O/NSO - Oregon preview

According to the national media pundits, the potential downfall of the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans and their 24-game win streak may be revealed within the next four weeks when the Men of Troy (2-0) face the ultimate challenge of playing three Top 25 teams on the road in the next four games, beginning Saturday afternoon (4:00 PST, ABC) at deafening Autzen Stadium in their Pac-10 opener with No. 24 Oregon (3-0)

The Obvious – According to the national media pundits, the potential downfall of the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans and their 24-game win streak may be revealed within the next four weeks when the Men of Troy (2-0) face the ultimate challenge of playing three Top 25 teams on the road in the next four games, beginning Saturday afternoon (4:00 PST, ABC) at deafening Autzen Stadium in their Pac-10 opener with No. 24 Oregon (3-0)

The Not So Obvious –Until last year's difficult Pac-10 opening victory over Stanford, Pete Carroll had gone 0-3 in Pac-10 road openers, and perhaps that's why Oregon coach Mike Bellotti appeared so confident at the Pac-10 Media day in August by referring to the Trojans as the "so-called favorites." Conceivably Bellotti's bold assessment is also based on past history which says the Trojans are 1-5 in Pac-10 road openers the past six years and have lost to the Ducks the last four of five meetings.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as17-point favorites over the Ducks.

The Not So Obvious – With the Trojans incomparable offense expected to perform all four quarters on Saturday, it's no wonder that Trojan fans are hoping that WeAreSC's John Jackson is a gridiron Nostradamus, when he predicted a 52-21 Trojan victory. With the Trojans averaging 627 offensive yards per game and the fact that Oregon's offense averages 490.7 yards on offense per game, it's certainly conceivable the winning team could score a minimum of 50 points.

The Obvious – Saturday's afternoon weather forecast for Eugene calls for sunny skies and a high of 76 degrees.

The Not So Obvious – The real whether forecast is whether the Trojans' fractured secondary can deal with the Ducks' impressive new spread offense under first-year offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, the former BYU head coach. Ditto the Ducks' secondary, last in Pac-10 passing defense, which will be under the same whether forecast, facing the Trojans' first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and his all-world receivers. Throw in the Autzen Stadium factor, the Matt Leinart and Kellen Clemens factor, the Pete Carroll defensive factor, and you have a game consumed with high-scoring factors. Fasten your seatbelts, Trojan fans, this one could be one wild ride through the Williamette Valley.

The Obvious – The Trojans average 627 yards in total offense.

The Not So Obvious – The Ducks 490 yards in total offense.

The Obvious – The Sporting News has Trojan tailback Reggie Bush on its cover this week, crowning No. 5 the most explosive player in college football

The Not So Obvious – "We have to stop the explosion thing," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, now in his 11th season as the Ducks' head man. " We need to make them (USC) work the ball down the field." With the Ducks' defense last week being abused for 530 yards by Fresno State and the fact that Oregon ranks last in Pac-10 pass defense, you know Bush, Leinart, and company will be looking for an early and often "explosion thing."

The Obvious – The Trojans offense is averaging 67 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Ducks defense is allowing 24 points per game.

The Obvious – Based on the recent successes of Houston and Fresno State, Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart figures to attack the Oregon secondary with all the excitement of a pubescent boy opening up his first Playboy.

The Not So Obvious – The bad and goods news for the Trojans is that the Ducks are one of just two Pac-10 teams to return an intact secondary. The good news is that the Ducks' secondary, which three-quarters hail from SoCal, is not very efficient to be politically correct. Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar completed 33 of 43 passes for 418 yards against the Ducks. Getting beat deep seems to be a consistent issue with the Ducks' secondary and that isn't likely to change on Saturday.

The Obvious – The Ducks will be getting their first look at Trojan All-America tailback Reggie Bush, this week's Sporting News cover boy.

The Not So Obvious – Called the most explosive player in America by TSN, if there is a bigger than usual advantage for the Trojans on Saturday, it's the fact that Oregon tried to simulate Bush's speed in practice this week with former Los Angeles Dorsey star and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Johnson (5-11, 190). Trojans' offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will apply huge pressure on the Oregon linebackers and secondary to try and stop the unstoppable Bush, especially receiving out the backfield. The O/NSO predicts that the Ducks' lack of experience in dealing with Bush due to the two-year layoff between the two teams will hurt the mallards dearly.

