O/NSO - BYU preview

The Entertainment Sports Programming Network transmits another clear Saturday night view of the Wasatch Mountains, the aura of fickle Levell Edwards' Stadium, and the continuing progress of the No.1 USC Trojans (2-0), as the Cardinal and Gold are challenged by a BYU Cougar (1-1) team that feels it could have beaten the Trojans last year in the Coliseum.

The Obvious - The Entertainment Sports Programming Network transmits another clear Saturday night view of the Wasatch Mountains, the aura of fickle Levell Edwards' Stadium, and the continuing progress of the No.1 USC Trojans (2-0), as the Cardinal and Gold are challenged by a BYU Cougar (1-1) team that feels it could have beaten the Trojans last year in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Provo is a city of approximately 111,000 people and 64,045 of them will attempt to cram into Lavell Edwards' Stadium to intimidate the Trojans. However, thanks to the BCS Classic experience last month at FedEx Field, the Trojans have given every indication they are prepared for another rabid reception and respect the fact the Cougars were only down 21-18 to Troy last year with only 4:11 left to play.

The Obvious – Last year's 35-18 Trojan win over BYU will best remembered by the second half voracity that the Cougars displayed after being down 21-0 in the first quarter, and the Trojans apparent inability to fully figure out the Cougars' 3-3-5 defense.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll spent time with his club this spring working against the 3-3-5, and it figures that Matt Leinart will be in a good position to attack the unorthodox defense, although he threw for three interceptions last year against BYU.

The Obvious – In the age of the Internet where coaches can read what their opponents are saying, Trojans' coach Pete Carroll has been very adept funneling out carefully scripted messages that could be read by opponents like BYU.

The Not So Obvious – As for opponents reading Carroll's comments, BYU claims to have picked up some "inside" USC info. Cougars' defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall said, " USC has already made a comment they've done an analysis on our defense." Mendenhall says that national level teams do that and there will be slight BYU changes for Saturday night's game. Ah, let the chess match begin.

The Obvious – The Trojans are favored by 26-points over BYU to return to Los Angeles 3-0.

The Not So Obvious – Maybe the betting boys feel that BYU is looking past the Trojans to the following week at No. 23 Boise St., or maybe it's the fact that BYU looked worse against Stanford than better against Notre Dame.

The Obvious – Stanford appeared to completely take apart BYU last weekend with a decisive 37-10 victory.

The Not So Obvious – Despite the lopsided score, the difference in the game was turnovers and penalties against the Cougars. Stanford only had a total yardage edge of 369-329.

The Obvious – A Lavell Edwards' Stadium sellout crowd (64,045) is expected to watch Saturday's night's game, which will be played on natural grass.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans have now played before crowds of at least 85,000 in four of its last five games, so the size factor, especially after the first two games, should not be an issue.

The Obvious – Matt Leinart will have some confidence going into Saturday's game just knowing that Stanford's Trent Edwards (20 of 41 passes) passed for a career-high 292 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars.

The Not So Obvious – You can bet Norm Chow is pouring over the Stanford approach and it appears the Cardinal found its share of holes in the BYU five-man secondary.

The Obvious – There is no hotter coach in the country than USC's Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – There is probably no coach in the country in the hot seat more than BYU's Gary Crowton, now in his fourth season as BYU head coach. With the win against Notre Dame, it appeared that Crowton was getting some breathing space, but last week's 37-10 to surprising Stanford (2-0) on The Farm brought back the perception and local Utah media skillet to high.

The Obvious – Norm Chow returns to BYU with its coach in hot water and a Cougar football program that once brought him 24 years of fame and recognition with the likes of quarterbacks Steve Young, Jim McMahon, and Gifford Neilson.

The Not So Obvious – Chow makes no bones about one day still wanting to be a head coach. In a column this week in the Salt Lake Tribune by columnist Gordon Monson, Chow said, "If I saw a chance to take a head coaching position, sure I'd take it. I hope my name comes up with the BYU job because it would be a chance to be a head coach. That's the next step. I'd like to do it (be a head coach), but I don't sit around aspiring to do that." Later in the column, Chow sounded as if his BYU days are behind him.

The Obvious – Heisman candidate Leinart figures to have a better quarterback feel for the BYU 3-3-5 defense this time around because of his experience against it last year.

