O/NSO - 2006 preview edition

Only in a town of searchlights, starlets, and larger than life celebrities could the 2006 USC Trojan football season be referred to as Troy Story 3, Superman Returns, and Mission Impossible 3. So with enormous anticipation, collective intrigue, and tempered trepidation, Goux Gate now officially opens Thursday morning for gridiron business and here we go again, finally.

The Obvious – Only in a town of searchlights, starlets, and larger than life celebrities could the 2006 USC Trojan football season be referred to as Troy Story 3, Superman Returns, and Mission Impossible 3. It should also come as no Oscar award winning surprise that head coach Pete Carroll commands the red carpet walk of college football coaches as its institution's Steven Spielberg. So with enormous anticipation, collective intrigue, and tempered trepidation, Goux Gate now officially opens Thursday morning for gridiron business and here we go again, finally.

The Not So Obvious – With the loss of Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and the departure of Mr. Thunder, LenDale White, is the 2006 season a case of restocking or reloading? Any Trojan fan of minimum knowledge, certainly any national recruit-a-holic, knows Carroll's talent cupboard is budging with 5-star prospects as on-paper replacements. The reality, however, is the once vaunted backfield has been depleted and potential stars such as quarterback John David Booty, tailback Chauncey Washington, and a bevy of freshmen backs are basically untested. All of which leads to unproven and unanswered questions, some of which beg bigger O/NSO questions that meet the eye.

The Not So Obvious Bigger Questions – Okay, so does the once vaunted backfield of Heisman stars turn into memory lane or will there be a return to a security guard protected backfield? More than perhaps in anytime during the recent Trojan domination of college football, a question of leadership arises. Will it be All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett? Will it be senior linebackers Oscar Lua and/or Dallas Sartz? Can it come from expected starting junior quarterback Booty? When one talks about past Trojans leaders, are there any Lofa Tatupu, Shawn Cody or Justin Fargas types waiting to assume command?

The Obvious – In 2005, it took one of college football's all-time offensive arsenals to overcome the harrowing experiences at Notre Dame, Fresno State, and let's not forget the heart-stopping comeback at Arizona State. Every Trojan opponent came gunning and only Texas was able to outscore the Cardinal and Gold offensive juggernaut.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO sees the 2006 Trojan schedule as a strange collection of phases. Going into Arkansas with a new backfield would be daunting under most circumstances, but goodness gracious sakes Annabelle, that 70-17 flogging of the Razorbacks in the Coliseum last season should have the Fayetteville faithful in a ravenous mood. The home opener against Nebraska should be a sweet homecoming for the Men of Troy and their 27-game Coliseum home winning streak, if they have turned Arkansas into a Tony Roma's takeout. The mid-season portion of the schedule should allow Pete Carroll's boys, outside of a Coliseum visit from offensive-minded Arizona State, to overcome any gridiron atmospheric disturbances. The final third of the season is a real home acid test with Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame, and, possibly, UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – However, don't let any Trojan homer fool you that the last third of the season isn't a variable Murderer's Row of challenges. Can the Trojans run the table, yes, even in the Coliseum, beating Oregon, California, and Notre Dame in succession? These aren't big games for the new-team Trojans; these are BIG games. Can the sellout Coliseum crowds become the vocal memories of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush if called upon? How will these high intensity games on national television affect the likes of Booty, Washington, and a rebuilt offensive line? Everybody cares and who knows?

The ObviousPete Carroll, who begins his sixth season as head coach of the fabled USC Trojans, says that the 2006 Trojans remind him of the 2003 season when he had to replace the likes of Carson Palmer, Justin Fargas, and Troy Polamalu.

The Not So Obvious – There seems to be no question that Carroll could sell ice to Eskimos and turn any negative into a positive. Heck, Carroll could probably even get the public to like Barry Bonds if the Giant slugger played for the Cardinal and Gold. The coach has convinced his teams in the past that nothing will stop "the system." However, there appears to be no Bush or White waiting in the wings. When your starting tailback at the outset of fall practice is a converted second-string senior linebacker and add that inexperience with two-thirds of a once legendary backfield, yes, there is a huge question mark and even Carroll can't initially persuade the O/NSO to think otherwise.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Many will say that UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden left his greatness on the game when he won the national championship between the Alcindor and Walton years with a front line of Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, and the late Steve Patterson. Carroll talks with the Wizard of Westwood on occasion and should the 2006 club achieve their third national title in four years, there will be a new wizard in Los Angeles and his name will be Pete Carroll. The big question is whether Carroll's offensive acumen is equal to his renowned defensive genius. Legendary OC Norm Chow is now a distant memory, so is this the season, sans Leinart, Bush, and White, when the Trojan football public gets an accurate read on the talents of second-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin?

