O/NSO - Oklahoma preview edition

Earning the hyperbole of a Super Bowl, mesmerizing a nation in "Thrilla in Miami" anticipation, and sending college football historians into a national championship frenzy, the No.1-ranked USC Trojans (12-0) and No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-0) finally climb into the Orange Bowl's 71st gridiron ring Tuesday evening at 5:20 p.m. (PST) at sold-out Pro Player Stadium in one of college football's most anticipated slugfests.

The Obvious – Earning the hyperbole of a Super Bowl, mesmerizing a nation in "Thrilla in Miami" anticipation, and sending college football historians into a national championship frenzy, the No.1-ranked USC Trojans (12-0) and No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-0) finally climb into the Orange Bowl's 71st gridiron ring Tuesday evening at 5:20 p.m. (PST) at sold-out Pro Player Stadium in one of college football's most anticipated slugfests.

The Not So Obvious – If Tuesday's BCS National Championship Game between the Trojans and the Sooners lives up to its billing and can outdo the finishes of the Rose Bowl and Capital One Bowl, then fans across America will be well-advised to have a defibrillator handy or a bottle of nitroglycerin nearby. There is only real question remaining for these two corporate giants of the collegiate football community: Can such a nirvana collection of talent, coaching, and tradition deliver on an ESPN Classic Sports level?

The Obvious – Many media and fans sites are placing this potential classic into the same shelf as the 1967 USC-UCLA game and the 1971 Oklahoma-Nebraska game, two of college football's all-time wars, which were decided by all-time All-Americans.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans, who currently ride a 21-game winning streak, have seen the likes of Virginia Tech and California, Oklahoma has jousted with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Neither the Trojans nor the Sooners have faced the total talent, tradition, and ultimate pressure that the other will unleash. It also figures that in a game of this magnitude, someone's All-America or Heisman winner will also rise to superstar status and effect the final outcome. There are just too many superstars to think otherwise.

The Obvious – The No. 1 USC Trojans opened a three-point favorite over the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners and that number has decreased as the moment of truth arrives on Tuesday evening.

The Not So Obvious – There is a very unique respect between the fan base of the two programs, almost to the point that the odds almost seem reversed. With so much talent and intangibles at play, there is almost a confrontation between one's heart and one's head as to what the final outcome might be. However, the Trojans are favored simply because the points gurus believe in the late season surge of inconsistent Trojan senior place kicker Ryan Killeen(14/23) more than they do Oklahoma's untested true freshman Garrett Hartley (0/0) and erratic junior Trey DiCarlo (8/16).

The Obvious – The weather forecast for Tuesday is a high of 79 degrees and sunny with a low of 67 and that translates to a kickoff in the 70's with the obligatory humidity.

The Not So Obvious – The real forecast is whether the perceived weaknesses of the two teams, the Trojans' offensive line and secondary and the Sooners' secondary, is fact or fiction. The word from both camps in Miami is that there's healthy respect in that each club realizes the ability of the other to inflict immediate offensive and defensive pain in lightening fashion.

The Obvious - Can the Oklahoma secondary, even with the return of senior DB Antonio Perkins, deal with the mind of Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow, especially once the legendary OC figures out the Sooners' strategy and quarterback Matt Leinart starts dissecting the Sooners' linebackers and secondary?

The Not So Obvious – In a simplified form, the game may very well come down to the Trojans' offensive line, a unit that will be taking their roughest and toughest final exam. Should Matt Leinart get time to scan the Sooner secondary, there is a logical feeling that the Sooners could be in deep trouble. Should Coach Tim Davis' Trojan offensive line succumb to the speed of the Sooners' defensive front and blitzes, the Trojans could be in some real deep Oklahoma manure.

The Obvious - It also remains to be seen whether the Trojans can effectively deal with OU running back Adrian Peterson, something they couldn't do against Cal's J.J. Arrington.

