O/NSO - Nebraska preview

Riding the crest of a 27-game home winning streak, 33 consecutive regular-season victories, and a recent wave of hair-raising injuries, the USC Trojans, ranked No. 2 in USA Today and No. 4 in the AP, reunite with another charter member of the Storied Football Programs Society, the No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers, on Saturday evening (5:00 p.m., PDT) in a soldout Coliseum.

The Obvious – Riding the crest of a 27-game home winning streak, 33 consecutive regular-season victories, and a recent wave of hair-raising injuries, the USC Trojans, ranked No. 2 in USA Today and No. 4 in the AP, reunite with another charter member of the Storied Football Programs Society, the No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers, on Saturday evening (5:00 p.m., PDT) in a soldout Coliseum, providing an ABC nationally televised audience a chance to view this gridiron debate over their 2006 validity.

The Not So Obvious – With the Cornhuskers making their first Coliseum appearance since 1970, baby, this one figures to be will an evening of big-time college football and tradition, considering that between them the Trojans (1-0, 0-0 Pac-10) and the Cornhuskers (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) display 16 national championships, 87 bowl appearances and 10 Heisman Trophy winners. The Huskers want the Trojans to be a proving ground and the Trojans want the Huskers to be a steppingstone. With a capacity combination of rabid Trojan and Nebraska fans and some Husker braggadocio, Saturday night's Coliseum sellout has all the hype of a Las Vegas heavyweight championship bout.

The Obvious - These Cornhuskers are obviously not your daddy's memories of Johnny Rogers, Mike Rozier, and Tommie Frazier but then again, these Trojans are not your daddy's Paul Hackett Trojans either.

The Not So Obvious - Each team has undergone a program transformation of epic proportions and it reflects in the past five years of play, as the Trojans have been as good as ever while the Cornhuskers remind the O/NSO of the Nebraska version of the Ted Tollner era. Both fabled programs have a lot to prove on Saturday night and a long ago sold-out Coliseum figures to be rocking to its Olympic foundations. The Cornhuskers are riding a 5-game winning streak while the Trojans have won 46 of their past 48 games, and it won't be easy for the Huskers to beat the Trojans in their home opener, since the Men of Troy have won 80.6% of season debuts at the Coliseum.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 17-point favorites to defeat the Cornhuskers in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – This is going to be one interesting game because when you look at the two offenses, they run similar plays and formations. We were there in person in Fayetteville for the Trojans' season opener and we watched the replay of the Huskers victory over Louisiana Tech, plus bits of the Nicholls State win. We were amused how much the offenses of the Trojans and Huskers mirrored each other. It also means that both the Trojan and Cornhusker defenses also have had a good look, since they dealt with their own offenses every workout since spring. It's hard to predict what the score will be, but the O/NSO believes if the Trojans' defensive line can do its job, the Trojan offense should get enough opportunities to have their way with the Husker secondary.

The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday evening in Los Angeles calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 74 and a low of 59.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report is whether the Trojans are as good as they looked against Arkansas or did the Razorback turnovers make this team look better than they are? Will the Cornhuskers immediately go after freshman safety Taylor Mays with their West Coast offense or will they try to sucker the kid in with play-action, beginning with NU tailback Marlon Lucky? Either way, all eyes will be on the Trojans' rebuilt defensive line and secondary as NU senior quarterback Zac Taylor, who is now the seventh all-time yardage passer in Husker history, attempts to light up the Coliseum torch. The long-range weather forecast is whether a four-quarters loss of nose tackle Sedrick Ellis, safety Josh Pinkard, and the uncertainty of All-Pac-10 center Ryan Kalil, bends the Trojans to a perilous breaking point. Did we even mention strong safety Kevin Ellison?

The Obvious – Saturday night's game is being televised nationally on ABC (5:00 PDT) and the broadcast team will include Brett Musburger, Bob Davie, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lisa Salters.

The Not So Obvious – ABC wasted no time in promoting Saturday's game, beginning last week when the Trojan Marching Band appeared on the popular morning show, Good Morning America. With a helicopter's view of the TMB forming GMA for Good Morning America, host Robin Roberts reminded viewers of the "Big One" featuring the Trojans and Nebraska as the TMB played "Fight On."

The Obvious –Trojan fans, thanks to the power of new radio station 710 ESPN, should have little trouble receiving the Trojans' post-game and call-in shows with David Newbury and Darrell Rideaux, once past the Orange County line.