The Obvious –Showing his team film of the Trojans and in a transparent attempt to give his squad confidence against the Cardinal and Gold, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said, " The thing that is encouraging to us is that their (USC) closest games have been in the conference."

The Not So Obvious – After the Trojans 70-point avalanche of Arkansas, Razorbacks' coach Houston Nutt said, " On film it's one thing, but, uh, it's another thing to see them (USC) in person." Even Bellotti admitted, " What we can't duplicate is the speed that (the Trojans) have. That's the difficulty involved." Preparing for Pete Carroll's offense in 2005 is as difficult as trying to simulate the speed and execution of the old Oklahoma wishbone attack from the Switzer days.

The Obvious – The Trojans were picked for first at this year's Pac-10 Media Day.

The Not So Obvious – At this year's Pac-10 Media Day, the Ducks were picked fourth behind the Trojans, Cal, and Arizona State.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line will be faced with what may be their most talented defensive line opponent in defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (6-5, 338) and the expected return of defensive end Devon Long (6-4, 266).

The Not So Obvious – The potential matchmaking of guard Fred Matua and tackle Winston Justice against Ngata, who benches 505 lbs., and Long should keep everybody's attention. Perhaps even a bigger moment for the Ducks defensive duo is the fact they have not faced talent of the Trojans' level in some time. This will be a Marv Goux big man-on-big man extravaganza.

The Obvious – At Pac-10 Media Day, Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti felt that this will be the last season for junior DT Haloti Ngata and seemed to indicate that the Salt Lake City native would be NFL bound.

The Not So Obvious –Ngata, a sociology major, has been following the Trojans during the absence of the Ducks/Trojan rivalry. Ngata said," I've wanted to see how we'd do against them (USC), if we did play them the last two years."

The Obvious – The largest starting offensive lineman for the Trojans is senior left guard Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui (6-6, 365).

The Not So Obvious – The largest starting offensive lineman for the Ducks is sophomore right tackle Geoff Schwartz (6-7, 366), who hails from Los Angeles and attended Palisades Charter.

The Obvious – You get the impression that Mike Bellotti, who told the Oregon press that he has talked with other coaches on strategy to beat the Trojans, likes his chances when earlier this week he said, " Playing the No. 1 team in the nation, at our house, will be another great opportunity for this team to show what they've got."

The Not So Obvious – Well, the truth is the Ducks record at home the past three years is 14-7, so the unbeatable facility has taken a significant hit. Perhaps Pete Carroll will show the 2002 Carson Palmer 44-33 drilling in Eugene on Friday's afternoon's Delta charter.

The Obvious – There is general agreement that Autzen Stadium, which officially holds 54,000 fans, is one of the toughest venues in the country.

The Not So Obvious – The Autzen Stadium record for all-time crowds is 59, 023 for a 2003 game hosting No. 3 Michigan. The stadium is named for Portland lumberman and philanthropist Thomas J. Autzen, and Trojan fans going to the game will want to be seated prior to kickoff for the traditional Harley Fat Boy leading the Ducks onto the field. FYI, Trojan fans wishing to bike ride to the game, there is valet parking for your two-wheeler.

The Obvious – Saturday's game is the first of a series of road games that pundits think the Trojans and their rebuilding defense will meet their Waterloo.

The Not So Obvious – It recalls the preseason comments of the ESPN Game Day crew. Talking head Lee Corso said, " This (USC) is not a great defensive team. They will lose at least two away games." Not so fast, Lee, my friend. The Trojans have won 10 consecutive road games in some very hostile environments such as Auburn and Virginia Tech. The more diplomatic host on Game Day, Chris Fowler, said, " There are plenty of hurdles on that road schedule," but Fowler declined to put a number or the teams that could derail the Trojans' three-peat express.

The Obvious – The game's early scoring chances could involve placekickers Mario Danelo of the Trojans and Oregon's Paul Martinez.

The Not So Obvious – Sophomore Danelo (5-10, 185), who set a Trojan PAT record of 10 against Arkansas, missed his only field goal attempt this season at Hawaii, while Oregon's Martinez (6-2, 215), a junior, leads the nation in field goals with 12, including five against Houston, six against Montana, and a 45-yarder last week against Fresno State.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense is allowing 17 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Ducks offense is averaging 40.7 points per game.

