O/NSO - Cal edition

Call it Armageddon, Apocalypse Now, or just plain Sum of All Fears. In the sold-out athletic theatre known as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Pac-10 premieres its 2004 edition of Star Wars as the No.1 USC Trojans (4-0, 1-0) and the No. 7 California Golden Bears (3-0, 1-0) engage in a Saturday red carpet blockbuster at 12:30 p.m.

The Obvious – Call it Armageddon, Apocalypse Now, or just plain Sum of All Fears. In the sold-out athletic theatre known as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Pac-10 premieres its 2004 edition of Star Wars as the No.1 USC Trojans (4-0, 1-0) and the No. 7 California Golden Bears (3-0, 1-0) engage in a Saturday red carpet blockbuster at 12:30 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – There are enough plot lines and themes in this baby to make Trojan movie alums George Lucas and Ronnie Howard smile with envy. The national championship, Pac-10 championship, Rose Bowl, high-tech offense, macho defense, Heisman candidates, Carroll vs Tedford, a 16-game home winning streak, and enough lead and supporting actors to fill out an ensemble for The Ten Commandments.

The Obvious – The Trojans are a seven-point favorite to defeat the Golden Bears on Saturday afternoon.

The Not So Obvious – Don't give those odds to publications like Sports Illustrated, which predicts a 38-35 Cal victory over the Trojans. SI sees it as the Bears only need to stop Reggie Bush and victory is at paw, um, hand. However, in a bit of a surprise, Sporting News' columnist Matt Hayes, who has been one of the Trojans harshest critics, predicts a 27-24 cardinal and gold victory. If you believe the ESPN.com pundits Ivan Maisel and Gene Wojciechowski, it's the Trojans, but ESPN's Trev Alberts and Mark May say Cal. The O/NSO house dog, Molly, says it's USC by a Killeen or two.

The Obvious – Everywhere you turn, there is a media prediction being made on the game.

The Not So Obvious – USC radio sideline reporter John Jackson, the former Trojan star receiver, told a 1540 audience that he felt the Trojans would win by seven points, but J.J. believed the Trojans would be down early and it was going to be really tough. Jackson also said that barring an Arizona State upset of either team, the Trojans and Cal would "run the table" the rest of the season. For the record, Cal hosts ASU on Oct. 30th.

The Obvious – Over 92,000 fans will pack the Coliseum on Saturday for what many believe could be a significant USC advantage, an advantage the Trojans know all too well from their hostile experience against Virginia Tech.

The Not So Obvious – The largest road crowd that the Bears have played before this year was 50, 072 at Air Force in their opening game. Knowing his team will face its most hostile environment to date, in an interview this week in the Alameda Times-Star, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said , "Ninety-two thousand is bigger than I've ever seen, so I can't tell my players what that's going to be like."

The Obvious – USC was the unanimous pick to win the 2004 Pac-10 Conference football title in a pre-season poll of West Coast media by claiming all 24 first-place votes and 240 total points.

The Not So Obvious – California was picked second, the highest since 1978, and received 210 total points. The pre-season media poll has correctly picked the conference champion 21 of 43 times and lately picked the champ the last four years in a row and five of the last six. In season that brings a plethora of USC streaks, this is one time Trojan fans hope the media streak also continues.

The Obvious – The Los Angeles Saturday weather forecast calls for a high of 79 degrees and mostly sunny, meaning by 3:30pm the action in the fourth quarter in the Coliseum may be hotter than the temperature.

The Not So Obvious – The game whether forecast is a bit more tenuous. The yet to be answered big questions: Which team will make the consistent and clutch catches, convert in the red zone, execute field goals and PAT's , and simply physically dominate and out-will the other?

The Obvious – Saturday's game is being televised live on ABC regional television with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts, and Todd Harris.

The Not So Obvious – Besides the entire West Coast, Saturday's Coliseum game will also be shown in New Orleans, Miami, New York City, and Boston.

The Obvious – Next week's game against undefeated Arizona State being televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m. (PDT).

The Not So Obvious - When you add up future Trojan ABC telecasts with Notre Dame and UCLA, USC will have appeared six times this season on the network of Disney. Troy ties Notre Dame, which has all six home games televised by NBC. The big winner, however, the next two weeks is Keith Jackson, who doesn't have to travel far from his San Fernando Valley home to the Coliseum to call the action.