The Not So Obvious – While the Trojans are now booming into all part of SoCal and some outlying states, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are on a 51-station network which branches out across various parts of the country. However, the area that the Huskers use to cover, Southern California, is no more. As a young pup, we used to listen to the great Don Gill doing Cornhusker play-by-play on KGIL (we could be wrong on the call letters). Gill is no more and the current voice of the red and white is now Jim Rose.

The Obvious – On the importance of Saturday night's game, Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor told the Omaha World-Herald "The media's going to build it up, but it's not a game that's going to make or break our season."

The Not So Obvious – Well, Zackster, that remains to be seen, but we have heard these types of comments all too many times concerning the Cardinal and Gold. The importance for both teams is top shelf and if the Huskers are taken behind the Shrine Auditorium and given a numerical spanking, it will draw some heavy criticism from the Cornheads. For the Trojans, there is this thought of playing for another national title and nobody can say otherwise.

The Obvious – When the Trojans are on the road and play east of the Mississippi, they tend to arrive for an opponent on a Thursday.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhuskers arrive in the SoCal on Friday morning and will be staying at the Glendale Hilton.

The Obvious – The Trojans will start junior John David Booty at quarterback while the Huskers will present senior Zac Taylor.

The Not So Obvious – In case you missed it, Trojan offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin gave Booty big props in the Lincoln Journal Star. Comparing Booty with Matt Leinart, Kiffin said, "We think John David Booty has a better arm than Matt Leinart. We think, in some ways, there are things we can do better with John David than we did with Matt." Kiffin also told the Star Journal that John David is more accurate threading the needle in close quarters than Leinart.

The Obvious – Both John David Booty and Zac Taylor will be focal points in the keys to victory.

The Not So Obvious - As for comparisons between Booty and Taylor, both are about 6-2 and weigh in at 210 pounds. Booty completes an eyebrow-raising 68.6% of his passes while Taylor converts an eye-popping 73% of his. John David had three touchdown passes in his first game while Taylor has seven scoring passes in two games. Neither is from the state they call "home" as John David is from Shreveport, LA, while Zac is from Norman, Oklahoma. They do differ in their education, as Booty's major is sociology while Taylor will get his degree in communication studies.

The Obvious – Former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller, who has transferred to Nebraska, has given the inside scoobie on the Trojans to Husker starting quarterback Zac Taylor.

The Not So Obvious – In the Lincoln Journal Star, Taylor said, "He (Keller) knows what works and doesn't work. Don't force big plays. They're disciplined, like we've known, and he told us about that. He told us the passing lane can collapse a lot quicker than you're used to. Those guys are so good, so fast. You think you see a lane, and the next thing you know, it's gone." Thanks, Sam, it certainly doesn't hurt the Trojans cause to implant into Taylor's psyche before the game that the Men of Troy "are so good, so fast."

The Obvious – Junior corner Terrell Thomas will help lead a restructured Trojan secondary against the high-octane Husker offense.

The Not So Obvious – Despite playing less than formidable opponents, the O/NSO was still impressed by the sheer execution of the NU offense. We asked Terrell his evaluation of the Husker offense starting with quarterback Zac Taylor. Terrell said, "He a read good, pro-style quarterback. Their offense has put up 100 points in two games so we know they can score. They are a lot like us offensively in their shifts and dummy motion. We are so similar. They have a lot of different receivers and their big name receiver is (Maurice) Purify. My personal goal is to go out and play and have no missed tackles."

The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 157 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhusker passing attack is averaging 284.5 yards per game.

The Obvious– The Trojans will start freshman safety Taylor Mays (6-4, 225) in place of the injured junior Josh Pinkard.

The Not So Obvious – Well, we're going to find out mighty quick if frosh Trojan safety Mays is ready for some football. Somehow and somewhere on Saturday night, Trojan fans will be hoping for a Taylor to Taylor interception, as in Zac Taylor to Taylor Mays. If any freshman is ready for the challenge, this mature-beyond-his-years physical specimen is ready. No question he will make some mistakes, but he has looked good in practice and late this week, Pete Carroll even stood side-by-side with the kid during skeleton drills, once grabbing his jersey to get him to avoid making a mistake.

The Obvious – With the devastating loss of junior free safety Josh Pinkard, the Trojans will rely on sophomore strong safety Kevin Ellison (6-1, 220) this week, to be the secondary glue.

