The Not So Obvious – The Trojans will be looking for win No. 29 in their legendary home, and Saturday will be their only true day game of the season. The last time the University of Southern California Trojans had only one day game in a season was 1906, one hundred years ago. How much does playing in the Coliseum affect the Cardinal and Gold? Well, the Trojans have a 387-122-27 (.747) all-time record in the Grand Old Lady since the stadium opened in 1923. Needless to say, the Trojans may need all a Coliseum home field advantage can offer with the season's biggest challenges yet to come.
The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 22 1/2-point favorites to defeat the Huskies in Los Angeles.
The Not So Obvious – Last year in Seattle, the top-ranked Trojans scored 37 first-half points and crushed the Huskies 51-24. Quarterback Matt Leinart completed 20-of-26 passes for 201 yards and four TDs, receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who is wait-and-see for Saturday, had seven receptions, including three TD catches, and Reggie Bush has a spectacular 84-yard scoring punt return. So despite the Trojans' less than dominating recent performances and considering the Trojans no longer have Leinart and Bush, the boys in Las Vegas still believe that playing the Men of Troy in the Coliseum is as close to a lock as it gets. Of course, playing the point spread with these Trojans can be a risky business.
The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 73 and a low of 56.
The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report questions weather the Trojans' defense can control and/or even sack Husky quarterback Isaiah Stanback. The human water wiggle can create havoc for Nick Holt's defense, a defense that has left more questions than answers after the Washington State offensive revelation. Conversely, Trojans' offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will look to take advantage of the worst pass defense in the conference, but can coach Pat Ruel's inconsistent offensive line provide as good a Trojan running game, which ranks fifth in the Pac-10, as it does in pass protection? We'll also find out just how much a sold out Coliseum means to the Cardinal and Gold and just how much the Huskies will be affected by the Pac-10's largest and most intimidating environment.
The Obvious – Saturday afternoon's game is being nationally televised on FSN (12:30 p.m. PDT) and the broadcast team will include Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis, and Jim Watson.
The Not So Obvious – Okay, so you don't know quite how to take Papadakis? Well, it is always assured that the former Trojan running back will "tell it like it is," even if it means rubbing the cardinal and gold fans the wrong way. One thing about his television gig, for whatever you think of him, on television, the son of former Trojan linebacker John Papadakis, comes over as "Petros Lite." If it makes you feel better, Watson is also a Trojan grad but did work in Seattle on the Fox cable affiliate.
The Obvious – The Trojans lead the series with the Huskies 46-24-4.
The Not So Obvious – The first time the Trojans and the Huskies played was in 1923 as the Purple and Gold, coached by Enoch Bagshaw, defeated the Cardinal and Gold, coached by Elmer Henderson, 22-0, in Seattle in front of 21,500.
The Obvious – The Trojan offense is averaging 31.5 points per game and 414.0 yards in total offense, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Husky defense is allowing 23.0 points per game and allowing 340.4 yards in total defense, sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – One of the top defenders for the Huskies is junior defensive end Greyson Gunheim (6-2, 245).
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies are coming to Los Angeles with no lack of confidence. Gunheim, a Sebastopol native who was also decorated running back at Analy High, said, "I feel like if both sides put four quarters together, I think we'll be unstoppable. For me, it's frustrating. We know we haven't gotten there yet and we still have a lot to do and a lot to work on."If you think these statements show a lack of academic judgment, let it be known that Greyson was once chosen a scholar athlete by the Northern California chapter of the National football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
The Obvious – UW coach Tyrone Willingham has beaten the Trojans three times in 11 meetings at three different schools, Stanford (3-4), Notre Dame 0-3), and Washington (0-1).
The Not So Obvious – Willingham is the last coach to beat the Trojans in the Coliseum when he was at Stanford. The Trojans, of course, have won 28 straight home games since Willingham's Cardinal beat the Trojans 21-16 on Sept. 29, 2001.
The Obvious – The Trojans will start junior John David Booty at quarterback, and the Bayou Bomber is now completing 67% of his passes to go along with 10 TDs and just two interceptions.
The Not So Obvious – Because of the general lack of a big-play offense at this time, Booty is under more pressure not to commit a turnover than was Matt Leinart. It's almost unfair to Booty to have to be under such responsibility to carry the offense, but you have to admit he has done it thus far. The real question now is how much better does he become and what happens when the Trojans get behind by more than a touchdown? With only drudges Oregon State and Stanford as true road games remaining, Booty will mostly operate now in a fan friendly Coliseum, so it will be interesting come November.