The Obvious – The Trojans begin practice Thursday morning with basically the core of the coaching returning.

The Not So Obvious – There is no question that the return of respected defensive Carroll clone Nick Holt has already paid dividends during spring practice and in recruiting. Holt is perhaps, considering the changeover in the Trojan personnel, as valuable as any incoming blue-chip talent that has arrived since the Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Forget about OC Kiffin and his challenges to show he is a master puppeteer without Leinart, Bush, and White. A real key is how will the quarterbacks develop under coach Steve Sarkisian? It could be argued that Oaks Christian's Jimmy Clausen is heading to South Bend because of the uncertainty of quarterback development at Troy and the "proven" commodity of Irish head coach Charlie Weis, much like Chow had been during his tenure at Troy. Fair or unfair, all eyes will be on the development of both John David Booty and Mark Sanchez at quarterback. A big season by the Trojan quarterbacks and the offense in general will elevate both Kiffin and Sarkisian from one-year offensive wunderkinds to respected top-shelf national coaches, Charlie Weis or no Charlie Weis. Returning to the defensive equation, despite their closeness, is Nick Holt's defensive coordinator title just a marionette perception for Carroll? To blitz or not to blitz, that is the question.

The Obvious – The Trojans return four starters on offense, losing the core of an offense that was not only the best in school history, but also one of the very best in college football history.

The Not So Obvious – As mentioned, you know there are huge question marks on offense, especially when your listed starting tailback is a once backup converted linebacker. That name is Ryan Powdrell (6-0, 255), a senior who doesn't exactly conjure up images of Marcus Allen or even LenDale White but did show promise in the spring. The basic offensive philosophy is likely to change somewhat as the Trojans may be inclined to become more aggressive in the rushing department, especially with inexperienced quarterbacks. The offensive line figures to be one of the best in the collegiate game and any team would love to have All-America left tackle Sam Baker and All-Pac-10 center Ryan Kalil. Saving the best for last, the receiving unit takes a backseat to nobody, and it's a no-brainer that Trojan quarterbacks will get plenty of chances to shrine with junior All-American Dwayne Jarrett leading the catching parade.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – What kind of offense will we see in 2006? Will Carroll elect to be more ground oriented early? Will the offensive play-calling return to the "vertical" passing game or will it be a three-step, move-the-chains attack? Can this new group of offensive performers continue to live by the Carroll creed, "It's all about the ball?" In other words, can the 2006 Trojan offense keep the turnovers to a minimum like its near flawless predecessors?

The Obvious – The Trojan quarterbacks, under the direction of coach Steve Sarkisian, begin fall practice with junior John David Booty (6-3, 210) as the starter and redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez (6-3, 225) in the bullpen.

The Not So Obvious – Finally Booty, the Bayou Bomber, who saw spot action last season, gets his long awaited opportunity to renew the national public attention with his once heralded arrival to Troy. No longer the "kid," John David can make all the throws and we expect to see more rollouts and expect, in time, the precision of Matt Leinart. As for Sanchez, still a "kid" in terms of experience, he showed in spring ball he, too, can make the throws, but there were moments of learning curves that illustrated there is still work to be done.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Does Booty, who has a history of injury, stay healthy? If John David can stay away from turnovers and knocked down passes at the LOS, can he lead the Trojans to the promised land of Glendale, Arizona? If he does, would he consider leaving for the NFL after one year at the Trojan helm? For Sanchez, how much will the off-season legal issues have on his performance in the fall, especially in visiting stadiums where the cruelty has no boundaries? If both should go down, is junior Michael McDonald (6-2, 185) a serviceable replacement?

The Obvious – The fabled Trojan running back position is as big a question mark as there is on the club. Senior Ryan Powdrell 6-0, 255) opens camp as the starting tailback alongside senior fullback Brandon Hancock (6-1, 230).

