O/NSO - ASU edition

Surviving a BCS near-death experience against the Cal Bears, the No.1-ranked USC Trojans (5-0, 2-0) return to the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon to exorcise another Pac-10 Grim Reaper in the form of the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (5-0, 2-0), who will try to send the Trojans' BCS and Pac-10 championship dreams into a dark slumber.

The Obvious – Surviving a BCS near-death experience against the Cal Bears, the No.1-ranked USC Trojans (5-0, 2-0) return to the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon to exorcise another Pac-10 Grim Reaper in the form of the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (5-0, 2-0), who will try to send the Trojans' BCS and Pac-10 championship dreams into a dark slumber.

The Not So Obvious – With an anticipated Coliseum sellout and a 17-game Coliseum winning streak that has manifested an intense cardinal and gold environment, strong-armed Sun Devil quarterback Andrew Walter says coming to Los Angeles and playing No.1 is "sort of like if you go to South Bend and play a team like Notre Dame. You can't play their history, You just have to play that team."

The Obvious – The Trojans are in a three-way tie with Arizona State and UCLA for Pac-10 supremacy.

The Not So Obvious - Saturday's game is truly a Rose Bowl showdown and Trojan coach Pete Carroll says, "We're fortunate to be playing this game (ASU) at home." One of the real question marks this weekend is can the anticipated 92,000 in the Coliseum vocally sustain a Cal-game fever-pitch demonstration? We put O/NSO money on the "Big Ben" videoboard. That gong inspiring the Trojan faithful may be the best SC game innovation since the Trojan Walk.

The Obvious – USC is favored by 13-points to show Arizona State, which comes off a bye, that there is a reason that Troy has not lost in the Coliseum the past 17 games.

The Not So Obvious – Whether coach Dirk Koetter will follow the lead of Cal's Jeff Tedford and dink and dunk the Trojans' defense into a stuper is highly doubtful. It says here that old Dirk will do some of it but will test Carroll's defense in a deeply, vertical fashion. With not much of a running game, Koetter will take full advantage of the golden arm of quarterback Andrew Walter and the return of seven offensive starters.

The Obvious – The Los Angeles Saturday weather forecast calls for a high of 73- degrees and partly cloudy.

The Not So Obvious – The game whether forecast is can the Trojans mount an efficient passing attack with the envelope-thin receiving unit that now depends on freshman Dwayne Jarrett and sophomore Chris McFoy? Is the secondary ready for a Sun Devil attack that WILL stretch the defense, both short and long? Will Norm Chow ride the winged feet of Reggie Bush at wide receiver and allow LenDale White a chance to inflict a second straight season of rushing punishment on the Sun Devils?

The Obvious – This will be the second time for an Arizona State club to play a No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

The Not So Obvious – Eight years ago, the Sun Devils beat No. 1 Nebraska, 19-0, in Tempe. Needless to say, playing in Los Angeles figures to make the task a daunting one for the Sun Devils.

The Obvious – The Trojans have been ranked No.1 in the last nine AP polls and this can sometimes bring respected animosity from other Pac-10 foes.

The Not So Obvious – Outstanding junior ASU wide receiver Darien Hagen (6-2, 201) from Palmdale, who had a big game last year against the Trojans with eight catches for 170 yards, this week said, "I can't stand SC. I can't stand them one bit. We've go some revenge we need to do on them."

The Obvious – The Trojans survived the passing onslaught of Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers and must now face a motivated ASU pitcher in Andrew Walter, who watched the Cal offense on television execute freely against Pete Carroll's defense.

The Not So Obvious – Interviewed this week on Fox Sports Arizona, Walter said, "To beat USC would mean more than anything, more than any individual awards. To win you have to capitalize in the red zone and get touchdowns. In order to win, our receivers have to change routes on the fly because Coach Carroll is a great coach and he will have his guys going in all directions."

The Obvious – When Steve Smith went down with a broken left fibula, the Trojans lost 82.8 yards per game in reception yardage and a 15.3 average.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans hope that freshman Dwayne Jarrett can up his 37.8 yards per game in receptions and 11-yard average per catch. In perhaps a hint to come, tailback Reggie Bush is the current third leading receiver with a 13.5 yards per reception average. Of ASU concentrating on Bush, Pete Carroll says, "He's difficult to play even if you know where he is. He will be all over the place." According to Roadrunner Reggie, the Trojans have added a few new passing routes that ASU can worry about.

The Obvious – The Trojans secondary will need to keep an eye on the dangerous Derek Hagan (6-2, 201), the wonderful junior wide receiver from Palmdale.

The Not So Obvious – Ranked the 15th in the country with seven receptions per game and 96 yards per game, Hagan burned the Trojans last year with eight receptions for 170 yards, with a long reception of 30 yards. With health an issue for the Trojans in the secondary, Pete Carroll indicated that even sophomore Ryan Ting may be seeing some action soon.