The Not So Obvious – Ironically, just at the end of camp, the O/NSO asked Josh Pinkard who would be the surprise on defense this year? Without hesitation, Josh said emphatically that Kevin Ellison, who tweaked a knee earlier this week but is expected to play, would be the one player that would surprise Trojan fans in 2006. In fact, he repeated it twice for good measure.

The Obvious Pete Carroll said that if Kevin Ellison has issues on Saturday, freshman Antwine Perez could start or see action.

The Not So Obvious – If ever there was a poster boy for early enrollment to out of high school, it could be Perez. Participating in spring ball is now looking bigger and bigger. Now in your wildest dreams, did you ever envision the Trojans starting or playing two freshmen safeties together against the Nebraska Cornhuskers?

The Obvious – Trojan head coach Pete Carroll, in his sixth season as USC coach, was once the head coach for the New York Jets and New England Patriots while Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan, in his third season as coach of the Cornhuskers, was once the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

The Not So Obvious – Callahan grew up on the south side of Chicago playing quarterback at Mendel Catholic High while Pete Carroll played quarterback at Redwood High in Larkspur, California. Carroll is 54-years-old while Callahan is 50-years-old. Callahan has his degree in physical education from Illinois Benedictine while Carroll has his degree from Pacific in business education.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense is averaging 50 points per game and 472 yards in total offense.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhusker defense is allowing 17 points per game and allowing 246 yards in total defense.

The Obvious – The Trojans will attempt to utilize junior tight end Fred Davis (6-4, 260) with the same success they had against Arkansas.

The Not So Obvious– Trojans fans who believe there is a trend of opposing teams finding success with their own tight ends, you might need some more Advil. Huskers' tight end Matt Herian (6-5, 245) is a good one, who is the all-time NU tight end leader in receptions (60). Quarterback Taylor loves this big guy from Pierce, Neb., and the recently married tight end is also considered an accomplished speaker at local organizations.

The Obvious – Saturday night's Trojan home opener will be the debut of Dr. Arthur C. Bartner's Trojan Marching Band in the Sun Deck of the peristyle end of the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO has been told this year's band numbers are close to 280 performers and the 2006 drum major is Daniel Lichtmann. Well, guess we'll know shortly if the new seating arrangement is a hit or a miss. Beware of large speakers if you are in a front row. That, of course, is not to suggest there will be such speakers.

The Obvious – The Trojans array of tailbacks added a new member to the regular group as freshman Stafon Johnson was taken off the scout team and added to the "committee" rotation of Chauncey Washington, C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, and Allen Bradford.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhuskers also bring a "committee" with a trio of diversified and talented backs including explosive sophomore Marlon Lucky (6-0, 210), the former Trojan recruit from North Hollywood High, sophomore power back Cody Glenn (6-0, 230), and talented JC transfer Kenny Wilson (6-0, 200). Having watched all three Huskers in action, the O/NSO says the Trojans' defense will have their hands full with these attack-style running backs.

The Obvious – With the playing status of linebacker Oscar Lua in doubt, the Trojans will start sophomore Rey Maualuga against the Huskers.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO caught up with Rey this week at practice and asked him about the Husker running backs and the NU offensive line. Rey said, " I played with running back Marlon Lucky in the U.S. Army All-America Game last year. He was very fast, swift, and could really juke. Watching him now on film, he runs now like a power runner and really hits the gaps. Their offense likes to runs powers, tosses, and draws. Their offensive line would like to hit us in the mouth, mainly. Our linebackers will really have to run around them." Rey also told us he enjoys the "manly" aspect of playing Nebraska and takes it as a challenge to play a physical game.

The Obvious – The Cornhusker offense is averaging 52.5 points per game and 541 yards in total offense.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 14 points per game and allowing 287 yards per game in total defense.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive coordinator is Lane Kiffin, who is the only Trojan coach on the staff who has been with Pete Carroll for all six years.

The Not So Obvious – Nebraska offensive coordinator is Jay Norvell, who coached for the Raiders in the Super Bowl under Bill Callahan. In fact, including Callahan, there are four coaches on the Cornhusker staff that have either coached or played in a Super Bowl.

The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 192 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhusker rush defense is allowing 254 yards per game.

