O/NSO - Notre Dame preview

Streaking into the 78th renewal of college football's greatest intersectional rivalry and armed with a four-game winning streak over the son's of Knute Rockne, the No. 2/3-ranked Pac-10 champion USC Trojans will look to apply a BCS knockout punch on the No. 5 Fighting Irish on Saturday night (5:00 p.m.,PST) before a sold-out Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and nationally televised ABC audience.

The Obvious – Streaking into the 78th renewal of college football's greatest intersectional rivalry and armed with a four-game winning streak over the son's of Knute Rockne, the No. 2/3-ranked Pac-10 champion USC Trojans (9-1, 7-1 Pac-10) will look to apply a BCS knockout punch on the No. 5 Fighting Irish (10-1) on Saturday night (5:00 p.m.,PST) before a sold-out Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and nationally televised ABC audience.

The Not So Obvious - It's Pete Carroll, "Mr. 19-0 in November," versus Charlie Weis, "Mr. 7-0 in November." It's Brady "Maybe Heisman" Quinn versus John David "Maybe Pac-10 Player of the Year" Booty. It's the Sam Baker/Ryan Kalil Trojan offensive line versus the Notre Dame-led defensive line of Derek Landri and Victor Abiamiri. It's Trojan junior defensive end Lawrence Jackson versus Irish freshman tackle Sam Young. It's Traveler versus the Leprechaun. It's the Spirit of Troy versus some surprise musical visitors from South Bend. It's the living Coliseum ghost of Anthony Davis versus the living nightmare of Ara Parseghian. It's a packed Coliseum of Trojan masses versus the out-of-the-subway woodwork Irish posers. Best of all, it's USC versus Notre Dame.

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 7 1/2 point favorites to defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Not So Obvious – So how would the Irish, who play as an independent, do as a Pac-10 team? Well, for those that care, the O/NSO, in another public service, has taken the ND stats and compared them with this week's Pac-10 Conference stats. Some of the comparisons are quite interesting. For those that think this is going to be a Trojan crushing might be surprised with where the Irish rank in Pac-10 comparisons. Yes, we know, the Irish play some real cream puffs. Still, after looking at the comparisons, are the Trojans overly or underly favored? Is there such a word as "underly?"

The Obvious – The last time both teams were ranked so high by AP going into the game was in 1988.

The Not So Obvious – So, it shouldn't come as a shock that ticket prices on the scalping market are doing a brisk business. Old StubHub had a ticket range of $195 to $1,950 as of late Thursday evening.

The Obvious – The weather report for Saturday in Los Angeles is mostly sunny with a high of 66 and a low of 46.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report is whether the Trojans will cut the Coliseum grass so short that you could freeze it and ice skate on it. The reality of this game comes right down to which quarterback, the Trojans John David Booty or Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, has the all-star evening. Much of the success of these two hurlers will be whether their offensive lines can protect them. The Trojans have done a pretty good job of keeping defenses from pouncing on Booty while the Irish offensive line has been shaky, leaving Quinn vulnerable as illustrated by his harrowing escape from UCLA. The Irish secondary has had trouble all year covering good receivers and they get the acid test with the Trojans twin terrors, Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett. Of course, it's not like ND doesn't have some dangerous catchers in Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight. These two can play the game, but the Trojans' secondary, led by the rapidly improving Terrell Thomas and the hard-hitting Kevin Ellison, has been nails the past several weeks. The O/NSO believes the key is if you shut down Samardzija, the Irish are in trouble. Then there is the 12th man, the sold-out Coliseum, and whether the ear-piercing audio will be even greater this Saturday night than it was last weekend against Cal.

The Obvious – Saturday night's game will be the Trojans tenth straight Coliseum sellout.

The Not So Obvious – This will the 14th SC/ND Coliseum sellout.

The Obvious – The Coliseum and Notre Dame Stadium are as different as night and day.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO has said it many times. When you see a game at Notre Dame Stadium, aside from last year's game in South Bend, the crowd is neither as rowdy nor as loud as you might imagine. However, the Coliseum will have more than its share of flag waving Irishmen and the noise level is usually pretty intense from both sides. It will be interesting to see the noise effect of Irish followers being place in the Antarctica of the Coliseum, Sections 1 and 2. Ask the Cal fans if they think their team could hear them and their Berkeley band.

The Obvious - The general feeling of insiders is that Irish coach Charlie Weis and Trojans' coach Pete Carroll will never be sitting down to break bread anytime soon.

