O/NSO - Oregon State edition

Embarking on the second half of the season, the No. 2/3-ranked USC Trojans (6-0, 5-0 Pac-10) need six more wins to be in the BCS championship while the Oregon State Beavers (4-3, 2-2 Pac-10) are inching closer bowl eligibility, so when the two Pac-10 foes collide Saturday (12:30 p.m. PDT, FSN) at newly renovated Reser Stadium, winning will be very much will be on the line and in the mind.

The Obvious – Embarking on the second half of the season, the No. 2/3-ranked USC Trojans (6-0, 5-0 Pac-10) need six more wins to be in the BCS championship while the Oregon State Beavers (4-3, 2-2 Pac-10) are inching closer bowl eligibility, so when the two Pac-10 foes collide Saturday (12:30 p.m. PDT, FSN) at newly renovated Reser Stadium, winning will be very much will be on the line and in the mind.

The Not So Obvious – There is nothing like two teams feeling a sense of urgency, especially when bowl games are the projected future. The Trojans can read and they all know the brass ring is again there for the taking and Oregon State can make life a lot more livable for their head coach with an upset victory. However, with questionable injuries to the Beavers and the past perils of the Men of Troy, nothing will be taken for granted by either side in the Pacific Northwest. The first upset of the weekend may be predicted the environmental conditions and that right there should raise some atmospheric eyebrows.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as a 14 1/2-point favorites to defeat the Beavers in Corvallis, Oregon.

The Not So Obvious – These latest point spreads bring a chill to Trojan fans who have seen their club struggle in coming close to the opening line.

The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday afternoon in Corvallis calls for sunny with a high of 71 and a low of 37.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report is whether the weather will indeed hold up to the forecast listed above. The secondary weather forecast is whether the prime performers for both teams are ready to rumble. If Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith are indeed ready to go, and it certainly looks that way, then the Trojans figure to be formidable. Whether the Beavers are able to get back running back Yvenson Bernard (ankle), the Pac-10's No .2 rusher, may not be known till kickoff, but if Bernard returns, OSU could provide the type of balanced attack that has given the Trojan fits in the past. Keep an eye on whether John David Booty increases his awareness of secondary receivers, even with the return of Jarrett and Smith. Chauncey Washington will start and we'll see whether he is now at full speed when he gets a chance to turn the corner. The Trojans spent time working on their pass rush and if there is no improvement, the Men of Troy better hope that Beaver QB Matt Moore doesn't get in the groove like Washington State's Alex Brink.

The Obvious – Saturday afternoon's game is being 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 – And you were worried that Petros, who quit is job at 1540, is now a lost talent? We are told his television gigs are easily easing the financial pain of Lance Romance. BTW, you think with a bye week for Cal, some of the Bears will spend some time watching Saturday's game from Corvallis? You bet Jeff Tedford and his staff of former Oregon Ducks will have pen and paper handy.

The Obvious – With the Trojans having won 27 consecutive Pac-10 games and 18 straight road games, it figured that tickets would be hard to come for Saturday's game in Corvallis.

The Not So Obvious – Not so, according to OSU. There are still seats available as of Thursday evening. Approximately 900 tickets remain with 400 tickets in the $60 sections and around 500 Club Level tickets at $385. We'll pass on the latter, thank you very much.As a public service message to our loyal O/NSO readers, you can purchase tickets by visiting the Gill Coliseum ticket office, order via 1-800-Go-Beavs or online at osubeavers.com.

The Obvious – The Trojans lead the series with the Beavers 57-8-4.

The Not So Obvious – One of those eight wins for the Oregon State was one of the biggest upsets of its time, a 3-0 win over the 1967 No. 1 Trojans and O.J. Simpson in Corvallis on a quagmire of a rainy field So here's your trivia question of the game. Who were the captains for BOTH teams? The Trojan captains for that fateful, soggy afternoon were DE Tim Rossovich and LB Adrian Young while the Beaver captains were OG Dave Marlette and LB Skip Vanderbundt. Ironically, the quarterback for coach Dee Andros' Giant Killers, Steve Preece, who played four years with the former Los Angeles Rams, is the color analyst for FSN NW Beaver broadcasts. Yes, the O/NSO knows little Steve Sogge was the Trojan quarterback for the 1967 National Champions of John McKay.

The Obvious – Oregon State is located in Corvallis, which is in the heart of the Williamette Valley.

