O/NSO - WSU preview

Prior to the 2002 season, ESPN's Mel Kiper called a Pullman trip to Washington State and Martin Stadium "a nightmare for the opposition," especially when the Cougars are winning. Two years later and with the Cougars not winning, it's the top-ranked USC Trojans (7-0, 4-0) that hope to provide the Cougars (3-4, 1-3) with a Saturday afternoon nightmare before a sold-out Martin Stadium and an ABC regional television audience.

The Obvious – Prior to the 2002 season, ESPN's Mel Kiper called a Pullman trip to Washington State and Martin Stadium "a nightmare for the opposition," especially when the Cougars are winning. Two years later and with the Cougars not winning, it's the top-ranked USC Trojans (7-0, 4-0) that hope to provide the Cougars (3-4, 1-3) with a Saturday afternoon nightmare before a sold-out Martin Stadium and an ABC regional television audience.

The Not So Obvious – What a difference a year can make as last year the Trojans were ranked No. 3 and 7-1 while the Cougars were No. 6 and also 7-1. This year both teams are as far apart in performance as Los Angeles is to Pullman. Of course, the Cougars won't have to contend this year with 82,000 Trojan fans, more than twice the size of Martin Stadium.

The Obvious – You don't need a roadmap to find the location of USC, which is three miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

The Not So Obvious – Pullman is eight miles from the Washington-Idaho border, in the southeastern part of the state. It is eight miles west of Moscow, Idaho and 30 miles north of Lewiston, Idaho, where the Trojans' Delta charter will land and depart. The Trojans will be staying in Pullman at the University Inn.

The Obvious – The last time the Trojans visited Pullman, once known as "Three Forks" and a community built on four hills, the Cardinal and Gold came away with a 30-27 overtime loss, thanks to two killer field goals from Drew Dunning.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan coach Pete Carroll has said that the overtime loss to WSU in 2002 still leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Fans in Pullman have suggested the Martin Stadium scoreboard show a replay of the Cougars overtime victory as the teams are warming up. You can bet that Pete Carroll would love to have his team view that film during stretching. Knowing Carroll, he would probably run the tape up to the video operator himself. It sure would eliminate the need for a pregame pep talk.

The Obvious –With the Trojans back to superpower status, the 92,000 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has become the Yankee Stadium of college football.

The Not So Obvious – If the Coliseum is Yankee Stadium, then Washington State's Martin Stadium and its 37, 600 seats is the Wrigley Field of the Pac-10 conference. Throw in some Lake Michigan-style wind, rain, snow, a high-energy crowd, and the Trojans have a new challenge, the type that makes Coach Pete Carroll salivate.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as a 22 1/2-point favorite over the Cougars.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan linebacker Lofa Tatupu said the Cardinal and Gold have enjoyed the last three weeks at the Coliseum but the team would enjoy the challenge of performing in front of a hostile environment. Last week's sluggish first half against Washington on offense was perhaps a warning sign of too much home comfort. Perhaps it IS time for the Trojans to reconstitute with a challenging road contest and also use the Vegas odds as an incentive.

The Obvious – The Trojans still have not allowed a touchdown in the fourth quarter in 2004.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars last three of seven games have been decided in the fourth quarter.

The Obvious – The Pullman weather forecast for Saturday is 49 degrees with light rain and wind.

The Not So Obvious – Oh goody, so what else would you expect? Well, if this week's game was in Corvallis with a 7:00 p.m. kickoff, the Trojans would be getting 54 degrees and rain. So, consider Saturday's game in Pullman as a nice introduction to this crucial two-week environmental road trip.

The Obvious – This will be the second week in a row that the Trojans will be facing a very inexperienced quarterback.

The Not So Obvious – Thanks to an unfortunate injury to sophomore quarterback Josh Swogger (6-5, 235), the Cougars will place all their marbles with redshirt freshman Alex Brink (6-2, 204), a former Oregon player of the Year, who led his Sheldon High team to the state championship as a senior. Interested in pursuing a career in Sport Management, Brink hopes to avoid being on the brink against an expected furious Trojan front four. Some pressure for a kid who must follow in the footsteps of legendary WSU quarterbacks like Jack Thompson, Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf, and Jason Gesser.

The Obvious – The Trojans average 36 points per game and allow 10 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars average 36 points per game and allow 23.71 points per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans practiced this week on their new artifical FieldTurf, and with the rain in Los Angeles this week, Carroll couldn't ask for better conditions to prepare for their trip to the Palouse country.