The Obvious – The Husky offense is averaging 25.2 points per game and 365.4 yards in total offense, seventh in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 12.3 points per game and allowing 267.5 yards per game in total defense, second in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Senior Isaiah Stanback (6-3, 205) will be one of two multi-dimensional quarterbacks, along with Oregon's Dennis Dixon, to pose a major threat passing and running this season.
The Not So Obvious – Stanback ran fifth in the Pac-10 100 meters and need you know more? Okay, you do. Isaiah, who is throwing at a 56% rate with eight touchdowns, is a major threat running the ball as his 4.8 rushing average implies. The O/NSO appreciates this one-time Trojan recruit, who has thrown three interceptions. He certainly would never fit into the current Trojan offense as we know it, but he sure could have been a heck of an athlete at some other position. The former Seattle Garfield star, who is a American ethnic studies major and received four votes in the Long Beach Press-Telegram's Best in the West his senior year, likely will be converted to another spot once he gets his Sunday opportunity. John Elway he isn't.
The Obvious – One of the players that the Trojans hope will neutralize Stanback's speed is linebacker Keith Rivers.
The Not So Obvious – During practice this week, the O/NSO asked Keith about the challenges of playing Stanback and the Husky offense. Rivers said, "There are a lot of challenges. He's a runner and you have to really be prepared for him because he can take off at any moment. Last week, Alex Brink ran a little bit, but he is more of a drop back passer. Stanback does a little bit more running and he's been running for about 60 yards a game. You have to be careful in coverage and stay plastered and make sure once you see him tuck it, just rally to him. They're a great team. I didn't play too much against them last year because of my hamstring injury, but they're much improved and a really good team. They are for real."
The Obvious – It figures that UW's Stanback will attempt to test the Trojan secondary, especially deep like Washington State, hoping for completions or pass interference flags.
The Not So Obvious – Last week against Arizona, Stanback threw 50 yards to 6-2 senior Sonny Shackelford (15.0 avg, 5 TDs), 44 yards to 5-11 junior Anthony Russo (14.8 avg) and 55 yards to 6-0 senior Quintin Daniels (17.6 avg, 1 TD). This will be a good test for the Trojans' evolving secondary. Since Arizona has played both the Trojans and the Huskies, UA coach Mike Stoops is able to compare talent. As for Stanback, Stoops said, "I don't know if there's been a more valuable player in the conference to this point."
The Obvious – The Trojans have two players, Taylor Mays and Taylor Odegard, from Washington.
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies roster includes 18 players from the greater Los Angeles area: DE Anthony Atkins (Long Beach), WR Quintin Daniels (Los Angeles), CB Mesphin Forrester (Los Angeles), LB Joshua Gage (Huntington Beach), CB Dashon Goldson (Carson), WR D'Andre Goodwin (Lancaster), S Chris Hemphill (Gardena), LB Dan Howell (Newhall), LB Darrion Jones (Lynwood), TE Robert Lewis (Los Angeles), CB Roy Lewis (Los Angeles), DT Erick Lobos (Los Angeles), OL Aaron Mason (Santa Monica), LS Danny Morovick (Mission Viejo), DB Durrell Moss (Orange), DL Jovon O'Connor (Los Angeles), CB Josh Okeobor (Colton), WR Marcel Reece (Hesperia), OT Morgan Rosborough (Long Beach), WR Sonny Shackleford (Los Angeles) and FS Jason Wells (LaVerne).
The Obvious – Like most teams the Trojans play this year, there is a sense of real optimism.
The Not So Obvious – This week, UW 6-2 senior safety Dashon Goldson (1 PI) said, "We are on a roll right now and we've got USC this week and we've seen that they are pretty beatable this year, so we need to get them on their home field."
The Obvious – A lively national debate this week centered around whether the Trojans or Auburn should be ranked behind coach Jim Tressel's No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Not So Obvious –In an article in the Birmingham News, Washington State coach Bill Doba, who has played both the Trojans and Auburn, said, "They're both good teams, but they're a little different. I think Auburn's running game is better. Southern Cal has a slight edge in the passing game. The defenses are very similar. Both run to the ball very well and both have linebackers that are special."
The Obvious - Hey, Bill Doba, what's with the "Southern Cal" reference? You know that's a Trojan no, no!
The Not So Obvious - By the way, Doba would not reveal whom he ranked higher in the polls. If had ranked the Trojans higher than Auburn, he would have just come out and said it. However, considering he now has to play the Trojans in the new Pac-10 schedule, why give the Trojans some ammunition for next season in Los Angeles?
The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging ---246.2 - yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Husky pass defense is allowing 235.6 yards per game, last in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Trojan senior wide receiver Steve Smith (13.7 avg, 3 TDs), who considered going to the NFL early, was Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week for his super performance at Washington State.
