The Not So Obvious – Putting the revenge factor aside, the national curiosity factor will be focused intensely at the sight of an inexperienced Trojan backfield, whose names of John David Booty, Ryan Powdrell, and C.J. Gable are not just yet nightly dinner conversation. Even Trojan fans are a bit anxious at the reality of a new era, a reality that really does make the college game so fresh and exciting from year to year. In 2006, there will be no Bush bailouts, experienced Leinart heroics, or thunderous White goal line penetrations. Their legacy is now woven deep into Trojan lore. However, don't feel too sorry for the Trojans, for those that have seen "the next wave" in practice are confident that if the Cardinal and Gold can escape their own inexperience, enviable turnovers, and the hostile and rancorous Ozark Mountain environment of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the Men of Troy could again place the nation on championship alert.
The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 7-point favorites to defeat the Razorbacks in Fayetteville
The Not So Obvious – The first thing you notice is that last year's Vegas spread was over 30 points, so that tells you just how much talent the odds makers think the Trojans have lost and how much they think the Razorbacks, in Fayetteville, can compete. Is Coach Houston Nutt's club really 50-points improved after last year's 70-17 shellacking to Pete Carroll's once-in-a-lifetime offense? Make no mistake about it, barring catastrophic turnovers, this one figures to be a tough one in the first half and could be just as tough in the second half, if the "new" Trojans commit calamitous turnovers, something somewhat foreign to Trojan fans these past four years. For those that point to last year's 70-17 slaughter, each quarter that the Razorbacks stay close, the more distance from last year's debacle will be in the mindset of the Hogs. However, it seems highly unlikely that the Razorbacks' new fledgling spread offense can withstand turnovers at the hands of Nick Holt's talented defense, just based on the speed and experience of Trojans like junior All-Pac-10 defensive end Lawrence Jackson and those piranha linebackers of coach Ken Norton.
The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday evening in Fayetteville calls for a high of 80 and partly cloudy and low of 54.
The Not So Obvious – Whoa! The weather prediction is the first big upset. Cool, man, cool! The O/NSO whether report questions whether the Trojans' offense under first-year starting quarterback John David Booty can continue to make progress and avoid self-destructing with interceptions, batted down passes, fumbles, and mistakes of inexperience. It remains to be seen whether offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian will pound on the Razorbacks early, which the O/NSO thinks is a good idea, or air it out immediately. If the inexperienced but talented Trojan running backs hold onto the pigskin, pick up blitzes, and the cardinal and gold offensive line can protect Booty from an expected all-out UA defensive attack, the Trojans' extraordinary receiving talent, led by junior All-American Dwayne Jarrett and senior Steve Smith, should again carve up the Razorback secondary. The feeling here, as mentioned, is that the Arkansas offense should be severely challenged by Trojans' defense. However, if the Razorback offense does get into a rhythm and confirms a major Trojan question of defending a smashmouth, at-you power rushing attack, there is no reason to believe this couldn't become a nail biter. We think that experienced junior Trojan field goal kicker Mario Danelo could be a deciding factor and we can visualize three Danelo field goals on Saturday evening.
The Obvious – Saturday night's game is being televised nationally on ESPN (5:45 PDT).
The Not So Obvious – Well, did you finally win the argument with the little woman and get yourself an HD television? If you did, you can watch Saturday night's Trojan opener on ESPN-HD. No matter which type of TV you watch, the announcers will be respected play-by-play veteran Mike Patrick with Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe providing the commentary and field reports, respectively.
The Obvious – The Trojans will debut their new KSPN-710 AM radio power with 7 1/2 hours of pre-game coverage and three hours of post-game coverage
The Not So Obvious – Yes, WeAreSC contributing writer Pete Arbogast will return to call the play-by-play on the Trojan network along with Paul McDonald providing the analysis. Sideline reporter this year will be another contributing WeAreSC staffer, John Jackson. As reported in the O/NSO, other talent will include Suzy Shuster, Curtis Conway, Darrell Rideaux, David Newbury, Dave Denholm, Jeff Biggs, and coach Harvey Hyde. In additional to former Trojans Conway, Rideaux, and Newbury, injured Trojan senior fullback Brandon Hancock is now in the mix along with ABC-TV sportscaster Curt Sandoval. Did we mention that a Spanish speaking version of Trojan games this season can be heard on KMXE- AM (83) with John Laguna and Adrian Garcia Marquez? Hell, this has a bigger cast than Ben-Hur and Braveheart. The Obvious – The Razorbacks have a new radio play-by-play voice in Mike Nail, who replaces the late Paul Eells who died July 31 in a tragic car crash.
