O/NSO - Arizona preview

Like a veteran of foreign gridiron conflicts, the top-ranked USC Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) are finally coming home to their adoring fans and beloved Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (12:30 p.m., FSN) for a reunion featuring entertainment provided by Mike Stoops' Arizona Wildcats (1-3, 0-1), the second straight year that Stoops finds his rebuilding program confronting some Trojan home cooking.

The Obvious – Like a veteran of foreign gridiron conflicts, the top-ranked USC Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) are finally coming home to their adoring fans and beloved Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (12:30 p.m., FSN) for a reunion featuring entertainment provided by Mike Stoops' Arizona Wildcats (1-3, 0-1), the second straight year that Stoops finds his rebuilding program confronting some Trojan home cooking.

The Not So Obvious – In a normal situation, it would figure that Trojan hearts would be in the Coliseum with their minds in South Bend, Indiana. However, this season is unfolding as anything but normal and a crowd of over 90,000 Trojan fans, seeing the Men of Troy for only the second time at home, will make sure that Pete Carroll's team stays focused on the Wildcats and garners that 27th consecutive victory.

The Obvious – This is the second straight year that the Wildcats have preceded Notre Dame on the Trojans' schedule.

The Not So Obvious – If it means anything, the Trojans beat the Wildcats 49-9 last season and the following week waxed the Irish 41-10, so pay attention, Trojan fans, to the scores the next two weeks and see if there is a pattern.

The Obvious – The Trojans have yet to face a daunting non-conference game home or away, having had little trouble defeating Hawaii and Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious – Arizona's lone win this season has come at the expense of non-conference Northern Arizona. The loses thus far have been at Utah, Purdue, and at Cal. There is grumbling in Tucson about the lack of improvement, especially after last year's end-of-the-season big upset of Arizona State, 34-27, in the annual Territorial Cup game.

The Obvious – The Wildcats were expected to be an improved team in the second year of the Mike Stoops' regime.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats were picked for eighth in a vote of Pac-10 media, ahead of Stanford and Washington. They are currently in a three-way tie for ninth in the Pac-10 with Washington State and Stanford, all 0-1 in conference and ahead of Washington (0-2).

The Obvious – The Trojans are opened a 36 1/2-point favorite over the Wildcats.

The Not So Obvious – So what will be the crowd count at the Coliseum for a team favored to win by a margin bigger than Deuce Lutui's thighs? When you've won 37 of your past 38 games, whom you play is no longer the issue. You come to watch college football history and a Trojan program that is rewriting its own storied legacy.

The Obvious – If the game is close in the fourth quarter, it should be noted the Trojans have scored 63 points in the final stanza.

The Not So Obvious - The Cats have outscored opponents 21-7 in the final quarter.

The Obvious – The weather report for the Trojans return to the Coliseum calls for a high of 73 degrees and mostly sunny.

The Not So Obvious – The real whether report is can the Trojan prove in the first half against the Wildcats that they can concentrate on playing to their potential by eliminating costly and embarrassing penalties and provide the offensive consistency that will be needed in two weeks against Notre Dame? It also remains to be seen whether the slight concussion that Matt Leinart received in the first half of the ASU game has any lingering effects.

The Obvious – Saturday's game is being broadcast on FSN nationally with Barry Tompkins, "Petros," and Jim Watson, back in the Southland after a Fox tour of duty in Seattle.

The Not So Obvious – Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis plans on viewing Saturday's Trojan game during the Irish bye week. Weis said, "I will just watch it. You can't really see the same things when you watch the game on TV. But you can hear things sometimes. Sometimes you can hear snap counts, sometimes you can hear audibles. It is kind of funny, when I watch a Patriots game I hear every call. Our players, because we use a lot of the same verbiage at the line of scrimmage, they start laughing because they say ‘Oh, they use the same stuff.' I like to watch because I like to listen to what the commentators have to say. Sometimes the coaches give them insight. You know me, how liberal I am with giving out information, sometimes coaches are a bit more liberal and they will give them a lot of information going into the game. I like to listen to that. Another thing I am going to do later today, I am going to watch a TV copy of the USC - Arizona State game. I watched the regular copy, but I am going to watch the TV copy to see if there is anything I can pick up from that."

The Obvious – With the Notre Dame game a week away, Pete Carroll's team needs all their focus on Arizona, especially considering this is a critical Pac-10 game.

The Not So Obvious – Okay, the O/NSO is not going to fall into the same trap of looking past the Wildcats other than to say that weather for the Oct. 15 titanic in South Bend calls for a high of 64 degrees and scattered showers.