The Not So Obvious – Washington senior linebacker Scott White (6-1, 230), who considered quitting the Husky team after he thought he had lost his job to junior Dan Howell, was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his 10 tackle performance against Arizona. White, who prepped at Lemon Grove (Ca.) Mission Bay High, has the attention of the Ty Willingham, who calls the kid a national player. At one time, the young man was the San Diego CIF Defensive Player of the Year.
The Obvious – This week, Washington linebacker Scott White (6-1, 230) said, "They (USC) are more realistic this year. They are more like a college football team now where in the past, c'mon, with LenDale White and Reggie Bush and all those guys, that was an all-star team."
The Not So Obvious – White, like many Pac-10 players, think this is their best chance to end that Trojan dominance and that home winning streak. It's easy to feel that way when the Trojans are on the road and feeling their way through youth, inexperience, and self-destruction. It's a whole other animal when the Trojans have near 90,000 on their side. Just ask the Nebraska Cornhuskers, although the Husker coaching brain trust played defense on itself with their bizarre play-calling. One insider believes that the Huskers keep quarterback Zac Taylor under wraps because he was afraid the kid might get hurt and there was no viable backup. The insider believes that Nebraska was looking toward Big 12 play and wanted to keep Taylor healthy.
The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 167.8 yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies' rush defense is allowing 104.8 yards per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – This week, USC coach Pete Carroll said, "We didn't get the ball to (Emmanuel) Moody as much as we would like. We need a better mix at running back."
The Not So Obvious – So what does this mean? Carroll made these types of comments during the Norm Chow reign. Does it mean he didn't like the substitution patterns? The play-calling for the running backs? If you don't get it, perhaps there is a hidden meaning, like let's get the running game going. Keep your eye on Moody on Saturday and see if the Texas dervish gets more carries.
The Obvious – Freshman Allen Bradford has returned to running back, practicing with the scout team earlier this week.
The Not So Obvious – Okay, we will make some waves by suggesting that perhaps Chauncey Washington (4.4 avg, 2 TDs) should be considered a prime candidate to move to fullback. It could be his NFL future position because he is a good blocker as well as runner and receiver, when he is healthy. We got a glimpse last Saturday of that possibility when C.W. was at fullback with Emmanuel Moody (7.3 avg, 2 TDs) at tailback. A Chauncey move to fullback would open it up for Bradford, who we still is the perfect power running tailback. Time is fleeting and we wonder if the upcoming bye week might take on a backfield experimental transition. With C.J. Gable (4.3 avg, 1 TD) slightly hobbled, let's also see if Stafon Johnson, who has yet to get a carry in 2006, gets his shot on Saturday. Of course, last week Johnson got in for one play and pulled a boner of a penalty and was taken right out.
The Obvious – An MRI revealed senior wide receiver Chris McFoy suffered two cracks in his shoulder, and he will be sidelined four to six weeks
The Not So Obvious - What a crying shame. The O/NSO believes McFoy (24.8 avg, 1 TD) was deserving of more playing time. With the on-going development of sophomore Patrick Turner (13.2 avg, 1 TD), McFoy appeared to have earned increased playing time. In fact, the O/NSO believes that McFoy might just be the Trojans best all-around receiver besides Steve Smith. No, we didn't forget Dwayne Jarrett (10.4 avg, 3 TDs), but when you take into account catching, running, and blocking, McFoy does it all.
The Obvious – Linebacker Richard Wood is a three-time All-American and is in the Trojans' Hall of Fame.
The Not So Obvious – Richard's son, Marlon, will handle punt returns for the Huskies. He is averaging 14 yards a return. Richard, his wife and grandparent(s) are expected to be in the Coliseum on Saturday. Is Marlon disappointed he didn't become a Trojan? In the Seattle PI, Wood said, "I wanted them to lose. I never grew up a fan of (USC). "You could call it hatred. That's what it is."Wow and who knew?
The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 78.2 yards rushing per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies' rushing game is averaging 167.0 yards per game, sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who underwent knee surgery three weeks ago, might start if he can make it through practices.
The Not So Obvious – Ellis could become an immediate factor since the strength of this Husky team streams from their offensive line, a line that has seen all five offensive linemen play all five games and every play of every game at the same position. The group includes redshirt freshman left tackle Ben Ossai (6-6, 290), senior left guard Stanley Daniels (6-4, 310), junior center Juan Garcia (6-3, 310), senior right guard Clay Walker (6-4, 300) and junior right tackle Chad Macklin (6-8, 300). Well, if the Trojans find the Husky offensive line more challenging than the impressive patchwork Washington State line turned out to be, Saturday could get real interesting.
