O/NSO - Oregon State preview

It's Championship Saturday and down the stretch they come! The second-ranked USC Trojans, looking to lock up a BCS Sugar Bowl bid against visiting Oregon State, and the third-ranked LSU Tigers, hoping to stir a potential witch's brew of Louisiana computer voodoo by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs, provide the nation an exhilarating ending to the 2003 regular season.

The Obvious – It's Championship Saturday and down the stretch they come! The second-ranked USC Trojans, looking to lock up a BCS Sugar Bowl bid against visiting Oregon State, and the third-ranked LSU Tigers, hoping to stir a potential witch's brew of Louisiana computer voodoo by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs, provide the nation an exhilarating ending to the 2003 regular season.

The Not So Obvious – Pacing like expectant fathers in a BCS maternity ward, USC fans should be advised that this Oregon State Beaver team is bringing the Pac-10's No. 1 statistical defense, an offense ranked second behind the Trojans, and a number of Mel Kiper NFL prospects. Trojan coach Pete Carroll says this Beaver team has the "capabilities" of turning Saturday into a difficult day for the cardinal and gold.

The Obvious – Despite being a 21-point favorite and having a Los Angeles Saturday weather forecast of 72 degrees, the Trojans (10-1, 6-1 Pac-10) should be aware that coach Mike Riley and his Beavers (7-4, 4-3) are on record as wanting to rain on USC's best possible season since1979 and bring home a win at the Coliseum for the first time in 43 years.

The Not So Obvious - Oregon State senior safety Lawrence Tuner says, "This is our national championship game That's motivation enough. It's a national TV game in front of 90,000 people. Everyone's tuning into see what happens, and all the pressure is off us because we know where we're going (the Las Vegas Bowl)."

The Obvious – ABC will televise the Trojans-Beavers' game nationally at 1:30 p.m., and CBS will follow with the SEC championship featuring LSU and Georgia at 4:30 p.m. from Atlanta.

The Not So Obvious – Earlier in the morning, ABC will open Championship Saturday by televising the crucial Notre Dame at Syracuse contest (10:00 a.m.) that "experts" have been telling us may decide the whole shebang, if both the Trojans and Tigers win their respective games. If you are thinking Trojan positive, you might want to scout the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners in their Big 12 championship against Kansas State on ABC at 5: p.m.

The Obvious – This was the first week in which Trojans' coach Pete Carroll actually looked like and talked like a coach whose team was on the verge of a trip to the BCS National Championship Game.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll showed a real look of excitement and concern when interviewed this week on local television about a possible trip to New Orleans, and the coach seemed ready to compete against Oregon State for a potential national title bid. Naturally, he said that this week's practice routine was no different than any other.

The Obvious – With their own bowl game I hand, Oregon State coach Mike Riley also has indicated it was business as usual for his Beaver team, which is also coming off a bye.

The Not So Obvious - Oregon State is staying the course by flying into Los Angeles on their Alaska charter from Eugene (yes, rival Eugene) on Friday, practicing in the Coliseum Friday afternoon, and then checking into their Glendale Hilton for final preparations.

The Obvious – Saturday's game at the Coliseum will match a BCS-bound Trojan team against a Las Vegas Bowl-bound Oregon State Beaver club.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers' recent football renaissance has seen them attend four bowl games in the past five years.

The Obvious – The vaunted USC offense under the direction of guru Norm Chow is averaging 41.3 points and 456.4 in total offense to lead the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers' defense under the direction of coordinator Mark Banker, who was the defensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers in 2001, allows 21.4 points and 294.4 yards on the average to lead the Pac-10.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll's Trojan defense allows a Pac-10 best 17.9 points per outing and is third in average yardage allowed at 319 yards.

The Not So Obvious – Oregon State's offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, a former San Diego Chargers tight end coach and disciple of Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, has created with Riley a scoring machine that averages 31.8 points and 448.7 yards. The Beavers rank second only to the Trojans in Pac-10 total offense.

The Obvious – The Trojans enter Saturday's game with nine All-Pac-10 selections headed by Offensive Player of the Year Matt Leinart, the left-handed sophomore quarterback from Santa Ana Mater Dei.

The Not So Obvious – Leinart received an interesting compliment from Oregon State coach Mike Riley, who said, "He (Leinart) doesn't have all the dimensions of a superstar, but he plays like one. The guy who throws the hardest and throws the farthest is not always the best quarterback."

The Obvious – Of all the celebrated the USC first-team All-Pac-10 offensive selections, the most surprising was center Norm Katnik, who was recently named as one of six finalists for the Remington Trophy, presented to the nation's best center.