The Not So Obvious - Eells, who was the Razorbacks' play-by-play announcer the previous 28 seasons, will be remembered this season with the letters "P. E." on the side of Razorback Helmets.
The Obvious – The Trojans return 11 starters, four on offense and six on defense.
The Not So Obvious – The Razorbacks return 20 starters, 10 on offense and nine on defense and one special teams performer.
The Obvious – The Trojans will debut new defensive coordinator Nick Holt, in his second tour of Trojan coaching duty, and the Razorbacks unveil new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
The Not So Obvious – Last year Holt was the head coach at the University of Idaho while Gus Malzahn was the head coach of local Springdale High. Now, do you really think that a high school coach can out-coach a former college head coach? Okay, but if you do, do you honestly think that a former high school head coach can out- maneuver Pete Carroll, considered by many the best defensive mind at any level of football? If yes is your answer, you need to immediately call your bookie and bet the house.
The Obvious – Junior John David Booty will get his first start as a Trojan quarterback while Arkansas will counter with experienced junior Robert Johnson (6-2, 216), who started the Razorbacks first 7 games last season.
The Not So Obvious – While Booty has been coming on strong in the last couple of weeks of practice, can John David demonstrate that he can connect with his second and third receivers if his primary route runner is unavailable? Can he "see" the field in his first starting outing? He's probably the best-known unproven quarterback in the country, thanks to his bayou legend. As for Johnson, who was once a blip on the Trojan recruiting radar screen, this is a kid who will be under an intense red and white microscope and an even shorter Houston Nutt Saturday night leash. Whether it happens on Saturday night, both starting quarterbacks will have former prep national players of the year waiting in the bullpen in Trojan redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez and Razorback true freshman Mitch Mustain (6-3, 205). Keep an eye on Mustain's availability because he is already the heartthrob of the locals and chants for his appearance is inevitable on Saturday.
The Obvious – The Trojans love their tradition of the Southern California spellout, followed many times by the beloved music of Conquest.
The Not So Obvious – Get ready for the "calling of those hogs" by the Arkansas faithful during various points of the game. The first "calling of the hogs" dates back to the 1920s. Don't be surprised to hear the "calling" at the airport, malls, and restaurants. The calling of the hogs begins with hands raised high in the air, fingers waving as the volume increases during the word "Woooooooooooooooooo." From there it's "Pig! Sooie!" The arms pump down on the word Pig and then back up into the air on the word Sooie." Not usually addressing the fight song or traditions of opponents, Pete Carroll did pump in the "Call of the Hogs" during this week's final practices in Los Angeles.
The Obvious – Senior middle linebacker Oscar Lua will start over sophomore prodigy Rey Maualuga.
The Not So Obvious – No shock here. In fact, it was a no brainer. You have Lua, a savvy senior, who was voted a captain by the team. That's all you needed to know. NO WAY were Pete Carroll and Ken Norton going to disrupt team chemistry on the first game in a hostile Arkansas neighborhood. Lua has the brains and experience and Rey may yet move Oscar out at some point, but that point doesn't being in Fayetteville. As they say in baseball, tie goes to the runner. For the Trojans a tie goes to the senior as well it should. Next week's film review and a bye week should be very interesting following Saturday night's middle linebacker auditions.
The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line, led by junior All-America left tackle Sam Baker and senior All-Pac-10 center Ryan Kalil, will have a big say on Saturday night's outcome.