The Not So Obvious – The town has just over 50,000 and Oregon State was named one of the five friendliest schools in the country by CampusDirt.com.

The Obvious – Oregon State coach Mike Riley once served as offensive coordinator under John Robinson at USC for four years from 1993-96.

The Not So Obvious – Because of the dominance of Pete Carroll, now having taken the Trojans to John McKay status, folks forget that during Riley's time with Robinson, the Trojans won or shared the Pac-10 title twice and won the Rose, Freedom and Cotton Bowls. Current Beaver defensive coordinator Mark Banker was the assistant linebackers coach/recruiting coordinator for the Cardinal and Gold in 1996. It is indeed a small world.

The Obvious – There are family ties with the Trojans as head coach Pete Carroll has son, Brennan, in charge of the USC tight ends.

The Not So Obvious – There is a similar bond with the Beavers' coaching staff. Head coach Mike Riley and assistant coaches Jay Locey and Gary Beck all played on the 1970 Corvallis High School state champion football team.

The Obvious – USC and Oregon State did not play last year.

The Not So Obvious – The previous meeting of the Trojans and Beavers came late in the 2004 season on a cold and very, very foggy night at Corvallis. The Trojans had to rally for 28 consecutive points and eventually came away with a 28-20 victory. The game's vision was so bad that even Trojan broadcaster Pete Arbogast had to leave the press box and continue his call of the game from the sidelines, a note mentioned in this year's Oregon State media guide.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense is averaging 30.4 points per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers defense is allowing 20.5 points per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – Fair or unfair, there has been an increasingly amount of attention being paid to the style and sequence of the Trojans' offensive philosophy and play-calling.

The Not So Obvious - Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Saturday's game, especially with a healthy Chauncey Washington at tailback, will be any detected change in Pete Carroll's offensive philosophy. Forget about Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, this would be the head man's mandate. With Washington at near full strength, will Carroll tailor the Trojans' offense to a pound-away style, or will he continue the pass-first? We shall see what we shall see.

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 395.7 yards in total offense, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers are allowing an average of 285.0 yards in total defense, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – Needless to say, the bye week did wonders for the physical and mental health of the Trojans and it showed during this week's return to practice action.

The Not So Obvious – With things being upbeat, coach Pete Carroll also kept things fan friendly as early-on during practice on Wednesday, the coach ran over to a large group of youngsters from Santa Monica and gave the "Vikings" high-fives and handshakes. The Trojans' coach took some time to give a short pep talk, which brought big smiles from the youngsters and their coaches.

The Obvious – The Trojans rank last in the Pac-10 in sacks (9).

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers rank second in the Pac-10 in sacks (26) behind Washington State. Perhaps as equally impressive is that the Beavers have 38 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses. As for the Trojans, might we see more of a four-man front on Saturday?

The Obvious – The Trojans have the Pac-10's longest road winning streak at 18 games.

The Not So Obvious – Pac-10 teams are just 12-11 in home conference games, a number that has been helped by the Trojans road domination.

The Obvious – The Trojans will be do usual Friday afternoon departure out of Los Angeles around 2:00 p.m. out of LAX.

The Not So Obvious – After the team's Delta charter touchdown in Eugene, the Men of Troy will stay at the Valley River Inn in Eugene. It should be quite a weekend in the Eugene area with Ducks also playing at home against mighty Portland State. No, that isn't a misprint.

The Obvious – It figures that the Oregon State will attempt to come out fast against the Trojans and get an expected record crowd fired up.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers have scored (all touchdowns) on its first possession in five of the first seven games. Only Cal and WSU have held the Oregon State scoreless on their opening drive. You don't think that Trojan defensive coordinator Nick Holt has mentioned that to his troops?

The Obvious – Most agree that Trojan junior quarterback John David Booty (63.3%, 13 TDs, 226.2 avg./g, 4 int.) will need to take his game to another level in the Trojans' critical final six games of 2006.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans will have to very leery of senior Beaver quarterback, Matt Moore (61%, 6 TDs, 181 avg./g, 6 int.). The UCLA transfer can be white hot and white cold. Another tall and rangy Pac-10 quarterback (6-4, 193), Moore has the mobility that could again bring the Trojan defense to a fit of frustration and don't think that Beaver coach Mike Riley hasn't been looking at the Washington State film for guidance. If star running back Yvenson Bernard plays, they form one of the Pac-10's twin threats. Should Bernard not make it, Scottsdale (Ariz) JC transfer Clinton Polk (6-2, 214), who carried the ball 29 times for 115 yards a score, will be counted on heavily to fill the void.

