The Not So Obvious – As if the game didn't need more fuel to the fire, there was this week's Los Angeles Times story over the recruitment decision of Cal sophomore receiver DeSean Jackson from Long Beach Poly, who claimed in the story that he had a "just one of those last minute decisions," switching from the Trojans to the Bears on signing day. Add to Saturday's game the health status of Trojan tailback Chauncey Washington (sprained knee) and the stomach muscles of Trojan fans everywhere may feel like a riptide in Newport Beach. And did we add the questionable status of starting Trojan defensive tackle Chris Barrett (calf strain)?
The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 5 1/2-point favorites to defeat the California Bears.
The Not So Obvious – As the games get tougher and the stakes grow larger, the point spreads grows smaller. This is a game that could turn a young man gray in a hurry because Cal brings the Pac-10's most explosive offense in wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tailback Marshawn Lynch while the Trojans provide All-America level receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett and rumbling tailback Chauncey Washington. What's missing? Yep, Cal quarterback Nathan Longshore and the Trojans' John David Booty. Outside of the fact the Trojans have the vastly superior defense according to Pac-10 statistics, these two quarterbacks are the game's "X" factor. Are they worth the 5 1/2-point difference? So choose your poison, any one of the above participants could direct their team into Pasadena on New Year's Day.
The Obvious –If the Trojans win on Saturday evening, they are in the Rose Bowl, period, and if they win their final two games against rivals Notre Dame and UCLA, they'll probably be attending their third consecutive BCS championship game.
The Not So Obvious – Speaking of rivalries, ya think that Cal's biggest rival is the Stanford Cardinal? Think again. Not according to Bears' linebacker Mickey Pimentel, a senior from San Diego. In this week's San Francisco Chronicle, Pimentel revealed, " A lot of people still say Stanford is our main rival, but to the players, it's USC. That's the game we look forward to playing every year. It's what big-time college football is all about."
The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday in Los Angeles is sunny with a high of 78 and a low of 58.
The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report is whether the Cal offense can be stymied by the Trojans improving defense, which is the Pac-10's finest.
The Obvious – Saturday night's game is the Trojans ninth straight Coliseum sellout.
The Not So Obvious – Cal has sold out two games thus far this season (Oregon and UCLA).
The Obvious – A loss to Cal followed by wins over Notre Dame and UCLA could land the Trojans in a BCS Bowl but probably the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 28. However, losses to Cal and Notre Dame followed by a win over UCLA and it's definitely the Holiday Bowl.
The Not So Obvious – Got that so far? Okay, the O/NSO feels obligated to communicate with all walks of Trojan fans. The Holiday Bowl, which features the Pac-10 No. 2 against "a highly rated team from the Big 12," means a possible rematch with Nebraska or a date with Texas or Oklahoma. Must we go into more detail at this time? For the negative thinking Trojan fan, the official Pacific Life Holiday Bowl site is www.HolidayBowl.com.
The Obvious - The general feeling among the experts is that Cal coach Jeff Tedford has figured out how to compete strongly against Pete Carroll.
The Not So Obvious – Since when is it considered a rivalry when Carroll is 3-1 against Tedford? Seriously, Tedford's losses have been by two, six, and 25 points to Carroll while Jeff's lone victory was the much-publicized 2003 three-point OT in Strawberry Canyon. What will be fascinating on Saturday is how each coach attacks the other's perceived weaknesses. The other factor will be how long either coach remains with the original game plan. And perhaps the most important aspect, which coach and staff will make the better halftime adjustments.
The Obvious – With the salaries they earn, there will be additional scrutiny of Pete Carroll and Jeff Tedford, thanks to a story on college football coaching salaries in Thursday's USA Today.
The Not So Obvious – According to USA Today, Pete Carroll's salary is a flat $2,782,320 while Jeff Tedford earns a salary of $167,500 with other income (shoe contracts, media shows, public appearances, camps, etc.) totaling $1,337,800 for a grand total of $1,505,300. Tedford also received a one-time payment (additional money already paid or scheduled to be paid over the life of a contract) of $2,500,000 and a max bonus (achieving goals such as bowl games, awards, honors, etc.) of $350,000. There will be a lot of coaching money walking the Coliseum sidelines on Saturday.