The Not So Obvious – Running back coach Todd McNair finally will have to do some work with the departure of Thunder and Lightening (lol). Okay, so there really isn't anything "Not So Obvious" about the projection that when the ball is snapped at Arkansas, the starting tailback figures to be the long awaited debut of junior Chauncey Washington (6-1, 220), proclaimed as a the mixture of Reggie Bush and LenDale White. If Washington does carry the brunt of the rushing attack and Powdrell is given a real opportunity to replace LenDale White as a new "Thunder," just how much can these two take the pressure off of Booty and Sanchez? The fullback position with Hancock figures to be a strong point, both running and receiving, and we might finally get to see that old Roosevelt stud, junior fullback Jody Adewale (6-0, 230), who showed some good skills during spring ball.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Can Washington live up to the hype? Powdrell showed real promise as a LenDale White replacement, but he had a tendency to fumble after big runs. Are Powdrell's ball issues a thing of the past? Some say freshman running back Stafon Johnson (6-1, 210) is a DeShaun Foster clone, but before it's all said and done, will the surprise freshman back be Emmanuel Moody (6-1, 195), the former Texas schoolboy star? When fullback Hancock goes out, is Adewale ready to contribute to the cause? Speaking of Hancock, can he, too, stay healthy for an entire season?

The Obvious – Coach Pat Ruel's offensive line, consisting of junior All-America left tackle Sam Baker (6-5, 305) and senior right tackle Kyle Williams (6-6, 300), sophomore left guard Jeff Byers (6-5, 285)) and sophomore right guard Chilo Rachal (6-5, 300), and senior All-Pac-10 center Ryan Kalil (6-3, 285), has a chance to again be one of the best in the country.

The Not So Obvious – The play of new guards Byers and Rachal will be critical to the success of the Trojans, both running and passing. The loss of junior Matt Spanos (6-5, 305) to academics is a real major disappointment. It figures, however, that former back-up Williams and Rachal got enough experience from last season to become major players in 2006. A real key will be the health of junior Drew Radovich (6-5, 305), who has been slowed in his career by the injury bug. A healthy Radovich will go a long way in providing the competition and depth.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Can senior right tackle Kyle Williams take advantage of the Spanos ineligibility to be a major factor and further his NFL stock? Is sophomore center Travis Draper (6-5, 285), who has been a tennis ball in going from offensive to defense and back to offense, be a viable replacement should the invaluable Kalil go down at center? The key to success in any long season is the second unit and how ready are backup redshirt freshmen tackles Nick Howell (6-5, 265) and Charles Brown (6-6, 285)? Has junior reserve guard Alatini "Tiny" Malu's (6-4, 330) time finally arrived?

The Obvious – There is no argument across the country that the finest returning receiving unit resides in Los Angeles. Just reading the names of junior All-America Dwayne Jarrett (6-5, 215), Street and Smith senior cover boy Steve Smith (6-0, 200), sophomore prodigy Patrick Turner (6-5, 230), and ultra-talented junior tight end Fred Davis (6-4, 260) is enough to make any defensive coordinator sweat bullets.

The Not So Obvious – There are drooling wide receiver coaches from Berkeley to Tallahassee wishing they had the embarrassment of receiving riches like coach Lane Kiffin. There are too many weapons at this spot to slow Mr. Fourth and Nine, Dwayne Jarrett, no matter how much bracketing the defense does. Smith made one of the best career moves by returning for his senior year and it already shows in the "pub" department. Nobody argues the virtues of Tennessee Turner, but a key is senior Chris McFoy (6-2, 200). There is always an "unsung" hero on every successful club and many on the receiving unit point to the veteran McFoy, who could have ended his career last season and been successful in the business community. Nobody in the program appears to have matured both physically and mentally than tight end Fred Davis, whose 2005 Orange Bowl discipline saga appears to have completely changed the one-time Toledo, Ohio star. It would be a disappointment if Davis doesn't rise above the crowd as a national tight end fixture.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Despite all the greatness of this unit, how much patience will these proven receivers have in the development of the Trojans' quarterback education? Will Turner live up to his potential and become a dominant receiver? Much was made of the incoming freshman Vidal Hazelton (6-3, 200). Will this national recruit make a dent at some point in the season for playing time and at whose expenses? Just when you forget about his presence, can junior possession receiver Brad Walker (6-2, 205), still a walk-on, make headlines by grabbing a critical first down grab as opposed to being remembered as Reggie Bush's ill-fated lateral recipient? Will the tight ends be more incorporated in the offense as compared to last season and will JC transfer Gerald Washington (6-6, 255) end up being the backup tight end? Tight end coach Brennan Carroll will have some backup decisions to make.

