O/NSO - Arizona preview

The nation's second-ranked USC Trojans (8-1, 4-1 Pac-10) resume their national championship dreams with a visitation to Tucson and the suddenly frisky Arizona Wildcats (2-8, 1-5), a Pac-10 club that would like nothing more than to leave the Trojans' New Orleans and Pasadena aspirations hanging on a world-famous saguaro cacti.

The Obvious – The nation's second-ranked USC Trojans (8-1, 4-1 Pac-10) resume their national championship dreams with a visitation to Tucson and the suddenly frisky Arizona Wildcats (2-8, 1-5), a Pac-10 club that would like nothing more than to leave the Trojans' New Orleans and Pasadena aspirations hanging on a world-famous saguaro cacti.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans are a gaudy 29-point favorite to dismantle the Wildcats this weekend in Tucson, a potential road trip to that Land of Beignets is fraught with pitfalls as illustrated by Thursday's announcement that starting Wild Bunch senior defensive end Omar Nazel will have season-ending surgery and will be lost for the season.

The Obvious – As the Trojans start their three-game championship stretch drive, the loss of Omar Nazel and the questionable status of fellow linebacker stars Matt Grootegoed and Champ Simmons is testing SC's defensive depth, especially at linebacker.

The Not So Obvious – While Nazel has apparently finished his Trojan career, you can bet the spiritual leader will still be a large presence in the lockeroom the remainder of the season with his "legendary" pep talks. If you've ever had the opporunity to hear Nazel pontificate, it is truly a "unique" presentation.

The Obvious – Injuries are part of every team this time of the year, but few teams are in the position of the Trojans to run the table, and USC must now test its strength of depth in the remaining three critical games.

The Not So Obvious - All Trojan eyes will now turn to Omar Nazel's replacement in sophomore Frostee Rucker (6-4, 240), who has excelled in the pass rush department. The big and extremely physical former Colorado State transfer and Tustin High star has seen enough playing time this season, especially with the recent injury to Nazel, to ease into the SC lineup without a problem. The bigger question is who becomes the vocal defensive leader on the field and an effective backup for Rucker?

The Obvious – There is certainly concern in the Trojans' camp over the condition and availability of stellar linebackers Matt Grootegoed and Champ Simmons for the remainder of the regular season.

The Not So Obvious – While the loss of Grootegoed and Simmons probably wont have an effect on Saturday's game, it will be interesting to watch their replacements, especially if Simmons can't go. Sophomore Dallas Sartz, the Duane Bickett clone, has filled in admirably for Grootegoed, but Pete Carroll is advising Trojan followers to expect to see walk-on sophomore Collin Ashton (6-1, 215) of Mission Viejo replacing Simmons, and freshman Salo Faraimo and Bobby Otani backing "Rudy" Ashton.

The Obvious – The BCS rankings and formulas are forcing Trojan fans to pay as much attention to the competition as to their own team.

The Not So Obvious – USC football fans are in a schizophrenic state of mind. They are trying to root like crazy for a Trojan blowout win against Arizona, while maintaining a keen eye on old rival and BCS No. 3 pursuer Ohio State, which hosts a tough Purdue club.

The Obvious - Forgotten in the BCS fray is the fact the Trojans, thanks to last week's bye, are again second in the Pac-10 race, a half-game behind Washington State, who last week turned UCLA into the Ruins.

The Not So Obvious – If the Trojans and Washington State both win this weekend, all Trojan eyes will turn to Seattle next weekend when the Cougars travel to Washington in a series that UW leads 61-27-6 and presents the last chance USC may have to win the Pac-10 outright.

The Obvious – ABC has announced that they will televise next weekend's USC/UCLA game regionally at 12:30 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – That's gonna be one hellacious Nov. 22 starting with ABC's coverage of Ohio State at Michigan (9:00 a.m.) followed by the Trojans and Bruins. Ah, the late 60's and early 70's return –"Yeah, baby!" …… Oh, yeah, did we mention the day concludes with FSN's 3:30 p.m. coverage of Washington State at Washington?

The Obvious – The Trojans are a heavy favorite to tame Arizona and appease the BCS gods.

The Not So Obvious – Don't tell the rejuvenated Arizona Wildcats, who came into last week's Washington game as 161/2-point dogs and put the bark on the Huskies 27-22.

The Obvious – Arizona will play its last home game of the season against USC in a natural turf stadium that holds 56,002.

