O/NSO - ASU preview edition

It only seems that every year the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) play the lead in the gridiron fable "The Boy Sun Devil Who Cried Trojan Wolf," especially when it comes to upsetting the top-ranked USC Trojans (3-0, 1-0) . Having beaten the Sun Devils five consecutive times, the annual ASU pregame bravado is again upon us as Pete Carroll's cardinal and gold juggernaut travels quietly to a sold out Sun Devil Stadium for Saturday's (12:30 p.m. PDT, ABC) high noon showdown.

The Obvious – It only seems that every year the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) play the lead in the gridiron fable "The Boy Sun Devil Who Cried Trojan Wolf," especially when it comes to upsetting the top-ranked USC Trojans (3-0, 1-0) . Having beaten the Sun Devils five consecutive times, the annual ASU pregame bravado is again upon us as Pete Carroll's cardinal and gold juggernaut travels quietly to a sold out Sun Devil Stadium for Saturday's (12:30 p.m. PDT, ABC) high noon showdown.

The Not So Obvious – Last week the Trojans dispensed with the Oregon Ducks and coach Mike Bellotti's "so-called favorites" mantra, 45-13. What is beginning to resemble a WWF weekly routine, we are reminded of confident ASU quarterback Sam Keller who, too, has provided fodder for this week's Heritage Hall bulletin board. The Trojans haven't forgotten Keller's USA Today quote "We'll be ready for them (USC). They better be ready, too."

The Obvious – The Trojans, already bare thin in the secondary, have been given a caution flag on the availability of senior defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, who is still slowed by an ankle sprain.

The Not So Obvious – There has always been concern about the ability of Ramsey to last a season due to his history of injury. There is no more optimistic coach on the planet than Pete Carroll, but when the hottest coach in America says "there's an issue" about depth and the heat, it gets a Trojan fan's attention. You know things are not in good shape when quick but undersized defensive end Rashaad Goodrum (6-3, 245), among others, is practicing behind potential starter Fili Moala (6-4, 300).

The Obvious – If they can persevere difficult road trip No. 2 in Tempe, the Trojans will be in great Pac-10 Conference shape.

The Not So Obvious – Shhhhhh! There is a wild rumor out there that says the Trojans will actually return home to the Coliseum next Saturday against Arizona at 12:30 p.m. (FSN) for their second home game in two months. Well, let's leave it to the Pac-10 private investigators to substantiate another Internet rumor.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened a 14 1/2 -point favorite to return to Los Angeles 4-0 and 2-0 in Pac-10 play.

The Not So Obvious – Of the Trojans, ASU Coach Dirk Koetter says, "The fact that USC hasn't been beaten in so long. What they did in the Orange Bowl last year against the supposed number one team Oklahoma. The Orange Bowl looked a lot like our game. I felt a lot better about how bad they beat us last year. They are as good as any. USC can hurt us in so many ways. They are so well coached on both sides of the ball. They have no weakness in their scheme and they have great players playing."

The Obvious – The Pac-10 media selected the Trojans to win the conference with all 41 first-place ballots and 410 points.

The Not So Obvious – The Pac-10 media selected Arizona State for third in the conference and 296 points.

The Obvious – The weather forecast for Tempe is mostly sunny with a high of 98 degrees.

The Not So Obvious – Ok, so you'd rather be in South Bend on Saturday, where it's going to be sunny and 77 degrees. The actual Tempe whether forecast is whether this is the year that the Trojans' injury-racked defense actually has difficulty with ASU coach Dirk Koetter's explosive offense. We know what past results have been, but you wonder when the law of Pac-10 averages and the Trojans' medical status will catch up with both teams. Then again, the Matt Leinart and blitzkrieg offense is the wildcard, and it remains to be seen if ASU has enough secondary to keep Dr. Sarkiffin's offense off the heated turf of Sun Devil Stadium.

The Obvious – The Trojans generally practice in the mid-afternoon during the season.

The Not So Obvious – Does Pete Carroll actually have the power to order up the hot Southland temps for Saturday's game? Due to the heat of Tempe, the Sun Devils normally practice at night until October and ASU coach Dirk Koetter, thinking about Saturday's noon kickoff, gave some thought to afternoon practices. Koetter said, "In the past, the week we move things to the afternoon, we were a little discombobulated because of the change, especially school-wise, and I'm no weatherman, but I understand it will still be near 100 (degrees), and we're not a productive team in practice that hot."