The Obvious – After the Arizona St. game, quarterback Matt Leinart said, " I just sat there a little bit (at halftime), relaxed and got my composure a bit, but definitely it was the hardest hit I've had in a long time.''

The Not So Obvious – Perhaps that was why Leinart selected to run a naked boot on a critical third and three, although No. 11 was unable to give a reason when asked. As for the obvious late hit, Lefty knows that defenses from here on out, true or untrue, will hear from their defensive coordinators to put a little extra on No. 11 and see if they can intimidate and distract him. Saturday's Arizona game is like a great hitter in baseball coming back from a beanball. Don't count against Leinart fighting back the same way he did two years ago in Tempe.

The Obvious – In the rarest of results, no Trojan receiver had a touchdown reception against Arizona State, although Matt Leinart has now shaved his beard, perhaps out of superstition.

The Not So Obvious – Last season in the Coliseum against Arizona, Leinart found Dwayne Jarrett for six passes for 144 yards and two scores and it figures both will be very active on Saturday. You can be the Trojans will be looking to getting their air game back in gear to "compliment" their potent running game.

The Obvious – There seems to be a growing interest and curiosity concerning the evolution of this year's Trojan offense compared to last season.

The Not So Obvious – If you followed the comments of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian, they have said since spring ball that they really wanted to open up the offense and take it to another level. This has been accomplished by throwing the ball deeper than in previous years or so it seems. No two people have the same fingerprints and Trojan fans should not be surprised at the play-calling differences between Dr. Sarkiffin and Norm Chow. However the real intrigue in the next eight games is how Pete Carroll enters into the mix with the obviously effective running attack of Bush and White. Perhaps the offense is still evolving despite the high number of points scored. Like the rotating of quarterbacks, the "new" run and pass options promises to bring lively discussion.

The Obvious – Trojan tailback LenDale White, who rushed for a career-high 197 yards (10.4-yard average) with two touchdown runs of 32 and 46 yards at ASU, has been named U.S. Bank Pac-10 Football Offensive Player of the Week.

The Not So Obvious – The old saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same" certainly applies to the Trojan backfield. After publicly announces that tailback Reggie Bush was the main man, the Trojans were refreshingly reminded again how much more valuable it is when Trojan thunder is combined with Trojan lightening. Let' also not forget that Carroll's program really took off when Justin Fargas made the ground game a major factor.

The Obvious – The Wildcats were shut out 28-0 last week at California and the prospects of trying to prepare for the top-ranked Trojans is a daunting task.

The Not So Obvious – Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason told the Tucson Citizen "USC is not an easy team to have to regroup from. They are the No. 1 team in the country. This (California) is not USC and to play USC we have to come out and be focused every day in practice to get ready."

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense is averaging 54.0 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcat defense is allowing 24.5 points per game.

The Obvious – Based on last week's second half power running display, Saturday's game has intrigue as to the strategy Trojan offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will employ against the Wildcats.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcat defense had its hands full with California running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. Lynch had 75 of his 107 yards by halftime, and Forsett finished with 74 yards on 13 carries.

The Obvious – The Trojans' rushing offensive is averaging 279.8 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats' rushing defense allows 200 yards per game.

The Obvious – As Reggie Bush and LenDale White return to the Coliseum on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times ran a story in Friday's edition on the greatest Trojan running back combinations in history.

The Not So Obvious – Gary Klein's story certainly provides food for thought. In Klein's story, legendary play by play announcer Keith Jackson had his own opinion of Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Jackson said, "I've seen a lot of good combinations, but never one to surpass these two in college football. I've been wandering around the landscape 53 seasons and I don't know that I've ever seen anything quite like this."

The Obvious - All of the great USC backfield pairings have the same thing in common – good to great offensive lines.

The Not So Obvious- Speaking of great offensive lines, this year's Trojan line consisting of tackles Winston Justice and Sam Baker, guards Fred Matua and Deuce Lutui, and center Ryan Kalil will be challenged by the Arizona defense which had five sacks against Cal last Saturday.

The Obvious – There has been speculation that the Trojans have not been going to tight end Dominique Byrd or any of the tight ends like in previous seasons.

The Not So Obvious – For the record, Byrd has nine receptions for 79 yards (8.8 ave). Of Byrd's invisibility, Pete Carroll says, " He is doing a nice job, he is blocking well, it just hasn't been a necessary part of the game. It is going to happen. We continue to make it a viable part of our game and a part we are counting on. It will pop up whenever it is necessary. We have a lot that goes into our gameplan that goes in that direction. I don't feel bad about it at all; I know he is probably a little bit frustrated by it. It will take its time. He will catch a lot of balls before the season it over."