The Not So Obvious – Despite a horrific season of losses and a head coaching change, the Wildcats still managed to attract 48,319 fans last week hosting Washington. It figures with the revival win last week, the Trojans will be greeted at Arizona Stadium with a sellout audience. The largest crowd to attend an Arizona game was 59,920 against Arizona State in 1996.

The Obvious – The Trojans have won 13 consecutive home games in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – With the upset victory last weekend against UW, Arizona broke a string of 13 consecutive home losses.

The Obvious – The Trojans/Arizona game will be telecast on TBS at 4:00 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – This will be USC's first appearance this season on TBS. The Trojans' only two appearances last year on TBS resulted in losses. Don't count on a three-peat.

The Obvious – This will be Arizona's first look at the Trojans' prodigy tailbacks LenDale White and Reggie Bush.

The Not So Obvious – During last Saturday night's telecast of the Cal/Oregon game, TBS promoted Saturday afternoon's Trojan/Wildcats game with pictures and commentary of freshmen White and Bush. Did the marketing folks at TBS forget about some guys named Leinart, Williams, and Colbert, not to mention Dennis?

The Obvious – Arizona coach Mike Hankwitz has great respect and fear of the Trojans young running backs, especially their ability to take it the distance.

The Not So Obvious – Of the long distance strikes by the Trojans' backs, Hankwitz informed, "What makes them dangerous is that if they hit a crease and they get past your linebackers, they are in the secondary so fast that sometimes they get a chance to split the defensive backs."

The Obvious – UA will showcase sensational sophomore tailback Mike Bell (6-0, 210) from Phoenix Tolleson HS, who rushed last week against UW for 222 yards on 16 carries – including long distance strikes of 67, 59, and 37 yards.

The Not So Obvious – Bell, a sociology major who had his third consecutive 100-yard game, was giddy after the Washington win and said, "This is the biggest win of all-time for me, even bigger than the Pop Warner championship."

The Obvious – The Trojans come into Saturday's game averaging over 40 points and 440 yards in offense per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats arrive Saturday on defense giving up 36.6 points and 444 yards per game on defense.

The Obvious – Trojans' coach Pete Carroll is deservedly up for national coach of the year honors.

The Not So Obvious – While he will not be up for Carroll-type awards, give credit to Arizona interim coach Mike Hankwitz, who has done wonders with the Cats after taking over for John Mackovic.

The Obvious – It still boggles the mind how Wildcats settled on recently fired John Mackovic as their head coach in 2001.

The Not So Obvious – Younger Trojan fans might not remember, but current Arizona interim coach Mike Hankwitz played linebacker for Bo Schembechler at Michigan for three years and was a member of the 1969 Big Ten champs that lost 10-3 to the Trojans and the original Wild Bunch in the 1970 Rose Bowl.

The Obvious – The Trojans will be led Saturday on offense by sophomore quarterback sensation Matt Leinart, who is averaging 292.9 yards through the air to go along with 25 scoring passes and was given high marks by NFL draft guru Mel Kiper.

The Not So Obvious – Leinart, named this week by the Sporting News as their current fourth choice in the Heisman race, figures to pad his stats again this weekend against Arizona. Last weekend, Washington's Cody Pickett punctured the Arizona secondary for 351 yards and two touchdowns.

The Obvious – Saturday will give the Trojans their first look at Arizona true freshman quarterback Kris Heavner (6-3, 215) from Johnson City, Texas.

The Not So Obvious – The kid, who isn't quite yet in the Leinart class, threw for 151 yards (10 of 20) against Washington, including one interception.

The Obvious – Much scrutiny by Trojan foes this season has centered on Trojan safeties Jason Leach and Darnell Bing.

The Not So Obvious – While the USC safeties have been vulnerable at times against the pass, Leach and Bing are ranked two-three on the team in tackles with 55 and 48, respectively.

The Obvious – The Wildcats' offense will face a Trojan defense headed by sophomore middle linebacker Lofa Tatutpu, who leads the USC defense in tackles (64).

The Not So Obvious – Saturday's Arizona game will also be the celebration of Tatupu's 21st birthday.

The Obvious – The Trojans are ranked No. 2 in the country, and the Wildcats' crowd will be a fever-pitch in their support of a second home upset in two weeks.

The Not So Obvious – However, UA is 1-15 against ranked teams since 2000, but their lone victory during the streak was against the No. 18 Trojans in 2000.

