O/NSO - Colorado State preview edition

Entering into an unparalleled era of Coliseum home attendance and a crescendo of cardinal and gold enthusiasm, the top-ranked USC Trojans (1-0) expect a near sellout Saturday night hosting the Colorado St. Rams (0-1) in a regionally televised ABC home opener.

The Obvious - Entering into an unparalleled era of Coliseum home attendance and a crescendo of cardinal and gold enthusiasm, the top-ranked USC Trojans (1-0) expect a near sellout Saturday night hosting the Colorado St. Rams (0-1) in a regionally televised ABC home opener.

The Not So Obvious – Usually reserved for the likes of Notre Dame and UCLA, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this weekend's game against Coach Sonny Lubick's Rams will be the actual number of spectators that enter the turnstiles of the Grand Old Lady. You know the fans mean Trojan business when the Staples Center is being presented as a parking and a shuttle alternative.

The Obvious - Add a Trojan national championship banner ceremony, an armed forces fly-over, a free schedule poster giveaway, the nation's number one ranking, and you've got the Coliseum makings of an event and not just a game.

The Not So Obvious – Colorado State officials are expecting as large a Coliseum turnout of Rams' fans as were in attendance last Saturday at Colorado's Folsom Field. Of course, maybe it's the fact that 13 Californians are on the CSU two-deep chart or maybe it's a forecasted 88-degree sunny day which doesn't hurt the tourist business either.

The Obvious – It will be interesting Saturday to see how much Trojan improvement there is from the Virginia Tech game, and how much this team has grown in practice since the comeback victory in Landover, Md., which now seems months ago.

The Not So Obvious – With a near sellout predicted, it will also be intriguing to see if many of the young Trojans such as receiver Dwayne Jarrett and defensive end Jeff Schweiger find themselves just as wide-eyed playing in a raucous Coliseum with the challenge of playing front of the home folks.

The Obvious – Coming off a bye and currently riding a Coliseum 15-game win streak, the Trojans arrive for their home opener a 24-point favorite to dispatch Colorado St. back to Fort Collins with their second loss of 2004.

The Not So Obvious – A 24-point favorite can be misleading when playing teams that play from the heart and compete. Last Saturday in Boulder, visiting Colorado State competed and came from 17 points back and out gained Colorado 335-119 in second half yards before losing 27-24 on the last CSU play at the Colorado1-yard line. USC fans shouldn't expect the CSU team to leave their Hyatt Regency hotel on Saturday and plead for Trojan mercy at kickoff.

The Obvious – Saturday's game marks the first time since 1981 that a No. 1 ranked USC team has appeared in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – It figures to be an emotional Trojan team that takes the Coliseum turf with much to prove to themselves, USC fans, and poll voters across the country. You can bet that Pete Carroll wants his club to jump on Colorado State ASAP and take away the Rams' "hope" factor. That "hope" factor lives in high-potential CSU junior quarterback Justin Holland, who said, "I believe if we play our best football, we'll be right there with USC. Once we got our offense going against CU, we were unstoppable. We just need to pick up where we left off."

The Obvious – Saturday night's affair between USC and Colorado State is being televised at 5:00 p.m. (PT) by ABC with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts, and Todd Harris in the house.

The Not So Obvious – The last time that Colorado State made an appearance on ABC was 2001 against Colorado. The Rams have appeared on national and regional television games more than any member of the Mountain West Conference, so camera shy they ain't.

The Obvious – Coach Sonny Lubick's clubs have long been recognized in the industry as one of the finest coached teams in the country, and this should give Trojan players and fans some concern.

The Not So Obvious - An example of that good Rams coaching is the fact that despite last Saturday's last-play loss, Lubick's team had no fumbles, one interception, and just 35 yards in opening day penalties. Even in gut-wrenching defeat, his team out-gained Colorado in total offense 447- 372. Most impressive was the fact the Rams made a valiant comeback effort on the road in a rivalry game and kept their poise until their last play of the game when the wild Boulder environment took its toll.

The Obvious – Aside from Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart, tailback Reggie Bush, Pac-10 Player of the Week for his Virginia Tech performance, could become the next Southern California media darling.

The Not So Obvious – For astute football observers, considering the respect most have for Sonny Lubick's defensive planning, it will be extremely interesting to watch the coaching confrontation between Lubick and legendary Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow as Reggie Bush is formationed throughout the game. In fact, in Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Colorado State's Lubick, the Trojans are being defended on a strategy level by two of the finest defensive minds in college football, something that may be a big advantage for the Trojans' offense down the road.

The Obvious - As for an attitude adjustment for the Trojans coming off the Colorado defeat, Coach Sonny Lubick is known for being able to get his team "up" for big games, especially after a loss.