The Obvious – In the Trojans reign of terror under Pete Carroll, one of the factors against most teams is the cardinal and gold fear factor prior to games.

The Not So Obvious – Says Beaver quarterback Matt Moore, "I think a lot of people are at a disadvantage going into the game because they say to themselves ‘this is USC.' You can't have that attitude. The attitude that I have and a lot of the other guys on the team have is that this is just another game. Regardless of whom you are playing, if it's the New England Patriots, it's just another game; you have to look at it like that. If you go in already cutting yourself short, it's not a good start."

The Obvious – The Beavers offense is averaging 24.5 points per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' defense is allowing 15.0 points per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – While much of the national Trojan linebacker notoriety has gone to sophomore Rey Maualuga, most experts agree that junior Keith Rivers is currently the best linebacker in Ken Norton's talented cupboard.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers have their own set of presentable linebackers led by 251-pound Alan Darlin (45 tac., 8.5 for loss, 4 sacks), a 6-1 junior from El Grove (Ca.). One Beaver linebacker, junior Joey LaRocque (6-2, 230) knows all about the Trojans. LaRocque, an Agoura High grad, said, "My high school coach was (ex-Trojan LB star) Clay Matthews, so he'd always take me to their games. Everybody down there knows about SC football. We have an opportunity to pull off a big upset, so I'm sure there'll be some extra motivation for all of us."

The Obvious – One of the great selling points of getting a degree from the University of Southern California is the vast networking of employment opportunities.

The Not So Obvious – According the Oregon State media guide, more employers recruit at Oregon State than any other college or university in Oregon.

The Obvious – The Beavers are averaging 361.9 yards in total offense, seventh in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans' defense is allowing 282.3 yards per game in total defense, second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – As if the Trojan defensive line doesn't have enough to worry about, junior DT Chris Barrett raised concern on Wednesday when he left Brian Kennedy Field with a twisted ankle.

The Not So Obvious – How much concern? The O/NSO watched Pete Carroll come immediately to Barrett's aid and walked the muscular defensive lineman to the sideline. How ironic that Barrett, who would be replaced by an improving Fili Moala, told the O/NSO some weeks back that his primary goal this season was to stay healthy, something that has eluded the former Tustin High star throughout his Trojan career.

The Obvious – In the weekly WeAreSC Travel Guide for fans, there is normally a section devoted to tailgating, especially at the visiting stadium.

The Not So Obvious – Well, you might want to impress your Oregon State friends at Reser Stadium or at home in front of the tube with a new Tommy Trojan eating product, USC Trojans chips. The corn tortilla chips, colored in cardinal and gold, are football-shaped and are now on sale at Ralph's markets. Shhhh, you can even buy Trojan mustard to along with your "spread."

The Obvious – The Trojans will be playing in the "new" Reser Stadium, which holds 43,300 fans.

The Not So Obvious – Reser Stadium, which completed a $80 million expansion prior to the 2005 season, is undergoing a real facelift and will commence a $30-35 million project at the conclusion of either the 2006 or 2007 seasons. Part of the expansion will include the Valley Football Center, a 20,000 square foot weight room, construction of new end zone seating, and a new state-of-the-art video board.

The Obvious – Reser Stadium, which was once known as Parker Stadium, uses an artificial playing surface.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans are 22-10-1 in their last 33 games on artificial turf.

The Obvious – Saturday's game will be Dad's Weekend at Oregon State

The Not So Obvious – The record for a crowd at Reser Stadium is 42,960 and with the No.2/3 Trojans in town and Dad's Weekend, there is high speculation that an attendance record could be set on Saturday. Reser Stadium is the second smallest venue in the Pac-10, ahead of Martin Stadium in Pullman.

The Obvious – It was quite a surprise for Trojan fans to see linebacker Thomas Williams playing the lead fullback in the I-formation when tailback Chauncey Washington scored the winning touchdown against Arizona State.

The Not So Obvious – Might we see Thomas play some fullback in the near future? Pete Carroll gave a hint when he commented at his press conference about the Williams experiment. Carroll said, "We were having some fun with that. That was a carryover from a couple weeks ago when we were a little bit more banged up. Thomas did a nice job and went up very aggressive. He did a great job of cheering after the play was over and we liked the enthusiasm so he's got a chance to do that again." A chance?