The Not So Obvious - Will OU's vaunted offensive line, which has allowed only seven sacks, present 2004 OU Heisman winning QB Jason White with the time to test the Trojan secondary? The strength of the Sooners is their veteran and talented offensive line. The Okies will have their hands full with All-American tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, but a key for Troy will be the performances by defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Frostee Ruckers against those OU tackles and athletic pulling guards. Inconsistent at times, maintaining "contain" on the edges by the two athletic Trojan ends, which will give Cody and Patterson time to do their magic, may very decide the fate of Sooner quarterback Jason White, a not so mobile thrower.

The Obvious – The Trojans manhandled the Arizona Wildcats late in the season and UA coach Mike Stoops, brother of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, has passed on his knowledge to his Sooner brother.

The Not So Obvious – Of Mike Stoops scouting report to his brother, Sooner Bob said, "He (Mike) was down here recruiting and he stopped in and we shared some thoughts. He met with (co-defensive coordinators) Brent (Venable) and Bo (Pellini) with what he felt about them (USC), and if there's anything Arizona would have done differently with the way they played them. It's just more confirming what you believe and what the right way to defend and them is. We value what Mike's opinion is and how they felt they needed to approach the game."

The Obvious – There aren't too many national championship games that aren't decided by turnovers and momentum.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans come into Tuesday night's game with a +1.2 turnover margin compared to + 0.8 for the Sooners.

The Obvious – ABC will begin Tuesday night's BCS National Championship at 5:00 p.m. (PST) with the actual kickoff at 5:20 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – This will be just the second time that the ABC broadcast crew of Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, and Lynn Swann, the former Trojan receiving great, has seen the Trojans in person, but ABC has added Todd Harris for some Pac-10 flavor. For the record, ESPN.com reports that the legendary Keith Jackson gives "the edge" to the Trojans over the Sooners.

The Obvious – The media has spent a great deal of energy breaking down the offensive stars of each team and their potential to dent two of the nation's finest defensive clubs.

The Not So Obvious – After watching film and knowing his own teammates, talented Oklahoma junior offensive lineman Davin Joseph said, " I'd say Reggie Bush is more versatile than Adrian (Peterson). Adrian is more of a power running back. Jason (White) is one of the best deep-ball throwers. Matt's (Leinart) better with the short game. It's different aspects, but overall, it's so close, just great players."

The Obvious – Tuesday night's FedEx Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium is a sellout, which means a capacity of 74,916.

The Not So Obvious – For those Trojan fans with lucky ducats, Gate 5 will be open at 12:00 noon for tailgaters and parking will be a reasonable $20 per car. However, if you wish to use a limo, fork out $30. Entrance into the stadium will begin at 6:00 p.m. for the 8:20 p.m. (EST) kickoff.

The Obvious – The Trojans play their home games at the Coliseum (92,000) and the Sooners play their home games at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82,112).

The Not So Obvious – Both home stadiums are grass fields and so will be the Pro Player Stadium turf.

The Obvious – The Orange Bowl has decorated the Trojans' bus with a colorful mural showcasing Coach Pete Carroll with a bowl of oranges and that of Carson Palmer, a salute to the former Orange Bowl MVP.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans should have little trouble recognizing their heroes when they arrive at Pro Player Stadium for the "Trojan Walk." It should be noted, however, the Trojans' Delta charter was a normal white plane with only the airline company logo on the side. Might a win over the Sooners on Tuesday prompt Delta to be a little creative for the long trip back to Los Angeles?

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense is led by 2004 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Matt Leinart (6-5, 225), who has had to overcome difficult eye surgery as a child and a rotator cup injury as a high school freshman.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners' offense is led by 2003 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jason White (6-3, 226), who has had to overcome ACL surgery on both knees during his Sooner career.

The Obvious – The Trojans average 36.8 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners' defense allows 13.7 points per game.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart is a lefty and Sooner signal-caller Jason White is a righty.

