O/NSO - Arkansas preview edition

The cardinal and gold anticipation, exhilaration, and celebration of 92,000 ecstatic college football fans await the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans, who finally return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Saturday night's home opener (7:15 p.m. PDT, FSN) against the tradition-rich Arkansas Razorbacks (1-1).

The Obvious – The cardinal and gold anticipation, exhilaration, and celebration of 92,000 ecstatic college football fans await the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans, who finally return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Saturday night's home opener (7:15 p.m. PDT, FSN) against the tradition-rich Arkansas Razorbacks (1-1).

The Not So Obvious – While the 2005 Razorbacks, who arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday, aren't the coach Frank Broyles powerhouse of your father or perhaps even your grandfather, UA coach Houston Nutt has made a habit of taking undermanned teams and upsetting top-ranked teams. Nutt has a respectable 11-15 record against nationally ranked teams. Certainly the opportunity for the boys from Fayetteville, who are reeling from a final minute 28-24 home loss to undefeated Vanderbilt (2-0) after controlling the game, doesn't get any bigger than playing the vaunted USC Trojans.

The Obvious – Riding a 23-game winning streak and a 21-game Coliseum victory streak as well, a Trojan triumph over the Razorbacks will establish a new Associated Press record for consecutive weeks (22) as the nation's number one team, moving past the Miami Hurricanes.

The Not So Obvious – However, not every AP voter is as impressed with the Trojans as they are with the Texas Longhorns. "I was just so impressed with Texas coming into Ohio State and playing as well as they did," said Doug Harris of the Dayton Daily News, who moved the Longhorns past USC. "In covering Ohio State for six years, I haven't seen team speed quite like that. The only team that I can compare it to is Miami the year Ohio State played them in the national championship game." Apparently Doug has not been watching the Trojans' team speed the past three years in two Orange Bowls and one Rose Bowl. Shhhhhhh, let's keep the Trojans' speed a dirty little secret.

The Obvious – With the Trojans leading the Arkansas series 2-1, this will be the first meeting where legendary Razorback coach Frank Boyles isn't walking the sidelines.

The Not So Obvious – Broyles, the Razorbacks' athletic director, arranged the current two-game series some years ago. " I don't think I envisioned anybody in college football today doing what USC has done with the parity that we have now. It's a remarkable achievement."

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 30 1/2-points favorites to send the Razorbacks back to the South looking like a digested Tony Roma's rib dinner.

The Not So Obvious – It figures that Coach Nutt, considered a players coach like Pete Carroll, will present the Trojans a defensive game plan that could be somewhat different than the one presented by Hawaii's Jerry Glanville. With highly touted first-year defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, formerly at North Carolina St. guru, the Hogs have has installed a new 4-3 aggressive defense. It remains to be seen how the Arkansas defense, which had three sacks last Saturday in a losing effort to Vanderbilt, will bring the heat to Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart, who could be seeing a lot of man coverage. Herring, however, certainly saw the lethal scoring effects of trying to blitz and confuse Leinart, a near impossible task with Lefty's experience and a veteran offensive line.

The Obvious –Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, likes to run similar "stuff" as Pete Carroll, a blitzing attack from all directions.

The Not So Obvious –Of Herring's defense, Matt Leinart says, "They aren't very big, but they're physical and fast. They're good and they bring a lot of pressure. They're well coached and are very disruptive, similar to our defense. They pressure the heck out of you."

The Obvious - The weather report for Saturday evening's kickoff calls for a clear evening and the high 60s at kickoff.

The Not So Obvious – Last weekend in Fayetteville, it was 90 degrees for the 6:00 p.m. kickoff against Vanderbilt. However, the real whether report for Los Angeles is whether Arkansas can ball control the Trojans' defense through multiple formations with some option in the mix. What stands out are the various Hog formations such as the shotgun, double-wing, H-back, and straight power plays. Throw in some shotgun option with misdirection and the Trojans defense will have to be very disciplined in their assignments. With the Hogs currently leading the nation in rushing, Trojan fans should keep a watchful eye on how the Trojans' front four, especially nose tackle Sedrick Ellis and LaJuan Ramsey, and youthful linebackers react to Nutt's multifaceted running attack.

The Obvious - Saturday night's Trojan home opener against Arkansas will be televised on FSN at 7:00 p.m. (PDT) with Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis, and Jim Watson.

The Not So Obvious – Speaking of sportscasters, Chris Schenkel, 82, has died in Fort Wayne, Indiana, after a long battle with emphysema. Schenkel, who was the Keith Jackson of his ABC era of college football, was the play-by-play announcer for the historic 1967 USC/UCLA game on ABC, calling O.J. Simpson's immortal 64-yard scoring run.