The Not So Obvious – Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel, knows his unit has its work cut out on Saturday. He told the O/NSO, " It is really no advantage or disadvantage to have played them last year. The Arkansas front seven is very much improved from when we saw them last year. At the end of the year, they were very solid. They are now a year older and experienced. They are very athletic and run very well. We jumped on them so fast last year, it wasn't a true indication of the type of athletes they have." The Arkansas front seven, led by first-team All-SEC weakside linebacker Sam Olajubutu (5-9, 222), who 14 tackles last year against the Trojans, and senior tackle Keith Jackson (6-0, 292), will be formidable for the Trojans' offensive line.
The Obvious – A new Trojan offensive lineman to watch on Saturday evening will be senior right tackle Kyle Williams, whom Pat Ruel has said on more than one occasion should become an All-Pac-10 performer.
The Not So Obvious – Concerning Arkansas, Big Kyle said, " Although we had quick scores last year, they still had a good defense. I don't know if they had any real standouts, but they were a good unit. They were good at disguising their defensive sets and were in the gaps. I think our offensive line is ready. We have a lot of knowledge and know what each of us is going to do. We have Ryan (Kalil) and Sam (Baker); they are rocks. Drew (Radovich) is getting his chance and he just needed the opportunity. As for me. As for me, I am really looking forward to starting. I did play a lot two years ago when Deuce (Lutui) and I alternated at right tackle, so it's not like I don't have experience." You get the impression from talking the giant offensive tackle that he will be more than ready to make a contribution on Saturday. It is his time.
The Obvious – The Trojans mascot is Traveler, one of college football's most identifiable and beloved icons.
The Not So Obvious – The mascot for the Razorbacks is a hog. Thanks to Hugo Bezdek, the first Arkansas coach hired by the school and not the students, the coach is credited with changing the name of the mascot from Cardinals to Razorbacks. As a little secret, Tusk 1 is a Russian boar that closely resembles a Razorback hog, currently is the official live mascot and attends all home games. The live mascot tradition dates back to the 1960s.
The Obvious – With Chauncey Washington expected to see limited carries, freshman C.J. Gable will be the first freshman-starting tailback in Trojan history.
The Not So Obvious – So what can of running style can Trojan fans expect of C.J. on Saturday night? C.J. said, "I can do anything. I can do different things. I can pound it or I can get a long run. We have watched film of Arkansas and I am just trying to know my plays and don't mess up. I have had to learn how to play faster and know what to do. As far as Arkansas, everybody looks good and Coach Todd McNair has said to watch out for that linebacker (Sam Olajubutu). He loves to bull rush."
The Obvious – Todd McNair is the Trojans highly respected running backs coach, who knows that Arkansas will be no walk in the park for his young ball carriers.
The Not So Obvious – McNair told the O/NSO, " Arkansas has a sound defensive scheme. They have a lot of athletes and are very talented, especially No. 44 (linebacker Freddie Fairchild) No. 24 (Olajubutu). That kid (Olajubutu) plays fast, is very active kid, makes plays, tough, and reminds me of (Matt) Grootegoed." As for C.J. Gable's probable debut, McNair said, "He works extremely hard and is pretty consistent. His attitude is like a workhorse attitude. He finishes runs and he takes notes. He is very coachable." And what about the possibility of seeing freshman Allen Bradford on Saturday? "Bradford fits that "thunder" mold. He obviously just came over from defense and a little behind in his development, but let's not forget Ryan Powdrell. He is good to go and he just eats yards and drags people with him."
The Obvious – The Trojans team bus will arrive about two hours before game time.
The Not So Obvious – The Arkansas Razorbacks will arrive about two hours before game time and do their own version of the Trojan Walk. The Razorback team will walk through the AT&T Trough and into the north end of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Obvious – The Trojans will feature a new fullback in senior Ryan Powdrell 6-0, 255) and the Razorbacks return junior Peyton Hillis (6-3, 238)
The Not So Obvious – These two could figure prominently because of their different skills. Powdrell could still be the offensive surprise this year. Running back coach Todd McNair loves him and he is a load to bring down and can catch the ball. As for Hillis, who showed talent last year against the Trojans, the junior from Conway (Ark.) has been listed as the No. 1 junior fullback in mock NFL draft projections. Hillis is a major threat both running and catching. It should very interesting to see the potential collisions between Hillis, a sociology major, and Trojan sophomore linebacker Rey Maualuga (6-3, 250).