The Obvious – ESPN's GameDay Show, which will air at 7:30 a.m, PDT, will be in attendance at ASU.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday's game gives ESPN's Lee Corso another opportunity to end the show around 8:55 a.m. and don the headgear of the team he thinks will win. Corso is on record as saying that the Trojans will drop two road games before the season is done. Well, Coach Flake missed an opportunity at Eugene and he's got only four more road shots, with one being rebuilding Washington. For Trojan fans who wish to be part of the GameDay "audience," the set will be located in parking lot 59 north of Sun Devil Stadium at the intersection of Rio Salado and Packard drives.

The Obvious – ASU coach Dirk Koetter whose current record at ASU is 29-24, was once offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Mike Bellotti at Oregon (1996-97).

The Not So Obvious – Knowing the Oregon Ducks lost weekend against the Trojans, it should come as no shock if Koetter and Oregon coach Mike Bellotti talked some post-game Trojan game strategy. Bellotti is on record as saying he has exchanged USC strategy with other coaches that have played the Trojans. The Oregon coach was quite complimentary to the Trojans this week saying all the right things and giving a ringing endorsement for Reggie Bush's Heisman hopes.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense is averaging 59.3 points per game

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devil defense is allowing 24.0 points per game.

The Obvious – Trojans tailback Reggie Bush, who had 267 all-purpose yards in the Trojans' 45-13 road win Saturday at Oregon, earning Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors, is always a major factor in a game with his ability to run, catch, and pass if need be.

The Not So Obvious – In an early week edition of the East Valley Tribune, ASU linebacker Jamar Williams, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week, said it's all about punishing Roadrunner Reggie. Williams said, "I think the biggest thing is you need to hit the guy. So far, I haven't seen a lot of teams do a good job of putting 11 hats on the ball. He does have a tendency to fumble the ball if you put some hats on him."

The Obvious - Fifth-year ASU coach Dirk Koetter is trying to create his own Reggie Bush in sophomore starter Rudy Burgess (5-11, 181), who is being used much like Bush.

The Not So Obvious – Burgess has shown some Bush moves along the way, but it's near impossible to make a clone of Reggie. One factor to keep in mind on Saturday about Bush is the combination effect of heat, times carrying the ball, and ASU bad intentions as the game wears on. We wouldn't be surprised at all to see more use of RB Desmond Reed at various times throughout the game.

The Obvious – While Reggie Bush gets a well-deserved share for the Trojans success, LenDale White also has his admirers in the Pac-10 coaching community.

The Not So Obvious – Two years ago as a freshman in Tempe, LenDale exploded for 140 yards and two touchdowns in 21 carries. Of White, ASU's Koetter says, "There is not a team in the Pac-10 that wouldn't love to have LenDale White as their starting tailback. White gets very little national publicity. He is the kind of guy that you could give the ball to 25 times and he could give you over one hundred yards."

The Obvious – The success of ASU quarterback Sam Keller has drawn comparisons and contrasts to his predecessor, Andrew Walter.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan coach Pete Carroll seems to agree. Carroll says, " The quarterback (Keller) is playing out of his mind. He won't hold the ball like Walters. They (ASU) are a big-play team that can really scorch you."

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart is completing 67% of his passes, looking very much like a two-time Heisman Trophy winner.

The Not So Obvious – Sun Devil quarterback Sam Keller is completing 59.9% of his passes, looking very much like a quarterback that will some day be in the NFL.

The Obvious – The Trojans figure to attack a questionable Sun Devil secondary with 6-5 wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who is averaging 13.7 yards per reception.

The Not So Obvious – While Jarrett brings in the big stats with 20 touchdowns in 16 career games, it is Steve Smith who averages a stunning 23.9 yards per reception. Keep a big eye on Smith as he could be the receiver that burns the Sun Devils during the course of the game, much like Keary Colbert did two years ago at ASU.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense is allowing 15.7 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devil offense is averaging 47.0 points per game.

The Obvious – ASU quarterback Sam Keller is 6-foot-4, 233 pounds and has thrown at least three touchdowns in his five games as a starter for the Sun Devils.

The Not So Obvious – Big and confident, maybe Sam gets it from his father, Mike, an All-American at Michigan and a third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1972. Those Wolverines have never been short on confidence when it comes to the playing the Trojans. Coming off a four touchdown and 365 passing yardage performance against Oregon State, Keller has now thrown for more than 1,30 yards and 16 touchdowns in the first four games of 2005.