The Obvious – The Trojans' home opener and only September appearance is expected to be a Coliseum sellout.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans have played before crowds of 85,000 or more in eight of its past 17 games. Arkansas will contribute to the likely sellout with over 6,000 Razorbacks fans coming to Los Angeles to yell," Whoo Pig, Soooooooooiiee!" The signature Razorback chant will surely get the Trojans attention in pregame warmups.

The Obvious – Arkansas has traditionally been a power ground attack and opened their season rushing for 483 yards against Missouri State.

The Not So Obvious – The Razorbacks have led the SEC in rushing the last two out of three years but were "held" to 194 yards rushing against Vanderbilt. However, Nutt may have been prepping his team for an all-out offensive assault against the Trojans, unveiling last week a balanced attack that featured 199 yards rushing and 186 passing for a total of 385 yards.

The Obvious – The Hawaii game two weeks ago lasted 3 1/2 hours.

The Not So Obvious –Coach Nutt would like nothing better than to shrink the amount of time his defense has to be on the field with the Trojans' offense. Like the old Spencer Davis Group 60's hit, "Keep on Runnin," if the Trojans defense shows a marshmallow interior, expect the Hogs to keep it on the ground a minimum of 50 times. This baby could be shorter game than usual if the Hogs keep on the ground no matter the score.

The Obvious – The Trojan colors are cardinal and gold.

The Not So Obvious – The Razorback colors are cardinal and white. Trojan fans may be seeing new Razorback uniforms in the Hogs' first road appearance. The road tops figure to be a reverse of the home uniforms. The cardinal and white jerseys feature "Arkansas" on the front and the individual player's name on the back. The new uniforms also feature the SEC logo and Hogs on the sleeves.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart will continue his quest for a second Heisman Trophy, a challenge he will not only receive from teammate Reggie Bush but Texas headliner quarterback Vincent Young.

The Not So Obvious – It would appear that Leinart should find his Heisman road in tact by finding plenty of open Trojan receivers since the Razorbacks allowed Vandy quarterback Jay Culter to throw for 278 yards and the winning six-yard scoring toss with 26 seconds remaining. However, the Hogs do have active safeties in hard-hitting senior strong safety Vickiel Vaughn (6-0, 204), who had a career-high 11 tackles against Vandy, and sophomore free safety Matterral Richarson (6-0, 195) from Marlin, Texas, who had seven solo tackles last Saturday.

The Obvious - "He (Leinart) looks like a coach out there on the field. ... You know you've got your work cut out for you when you play against a guy with those intangibles," Arkansas safety Vickiel Vaughn said.

The Not So Obvious – Since we first saw that fateful practice day when Reggie Bush ran circles around the Trojan defense his freshman year, we believed he was the most explosive running back since O.J. Simpson. However, we also believe that the true X-factor in every Trojan game is the intellect of quarterback Matt Leinart. It's Leinart that calls the audibles and is the CEO of the Trojan offense. Coaches can draw up defenses for Bush and Leinart, but there is no defense for the beautiful mind of No. 11.

The Obvious – It's hard to believe sometimes that Matt Leinart has made Trojan fans almost forget fellow Heisman winner Carson Palmer.

The Not So Obvious – Well, as a reminder that Palmer is still in the hearts of the Trojan family, Carson Palmer commemorative footballs will be thrown into the stands throughout Saturday night's game with the Razorbacks.

The Obvious – Although he won't get the same billboard as Leinart, Bush, or Young, Arkansas sophomore quarterback Robert Johnson (6-2, 212) from Waco, Texas, is a fine athlete.

The Not So Obvious – Johnson, who is completing 58% of his passes and has shown marked improvement from the opening game victory over Missouri State, displayed refined throwing ability against Vanderbilt by hitting on 17-of-28 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. A threat to get outside the pocket rolling out, Trojan defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson will have added responsibilities to keep Johnson in check as well as containing the option.

The Obvious – More and more Trojan opponents appear to be concerned over the Trojan Marching Band's selections of game tunes.

The Not So Obvious – Taking a page from the Hawaii practice plan, Arkansas opened their week of Trojan practice by blaring Fight On, Conquest, and Tribute to Troy. According to Razorback quarterback Robert Johnson, "Right at the start we started hearing it." Like the football game itself, Arkansas will learn like past Trojan foes that you can't simulate the "intimidating" Trojan Marching Band on the practice field with a Spirit of Troy CD.

The Obvious – Saturday night's game will be the next opportunity for Trojan offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to attack the Razorback's style of defense.

