O/NSO - WSU preview

In the immortal words of ring announcer Michael Buffer,"Let's get ready to rummmmmble!" In one of those rare occasions generally reserved for rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, the Coliseum will be a sea of red bedlam Saturday afternoon, as the No. 3 USC Trojans (7-1, 3-1 Pac-10) host the No. 6 Washington State Cougars (7-1, 4-0) in what could be the defining Trojan moment in the Pac-10 and possibly the BCS.

The Obvious – In the immortal words of ring announcer Michael Buffer,"Let's get ready to rummmmmble!" In one of those rare occasions generally reserved for rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, the Coliseum will be a sea of red bedlam Saturday afternoon, as the No. 3 USC Trojans (7-1, 3-1 Pac-10) host the No. 6 Washington State Cougars (7-1, 4-0) in what could be the defining Trojan moment in the Pac-10 and possibly the BCS.

The Not So Obvious – As a sign of games played on paper, the Trojans, third in the Pac-10 race behind unbeaten Washington State and UCLA, opened as 12-point favorites over the defending Pac-10 co-champion Cougars, something that is sure to add some extra spice on the plane ride down from Pullman.

The Obvious – Things are looking good for air quality for Saturday's game, and the weather forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a high of 58 degrees, a welcome relief from the earlier predicted showers.

The Not So Obvious – The Saturday weather forecast for Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State, is partly cloudy with a high of 37 and a low of 13 degrees. Did we mention the wind chill factor?

The Obvious – The successful but road weary Trojans return to the Coliseum where they have won their last eight straight Pac-10 home games.

The Not So Obvious – That record will be severely tested by a Washington State club that has won its last 10 of 11 conference road games, including the last six in a row.

The Obvious – Saturday's Coliseum throng may approach one of those rare sellouts reserved for Bruins and Irishmen, and this despite the southland devastation and the fact that the game will be televised locally by ABC at 4:00 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – The largest attendance to see a USC/WSU game was 68,282 in 1946. As early as this past Tuesday, both the Trojans' web site and Ticketmaster were offering best seats available in section 11-L in Rows 84 and 90. When Rows 84 and 90 are the best available, you know it it's going to be a whopper of a turnout come Saturday.

The Obvious – Speaking of sellouts, all 92,000 Coliseum seats have been sold for the UCLA game on November 22nd with game time still to be determined.

The Not So Obvious – While Trojan officials are saying that Saturday's crowd is expected to be 80,000-plus, it will be interesting to know the actual ticket count as opposed to body count. The walkup crowd is usually minimal, but you never know considering the current circumstances in the area.

The Obvious –Trojan fans are being asked to come to Saturday's Homecoming game in red, and the athletic department has extensively used the internet and the media to promote a UCLA/Notre Dame game atmosphere.

The Not So Obvious – Despite having won their last two games against the Trojans in the Coliseum, the WSU coaching staff is preparing for an atypical Trojan turnout and have mentioned it to their players. WSU coach Bill Doba says, " I don't think it's so much the Coliseum as it is the players they (USC) put on the field that makes a difference."

The Obvious – The Cougars have 25 Californians coming to Los Angeles, and it remains to be seen how the rabid Trojan crowd will affect Washington State.

The Not So Obvious – One of those locals returning is defensive end Isaac Brown (6-3, 222), a senior starter from Claremont High, who has beaten the Trojans the last two years. He relishes the thought of playing at the Coliseum and of hostile road crowds. Brown says, "Crowds try to affect us by yelling and screaming at us, but the guys we have on defense are very competitive and that only just makes us play harder and prove people wrong."

The Obvious -Both the Trojans and the Cougars come into Saturday's game with their eyes on the Rose Bowl and BCS championship game in New Orleans.

The Not So Obvious – Strength of schedule may effect the BCS chances of both clubs as the Cougars' first eight opponents' record is 19-35, while the Trojans' first eight opponents' record is 29-33.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense is No.1 in the Pac-10 averaging 39.9 points and 444 total yards per outing.

