O/NSO - Washington State preview

Riding a 29-game winning streak, if ever a USC Trojan home game should be called Homecoming, Saturday afternoon's Pac-10 game in the Coliseum (12:30 p.m. PDT, ABC) with Washington State (3-4, 0-4) deserves that moniker, especially when you consider the No. 1 Trojans (7-0, 4-0) have played five of their first seven games on the road.

The Obvious – Riding a 29-game winning streak, if ever a USC Trojan home game should be called Homecoming, Saturday afternoon's Pac-10 game in the Coliseum (12:30 p.m. PDT, ABC) with Washington State (3-4, 0-4) deserves that moniker, especially when you consider the No. 1 Trojans (7-0, 4-0) have played five of their first seven games on the road.

The Not So Obvious – The real homecoming took place last weekend in Seattle with the return of the 2004 Trojan offense, a juggernaut that seems to have been reinvented by Pete Carroll, raising eyebrows throughout the land. With the Trojans going for their heralded 30th straight win and those temperamental BCS computers taunting Carroll's Cardinal and Gold, it seems that Saturday's contest is developing more intrigue than a James Bond flick.

The Obvious – The homecoming Trojans, who have won 23 in a row at the Coliseum and their last 19 Pac-10 encounters, opened as 31-point favorites over the Cougars, who lost last weekend at Cal in a another WSU heartbreaker, 42-38.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' Homecoming record is 53-24-4, but you have to wonder how much more incentive the Men of Troy will have against Washington State, knowing they are No. 2 behind the Texas Longhorns in the latest BCS standings. You'd think that playing at home for the first time since Oct. 8 would be incentive enough to be fired up.

The Obvious – The weather for Saturday's Homecoming game is expected to be sunny with a high of 71 degrees.

The Not So Obvious – The real whether is whether the Trojan offense will continue to serve up large portions of the "basic" offense from 2004 that seemed to inspire quarterback Matt Leinart, not to mention an injection of a renewed air of confidence into the multi-talented offense. It remains to be seen whether the Trojans demotion to No. 2 in the BCS poll behind Texas adds a little bit more motivation to a Trojan season that looks to have a slam-bam ending with the final four games against teams that have a combined 22-5 record.

The Obvious – Saturday's Homecoming game is a Coliseum sellout (92,000).

The Not So Obvious – Aside from the fact that Pete Carroll has never lost a Homecoming game, consider that Coach Charisma's first Homecoming game in 2001 against Oregon State drew just 44,880 fans. The following year, 2002, Homecoming against ASU jumped to 73,923. The last two Homecoming games, 2003 and 2004, drew 82,478 (WSU) and 80,167 (Arizona), respectively. If you find Homecoming on campus a bit crowded this Saturday morning, just blame Pete Carroll and we say that, of course, tongue in cheek.

The Obvious – Saturday's sellout crowd of 92,000 figures to be "pumped," as Pete Carroll would say.

The Not So Obvious – The largest crowd Washington State has played before in 2005 is 52,369 last weekend at Cal. It should be noted that sellouts at the Cougars' Martin Stadium mean a turnout of 35,117.

The Obvious – Into his fifth season as Trojan head coach, Pete Carroll is one Washington State victory away from achieving his 50th Trojan win.

The Not So Obvious – In the past four seasons, Washington State has accomplished 35 victories, second only to the Trojans collection of 42.

The Obvious – Washington State has enough talent to give the Trojans a real contest and could have turned around all four of their recent conference losses.

The Not So Obvious – WSU coach Bill Doba has thrown the challenge to both his team and the Trojans. To his team, Doba said, " They're ranked No. 1 in the nation. Make sure you make them prove they're No.1 in the country."

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 49 points per game to lead the nation.

The Not So Obvious – The WSU defense is allowing 29.7 points per game.

