O/NSO - Hindsight edition

With the Trojan's regular season now a euphoric 12-0 reality, the O/NSO decided to do a little 20/20 hindsight research and revisit our June preseason edition on the chances of a Three-Pete.

The Obvious – Having captured the 2005 Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year Award and the Doak Walker Award as the nation's premier running back, Reggie Bush along with quarterback Matt Leinart travel to New York City for Saturday evening's 2005 Heisman Trophy ceremony (ESPN, 5:00 p.m., PST), and if all goes as predicted, legend-in-the-making Bush will need Leinart's 2004 Heisman winning expertise and wisdom on how to prepare for the "change of life" that accompanies winning college football's most prestigious individual honor.

The Not So Obvious – While Reggie and Matt are enjoying the fruits of the Big Apple along with head coach Pete Carroll, the national media, and WeAreSC on-the-scene columnist Eric McKinny, the rest of the No. 1 Trojans are taking a mini-break before beginning preparation on Sunday for the Rose Bowl's BCS National Championship and the No. 2 Texas Longhorns. With the Trojan's regular season now a euphoric 12-0 reality, the O/NSO decided to do a little 20/20 hindsight research and revisit our June preseason edition on the chances of a Three-Pete.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The 2005 Trojan schedule, however, is tailor-made for cardinal and gold potholes in more than one venue. With away games at Oregon, Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Cal, in a "normal" season, any two combinations of those games would be cause for concern. The fact that Oregon and ASU come in the first four games on the road back-to-back, the Irish are talkin' some serious coach Weis smack, and Teford's Cal comes in early November, may cause most Trojan fans to reach for their cherry-flavored Pepto-Bismol, early and often. This is a road schedule designed NOT to win a national championship and, hence, the big challenge."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We also wrote "Are too many road games in the townships of Eugene, Tempe, South Bend, and Berkeley too much even for a juggernaut of talent like the Trojans and will the final four of fives games in the Coliseum seal the deal?"

The Obvious Hindsight – As we reflect here in December, this schedule did turn out to be one fraught with high drama and more than a few Trojan fans were quaking in their boots in the first halves at Oregon and Arizona State. If that wasn't enough, the drama reached epic proportions in the Trojans' incredible victory in South Bend. Anybody who says the Cardinal and Gold had a soft schedule only needs to look at the final AP poll to see Oregon and Notre Dame in the top six in the country. And did we mention that little indigestion burp against Fresno State? No, my friends, this 12-0 season was well earned and if you don't believe it, you must have been the 2005 version of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle. However, Cal turned out to be one big Trojan hippie love-in as the Men of Troy tossed the Bears around like some 60's Frisbees.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "Pete Carroll, who begins his fifth season as head coach of the fabled USC Trojans, on the official Trojan athletic site says, "We have a chance to be a good team. I think we're going to be hard to beat. Teams that beat us are going to have to play really well. That's the design of this thing. They better play really good football."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "With supremely confident words like that, it's almost like Carroll wants the other teams to see and hear the additional pressure in preparing and playing the 2005 Trojans. With a Trojan career record of 42-9, Carroll has a better record in his first four years than legendary John McKay, who was 26-14-1. Although it could be argued that Carroll had ten more games (51) than McKay (41)."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "If Carroll can guide the Trojans to a third consecutive national championship, how many more wins and additional seasons will it take before Pete is considered the greatest Trojan football coach of all time and can a long-term run also place him right up there with Rockne, The Bear, Wilkinson, Royal, and JoPa in their prime?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Carroll turned out to be right-on, brother. The Trojans were unbelievably hard to beat. Just ask Notre Dame and Fresno State. One final win over the boys from Austin in the first week in January and it's probably Hall of Fame full speed ahead. For a coach that was given as rough a reception as Carroll got in the beginning, it's almost mind-boggling to think he's slowly eclipsing the legendary John McKay as the greatest football coach in Trojan history.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojans begin practice Thursday morning with a new group of assistant coaches highlighted by a new hierarchy of offensive coordinator leadership that took on a positive direction, thanks to a successful spring practice of interaction."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote " Based on what we saw during some of the Trojan camps for high school players in early summer, returning Trojan players may be in for surprise at the intensity of emotion that some of the "new" coaches displayed during these camps. In fact, in the case of new offensive line coach Pat Ruel and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, veteran Trojan players might think that former Trojan coaches Tim Davis and Ed Orgeron have come to Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields in Halloween disguise."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "While on the surface the transition of coaching change appeared positive and well received, there is the little matter of "heat of battle" interaction. As the stakes get higher and the pressure grows more intense with each week's Trojan challenge, how will the players and new coaches adjust and how will that offensive play-calling chain of command of Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian to Pete Carroll play out?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Well, the new coaches on the Trojan block worked out just groovy. Offensive line coach Pat Ruel created a monster and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin created his own style of intensity. In the big picture, who could argue that Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian didn't earn their stripes during the regular season? With the whole Trojan nation and more than one national television audience closely inspecting their work, Kiffin and Sarkisian's mettle was tested to the max. You can argue "wait till next year," and "next year" comes on Jan 4 against Texas, but as for this year, the two "youngsters" adjusted to the situations of running when needed and passing when called upon. Were they perfect? No, but neither was Norm Chow with decades of experience behind him. Only Pete Carroll knows how much input he provided during some of the rougher moments, but who is to quibble with 12-0?