The Obvious – Trojan defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson will try and punish ASU QB Sam Keller much like they did with Oregon's Kellen Clemens and Dennis Dixon.

The Not So Obvious – The feeling here is that Keller is a much better and tougher quarterback than departed Andrew Walter. Oregon State got some good licks on Keller, but he kept his poise, as well as his health. Of the toughness of Keller, wide receiver Derek Hagen said, "I think that Sam (Keller) likes to get hit. Whenever he gets hit, he gets up and starts laughing. He'll sit there and tell us, `Guys, I just got smacked.' But he gets right back in the huddle and gets ready for the next play. He is just one of those guys that if he wasn't playing quarterback, he'd want to get in there on defense and hit somebody himself."

The Obvious – Much of Keller's success and good health has been a veteran offensive line that has protected their star thrower.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans will present the Sun Devils with a new pair of defensive tackles, it should be kept on file that last year in the Coliseum the Men of Troy recorded eight sacks on Andrew Walter.

The Obvious – The Trojans have gotten exceptional play from sophomore nose tackle Sedrick Ellis through the first three games.

The Not So Obvious – Ellis, however, will be given his stiffest test in dealing with highly regarded ASU senior center Grayling Love (6-3, 301) from Sacramento Valley High. If Ellis can neutralize Love, the Trojans will have one very important match-up edge. Love has already received his bachelor's degree in finance and plans to be an accountant.

The Obvious – The Trojan injuries so far this season have been on the defensive side of the ball, while the high-powered offense has avoided any serious mishaps.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils veteran offensive line was stung earlier with the loss of junior starting right guard Zack Krula (6-7, 318) with a broken ankle. The Sun Devils have alternated their right guard position with redshirt freshman Leo Talavou (6-4, 373), a Fountain Valley grad, and sophomore Mike Pollak (6-4, 285) from Tempe.

The Obvious – If the Oregon game was any indication, Trojan fans should expect some instant replay calls on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – According to the Pac-10 office, there have been 25 replays with nine reversals. For those that think they have time to run out and get a soda, the average minute time for a replay decision is 1:33.

The Obvious – The play of the Trojan defense, which has given up just one touchdown each in the first three games, silenced a number of critics with their inspired play at Oregon.

The Not So Obvious – Don't think for a second that the Trojan defenders weren't taking the criticisms to heart. Sack mastering Trojan defensive end Frostee Rucker says, " We take it (comments of media and fans) hard. We take it as a challenge to play good ball. We play with enthusiasm and a lot of energy."

The Obvious – Besides Sam Keller and All-Pac-10 receiver Derek Hagan, perhaps the most important offensive weapon for the Sun Devils is back-up freshman tailback Keegan Herring (5-9, 181).

The Not So Obvious – A surprise to some, Herring has been a major part of the running balance of the Sun Devils. Herring, from Peoria, Ariz., runs with power and authority and was considered the top prep running back in Arizona at Peoria High. The freshman ran for over 900 yards as a senior, despite missing four games his senior year. Herring wrestled for the first time last spring in high school and had a 21-7 record despite wrestling in the 215-pound class at 186 pounds. He reportedly runs a 4.3 in the forty and was the state 5A champion in the 100 and 200-meters as just a sophomore.

The Obvious – The Trojans are staying at the Phoenix Airport Marriott.

The Not So Obvious – One of the highlighted amenities of the Phoenix Airport Marriott is the Outdoor Sun Terrace. According to the hotel, the Trojan party can " enjoy a light lunch or frosty beverage in the sunshine on our beautiful outdoor terrace." Something tells the O/NSO the Outdoor Sun Terrace will not be the first thing the Trojans do if they don't fly out immediately after the game.

The Obvious – The Trojans will start Mr. Lightening, Reggie Bush (8.3 ypc)) at tailback, and then bring in the Thunder, LenDale White (6.3 ypc).

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils like to think they have something similar in starting Rudy Burgess at tailback and then bring Keegan Herring off the bench for a change of pace. Of Herring, Carroll says, " He is a big-play guy. He must have great speed. When in comes in, things start happening."

The Obvious – The Trojans must stop Sun Devil senior All-American receiver Derek Hagen (6-2, 197), who figures to test Pete Carroll's wafer thin secondary to its fullest.

The Not So Obvious – Hagen has receptions in 33 consecutive games and is the Sun Devils' career leader in yardage with 2,160. You can bet your paycheck that rookie Trojan senior corner John Walker will find the former Palmdale High looking right him. A business and justice major, the Trojans held No. 80 to five receptions for 52 yards last year, with a one "long" catch for 20 yards. If the Trojans can do a repeat of 2004, the secondary will have done it job.