The Not So Obvious – Leinart hails from Santa Ana, California and leads his Trojans through the air at 266.7 yards per game, while White is from Tuttle, Oklahoma and guides his passing offense at 254.5 per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense allows 12.5 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners offense averages 36.1 points per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans start emotional sophomore Fred Matua (6-2, 305) at right guard, a former prep All-America defensive lineman, who brings a defensive lineman's personality.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners start senior Outland Trophy winning offensive left tackle Jammal Brown (6-6, 313), also a converted defensive tackle. In fact, Brown earned all-state honors as a DT his senior year at Lawton MacArthur High in Oklahoma.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense averages 176.1 yards rushing per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooner defense allows 86.4 yards rushing per game.

The Obvious – While the new is encouraging, the Trojans are hoping that tailback LenDale White (6-2, 235) is able to be a sustained factor in the 2005 Orange Bowl after difficult ankle problems.

The Not So Obvious – A key injury to White brings back memories of the 2003 Orange Bowl when the Trojans were forced to go without All-America safety Troy Polamalu but still whipped Iowa. However, perhaps as important as the return and effectiveness of White is the return of powerful senior offensive guard John Drake (6-4, 350), who could be as major return as anybody on the field.

The Obvious – One of the heroes of last year's Rose Bowl win over Michigan was defensive tackle Manuel Wright.

The Not So Obvious – It appears that Wright has recovered enough to make a mark in Tuesday night's game. If Wright is able to contribute in any form with his tremendous talent and can get a push on his ankle, it will be a tremendous boost to the Trojans' cause. In a game that figures to be as physical as it gets, a motivated Wright is just what Trojan Dr. Semel ordered.

The Obvious – The Trojans All-America running back Reggie Bush was once considered a lock for Stanford before a recruiting trip to USC for the Notre Dame game changed the course of history.

The Not So Obvious – Wearing his Palestine High letterman's jacket, the Sooners All-America running back Adrian Peterson (6-2, 210), was part of the "Trojan Walk" during his recruiting visit for last year's UCLA game and actually committed to the Trojans before deciding to stay close to home. Yes, it's true Sooner fans but more power to ya.

The Obvious – The Trojans allow 75.3 yards rushing per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners average 215 yards rushing per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans' senior All-America defensive tackle Shaun Cody (6-4, 295), who leads the Trojans in sacks, was an outstanding tight end at Los Altos High in Hacienda Heights.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners' All-Big 12 senior defensive tackle Dan Cody (6-5, 270), who leads the Sooners in sacks with nine, was originally a star tight end at Ada High in Ada, Oklahoma.

The Obvious – USC is known as the Trojans, which originated in 1912.

The Not So Obvious – Oklahoma is known as the Sooners, which came from the great land run of 1889, when folks went for land grabs and became participants in a race for territory that started with the boom of a cannon. Contestants that started running for land at the sound of the cannon were called "Boomers." Those that tried to cheat before the cannon went off were called "Sooners" for starting too soon. Hence the nickname "Sooners." Got it?

The Obvious – The Trojans' All-Pac-10 junior middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (6-0, 225), who may be playing his final game as a Trojan, is a transfer from the University of Maine and was also quarterback in high school, a position that allowed him to throw for 800 yards and 10 scores and rushing for 450 yards and five touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners' All-Big 12 senior linebacker Lance Mitchell (6-3, 244), the former Trojan recruit out of Los Banos High and San Francisco CC, originally attended Florida but SEC rules would not let him play. Mitchell was once a tailback at Los Banos and in one game ran for 250 yards and six touchdowns.

The Obvious – Much like a heavyweight championship bout, the art of intimation is well underway between the two teams, their fanatical followings, and a combination of the both.

The Not So Obvious – There was a unique exchange not long ago when the Trojans' Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart was a guest on a ESPN.com chat. In an exchange with Leinart, an Oklahoma fan said, " So, Matt, what does it feel like knowing you are going to get trampled by OU? Pretty scary, isn't it?" Leinart replied, " You shouldn't be so sure of that. All you Norman fans can talk, but I can promise you we'll be ready to play."