The Obvious – Dependale junior walk-on placekicker Mario Danelo (5-10, 200), son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo, will again handle extra point and field goal responsibilities.

The Not So Obvious – Perhaps the least appreciated scoring member of last season's offensive weaponry, Danelo was nails more times than not. He figures to be a major key as the O/NSO assumes there will be less touchdowns scored and more field goals attempted. Sophomore Troy Van Blarcom (6-3, 225), who showed glimpses of excellence as a true freshman in places like South Bend and Pasadena, still is no starting lock in 2006. The Trojans brought in another kickoff competitor in Santa Ana JC transfer David Buehler (6-2, 225), who wasn't invited to wave cardinal and gold pompoms.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Can Van Blarcom hold off the competition of Buehler? How will Danelo react to the increased expectation in the field goal department? Will Van Blarcom be considered for field goals outside of forty yards? Can new holder Mark Sanchez, Trojans backup signal-caller, remain flawless as his predecessor?

The Obvious – The 2006 Trojans defense returns six starters, and the general feeling is that his unit is expected to return to the standard of Pete Carroll's immoveable object.

The Not So Obvious – Anytime your defense gives up 41 points in a national championship game, Vince Young or no Vince Young, you can't crow about your defense. Any time your defense gives up 42 points against Fresno State, with no Vince Young, there is work to be done. Some say, including Mike Garrett, the Trojans Heisman winner and athletic director, that this could be one of Troy's fastest defenses ever. The big key will be the type of front four pressure that Nick Holt's defense can exert on opposition quarterbacks. The linebackers, as a unit, are considered the best in the nation and the secondary figures to be very good, as well.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Was last season's defense just an aberration? An anomaly? A mirage? An incongruity? Trojan fans and Carroll hope so. The reality was that this was an unusually banged up unit by the time the team bus arrived in Pasadena and unless there is an another stroke of bad injury luck, Carroll's defense, now that sounds more credible, should be restored to its lofty position as one of the best in the land.

The Obvious – The Trojans have some All-America timber along the defensive line in junior All-Pac-10 end Lawrence Jackson (6-5, 265) and junior nose tackle Sedrick Ellis (6-1, 295).

The Not So Obvious – Jackson and Ellis are the real deal, but all eyes will be trained on the opposite defensive end spot with sophomore Kyle Moore (6-6, 260, photo) and junior Jeff Schweiger (6-4, 255) having at it in August and perhaps the entire season. Defensive line coach Nick Holt, with assistance from coach David Watson, has done a good job of reinventing Schweiger, but the former NoCal prep star will have his hands full in holding off Georgia prodigy Moore, whom the O/NSO thinks will get the starting nod. Perhaps no player on the defensive line will face the microscope with such intensity as junior defensive tackle Chris Barrett (6-5, 265). We talked with Barrett during the spring and he is fully aware that this is his moment, a moment that many experts and the O/NSO feel could be the determining factor in the success of the front four. Built like a pro and enough muscle to supply a 6th period PE class, if Barrett's desire matches his muscle and he, too, can stay away from injury, the Trojans defense assault on quarterbacks and running backs will rise considerably.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Let's get this out of the way first. Can Barrett perform to his God-given talent and be a difference maker? Is the second unit talented enough to overcome any injury to the first unit? Can senior defensive tackle backup Travis Tofi (6-4, 265) and sophomore tackle Fili Moala (6-4, 295) hold off the challenges of redshirt freshman tackle Averell Spicer (6-2, 296) and true freshman Walker Lee Ashley (6-4, 305), who showed progress in the spring? Should Jackson go down, is junior Alex Morrow (6-6, 270) really ready to step in? Will one of the true freshmen linemen, Derek Simmons (6-4, 275), Butch Lewis (6-7, 300), and Alex Parsons (6-4, 260), be on the offensive side of the ball by the end of the 2006 season?

The Obvious – The Trojan linebackers, as a unit, may be stronger than Superman Returns and there is mild debate on whether coach Ken Norton's lads are the best in the land. If the opening game starters are seniors Dallas Sartz (6-5, 240) and Oscar Lua (6-1, 245) and junior Keith Rivers (6-3, 230), it doesn't get much better than that.

