O/NSO - UCLA preview

The Not So Obvious – The great unknown is how USC (9-1, 5-1 Pac-10) and UCLA (6-5, 4-3) will hold up to the pressure of Saturday's bloodfeud. For USC, No.3 in the BCS for the present, all that's riding on the line is a potential trip to New Orleans or Pasadena while UCLA may need an upset in their final game on Saturday just to participate in any bowl.

The Obvious – For all intensive purposes, the second-ranked USC Trojans should annihilate a disoriented UCLA Bruins football team this Saturday at noon in a packed Coliseum. However, the history of Los Angeles' greatest single sports day is filled with illogical logic and incomprehensible upsets, enough to make Saturday's 73rd meeting the latest unknown in this intense rivalry.

The Not So Obvious – The great unknown is how USC (9-1, 5-1 Pac-10) and UCLA (6-5, 4-3) will hold up to the pressure of Saturday's bloodfeud. For USC, No.3 in the BCS for the present, all that's riding on the line is a potential trip to New Orleans or Pasadena while UCLA may need an upset in their final game on Saturday just to participate in any bowl.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened for Saturday's crosstown rivalry as 21-1/2-point favorites over the Bruins, an unheard of spread.

The Not So Obvious – Before Trojan fans place a few smackers with their favorite establishment, let's not forget that the Bruins beat Cal 23-20 in overtime while the Trojans lost to the Bears 34-31 in overtime. It will be interesting after the game hearing how the Trojans compare to Oklahoma, assuming the oddsmakers are right about a USC thrashing.

The Obvious – Prior to Saturday's kickoff, it figures the Trojans will know the final score of the Ohio State at Michigan game, which will start at 9:00 a.m. PST, although Pete Carroll says he will not inform his team of the final score from Ann Arbor.

The Not So Obvious - With the outcome for the Big 10 championship concluded in ‘The Big House" prior to the Trojans/Bruins kickoff, how will USC be effected if Ohio State or Michigan wins? It could be the type of distraction that could give the Bruins an edge or the Trojans added fuel to their Sugar Bowl fire.

The Obvious – A Trojan loss to the Bruins would kill a USC Sugar Bowl trip, and the Trojans would be then relying on Washington to upset Washington State to keep their Rose Bowl hopes alive.

The Not So Obvious – The Washington/Washington State game will be televised on FSN at 3:30 p.m. and given a Trojans' win over the Bruins, USC fans will be screaming hard for Washington State to win to help the Trojans' strength of schedule.

The Obvious – All eyes in college football will be on Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, and Seattle for all the obvious BCS reasons.

The Not So Obvious – A Pac-10 game of major significance on Saturday is also being played in Eugene, Oregon as the Ducks host the Oregon State Beavers, who are a game behind the Trojans and the Washington State Cougars. With wins by Oregon,Washington, and the Trojans, and USC would be Rose Bowl-bound – if New Orleans is no longer an option.

The Obvious – The Trojans and the Bruins couldn't be headed in more opposite directions approaching Saturday's game.

The Not So Obvious – While this year's Trojans' offense could end up being one of the best-ever, this year's Bruin team has evolved into one of the most disorganized offensive UCLA teams in recent memory, a team that looks as bad as their offensive numbers indicate. The Bruins look almost Hackett-est.

The Obvious – The Trojans are looking for their fifth-straight over the Bruins, which would mean that this UCLA senior class would have never beaten USC.

The Not So Obvious – This fact has not escaped UCLA senior star defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, who was forewarned about that possibility years ago. Leisle said, "I had a good friend from my hometown (Bakersfield) and his dad told me, ‘You know, you're not going to beat ‘SC the whole five years that you're there,' and every time we lose (to USC), I always think about that."

The Obvious – Both campus areas are in "lockdown" for potential pranks, and both Tommy Trojan and the Bruin bear have been covered for any potential "attacks."

The Not So Obvious – A touring group of Orange County high school students were reminded by a UCLA tour guide earlier this week about how the UCLA band some years ago dropped blue powder on the Coliseum grass forming the famed UCLA signature. Not to be outdone, the same Orange County group was reminded how Trojan pranksters let loose "red" crickets into UCLA's libraries and red dye into the Bruins' cherished water fountain.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense comes into Saturday's game averaging 40.7 points.

The Not So Obvious – The UCLA defense allows 21.9 points per game.

The Obvious – There has never been a better unexpected quarterback success story for the Trojans than the development of sophomore Matt Leinart, who is the lead candidate for Pac-10 player of the Year.

The Not So Obvious – For UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, his quarterback situation has turned into a mess. Neither Drew Olson nor Matt Moore seems comfortable with the Bruins' version of the West Coast offense, and Dorrell and his offensive coordinator, veteran Steve Axman, have juggled quarterbacks, much to the dismay of Bruin fans, many of whom booed the Bruins' offensive last week against the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl.

The Obvious – The Bruins' offensive line has turned their quarterbacks into target practice.