The Not So Obvious – Despite the Trojans' notoriety on defense, the Cougars lead the Pac-10 in defense giving up 19.8 points and 303.8 total yards per outing.

The Obvious – The Trojans offense will be well prepared for Saturday's big clash by offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and you can bet the lights burned bright late this week in Heritage Hall.

The Not So Obvious – When Mike Price left WSU for his ill-fated term at Alabama, his Cougar offensive coordinator did not. The Trojans' defense will again be probed by former Cougar wide receiver great Mike Levenseller, who is not only the Cougar OC, but also handles the WSU wide receivers. Levenseller is a good one.

The Obvious – The game may get down to the basic challenge of can the Trojans' secondary, especially the safeties, handle the Pac-10's best passing attack when the Cougars spread the field with four receivers.

The Not So Obvious – In a shootout, the Trojans figure to outscore Washington, but the bigger key will be USC ball control keeping the WSU offense off the field, and the punting of the Trojans' Tom Malone to make that Cougar field longer.

The Obvious – In USC's Matt Leinart and WSU's Matt Kegel, both clubs are entering Saturday's big game with first-year starting quarterbacks and their success has been a surprise to many.

The Not So Obvious – Leinart is completing 62-percent of his passes while Kegel is connecting on 55-percent of his passes. Leinart has thrown seven interceptions on the season and Kegel has tossed nine, five of which were last week at Oregon State.

The Obvious – The Cougars lost only seven starters from last year's club including All-American quarterback Jason Gesser, who led WSU to last year's heartbreaking 30-27 Trojan loss in overtime.

The Not So Obvious – While Gesser is gone, WSU has weapons and one of those weapons is senior running back Jermaine Green (5-11, 220) from Daytona Beach, Florida, who had a backbreaking 75-yard TD score against the Trojans last season in Pullman and continues to churn out yardage. Backup senior runner Jonathan Smith (5-10, 190) from Narbonne High has some wiggle as he demonstrated last Saturday in his game-winning 21-yard touchdown against the Beavers late in the fourth quarter.

The Obvious – Last Saturday, Matt Leinart threw for 351 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in the 43-23 rout of Washington.

The Not So Obvious – In a contrast of quarterbacks, last week Kegel led his team to a thrilling 36-30 victory over Oregon State despite five interceptions and two fumbles interwoven with 305 passing yards and three touchdowns.

The Obvious – With a tough, attacking WSU defensive front looking to knock Matt Leinart out, the health of the sophomore's knees will need to be protected by his vastly improved Trojan offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – WSU's Matt Kegel has his own health issues playing despite suffering dislocations in both shoulders this past month. If Kegel's throwing style is reminiscent of former Cougar quarterback Ryan Leaf, it's because Leaf is Kegel's cousin.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offensive line will be facing their toughest challenge of the season against an ultra-fast Cougar defense, which will try and push the Trojan linemen into the SC backfield before the heralded tailbacks start running down hill.

The Not So Obvious – One of the biggest surprises literally on offense has been the emergence of offensive line transfer John Drake, who seems to have taken the right guard spot from Fred Matua. Drake, who has had a number of key blocks recently for the young Trojan tailbacks, reminds older Trojan fans of past JUCO guard transfers Derrick Deese and Booker Brown.

The Obvious – With the young tailback committee of Dennis, Bush, and White, the Trojans' offense has the look of Tailback U. again, as SC leads the Pac-10 in rushing averaging 160.5 a game.

The Not So Obvious – WSC head coach Bill Boba, former defensive coordinator under Mike Price, has the best rushing defense in the conference allowing 68.1 yards a game.

The Obvious – This is head coach Bill Doba's first year at the helm for WSU, and this guy is off to one of the fastest starts in recent Pac-10 memory, no surprise to ESPN Game Day host Lee "Not So Fast, My Friend" Corso, the former Indiana coach.

The Not So Obvious – "In my 15 years as a collegiate head coach, Bill Doba is one of the most dedicated, loyal, and hardest-working assistants I have been involved with," said Corso, who had Doba on his Hoosier staff.