The Obvious – One of the keys to the game will be the competition between Trojan starting senior offensive right tackle Kyle Williams (6-6, 300), called an All-Pac-10 candidate by offensive line coach Pat Ruel, and the Cornhuskers senior all-star defensive end candidate, Adam Carriker (6-6, 295), who has a sack in nine of 14 games since the start of 2005.

The Not So Obvious – Well, when you want to know where some of the talent in the state of Washington has gone, please note that Carriker is from Kennewick, Washington. Now before you jump to any conclusions, note that Adam was born in Hastings, Neb., which is his father's hometown. In fact, Adam's brother, Darren, lives in Hastings as does most of his father's family still lives in Nebraska.

The Obvious – The Trojans junior All-America left tackle Sam Baker will be the object of some intense scrutiny by pro scouts on Saturday evening, especially when he is up against the Huskers' pre-season All-America defensive end Adam Carriker.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO asked Super Sam on Wednesday about his match-up with Carriker and the Huskers defensive line in general. Sam said, "Their line is good and so is Carriker. Their line is big, strong, and physical. They like to place emphasis on the 3-technique tackle. I will be facing both defensive ends since they flip their ends. (Jay) Moore (6-4, 280), the other end, is big and is faster than Carriker. We're just going to have to come out fast, play hard from the beginning, and move them around. It's more about us and how we perform than about them."

The Obvious – Sophomore offensive guard Jeff Byers is expected to miss an extended amount of time after he undergoes back surgery for a probable cyst on Friday.

The Not So Obvious – Not only do the Trojans lose an intense and battling Byers, who had some tremendous downfield blocks against Arkansas, but a potential back-up center if redshirt freshman Nick Howell, who has worked with the first team, isn't quite ready. Howell is very sound and a favorite of coach Pat Ruel, but the kid from Fresno still needs more time in the weight room in development.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 130 yards rushing per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhusker rushing game is averaging 256.5 yards per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans all-star junior nose Sedrick Ellis (6-1, 295) suffered a non-contact knee injury during practice on Monday and will be out for at least three weeks, according to Pete Carroll on the Petros Papadakis Show.

The Not So Obvious – It wasn't the worst case scenario and it wasn't the best base scenario, so now the Trojans will ask converted 3-tchnique tackle Fili Moala to fill a hole. Conversely, NU's All-Big 12 senior center Kurt Mann (6-4, 290), who did not play last weekend, thus ending a streak of 24 starts, will miss Saturday night's game due to a bout with a "virus." Hartselle, Alabama native Brett Byford, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound junior, is expected to start at center for the Huskers on Saturday opposite Moala. Suddenly the spotlight is shinning over the pigskin before it gets snapped. This match-up between Moala and Byford could decide how much running room there is for Husker backs and how much time Zac Taylor gets in scoping his receivers.

The Obvious – The bigger question is who backs up Fili Moala?

The Not So Obvious – Let's look at the bright side. Moala and Chris Barrett will be motivated as friends now playing side by side. Now who now backs up both of these bosom buddies? Will it be redshirt freshman Averell Spicer (6-2, 295) or true freshman Alex Parsons (6-4, 260)? Let's go a step further, so who now backs up Chris Barrett at defensive tackle? Could we be seeing the unveiling of freshman Walker Lee Ashley (6-4, 305) or will it be simply a surprise?

The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging 280.0 yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhusker pass defense is allowing 119 yards per game.

The Obvious – It is well documented now that Trojans' receiver coach Lane Kiffin was rather candid in his comments about the underperformance, in his opinion, of the much ballyhooed cardinal and gold receivers.

The Not So Obvious – It will certainly be interesting to see how junior All-America Dwayne Jarrett reacts to the stinging criticism. Nebraska safety junior safety Tierre Green (6-1, 200) also made some rather bold comments about leaving Los Angeles with a victory, so that got the attention of the Trojan catchers. Look for the Trojans to also attack junior corner Andre Jones (6-0, 195), a transfer who made his first start against Louisiana Tech in the Huskers' opener in Lincoln and, of course, and he of the now famous "victory" prediction. Considering how feeble the Nicholls State passing game was, it would figure the Trojans may strike early and often in the air. You can also assume the Trojans receivers would love to hang the two Husker defenders out to dry in front of a national TV audience.

The Obvious – The Trojans are coming off of a bye and talkative NU cornerback Andre Jones said, "That was not done by accident. That was purposely, to prepare for us. Obviously, they're concerned about some things, which is a smart move by them. No telling what's going to happen out there, but I just got a feeling we're going to come out of there victorious."