The Not So Obvious – Senior center Katnik is a true testament to hard work, weight room dedication, and belief in the offensive line techniques taught by offensive line coach Tim "Mass Kicks Ass" Davis. Norm's awards are especially rewarding to his father, Norman, who was a two-year starting center at Arizona (1978-79), and to his uncle, John, who was a starting center for Troy in 1986-87.

The Obvious – The Trojans will be looking for their first outright Pac-10 championship since 1989, and nobody is more responsible for that than sophomore All-America wide receiver Mike Williams, who in last year's victory against Oregon State hauled in two scoring receptions from Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.

The Not So Obvious – Oregon State will attempt to counter Williams with an outstanding wide receiver of their own in senior James Newson (6-1, 208, who was also named to this year's first-team All-Pac-10 team. A Stockton Edison product, Newson (averaging 114.5 yards per game) is considered one of the top five players that his high school coach, Frank Carido, has guided. That list includes Vince Ferragamo, Freeman McNeil, Frank Manumaleuna, Eric Williams, and former Trojan Danny Reece – all of whom played in the NFL.

The Obvious – Most coaches that face the Trojans agree that the USC receiver they respect the most is senior Keary Colbert, who received second-team All-Pac-10 honors.

The Not So Obvious – Not to take anything away from receivers Mike and Reggie Williams and James Newson, but, come on folks, does anybody really believe Colbert doesn't belong with these other three on the All-Pac-10 No. 1 team? You can bet that Keary will be rewarded with a Sunday paycheck in his future.

The Obvious – While the Trojans have their parade of stars for 2003 honors, the Oregon State Beavers will also bring some first-team All-Pac-10 selections to the Coliseum on Saturday, including two-time first-team All-Pac-10 tailback Steven Jackson (6-3, 229) out of Las Vegas.

The Not So Obvious – For all his respected running back abilities, Jackson (1,334 yards, 14 TDs), whose father is a casino pit manager in Las Vegas, carried a 3.8 GPA out of Eldorado High and was a member of the National Honor Society. The kid hopes to become an architect.

The Obvious – Trojan defensive linemen Kenechi Udeze, Shaun Cody, and Mike Patterson, members of Wild Bunch 2, were all named first-team All-Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – While this edition of the Wild Bunch runs a 4-3 defense, the original Wild Bunch in 1969 played a 5-2 "Okie" front. The original Wild Bunch had two All-Pac-8 performers in tackle Al Cowlings and stand-up defensive end Jimmy Gunn.

The Obvious – The one member of the Wild Bunch that did not make this year's honor role was senior defensive end Omar Nazel, who may have given the Trojans all four Pac-10 defensive line slots had the vocal leader not been sidelined with a season-ending thumb injury.

The Not So Obvious – Probably the happiest Oregon State player glad that Nazel is not playing on Saturday is Beaver junior quarterback Derek Anderson, who was sacked twice last year by Nazel. In fact, last year Omar also had a team-high seven tackles, a forced fumble, and a deflection to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors against the Beavers.

The Obvious – The heralded Trojan offense will be tested by the Oregon State linebackers, who are led by two-time All-Pac-10 middle linebacker Richard Seigler.

The Not So Obvious – Senior Seigler (6-3, 239), who attended Las Vegas Chaparral, led the State of Nevada in receiving yards his senior high school season with 44 catches for 704 yards (16.0 average) and seven scores in 10 games.

The Obvious – The Beavers' high-powered offense will be directed by quarterback Derek Anderson (6-6, 227), who was on the field last year when the Trojans shut out the Beavers 22-0 in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – There are those that believe that Anderson was never the same after the beating (five sacks, two fumbles, and over 20 hits) he took last year against Pete Carroll's 2002 defense. Anderson's courage will be again tested on Saturday, and it many not take long for the Trojans defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to administer his "psychological" warfare to return Anderson to flashback status.

The Obvious – Junior Trojan kicker Ryan Killeen was named honorable mention in the Pac-10 selections, and the kid needs only two more field goals to break the USC seasonal record.

The Not So Obvious – If the game is tight on Saturday, Oregon State will have a weapon in first-team All-Pac-10 kicker Kirk Yliniemi. The kid has made his last 11 straight field goals. He also once kicked an Oregon prep playoff record 52-yard field goal.

The Obvious – The Trojans will provide the first 30,000 fans on Saturday with a free Ricky Bell trading card compliments of the California Highway Patrol.