The Obvious – The Trojans have taken on a new perception in the media, thanks to gut-check wins at Oregon and Arizona State.

The Not So Obvious – After the sterling comeback against Arizona State, Arizona Republic columnist Andrew Bagnato wrote "For the past two weeks, top-ranked Southern California has offered plenty of evidence of its vulnerability. The Trojans have committed too many penalties and mental mistakes. Their once-frightening offense has sputtered. And quarterback Matt Leinart has, at times, looked more like a statue than a Heisman Trophy winner. But all the Trojans have really proved is that they're tough."

The Obvious – The "sputtering" Trojan offense is averaging 619.5 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcat defense is allowing 357.5 yards per game.

The Obvious – Last week against the Trojans, ASU punt returner Terry Richardson returned one 84 yards for the opening score.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats may have a more dangerous returner than Richardson in junior Syndric Steptoe (5-9, 184), who had punt returns of 34 and 79 yards against Cal, although the 79 yard return was called back for holding. The Bryan, Texas star is also an important member of the Wildcats' receiving unit. Steptoe is averaging 13.4 yards per reception.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense limited the Arizona State running attack to 68 yards rushing.

The Not So Obvious – Last weekend against Cal, the Arizona could muster only 37 yards rushing.

The Obvious – There is a momentum building for the case that the Trojans have the best pair of defensive ends in the country in senior Frostee Rucker and sophomore Lawrence Jackson.

The Not So Obvious – Arizona figures to find out first hand about these two potential All-America candidates. Rucker leads the Trojans in tackles (24) while Jackson leads the Trojans in sacks. Rucker has also grown into the emotional leader of the Trojan defense and is a leader when the team comes out of the tunnel to take the field.

The Obvious – One of the fascinating aspects of all the Trojan injuries on defense is the different personnel alterations Pete Carroll makes seemingly week to week.

The Not So Obvious – Two moves that caught the eye here was the move of sophomore defensive end Chris Barrett (6-5, 265) to defensive tackle and the move of Josh Pinkard into the Big Nickel package. Perhaps there is no bigger mystery talent than Barrett whose career has been marked with one injury after another. The former Tustin star and prep teammate of Frostee Rucker has been given an opportunity and word is he has taken advantage. As for Pinkard, expect no decline in the defensive structure thanks to this very talented hitter.

The Obvious – Trojan center Ryan Kalil is a candidate for the Rimington Award, given to the top center in the country.

The Not So Obvious – Due an offensive line injury, anticipated Arizona starting senior center Keli Lefotu (6-5, 318) has been moved to right guard. Before the move from center, Lefotu, a Riverside Arlington High grad, was also a Rimington Award candidate.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense is allowing 360 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcat offense is averaging 333.8 yards per game.

The Obvious – Unless you follow the Trojans, the meaning of term "Fight On" may be hard to figure out.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan corner John Walker seems to have the best definition for those looking to the Dali Lama for the answer. Walker said, "We (the 2005 Trojans) are the epitome of what it means to fight on."

The Obvious – Saturday's game is Parents' Weekend.

The Not So Obvious – Now how many cardinal and gold sweatshirts will Dad and Mom buy this weekend, especially after a big tailgate pregame high?

The Obvious – The Trojans' pass defense is allowing 262.5 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats' pass offense is averaging 248.5 yards per game.

The Obvious – The Wildcats' quarterback is Richard Kovalcheck (6-2, 215), a sophomore from San Diego St. Augustine.

The Not So Obvious – Kovalcheck, who had back surgery last winter and didn't participate in spring practice, completed 19 of 36 passes for 169 yards against Cal but threw three interceptions, a noteworthy stat considering that Kovalcheck came into the game averaging 275 through the air. On one particular interception against the Bears, Coach Stoops went absolutely ballistic with Kovalcheck's decision making. Of course Pete Carroll has been known to go bonkers, especially when tailback LenDale White did the needless "Reggie Leap" into the end zone last weekend in Tempe.

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 339.8 passing yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats pass defense is allowing 157.5 yards per game, best in the Pac-10.

The Obvious – The Trojans led the Arizona series 22-6.

The Not So Obvious – It seems like decades since Dick Tomey (1987 – 2000) was the head coach at UA and had All-Americans like Teddy Bruschi and the famed Desert Swarm.

The Obvious – Mike Tuiasosopo is the defensive tackle coach for the Wildcats.

The Not So Obvious – Mike's brother, Titus, played for the Trojans from 1988-91. His nephew, Marques Tuiasosopo, was once a star quarterback at Washington and went to the NFL.