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojans return eight starters on offense, an offensive that some pundits claim may be the best in the school's history."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "In winning 22 games in a row, the Trojans have won by an average of 25.2 points per game."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "As much pub as this offense is receiving, the Trojans still won four games last season by only a total of 22 points, even with a stellar defense; therefore, is this offense really so equipped with unparalleled weaponry that it can carry a rebuilt defense early and how much will the missing four All-Americans from the heart of Carroll's defense go unnoticed?"

The Obvious Hindsight - Well, combined with all the unexpected injuries to the linebacker and secondary crew, there was a lot missing. When a Pete Carroll team gives up over 40 points to Fresno State, Houston, we have a problem. The Trojans needed a prolific offense to overcome a defense that that was bending and nearly breaking at times. Part of the issue was a lack of a pass rush as the sack totals were down from a year ago and teams weren't afraid to go deep on the Trojans. Against balanced offenses like Notre Dame and Fresno State, third downs became as scary as a six-year-old awaiting a doctor's tetanus shot. Carroll says he is fine with this defense, but the final test comes in less than 30 days and Trojan fans eagerly await the results.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote " The Trojans return 2004 Heisman Trophy winning senior quarterback Matt Leinart (6-5, 225), a two-time All-American and national and local media darling."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "Last year there was an article in a major sports publication claiming that Leinart could go down as the greatest quarterback to ever play collegiate football. Cynics everywhere shook their heads and lowered their brows. Well, one Heisman, two national titles, and 22 straight victories and nobody are smirking now. With sophomore John David Booty (6-3, 195), perhaps the best reliever in the country this side of a healthy Eric Gagne, there is not a college football team in America that can compare with the Trojan QB depth chart."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "With the potential of early game blowouts or an unfortunate series of quarterback injuries, does freshman Mark Sanchez (6-4, 215) play and how much stronger is Leinart's arm after admitting it was less than full strength last season?"