The Not So Obvious – Some compare Trojan freshman tailback LenDale White with Bell, who came to SC as a linebacker out of L.A. Fremont. White was named All-Pac-10 honorable mention.

The Obvious – The biggest Oregon State game crowd in the Coliseum was 65,430 in 1989.

The Not So Obvious – The above attendance record will certainly be broken on Saturday, but the question is by how much? The Trojans say 75,000 are expected, but one would think that with the magnitude of the game, a larger crowd would be in attendance.

The Obvious – The Pac-10 Freshman of the Year is Oregon State corner Brandon Browner out of Sylmar High.

The Not So Obvious – Yep, the kid is the son of former Trojan linebacker Keith Browner. The freshman redshirt originally committed to Troy, but grades allegedly prevented him from attending his father's alma mater. Browner is currently tied for third in the Pac-10 for interceptions with five thefts.

The Obvious – Trojans' linebacker Matt Grootegoed, who will start on Saturday, returned to the practice field this week and according to the Daily News, has been suffering from a severely torn ligament in his ankle.

The Not So Obvious – Despite his limited role during conference, Grootegoed still was awarded second-team All-Pac-10 by Pac-10 coaches.

The Obvious – Trojans' senior corner Will Poole is named first-team All-Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Give Pete Carroll most of the credit on this fellow. Carroll's experience with the NFL waiver wire and one-year contract made it very natural for him to pick up Poole as a one-year senior by way of Ventura JC. It's doubtful Carroll will ever hear complaints the next time he picks up a player on college football's "waiver wire."

The Obvious – Former Oregon State football coaching legend Dee "The Great Pumpkin" Andros recently passed away.

The Not So Obvious – Noted for leading his team in his bright orange windbreaker, Andros will allows be remembered by USC fans for his famed team of 1967, a team that upset O.J. Simpson's undefeated Trojan team, 3-0, in heavy rain and mud in Corvallis.

The Obvious – ESPN.com columnist Ivan Maisel is a respected football writer and has a weekly ESPN chat session.

The Not So Obvious – Last week Maisel was asked in a chat which teams are the best besides No. 1 Oklahoma. Maisel said, " Well, I'm voting USC second in the ESPN Power 16, if that answers your question. Speaking of the Rose Bowl, USC-Michigan would be a great game to watch, but I think USC-OU would be better"

The Obvious – The Trojans have survived injuries to former tight end starters Alex Holmes and Dominique Byrd thanks to the play of Greg Guenther Jr. and Norm Chow's creative adjustments.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans should keep a leery eye on Oregon State tight end Tim Euhus (6-5, 247), another Beaver first-team All-Pac-10 selection. Euhus is an outstanding all-around athlete, who was once an honorable mention all-state basketball choice by the Oregonian. During his senior year, the kid averaged 22.8 points and 12.0 rebounds. He had two catches for 43 yards last year against the Trojans in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – According to reports, USC linebacker coach Nick Holt is apparently leaving the Trojans for the head coaching position at the University of Idaho.

The Not So Obvious – Losing Holt could have a temporary impact on Trojan linebacker recruits like Florida's Keith Rivers, who is getting huge rush from Florida and Chris Leak. However, losing Holt would be tougher on current Trojan linebackers like Matt Grootegoed and Lofa Tatupu, who hold Holt in very high esteem. The good news is that Pete Carroll has a pretty good track record of hiring coaches. Unlike a few years ago, a Trojan coaching position is now very likely to attract the best the profession has to offer.

The Obvious – Trojans' senior offensive left tackle Jacob Rogers was named All-Pac-10 for the second consecutive year.

The Not So Obvious – Rogers has still not allowed a sack this season. This includes his battle against UCLA's Dave Ball, who was awarded Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Obvious – With the graduation last year of former two-time All-America safety Troy Polamalu, USC has no players currently from Oregon on their roster.

The Not So Obvious – Oregon State has 37 players from California. By the way, probably the most honored Trojan recruit from Oregon was a prep All-America lineman from Beaverton named James FitzPatrick (1983-85). No, we didn't forget that legendary USC coach who came to Trojanland from the University of Oregon.

The Obvious - So, with USC and LSU having reached Johnny Carson's fork in the Sugar Bowl road, all the nation will be glued to their television sets to see what the outcomes will be this Championship Saturday.

The Not So Obvious –As big as Saturday's games will be, Sunday afternoon becomes the pinnacle of the college football season with ABC's BCS Selection Show at 2:30 p.m. For college football fans across the nation and for those teams involved in the BCS process, ABC becomes the Travel Channel, and the Trojans hope their suitcases are headed for the Battle on Bourbon Street.

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