The Obvious – Saturday evening's game is being televised on ABC (5:00 p.m. PST) and the broadcast team will include Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul McGuire, and Erin Andrews.
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans will have their usual top-flight Trojan KSPN radio broadcast team ready to rock and roll throughout the day and night on Saturday, which also reminds the O/NSO to give special thanks to KSPN Trojan radio host Suzy Shuster for her recent "on-the-air" benevolent comments regarding the O/NSO column. While Shuster and her fellow golden throat colleagues are giving the cardinal and gold talking points, the Cal Bears will have their KGO broadcast team in the Coliseum press box featuring celebrated 32-year voice Joe Starkey, who also doubles as the voice of the San Francisco 49'ers. Starkey is probably best known for his legendary call of "The Play," the infamous five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown against Stanford in 1982. We can still hear "the band is on the field."
The Obvious – Last season in Berkeley, the Trojans whipped the Bears 35-10.
The Not So Obvious – Of course this year is completely different in terms of personnel. The big difference for the Bears is that Joe Ayoob is not the quarterback and Nathan Longshore is. Ayoob (9 of 19 for 98 yards) was horrible last year against the Trojans. Here's a little confidence builder for Trojan fans, last season the heralded DeSean Jackson had one catch for nine yards and tailback Marshawn Lynch rushed for 87 yards in 13 carries. What does it all mean? Well, quarterback Longshore has changed the Bears dramatically. As for the Trojans, last year they relied on three touchdown runs by LenDale White to get the job done on the ground. It figures Chauncey Washington, if healthy enough, could evolve into this year's LenDale White against the Bears, if the Trojans elect to run their Trojan horse.
The Obvious – The Trojans lead the series with the Bears 58-30-5.
The Not So Obvious – The first game was played in 1915 with the Trojans winning on the road 28-10.
The Obvious – Pete Carroll likes to say he doesn't pay attention to the ranking or the BCS standings until it's all said and done.
The Not So Obvious – However, Carroll seems to be paying more attention than usual when it comes to getting to the BCS championship when he let his guard down and commented, "I would think that it's pretty hard to keep us out because of the schedule that we play. I don't know how that weighs in. I know it's a factor."
The Obvious – Since the Oregon State loss, the Trojans seem to be on a mission and one of the areas that appears to be improving is the right side of the Trojan offensive line.
The Obvious – As Saturday draws closer, everybody seems to have a prediction on the outcome.
The Not So Obvious – As an O/NSO public service, here are some prognostications from across the media landscape. WeAreSC's John Jackon and MSNBC call it Trojans 28-24. The Sporting News trio of Tom Deinhart, Steve Greenberg, and Matt Hayes all favor the Trojans (27-26, 30-17, and 24-23). The Harmon Forecast predicts a 29-21 Trojan victory. The entire CBS Sportsline votes Cardinal and Gold but doesn't predict the score. Seattle PI college football writer Ted Miller calls it Cal 23-20, but Miller also picked Oregon last week to upend the Trojans.
The Obvious – CBS Sportsline columnist Dennis Dodd writes this week that a Trojan triumph to the national title would be significant because the Men of Troy will "most likely finish the season without a single All-American."
The Not So Obvious – Shhhhhhh. Don't tell Trojan junior offensive tackle Sam Baker, who is near consensus one of the top two tackles in America along with Wisconsin senior Joe Thomas.
The Obvious – Cal is coming off a stunning 24-20 upset by Arizona in Tucson.
The Not So Obvious – Cal had a pair of late-game interceptions erased by penalties and also had a score returned by replay, contributing to the upset by the Wildcats. The Trojans know how tough Arizona was early in the season when coach Mike Stoops pulled out all the stops to no avail.
The Obvious – The Trojan offense, under coordinator Lane Kiffin, is averaging 32.0 points per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Cal defense, under coordinator Bob Gregory, is allowing 20.1 points per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Both clubs have stud linebackers and their performances will be telling as the game wears on into the second half.