The Obvious – One of the highlights of any home game at the Coliseum is when the Trojan Marching Band takes the field as the Men of Troy warm up.
The Not So Obvious – The Razorback Marching Band concludes each home pre-game performance by transforming its 280-plus band into a giant "A." The band then marches the length of the field bringing to the top of the "A" to rest in the end zone nearest the Arkansas locker room. With the band playing, the Razorbacks run through artificial smoke as the fight song is played. As an added touch, it is a coaching tradition for the Razorbacks to be lead onto the field by the head coach, in this case, Houston Nutt. According to former Razorback Outland Trophy winner Loyd Phillips, "The butterflies are flowing and you are running, but it doesn't feel like your feet are even touching the ground."
The Obvious – There will be much attention paid on Saturday evening to the performances of Trojan defensive tackles Chris Barrett (6-5, 265) and Fili Moala (6-4, 295), a junior and sophomore, respectively.
The Not So Obvious – Talk about a weight disparity? This Trojan position has been a major concern and these two friends will be thoroughly tested by a veteran Arkansas offensive line that has a combined 75 career starts. These Hogs are big with senior left guard Stephen Parker (6-4, 313), senior left tackle Tony Ugoh (6-5, 300), junior right guard Robert Felton (6-4, 321), senior right tackle Zac Tubbs (6-6, 330), and sophomore center Jonathan Luigs (6-4, 305).
The Obvious – The Trojan secondary figures to get an early test with the Razorbacks' new spread offense.
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans young corners, sophomores Kevin Thomas (6-1, 180) and Cary Harris (6-0, 180) and junior Terrell Thomas (6-1, 200), will have their hands full with talented 6-5 receiver Marcus Monk (13.7 avg., 7 TD's 2005). It figures that, like the Trojan receivers, there will extended moments when the Razarbacks look to take advantage of Monk's height. Monk was impressive last year in the Coliseum.
The Obvious – All-SEC first-team sophomore tailback Darren McFadden (6-2, 213) is back practicing but is questionable for Saturday.
The Not So Obvious – Don't feel sorry for the Razorbacks. Sophomore standout Felix Jones (6-0, 208), who hails from Tulsa, has the speed and the Trojans know it from last year. Heck, Jones averaged 6.3 yards per carry, which actually tied the kinesiology major and future teacher, with McFadden.
The Obvious – Trojan fans are weary of special teams coverage on kickoffs and punt returns.
The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans will be placing a large number of talented players on the kickoff team, Arkansas presents a unique challenge in that tailback Felix Jones may also be the best in the nation on kickoff returns, having averaged 31.9 yards a return last season.
The Obvious – A key to the Trojans defense on Saturday night will be the performance of Trojan junior nose tackle Sedrick Ellis (6-1, 295) and new Arkansas sophomore center Jonathan Luigs (6-4, 305), a member of the SEC Coaches Freshman All-SEC Team.
The Not So Obvious – Luigs is no stranger to the Razorback offensive line, as he played along the line last year with a couple of games at center when ailing senior center Kyle Roper had issues. Luigs and Ellis are considered very physical players and how Sedrick does plugging the middle could be key for Trojan dominance. Luigs is considered a smart player, as the Little Rock native is a member of the Lon Farrell Academic Honor Roll, majoring in transportation and logistics.
The Obvious – Most fans attending the game will head to Dickson St. before and after the game for the ultimate game day experience of a Razorback football game.
The Not So Obvious – So how wild does it get down on Dickson on Friday and Saturday? According to Arkansas official Matt Shanklin, "It gets pretty loaded down on Dickson Street, both literally and figuratively, if you know what I mean." FYI, Dickson St. is about a 10-minute walk to the stadium, according to Shanklin.
The Obvious – There is nothing like fighting the traffic for sold out games at the Coliseum.
The Not So Obvious – For those attending the game in Fayetteville, we are advised by the Arkansas Marketing Department that parking is a real mess on game day, and Trojan fans would be well advised to show up four hours prior to the game. The perimeter of the campus will be shut down for traffic by that time and fans are advised to arrive early and use general public parking at the baseball field. There is a free shuttle from the baseball field to the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Obvious – The Trojans figure to play a large number of their top-ranked recruiting class against the Razorbacks.