The Obvious – Other than head coach Hankwitz, there are no Arizona assistants that have any connection with the USC program.

The Not So Obvious – Heralded Trojan offensive line coach Tim Davis was a UA grad assistant for the Wildcats in 1987.

The Obvious – The Trojans are hoping that wide receiver Mike Williams has healed enough to be a big factor Saturday in Tucson.

The Not So Obvious – Williams was a guest this week in the ESPN.com chat and was asked by a fan who was the best player in college football. Williams replied, " I think the best player in the country overall is Keary Colbert. Second would be B.J. Simmons."

The Obvious – The Trojans have gotten fine technique from senior center Norm Katnik.

The Not So Obvious – Norm's father, Norman, was a two-year starter at center for UA (1978-79)

The Obvious - The Trojans' backup center is freshman Ryan Kilil, who has been one of the surprises of this year's ballythooed freshman class.

The Not So Obvious – Kalil's father, Frank, followed Katnik's father at center for UA (1980-82).

The Obvious – One of the new USC marketing tools is the use of the Internet for promotion and fan interaction.

The Not So Obvious – The Arizona athletic site takes it a step further with their fan interaction called From the Booth. Disseminated during the game from the press box through the official state crew, fans ask questions and receive unique play-by-play comments.

The Obvious – From the Booth came up with amusing comments during the Washington game such as "Cody Pickett just got the Sausage Deli special and was sandwiched in the backfield for the sack lunch."

The Not So Obvious – At the end Arizona's upset win over Washington, From the Booth commented, "Arizona's win makes next week's game against USC veery interesting."

The Obvious – Including the loss to Cal, the Trojans after bye week record is now 78-42-4.

The Not So Obvious – On USC's after bye week loss to Cal, Arizona coach Hankwitz said, "In the first half, Cal controlled the ball and kept it away from USC. They built up a lead, but USC came back and sent the game into overtime. You have to give Cal credit because they did a really nice job of attacking their (USC) defense and getting rid of the ball and exploiting minor things. USC obviously has learned from that."

The Obvious – The Trojans recruiting class was ranked by many last year as one of the best, and the freshmen roster included All-America defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson (6-5, 250) from Inglewood HS.

The Not So Obvious – Jackson' brother, Keith, is an Arizona Wildcat redshirt freshman offensive tackle. Keith Jackson (6-5, 312) left the Los Angeles area "to grow up." Kid was an honorable mention Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West.

The Obvious – While the Wildcats have had their problems on both sides of the ball, they do have some players on defense that came out of high school highly regarded, especially when former coach Dick Tomey worked the recruiting palms of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Not So Obvious – One of those decorated prep stars is middle linebacker Joe Siofele (6-2, 255), who was a Parade Magazine All-American out of Honolulu St. Louis. Siofele played for the legendary Cal Lee, who is now a coach at the University of Hawaii under June Jones.

The Obvious – Arizona suffered a big loss when talented senior tailback Clarence Farmer was dismissed earlier in the season.

The Not So Obvious – Farmer was one of the Pac-10's best and in 2001, he burned the Trojans for a 22-yard scoring run and 78 yards. In 2000, Farmer rushed for 134 yards, including an 80-yard score in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – USC received great news this week when Saddleback JC linebacker Ryan Powdrell and La Quinta defensive tackle Lawrence Miles made Trojan verbals.

The Not So Obvious – Powdrell's verbal is a huge pickup for the Trojans, especially with Champ Simmons graduating. This kid is a stud (250 lbs.), runs like a deer sideline-to-sideline, and was a terrific fullback at Mission Viejo under Bob Johnson.

The Obvious – This will be the Trojans one and only television exposure on TBS, since the final two against UCLA and Oregon State will be on ABC.

The Not So Obvious – This week's UCLA/Oregon game from the Rose Bowl will not be on the tube. You will be "forced" to watch and root for the Washington State Cougars, who are hosting the Arizona State Sunless Devils at 12:30 p.m. on ABC.

The Obvious – The Trojan remaining equation for success is quite simple. Beat Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon State, and it's BCS a-go-go somewhere, no matter how you add and divide to it.

The Not So Obvious – However, the BCS numbers game with strength of schedule points for Ohio State and Washington State wins turns the whole computer system into one big guessing game. Of course it is all meaningless if the Trojans don't take care of business against Arizona. With the weather prediction in Tucson for sunny skies and a high of 75, the Trojans hope to turn up the heat and leave Arizona feeling BCS cool.

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