The Not So Obvious –As if you hadn't figured it out, Martin Stadium has FieldTurf, and it's NO coincidence that the new Howard Jones artificial grass is FieldTurf. Of course, Pete Carroll, who never misses a trick, could have asked for some colder local weather and a Universal Studios wind machine.

The Obvious – There is concern over the physical condition of running back LenDale White for Saturday's game.

The Not So Obvious – Should White not be up to par, look for Reggie Bush to increase the load and Hershel Dennis to finally take up the slack. If Dennis does play early, it would allow Bush to continue his hide and seek role in Norm Chow's formations. As for Bush, a wet field should only add to the worries of Cougar defensive coordinator Robb Akey, who has sent five of his defensive line students into "The League."

The Obvious – If Bush does carry the pigskin more often, it won't be like the Cougar coaching staff hasn't done everything to make their lads aware of Reggie.

The Not So Obvious – In one of the athletic offices at WSU, there is a "near-life-size picture" of Bush on display. It might be of the few times the Cougars see No. 5 stationary enough to tackle him.

The Obvious – With Bush getting more potential reps at tailback on Saturday, there becomes the question of Desmond Reed's expanding role.

The Not So Obvious – Will it be Desmond Reed for Bush and Hershel Dennis for White? This may be the moment of truth for the beleaguered Dennis. Should Reed, who may return punts Saturday due to a knee ligament injury this week to backup Grieg Carlson, get the call, it would be quite apparent that Dennis has not completely been pardoned of his sins.

The Obvious – Much has been made of the size of the Trojans' offensive line, especially left guard John Drake (6-4, 350) and right tackle Taitusi Lutui (6-6, 370).

The Not So Obvious – WSU has its own pair of monsters on the offensive line in senior starting offensive tackles Calvin Armstrong (6-8, 322), All-Pac-10 as a sophomore, and Sam Lightbody (6-9, 320), who prepped at local Huntington Beach High. Born in Manila, there is nothing light about his body. There is some health concern about Lightbody, who left practice early in the week to a hand injury, but is expected to be fitted with a cast and start.

The Obvious – One of the nation's best-known mascots is Traveler, the Trojans' famed white horse that gallops around the Coliseum to the tune of "Conquest."

The Not So Obvious – Washington State once had their own live cougar attend games, but the last cougar, Butch Vl, died in the summer of 1978, and now WSU uses a "Butch the Cougar" mascot in costume during football games. The first "real" cougar was given to WSU students in 1927 by Governor Roland Harley and was named Butch in honor of former WSU football star "Butch" Meeker of Spokane, Washington.

The Obvious – If it's game day, it means another Trojan opponent will try to use the tight end to move the ball down the field on offense.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars suffered a major blow when WSU junior tight end Troy Bienemann (6-4, 245), who is coming off a shin injury, is doubtful and may be limited to snapping kicks. Bienemann was a 2003 All-Pac-10 second team selection and was also named to the Pac-10 academic first team. A communications major, he has communicated on the field for 216 yards in seven games.

The Obvious – The Cougars' defense features junior middle linebacker Will Derting (6-0, 233), one of the great backers in the nation, who has had made a difficult adjustment this year from outside to middle linebacker.

The Not So Obvious – As good as Derting has been, and considering he has had to overcome an early season wrist injury and position change, he is still second in tackles to sophomore strongside linebacker Scott Davis ( 5-11, 225), a redshirt sophomore from Kennewick, Washington, who was a Seattle Times All-State selection as a high school senior at Kamiakin High.

The Obvious – Much has been comparing Trojan freshman wide receiver star Dwayne Jarrett and former USC All-American Mike Williams.

The Not So Obvious – Lost in the Trojans' debate is the fact that one of last year's recruits, Michael Bumpus of Culver City, elected to go to WSU due to a logjam of heralded USC freshmen receivers. Bumpus, who has already said he is looking forward to playing against the Trojans, will start at wide receiver and has a punt return average of 11.25 yards, which is 12th in the country.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense averages 418 yards per game

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars' offense averages 374 yards per game.

The Obvious – Saturday night will be Dad's Night at Martin Stadium.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars figure to have plenty of vocal support for the visiting fathers and perhaps even larger support since the Trojans returned 200 unused tickets to the Cougars' ticket department.

The Obvious – While there is strong feeling in college football that the Trojans have the best defense in the land, this is not a vintage Cougar defense that coach Bill Doba will put on the field on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – However, it should be noted that WSU has won 16 of its last 19 regular season games when the defense or special teams score, and they'll need every scrap of scoring potential considering Troy has outscored their opponents this year 252-75.

The Obvious – The Trojans have a major weapon in All-America punter Tom Malone.