The Not So Obvious – However, the same may not be true with the Trojans' improving receivers, who had a great deal of difficulty with the schemes of Virginia Tech. The feeling here is that standout BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall will place greater emphasis on disrupting the Trojan receivers rather than an increased blitz package.

The Obvious - If there is a particular game where Mike Williams might be missed, this might be the one considering the style of defense and the hostile road environment.

The Not So Obvious - Like Williams' crucible against Kansas St. as a freshman, this game on Saturday night will likely be Dwayne Jarrett's crucible as well. It will be of great interest to Trojan fans to watch how BYU attempts to confuse the talented freshman from New Jersey.

The Obvious – If Dwayne Jarrett has some issues on Saturday night, you can bet that quarterback Matt Leinart will be by Jarrett's side in a hurry.

The Not So Obvious – Commenting on his tough outing against Colorado State, Jarrett said, " Matt helped me get back in the game. He said he was coming to me on that one (the touchdown), and to stay focused."

The Obvious – The Trojans' offensive line will be out to prove that last week's domination of Colorado St. was no fluke.

The Not So Obvious – In the 3-3-5 defense of BYU, the Cougars' down three are considered the strength of the unit, but first-team All-MWC DE Brady Poppinga (6-3, 260), who has been moved to linebacker, presents perhaps the toughest challenge to the Trojans' offensive tackles and backs. Poppinga, who has a good combination of strength and speed, may be the toughest defender the Trojans have faced since Virginia Tech DE Jim Davis, who mostly had his way against Trojan offensive tackles Deuce Lutui and Kyle Williams.

The Obvious – Heralded Trojan freshman center Jeff Byers spent some time this week working at left guard.

The Not So Obvious – Starting Trojan sophomore center Ryan Kalil has done a very good job in keeping Byers, who may be ticketed for guard in the big picture, on the Trojans' second unit. Kalil may have his hands full this week against nose tackle Manais Brown (6-3, 315), who started as a true freshman at Nebraska. Of course, when you go against Trojan nose tackle Mike Patterson in practice everyday, Kalil figures to be well prepared for Brown's assault.

The Obvious – Trojans' defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will remind his maulers of last year's physical abuse (6 sacks) heaped upon the BYU quarterbacks at the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – The BYU quarterback unit of coach Gary Crowton is being held together by string. Coach "O" may also pass on to his charges that BYU quarterbacks John Beck and Matt Berry have been healthy together for at least one half in only two of the last 14 games.

The Obvious – Manuel Wright may start at defensive tackle against BYU, thus moving Shaun Cody to defensive end replacing Lawrence Jackson.

The Not So Obvious - We had commented here before that it was up to Manuel Wright if he ends up in a starting role. How much of his two-game demotion had to do with his stomach issues is something only the coaches know. However, we'll take a wait and see prospective before we consider the promotion permanent. Nobody questions the talent.

The Obvious – The Trojans had a very difficult time last year against a mature BYU in which the Cougars had the total yardage advantage 359-306.

The Not So Obvious – BYU brings another "mature" team to face the Trojans as the Cougars have 35 married players while the Trojans have just one in tackle Deuce Lutui, who married his wife, Pua, in July.

The Obvious – One of the very bright spots of the Trojans' victory last weekend against Colorado State was the performance of the offensive line, which was a primary reason for the 322 rushing yards.

The Not So Obvious – BYU may give the Trojans offensive line as tough a time as anybody this year if you consider that last year's dominating veteran USC offensive line could only muster enough holes for just 71 yards rushing.

The Obvious – The Trojan offensive line showed marked improvement in protecting Matt Leinart, who was not put on the seat of his pants once against Colorado State.

The Not So Obvious – Heisman candidate Leinart knows full well the challenge for his young line, for he remembers last year BYU dropped him four times as he was attempting to throw.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll makes no bones about the fact that this year's defense is the salvation, at least in the early portion of the 2004 season.

The Not So Obvious – Last year, the Trojans dominated the BYU rushing attack limiting the Cougars to 46 yards on the ground and administered maximum punishment with six sacks of BYU quarterbacks. Don't expect the Cougars to bring back memories 1980's Oklahoma Sooners.

The Obvious – The Trojans had a hell of a time controlling the Virginia Tech tight ends in August, but they did a much better job against Colorado State.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll likes his depth at strong safety as sophomore Darnell Bing and Scott Ware are locked in a "battle" for the starting slot. Well, the ultimate test for these two hitters will be how they control high-potential BYU sophomore tight end Daniel Coats (6-3, 249), who was a real force last year against Troy with eight catches for 114 yards and a 14-yard scoring reception.