The Not So Obvious – Without creating too much hyperbole, Drew Olson and Matt Moore figure to be running for their lives on Saturday much like they did last week against Oregon. The Bruins' offensive line has allowed 43 sacks, by far the most in the Pac-10, and the Trojans' Wild Bunch 2 has captured the opposing quarterback 36 times.

The Obvious – A huge difference in the two teams offensively is the strength of the veteran USC offensive line, which leads the conference in rushing and protecting Trojan quarterbacks, allowing just 12 sacks.

The Not So Obvious – UCLA's offensive line has gone down hill as the season has progressed and has been hurt immensely from the loss of starting center Mike McCloskey and the oft-injured backup Robert Chai. The Bruins played much of last Saturday's game against Oregon with a third-string center, but Chai was seen walking easily around the UCLA campus early in the week.

The Obvious - The USC/UCLA game has made legends and heroes out of ordinary players such as Norm Dow, John Fox, and John Barnes.

The Not So Obvious - With Trojan fullback Brandon Hancock out again with injury, Pete Carroll is looking to reserve sophomore fullback David Kirtman to fill in along with the physical Lee Webb. Lookout for Kirtman catching the ball out of the backfield and causing the Bruins a problem. Kirtman may be that unsung player that Los Angeles comes to know about late Saturday afternoon.

The Obvious – The Trojans are looking for their fifth-straight victory over their Westwood rivals.

The Not So Obvious – If the Trojans need motivation to continue the streak, Trojan fans and players only need remember UCLA's nine-game winning streak from 1990-1998. If you don't remember, ESPN radio's Joe McDonald will be happy to remind you.

The Obvious – The Trojans' games are heard on Sporting News 1540 while UCLA is heard on XTRA Sports 690.

The Not So Obvious – It will be a battle of radio voices in USC's Pete "How-do-you-do" Arbogast and UCLA's Chris "The Bruins, Yeah Baby" Roberts, two experienced voices with uniquely different styles. Both radio teams feature Trojan and Bruin quarterbacks with USC's Paul "Mr. Cool" McDonald and UCLA's Matt "Mr. Optimistic" Stevens, two Orange County residents.

The Obvious – The USC defense allow 17.5 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The UCLA offense averages 19.7 points per game.

The Obvious – The UCLA offensive line has had trouble at times with their rushing game during the season.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday's game will be the renewal of Bruins' junior offensive guard Eyoseph Efseaff (6-3, 280) and Wild Bunch 2 junior defensive tackle Shaun Cody, who missed last year's game with his ACL injury. Two years ago in the Coliseum, Cody took Efseaff repeatedly to the woodshed. Look for another dominating performance from Cody.

The Obvious – The Trojan were hoping for the return on Saturday of star linebacker Matt Grootegoed, but Pete Carroll has said he doesn't expect No. 6 to play.

The Not So Obvious – For all of UCLA's problems, they do possess three very good linebackers in senior Brandon Chiller (6-3, 235), who leads the Pac-10 in tackles, and sophomores Justin London (6-1, 232) and Spencer Havner (6-4, 227).

The Obvious – A great match-up figures to be Trojans' senior All-Pac10 tackle Jacob Rogers and UCLA's probable All Pac-10 defensive end Dave Ball, who leads the conference in sacks.

The Not So Obvious – You are cordially invited to watch how the interior of the USC offensive line, namely center Norm Katnik and guards Lenny Vandermade, John Drake, and Fred Matua, deal with UCLA senior thug tackle Rodney Leisle and fellow agressive tackle Ryan Boschetti. If you're searching for the true meaning of rivalry violence, this is the place to focus your binoculars.

The Obvious – There is no better rivalry on television than USC's Petros Papdakis and UCLA honk and former quarterback Matt Stevens, both of whom have been court jesters during the week on the Southern California Sports Report on FOX.

The Not So Obvious – While Stevens is normally the mild one on the Southern California Sports Report, on Monday Stevens was seen at UCLA taking a sledge hammer to a red car symbolic of USC and yelling anti-Trojan slogans to a gathering along Bruin Walk.

The Obvious – UCLA defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach Larry Kerr is widely respected for his defensive knowledge, and he will be trying to slow down a prolific Norm Chow offense.

The Not So Obvious – Kerr's defense has done a very respectable job considering the Bruins' West Coast offense and special teams have been lackluster. This Bruin defense plays with attitude, and Kerr has instilled the same competitive spirit that he wielded at Colorado State under Sonny Lubick.

The Obvious – Saturday's rivalry also pits two of the nation's outstanding college marching bands in Art Bartner's spirit of Troy and Gordon Henderson's Solid Gold Sound.

The Not So Obvious – For fast pace and high spirit, Bartner's Spirit of Troy is as good as it gets. For the conservative types, Henderson's group is a well-oiled machine with some outstanding musicians. Fans from both schools will get a chance to compare these two musical juggernauts on Saturday as they both will perform their pre-game and halftime routines in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – UCLA will get its first chance to see the Trojans' highly-touted freshmen running backs, and it will be interesting to see how youngsters LenDale White and Reggie Bush react to the super-intense Coliseum atmosphere.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans, on the other hand, will get the first look at explosive Bruin freshman running back Maurice Drew, the former Concord De La Salle flash. The Trojans tried hard last year to bring Drew to USC, but numbers certainly played a part in the kid's decision.