The Obvious – The perception in the conference right now is that the Trojans don't have a complete defense, thus there is Sun Devil hopes for an upset.

The Not So Obvious – Wide receiver Derek Hagen has his own view of the Trojan defense. This week Hagen said, "They have great defense, but their secondary is weak right now. They have some guys that are injured. However, they are not the number one team in the nation for no reason. They have had a great defense for the past two years and Pete Carroll gets those guys going. They will definitely be motivated this week because they want to compete and win another national championship. We really want to be the ones who stand in the way of that happening this year."

The Obvious – The Trojans offense is averaging 615.7 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils defense is allowing 410 yards per game.

The Obvious – Sun Devil Stadium, which is natural grass and is referred to as Frank Cush Field after the legendary ASU coach, has a capacity of 71,706.

The Not So Obvious – Before the Trojans' appearance, the Sun Devils for three home games averaged 56,096. Think the Sun Devil athletic department mind the Trojans being No. 1 when they can increase their attendance by 15,610 at $45 a ticket? And for good measure, the press box is "full" for the first time since the stadium expanded in 1999. According to two separate respected sources, the ASU press box is one of the best in the Pac-10 and is wonderfully air-conditioned. And the same sources claim the press box serves some pretty darn good grub, as well.

The Obvious – By the middle of October, the Trojan will have played in hostile non-conference venues at Aloha and Notre Dame Stadiums.

The Not So Obvious – Depending on your prospective, the Trojans ready themselves for places like Cal with non- conference tilts at hostile, sold out facilities such as Aloha and Notre Dame Stadiums. Of course, you can do what the No. 12 Cal Bears did and travel to New Mexico State and play the Aggies in front of a frenzied crowd of 11,312.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense is allowing 341.6 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devil offense is averaging 591.8 yards per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans' passing game, averaging 367 yards per game, is a nightmare for secondary coaches in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Former Trojan All-America safety Mark Carrier is in his second year as ASU secondary coach. The current Sun Devil secondary is allowing 266 yards per game, but does have a big hitter in safety Zach Cantanese (6-3, 219), a former prep quarterback from Weaverville Trinity and Shasta CC. Last year the Trojans passed for 301 yards against the Sun Devils and it certainly appears that number will increase on Saturday.

The Obvious – The new ASU defensive coordinator is 27-year veteran Bill Miller, and he has brought a new style of defense to the Sun Devils.

The Not So Obvious – Miller, who comes to Tempe after serving as the associate head coach at Florida, likes to position his corners differently that most teams. Pete Carroll says, " Matt Leinart has to know what's going on. It's not your normal defense. The coverage concepts are different than the other people we play."

The Obvious – Base ticket price for Saturday's 12:30 game is $45.

The Not So Obvious – By mid-week, tickets on StubHub.com were going for a low of $60 for a high seat near the back line of the end zone and a high of $383 for a low seat between the 30 and 40 yard line. One intriguing question is just how many Trojan fans will bring their suntan lotion and be at Sun Devil Stadium?

The Obvious – As was the case last weekend at Autzen Stadium, the officials' calls and penalties will play a potential part of the outcome.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 57 yards per game in flags while ASU is averaging 52.2 yards.

The Obvious – Trojans tight end Dominique Byrd has had a relatively quiet beginning to the season but could play a major factor in Saturday's game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils also possess one of the conference's top tight ends in sophomore Zack Miller (6-4, 253) from Phoenix. All Miller, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, did last season was become a freshman All-American, break the ASU record for receptions by a rookie with 56 catches, and set both the ASU freshman receiving records. With 56 receptions, the kid surpassed Derek Hagan's record of 32 set in 2002. Did we mention that last season at the Coliseum Miller had a career-high 102 receiving yards on eight catches?

The Obvious – One of the most impressive performances in last week's win at Oregon was the play of Trojan defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson.

The Not So Obvious – The Sun Devils have a 2005 Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year candidate in junior Kyle Caldwell (6-3, 270). Last season Caldwell shared the team lead with seven sacks while starting all 12 games. Caldwell's father, Byran, a former star Sun Devil defensive end and third round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, was once an All-CIF selection for Fountain Valley High in late-1970's. For all you former Barons out there, the elder Caldwell is now an inspector for the city of Scottsdale.