The Not So Obvious – If you go by the current depth chart, players like nose guard Alex Parsons, right tackle Butch Lewis, fullback Stanley Havili, and safeties Taylor Mays and Antwine Perez will see action. Of course, what we see on paper doesn't always equate to playing time. The new tailbacks figure to see action and as will wide receivers Travon Patterson, Vidal Hazelton, and Anthony McCoy. Better have your numerical roster handy.
The Obvious – Up until last week, the Trojans have generally had open practices leading up to the opener at Arkansas.
The Not So Obvious – Under Houston Nutt, Arkansas practices in the past have been open to the public, much like the Trojans. However, that changed this year, thanks to first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Malzahn said, "It was probably more me than anybody. We can't afford to give anybody an edge, can't afford to take a chance. I hope our fans understand we're going to do everything we can to help us win." FYI, it also has been reported that former defensive line coach and second-year Mississippi coach Ed Orgeron has reportedly closed practice this season.
The Obvious – Arkansas sent an allotment of 6, 000 tickets to the Trojans for Saturday's game.
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans sold about 5, 600 tickets and returned the remainder back to Arkansas. The Trojans 6,000 tickets were the same as Arkansas received for the Razorback's game last year in Los Angeles. "I know we had some (Arkansas) fans who bought tickets through USC," said Mark Scobey, Arkansas' ticket manager. "But we also had some USC fans buy tickets from us."
The Obvious – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium has a capacity of 72,000.
The Not So Obvious – The arrival of the Trojans in the South has peaked such ticket demand that the stadium has undergone construction of additional south-end seating, brought in specifically for Saturday night's game.
The Obvious – Saturday night's game is the earliest sellout in Razorback history since the stadium was expanded to 72,000 in 2001.
The Not So Obvious – Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said, "We are excited that we will have a full house for our game against USC. Our fans are always a big factor in any home game. I know that they will be out in full force for our season opener. Our coaches and players truly appreciate the Razorback fans. We are looking forward to running out of the "A" and hearing the cheers of a capacity crowd."
The Obvious – The Trojans have a fine medium range field goal kicker in junior Mario Danelo, who not only established NCAA, Pac-10, and USC season records for PATs (83) and PAT attempts (86), but has converted on his last 11 field goal attempts.
The Not So Obvious – There will be a vast experience difference for the Arkansas when it comes to field goals. The Razorbacks will counter with a new field goal kicker in Stephen Arnold (6-0, 186), a sophomore international business from McKinney, Texas, who has yet to attempt a field goal in his career. Arnold's dad played football at Southern Arkansas.
The Obvious – The Trojan Marching Band will have approximately 79 senior members in Fayetteville to keep the Spirit of Troy alive in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
The Not So Obvious – According to band sources, due to the large amount of band paraphernalia needed to be transported, a larger plane was needed to do the transportation and this wouldn't work flying into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. So, the abbreviated version of the band was forced to fly with a bigger plane into Tulsa. Hey, what's a two-hour drive for the Spirit of Troy?
The Obvious – In a battle royal for the kicking position, it appears that sophomore Troy Van Blarcom has held off the challenge of transfer David Buehler, who has shown a major league leg in practice.
The Not So Obvious – Buehler really put the pressure on Van Blarcom during practice. What makes Buehler so impressive is the fact a new rule instituted this year is that the height of the kicking tee has been lowered to one inch. The change was hoped to increase the number of explosive returns, which, of course, creates better field position. It would not shock us if Buehler was given an opportunity after Van Blarcom's opening kick, especially if there is a big Felix Jones return. Talk about pressure to nail it in the end zone and hang time. Holy competition!
The Obvious – The NCAA has attempted to create a new rule to speed up the game.
