O/NSO – ARIZONA EDITION

A Rose Bowl bid and a third consecutive Pac-10 title may be flirting on the Coliseum turf Saturday evening at 7:15, but as far as the top-ranked USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0) are concerned, a Homecoming victory over the unranked Arizona Wildcats (2-7, 1-5) shrinks the BCS magic number to two, as in Los Angeles to Miami.

The Obvious – A Rose Bowl bid and a third consecutive Pac-10 title may be flirting on the Coliseum turf Saturday evening at 7:15, but as far as the top-ranked USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0) are concerned, a Homecoming victory over the unranked Arizona Wildcats (2-7, 1-5) shrinks the BCS magic number to two, as in Los Angeles to Miami.

The Not So Obvious – The magic number is three wins for the Cardinal and Gold to reach Destination Orange Bowl for the January 4th BCS championship. Even with Notre Dame and UCLA on the horizon, the opponent becomes more an obstacle than a final goal, which is a spot in the elusive BCS Big Show. A sweep of the next three games, however, will not only make the Trojans southeastern-bound, but it will also come at the expense of their two bitter rivals.

The Obvious – Barring a gridiron natural catastrophy, Saturday night's tussle with Arizona may strategically have more value than just the final outcome.

The Not So Obvious - Wildcats' head coach Mike Stoops, the former Oklahoma defensive coordinator, brings to the Coliseum much of the same Sooner principles used in Norman, and this could be a boon for Trojan coaches Pete Carroll and Norm Chow, should the Trojans finally dance with the Okies the first week in January.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened a 34-point favorite over Arizona, which will be playing its fourth top10 team this season.

The Not So Obvious – Despite the overwhelming odds, don't expect the Wildcats to become Mildcats against the Trojans. Back in September, Arizona gave No. 4 Wisconsin a huge scare down to the wire before losing 9-7, hung tough against No. 7 Utah before falling 23-6, but experienced the wrath of No. 5 Cal by taking a 38-0 blanking.

The Obvious – The Trojans are heading to a BCS bowl game while Arizona will try and create one against the Cardinal and Gold.

The Not So Obvious – On the Arizona Insider cable show this week talking about playing the No. 1 Trojans, tight end Steve Fleming said, "This is our opportunity to be in our own national championship game. This our national championship and a chance to shock the nation."

The Obvious – In the final three games against Arizona, Notre Dame, and UCLA, the Trojans will be favored for football's version of The Hat Trick.

The Not So Obvious – Just don't tell that to Arizona, Notre Dame, and UCLA. Arizona, for one, is thinking upset. Optimistic junior running back Mike Bell (6-1, 21 , who had 14 carries for 14 yards last year against the Trojans, says, "If we're on the same page, it will be a great game."

The Obvious – Last year, the Trojans went into Tucson and completely annihilated the Wildcats 45-0.

The Not So Obvious – Despite last year's blowout, nine of the last 18 games between these two foes have been decided by seven points or less. However, it will be hard for Arizona to stop the Trojans from winning their 20th straight in the Coliseum, even if the Wildcats pull out the old flea-flicker as they did last week against Washington.

The Obvious – Both Trojans' coach Pete Carroll and Arizona coach Mike Stoops were highly-acclaimed college safeties.

The Not So Obvious – Stoops, who was a two-time, first team All-Big Ten selection in 1983-84 at Iowa, went on to a brief pro career with the Chicago Bears and the Arena League Pittsburgh Gladiators. Carroll was a two-time All-Pacific Coast Conference choice at the University of Pacific and is a member of the Tigers' Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Obvious – This is the Wildcats' second visit to Los Angeles this season having lost to unranked UCLA, 37-17, the first week of October.

The Not So Obvious – Although they lost to the Bruins in the Rose Bowl, Arizona showed some spunk and stayed competitive throughout most of the game, thanks to a defensive that remains in the middle of the conference pack.

The Obvious – It will be another Fox Sports Net national television appearance for the Trojans with Barry Tomkins and "Petros" calling the action.

The Not So Obvious – Is there any need to give the last name of Papadakis? Unlike last week in Corvallis, Tomkins and Petros, who says the Arizona defense could bloody the Trojans offense a bit, may be able to call the action as they actually "see" it. Last week, poor Tomkins, a solid play-by-play voice, referred to his monitor as one giant "whiteout," but if it rains on Saturday night at the Coliseum, it should literally be a drop in the hat compared to the duo's Reser Stadium stealth experience.

The Obvious – Saturday night's game, which will be the first night game experience in LA for the Wildcats, will be the second of three consecutive evening outings for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – With Saturday's game set for a 7:15 p.m. kickoff, the Wildcats will get a taste of November weather LA-style, which means a forecast of shower possibilities, with the temps in the low 60s s descending into the 50s as the game progresses.

The Obvious – For the most part, the USC special teams have been on fire, especially the sensational Reggie Bush, who has returned two punts for touchdowns the past two consecutive games.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats, however, went into special teams reverse last weekend against the lowly Washington Huskies. Despite their first Pac-10 win, 23-13, the Cats had a kickoff and punt return touchdown called back to penalties, a fumble on a return, and two roughing the kicker flags.