The Not So Obvious – Kiffin's father, Monte, was once defensive coordinator at Arkansas from 1977-79.

The Obvious – There was concern among the Trojan faithful after the Men of Troy allowed the Hawaii Rainbows 377 yards through the air.

The Not So Obvious – Statistics can certainly be misleading, but in the Rainbow Warriors' 42-14 loss at Michigan State, the Spartans allowed 277 yards, a century less yards than the Trojans. It will be of much interest to watch the Trojans' secondary, especially talented Josh Pinkard, subbing for injured strong safety Darnell Bing, and Scott Ware, who admitted the Hawaii game was not one of his better efforts.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense looked every bit as good as advertised against Hawaii, ringing up 518 yards and 63 points.

The Not So Obvious – According to UA freshman linebacker Freddie Fairchild, he has the Trojan offense all figured out having played Sony Playstation. " I've know what they like to do," Fairchild said. "I've seen their video playbook." Unfortunately for Freddie, Trojan offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will control the joystick on Saturday night.

The Obvious – Trojan fans will watch with keen interest on the playing time and red zone circumstances of running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

The Not So Obvious – While Bush and White will draw their own interest, so will Arkansas senior running back De'Arrius Howard (6-0, 236), who ran for a career-high 139 yards against Vandy. A physical back averaging 7.8 a carry, his lone touchdown against the Commodores was a 39-yard jaunt. Don't ignore sophomore fullback Peyton Hillis, a Brandon Hancock type of fullback, who caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Robert Johnson against Vandy and carries a six-yards per carry average.

The Obvious – In Dwayne Jarrett and Patrick Turner, the Trojans will present Arkansas with a different level of receiving athlete, not only in ability but also in height.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan defenders, too, will also be challenged by Razorback height in 6-foot-6, sophomore wide receiver Marcus Monk from Lepanto, Arkansas. Monk, who is the tallest receiver in Hog history and weighs 227 pounds, figures to test the Trojans talented senior corner Justin Wyatt, who pro scouts think is rising on the draft charts, despite his "listed" 5-10 stature. Monk has 11 receptions on the year and is averaging 12.4 yards per catch. Beware that Monk will also pass the ball.

The Obvious – The gifted Trojan offensive line, which Matt Leinart says is "a million times better with the addition of Winston Justice and they were good last year," received high marks in controlling the Hawaii Rainbow Warrior defensive line.

The Not So Obvious – The Arkansas offensive line, which returns six returning starters from last season, has a stellar right guard in sophomore Robert Felton (6-4, 322) from Houston, Texas. Felton's high school, Cypress Creek, has also produced NFL linemen Sam Adams, Dan Neil, and Josh Williams.

The Obvious –Trojans junior center Ryan Kalil (6-3, 285) of Corona is a 2005 Rimington Trophy candidate, an award that goes to the top center in the country.

The Not So Obvious – Arkansas senior co-captain center Kyle Roper (6-3, 291), a near unanimous preseason All-SEC selection who also suffered bruised ribs against Vanderbilt, is a Rimington Trophy candidate, which should make his confrontation with the Trojans physical, sophomore nose tackle Sedrick Ellis a dandy to watch. Roper, from Powder Springs, Ga., will have a big say on the Razorbacks success on the ground.

The Obvious – The Trojans will be looking for improvement in the penalty department after the Hawaii mess in which the cardinal and gold were flagged nine times for 97 yards.

The Not So Obvious – The Razorbacks are coming off a Vanderbilt game in which the Hogs were penalized nine times for 88 yards.

The Obvious – Trojans coach Pete Carroll and Arkansas Houston Nutt are considered two of the top coaches in the country, according to an earlier The Sporting News feature story.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll was ranked by TSN as the best college coach in the country. Nutt didn't crack the Top 10, but the weekly publication gave him kudos in his own conference ranking. However, TSN gave an ominous future warning for the Arkansas mentor in regards to his flirtation to the then-open Nebraska job. TSN wrote " Nutt is one of the nation's brightest coaches, but he's midlevel in his own league (SEC) and the clock is ticking."

The Obvious – The Trojans have won three consecutive the Pac-10 Conference titles.

The Not So Obvious – The once proud Arkansas program has not won a conference title since 1989 as a member of the deceased Southwest Conference.

The Obvious – Former Trojan tight end great Charles Young was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in August.

The Not So Obvious – Arkansas defensive line coach in Tracy Rocker, one of college football's all-time greats who won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award at Auburn, was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame with Young. For recruitniks, it seems like only yesterday that Rocker was a heralded prep legend out of Atlanta Fulton High in 1984.