The Obvious – Considering the trials and tribulations and the constant pressure of being No.1 and winning 25 of 26 games, the Trojans have done a remarkable job of staying a perfect 5-0.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils also have a record of 5-0, and Saturday's game will bring a new sense of pressure to the boys from Tempe. Standout QB Walter informed, "I've never been 5-0 in my life, so I'm loving life."

The Obvious – With the first BCS poll coming out on Monday, this weekend's games for the No. 1 Trojans and No. 2 Oklahoma are crucial.

The Not So Obvious – Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, no teams ranked 1-2 this early in the coaches' poll have moved on to the BCS championship game. Even Miami found out against Louisville on Thursday night that being No. 3 can be a tenuous position.

The Obvious – The Trojans will return sophomore safety Darnell Bing to the field on Saturday, but lost junior co-starter Scott Ware for a number of weeks due to a stress fracture in his foot suffered on the second play of the Cal game.

The Not So Obvious – Ware had a major impact for Carroll's defense against Cal. "He had the best tackling game since we've been here (USC)," Pete Carroll said on the Trojans' Insider Show on 1540. Quite a statement considering Carroll's affection for former Trojan All-American Troy Polamalu, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Obvious – Call it a rise in Pac-10 competition and offensive inexperience, but the Trojans' offensive point output has been rapidly decreasing the past four games.

The Not So Obvious - The Trojans' once vaunted offense in the past four games has gone from 49 points (Colorado St.) to 42 points (BYU) to 31 points (Stanford) to last weekend's 23 points (Cal).

The Obvious – The Trojans will be striving for more balance on offense between the run and the pass against ASU and, hopefully, more than 50 offensive plays, which was the limit against Cal.

The Not So Obvious – As for unbalance, the Sun Devils have scored 16 of their 19 touchdowns through the air.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive coordinator Norm Chow will be seeing a different type of ASU defense than in the past.

The Not So Obvious – "They've changed their defense and their schemes and have adapted to their personnel," Pete Carroll said. "They don't take as much chances that lead to big plays." The "new" ASU defense is the one used by the Miami Dolphins.

The Obvious – The Trojans had only one touchdown through the air against California.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils defense has only allowed two touchdowns through the air, perhaps a credit to secondary coach Mark Carrier, the former Trojan All-American.

The Obvious – Junior tailback Hershel Dennis has remained on the Trojans' shelf, but he could soon be a factor against ASU if Reggie Bush, as expected, sees a marked increased in time at wide receiver against the Sun Devils.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll gave indications this week that Dennis might be seeing the field real soon. "He's chomping at the bit," Carroll said. If Dennis was to see significant action, this could present, given the current circumstances, a dynamic change in Trojan offensive efficiency. The only Dennis question is the condition of a hamstring that cut back some of his reps during the week.

The Obvious – The Trojans have returned freshman tight end Fred Davis to wide receiver.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll gave the impression in the media that Davis may see action if needed. " He's much ahead now in the concepts of route running than before and he's a ferocious blocker."

The Obvious – With the Steve Smith injury, it appears that senior wide receiver Jason Mitchell (6-1, 200), a former 2001 Super Prep JUCO Top 100 pick at Los Angeles Harbor JC, will finally be getting his chance as No. 3 receiver.

The Not So Obvious – Mitchell's cousin, Christian Radley, was a coxswain on the USC women's rowing team in 2002.

The Obvious – The Trojans goal line stand against Cal at the end of the game was one of the all-time defensive moments in USC lore, again proving that Pete Carroll's defense can never be counted out no matter what is happening during the game.

The Not So Obvious – Coach Dirk Koetter's defense is massively improved from last year by allowing almost 100 yards less per game (304.4 to 403)

The Obvious – The Trojans are expecting another sellout of 92,000 for Saturday's battle of Pac-10 leaders.

The Not So Obvious –. The largest crowd that ASU has played before this year was 71,700 at Sun Devil Stadium against Iowa.

The Obvious – The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in average home attendance at 87,765 (2 games).

The Not So Obvious – Washington is second in average home attendance at 65,466 (3 games) followed by Arizona State at 64,180 (3 games).

The Obvious – Trojans' place-kicker Ryan Killeen, who is now 5-of-9 on field goal attempts, was instrumental in the California victory with three field goals and six touchbacks on kickoffs.

The Not So Obvious – In kicker Jesse Ainsworth, ASU has a sophomore from Thousand Oaks High who has connected on 10-of-13 field goals and is a perfect 20-20 on extra points.

The Obvious – Last year, LenDale White went wild at ASU rushing for 140 yards and two scores in leading the Trojans to a 37-17 come-from-behind victory in Tempe.

The Not So Obvious – There were more than a few raised eyebrows that White did not carry more times against Cal. There was every indication that Carroll was not pleased with the direction of the offense, so it will be of much intrigue to view the "new" Trojan offense on Saturday. Of course, the Trojans kept shooting themselves in the old foot with poorly executed plays, not the fault of Chow.