The Obvious – It has been said here that Reggie Bush is the most explosive back at SC since O.J. Simpson, although his running style is very reminiscent of the legendary Gayle Sayers, the former "Kansas Comet" and Chicago Bears' icon.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll's favorite "open field guy" is Gayle Sayers and he has spoken to Bush about the incomparable Sayers. By the way, with Reggie's two punt return scores the past two weeks, Bush is one shy of the Pac-10 record of three held by several players, the latest being Glyn Milburn, the former Stanford and Santa Monica star.

The Obvious – Reggie Bush, especially dangerous on special teams, is No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yardage at 180.2 per game.

The Not So Obvious – In the Tucson Citizen this week, bold Arizona freshman B.J. Dennard said, "We have been able to cover pretty good the last few weeks, so we are not worried about Reggie Bush." Wonder if coach Stoops has instructed Wildcats' punter Danny Baugher to take the same mantra?

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense averages 418.11 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats average 281 yards per game, the lowest in 37 years.

The Obvious – The Trojans are second in the nation in turnover margin, a statistic which coach Pete Carroll still believes his boys to be underachieving.

The Not So Obvious – Against Washington, Arizona caused four turnovers in the second half after falling behind 13-0 and added two blocked punts during the victory. Did we add that Stoops' defense also had 10 tackles for losses and broke up a season –high 13 pass attempts?

The Obvious – The Trojans are going for their 19th win in a row.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats have not won two straight since 2002 with wins over Northern Arizona and Utah.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense is sixth-ranked nationally in total defense and allows just 15.6 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – Despite scoring a season-high 23 points against Washington, it is the Wildcats' defense that has made marked improvements with Stoops at the controls. Last year's UA defense have up 37.1 points per game, but this year's defensive is allowing the opponent 15-points less per game and total yards is down by over 100 yards per game.

The Obvious – Much has been made about the rebuilt defensive line of the Trojans and their ability to control the opponent's offense.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats, despite a lack of defensive line depth, have a dandy defensive tackle in improving senior Carlos Williams (6-4, 306) from Denver. A late bloomer, Williams had a stellar game against Washington with five tackles, a forced fumble, and three batted down passes. Williams' half-brother is Karl Williams, a wide receiver for the NFL Phoenix Cardinals.

The Obvious – True freshman Jeff Byers will once again start for the Trojans at left guard in place of injured senior John Drake.

The Not So Obvious – While Byers has done a fine job for a freshman and backed up by senior Travis Watkins, it figures that the Stoops brothers will aim some of their "packages" against the youthful Byers. Last week against Washington, the Wildcats' defense had five sacks against Huskies, the most since September of 2003.

The Obvious – The final three games will be crucial for Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart's bid for the Heisman Trophy, so yardage, interceptions, and even sacks by Arizona will be crucial to the nation's voters.

The Not So Obvious – The UA defense has seven interceptions this year, three in the last three games by true freshman Antoine Cason (6-1, 180) from Los Alamitos HS, while senior defensive end Andre Torry (6-4, 245), a communications major, chimed in with a career-high two sacks against the Huskies.

The Obvious – It figures that Matt Leinart will pass at will against a very young, talented and somewhat injured Wildcats' secondary. Certainly the lack of Corvallis fog will greatly increase the chances of Matt's success.

The Not So Obvious – In this week's Sports Illustrated, there is a full double-page of the fog and Trojans' tight end Dominique Byrd scoring a touchdown. Should it rain on Saturday, it figures that Leinart will at least be able view his receivers.

The Obvious – Trojans' defensive tackle Shaun Cody, who figures to add to his resume against a porous Wildcat offense, has been named a finalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award given to the nation's finest lineman.

The Not So Obvious –Cody is also the featured colored photo on Saturday's game ticket.

The Obvious – As if Arizona didn't have enough of a challenge with the Trojans' vaunted defense, linebacker Matt Grootegoed has been named one of three finalists for the 20th annual Butkus Award, presented to the nation's top college linebacker.

The Not So Obvious – Grootegoed's competition is Ahmad Brooks of Virginia and Derrick Johnson of Texas. Matt and the other two finalists will be honored at a black tie gala at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Seas World on Dec. 10th. The Trojans' Chris Claiborne won the prestigious award in 1998.

The Obvious – The latest target for defensive line coach Ed Orgeron's maulers will be UA redshirt freshman quarterback Richard Kovalcheck (6-2, 211), the former San Diego prep star.

The Not So Obvious – Once a blip on the Trojans' recruiting radar as a senior at St. Augustine, Kovalcheck has risen on the depth chart to replace former starter Kris Heavner, who started against Troy last season in Tucson. Last week against Washington, Kovalcheck, whose dad played football and rugby at UCSB in the late 1960s, was 11 of 25 for 164 yards through the air against Washington.

The Obvious – The Wildcats figure to do what most offenses have done most of the season against the Trojans and that's throw to the tight end.

The Not So Obvious – Quarterback Kovalcheck hopes to locate senior tight end Steve Fleming (6-6, 256), who has ten receptions for 175 yards in his last three and a half games. Fleming's father played strong safety at West Virginia from 1969-73. Last year against the Trojans, Fleming caught one pass for five yards.