The Not So Obvious – In senior Desmond Bishop (6-2, 243), the Bears have a real physical star who will be a real challenge for the Trojans' offensive line. Bishop, once a second-team all-state selection by Calhisports.com while at Fairfield High, ranks second in the Pac-10 with 9.1 tackles per game. Bishop's father, Dennis Bishop, played football for Illinois and professionally in the old USFL.
The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 396.0 yards in total offense, third in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal is allowing an average of 378.5 yards in total defense, ninth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that the Trojans will put extreme pressure on the ninth-ranked defense in the Pac-10, especially through the air.
The Not So Obvious – Speaking of getting to paydirt through the air, Virgin America airlines is sponsoring a "USC LET'ER FLY" paper airplane contest in which the a 8.5" x 11" piece of paper could be worth $2,500. The contest will be located in the Trojans Fan Fest and will be similar to the contest by Virgin America held a couple of weeks ago at the Stanford game.
The Obvious – The Trojans rank seventh in the Pac-10 in sacks with 21.
The Not So Obvious – Cal ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in sacks with 20.
The Obvious – Both defenses will be going on a lightening charge to dismantle the other's quarterback, and both offensive lines will be under siege to kept their signal-callers in one piece.
The Not So Obvious – The Golden Bear offensive line leads the Pac-10 with just 10 sacks allowed this year. The Trojans offensive line has allowed 13 sacks this season, third best in the Pac-10.
The Obvious – A "test" email has been sent to Trojan season ticket holders concerning bowl game tickets.
The Not So Obvious – The email stated that bowl information will be sent out in two weeks.
The Obvious –Trojan junior quarterback John David Booty (62.7%, 20 TDs, 6 int., 238.0 avg./g) is second in the Pac-10 in passing.
The Not So Obvious – The legend of John David Booty will begin to be formed in the next three weeks.
The Obvious – Cal sophomore quarterback Nathan Longshore (62.3%, 21 TDs, 10 int., 239.3 avg./g) is first in Pac-10 passing.
The Not So Obvious – Longshore (6-5, 233), the former Canyon Country star who earned National Honor Roll status, has been especially dangerous going deep this season. California has 49 pass plays of 20 yards or more and forty-two of those deep ball have been thrown by Longshore, including 16 to sophomore DeSean Jackson, the former Long Beach Poly star. One more thing about Nathan, his grandfather played football Tulane and he has a brother, Nick, who is currently an offensive lineman at BYU.
The Obvious – The Trojans' defense, under coordinator Nick Holt, is allowing 14.8 points per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – The Cal offense, under the guidance of coordinator Mike Dunbar, is averaging 34.7 points per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference. Dunbar has gotten a lot of pub for being the former offensive coordinator at Northwestern, where his spread offense ranked fourth in the country in 2005.
The Obvious – Trojan football alum and legendary actor John Wayne was on the cover last Sunday's West magazine.
The Not So Obvious – The West cover showed " The Duke," known in his Trojans playing days as Marion Morrison, in a three-point stance for an article of 37 southern Californians who beat the odds and made it big." There is something about seeing Big John on the cover during Big Game Week that adds a little bit of confidence.
The Obvious – The Trojans lost of ton of talent from last year's 2005 Pac-10 champions, but returned All-Pac-10 first-team selections wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, center Ryan Kalil, offensive tackle Sam Baker, and defensive end Lawrence Jackson.
The Not So Obvious – From last season's All-Pac-10 team, the Bears return first-team selections defensive back Daymeion Hughes and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. While the Trojans have no second-team returning selections, Cal returns linebacker Desmond Bishop, special teams standout Byron Storer, and defensive end Nu'u Tafisi.
The Obvious – The Trojans' defense is allowing 290.1 yards per game in total defense, first in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal is averaging 430.8 yards in total offense, second in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Losses to both Cal and UCLA would send the Trojans to either the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl in El Paso, regardless of the Irish outcome.