The Obvious – Despite the fact that the Cougars have lost four in a row, they bring to the Coliseum one of the nation's most explosive offenses, averaging 39.1 points under offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller, the former WSU receiving legend and one of the all-time greats in conference history.

The Not So Obvious – It figures to be quite a challenge for Pete Carroll's defense, which is allowing 21.6 points per game. Saturday's contest may be a good gridiron prep course in preparation for the Cal Bears on Nov. 12. It also will be important defensive course work for new Trojan corner, Josh Pinkard, who could be the "find" of the season on defense.

The Obvious – Some experts have equated the Trojans' high-scoring offense to the Lakers' Showtime offense with Magic, Kareem, and Worthy.

The Not So Obvious – Despite a shot clock played on all levels, opponents of high-scoring teams in hoops take the air out of the ball by running the clock down to inside of five seconds before taking a shot. Watch for the Cougars's QB Alex Brink to potentially run the football play clock to within three seconds before the ball is snapped.

The Obvious – The Trojans will start sophomore Josh Pinkard at corner in place of the injured John Walker.

The Not So Obvious - We will find out just how important new hard-hitting sophomore corner Josh Pinkard (6-1, 200) adds to the mix, especially against improving WSU QB Alex Brink, who is sure to test Pinkard early and often. Pete Carroll is very high on the talents of Pinkard and this could be a case of unexpected good fortune if the Trojan head coach is correct in his assessment of the former All-CIF star from Hueneme High.

The Obvious – The Trojans' secondary will be well tested by sophomore WSU quarterback Alex Brink (6-2, 202), who passed for 423 yards and five touchdowns in a losing effort to Cal.

The Not So Obvious –The Eugene, Oregon native, who is passing at a 55 percent clip with 18 TDs, made his second start of the year last year against the Trojans and threw one interception and one touchdown. Should Brink go on to have a stellar career at WSU, he can always represent himself in the NFL job market since he is a sports management major.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart was thrilled to be back in the 2004 basic offense and certainly looked a lot like last year's Heisman winner, now throwing at a 64 percent rate to go along with 16 touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – If there is one major difference between the two quarterbacks it's their interception totals. Lefty has thrown five interceptions while Brink has 10 picks. You can bet that Trojan secondary coach Greg Burns will have his "new" unit looking for some errant passes on Saturday. Perhaps the defensive surprise of the season for the Trojans has been the play of senior JustinWyatt, who is suddenly being picked on by taller receivers and uncharacteristically being beat deep, It's ironic considering Wyatt seemed unscathed in previous seasons.

The Obvious – Tailback Reggie Bush, who averages 8.6 yards per carry, continues to lead the nation in all-purpose yards at 203.1 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – Of Bush, WSU coach Bill Doba says, " Some guys have quickness and some guys have speed. I think that's what separates him, in the open field, I don't think I've seen anybody better and I've been doing this a long time."

The Obvious – The Trojans were picked for a first place finish in the Pac-10 by the conference media back in August.

The Not So Obvious – Washington State was picked for a sixth-place finish in the Pac-10 by the conference media back in August.

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 581.1 offensive yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The WSU defense is allowing 400.7 yards per game.

The Obvious – One of the unsung heroes of the Trojans' vaunted offense has been the continued good work of senior fullback David Kirtman, who is averaging 12.9 per reception.

The Not So Obvious – Kirtman may be unsung to the general public, but his work hasn't gone unnoticed by Washington State coach Bill Doba. Doba says, " The guy who doesn't get enough credit on their offense is David Kirtman. He is a fullback that goes through, he's supposed to block the middle linebacker, the guard chips off and has him blocked, and he will turn out on the outside blocker. He is really an excellent lead blocker for them."

The Obvious – The Trojans devote two pages in their crack media guide in promoting their six Heisman Trophy winners.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars devote a half-page in their media guide promoting their Heisman Trophy candidates.

The Obvious – Saturday's game will be televised by ABC with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts, and Todd Harris.