The Obvious – It figures to be a real chess match between Oregon offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and Trojans defensive coordinator Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – Pete Carroll says, " Coach Crowton knows what he's doing. It's gonna be a real showdown. "

The Obvious – The intrigue here is that Crowton knows the Trojans' defense from last year's BYU game in Provo, and Carroll knows Crowton's from the same experience.

The Not So Obvious - Expect to see an Oregon spread offensive with an undetermined amount of no huddle and plenty of shotgun formations. Conversely, the Trojans offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will match wits with veteran defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who told the Oregonian this week "If we play well and control things, and our offense is clicking and keeps us off the field some then I think, if the game gets in fourth quarter, still close, we have a chance."

The Obvious – The Trojans will be facing the Pac-10's second most experienced quarterback in Kellen Clemens (6-2, 218), a quarterback many believe is second only to Matt Leinart in danger-ability.

The Not So Obvious – Outside of the Trojans' secondary, no one area of the Trojans' defense will be more critical than the performances of defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence. Both must defend the option, keep Clemens from running outside, and still apply pressure in passing situations. In last week's 37-34 win against formerly ranked Fresno State, Clemens rushed for 58 yards in 13 carries and threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart broke the pocket mold and ran for a touchdown run against Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – The Leinart touchdown run is now one more element the Ducks will have to worry about as the game unfolds. Unlike Leinart, Clemens rushing is a major element of the Oregon offense and you can bet the Trojan defenders will be given enough opportunities for that one big "kill shot."

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart has thrown one interception this year (Hawaii).

The Not So Obvious – Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens has not thrown an interception the past 129 passing attempts.

The Obvious – "We haven't played USC for three years. To have the national champs in our conference and it's our first conference game, our fans are looking forward to it." – Oregon tailback Terrence Whitehead.

The Not So Obvious – The former Crenshaw High standout, who last week had 95 yards rushing and scored both running and receiving against Fresno State, is the leading returning Pac-10 rusher, having averaged 104 yards per game in 2004. We have always liked Whitehead's ability and he looked so much bigger (5-10, 220) at the Pac-10 Media Day. Keeping Whitehead in check will be of utmost importance in limiting the Ducks' offensive time of possession.

The Obvious – The Trojans did not recruit a running back in last year's stellar recruiting class, choosing to convert Inland Empire Player of the Year Michael Coleman from quarterback to running back.

The Not So Obvious – Although he did not play against Fresno State due to injury, Trojan fans should keep a heads-up for Oregon true freshman running back Jonathan Stewart (5-11, 228). Stewart was considered my many the top high school runner in the country last year out of Lacey, Wash. and may play against the Trojans. The former prep All-American brings tremendous power and speed to the lineup, as well as giving Terrance Whitehead a rest. If Stewart can't make it, then former Corona Centennial star Terrell Jackson (5-9, 196), a redshirt freshman, will get the back-up assignment.

The Obvious – The Trojans thin secondary will be challenged by Mike Bellotti's stable of receivers including the likes of senior Demetrius Williams (6-2, 191), junior transfer James Finley (6-2, 208), and sophomore Cameron Colvin (6-2, 199).

The Not So Obvious – Willliams, the former Concord De La Salle prep All-American, caught eight passes for 95 yards against Fresno State for two touchdowns. Finley, a Manual Arts product, is also a threat and Trojan fans know the recruiting saga of Colvin, another Concord De La Salle product, who switched at the last minute to Oregon after looking very much like a Trojan.

The Obvious – The Pac-10 is full of outstanding tight ends and Oregon also has a threat in senior Tim Day (6-4, 265) and the Trojans have an All-America candidate in strong safety Darnell Bing.

The Not So Obvious – Day, a human services major from Las Vegas Western High, is called perhaps the most physically gifted tight end in Oregon history, and Bing's return from a hip injury figures to be test by Day.

The Obvious – Outside of Cal, ASU, and UCLA, Oregon probably has the best-balanced offense the Trojans will see in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday's game will be a true test for the Trojans' young and inexperienced linebackers. Junior middle linebacker Oscar Lua, the Trojans co-leader in tackles with Frostee Rucker, received high marks last week for his play against Arkansas, but a key on Saturday may very well be the play of hard-hitting sophomore linebacker Thomas "Hitman." Watch for the play of sophomore Keith Rivers, whose speed may be a major factor in tracking down Clemens in the option.