The Obvious – Arkansas coach Houston Nutt calls senior linebacker Sam Olajubutu (5-9, 227) the "heart" of the Razorback defense.

The Not So Obvious – The question for Pete Carroll's defense is who is the "heart" of the Trojans' defense? By title, you could say senior captain Dallas Sartz is the leader. However, the performance of junior linebacker Oscar Lua, who will start on Saturday night, is a candidate. Thomas "Hitman" Williams, who is listed as Lua's back-up on the depth chart, could be a surprise performer as could freshman linebacker Rey Maualuga. The "heart" question is one Pete Carroll would like to see somewhat answered before the conference opener next weekend in Engene. Saturday's game will seriously test the defensive aptitude of Pete Carroll's linebackers.

The Obvious – There has been much speculation on the health of Trojan punter Tom Malone, whose hip flexor injury appears to be an unsolved mystery.

The Not So Obvious – No mystery exists with sophomore place kicker Mario Danelo who tied a Trojan record with nine extra points against Hawaii. It will be interesting to see Danelo perform in the Coliseum where some kickers claim there is a wind issue at different times of the day.

The Obvious – The Trojans should have a nice turnout of recruits roaming the Coliseum turf prior to kickoff, and one those "chippers" will be Camden (N.J.) stud safety Antwine Perez (6-2, 200).

The Not So Obvious – Perez, who visited Michigan last weekend in the Wolverines' loss to Notre Dame, has been selected to play in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American game on Jan. 7 (NBC, 10:00 a.m. PST) in San Antonio's Alamodome.

The Obvious – Trojan tight end Dominique Bryd, who was held out of the second half of the Hawaii game due to a composure issue after a Rainbow Warrior tackle, figures to catch more than one pass this week against the Razorbacks.

The Not So Obvious – Speaking of tight ends, former Oklahoma tight end great Keith Jackson was also inducted this summer into the College Football Hall of Fame. Jackson is the color analyst for the Arkansas football radio network.

The Obvious – The Trojans will pass out an unlimited number of schedule posters to fans attending Saturday night's game.

The Not So Obvious – Last Saturday evening, UCLA gave out free schedule posters to the first 7,500 fans.

The Obvious – The Trojans have 10 former players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The Not So Obvious – The Razorbacks have two HOF members in wide receiver Lance Alworth and defensive lineman Dan Hampton.

The Obvious – The USC athletic department announced the debut of the Trojan Fan Fest, a celebration of food, activities, and entertainment outside the peristyle end of the Coliseum, before every home game, beginning with Arkansas on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – Of all the interesting booths that will be on display for the Trojan Fan Fest, the USC Credit Union "Money Grab" seems to have the most O/NSO intrigue.

The Obvious – Saturday night will be the first Trojan home game to experience the new Coliseum beer ban policy.

The Not So Obvious – As an O/NSO public service, we would like to remind those Trojan fans that there will also be the debut of the Miller Lite Great Taste Zone. Open to fans 21 years of age and older, it will feature Miller beverages and a bank of Sony LCD televisions showing live college football games from around the country. The Miller Lite Great Taste Zone is located next to the Trojan Fan Fest and is also free.

The Obvious – The Coliseum area figures to be alive with tailgaters galore.

The Not So Obvious – In case you're looking for a little bit more Trojan spirit, Sav-on stores have a new USC party display offering catering cups, spreads, napkins, and other tailgate needs, all with the interlocking SC logo. Now that Sav-on is on the bandwagon, can Costco be far behind?

The Obvious – For the rest of you college football television voyeurs, the other local big game on the tube is No. 21 "Yo, Adrian" Oklahoma (1-1) at "Can our defensive line stop Adrian?" UCLA (12:30 p.m., ABC),

The Not So Obvious –Preceding the OU/UCLA game will be "Hey, we beat Boise State" Oregon State at No. 11 "We aren't just a basketball school" Louisville (9:00 a.m., ESPN). As an appetizer prior to the Trojans tilt, No. 23 "We beat up on Weber State" Fresno State at "Let's pretend we don't miss Tedford" Oregon (4:00 p.m., TBS). All times are Pacific.

The Obvious – And Finally, another Southern team comes to the Coliseum and all of the South will be keeping a sharp eye not only on the Razorbacks, but how the Trojans perform against them.

The Not So Obvious – You can bet the SEC media in attendance will be looking to put the knock on every Trojan dropped pass and rush that doesn't go five yards. However, don't expect a Trojan letdown this week. If anything, expect the nation's top canine to go Hog wild, and we're not just whistling "Dixie."


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