The Not So Obvious – Cougar punter Kyle Bassler is second in the Pac10 and 12th nationally averaging 43.9 per kick.

The Obvious – The Trojan offensive line will be under heavy scrutiny on Saturday afternoon as quarterback Matt Leinart has been sacked and harassed much too often recently.

The Not So Obvious - The Cougars have 22 sacks this season. After viewing last week's Trojan game film against Washington, you can bet that Doba will have his Cougars coming plenty hard. Watch for Cougar defensive end Adam Braidwood (6-5, 259) from Delta, British Columbia, who had three sacks and six tackles last week against Oregon State. This will be a statement game for the Trojans' offensive line in pass protection.

The Obvious – Trojans' right tackle is junior Taitusi Lutui, a Tongan.

The Not So Obvious – At first glance, there are no Tongans along the WSU defensive freshmen front. Last week against Washington, Lutui faced another Tongan in DT Manase Hopoi. On playing against the Trojans' Lutui, Hopoi said, " Lutui is Tongan and I'm Tongan, so we were talking in Tongan on the field, telling him that I was coming after him. We were just having fun, playing football, and having fun."

The Obvious – It will be of some interest watching if the Trojans' offensive line is more assertive against the Cougars in the first half as compared to last week's slow start against the Huskies.

The Not So Obvious – Of the SC offensive line, Husky Hopoi said, " They are really good, really big, and physical. At halftime, they knew we (Washington) were ready to play, so they came out with a meaner mentality."

The Obvious – If the Trojans' big John Drake can't start on Saturday against the Cougars, look for freshman prodigy Jeff Byers to get the call.

The Not So Obvious – Coming from Colorado, the Pullman weather shouldn't be an issue with young No. 53. Trojan fans will probably be looking at next year's starting left guard. In the time they spent together last week against Washington, Byers and center Ryan Kalil worked like veterans and opened up some impressive holes in the Husky defense.

The Obvious – The Trojans have now won an impressive 27 of 28 games.

The Not So Obvious – In their last four seasons, the Cougars are 33-12.

The Obvious – The winner of the annual USC-UCLA game is given the Victory Bell to ring and keep the entire year.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars ring a victory bell after WSU football wins. The bell is located at Lewis Alumni Centre and was once used to start and dismiss classes as far back as the late 1800s.

The Obvious – Many years ago, Notre Dame came out in South Bend wearing green jerseys, which propelled them to an emotional victory over the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Earlier this year to inspire themselves and to use the Irish strategy, the Cougars came out in Martin Stadium wearing a crimson top and gray pants against Stanford. Might coach Bill Doba brings out all the tricks on Saturday?

The Obvious – The Trojans have not lost in the Coliseum in many, many moons.

The Not So Obvious – In the last four seasons at Martin Stadium, Washington State is has a record of 17-5.

The Obvious – Saturday's game figures to be scalpers' paradise.

The Not So Obvious – As of mid-week, end zone tickets were being offered for $90 per ducat.

The Obvious – Legendary ABC broadcaster Keith Jackson is a graduate of Washington State.

The Not So Obvious – Jackson will not be calling the action on ABC come Saturday afternoon. Brad Nessler will take the play-by-play mike and will be joined by Bob Griese and Trojan Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Coverage for ABC's game will include only the West Coast, Hawaii, and Alaska. Sorry Southeast and Northeast. That's what Oklahoma and Oklahoma State can do to a viewing region.

The Obvious – The Cougars have lost their last three games.

The Not So Obvious – Number four may be in order as the Cougars have never hosted a No. 1 team at Martin Stadium.

The Obvious – Last week, the Trojans shut out the Huskies for the first time since Donna Summers was doing Disco.

The Not So Obvious – As if Pete Carroll and his defensive staff don't have enough incentives for Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson, Matt Grootegoed and company, the Cougars were last shutout by Ohio State in 1984.

The Obvious – Saturday's kickoff from Pullman will commence at 4:00 p.m. (PT) and will be televised by ABC.

The Not So Obvious – You know the routine. Other games to keep the interest will be Palo Alto at Westwood (12:30 p.m./FSN) and Tempe at Berkeley (7:00 p.m./TBS). Tempe at Berkeley could be the Rose Bowl for the winner, if the Trojans win out and head to Miami.

The Obvious – This week, WSU linebacker Will Derting had a very spirited outlook to Saturday's game against the nation's top dog. Derting said, "It's going to be a hell of a lot of fun."

The Not So Obvious – For the USC and their well deserved national swagger, they hope to bring to Martin Stadium their own little brand of hell and have some fun Trojan style.

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