in on Chang, the beaten UH offensive lineman reached out and grabbed Wright by the numbers on the front of his jersey, thus taking the former Long Beach Poly star out of the play. A penalty was called on the play, but it wasn't for the obvious holding of Wright.

The Obvious – Buzzard's luck middle linebacker Oscar Lua had surgery on his left knee and appears out for the season. Reports say perhaps this will be a nine month recovery.

The Not So Obvious – This brings into question the depth at middle linebacker should starter Lofa Tatupu, who is enjoying a great start to his Trojan career by leading the team in tackles, gets injured. All eyes may turn to junior Daniel Urquihart (6-2, 250), who originally came to Troy as a defensive end, and may prove to a very important piece in the season ending puzzle.

The Obvious – This week's Sporting News also did a big article on the biggest and best receivers in America which included some candid comments about the Trojans super-soph Mike Williams

The Not So Obvious – Of Mike Williams, Arizona State respected cornerback R.J. Oliver said, "Not only would I pick Mike Williams over anyone else now, but I think he's the best wide receiver in college football in a long time."

The Obvious – Fullback Brandon Hancock has returned to pads following the recovery from a very "nasty" ankle problem.

The Not So Obvious – The one big thing missing in the Trojans offensive attack has been the pass to the fullback either circling out of the backfield or floating to the flat, something that Hancock displayed with very effective results during his brief summer practices.

The Obvious – The Trojans will spend this weekend watching and scouting some of their future competition, knowing that their lofty national ranking is safe and sound.

The Not So Obvious – With next four of their five games on the road, the Trojans will be challenged in pursuit of those dreams of Pasadena or possibly New Orleans. Pass the popcorn and pour the firewater, Trojan fans anxiously await 2003 - Part ll.

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