The Obvious – As the Trojans prepare to leave for Corvallis, prayers from the Trojan family and fans are going out in mass to Marlin McKeever, 66, a two-time Trojan All-American, who was comatose as of Thursday with a brain clot and was in critical condition at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach following a reported Tuesday fall at his Long Beach home.

The Not So Obvious – McKeever, who has been a regular at Trojan practices and games, has been has been in charge of the Trojan Football Alumni Club and has become very close with Pete Carroll since Carroll's hiring in 2001. In a sad bit of irony, McKeever's brother, Mike, a star left guard for Troy, also suffered a blood clot but eventually died of head injuries from an automobile accident after spending 22 months in a coma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the McKeever family.

The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging 232.7 yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beaver pass defense is allowing 188.1 yards per game, sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Beavers have a good one in their secondary in senior safety Sabby Piscitelli (6-3, 225), who traveled 2,696 miles from Boca Raton, Florida to Corvallis.

The Not So Obvious – Piscitelli took an unusual route to get to the Pacific Northwest. Beavers' Associate A.D. Bob Clifford learned through his son of Piscitelli not having a scholarship offer. Clifford's son played with Piscitelli at Boca Raton and that is the connection. Clifford, a native of Florida, was cooking hot dogs for the school's booster club at home games while then working at Florida Atlantic University.

The Obvious –The Trojans will challenge the Beavers secondary with receivers Steve Smith (14.6 avg., 4 TDs, 70.5 avg./g), Dwayne Jarrett (10.1 avg., 4 TDs, 54.4 avg./g), and Patrick Turner (7.6 avg., 2 TDs, 27.8 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – Is there a hotter receiver in the conference than the Beavers Sammie Stroughter, who has 12 catches for 314 yards (26.2-yard average) and two TDs of 80 and 34 yards his last two games? Also sound the danger button because Sammie is first in the Pac-10 in punt return average (17.9). Figured that would get Trojan fans running to the medicine cabinet for some Tums.

The Obvious - The Trojans hope to relocate junior tight end Fred Davis (9.2 avg., 1 TD, 29.0 avg./g), who has been rather quiet recently.

The Not So Obvious – Watch out for Beaver senior tight end Joe Newton (6-7, 256), who is coming off an injury suffered before last season began. Considered a John Mackey Award candidate, for tight ends, Newton, a forest management major, is also a major red zone threat, not good news considering the Trojans 2005 red zone issues.

The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 163.0 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers rush defense is allowing 96.9 yards per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans' tailback pecking order figure to start Saturday with junior Chauncey Washington (4.6 avg., 3 TDs, 66.7 avg./g), who will be supported by freshmen backs Emmanuel Moody (6.4 avg., 2 TDs, 70.4 avg./g), and C.J. Gable (4.5 avg., 2 TDs, 23.2 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – If his ankle is healthy enough, the Beavers have a dynamite back in junior Yvenson Bernard (4.8 avg., 7 TDs, 106.6 yds./G).The Boca Raton (Fla.) native (5-9, 204) joins Cal's Marshawn Lynch as the only backs in the Pac-10 averaging 100 yards per game rushing. We don't have to sell you that this kid is good and he probably could do it himself, considering he is a merchandising management major. Coming out of high school, Yvenson was a 30th round pick of the Minnesota Twins as a centerfielder.

The Obvious – A key matchup will be how well the Oregon State offensive line handles the Trojans' defensive front seven.

The Not So Obvious – Beavers head coach Mike Riley says, "It will be a big, big factor in the game. I think their front is really good. They're very, very fast and athletic. A big issue will be blocking them. Some people get some runs on them and some people get some stuff going, but boy they run to the ball fast and they collapse the holes fast so we are going to have to do a great job of blocking them up front."

The Obvious – One of the big questions from the bye week is how much more will freshman tailback/fullback Allen Bradford be incorporated into the offense?

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO spent some time after practice this week with Allen and he was very upbeat about the prospects of playing the Beavers, having an increased role on offense, and the positive effects of the bye week. Allen said, "They (OSU) are a very physical defense. I am watching filming and seeing the different looks that they show and the different blitzes they show. It's going to be a real physical game. I like a physical game; it's something I like to do. Coach "Mac" tells us to be real physical and everybody is just waiting for Saturday. Coaches have been preparing me well and I have been going up and watching film. I am getting more familiar with the plays they put in for me. I give the coaches my utmost respect because they moved me to fullback and told me what they were going to do like give me the ball more and get me on the field. I leaning stuff that expands my opportunity to get on the field. The bye week helped me to learn more of the passing plays. I am still asking questions because I want to be 100% sure of what I am doing."