The Obvious – You know the first thing that the Trojans' intense defense is going to do is attempt to shut off a questionable Cougar running game.

The Not So Obvious – Last weekend in Corvallis, both the Cougars and Oregon State combined for 18 total rushing yards, numbers that wont inspire fear along the Trojans' defensive front.

The Obvious – Much of the Trojans' success will be based on their ability to rattle WSU quarterback Matt Kegel and overpower his offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars return three respected offensive linemen from last season led by All-Pac-10 tackle Calvin Armstrong (6-8, 321), a junior from Centralia, Washington. If this physical tackle seems a bit reckless on the Coliseum turf, it's only because the big fella loves to ride motorcycles.

The Obvious – Last year the Trojans had a chance to beat the Cougars in overtime, but kicker Ryan Killeen missed a 52-yard field goal attempt in overtime that lead to the eventual WSU victory. This season, the Trojans have made 76-percent of their field goal attempts to rank fourth in the Pac-10, perhaps a shock to many Trojan fans.

The Not So Obvious – Washington State has again a stellar kicking game with the return of Trojan kicking killer Drew Dunning, the fellow whom hit the 35-yard field goal in overtime to hand USC the lethal loss. WSU has made 90-percent of their field goal attempts this season to rank first in the Pac-10.

The Obvious – The Trojans have an all-star staff of coaches, but one of the least known is secondary coach Greg Burns.

The Not So Obvious - Burns was a four-year letterman (1991-95) at WSU and a two-year starter.

The Obvious – One of the keys to victory for the Trojans will be the status of wide receiver Mike Williams, who was hobbled in the big Washington victory last Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars will counter Mike Williams with outstanding junior receiver Devard Darling (6-3, 206), who comes into Saturday's game with 31 receptions for 575 yards, four touchdowns, and an eye-opening 18.5 average. At one time it appeared that Darling was headed to USC after he left Florida State. Last year against the Trojans, Darling had four receptions for 37 yards and a two-yard scoring catch.

The Obvious – This week's Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week is Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart.

The Not So Obvious – Quietly, Leinart is positioning himself as the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. Should the Trojans go the distance, it would be hard not to give him the nod.

The Obvious – Saturday's game will feature two of the best sophomore middle linebackers in the Pac-10 in the Trojans' s Lofa Tatupu (6-0, 225), who leads his team in tackles, and WSU's Will Derting (6-0, 234), this week's Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.

The Not So Obvious – Derting, a redshirt soph from Okanogan, Washington, leads his team in tackles, nine which have resulted in losses. Derting will be looking to rope in the Trojans' young tailback beef on Saturday, something he has some experience with since his parents own and operate a cattle ranch.

The Obvious – In big games like Saturday, it wouldn't be surprising to see some of the Trojans' famous alumni down on the field like Hall of Famer Marcus Allen and the Cubs' Mark Prior.

The Not So Obvious – WSU will have their own participating celebrity alum at the game, ABC's Keith Jackson. A point of information, Cougarland has also produced the likes of the late Edward R. Murrow, the Father of modern day news reporting; Barry Serafin, ABC news correspondent; Gary Larson, creator of the Far Side cartoons; and Phil Abelson, the Father of the atomic submarine.

The Obvious – Former Trojan and NFL star safety Mark Carrier has done a fine job on the USC 1540 post-game call-in show.

The Not So Obvious - It is recommended here that Carrier be considered for a future defensive analyst position on the Trojans' radio game broadcast crew, which includes play-by-play voice Pete Arbogast and Paul McDonald, the former Trojan All-American quarterback. Teaming the offensive guru McDonald with Carrier for defense would be a treat for Trojan listeners.

The Obvious – Trojans' radio voice Pete Arbogast, who has won a Golden Mike Award, has had two separate cycles as play-by-play voice of Trojan football.