The Obvious – The game could get down again to a battle of field goal kicking between the Trojans' Ryan Killeen and the Cougars' placekicker Matt Payne.

The Not So Obvious – Payne was a real pain last year in the Coliseum as he hit on three field goals including two that were beyond the 50-yard range. Killeen countered with five extra points. In the Cougars' upset of Notre Dame, Payne had two first half field goals of 44 and 53 yards.

The Obvious – BYU upset Notre Dame in Provo three weeks ago when the Cougars were able to thwart and attack young Irish quarterback Brady Quinn.

The Not So Obvious – One of the shocking aspects of the Cougar upset was Notre Dame's lack of commitment to ram the ball down the Cougars' throat. You can bet that Norm Chow will look to pound the ball at the Cougars' 3-3-5, something the Irish mistakenly avoided.

The Obvious – Trojans' punter Tom Malone is getting more than his share of work compared to last season and is averaging 43.0 yards per punt.

The Not So Obvious – BYU relies on the versatile kicker Matt Payne, who had a monster day punting against Notre Dame as six of his punts rolled inside the Notre Dame 20 yard line.

The Obvious – In the BCA Classic, the Trojans had some problems early when Virginia Tech unleashed the option.

The Not So Obvious – With the speed of the Trojans and their increasing physical style of play, BYU coach Gary Crowton might scale back the option with his fragile quarterbacks.

The Obvious – For the second time this season, ESPN will be the outlet that televises the Trojans' game Saturday night from Provo at 7 p.m. (PDT).

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans were not happy with ESPN's BCA Classic telecasting team of veteran voice Ron Franklin and Mike Gottried, the former Pitt coach. Okay, the boys back in Bristol are sending out Dave Barnett, former Alabama coach Bill Curry , ex-UCLA quarterback David Norrie, and Alex Flanagan. Hey, be happy. It might be another 12 years before ESPN again sees the Trojans.

The Obvious – With the Saturday night's game being shown nationally, it will give the country a chance to see the improvement of the Trojans since the Virginia Tech game.

The Not So Obvious – While the outcome of the game could change the national voting, Jeff Sagarin's computer poll already has moved the Trojan to No. 2 behind Miami. The Canes have a computer rating of 99.18 while the Trojans are 94.61. Florida Start is No. 3 with a rating of 92.79 and for those that must know, Cal is No. 25 at 80.25.

The Obvious – Trojan junior tailback Hershel Dennis has returned from his suspension and may see action against BYU.

The Not So Obvious – For Dennis, the return to the team does not result in the elimination of his punishment. The Long Beach Poly youngster has lost his starting position and there is nothing that indicates he will get it back any time soon. However, with Norm Chow calling the shots, it would not surprise the O/NSO if he eventually creates various formation combinations when Reggie Bush, LenDale White, and Dennis are ALL in the game, even it they shift out of a Power-I, Full House, or even the Wishbone. Even some of John McKay's teams would showcase a Wishbone formation near the goal line for laughs.

The Obvious – The Cal Bears at Southern Mississippi scheduled for Thursday night on ESPN was cancelled due to Hurricane Ivan and may be played in early December.

The Not So Obvious – There is, however, still enough Pac-10 viewing pleasure this weekend beginning with the Arizona semi-Wildcats hosting Anthony Davis-imposter Wisconsin (12:00 p.m./FSN). This titanic will be followed by the Oregon Nikes at No. 2 Oklahoma (12:30/ABC), followed by giddy UCLA at basket case Washington (4:00/ ABC), and concluding with undefeated-at-the-moment Arizona St. hosting Big Ten perception Iowa (6:00/ FSN).

The Obvious – This weekend marks the last non-conference game for the Trojans until they begin Pac-10 play the following week at Stanford.

The Not So Obvious – Much has been made about which BYU team will show up Saturday night. Will it be the one that upset Notre Dame in Provo or the one that looked inept against the Cardinal in Palo Alto? Perhaps a bigger question is which No. 1 Trojan team will show up? Will it be the Virginia Tech squeakers or the Colorado State mashers? The nation wants a progress report, especially in Norman, Oklahoma.

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