The Obvious Hindsight – While Leinart won't win Saturday night's Heisman, his stats are better than a year ago. His elbow and arm were certainly not the issues this season; it was the pressure of being Matt Leinart. Appearing at everything from first-pitch baseball games to magazine covers in the off season and being relentlessly pursued for personal appearances during the season, it all obviously began to eat away at Lefty's inner self. The Los Angeles media fishbowl became the Pacific Ocean and the expectations were out of the Twilight Zone. Even Leinart began admitting midway through the campaign that the pressure of celebrity and production was almost too much to handle. After immortalizing himself with one of the most famous quarterback sneaks in college football history against the Irish and after a talk with Pete Carroll, No. 11 found inner peace by requesting a return to the 2004 short-game passing offense philosophy and immediately began to have the fun of 2004. Considering every defense wanted to turn him into a meat grinder, the former Mater Dei star did a masterful job of keeping his wits about him. Close games prevented Booty from seeing as much action as most had hoped, but Sanchez was able to gain a valuable redshirt year and was an immense help in directing the scout team on a week by week basis.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojan running back position returns junior Heisman finalist Reggie Bush (6-0, 200), junior LenDale White (6-2, 235), and sophomore Desmond Reed (5-9, 180) at tailback along with fullbacks senior David Kirtman (6-0, 230) and junior Brandon Hancock (6-1, 230)."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "Bush and White speak for themselves, the best one-two punch in the nation. Desmond Reed, however, could be as much of a linchpin in the Trojans historic run for greatness, should something sinister happen to Bush, America's most explosive performer. Reed may be the most underrated player on the West Coast, and fullback Kirtman can be thrown into that category as well. We have always liked Kirtman's game and the Washington native is what a team sport is all about."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Talented but injury prone junior fullback Brandon Hancock returns, but how long will this talented hulk will last based on history? Should Hancock go down, might we finally see the likes of sophomore Jody Adewale (6-0, 230)?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Junior Reggie Bush will win the Heisman on Saturday night and has become one of college football's all-time greats. LenDale White became the Trojans all-time touchdown king as Thunder and Lightening lived up to the hype. White bounced back from a shaky start with rumors of unhappiness over his lack of carries. Fullback David Kirtman was "The Truth" at fullback and will go down along with the likes of 1970's fullback David Farmer as one of USC's all-time most underrated fullbacks. Brandon Hancock indeed survived the season and became nationally known for calling the UCLA Bruins "pansies" and got the last laugh with a 66-19 thrashing. Unfortunately, Desmond Reed was illegally tackled by the inexcusable uncut grass at Notre Dame Stadium and was lost for the season, which helped erode further the all ready dismal Trojan special teams. Adewale showed small glimpses of future success.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojan offensive line, consisting of sophomore left tackle Sam Baker (6-5, 305) and junior right tackle Winston Justice (6-6, 300), sophomore left guard Drew Radovich (6-5, 300) and junior right guard Fred Matua (6-2, 305), and junior center Ryan Kalil (6-3, 285), is considered by most as one of the best in the country."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "With the seasonal loss of sophomore Jeff Byers, the real battle of competition of comes down to the left guard position where Radovich will need to continue his fight to hold off the potential presence of senior Taitusi Lutui (6-6, 365), who started last year at right tackle before being supplanted by the returning Justice."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Is this really, as some pundits suggest, the best Trojan offensive line of all-time and how much more effective will the Trojan ground attack be with the return of NFL-caliber tackle Winston Justice?"