The Not So Obvious – Well, the same could be said of the Huskers who took out a gridiron insurance policy for the game with the Trojans by scheduling a home game in Lincoln against Troy following the real Trojans. See Andre, your Husker coaches were also thinking.

The Obvious – The Trojans feature an outstanding field goal kicker in junior Mario Danelo, who hit on three field goals at Arkansas but did miss an extra point.

The Not So Obvious – The Huskers feature place-kicker Jordan Congdon (5-11, 175), a sophomore who was a first-team freshman All-American in 2005 and converted a record 19 field goals last season combined with 45 straight PATs. Although it doesn't figure this game will go down to the wire, that doesn't mean that Danelo and Congdon won't have an effect in the outcome.

The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 50 penalty yards per game.

The Not So Obvious – The Cornhuskers are averaging 65 penalty yards per game.

The Obvious – The Trojans' pre-game FanFest will again be in full swing before each home game and include the usual booths except for a new one that came to our attention, the Stubhub Ticket Pick-up booth.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO contacted the Trojans Marketing Department and here was their reply to just what the StubHub booth was all about. According to the marketing department, "The StubHub Ticket Pick-Up will be giving out some free promotional items, along with allowing people who purchased tickets from StubHub.com to pick them up there."

The Obvious – There is a sense of mystery over what scalpers will be asking during the day around the Coliseum, especially if there really is an avalanche of Husker fans.

The Not So Obvious – As of late Thursday evening, tickets prices at StubHub seemed to be going down, if you call a range of $118 - $690 as going down.

The Obvious – The Trojans are 86-18-7 (.826) in home openers and all 92,000 seats have been sold for their 2006 Coliseum debut.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday's home opener, of course, is a sellout and how many of you thought Pete Carroll was full of himself when he said years ago that someday he wanted every Coliseum home game to be a sellout? As for Pete Carroll home openers, attendance is a story in itself. Since 45,468 turned out for the 2001 opener against San Jose State, the attendance has been 63,269 (2002 – Auburn), 75,315 (2004 – BYU), 85,521 (2004 -Colorado St), and 90,411 (2005 – Arkansas).

The Obvious – The Trojans have no players from Nebraska on their roster.

The Not So Obvious – According a Nebraska pre-game press release, there are 20 Californian on their roster.

The Obvious – As is the case with the first home game, the Trojans have special plans for their 92,000 guests.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday night's game is Poster Day. Fans will receive a 2006 Schedule Poster with Trojan All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett as the prime star. Not to be outdone, the California Highway Patrol will be passing out Lynn Swann trading cards to those walking by their booth.

The Obvious – In a story in the Times by Gary Klein on Tuesday, there has been a reduction of student tickets for home football games.

The Not So Obvious – The reduction of 12,000 to 8,000 designated student seats was based, according to university data, on the number of actual students attending games. While those seats will be obviously sold without a problem, it brings to mind a number of conversations the O/NSO has had at practice with prominent alumni. With Dr. Sample's USC academic standards so high, is the University bringing in too many "study-a-bots" as opposed to rah-rah students, who will keep the tradition and spirit alive? What about future alumni financial donations? It is a legitimate concern based on the number of students not attending games.

The Obvious – The Trojans aren't the only Pac-10 team on the tube this weekend.

The Not So Obvious – The "This will prove we're a contender" Oregon, hosts "Can we borrow a quarterback" Oklahoma (12:30 p.m., ABC) while "Team Turmoil" Arizona State travels to "Team Terrible" Colorado (4:00 p.m., TBS).

The ObviousAnd finally, the Trojans will come down that Coliseum tunnel for the first time in 2006 and it figures they will receive the type of ovation reserved for superpower status.

The Not So Obvious – No question there will be intense electricity in the air on Saturday evening. It will be intriguing to see how the Trojans adjust to the loss of big-timers Josh Pinkard, Sedrick Ellis, and the current health status of center Ryan Kalil. With the knowledge that the defense might be hurting a bit, it looks like Pete Carroll will have to depend on the results of his deep recruiting classes to get it done. However, based on the anticipated attendance figures for this season's sold out Coliseum, it would appear that Carroll can also depend on the additional 45,000 fans he has "recruited" from 2001 to help take up the defensive slack.


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