The Not So Obvious – The big winner for ABC is Keith Jackson, who has the luxury of driving to the Coliseum from his San Fernando Valley home. Of course, it has been well documented that Mr. Whoa Nellie is a graduate of Washington State, so we'll see of Mr. Legend can maintain his neutrality.

The Obvious – The WSU offense is averaging 518.6 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' defense is allowing 347.3 yards per game.

The Obvious – Aside from last weekend's laugher at Washington, the Trojans have had their share of nervous time against Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona, and Notre Dame.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans got away unscathed from those four tussles, Washington St. is downright snake bitten. Last weekend, the Cougs lost in the last 1:50 to Cal and the week before lost in overtime against UCLA after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead. Don't expect any letdown by coach Bill Doba's lads, who will do the same thing all teams do to the Trojans and that's compete, compete, compete.

The Obvious – The WSU pass offense is averaging 301.7 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' pass defense is allowing 252.1 yards per game.

The Obvious – There are many famous quotes in American history such as Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," or Reagan's "Tear down that wall, Mr. Gorbachov."

The Not So Obvious – Washington State football coach gave us the immortal and widely used quote concerning Trojan tailback Reggie Bush. Doba said, "If you've got a linebacker covering him, you might as well start singing the fight song."

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense is allowing 95.1 yards per rush.

The Not So Obvious – The WSU offense is averaging 216.9 rushing yards per game.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense has continued to play well against the run, a hallmark of the Pete Carroll era.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans will be up against a real rushing force in Cougar senior tailback Jerome Harrison (5-10, 200), who ran for 159 yards last week at Cal and recorded his 10th consecutive 100-yard game. The Kalamazoo, Michigan native, who committed to Eastern Michigan out of Central High, is a former Pasadena City College star and enjoys bowling when he isn't carrying the pigskin for the Cougars. Did we mention he is averaging a nifty 6.3 yards per carry average? Did we also mention that last year Harrison was held to 15 yards on 11 carries by Carroll's defense? Shhhhh.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offense is averaging 249.8 yards rushing per game.

The Not So Obvious – The WSU defense is allowing 143.7 rushing yards per game.

The Obvious – Perhaps the best linebacker in the Pac-10 Conference is WSU captain Will Derting (6-0, 235).

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans offensive line, which has shown some recent inconsistency on the right side much to the dismay of offensive line coach Pat Ruel, may get a break on Saturday with the doubtful participation of Derting. The senior from Okanogan, Wash., who had a career-high 14 tackles last time against Troy, is hobbled by a MCL strain that has caused him to miss games against Stanford, UCLA, and Cal. His replacement has been true freshman Greg Trent (5-11, 230) from Keller,Texas, whose high school team, Keller High, played in the same district as 2004 national champion Southlake Carroll.

The Obvious – One of the premier high school teams in the country is Mission Viejo, which has sent a number of players to the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – It could be a clash of MVHS players on Saturday when WSU sophomore fullback Jed Collins (6-2, 247), who was once the Orange County Defensive Player of the Year, smacks helmets with Trojan senior linebacker Collin Ashton (6-1, 220), who led the Trojans in tackles last week at Washington.

The Obvious – The Trojan kickoff and punt coverage special teams have kept Trojan fans in a suspended state of inhaled breath and closed eyes.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans may have dodged a special teams bullet as one-time Trojan recruit Michael Bumpus (5-11, 186), who had 157 yards in punt returns against Nevada, may not play due to a high ankle sprain suffered in last week's game at Cal. The sophomore from Culver City has reportedly continued to make it no secret of his frustration that he was passed over during the late recruiting process. Of course it's hard to argue with the Trojans, who selected some kid named Dwayne Jarrett from New Jersey.

The Obvious – The Trojan colors are cardinal and gold.

The Not So Obvious – WSU has new uniforms, although they are keeping the same helmet color and design. However, Trojan fans will see a front jersey with a smaller "Washington State" on the front as well as a return to block letters.