The Obvious Hindsight – After 12 games, the USC Trojan offensive line is considered the best in the country. Three starters made first-team All-Pac-10, including future All-America center Ryan Kalil, tackle Sam Baker, and guard Deuce Lutui. Original starting left guard Drew Radovich was lost for the season with an injury and senior Lutui was moved from starting right tackle to left guard and proceeded to become a likely consensus All-American. First-year offensive line coach Pat Ruel said some players knock down opponents due to a mean streak, but Lutui knocks people down "for the fun of it." Right tackle Winston Justice came back over a year layoff and at times looked brilliant at times but also looked as rusty as a nail. Justice would be well served to consider returning for another year with the Trojans. Starting right guard Fred Matua had an ongoing love affair with Trojan fans in the Coliseum and could always be counted on to lead the choir.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojans return arguably the finest returning receiving unit in the country in junior Steve Smith (6-0, 195), sophomore Dwayne Jarrett (6-5, 200), and senior tight end Dominique Byrd (6-3, 260)."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "Byrd may be the key to the passing attack as he showed at Oregon St. and in the 2005 Orange Bowl. When healthy, the Minnesota senior is the wildcard in the Trojans' offense. The return of sophomore Whitney Lewis (6-1, 225) and the growth and experience of junior Chris McFoy (6-1, 200) gives this group the depth and athletic ability that pushes this unit to the top of the charts. The advancement of senior William Buchanon (6-3, 185) will be interesting to watch, for he could be the Jason Mitchell of 2005."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Based on summer workouts and all-star game performances, how big and how soon will 6-foot-5, 220-pound freshman Patrick Turner impact the receiving corps and is this the make or break year for talented Whitney Lewis?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Sophomore Dwayne Jarrett became an All-American and was immortalized with a spectacular game-saving catch and run against Notre Dame. Smith nearly cleared a 1,000 yards receiving during the regular season, and McFoy was a stud blocker. Williams Buchanon played the back-and-forth-game on offense and defense and never really had the type of season he wanted due to his unselfish play of providing depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Freshman Patrick Turner was challenged and showed glimpses of greatness until the injury bug bit him literally in the leg. As for Whitney Lewis, he did see some action against UCLA but his career appears to entering a crossroads. Of all the receiving positions that appeared to have taken a change of philosophy, it was at tight end where senior Dominique Byrd, who seemed like a certain all-star based on his junior season, seemed like a forgotten man and didn't catch a touchdown pass all season, Sophomore tight end Fred Davis emerged from Pete Carroll's doghouse by scratching the surface of his vast array of talent with some encouraging performances and a touchdown catch against the Bruins. Who can forget Fred's block during Matt Leinart's final lunge at Notre Dame.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote, "The Trojan will initially rely on sophomore walk-on placekicker Mario Danelo (5-10, 185), son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo, early in the season to handle the extra point and field goal responsibilities."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "It is said that nobody is more competitive in the area of placekicking than Mr. Danelo. With some experience in competition with the departed Ryan Killeen, it figures that No. 19 will fight to the finish to hold on to his kicking spot with the arrival of heralded freshman Troy Van Blarcom (6-3, 210), who averaged a record 59.3 yards per kickoff and is a field goal threat from 60 yards on in."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Will freshman Van Blarcom be kicking off for the Trojans in Hawaii and can the former Orange Lutheran star supplant the "veteran" Danelo as field goal designate in the limited preseason workouts?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Danelo came through like a champ and even established an NCAA record for most extra-points in a season. While not yet a long range bomber, his effectiveness inside 35 yards was an added bonus to a super offense. True freshman Van Blarcom kicked beyond his years of experience, not surprising considering all the reps he got from the prolific Trojans scoring machine. The kid was even able to handle the likes of Autzen, Sun Devil, and Notre Dame Stadiums. A frightful kickoff team could have shaken this kid to the core, but he kept on coming. Against UCLA, Troy even managed to pooch kicks under orders from Pete Carroll and did an admirable job.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The 2005 Trojan defense returns six starters, but the loss of four All-Americans in the middle of the defense is cause for Winchell's donut concern until proven otherwise."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "Pete Carroll seems to be less concerned about his defense than some of the "experts" and the rabid Trojan following. However, perhaps the most overlooked aspect of this rebuilt defense, as Carroll knows, is the offense they practice against every day on campus. If the Trojan offense truly is the best in the land, then this defense may be in predator disguise thanks to Leinart and company."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Without Cody, Patterson, Grootegoed, and Tatupu, how will opposition offensive coordinators attack the Trojans' defense and which freshmen will earn Carroll's promise of early playing time?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Expert across the land said Pete Carroll's defense would be the weak link in 2005. After 12 games and a 12-0 record, the Trojans defense won't make you forget the units of 2003 and 2004, but they faced more adversity than either of those stellar units. Against balanced and talented teams, the middle was challenged, but then again so was an injured secondary as offensive coordinators called for moderate to deep aerial strikes. Freshmen were rushed into action as things got injury scary, especially at linebacker as the weekly medical report entered the world of fiction.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojans look solid on their rebuilt defensive line consisting of sophomore end Lawrence Jackson (6-5, 265) and senior end Frostee Rucker (6-3, 260), sophomore nose tackle Sedrick Ellis (6-1, 285) and senior tackle LaJuan Ramsey (6-3, 290)."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "While Lawrence Jackson looks like All-American material in the making and Frostee Rucker evolves as an emotional leader, it appears that Sedrick Ellis has convinced coaches Carroll and Jethro Franklin that he is more than capable of replacing Mike Patterson at the same stage. The overall effectiveness of this unit may come down to the health of senior LaJuan Ramsey, who if he can avoid the injury bug may be the key to the defensive line engine."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Forget about the starting group, which figures to be formidable. How big a contribution will backup redshirt freshman tackle Fili Moala (6-4, 300) and redshirt freshman nose guard Travis Draper (6-4, 295), who is making the unusual transition from offense to defense, make as a replacements for Ramsey and Ellis, and will talented sophomore end Jeff Schweiger (6-4, 260) push Rucker to the point of depth chart reevaluation?"