The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 100.2 yards rushing per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers rushing game is averaging 127.4 yards per game, seventh in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – One of those who will try and make a dent in the Trojans defense is junior offensive guard Roy Schuening (6-4, 318) from Pendleton (Ore.), who says playing the Trojans is a positive experience.

The Not So Obvious – Schuening, who works combines on his family farm in Eastern Oregon during the offseason, says, "It's a great opportunity for us. I think right now, compared to earlier in the season we are really starting to peak right now, especially defensively. The last three weeks the defense has played outstanding. The offense, we're running the ball now. The biggest thing for the offense is to play four quarters. I think against Arizona we only played the first half, and second half we just kind of held on and won. I'm happy with how we are playing right now and like I said if we can put together four quarters, who knows what could happen."

The Obvious – USC Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone has two of the best in the business in USC media assistants Jason Pommier and Paul Goldberg.

The Not So Obvious – Former Trojan media assistant Roger Horne now serves in a similar role with the Oregon State media department.

The Obvious – A number of Trojan groaned when they found out that the Trojans' Homecoming Game against Oregon would be a 7:15 p.m. kickoff.

The Not So Obvious – Well, consider the thought that went into Oregon State's decision to have their Homecoming Game against Arizona State begin at 1:05 p.m., and it will not be shown on television or even the Internet. The only option was for Fox Sports Northwest to carry the game after 6:15 p.m., but with it being homecoming and weather concerns, OSU didn't want to create a potential problem for their fans.

The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 182.2 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers pass offense is averaging 234.4 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – Freshman safety Taylor Mays used last week's bye to tighten his coverage and is looking forward to the challenge of playing the Beavers.

The Not So Obvious – Of the Beavers and the bye week, Taylor told the O/NSO this week, "They (OSU) have a good offense and they like to attack the third of the field I defend. They like to stretch the field. The bye gave me some time to reflect and go over the season up to here and learn what I need to improve on mentally. It gave the coaches some time to work with me and reflect on what I am doing. It's hard in a game and in practice to sit back and reflect what you need to work on. The bye week let me work on the little stuff I need to work on, not just football but preparing for practice and for every game. I am just taking it one game at a time and one practice at a time. I am learning some things from my mistakes. The game now is starting to slow down for me, and I am just starting to scratch the surface of how to play safety. I am just trying to learn from coach Carroll and coach Seto. I think I am doing all right."

The Obvious – Trojans junior placekicker Mario Danelo is now 9-of-10 on field goals for the season, second in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers feature All-Pac-10 first-team junior placekicker Alexis Serna, the 2005 Lou Groza Award winner, who is 8-of-11 in field goals, fifth in the Pac-10. Serna booted his 82nd consecutive career extra point last Saturday at Arizona, longest such streak in Oregon State history

The Obvious - Trojan sophomore punter Greg Woidneck is averaging 42.0 per kick, fourth in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Beavers' punter Kyle Loomis, a freshman from Roseburg (Ore.), is averaging 39.4 per kick, last in the Pac-10 Conference. Considering the Trojans are last in punt return average in the Pac-10, this should be quite a matchup.

The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 56.7 penalty yards per game, sixthin the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Beavers are averaging 65.9 penalty yards per game, ninth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – Trojan fans are still talking about that UCLA loss to Notre Dame on NBC, which featured former Trojan All-America quarterback Pat Haden with the analysis.

The Not So Obvious – Haden will be off this week, but if you are a Trojan who enjoyed the last minute of the Bruins' meltdown against Notre Dame, you'll probably want to tune into ABC regional Pac-10 exposure when "We're pretty good" Washington State travels to Pasadena to test the "There go the Irish, there go the Irish" UCLA Bruins at 4:00 p.m., PDT.

The ObviousAnd finally, Saturday evening will mark the end of Daylight Savings Time.

The Not So Obvious – Are the Trojans ready to "spring ahead" or "fall back" in their final six regular season games of 2006? Beginning Saturday in Beaver Country, "time" will truly tell. Your humble correspondent will continue this weekend with our report from Portland and Corvallis in our fourth installment of O/NSO - On The Road with the Cardinal and Gold. Now, Dad do I really need to take an umbrella?

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