The Not So Obvious – Of course, if the starters are sophomores Brian Cushing (6-4, 245), Rey Maualuga (6-3, 250), and Kaluka Maiava (6-0, 225), it doesn't get much better than that. If the starters are junior Thomas Williams (6-3, 240), sophomore Clay Mathews (6-4, 230), and redshirt freshman Luther Brown (6-3, 235), it ain't chopped liver. With so many star-studded linebackers, there is little question why Pete Carroll played with different configurations of a 3-4 defense. With so much talent, and we didn't even mention incoming freshmen Michael Morgan (6-2, 200) and Joshua Tatum (6-1, 225), there was no reason not to do some spring experimentation.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – So who takes the middle linebacker spot, Oscar Lua or Rey Maualuga, not just in September but in January, as well? Do outside backers Brian Cushing and Thomas Williams rebound from injury and perform to their high potential? Does Keith Rivers live up to his Parade All-America prep days? How long can Carroll, Holt, and Norton keep Kaluka Maiava off the field, especially after he keeps making play after play?

The Obvious – The Trojan secondary, coming off a nightmare of an injury season, showed encouraging signs in the spring, and it figures at the outset the corners will be sophomores Kevin Thomas (6-1, 180) and Terrell Thomas (6-1, 200) with the inside safeties emerging as junior Josh Pinkard (6-1, 215) and sophomore Kevin Ellison (6-1, 220).

The Not So Obvious –Carroll has said to others that he believes that Pinkard might be the best player on his football team. From safety to corner and back to safety, Pinkard has the look of a potential All-American. We expect to see some interesting battles for playing, especially the easing in of freshman free safety Antwine Perez (6-1, 190) as Pinkard's backup. Quietly, sophomore Mozique McCurtis (6-1, 225) has placed himself behind corner Kevin Thomas and while Terrell Thomas figures to be a lockdown corner, he figures to be pushed hard by sophomore Cary Harris 6-1, 180).

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Can this rebuilt secondary stop some of the country's best slingers in 2006? Are they going to be able to deal with the likes of Brady Quinn, Trent Edwards, Sam Keller, Nate Longshore, and Dennis Dixon? How much of an impact will true freshman free safety Taylor Mays (photo), the marvelous physical specimen from Seattle, play into the mix as the season progresses and does he remain at free safety? There will be no Darnell Bing or Scott Ware in the secondary to apply the plentiful pain, so does Pinkard provide the punishment or will ballyhooed freshman Allen Bradford, whom many say is a better running back candidate, get the opportunity to bring the wood? Under the intensity of the fall, will converted linebacker coach Rocky Seto's transition to secondary coach continue to be as smooth as it appeared in the spring?

The Obvious – The Trojans are hoping that junior walk-on punter Taylor Odegard (5-9, 175) can replace the accomplishments of departed Tom Malone, who is considered the Trojans all-time punter.

The Not So Obvious – There appears to be an underwhelming amount of competition at the punter position.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – With no punter on scholarship, is this going to be the season when it all comes back to bite the Trojans in a big way? Will the stress of an intense season as the punter of the USC Trojans get to Odegard as each game becomes bigger?

The Obvious – The Trojans will be looking for a new punt returner, thanks to the early departure of Reggie Bush and the recent "retiring" announcement by projected starter Ryan Ting.

The Not So Obvious – As of now, the starter would appear to be senior receiver Steve Smith, who was listed right behind Ting on the depth chart.

The Not So Big Questions – Will Carroll gamble and allow stellar wide receiver Smith to take that "injury" chance on punt returns? Sure, Reggie did it, but you had to because of his "once in a generation" talent. Does Carroll believe he has enough talent at wide receiver to roll the dice with Smith?

The Obvious – When it comes to Trojan's special teams, recent kickoff and punt coverage has been a nightmare for coaches and fans to watch.

The Not So Obvious – So much of the coverage is based on the available talent, but watching the Trojans run down the field has been, to say the least and be nice about it, an adventure. The return of junior linebacker Thomas Williams is a good beginning solution and no question that sophomore Rey Maualuga is a death sentence if he can put you in his sights.

The Not So Obvious Questions – Will sophomore Troy Van Blarcom be asked to do those pooch kicks, which drove the Coliseum fans whacko? With addition of transfer David Buehler (6-2, 225) to the club, can Van Blarcom hold on to his job? If the Trojans special teams, namely kickoff and punt coverage remain a disaster, will heads roll at the end of the season?