The Obvious – Saturday's game is again being televised live at 12:30 p.m. on ABC regional television with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts, and Todd Harris and will be televised in the West, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, New York City, Boston, and, of course, Bangor, Maine.

The Not So Obvious – Did we also mention Alaska and Hawaii? If you ever wonder the impact that these televised games are having on the Trojans' recruiting game, just ask Maui Baldwin High senior linebacker Kaluka Maiava (6-0, 215). After a summer soft commit to UCLA, Maiava, considered the best prospect in Hawaii, switched to a done-deal USC commit this week after he viewed the Trojans' big California win last weekend. " After watching the USC-Cal game, I knew I wanted to play for a team (USC) like that."

The Obvious – Saturday will again showcase two of the best quarterbacks in the country in Troy's junior Matt Leinart (6-5, 220) and the Sun Devils' grad student Andrew Walter (6-5, 235), who earned his undergraduate degree in communications.

The Not So Obvious – Leinart is ranked 12th nationally in passing efficiency while ASU's Walter is listed 25th.

The Obvious – Both quarterbacks on Saturday will face defensive lines that love to get that QB sack.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans senior All-America defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson are ranked second in the Pac-10 with five sacks each. ASU will attack Matt Leinart with sophomore Kyle Caldwell (6-3, 256), whose father, Bryan, was a Sun Devil star and a former All-CIF stud at Fountain Valley High, sophomore Jordan Hill (6-2, 274), and junior linebacker Dale Robinson (6-1, 240), each with three sacks apiece.

The Obvious – The Trojans will need to look more to the their tight ends, who were near invisible against Cal, to compensate for the loss of Steve Smith.

The Not So Obvious – Even Carroll felt that the tight ends didn't see enough of the ball last Saturday. "We missed on our opportunities with Dominique (Byrd)," Carroll said of the return of the talented junior tight end from Minneapolis,

The Obvious – In the Pac-10, the Sun Devils are ranked No. 1 in red zone scoring at 90.5% (19-21).

The Not So Obvious – In the Pac-10, the Trojans are ranked No. 9 in the red zone at 66% (18-27). However in defending the red zone, both schools are tied at No.2 in the conference at 66.7%.

The Obvious – The Trojans recovered an important three fumbles against Cal, an instrumental turnover statistic that had a huge effect on the outcome.

The Not So Obvious – ASU are the only Pac-10 team not to have a fumble this season.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line did not have a good game in protecting Matt Leinart, who was sacked four times against Cal, and it will be crucial that their performance improve against the Sun Devils.

The Not So Obvious – ASU's defense has 10 QB sacks in the past two games while their offensive line has only given up eight sacks the entire season. The Trojans may also have some depth problems at right tackle as sophomore Kyle Williams is recovering from headaches. The former Texas prep star came out of the Coliseum tunnel long after his team had returned for the second half kickoff against Cal, an obvious sign of health issues.

The Obvious – One of the early keys to the victory against Cal was the fact that the Trojans did a fine job of not letting Cal get off early as had been the Bears' seasonal pattern.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll will make sure that his troops are aware that ASU has outscored its opponents 99-26 in the first half this season.

The Obvious – One of the very bright spots on the Trojan defense has been the play of junior middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who is sixth in the Pac-10 in tackles at 8.8 per game.

The Not So Obvious – ASU has the No. 5 tackler in the conference in linebacker Dale Robinson, who is a transfer from Glendale (Calif.) CC by way of the Queens, New York, where he was the Queens Player of the Year. Robinson played as a freshman at C.W. Post, a New York Division 2 program in 2001 and 2002.

The Obvious – The Trojans have had their issues defending their opponents' tight ends.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils have a real gem in freshman tight end Zack Miller, considered by many the top tight end in high school last year. His brother, Brent, is a redshirt freshman tight for the Sun Devils.

The Obvious – It will seem a bit different Saturday at the Coliseum without ESPN's GameDay, which has moved their traveling carnival to West Lafayette, Indiana, for the Wisconsin-Purdue showdown.

The Not So Obvious – Not to worry. There is plenty of action for Pac-10 fans. Following the Trojans on ABC, you can watch the bubble-bursting UCLA Bruins at Cal's angry Bears at 4:00 p.m. on TBS, and then grab a Swanson's TV dinner and watch Stanford digest Washington State from Pullman at 7 p.m. on FSN.

The Obvious – With seven games remaining in the regular season, this will be Troy's final game played at 12:30 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – The closest the Trojans will play to 12:30 p.m. will be their final game at UCLA, Dec. 4, at 1:30 p.m., which was actually the normal time college football games used to kickoff many, many moons ago. However, as far as the Trojans are concerned, it's time to smell the roses and have their fans to bring the noise. Gong! Gong! Gong!

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