The Obvious – Much is being made of the fact that the Trojans lost 34-31 last year in triple overtime in Berkeley and will be out for blue and gold blood.

The Not So Obvious – Revenge? Retribution? Pay-back? That works to keep a team focused during the week, but it won't matter after the hitting begins, for then it's all about now. Historically, the Trojans are nails when it comes to big revenge games and raucus crowds in the Coliseum. Earlier in the week Trojans' all-star defensive tackle Shaun Cody said, "We've put a circle around that game (Cal). It isn't a grudge match, but we want to get them."

The Obvious – There are those that believe that Saturday's game matches the two best coaches in the conference in the Trojans' Pete Carroll, a former Larkspur Redwood High multi-position star, and the Bears' Jeff Tedford, a former Downey Warren quarterback standout.

The Not So Obvious – There are also those that believe that Tedford has Carroll's number, despite splitting their only two games. In 2002, Tedford's first year, Cal blew a 21-3 second quarter lead on the way to a 30-28 loss at the Coliseum and, of course, last year there was Cal's pulsating 34-31 triple OT victory in Strawberry Canyon. Who would have thunk that a Cal coach from SoCal and a USC coach from NorCal would develop such an instant rivalry?

The Obvious – The game sets up a battle of outstanding junior quarterbacks in the Trojans' All-Pac-10 Matt Leinart (6-5, 225) and the Bears' All-Pac-10 honorable mention Aaron Rogers (6-2, 200).

The Not So Obvious – While the two super quarterbacks will have their say, the real marquee match-up will be between the Trojans dynamic sophomore tailback duo of Reggie Bush and LenDale White and the Cal defensive adjustments during the game in order to contain the two dynamos. The same will also be true of how USC's Pete Carroll decides to defensively attack the Bears home run tailback threats of senior J.J. Arrington (5-11, 210) and freshman Marshawn Lynch (5-11, 200), considered the top prep back in California last year at Oakland Tech.

The Obvious – There is little question that Cal will present the biggest offensive challenge for Pete Carroll's heralded defense.

The Not So Obvious – Cal has scored on 41 of its last 42 trips inside their opponents' 20-yard line, and in the Bears' first three games this year, they are 12-for-12 in the red zone to lead the Pac-10.

The Obvious – The Trojans hope their youthful, talented receivers led by sophomores Steve Smith, Chris McFoy, and freshman Dwayne Jarrett are ready to play the game of their young cardinal and gold careers.

The Not So Obvious – Heading into this season, Cal's receiving corps lost only 17 of 165 receptions (10%) from last year's group through graduation. In Geoff McArthur, Jonathan Makonnen, Burl Toler, and Chase Lyman, Bear historians believe this group may be the best in Cal history.

The Obvious – This will be the acid test for Pete Carroll's secondary, which is allowing the opponent 12.8 yards per reception.

The Not So Obvious - In senior Chase Lyman , whose father Brad played wide receiver for UCLA and the old NFL Houston Oilers, Cal has a strong, physical wide receiver (6-4, 210) who leads the nation at 32.2 yards per catch.

The Obvious – The Trojans have won 24 out of their past 25 games, with their last loss coming at the hands of the Bears.

The Not So Obvious – When the Golden Bears depart their North Glendale Hilton hotel on Saturday morning for the Coliseum, they will bring to the home of the Trojans a modest six-game winning streak with their last loss coming at the hands of Oregon, 21-17, last November in Eugene.

The Obvious – There is no question that the Trojans defense will have a major say in the outcome of the game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cal defense, under coordinator Bob Gregory, returns nine starters and has much the same aggressive look as the Trojans. Senior safety Matt Giordano (6-0, 190) is extremely active and leads the Bears in tackles. It's no surprise he's a tough kid as his great grandfather, Ralph Giordano, was a world welterweight boxing champion in 1933.

The Obvious – This is the type of game that will be dictated by the performance of the defensive line of both teams.

