O/NSO - California preview

Singer Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but in 2003's overtime loss to the California Bears in Berkeley, Pete Carroll's Trojans left more than their hearts in the Bay Area, so 31 consecutive wins later, the No. 1 USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) return to the gridiron crime scene for a Saturday afternoon revenge game against the Jeff Tedford's Bears (6-3, 3-3) at sold out Memorial Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC).

The Obvious – Singer Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but in 2003's overtime loss to the California Bears in Berkeley, Pete Carroll's Trojans left more than their hearts in the Bay Area, so 31 consecutive wins later, the No. 1 USC Trojans (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) return to the gridiron crime scene for a Saturday afternoon revenge game against the Jeff Tedford's Bears (6-3, 3-3) at sold out Memorial Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC).

The Not So Obvious – Make no mistake about it, Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart and company are coming to Northern California to make a national championship statement. No, the Men of Troy haven't forgotten Cal's misnomer that although the Trojans won on the scoreboard in last year's Coliseum heart-pounding victory, the Bears won the game. For Trojan coach Pete Carroll, and make no mistake about this either, his competitive juices have flowing full-artery this week in anticipation of battling his coaching nemesis, Jeff Tedford, who has become the Joe Frazier to Carroll's Muhammad Ali.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 17 1/2-point favorites to defeat the Bears on Saturday afternoon.

The Not So Obvious – Ironically, Cal has lost three of its last four games by a total of… 17 points. Both teams are currently going in opposite directions with the Trojans coming off smashing wins over Washington St. and Stanford and Cal being devastated with last week's 27-20 overtime loss at Oregon. One of the big appeals of Saturday's game is while the Trojans have had to constantly rebuild their defense this season and the Bears have just four starters returning on both sides of the ball, both coaches run a "program." What it all means is that despite the turnover of talent and inuries, Saturday's clash is has much a war of systems as it of talented players.

The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday's game in Strawberry Canyon calls for a high of 66 and sunny.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan whether report calls for whether the Trojans' banged up linebacking crew can contain the powerful rushing combo of soph wonders Marshawn Lynch (5-11, 215) and,Justin Forsett (5-8, 180). It figures that Jeff Tedford will again try and ball- control the Trojans with a powerful running attack, especially with a fractured air force. The O/NSO also thinks that quarterback Joe Ayoob may also be more active as a runner this weekend, like Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. It will also be of great interest to see whether the Trojans' vaunted offensive line can control the veteran Cal defensive line, which is supported by two of the best corners in the Pac-10. Whether Cal's coach Tedford really does have Pete Carroll's number remains to be seen, but there is no question that Carroll has great respect for Tedford.

The Obvious - Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game will be telecast on ABC with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts, and Todd Harris.

The Not So Obvious – ABC will show Saturday's game from Berkeley to 57 percent of the country, including the West, the upper Midwest, and the Northeast. The Northeast is good family news for Eastern Trojans like receiver Dwayne Jarrett and linebacker Brian Cushing, both from New Jersey.

The Obvious – Cal's Memorial Stadium has a listed capacity of 67, 537.

The Not So Obvious – Forget about listed capacity, the word up North is that there will be 72,000 in the house. Although Saturday's game has been a sellout for weeks, the Bears current average of 57,748 per home game ranks 6th in the Pac-10 compared to the Trojans home average of 90,716, best in the conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans seem to be peaking at the right moment and their enthusiasm should be as high as any this season once they come out of the Memorial Stadium underground, certainly to be greeted with deafening boos.

The Not So Obvious – It would be hard to imagine this Trojan team being overly effected by the crowd on Saturday afternoon, considering their experiences in South Bend, Tempe, and Eugene. It there is one player that will be on a mission more than any Trojan, it will be Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart, who still takes responsibility for the Trojans' last defeat. We say here that Leinart figures to have a Heisman day, if the Cardinal and Gold offense gets off early and often.

The Obvious – The Trojans' offensive is averaging 49.9 points per game to lead the nation.

The Not So Obvious – The Bears' defense is allowing 20.9 points per game, second in the conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans, who leave for Berkeley Friday afternoon on their Delta charter, know that the hidden element on Saturday will be how effective the Cal defense is in containing Dr. Sarkiffin's monster offense.