The Obvious Hindsight – Defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson become the best pair in the country and deservedly earned all-star recognition. Ramsey was solid when healthy and Ellis continued to develop, playing a major role in destroying UCLA's offensive line and attacking quarterback Drew Olson. Depth continued to be an issue as the Trojan couldn't find that final piece on the inside for a consistent pass rush. Reserves Jeff Schweiger and Fili Moala had uneventful performances due to injury and inexperience, and Draper was a non-factor due to injury. A very bright Georgia light was true freshman Kyle Moore who showed glimpses of greatness before an injury slowed his progress. The kid backed down to nobody and that body is an Adonis waiting to happen.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojan linebackers will have some big shoes to fill, but the outside backers are very intriguing with dependable senior Dallas Sartz (6-5, 230) and super sophomore Keith Rivers (6-3, 220), but there could be a real War of the Worlds during the season at middle linebacker."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "Heading into camp, junior Oscar Lua (6-1, 240) is slated to start at middle linebacker and figures to stay there for kickoff at Hawaii. However, don't rule out the impact of senior Collin Ashton (6-1, 220), who can play anywhere. This kid plays with a huge heart and is very smart, a quality that made graduated middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu so special."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "At what linebacker spot will sophomore Thomas "Hitman" Williams (6-3, 230) finally settle, and is it realistic to think that freshmen like Rey Maualuga (6-3, 238) and Luther Brown (6-3, 235) are really ready to man one of the main positions in Pete Carroll's complex 4-3 defense?"

The Obvious Hindsight - Down went Sartz. Down went Rivers. Down went Williams. In the final regular season game against the Bruins, who would have thunk that the starting linebackers would be freshman Brian Cushing, former walk-on Collin Ashton, and oft-injured Oscar Lua? Wow, take about the unexpected! However, the Pete Carroll system and the steady determination of coach Ken Norton kept things from complete dysfunction. Oh sure, there were some moments in pass coverage and some missed tackles here and there, but considering the damage from injury, it was quite a performance of heart. Lua kept things under control with his knowledge of Carroll's defense while Rivers was fast becoming a beast until that temperamental hamstring started dancing and "Hitman Williams" also was sidelined with minor surgery. Freshman Luther Brown was redshirted due to a back injury, but those other star freshmen like Cushing and Maualuga played beyond their years.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojan secondary is full of lethal destroyers in junior strong safety Darnell Bing (6-2, 220) and senior free safety Scott Ware (6-2, 215), while the cornerback positions are anchored by senior Justin Wyatt (5-10, 185) and emerging sophomore Terrell Thomas (6-1, 185)."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "With critical early Pac-10 games against experienced Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens and ASU's confident Sam Keller, Trojan fans will get a eagle look at new starter Terrell Thomas, who replaces departed corner Eric Wright. The depth here is intriguing with sophomore SS/FS Josh Pinkard (5-1, 200), true freshman SS Kevin Ellison (6-1, 220), and the addition of a highly recruited group of freshmen. Shhhhh, did we mention the mysterious sophomore corner transfer Mozique McCurtis (6-1, 225), whose physical numbers defy imagination? Scouted personally by Carroll, McCurtis is certainly one newcomer that will deserve special attention during the coming practice weeks."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Will lethal hitting free safety Scott Ware survive the season considering how hard he hits and will teams look to avoid the Trojans hard-hitting safeties by confusing them with sophisticated passing attacks and gifted tight ends, and is this finally the rewarding senior season for athletic corner John Walker (6-1, 200)? Whew!"

The Obvious Hindsight – Push the injury button again, please. Down goes Thomas. Down goes Ellison. Down goes McCurtis. Down goes Harris. Down goes Walker. Down goes Frazier. Ooopsss, sorry Mr. Cosell. You get the picture. What a disaster it was and thank goodness for soph Josh Pinkard who made it look like addition by subtraction, moving from safety to corner and plugging a soft spot. Even dependable senior Justin Wyatt had to suffer this season with some uncharacteristic lapses on deep coverage. Give tons of credit to secondary coach Greg Burns and Pete Carroll for literally adjusting from week to week against some of the nation's most heralded quarterbacks. The huge bright spot became the play of safeties Darnell Bing and Scott Ware. Both got better and tougher as the season hit stride and UCLA tight end Marcedes Lewis won't soon forget the hit he took from former LB Poly teammate, Mr. Bing, last Saturday. As for Ware, Mr. Evil Blue Eyes delivered some of the most vicious shots this side of South Bend and just ask Notre Dame senior tight end Anthony Fasano about No. 29. Ouch and double ouch.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "The Trojan coaches will finally get their first real look at their nationally acclaimed recruiting class, a group that still has the recruiting gurus buzzing."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "The names of Sanchez, Maualuga, and Turner, speak for themselves, but we are also eager to watch the early going of SLB Brian Cushing (6-4, 235), WLB Kaluka Maiava (6-0, 220), DB Kevin Thomas (6-1, 190), NT Walker Lee Ashley (6-5, 295), and DE Kyle Moore (6-7, 265)."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Just how many of these touted freshmen will eventually see their position changed during their initial Trojan season and which ones will make the quickest impact on special teams and regular units?"