The Obvious – The USC pass offense is averaging 331.3 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The WSU pass defense is allowing 257.0 per game.

The Obvious – There will be no surprise this season if sophomore receiver Dwayne Jarrett gets some votes for All-American if he can continue to be a favorite target of roommate Matt Leinart.

The Not So Obvious – This past Tuesday, the O/NSO was in the audience for the Trojans' Roundtable 1540 broadcast with host Dave Smith and our Garry Paskwietz. The Trojan special guest was former standout receiver Calvin Sweeney (1977-78), who had a fine cardinal and gold career after transferring from UC Riverside (that's correct) and later a solid NFL career with the Steelers. Of Dwayne Jarrett's future after Troy, Sweeney said, " He's going to make a lot of money."

The Obvious - The Trojan secondary will be tested by the Cougars' junior receiver Jason Hill (6-2, 208), who had his second career three-touchdown game in a losing effort last Saturday to Cal.

The Not So Obvious –Hill also comes into the Coliseum with nine consecutive games with a touchdown catch, breaking legendary WSU receiver Hugh Campbell's career touchdown mark of 22 set from 1960-62. The former San Francisco Sacred Heart Prep star is averaging 19.7 yards per catch to go along with 11 touchdowns. Hill, who loves fishing and is a humanities major, had five catches last year against the Trojans but no touchdowns.

The Obvious – The Trojans are now averaging 68.4 yards in penalties per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars are averaging 60.4 yards in penalties per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans placekicker Mario Danelo, son of NFL kicker Joe Danelo who played at Washington State, has hit on 3-of-4 field goal attempts, but has missed on two PAT attempts after Trojan penalties.

The Not So Obvious – The Cougars' sophomore placekicker Loren Langley, son of Dan who played baseball at Purdue (North Central), has made 10-of-11 field goal attempts and has also missed two PATs. Langley does have a 48-yard field goal to his credit this year.

The Obvious – Both teams' punters, the Trojans' Tom Malone (43.7 ave) and the Cougars' Kyle Basler (41.2 ave) are seniors.

The Not So Obvious – They are both pretty darn smart as Malone was his class valedictorian at Temescal Canyon High while Basler was a four-year member of the all-academic team at Elma High.

The Obvious – Saturday's Coliseum game will again provide fertile ground for a number of the nation's top recruits.

The Not So Obvious – Two in particular that will be given the A-1 treatment this weekend are Harrisburg (Pa) Bishop McDevitt tailback LaSean McCoy (5-11, 200, 4.5) and Virginia Beach (Va) Landstown receiver Percy Harvin (5-11, 182, 4.35). Both are consensus All-American-to-be and are at or near the top of their respective positions. Some believe that Harvin may be the best player in the country. The O/NSO, however, is intrigued by his weekend's visit of Dallas Skyline (Tx) linebacker Mike Morgan, who plays at 185 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame.

The Obvious – If Notre Dame is the network of NBC, the Trojan are rapidly becoming the network of ABC with their fourth appearance of the season.

The Not So Obvious – Aside from the Trojans' 12:30 p.m exposure on ABC, the only other Pac-10 game to peruse on the screen is No. 8 "We thinking about the Trojans" UCLA at "Walt Harris is God" Stanford (3:30 p.m., FSN).

The Obvious – Saturday's game will be the Trojans last game in October.

The Not So Obvious –If you're a true Trojan fan, you know what Pete Carroll's record is in the month following October. Like, dude, he ain't never lost in November. With the "no-hitter" month around the corner, it could be argued that the "real" Trojan run for a third national title begins on Saturday. It could also be debated that Trojan fans also gear up for this part of the season with some of Carroll's team's intensity. With Coliseum sellouts all but guaranteed the rest of the way, it will be up to the massive gatherings to also "play" at a national championship caliber. Say, can somebody please pass the Halls?


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