The Not So Obvious – Though he won't get much mention, remember the name of Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who did a fine job last season in "holding" the Trojans to 23 points, 12 first downs, and just 205 yards in total offense. Although he had a veteran defense last year, you can bet that Gregory will again come up with challenging game plan to slow the Trojans' offense.

The Obvious – The Trojans' pass offense is averaging 344.1 yards per game, best in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – The Cardinal pass defense is allowing 228. 7 per game, third-best in the Pac-10.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart is passing at a 66.8 percent clip to go along with 23 touchdowns and six interceptions.

The Not So Obvious – We have already mentioned Lefty's personal motivation, but in the battle against rival quarterback Joe Ayoob, it's hard to imagine that won't be the difference on Saturday. The Leinart/Rodgers duel last year in the Coliseum was priceless, but there is the feeling here that the inconsistent Ayoob will be under extreme pressure to match Leinart pass for pass and keep his team in the hunt. If Leinart comes out on fire, the tone will be sent and we fully expect that to happen.

The Obvious –In game planning, DC Gregory and Jeff Tedford have to decide which Trojan "legend" is the more dangerous - Mr. Lightening or Mr. Heisman?

The Not So Obvious - Jeff Tedford says, "That is a tough one. You could probably throw a couple other names in there too. I would say even though I think Leinart has such a great control of that offense and puts people in position to make plays and is so accurate throwing the ball and makes great decisions, I think overall probably Bush. Only because of what he does in so many different positions. Coming from the tailback spot, the receiver spot and the kicking game, I think he is very, very dangerous. He makes a lot of plays and makes a lot of people miss. I think any time he touches the ball he has a chance to make something happen. No different than the passing game, every time Leinart has the ball in his hands it is very rare that you don't see something good happen. Both great players, I think with all that Reggie does, Reggie is probably more dangerous throwing in the kicking game."

The Obvious – The Trojans' rush defense is allowing 113.3 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Bears' rushing offense is averaging 243.2 yards per game, eighth in the country.

The Obvious – The closeness of Saturday's game will be directly affected by how well the Trojans' rush defense can contain the Bears' running backs Marshawn Lynch, a stud of a future NFL running back from Oakland Tech High, and the speedy and shifty Justin Forsett from Arlington, Texas.

The Not So Obvious – Neither have been stopped this season. Tedford says, "Marshawn (Lynch) is more physical then Justin (Forsett), he's 215 pounds. That is a little bit different; they both have very good quickness and lateral movement. They are both quality backs, but Marshawn is just a bigger physical back." Let's tell is like it is, Lynch is a future NFL stud who should be an All-American.

The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 237.0 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Bears' pass offense is averaging 201.4 yards per game, worst in the Pac-10.

The Obvious –Bears' junior quarterback Joe Ayoob (6-3 220) is completing 49.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for 15 touchdowns.

The Not So Obvious – Ayoob, who has been intercepted 10 times, is fresh off a dismal 10-for-26, 88-yard passing performance at Oregon. The San Francisco City College transfer, whose father played basketball at Clemson, was intercepted three times and sacked three times in Cal's overtime loss. Toss in a third-quarter fumble that set up the Ducks' final touchdown in regulation and the former Terra Linda High star, who was all-league in football, basketball, and baseball, has also found his decision-making a product of his inexperience.

The Obvious - The Bears will present the Trojans with some talented receivers in freshman DeSean Jackson (13.7 ave), sophomore Robert Jordan (15.4 ave), and transfer Lavelle Hawkins (11.4 ave).

The Not So Obvious - While talented, this Cal group has also suffered growing pains of consistency. Considering the plight of the Trojan secondary due to injury, this match could be highly entertaining. Considering the youth, it is also a game of intimidation and nobody does it better than the Trojans' lethal safety combination of senior Scott Ware and junior Darnell Bing. Let the pain begin.

The Obvious – Cal coach Jeff Tedford did some coach-speak in the San Francisco papers earlier this week saying the Trojans' defensive line was "awesome." and "they haven't lost anything."

The Not So Obvious – Well, the truth is the Trojans did lose something, unless you consider Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson as nothings. Of this year's Trojan line, Tedford also said, " They're by far the best defensive line we've faced. They're quick, physical, big and very tenacious."