The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 189.2 yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Husky pass offense is averaging 198.4 yards per game, ninth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – A key Saturday will be the play of junior defensive tackle Chris Barrett, who discussed with the O/NSO just what the Trojans are doing to improve their pass rush along with other issues including his views on the Huskies' offensive line, his own performance, and which team thus far had the best line.
The Not So Obvious – Barrett said, "Before and during practice we work on our pass rush, that's our main goal right now. We chart pass-rush wins and who wins plays in the games, especially on third down conditions. Washington has a big offensive line, a lot better than Washington State's. I am really starting to get in a groove; I am lovin it right night. My strength right now is staying healthy; I am just praying every night that I stay healthy. It's my No. 1 goal right now. Staying healthy I need to have good eating habits and stretching, that's basically it. As far as feeling comfortable on the line, things aren't so physical; things are just faster and you react faster. Of the four teams we have played, the best offensive line was Arizona, they were pretty good. I was surprised. I thought that Nebraska would be a lot better, but they weren't as I expected them to be. The best player I have played against is actually Chilo Rachal, who I go against everyday."
The Obvious – The Trojans rank eighth in the Pac-10 in sacks (7).
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies rank fifth in the Pac-10 in sacks (13).
The Obvious – Trojan freshman Taylor Mays made the game winning interception last weekend against Washington State.
The Not So Obvious – However, Mays was not supposed to intercept the ball, according to a story in the Tacoma News. In an interview, Taylor said, "That was a missed responsibility. I wasn't supposed to play that ball. I'm supposed to be looking for a batted-down ball. I was just on course for getting to catch that ball when I was running to where I was supposed to be, and it seemed easy, so I went up and got it. They (coaches) didn't yell at me, but they didn't really praise it."
The Obvious – The Trojans have been bitten hard by injuries to key players, but have voided a quarterback injury through four games.
The Not So Obvious – Trojan third team junior quarterback Mike McDonald is one team player that knows his role. Mike says, " I understand what's going on. I know I am mostly an insurance policy around here. And if I get in a game, it's more or less a case of just making sure I don't do anything to hurt the team."
The Obvious – Saturday's game will be Parents Weekend, a salute to the moms and dads of cardinal and gold students.
The Not So Obvious – You have to admit, it's so hard to get a ticket to a game at the Coliseum these days, so it ain't a bad way to score a pair of tickets for one game each year. Before the season, it appeared the Washington game would be the least attractive of games, so tickets wouldn't be a problem. So much for that theory.
The Obvious – The Trojans feature an outstanding field goal kicker in junior Mario Danelo, who has been a boon in field goal attempts.
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies feature sophomore placekicker Michael Braunstein (5-8, 185), who was 2-for-2 on field goals at Oklahoma. The bad news is that he missed two field goals last weekend at Arizona. The kid is 2-of-4 this season. What did you expect from an economics major?
The Obvious - Trojan sophomore punter Greg Woidneck, who may have saved the day at Washington State with his ability to climb the ladder after a deadly high snap, is averaging 41.5, fifth in the Pac-10.
The Not So Obvious – Husky senior punter Sean Douglas, is averaging 46.9, first in the Pac-10. This kid is a major weapon in the mold of former Trojan punter Tom Malone.
The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 52.2 penalty yards per game, sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies are averaging 41.4 penalty yards per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – The Trojans' 710 ESPN broadcast team features former Cardinal and Gold receiving star John Jackson as sideline reporter.
The Not So Obvious – The Huskies KJR 950-AM broadcast team features Elise Woodward as its sideline reporter. She teams with the boys in the press box, play-by-play broadcaster Bob Rondeau and analyst Chuck Nelson.
The Obvious – The Trojans and Washington aren't the only Pac-10 teams on the tube on Saturday.
The Not So Obvious – "Get out the life rafts" Stanford is at "Brady Bunch" Notre Dame (11:30 a.m., NBC), "Stooping lower" Arizona travels to UCLA (4:00 p.m., FSNPT), "Surprise" Washington State journeys to "No surprise" Oregon State (4:00 p.m., FSNNW), and "We ready" Oregon visits "You better be" California (5:00 PDT ABC). All times are Pacific Daylight Time.
The Obvious – And finally, this will be just the sixth time that both Washington schools, WSU and UW, will play the Trojans in consecutive weeks.
The Not So Obvious – Strictly for journalism purposes, it would be appropriate if the Trojans triumph on Saturday by attacking Washington with their own Washington, namely Chauncey. However, we know things don't always go as planned and who expected the University of Washington would come into Saturday's game 4-1. One thing for sure, the Trojans hope to chop down their own Washington cherry tree and that's no lie.