The Not So Obvious – While Trojan fans are familiar with Arbogast on 1540, the name Bob Robertson probably doesn't ring a bell. He is, however, the outstanding play-by-play voice of Washington State on KXLY. Robertson is in his 37th season and has been voted the Washington Sportscaster of the Year 15 times. The guy is a real kick to hear and is teamed with former WSC coach Jim Walden, the third winningest coach in WSU history.

The Obvious – Dr. Darryl Gross is USC's associate athletic director, and he was a guest on the Trojans' Insider Show on 1540 this past week.

The Not So Obvious – Gross mentioned that he expected close to 85, 000 fans against WSU. He also hoped for a similar big crowd for Oregon State on Dec. 6th. The good doctor also said the Trojans are hoping for a "Kickoff Classic" type of 12th game, and there would be a big surprise for the filling of next year's bye on Sept.11th.

The Obvious –Norm Chow, the Trojans' offensive coordinator, has done a masterful job of taking the youthful Trojan tailbacks and molding them into an offense that best fits their talents.

The Not So Obvious – "Norm is doing a great job of fitting them into the game," says Pete Carroll, who loves his players to have to compete against each other. " These guys (tailbacks) have to battle for playing time."

The Obvious – Future defensive star Dallas Sartz started last week at linebacker when injured All-Pac-10 linebacker Matt Grootogoed did not make the trip to Seattle last weekend.

The Not So Obvious – Sartz, who may be a major player on Saturday against the Cougars, grew up a Washington State fan. His grandfather, Dallas, was a Golden Gloves boxer at WSU and his mother graduated from Washington State.

The Obvious – The Trojans have done a pretty good job this year of keeping the penalty yardage to a minimum, the mark of a well-coached team.

The Not So Obvious – Washington State, despite their outstanding record, has a streak of seven straight games with at least a dozen flags.

The Obvious – The Trojans got great news this week when center Jeff Byers (6-4, 290) of Ft. Collins, Colorado, considered by some as the nation's best prep player, made a non-binding commitment.

The Not So Obvious – Byers, who carries a 3.9 GPA, was featured this week on Fox Rocky Mountain in a two-part series. Showing great poise in the extensive interview, Byers was asked about his No. 1 ranking. "I don't know, it doesn't seem like a center should be No.1," said Byers with a smile. The thing that stuck out in game footage was the intensity and hustle the kid displayed. There were pancake blocks galore, but it was his relentless search down field to make blocks that we found the most impressive.

The Obvious – The Trojan Walk figures to be at fever pitch when the team arrives on their charter buses, a good personna for Trojan recruits.

The Not So Obvious –Trojan wide receiver recruit Fred Davis from Ohio will get the star treatment as he winds his way with the Trojan team through the intense spirit tunnel.

The Obvious – Should the Trojans' Matt Leinart leave the field Saturday for any reason, he will be replaced by freshman John David Booty, who has yet to throw many passes in relief.

The Not So Obvious – If the Cougars' quarterback Kegel goes down Saturday, he will be replaced by redshirt freshman Josh Swogger (6-5, 243) from Vienna, Ohio. Former Cougar quarterback great Jason Gesser says the kid "will be one of the greatest quarterbacks" ever to play at WSU.

The Obvious –ABC will do another appreciated regional recruiting plug for the Trojans by televising Saturday's game at 4:00 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – For other Pac-10 viewing appetizers and desserts, Karl Dorritos' UCLA Bruins cleanse the pallet at punchless Stanford (FSN, 12:30 p.m.), and your gridion sorbet after the Trojans' main course will feature the Mallards of Eugene at withering Washington (TBS, 7:00 p.m.).

The Obvious – While it wont be UCLA or Notre Dame, Saturday's contest will have no lesser importance when it comes to crunch time in November, a month that is 7-0 in Pete Carroll's young Trojan coaching career.

The Not So Obvious – So, will it be a November to remember? You can bet with so much riding on the Coliseum turf come Saturday afternoon, emotions will be running Rose Bowl high with a Trojan victory, and El Paso low with a defeat. Enough talk. Start the countdown, it's crunch time, baby!

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