The Not So Obvious –Keep tabs of a battle between the Trojans All-Pac-10 senior stud nose tackle Mike Patterson (6-0, 290) and Cal's Remington Award center candidate junior Marvin Philip (6-2, 280), who is coming off a two-year Mormon mission and is a former rugby star at Oak Ridge HS.

The Obvious – The Trojans ride a nation's second-best winning streak of 13 games into Saturday's titanic with the Golden Bears.

The Not So Obvious – Golden Bear fans might wish to take note that in those 13 games, the Trojan defense has not allowed a team to score more than 28 points.

The Obvious – The Trojans figure to be without starting sophomore strong safety Darnell Bing, probably freshman defensive end Jeff Schweiger, and are questionable with weakside linebacker Matt Grootegoed, who continues his buzzard's luck with that left ankle.

The Not So Obvious – Last year, some of Cal's biggest passing plays were attributed to the inexperienced play of Bing. In junior Scott Ware (6-3, 220), a NorCal transfer from Santa Rosa CC, the Trojans again put an inexperienced strong safety in full view of the Cal machine-style passing attack. The potential loss of Schweiger could mean something depending on Frostee Rucker's turf toe availability. The wildcard will be freshman Keith Rivers, who figures to see action at defensive end and linebacker, depending on the status of Grootegoed, who if he didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all.

The Obvious – The base price of Saturday's ticket with a picture of Pete Carroll holding up a championship trophy is $40.00.

The Not So Obvious – Tickets on the web are going from a low of $52.50 per in Section 1 by the scoreboard to a high of Section 8 going for $765.00 per ducat.

The Obvious – There is little doubt that the California Golden Bears bring to Los Angeles some Muhammad Ali confidence, especially haven beaten USC last year.

The Not So Obvious –Immediately after last week's big road win at Oregon State, Cal senior linebacker Wendell Hunter said, "We've been dreaming about the ‘SC game since summer workouts began. This is the game when we make our mark on college football. It's our game."

The Obvious – In the Los Angeles Times, sensational Cal junior quarterback Aaron Rogers, in referring to the Bears' defense holding Oregon State's offense to seven points, said, "The big thing we took away from today's game was our defense. It's important that our defense give this same type of effort against probably a better offense."

The Not So Obvious – Holy Norm Chow! The USC offense is "probably" better than Oregon State? The adverb "probably" is probably hanging on the Trojan bulletin board under Heritage Hall. For the record, as mentioned below, the Trojans average 36.5 points per game while Oregon State averages 18.6. Probably??????????

The Obvious – The Trojans average 36.5 points per game on offense and allow 12.8 points per game on defense.

The Not So Obvious – Cal averages 48.7 points per game on offense to lead the nation and allows 11.7 points per game on defense. While Cal looks like the real deal, keep in mind that in defeating the Air Force, New Mexico State, and Oregon State, the combined record of these three Bear victims is 4-11.

The Obvious – The Trojans are notorious for being a second half team in the Pete Carroll era, having outscored opponents this year 73-10, including a remarkable 45-3 in the final quarter.

The Not So Obvious – Conversely, Cal has done heavy damage to its first three opponents in the first two quarters outscoring them 41-14 in the first quarter and 35-14 in the second quarter. However, don't think the Trojans are strictly a second half team. In second quarters this year, Norm Chow's offense has outscored opponents 49-31.

The Obvious – The Trojans are hoping that junior tight end Dominique Byrd, coming off a knee injury, and oft-injured senior Alex Holmes can relieve some of the pressure from the young Trojan receivers.

The Not So Obvious - Cal's secondary presents a major Trojan challenge in junior All-America candidate and All-Pac-10 DB Donnie McCleskey (5-10,180), a local Bishop Amat grad, and physical safety Ryan Gutierrez (6-0, 190), who hails from Clovis High and was the 2003 Insight Bowl Defensive MVP. Will the Bears corners bump-and-run or play loose? It figures the Cal corners will up face-to-face with Troy's youthful receivers, except when Reggie Bush splits out.

The Obvious – The Trojans roster is made up of primarily athletes from the local area, although ten players and four coaches hail from Northern California.

The Not So Obvious – California has 44 players and four coaches from the Southern California area.

The Obvious – The Trojans kicker Ryan Killeen is a perfect 20-for-20 on PAT's but has struggled with field goal attempts (2-6).