The Obvious – The Trojans will attempt to use the height and jumping ability of freshman receiver Dwayne Jarrett (6-5, 195) to gain some advantage over the questionable Sooner secondary.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners will attack the Trojans' secondary with All-Big 12 receiver Mark Clayton (5-11, 187), who makes up for the height difference of Jarrett with a recorded 38-inch vertical leap.

The Obvious – There is nothing like the Trojan Marching Band, which brings forth the musical tradition of "Fight On," which was composed in 1922 by USC dental student Milo Sweet, and "Conquest," a song that was taken from the 1947 motion picture classic "Captain of Castile."

The Not So Obvious - The Oklahoma Marching Band is known for the fight song "Boomer Sooner," which was written in 1905 by a Sooner student, who wrote the lyrics borrowing the tune "Boola Boola" from Yale University. Of course, there is nothing more stirring for Sooner fans when the Oklahoma band plays Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma."

The Obvious – The Trojans have been designated the home team and will wear their home cardinal and gold uniforms while the Sooners will be dressed in their visiting whites with some crimson highlights.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans and their fans will be located along half of the press box "home" side of Pro Player Stadium, a location the Miami Dolphins usually inhabit.

The Obvious – Trojans' talented starting sophomore center Ryan Kalil (6-4, 270) hails from academically disciplined Anaheim Servite High.

The Not So Obvious – The Sooners' two-time All-Big 12 senior center Vince Carter (6-3, 294) was named to the Verizon Academic All-District first team.

The Obvious – The Trojans were once in a heated recruiting battle for the Sooners' All-Big 12 senior DB Donte Nicholson (6-2, 216), formerly of Diamond Bar High and Mt. SAC JC.

The Not So Obvious – Nicholson was once the CIF-SS Division 2 Player of the Year and has been known to pump some iron under Heritage Hall.

The Obvious – Pro Player Stadium, home of the Orange Bowl and the Miami Dolphins, first opened in 1987 with the Chicago Bears beating the Dolphins 10-3.

The Not So Obvious – The official address is 2269 Dan Marino Blvd and is located 16 miles NW of Miami.

The Obvious – It figures to be a sea of various red in the Orange Bowl since both teams have a form of red as their basic color, and their fan base will probably be wearing red apparel.

The Not So Obvious – Since each team was given approximately 16,000 seats, the real fan intrigue is how will the remaining 40,000 fans be dressed and for whom will they root?

The Obvious – Both teams possess devastating punt and kickoff return personnel.

The Not So Obvious – While the country has seen the devastation of the Trojans' Reggie Bush, equally scary for USC fans is the Sooners Antonio Perkins (6-0, 180), who is remembered quite well in 2003 for his three scoring punt returns (74, 84, 65) against the UCLA Bruins in Norman. After the Bruins' Craig Bragg stunned the Trojans in December with his record scoring punt return in the Rose Bowl, the USC special teams better be ready for Perkins.

The Obvious – The Trojans' punter Tom Malone may play a huge roll in the defining effectiveness of Sooner punt returner Perkins.

The Not So Obvious – Hang time and accuracy will be the order of the evening for Malone, who has expressed a desire to perhaps enter the NFL draft. Well, kid, here is your chance to show The League what you're about. As a side note and an ominious reminder, the Trojans' special teams did have some issues as well during the year with blocks and with fake punts by the oppositon, something that Coach Stoops may try to explore during the game.

The Obvious – USC fans are hoping for an appearance in Pro Player Stadium of Traveler, their famed white horse, especially after the recent large donation to insure the horse's appearance at home games and special events.

The Not So Obvious – The Orange Bowl and the national championship would qualify as a special event, wouldn't it? Sooner fans hope to see on the field their famed Boomer Schooner, the famous covered wagon powered by white ponies named Boomer and Sooner.