The Not So Obvious – As of right now on the site, there is a fan voting poll over which Pac-10 team would you like to see in the Vitalis Sun Bowl. The current choices are Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State. The leading vote getter as of the middle of the week was Oregon State, a landslide winner with over 76% in favor of a visit from the Beavers. For those super negative Trojan thinkers, there is an official Sun Bowl site at www.sunbowl.org. Anyone for a trip across El Paso to Juarez? Let's put it this way, Trojan fans, just win, baby.
The Obvious – Saturday's game will be the acid test for Pete Carroll's defense.
The Not So Obvious – The Cal offense will be the most explosive to date for the Trojans. Much has been made about the progress this unit has been making in terms of the recent reinvention of Pete Carroll's favorite ice cream flavor, turnover.
The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging 247.2 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal's pass defense is allowing 250.3 yards per game, last in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Cal All-Pac-10 senior defensive back Daymeion Hughes, who many believe is as good a defensive back as there is in America, is tied for the national lead with eight interceptions while Cal as a team is tied for third in the nation with 20 interceptions.
The Not So Obvious – What a strange couple of statistics considering the Bears are last in the Pac-10 in pass defense. One of the Bears' problems was the loss of opposite corner, Tim Mixon, an injury that has hurt Cal on more than one occasion. As for Hughes (6-2, 188), the former Crenshaw star, look for him to challenge Dwayne Jarrett. This one should be a real war. Cal's major problem is matching up with Steve Smith and this is a real advantage for the Trojans. Both Hughes and Jarrett have one thing in common, both were basketball guys in high school and it will be interesting when Trojan offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin calls those fade patterns when the two are matched up.
The Obvious – The Bears will be bringing down a large group of players who hail from southern California.
The Not So Obvious – Cal senior defensive back Daymeion Hughes is one of those eager to return to his Crenshaw roots. In this week's San Francisco Chronicle, Hughes said, "The Coliseum is a special place, because the championship of high school is played there at night," he said. "That's where everything ends for the high school career, so it's almost epic for my college career to be decided there, too."
The Obvious –The Trojans will attack Cal's secondary with lead receivers Steve Smith (16.0 avg., 7 TDs, 87.3 avg./g), Dwayne Jarrett (12.1 avg., 6 TDs, 63.4 avg./g), Patrick Turner (8.9 avg., 2 TDs, 25.7 avg./g) and tight end tight end Fred Davis (8.2 avg., 3 TDs, 21.8 avg./g).
The Not So Obvious – With the Trojan receivers as healthy as they have been all year, things bode well for Saturday against the Bears. The real intrigue is if the Trojans will be patient or go for the home run. One concern may be the just which receiver the Bears should to eliminate. With tight end Fred Davis quiet last Saturday (0 catches), could this be the game when the former Ohio star is the difference? One thing for sure, in order for the Trojans to keep the Bears offense off the field, the Trojan receivers will need to be catching everything and everywhere for first downs and ball control.
The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 148.4yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal's rush defense is allowing 128.2 yards per game, seventh in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – The Trojans' tailback position is hoping a new knee brace can keep junior Chauncey Washington (5.1 avg., 8 TDs, 74.9 avg./g) productive.
The Not So Obvious –C.J. Gable (4.0 avg., 2 TDs, 17.7 avg./g) have seen his carries decline with the emergence of Washington and the quick feet of freshman Emmanuel Moody. With Moody now on the shelf, the O/NSO has all the confidence in the world in Gable. C.J. has shown he can get the job done and he doesn't do the Dancing with the Stars that Moody is prone to do.
The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 91.3 yards rushing per game, second in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal's rushing game is averaging 164.4 yards per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – Cal features a two-headed tailback monster in juniors Marshawn Lynch (6.5 avg., 9 TDs, 109.0 avg./g) and Justin Forsett (4.3 avg., 3 TDs, 42.2 avg./g).
The Obvious – The Trojans promoted a Matt Leinart blog during the former All-American's run to the Heisman Trophy.