The Not So Obvious – The field goal is also the great unknown for the Bears. Cal junior kicker David Lonie (6-6, 200), a 25-year-old Australian native by way of Iowa Falls Ellsworth Community College, has attempted only one field goal this year and missed.

The Obvious – The leader in sacks (4) for Cal's defense is senior defensive end Ryan Riddle (6-3, 250).

The Not So Obvious – Riddle's grandfather John played fullback for the Trojans from 1922-24.

The Obvious – There are those that will tell you that ball control by either team will win the game and that the massive Trojan offensive line, lead by tackle Deuce Lutui (6-6, 370) and guard John Drake (6-4, 350), will eventually wear down a rather small Cal defensive front seven.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans defensive front will also be challenged by a "massive" Golden Bears' offensive line, which presents sophomore left tackle Andrew Cameron (6-5, 320), junior right guard Aaron Merz (6-4, 320), and junior right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan (6-7, 340).

The Obvious – The battle between Trojan sophomore center Ryan Kalil (6-4, 275) and Bears nose tackle Lorenzo Alexander (6-3, 300) may be the best battle of the pit boys.

The Not So Obvious – Alexander, out of Berkeley St. Mary's High, at the age of eight weighed 140 pounds and was told by Pop Warner officials he would have to play with the 12-year-olds.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line did not give up a sack at Cal last year in Berkeley.

The Not So Obvious – Aside from last year's outstanding protection by the Trojans' offensive line, Cal has averaged 4.5 sacks against Troy in the last six meetings.

The Obvious – The Trojans are promoting the Cal game as Charles White Day,

The Not So Obvious – During White's career, the Trojans won three of four games against the Bears.

The Obvious – 1972 Trojan tight end All-American Charles Young will be recognized during Saturday's game for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.

The Not So Obvious –AARP Trojan fans remember the great, stretched out diving catch the former Fresno Edison High star made against the Bears in the Coliseum in a 1972, 42-14, SC victory.

The Obvious – ESPN GameDay will be present in the morning doing their live schtick 7:30 - 9:00 a.m. (PDT) on a stage set up "just outside the peristyle (east) end of the Coliseum."

The Not So Obvious – So how many fans will show up for college football's version of the Gong Show? The loudest ovation at the show generally comes at the end when Corso, Herbstreit, and Fowler give their predictions. The biggest applause and shout should go to USC student Robbie Ellison, who started a GameDay petition that went up the ESPN food chain all the way to Mark Gross, executive producer of GameDay, and the rest is Saturday morning history.

The Obvious – After your ESPN GameDay experience has gotten you into a Fight On lather, you are probably looking for some Pac-10 action on the tube, especially if you are not going to the Coliseum and are nervously awaiting the 12:30 p.m. ABC kickoff.

The Not So Obvious – Okay, sir, we suggest upbeat Stanford at transparent Notre Dame at 11:30 a.m. (PDT) on NBC, and if things are really going good or bad in the fourth quarter at the Coliseum, you can punish yourself with a snoozing Arizona offense at questionable poser UCLA at 3:30 p.m. (PDT) on FSN.

The Obvious – USC football games on radio originate from 1540 AM with Trojan golden throat Pete Arbogast, who is featured in this month's magazine edition of WeAreSC.

The Not So Obvious – So you can you can't always get 1540 or its affiliates? Well, you might want to tune in the Cal broadcast in Los Angeles on KLAC (570 AM) with 30-year Cal voice Joe Starkey, former Bear QB Mike Pawlawski, and Roxy Bersnstein.

The Obvious – On the second page of the Cal media guide, there is a color photo of the Bear's "2003 Memorable Moment," which shows Cal wide receiver Jonathan Makonnen catching a touchdown in the second overtime of the Bears' triple overtime victory over Troy.

The Not So Obvious – So it all comes down to a Saturday noon matinee in the Grand Old Lady. For the USC Trojans, the goal is Miami or Pasadena and they would like to avoid next year's Bears' media guide as the "2004 Memorable Moment." As Trojan defensive tackle Shaun Cody says, " It going to be a war." Lights, camera, action!!!

USCFootball.com Top Stories