The Not So Obvious – If you are at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium or watching ESPN and think the game seems shorter, it could be because another new rule that now says on the change of possession, the game clock will start once the referee spots the ball ready for play. In the past, the clock would start on change of possession when the ball was snapped as opposed to being ready for play. Got that? Oh and let's not forget that the clock will start on kickoffs when the kicker kick the ball. In the past, it was when the receiver caught the ball. Don't' forget the improved Instant Replay rule that coaches have now have one challenge per game. If you win, you don't lose a time out. If you lose, so long time out.
The Obvious – There is a tight bond between the Trojan team and the Trojans Marching Band, a priority set especially high with Pete Carroll, who has directed the band in post game celebration with his players, both home and away.
The Not So Obvious – When Houston Nutt took over the Arkansas program, he instituted a sharing tradition with the Razorback fans. When the Razorbacks win a home game, Nutt and his players gather in front of the student section and lead the singing of the fight song.
The Obvious – A number of practices have closed with the Trojan team gathered around Pete Carroll to sing "Fight On."
The Not So Obvious – One of the first things that Arkansas freshmen learn during two-a-day practices is how to sing the Arkansas fight song, a tune written in the late 1920s.
The Obvious – The Trojans will be wearing their away white uniforms, but will wear their traditional colored helmet with the Trojan decal on each side of the headgear.
The Not So Obvious – The Razorbacks' helmets feature a white running Razorback on the UA cardinal-colored helmets, which date back to 1964. One of the big fan items at Razorback games is the "Hog Hat" – a red plastic "lid" molded into the shape of a running Razorback.
The Obvious – The USC Alumni clubs of Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, Oklahoma, and St. Louis are hosting the Saturday pregame activities.
The Not So Obvious – For those that wish to participate in the revelry on the Arkansas campus on Saturday, the tailgaters opens at 3:00 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena, a venue switch due to a expected large Trojan turnout. The good times will feature a dinner and non-alcoholic beverages, door prizes, and, of course, the Trojan Marching Band and the USC Song Girls.
The Obvious – For home games, Trojan fans have their Fan Fest on the Christmas tree lawn area of the peristyle end of the Coliseum.
The Not So Obvious – Arkansas has a similar setup in the north end of Donald W. Reynolds Stadium with a food court and fan interactive games. Sponsored by AT&T and with a "Hogs" flavor, it is appropriately named the AT&T Trough.
The Obvious – Most Trojan fans have received tickets for the game that are in Sections 111, 511, and 512.
The Not So Obvious – Trojan fans, bring some sunscreen and a hat because you'll be facing sunset. FYI, those seats in the 500 level will require that you walk up ramps, according to the Arkansas Marketing Department. The good news is that the Arkansas team is on the press box side and the Trojan fans will at least be sitting on the same sideline as the Cardinal and Gold.
The Obvious – The Trojans Delta charter flew into Fayetteville early Thursday evening.
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans are staying at the Embassy Suites in Rogers, Arkansas. The Arkansas campus is located 20 miles south of Rogers. The Embassy Suites is considered a luxury hotel and has the usual Embassy Suites breakfast host.
The Obvious – The Trojans are not the only Pac-10 team playing this weekend and a number games can be seen on both your new HD set and the "normal" kind.
The Not So Obvious – Got that remote in hand? Okay, lets start with the Stanford "New Stadium" Cardinal at "Choose a uniform color" Oregon (12:30 p.m., ABC). From there, it's "Our year" Cal at Tennessee (2:30 p.m. ESPN), Utah at "Ben's the man" UCLA (4:00 p.m., FSN), "We can score" Washington State at Auburn (4:45 p.m., ESPN2), and BYU at "We love our defense and our Willie quarterback" Arizona (7:15 p.m., TBS). All times are Pacific.
The Obvious – And finally, there have been a number of questions directed at the Trojans during practice and many will be answered to some degree on Saturday evening
The Not So Obvious – Is this the beginning of the John David Booty era? Are the freshmen running backs ready for a super hostile environment at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium? Has the Trojan defense recovered by talent and coaching to make the 2005 nothing more than an anomaly? No, we didn't forget Desmond Reed back returning punts and getting maybe a carry or two. How'bout that! The college football world wants to know if the 2006 Trojan Trojans are reloading or rebuilding. Time will tell and that time is only hours away.