The Obvious – One of the pleasant surprises has been the play of Trojan middle linebacker Oscar Lua, who leads the Trojans in tackles with 19, and the emergence of sophomore Keith Rivers, who had a fine game against Oregon and is tied with Frostee Rucker for second in tackles with 18.

The Not So Obvious – Arizona State has a pair of tough senior linebackers in Jamar Williams (6-1, 236), who returned from a one-game suspension with 13 tackles, a sack, one forced fumble and an interception against Oregon State, and Dale Robinson (6-1, 233) from the Queens, New York. Williams is a Houston native, who reportedly runs a 4.48 40 and has reported 32-inch vertical jump. Robinson, whose father is a retired corrections officer, had 11 tackles in the Sun Devils loss at the Coliseum.

The Obvious – With field position a priority, considering the explosive nature of the two offenses, punting should be a key factor.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans have punted four times for an average of 35.0, but the Sun Devils are ranked last in the Pac-10 with a 30.1 yard average.

The Obvious – Trojan placekicker Mario Danelo kicked his first field goal of the season last weekend against the Ducks.

The Not So Obvious – ASU placekicker Jesse Ainsworth has kicked two field goals thus far in the season, and 24 of his 32 kickoffs have been touchbacks, something that may be a factor with Reggie Bush and Desmond Reed ready to explode at any time.

The Obvious – The Trojans received a verbal from Camden, New Jersey, hard-hitting safety Antwine Perez (6-2, 200), ranked No. 39 on the Scout-O-meter.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans continue a long line of "Jersey" connections including former Trojan wide receiver and Los Angeles Times Bruin beat writer Lonnie White and WR brother Timmy from South Belmar and the late DL Richard Dimler from Bayonne, One of Marv Goux's favorite players, Dimler, unknown at the time, played with a deformed foot due to a hot water scalding "incident" from his youth. Richard, a Trojan captain his senior year and as tough as they come, wore a special shoe in order to play. No, we didn't forget about Dwayne Jarrett and Brian Cushing.

The Obvious – One of the Trojans prime recruits is Colton linebacker-running back Allen Bradford.

The Not So Obvious – A number of recruiting gurus believe that Bradford could be another LenDale White, if given the opportunity in college. In a losing effort last week against Los Angeles Crenshaw, Bradford ran for 138 yards in 11 carries. Considering the speed of Crenshaw, Bradford's 12-yard average against "The Shaw" speaks for itself.

The Obvious – The Trojans are recruiting Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (Pa.) tailback LaSean McCoy, whose season ended this past week with a broken ankle.

The Not So Obvious – According to Scout reports, McCoy has a fracture of one of his ankle bones and the injury may take up to three months to heal. The good news for McCoy is surgery is not being considered. It is understood that McCoy has major interest in the Trojans, and it wouldn't be the first time the Trojans have continued to recruit a high school senior whose season was cut short due to injury. Former Trojan Rocky Hinds comes to mind.

The Obvious – There are some future Trojan opponents worth viewing on the tube this weekend.

The Not So Obvious – After the main event in Tempe, it's "The Trojans are next" Arizona at "On the rise" No. 12 Cal (4:00 p.m., TBS); "Let's get this one over with so we can be obsessed with that undefeated team from southern California" No. 13 Notre Dame at "We hate overtime Purdue (4:45 p.m., ESPN); and "At this rate, we'd be happy to play for a Ty" Washington at "Can we go undefeated?" No. 20 UCLA. All times are Pacific.

The Obvious – In our O/NSO Oregon review last Sunday, we mentioned that Trojan freshman tight end Charles Brown played in the game and that the Trojans traveled with 65 players.

The Not So Obvious – Thanks to the alert Trojan coaching staff, it was called to our attention that we were inaccurate on both counts. Tight end Charles Brown not only didn't play against the Ducks, he didn't even make the trip! We stand corrected and appreciate the update. You can bet we'll never trust those sleazy Autzen Stadium "official" stat sheets again. No, sir, they're no Ned Miller and staff, the crack Coliseum press box crew. As for the number of players that may travel in the Pac-10 (64), we were one off, but as coach McKay used to say, "Close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades."

The Obvious – So here we go again with Round 2 of the Pac-10 elimination match, which currently has the Trojans, Sun Devils, Cal, UCLA, and Washington State without a conference loss.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans took care of the Oregon Ducks, but ASU would like nothing better than to restore their national pride at the expense of the Trojans' dream season. Don't know about you, but another first quarter like Autzen Stadium and there won't be much left of the living room carpet.

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