The Obvious – With all the injury turmoil at corner, the Trojans' secondary will be strongly tested by QB Kellen Clemens.

The Not So Obvious – It shouldn't be hard to know when Trojan defensive convert William Buchanon, formerly wide receiver Buchanon, makes his appearance. If "Buck" turns out to be the third corner in the rotation, expect coach Crowder and QB Clemens to work his side immediately.

The Obvious – Oregon's corners Justin Phinisee (5-11, 200) and Aaron Gipson (5-9, 179) will try and stop the Trojans receiving combo of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

The Not So Obvious- Phinisee, a senior from Compton High who has the top bench press (355 lbs.) amongst the Ducks' secondary, has finally settled in at corner after being moved around the Ducks' defensive backfield. Gipson, the former Fontana Kaiser star who has an interception in each of the Ducks' three games is this year, is remembered by the Trojans in 2002 as becoming the first true freshman to start at Oregon in the past 20 years.

The Obvious – Much of the Trojans defensive success will depend on the activity of the Trojans front four and their effectiveness against a determined Oregon offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – Thus far, the Oregon offensive line has given up only four sacks and the Ducks have only three turnovers for the season. Some of the credit for the success of the Oregon line is the shotgun formation that has allowed quarterback Clemens to free lance and have time to survey the field.

The Obvious – The Trojans secondary dissipation continues with the announcement that freshman corner Kevin Thomas is out at least four weeks with mono.

The Not So Obvious – The continued corner erosion reminds Trojan old timers of 1978 when John Robinson's team lost so many centers that season nose guard Ray Peters was forced to start at center.

The Obvious – The Trojans vastly cut down the number of penalties from the Hawaii game to the Arkansas contest.

The Not So Obvious – In a game such as Saturday's, penalties will be a critical factor in the outcome and perhaps throw in instant replay as well. Fresno State might have beaten the Ducks if the Bulldogs had not been penalized 16 times for 155 yards.

The Obvious – This is the first season of Trojan football for Trojans' offensive line coach Pat Rue, taking over for Tim Davis, who has gone on the Miami Dolphins.

The Not So Obvious – Former Trojan line coach Steve Greatwood now coaches the Oregon offensive line, switching over form the defensive line to replace the dean of Pac-10 coaches, Neal Zoumboukos, who switches to tight ends after 25 years of mentoring the Ducks' offensive line.

The Obvious – The Los Angeles Times reports that the Rose Bowl will allocate 22,000 seats to the Trojans if the Trojans make the BCS title game on Jan. 4.

The Not So Obvious – With 50,000 season ticket holders and the way the athletic department will cater to support groups, the common Trojan season ticket holder may find a difficult and unfriendly ticket lottery. In other words, getting a ticket may be harder than finding an air conditioner at the North Pole.

The Obvious – Saturday's Pac-10 opener for the Trojans and the Ducks will be telecast on ABC at 4:00 p.m. PDT.

The Not So Obvious – The broadcasting team of Keith Jackson, Oregon grad Dan Fouts, and Scott Walker will provide the action, and at least Jackson and Fouts are expected to be in Tempe, Arizona, the following Saturday when ABC televises the Trojans at Arizona State at 12:30 p.m.

The Obvious – Besides the Trojans at Oregon, there are a number of other Pac-10 involved teams on the tube this weekend.

The Not So Obvious – Tonight (Friday), "Boy are we scared of this game…not" No. 13 Cal is at "Maybe we can sneak a win…not" New Mexico State. Saturday's ABC fare begins with "Ouch, that overtime hurts" No. 16 Notre Dame at "Yippe, we beat the hell of Idaho" Washington (12:30 p.m./ ABC), and a nightcap consisting of No.18 "We peekin at USC" Arizona State at "If you can score more than 63 points on us, you're better than Louisville" Oregon State (7:00 p.m./ TBS). All times are PDT.

The Obvious – The Trojans are currently sports darlings of Los Angeles and have the attendance, merchandise and television rating's to prove it.

The Not So Obvious – For those thousands of fans that had the time of their college football lives last Saturday night at the Coliseum, the wait for Saturday's 4 p.m. kickoff will be no less excruciating than the game itself. Can the Trojans stay No. 1 and keep the multiple streaks in tact? We're only hours away and oh is the wait unbearable.

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