The Not So Obvious – Although the loss last week to Arizona probably killed his chances at the Heisman, tailback Marshawn Lynch has his own site at www.Marshawn10.com. FYI, Lynch also has two cousins on the Cal roster in redshirt freshman DB Virdell Larkins and standout junior wide receiver Robert Jordon.
The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 198.8 yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal's pass offense is averaging 266.4 yards per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – The Bears have a trio of outstanding receivers in 6-0 sophomore DeSean Jackson (18.0, avg., 9 TDs, 81.1 avg./g), 5-11 junior Lavelle Hawkins (16.1, 2 TDs, 61.3 avg./g), and 5-11 junior Robert Jordan (11.9, 4 TDs, 45.2 avg./g).
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans will need a big performance from corners Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris. We fully expect Jeff Tedford to pay particular attention to Cary Harris, as has been the case with Trojan opponents this season. Look for some major attention paid to shake up freshman safety Taylor Mays, as well. We believe the Trojan secondary will have to play its best game of the year.
The Obvious – The Times recruiting article on DeSean Jackson set off a wave of quotes and counter quotes from the Jackson camp and the Trojans staff.
The Not So Obvious – What we do know and the O/NSO distinctly remembers from Jackson's Fox Sports televised signing announcement was his family members actually pulled out Cal home jerseys with Jackson's name and No. 1 on the back. Now really, if this was a last minute decision, how did the family manage to get so many Cal home jerseys with "Jackson" on the back? The kid is going to be great, but wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall as Jackson's former Poly teammates and current Trojans, freshmen Vincent Joseph and Travon Patterson, do a little psychological welfare on the old text messages.
The Obvious – The Trojans place kicker is junior Mario Danelo, who is 10 of 11 on field goals, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal features junior place kicker Tom Schneider, who is 10-of-12 on field goals, sixth in the Pac-10 Conference. Schneider remains perfect inside of 50 yards after hitting on field goals of 20 and 46 yards last weekend against Arizona. Better put, Schneider is 9-of-9 this season inside the 50.
The Obvious - Trojan sophomore punter Greg Woidneck is averaging 40.3yards per kick, seventh in the Pac-10.
The Not So Obvious – Junior Cal punter Andrew Larson, a JuCo transfer from Saddleback CC, is averaging 41.9 yards per kick, third in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – DeSean Jackson ranks first in the nation in punt return average and is leading the nation with four punt-return touchdowns.
The Not So Obvious – It will be intriging to see how the Trojans deal with the Jackson return threat. Based on what we have seen of Trojan punt coverage this year, it could be hell's bells if Jackson is given room to run. Jackson's returns this season include jaunts of 95, 72, 65, 80, and a paltry 49 yards. Naw, the kids no threat.
The Obvious – Cal coach Jeff Tedford will never forget the evening that DeSean Jackson shocked the Trojan coaching staff and community when he made the television announcement that he was spurning the Trojans and heading to California.
The Not So Obvious – Did Tedford really know that Jackson would be the star he is today? Well, in terms of DeSean's punt return ability, Tedford says, "When he hits the crease, you have to hold your breath because you are thinking, ‘This is going the distance.' Once he gets through that crease, you start looking downfield to see how many guys he has left (to beat)."
The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 50.8 penalty yards per game, fifth the Pac-10 Conference.
The Not So Obvious – Cal is averaging 53.7 penalty yards per game, sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.
The Obvious – The Trojans game with Cal is the featured Pac-10 game of the televised weekend.
The Not So Obvious – There are others that may peak your interest while you're tailgating. At 3:45 p.m., it's the Apple Cup as "Hello basement, here we come" Washington is at "Any bowl, please" Washington State on FSN. At 7:15, it's "We beat Oregon State, Trojans, and you didn't" UCLA at "Recovery is slow" Arizona State on FSN.
The Obvious – And finally, the 2006 season comes down to three games in which the Trojans have two games in the Coliseum and one came at the Rose Bowl.
The Not So Obvious – If ever a Trojan team was given the keys to a championship car for a winning lap, this team has been given that opportunity. No sour grapes here if they can't do it, but this group will know they didn't have to wait for some computer to punch their ticket. As the old coach used to say, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."