The Obvious Hindsight – The head of the class turned out to be outside linebacker Brian Cushing, the former New Jersey Player of the Year, who started against UCLA. Like so many other Trojans, he played injured and did everything from interceptions, to fumble recoveries, to NFL-style hits. Not that the other freshmen didn't make an impact. Breaths were drawn every time linebacker Rey Maualua sprinted down on special teams and his scrimmage hit on UCLA tailback Maurice Drew caused a fumble that led to a Justin Wyatt touchdown. Former Parade National Player of the Year Mark Sanchez, a quarterback with wild potential, was able to redshirt and help the Trojans on the Scout team and don't underestimate that impact during the past several months. The irony in this class is that Minneapolis defensive tackle Walker Lee Ashley was a no-show and appeared head for the University of Minnesota but will be returning this coming spring to begin his Trojan career.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "Senior punter Tom Malone (6-0, 205) may be the best in the country at his position."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "Malone's 44.5 career punting average is currently the best in Trojan history and slightly below the all-time Pac-10 record of 44.6 set by UCLA's Kirk Wilson in the mid-1950s."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Are Trojan fans witnessing the best punter in USC history and will the Trojans' offense be so productive that Malone gets a minimal amount of kicks?"

The Obvious Hindsight - Well, the gifted senior fulfilled the Not So Obvious Big Questions by not even attempting a punt against UCLA, thanks to the relentless Trojan offense. Hindered by a hip injury through most of the season, it might have been a blessing for Malone that he didn't have to punt on a regular basis. He did show the Fight On spirit by competing even when you knew he was hurting on the inside.

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "Last season, the Trojans established a Pac-10 record for home attendance average (85, 229) and school records for total home attendance, overall attendance average, and total overall attendance."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "While it was curious to get a recent e-mail from the Trojan athletic department announcing "non renewed season tickets" are now available for purchase, it figures that Trojan fans will be more severely challenged to get away game tickets as the Trojans are currently The Beatles of college football."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "If the Trojans continue with their remarkable win streak, which home game will NOT be a sellout and just how much will scalpers and Coliseum parking lots charge after each preceding Trojan victory?"

The Obvious Hindsight – The 2005 season will go down as the greatest attendance year home and away in Trojan history. All home games were technically sold out (92,000) and parking sharks finally hit $100 per car for the UCLA game. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the home sellouts is that fans grew accustomed to the traffic and were more concerned about seeing the Trojans play than the in and out of Coliseum gridlock. As for away games, with the exception of lowly Washington, getting an away ticket became an adventure. Notre Dame was the worst ever and Oregon and Cal were almost a nowhere ticket to be found. As one ticket operator said, " I wouldn't call getting a Trojan ticket as tough as getting one for the Rolling Stones at the Hollywood Bowl, but they were right up there with Paul McCartney."

The Obvious – Last June we wrote "This is probably the most anticipated season in the history of the Cardinal and Gold."

The Not So Obvious – We also wrote "The only years we recall that may have approached this coming season's anticipation would be 1963, 1968, 1973, 1975, 1979, and, of course, 2004 – all years that followed a national championship season. However, nothing compares to this 2005 season in terms of college football history, streaks, and media and fan interest, both locally and nationally."

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – We finally wrote "Are we ready?… Are we ready??… Are we ready… for Y'all???"

The Obvious Hindsight – And nothing does compare to the 2005 regular season. The national, Pac-10, Coliseum, and road consecutive winning streaks become almost an obsession. A fourth consecutive Pac-10 title, a probable Heisman Trophy winner, and more embarrassment of All-American riches. It's an unparalleled time to be a Trojan and it's still not over. Will history again repeat itself on January 4 against the No. 2 Texas Longhorns? We in hindsight we say, " We are ready, We are ready, We ready, for Y'all!"

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