The Obvious – The Trojans' relentless defensive ends, Frostee Rucker (48 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks) and the athletic Lawrence Jackson (33 tackles and a team-leading six sacks), and physical tackles, Sedrick Ellis (35 tackles and 31/2 sacks) and LaJuan Ramsey (26 tackles), are improving by the game.

The Not So Obvious – Of his front four, Pete Carroll says, "It has just been a matter of time. They were so inexperienced in so many critical spots that were relative to where we were. We had three and four year starters that were with us last year. That lack of experience, the only way you can gain it is to play. So we haven't been as consistent for that reason. The way you see Sedrick (Ellis) and Lawrence Jackson in their red-shirt senior year, those guys are going to be the best players in the country at their spots. They are going to be that productive. We are not there yet. We are still a ways a way, but it is exciting to see them productive, and active and learning and consistently out their playing to give themselves a chance to grow."

The Obvious – For most high school senior recruits across the country, all they know is Pete Carroll's USC Trojans have been the number one team in the country.

The Not So Obvious – Entering Saturday's game, this is the first time since 2003 that Cal has not been ranked in the top 25 and in the recruiting wars, every ranking counts, especially in November.

The Obvious – Two hours before every Trojan home game, there is the Trojan Walk, where Trojan players walk to the peristyle entrance to the Coliseum through a fan-based spirit tunnel.

The Not So Obvious – Around 2 hours and 20 minutes before every Cal home game, there is the "March to Victory," a fairly new tradition where Bear players arrive on the North end of Memorial Stadium and do the equivalent of the Trojan Walk.

The Obvious – The Trojans' superstar receivers Dwayne Jarrett (14.8 ave) and Steve Smith (19.6 ave) will be challenged by the Bears' highly publicized secondary of junior Daymeion Hughes (6-2, 185), junior Tim Mixon (5-8, 180), and senior rover Donnie McCleskey ( 5-10, 190).

The Not So Obvious – All three Cal defenders are SoCal guys hailing from Crenshaw, Dominguez, and Bishop Amat, respectively. This match-up figures to be a war. Last year at the Coliseum, Jarrett had a big third quarter 16-yard scoring reception while Smith had two receptions for 76 before having the misfortune of suffering a broken left leg. If there is a wild card for Saturday's game, the O/NSO believes it will be Smith, who was about to have a big game against Cal until the fracture. The feeling here is the Trojans will really spread the Bears, leaving the Trojan receivers, thanks to the threat of Bush and White, in good strategic position.

The Obvious – If history between these two rivals is any indication, the Trojans' sophomore placekicker Mario Danelo, who is connecting on 85 percent of his field goal attempts, will be called upon more than usual to play a key role on Saturday.

The Not So Obvious – How important were field goals last time against the Bears? Almost a forgotten hero in last year's Trojan squeaker victory over the Bears was Ryan Killeen. Killeen, who connected on field goals of 31, 33, and 42 yards. Saturday's game may be Danelo's coming out party.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 20.6 points per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Bears' offense is averaging 35.9 points per game.

The Obvious – The health of junior middle linebacker Oscar Lua, the Trojans leading tackler, remains paramount for defensive success against the Bears.

The Not So Obvious – With an erratic quarterback in Joe Ayoob, the Trojans could certainly use the services of Lua to control a physical Bear's offensive line led by all-star center Marvin Philip (6-2, 305, Sr.), who has battled injuries throughout the season. This is a key match-up of two warriors that have played through injury. Trojan fans should also focus on the play of Trojan defensive end Frostee Rucker who figures to be matched against massive senior Bear right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan (6-7, 360), both of whom figure to be future NFL performers.

The Obvious – Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart took some heat over taking a dance class this semester to earn his degree.

The Not So Obvious – California starting offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan among other Bears is taking a course on comic Dave Chappelle's television show.

The Obvious – Trojan freshman middle linebacker Rey Maualuga has returned from visiting his seriously ill father and figures to see extensive playing time.

The Not So Obvious – While Maualuga's alleged Halloween punishing incident has no defense, Pete Carroll's decision to play the kid against Stanford may have gone deeper than a coach wanting to win a national championship. Hell, the game was a wipeout and there was no reason to play the kid. However, the feeling here that the father and family in Pete Carroll wanted Maualuga's father to have perhaps one last chance to see his son play and this may have been placed that above all considerations. We have no problem with that for the wheels of justice will eventually resolve the matter. If Carroll fell on his sword for issues of mortality and parenthood, he can certainly be forgiven for that, but let's not forget the alleged victim in this murky mess.