The Obvious – Throughout the season, media and fans have compared and contrasted USC coach Pete Carroll and UCLA coach Karl Dorrell.

The Not So Obvious – Leave it to Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker to makes his own personal evaluation of the two leaders. Whicker wrote, "Dorrell is just there, and the personal contrast with Pete Carroll, the life of USC's party, is uncomfortably vivid. In fact, the true test of Carroll's magnetism would be to see if he could inspire Dorrell."

The Obvious – There are no tickets to be sold from either university for Saturday's game, but scalpers will be aplenty at Expositon Park.

The Not So Obvious – USC leads the Pac-10 in attendance averaging 74,947 while UCLA averages 56,636. Including UCLA, there are still two home games to go for the Trojans. Should the Trojans defeat UCLA, there could be another sellout in two weeks against Oregon State with the conference championship and possible BCS Sugar Bowl bid on the line.

The Obvious – In order for a Bruin upset of Troy, USC will have to have a bundle of turnovers, a slumbering Bruin offense will have to come to life, and there must be a poorly officiated game.

The Not So Obvious – Our lips are sealed, but the officiating crew assigned to the game Saturday is not one of the Pac-10's most valued units.

The Obvious – If the Trojans are to explode against the Bruins, it figures that USC's vaunted receiving unit will be inflicting heavy damage to the Bruin secondary.

The Not So Obvious – The Bruins defense is ranked second in the conference, but Matt Ware, the Bruins' highly publicized corner, has had his problems since returning from injury. Ware struggled against Oregon, and it will be no shock here if Norm Chow goes right after Ware to break the Bruins' secondary spirit. The Bruins have shown they are susceptible to the deep ball.

The Obvious – Trojans' kicker Ryan Killeen may be called upon early if the Trojans' offense stalls in the red zone.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans should be aware that the Bruins have a real weapon in redshirt freshman kicker Justin Medlock from Fremont, California. The kid has range from 45-yards out and has been extremely accurate (14/18 field goals and all 23 PATs).

The Obvious – ABC will televise Saturday's game at 12:30 p.m. after the Ohio State/ Michigan game.

The Not So Obvious – No Keith Jackson this week for local viewers. The network is bringing out Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, and USC Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Trojan fans will want to hear Lynn's comments about Trojan receivers Mike Williams and Keary Colbert.

The Obvious - Weather is rarely a factor for USC/UCLA but usually is for Ohio State/Michigan.

The Not So Obvious – Forecast for Los Angeles Saturday is 61 degrees and sunny. If you must know, the forecast for Ann Arbor is 51 and cloudy.

The Obvious – One of the keys to preparation for Saturday's game is the scout teams from both programs that try and emulate the other's offense and defense.

The Not So Obvious – Trojans' quarterback Billy Hart is running the UCLA offense with redshirt frosh speedster Desmond Reed playing the part of Bruins' freshman tailback Maurice Drew. UCLA is using freshman quarterback Brian Callahan (De La Salle) as Matt Leinart.

The Obvious – The "Trojan Walk" figures to a highly charged spirit tunnel when the USC team walks to the peristyle end of the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan Walk should be of special interest to attending USC fans as some super blue-chippers figure to be part of the exercise. Expected to participate are visitors Adrian Peterson, the nation's No.1 running back from Palestine, Texas and Dwayne Jarrett, one of the country's valued big receivers, from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The Obvious – The Times did a story on Thursday on recruiting between the Trojans and Bruins, and staff writer Mike DiGiovanna interviewed low-key Bruins' coach Karl Dorrell on how he plans to battle the extroverted Pete Carroll in recruiting.

The Not So Obvious – Dorrell took a swipe at Carroll when the Bruins' coach said, "Some players, like coaches, like to yell, some are more teacher-oriented. Both have been successful." Any guess who the "teacher-oriented" coach might be?

The Obvious – This week's Sporting News has a big feature story on USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who will apparently interview for the Arizona head coaching position.

The Not So Obvious – The article, entitled "A Winning Recipe", says, "USC has all the makings of a perennial national title contender – a sharp head coach, a capable quarterback, a tough defense – but NORM CHOW and his explosive offense are the key ingredients."

The Obvious – USC coach Pete Carroll has brought the past to the present in Trojan football by returning to the uniforms of the 1960s, embracing the USC tradition, inviting back stars of the past, and most importantly, has returned Trojan football to the nation's elite.

The Not So Obvious – You could also call Saturday's game a "Throwback" as well. Tailgating Trojan fans outside the Coliseum will have their portable television sets tuned to the Ohio State/Michigan game, the Bruins once again have returned to the big underdog role, and fans across the country know this is a game of national importance. It doesn't get any better than this, so if you will excuse me please, I need to make sure my eight-track stereo is ready in the Ford Pinto. As Pete Carroll would say, "It's gonna be a blast!"

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