The Obvious – Sports Illustrated, whose Austin Murphy picks the Sooners by three, has its "take" on Tuesday night's game by letting Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, whose Cal unit had a rough outing against Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday, explain how you try and stop the Trojans' Matt Leinart.

The Not So Obvious – " We try to change up on him (Leinart). Sometimes you bring four, sometimes five; sometimes bring three and drop eight. You can't blitz every time, because if you do, Leinart's gonna kill you. You can't sit back and play cover-three either, ‘cause he'll kill you that way, What you want is a mixture of playing zone, playing man, combination man-zone, blitz and blitz-zone."

The Obvious – The Sporting News has its "take" on Tuesday night's game.

The Not So Obvious – "The Trojans simply don't hurt themselves. In the past three seasons, USC is an unthinkable plus-52 in turnover ratio. The Trojans have three losses in those 38 games, two on last-second field goals and one by seven points on the road against Kansas State – when the Trojans were on the positive side of the game's turnover margin. We'll take Pete (Carroll) the coach when the switch is flicked again."

The Obvious – The No. 1 Trojans are staying at the futuristic four-star Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, a hotel that looks on the outside like a landing base for the Starship Enterprise and goes for around $380 per evening.

The Not So Obvious – The No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners are staying at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort, about eight miles down Highway A1A from the Trojans. Only 17 minutes and the Atlantic Ocean coastline separate the nation's top teams before Tuesday night. Under normal circumstances, a room at the Westin Diplomat goes for $308 per day during the week.

The Obvious – The Orange Bowl annually prides itself on celebrity halftime entertainment.

The Not So Obvious – The 2005 Orange Bowl will feature recording artists Ashlee Simpson and Gwen Stefani, both of whom follow in the steps of Jessica Simpson, Shaggy, Lil Bow Wow, and Juanes. What….no Mick Jagger?

The Obvious – The Orange Bowl hosts both USC's Pete Carroll and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops on Monday for the Coaches Luncheon at the Miami Radisson.

The Not So Obvious – Besides honoring the teams, the luncheon will honor Hall of Honor inductees Melvin Bratton, the former Miami running back, Roy Kramer, the former czar of the SEC, and Steve Spurrier, the former Florida quarterback and recently named coach of South Carolina.

The Obvious – Miller Lite is hosting a gameday tailgate party at Pro Player Stadium beginning at 11:30 a.m.

. The Not So Obvious – The beer mogul is reminding fans at the tailgate to "ice down the drinks. Is there anything worse than warm drinks?" The best reminder is to stop by the tailgate and "catch the other bowl games at the BIG SCREEN TV tent." That should be quite a spectacle considering the Orange Bowl is the only game on Tuesday.

The Obvious – The official USC Trojans Pep Rally will be held at the Fontainebleau Hilton on Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. and will feature, for $45 at the door, the usual suspects in the Trojan Marching Band, yell and song girls, and "exciting Trojan celebrities."

The Obvious – Tuesday night's Orange Bowl will be the final game for Trojans' defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron and special teams coach Dennis Slutak, both headed for the University of Mississippi.

The Not So Obvious – Slutak will assume the special teams position for Orgerons' new tenure. Before Trojan fans become too incensed, it should be noted that Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has seen four different coordinators leave Soonerville in the past six years. Such is the price of a winning program at the highest level.

The Obvious – Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal will flip the coin before the game.

The Not So Obvious – Will the Lakers' Kobe Bryant demand equal time and present the BCS championship trophy to the winning team?

The Obvious – So the long 2004 Trojan football journey that began in late August on the East Coast concludes in January again on the East Coast.

The Not So Obvious – The distance between the District of Columbia and Miami is approximately 1060 miles, but the final outcome of Tuesday night's BCS National Championship Game will be measured not in miles but in trophy size and college football lore. For the 2004 USC Trojans, the final destination for cardinal and gold destiny is finally at hand.


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