The Obvious – The Trojans rushing offense is averaging 249.4 per game, best in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – The Bears' rush defense is allowing 125.8 per game, second-best in the Pac-10.

The Obvious – It will take all of the lightening of Reggie Bush (8.3 ypc) and thunder of LenDale White (6.5 ypc) to keep the Cal Bear defense off balance.

The Not So Obvious –The Bears' defense, which will be under intense pressure to contain the Trojan offense, does have talent. One newly arrived stud is San Francisco City transfer linebacker Desmond Bishop (6-2, 245), a junior who is averaging 7.0 tackles per game. Bishop, whose father played at Illinois and in the old USFL, played his prep ball at Fairfield High, a California recruiting stop for the Trojans.

The Obvious – Saturday's game is the annual Joe Roth Memorial Game, named after the late quarterback from the 70s who passed away from cancer.

The Not So Obvious – Roth was considered by most that met him or played with him as a great guy. A friend of ours, late Cal center Rick Purnell, always spoke highly of his quarterback and predicted NFL greatness had Roth lived. Cal keeps his spirit alive with a special display in the Bears' locker room.

The Obvious – Saturday's game will be the first time the Trojans face former wide receiver recruit DeSean Jackson, the former prep All-American from Long Beach Poly, who was the focal point of an intense recruiting battle between the Trojans and Bears.

The Not So Obvious – In this week's San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson, who be wearing No. 1 on Saturday, told the San Francisco Chronicle "It's my own rivalry game. It's been on the calendar all year. When 'SC comes to play, everything is on the line. I used to like their band, the horse. When you think of 'SC, there's just a lot of excitement." There figures to be more excitement in the Trojan secondary when the talented Jackson and Trojan strong safety and fellow Poly alum Darnell Bing give each other a football greeting.

The Obvious – Saturday's game will be Cal's last home game of the season.

The Not So Obvious – The Cal seniors will be introduced for the last time just prior to kickoff.

The Obvious – The Trojans defense is allowing 348.3yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Bears'offense is averaging 444.7 yards per game.

The Obvious – Lane Kiffin is the offensive coordinator for the Trojans, who is looking mighty pretty with the cardinal and gold's high-flying offense.

The Not So Obvious – While Jeff Tedford gets much of the credit for the Cal offense, don't dismiss the name of George Cortez, the Bears' offensive coordinator. A veteran of 28 years of professional and college coaching, Cortez is credited with the improvement of Kyle Boller, whose improvement with the arrival of Cortez was dramatic. As an added note, Cortez, who is in his fourth year with Tedford, was highly successful in the CFL and three of his signal-callers went to the NFL.

The Obvious – A popular new tradition at Trojan football games has been the Trojan Fan Fest, a peristyle end carnival of fun, food, games, and entertainment.

The Not So Obvious – For Trojan fans attending Saturday's game, Cal has the FunZone on Maxwell Family Field, a similar theme to the Trojans' Fan Fest. It all begins at 10 a.m.

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 64.9 yards in penalties per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cardinal are averaging 52.4 yards in penalties per game.

The Obvious –The Trojans game with the Bears is the first half of an ABC Pac-10 Saturday doubleheader.

The Not So Obvious –The "nightcap" will feature the "Look out below" Arizona State Sun Devils at No. 14 "Thank goodness it was only a bad dream" UCLA (4:00 p.m.). The late show will feature the No. 11 "Tedford Who?" Oregon at "Remember us" Washington State (7:15. FSN). All times are Pacific.

The Obvious – Considering the recent history of the Trojans and the Bears, it seems only appropriate this Memorial Stadium will be the final road game of the regular season.

The Not So Obvious – In a Trojan season that is becoming more like the great challenges of Perseus, the son of Zeus who must slay the Gorgon Medusa and then save Andromeda from the sea monster, the Trojans must slay yet another challenge designed by the college football gods. In this case, it's going to be the slaying of the Golden Bears and the reward, a step closer to the Pac-10's golden fleece of a conference championship. And no, we didn't forget the national championship. We'll leave that to Pete Carroll, the Perseus of the West.


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