The Obvious – There has been a microscope placed upon senior defensive back John Walker, who has been asked to help solidify an unsettled depth chart.

The Not So Obvious – Trojan defensive back John Walker was a Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week nominee. It will be absorbing to watch Walker progress as each game gets bigger and, at times, tougher.

The Obvious – As is the case with all teams on top, the press can be your best friend and your worst critic, especially when it comes to interpreting post-ASU game quotes like Pete Carroll's "This team refuses to lose," and LenDale White's " Here at SC we teach finish."

The Not So Obvious – Baker Davis of the Washington Times wrote "Finishing is a football virtue, and White and Co. seem to have forgotten other pigskin cliches concerning such topics as starting strong, staying focused, remaining humble, fighting for 60 minutes, ignoring one's hype, etc. A talented as this team is, and nobody is close, USC clearly has a case of that historic dynasty-crippler known as delusions of invincibility. They are saying all the wrong things. They can be had. And Notre Dame is hungry and waiting in South Bend." Reality check or East Coast bias?

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 72.8 yards in penalties.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats are averaging 67.5 yards in penalties.

The Obvious – It's highly possible that Thunder White and Lightening Bush are the best two tailbacks as a tandem in Trojan history.

The Not So Obvious – Despite their lack of a real running game, the Cats do have a good one in senior tailback Mike Bell (6-0, 215), who is averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. The sociology major is a gamer and is a former Parade All-American. As a senior at Phoenix Tolleson High, Bell was able to garner nine out of ten coaches' votes in the Long Beach Press Telegram prestigious Best in the West.

The Obvious – The Trojans secondary, which has been the focal point of inspection for the first four games, showed they could hold their own last week, just as Pete Carroll said they would.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats' secondary is led by senior free safety Darrell Brooks (6-1, 192). The Moreno Valley native, who has 34 tackles on the season, has a brother, Leslie, who played football for UNLV.

The Obvious – The Pac-10 seems to be a bottomless pit of talented tight ends.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats have a talented tight end who has worked his way up the depth chart in junior Brad Wood (6-3, 240). Wood is averaging 15.0 yards per catch and has four touchdowns on the year.

The Obvious – Trojan punter Tom Malone finally made more than a cameo role against Arizona State and probably some unwanted television exposure trying to chase down the Sun Devils' Terry Richardson who scored on a 85-yard punt return.

The Not So Obvious – The Wildcats punter, Danny Baugher, is a major weapon, leading the nation in punting at 49.1 yards per pop. Baugher's father, Erie, played football for Syracuse in the 1970s and his grandfather played at Temple in the 1940s.

The Obvious – The Trojans potent kickoff return team of Reggie Bush and Desmond Reed didn't find much opportunity at ASU, thanks to the powerful kicking of Jessie Ainsworth whose kickoffs were sailing into the stands.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' dynamic duo face another powerful leg in Arizona junior Nick Folk, who has 13 touchbacks in his last 18 kickoffs.

The Obvious – Saturday's game is one of the few games on FSN that will start at 12:30 p.m.

The Not So Obvious – There are a number of Trojan opponent games to view this weekend and the most important one will be No.10 "We haven't played anybody yet" Cal at No. 20 "We thought Washington was a free square" UCLA (4:30 p.m., TBS). Other games of note are "Our whole season comes down to USC" Fresno State at "How many Aggie universities are there in the country?" New Mexico State (7:00 p.m., ESPNU), and No. 25 "We're baaack" Oregon at No. 17 "So close yet so far away" Arizona State (7:15 p.m., FSN).

The Obvious – There is nothing that brings the masses to attention one way or the other as when Art Bartner's band strikes up those familiar Trojan songs that are nationally recognized.

The Not So Obvious – At a recent Back To School night at a Southland high school, as cars were filing out of the parking lot, a faculty member yelled to another faculty member who once ran track for UCLA and said, " Hey, Chris, I've got a song I think you'll enjoy." Faculty member Chris stopped his car, rolled down his window completely, and listened as the other car cranked up Tribute to Troy. The former UCLA track performer was so stunned and incensed that he proceeded to scream every blue word in the book and used that famous obscene gesture. The musical car pulled away with a giant smile on the driver's face and drove happily into the night.

The Obvious – And finally, it would seem to take an act of the football gods to derail the Trojan express from another victory in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – While stranger things have happened, the Trojans would really have to go south and their rapidly growing defense would have to do more than bend to create an upset. However, take out all the previous words except south and bend and once again you think of – South Bend – and that in itself makes this Saturday's game a different sort challenge.


USCFootball.com Top Stories