The Not So Obvious – This week Lubick said, " I am not concerned about that (the loss). We're playing USC. We're playing the top-ranked team in the country. Our players will look at it as a great opportunity. Our kids will bounce back." Don't forget that last season Sonny's Rams beat Cal 23-21 in a fourth-quarter comeback in Berkeley.

The Obvious – The Trojans retained their top ranking in both the USA Today/ESPN and
Associated Press polls.

The Not So Obvious – The highest ranked team Colorado State has ever faced was No. 4 Arizona in 1994 and the Rams won the game, 21-16, in Tucson. As for Lubick's top-25 record, Sonny is 12-12. Unfortunately for Rams' fans, when the Trojans are No. 1 against an unranked opponent, the Cardinal and Gold are a stunning 23-1-1.

The Obvious – There was a time when Colorado State's Sonny Lubick, who many believe is the "mind of minds" in the Mountain West Conference, was once considered a candidate to replace Paul Hackett, Pete Carroll's Trojan predecessor.

The Not So Obvious – Age was said to be one factor that cancelled out Lubick. Strangely enough, there is no listing of Sonny's age or birth date in CSU press releases and media information. However, Lubick must have aged some more when he couldn't get access to the official USC game film two weeks in advance, instead having to "allegedly" rely on the ESPN telecast.

The Obvious – The only real glaring similarity between the Trojans and the Rams is the fact that both teams have been built on defense.

The Not So Obvious – Another is that Colorado State's Sonny Lubick and Trojan defensive line coach Ed Orgeron once coached defense together at the University of Miami.

The Obvious – You can bet that Sonny Lubick, who is in his 12th year at CSU, and his staff has gone over the Virginia Tech film with the skill of a Frank Beamer surgeon.

The Not So Obvious – Against Colorado, the CSU corners played off of the Colorado receivers. The Virginia Tech strategy was to jam the USC receivers with some bump-and-run and bring hesitation to Trojan route running. It remains to be seen if Lubick will do the same as VT, but if his corners stay off the Trojan receivers, the USC passing game figures to be improved, especially with only four Rams returning from last year's defense, which includes just two in the Rams' rebuilt secondary.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart will continue his Heisman campaign with what should be an improved Trojan offensive field day against an atypical Rams' defense.

The Not So Obvious – On the other hand, Colorado State junior quarterback Justin Holland (6-3, 200), a former 2000 Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year, may be facing the rush of his life. Holland, who threw for 403 yards against Colorado in 41 attempts, may find the Trojan defense looking to amend itself after a tough first half against Virginia Tech. Expect the Trojans' defensive line to be smelling Rams blood, especially if Holland is flushed out of the pocket.

The Obvious – With two weeks to correct route running and passing execution, this will be an important benchmark for youthful receivers Steve Smith, Chris McFoy, and Dwayne Jarrett.

The Not So Obvious – The Rams will test the inexperienced Trojan receivers with clever left corner Bobby Herbert, who originally started his career at Oregon State. A transfer from Compton City College, Herbert (6-1, 195) had 11 tackles against Colorado. Flanking Herbert is junior free safety Ben Stratton (6-2, 210), the former Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year, a converted corner who had 12 tackles against the Buffs.

The Obvious – Eyes of Trojan fans need to focus on the Rams' All-MWC receiver David Anderson (5-11, 190), the junior from Thousand Oaks, who once played in the Cali-Florida Prep All-Star Game and last week torched Colorado for 156 yards in nine receptions.

The Not So Obvious - The kid has caught one pass in each of his last 14 games.

The Obvious – Last time we watched the USC secondary, Troy appeared to have difficulty keeping track of Virginia Tech's tight ends.

The Not So Obvious – Let's watch how Pete Carroll's secondary confronts CSU stellar senior H-back Joel Dreessen (6-4, 260), a former John Mackey Award (TE) candidate, who suffered through injury last season. If the Trojans' secondary is again sliced up, it will be a foreboding omen for their Pac-10 future.

The Obvious – The Trojans have been a mainstay of the college football bowl landscape for decades.

The Not So Obvious –Colorado State has been to a bowl game in each of the five years the Rams have played in the MWC, and let's not forget the last time the Trojans played in a bowl game against a MWC club. SC lost to Utah, 10-6, in that forgettable bowl game in Las Vegas during Pete Carroll's first season.

The Obvious – The Trojans once went down to the wire in recruiting Colorado State tailback Marcus Houston, a Colorado prep running legend, who transferred from Colorado.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans may have missed out on Houston, but would you LenDale White for Houston? Didn't think so. There may come a moment in Saturday's game when both teams' are operating at the same time with the former Denver prep legends. LenDale is on record as saying this would be pretty exciting as Houston was a player he always admired.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense will be out to shut down the Colorado State rushing game and then make CSU quarterback Holland take it to the air.