The Obvious – When Pete Carroll became the Trojans head coach, one of his first changes was to the USC uniforms, returning to the style of the 1960s.

The Not So Obvious – Under Coach Stoops, Arizona has changed the color of its helmets from a primarily all white to a solid blue. There is still the academic "A", but it is has no other markings or stripes.

The Obvious – The Trojans arrive at the Coliseum averaging 35 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – This means a big night for Traveler, the Trojans' famed Spanish Andualusian horse, who prances around after each Trojan touchdown. Traveler just received a $2 million donation from Bill and Nadine Tilley, insuring the Trojan icon's presence for years to come. Keep your fingers crossed as the money could be used to transport Traveler to away games like, um, say the Orange Bowl.

The Obvious – The Trojans sent out a VictorEmail proclaiming that this Saturday night's game against Arizona was "your last chance to see the top-ranked Trojans."

The Not So Obvious – Apparently this was meant as a reference to the fact that the Notre Dame game at the Coliseum is sold out.

The Obvious – Although it doesn't figure to be a sell out on Saturday night, the popularity of the Trojans should bring in a fine turnout, despite a chance of rain and local television.

The Not So Obvious – As of Thursday night, "good seats" were available through the Trojans' athletic website and were located in Section 3H, Row 92.

The Obvious – Although Trojan fans will be seeing Wildcats this weekend, most have a long-term eye on Dec. 4 when the Cardinal and Gold "travel" to the Rose Bowl for their confrontation with their friends from Westwood.

The Not So Obvious – Trojans fans began receiving their UCLA game tickets this week, but for those still trying to get tickets through the normal channels from each school, neither website is offering tickets, so an announcement should be coming soon that the tilt is an official sellout.

The Obvious – As a sign of the times, it appears that the media of each Trojan opponent does a story of the last time their locals upset a No. 1 team, as was the case last week when the Oregon papers played up the Beavers' 1967 upset of the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – No exception this week was the Tucson Citizen, which did a story on the 1981 Arizona upset of a No. 1 Marcus Allen-led Trojan team, 13-10, in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – Many recruiting gurus are saying that Trojan quarterback-verbal Mark Sanchez from Mission Viejo is the top quarterback in the country.

The Not So Obvious – In the high school Scoreboard section of this week's Sports Illustrated, there is a ranking of the top five recruits in the country and Sanchez is listed as fourth. In front of Sanchez, in order, are WR Derrick Williams (Md.), WR Fred Rouse (Fla.), and DT Callahan Bright (Pa.), who is rumored to be making a recruiting trip to Troy for the Notre Dame game.

The Obvious – The Trojans are hoping to get back injured sophomore receiver Steve Smith, who was starting to look like a Keary Colbert clone at the same stage, back for the Notre Dame game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats have no injury problems with their receivers as senior Ricky Williams (6-2, 211), from Los Angeles Verbum Dei, who comes into Saturday's game with17 straight games with a reception.

The Obvious – While this weekend's Coliseum tussle, which will start at 10:15 p.m. EST, won't get real national attention, much of this weekend's national showcase will focus on No. 3 Auburn at No. 8 Georgia.

The Not So Obvious – You can bet the entire SEC honks and soothsayers will be promoting the conference's greatness. However, according to computer genius Jeff Sagarin's NCAA conference rankings, the Pac-10 remains No. 1 in the country thanks to the Trojans' No. 1 and California's No. 3 rankings in the computer.

The Obvious – Arizona defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo is in his first season with the Wildcats.

The Not So Obvious – Mike's brother, Titus, played for the Trojans from 1988-91.

The Obvious – Almost every Trojan recruit this season makes reference that the Trojans are the No. 1 team in the country.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans have now been No.1 in the Associated Press the last 13 polls.

The Obvious – You're not going to Saturday night's game and you're worried you won't have anything to do to pass the time.

The Not So Obvious – You know the drill by now. For those that need a Pac-10 TV tune-up, there are a couple of interesting battles. At 12:30 p.m. on ABC, it's the "We're melting again" Bruins at "We're almost back" Oregon, and at 5:00 p.m. on TBS, there is "Thank you, Bruins" Washington State at "We love Tempe" Arizona State.

The Obvious – The Trojans are holding a Friday Homecoming rally at Heritage Hall patio at 4:30 p.m. with the band and speeches by Carroll, staff, and players.

The Not So Obvious – Fire up the car ignition, the rally will also provide FREE pizza and drinks.

The Obvious – There is a reason why certain teams are selected as a Homecoming opponent, and the reason is a victory is almost assured for the home team and that makes the alumni happy.

The Not So Obvious – As far as the Trojans are concerned, Homecoming is coming home to hopefully reasonable weather and an opportunity to advance that BCS championship goal. Oh darn, didn't Washington State coach Bill Doba and Oregon State coach Mike Riley pound that word "opportunity" into their outgunned squads like a LenDale White plunge. As far as Pete Carroll and his club is concerned, "opportunity" turnaround is fair play, especially when the national title is at stake.

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