The Obvious – The Trojan coaches will welcome another celebrated top-ranked recruiting class, a group whose final addition, wide receiver Vidal Hazelton, placed them again at the head of the national class.

The Not So Obvious – You all know the incoming freshmen names of those 5-star All-Americans such as RB Stafon Johnson, RB C.J. Gable (6-1, 190), WR David Ausberry (6-5, 215), S Taylor Mays (6-4, 225), and Hazelton, but the O/NSO is chomping at the bit to watch the first Monday day of "pads" with DLs Alex Parsons and Derek Simmons, TB Emmanuel Moody, DB Shareece Wright (6-0, 185), and QB Garrett Green (6-2, 200).

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Who gets their position changed before the fifth game? Will talented tight end prospect Anthony McCoy scratch the service of his vast physical skills? How has linebacker Joshua Tatum recovered from his knee surgery? How good is quarterback Garrett Green? Is RB Kenny Ashley the only freshman that didn't clear his way through the academic and the NCAA Clearinghouse minefield?

The Obvious – The Trojans 2007 recruiting class is shaping up as a monster effort, thanks to a huge commitment on Tuesday by Florida offensive guard James Wilson. Wilson's verbal comes on the heals of previous verbal nods from such prep luminaries as Servite linebacker Chris Galippo, Oaks Christian running back Marc Tyler, Huntington Beach Edison tackle Martin Coleman, and Orange Lutheran quarterback Aaron Corp, all three Scout.com 5-star products.

The Not So Obvious – No, we didn't forget Arkansas prep running back Broderick Green, another 5-star or intriguing Camarillo (Adolfo) quarterback prospect Samson Szakacsy or Oaks Christian safety prospect Marshall Jones.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions - Despite all the publicity of the above names, is it possible that just as good as any of them is Orange Lutheran lineman Michael Reardon? Will Broderick Green stay with his Trojan verbal, despite the pressure in Little Rock to be a Razorback? Will a verbal from Arizona offensive lineman Kris O'Dowd make this offensive line class the best in the Pete Carroll era? Despite a new strategy of early commit announcements, just who is out there in Trojan recruiting heaven that has not made a public commitment and just who will Carroll and recruiting coordinator Kiffin pull out of the Trojan helmet in 2006?

The Obvious – The Trojans are on track to sell out all six home games, something unheard of in USC history.

The Not So Obvious – Thanks to last season's average Coliseum attendance of 90, 812, the Trojans now hold a new Pac-10 record. In fact, the Trojans total attendance for both home and away games for last season was a combined was 79,813. Word on opposition streets are the Trojans remain the hot ticket in town and again figure to sellout all visiting venues.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Just what will scalper tickets be going for at the Notre Dame game, especially if one or both teams are in the national championship hunt? Perhaps as a little bit of a warm-up, how much will scalpers be asking for the home opener against Nebraska, which like the Irish, is already a sellout? And for good measure, just how much will it cost for a Trojan away game ticket if you didn't hit the recent lottery? Is USC ticket Office Director Debra Duncan the most envied or stressed out ticket manager in the Pac-10?

The Obvious – If the 2006 team gets the needed experience early and wins early, it figures that the USC Trojans could return to their accustomed national perch.

The Not So Obvious – You would think that the pressure would be off of the 2006 Trojans in September, considering that the nation's longest winning streak is now one for the ages and there are new household names to be discovered. As it should be at the beginning of 2006, the microscope of gridiron excellence is turned in the direction of South Bend, Columbus, Austin, and, yes, Morgantown. Just the fact that so many returning Trojan players believe it is their right to be No. 1 in the land should provide plenty of motivation, especially after Matt Leinart predicted on a recent national radio broadcast that he expected his alma mater to again be in the national championship game and to win it.

The Not So Obvious Big Questions – Can the Trojans live up to Leinart's prediction? Is the nation ready for an "Encore" performance in Pete Carroll's 6th season? If the Trojans get out of the box 3-0, will the barricades stretching from Heritage Hall to Goux Gate return with a new collection of security guards? And finally, will the Trojans remain Hollywood's team and will the Coliseum be the place again to be seen, so help me Will Farrell, Snoop Dogg, and Henry Winkler? Lights, camera, action!


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