The Not So Obvious – The Colorado State rushing game seems to help shut itself down with some unusual "stuff" from their offensive line. Last week against Colorado, the Rams were held to 44 yards net rushing with tailback Marcus Houston exploding for the Rams' longest run of the day – a gain of 7 yards.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart figures to see more open receivers this weekend against Colorado State, but it will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Norm Chow chooses to run LenDale White more this game than against Virginia Tech.

The Not So Obvious – It doesn't take a Norm Chow is see that Colorado rushed for 255 net yards last week against Colorado State, especially early. Although Colorado threw for 117 yards, it figures that the Trojans offensive line will be expected to give a dominating performance both rushing and pass blocking. Check out the efficiency of competing Trojan right tackles Deuce Lutui and Kyle Williams, as well as the competition between left guards John Drake and Travis Watson.

The Obvious – Trojans' head coach Pete Carroll's son, Brennan, is in charge of the USC tight ends.

The Not So Obvious – Colorado State's head coach Sonny Lubick's son, Matt, is the Rams' wide receiver coach.

The Obvious – Trojan linebacker coach Rocky Seto is the lone member of the current USC staff that graduated from USC.

The Not So Obvious – Four Rams' assistants are Colorado State grads. DL coach Tom Ehlers, OL coach Darrell Funk, QB coach and offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt, and WR coach Matt Lubick are Rams alums.

The Obvious – Lane Kiffin is the Trojans' wide receivers coach.

The No So Obvious – Lane's brother, Chris (6-1, 275), may start at defensive tackle in place of redshirt freshman Blake Smith. The younger Kiffin played his prep ball at Tampa Jesuit and Sickles. Check out No. 93, who actually has worked out at USC during summers.

The Obvious – Perhaps no Trojan is as excited to play Saturday as Frostee Rucker, who is a transfer from Colorado State.

The Not So Obvious – Rucker (6-4, 255), who has apparently found a new shoe device to cushion his toe problem, may at some point, find himself battling former teammate Erik Pears (6-8, 315), Colorado State offensive tackle who was an All-MWC selection and graduate of Denver Kennedy High. Though it figures Rucker will start, freshman Jeff Schweiger could make CSU his coming out party.

The Obvious – The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that Trojan season ticket sales increased from 29,000 to 36,000, a jump of 24%.

The Not So Obvious – Certainly those numbers reflect winning a national championship, but will it also translate to a larger sea of cardinal attire and Notre Dame/ UCLA fan intensity?

The Obvious – The Trojans first home game against Colorado State should bring in the usual high number of recruits, both real and potential.

The Not So Obvious – However, every indication is that the first major recruit invite list will involve the titanic against Cal on Oct. 9th. It appears that a number of high profile recruits from across the land will be in attendance. Expect the states of Arizona, Minnesota, and Florida to be represented.

The Obvious – Thursday night's battle of Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos, a battle of Orange County prep titans, features USC versus Alabama as Trojan quarterback verbal Mark Sanchez leads his Mission Viejo High club against Crimson Tide quarterback verbal Jimmy Barnes of Los Alamitos.

The No So Obvious – Almost 34 years to the day this Saturday, John McKay's USC Trojans went down to Alabama and destroyed Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide 42-21 as sophomore running back Sam Cunningham of Santa Barbara ran for 135 yards on 12 carries and two scores, thus paving the way for integration of Southern football.

The Obvious – This weekend will provide USC fans another televised chance to scout some of the Trojans' future Pac-10 opponents.

The Not So Obvious – Televised action begins TGIF night with suicidal Oregon State at mighty Boise State (7:00 p.m./ESPN). Saturday's cable breakfast starts with unblemished Arizona St. at studious Northwestern (9:00 a.m./ESPN2) along with those wondering Bruins at unscathed Illinois (9:00 a.m./ABC). For lunch, we have for you fortunate Colorado at likewise Washington State (12:30 p.m./ABC) in Seattle. Yes, Seattle. The dinner hour brings, of course, that little ABC skirmish in the Coliseum at 5:00 p.m. All times are PDT.

The Obvious – The Trojans will have a second opportunity to show sections of the country and the rest of the polling world that they are an improving national championship contender.

The Not So Obvious – Just how improved will this Trojan team appear on Saturday evening? After watching the first big weekend of college football, Trojan fans are feeling better about the Virginia Tech win. However, after viewing the likes of the California Bears, there is work to be done and if Virginia Tech was the floor plan, then Colorado State should be the beginning of the foundation. Of such humble beginnings are national championships built.

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