The Not So Obvious – This is no exaggeration. Call it the NFL competition factor and the blunt East Coast style of Weis and the California cool of Carroll, but both use each other to fan the flames of the recruiting wars and with an unbelievable about of 5-star recruits, some being recruited by both schools, being ushered into the Coliseum this weekend, the stakes are as high as you can get.

The Obvious – Millions on Saturday will see Pete Carroll and Charlie Weis coach their clipboards off, but it's the off-the-field recruiting wars that test the competitive juices of these high profile coaches.

The Not So Obvious – Of that off-the-field competition, Weis says, "The fact that he's a tireless recruiter, which is probably my biggest complaint. I wish he'd stay home. Every time I'm on the road, there's a handful of guys that are out there either coming right before me, right after me, or right on the same day. Unfortunately, he's one of 'em. He's not willing to rest on his laurels and just sit home and take for granted that, hey, this is USC, you want to come here. He's a very big competitor off the field especially in recruiting as he is on the field." FYI, Weis will stay in Los Angeles and recruit following Saturday's game and continue to recruit through next week.

The Obvious – Saturday night will be the last game for USC's seniors in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – It is always a teardrop moment with the realization that senior stars such as linebackers Dallas Sartz and Oscar Lua, receiver Steve Smith, center Ryan Kalil, and tackle Kyle Williams are running through that Heritage tunnel before Saturday's kickoff.

The Obvious – Saturday evening's game is being televised on ABC (5:00 p.m. PST) and the broadcast team will include Brent Musburger, Bob Davie, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lisa Salters.

The Not So Obvious – The national television rooting interest in this titanic could be one for the ages. You have the Trojans, the dominant program of the new millennium, waiting in the wings to enter its third consecutive BCS championship. For once, you'll have the entire state of Michigan rooting for the Irish to pull off the upset. You'll have the state of Florida hoping for an Irish upset to position their Gators for a run at the national title. And, of course, you'll have the national Notre Dame subway alums looking for major payback from last year's immortal Trojan victory in South Bend. Needless to say, Saturday will be one of the great days in recent college annual in southern California. All the ingredients are there for enormous ratings.

The Obvious – Former Trojan All-America quarterback Paul McDonald is the radio analyst on the Trojans 710 KSPN broadcasts.

The Not So Obvious – The Trojans radio broadcast team will have a different "look" this weekend as McDonald will be on leave for a family engagement. With McDonald away, WeAreSC contributor John Jackson moves up to the booth with play-by-play Pete Arbogast. As for Jackson's replacement on the field, versatile Suzy Shuster will give the latest from the sidelines.

The Obvious – There will be a national radio broadcast of Saturday's game on Westwood One with Don Criqui, Allen Pinkett, and Jeff Jeffers.

The Not So Obvious - Criqui, a Notre Dame grad and once a network television sportscaster, was the focal point of controversy when he replaced longtime Irish voice Tony Roberts, who had been the voice of Notre Dame since 1980. There are many in the Irish circles who felt that Roberts had the rug pulled from underneath him.

The Obvious – The ESPN GameDay crew will again be in Los Angeles on early Saturday morning promoting the college football world and Saturday night's Trojan-Irish donnybrook in general.

The Not So Obvious – So leave it to the Trojans' local flagship radio station, 710 KSPN, to come up with a worthwhile gimmick. Fans who hold up signs with "710 KSPN" on them may immediately be given tickets to Saturday night's game in the Coliseum by the station's roving representatives. The catch is the sign must be shown on the air during the live telecast with Chris, Lee, and Kirk.

The Obvious – In conversation this in comparing himself and Charlie Weis, Pete Carroll said, "(Charlie's) from New Jersey. I was born in San Francisco. I'm damn proud of being born in San Francisco. I just think it's the totally different backgrounds. Totally backgrounds growing up--totally different backgrounds in coaching with different mentors and all that. There's a lot of ways to do it--you don't have to do it the same way."

The Not So Obvious – Weis even admitted, football wise, there are differences. The ND coach said, "Last but not least, I think whatever tree you come under, like in my case coming under the Parcells/Belichick tree, that's where you're groomed under, therefore you carry a lot of the traits of that tree. I mean, there's more than one way to skin a cat, and I just happen to come under one, he (Carroll) ended up coming under another. I think they both can be very successful. 54 out of 57, 54-3, 57 games, you can sign me up right now."

The Obvious – Last season at Notre Dame Stadium, the Trojans inflicted one of the most painful Irish losses in South Bend history with a heart stopping 34-31 victory.

The Not So Obvious – So did you think that Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush will be watching Saturday's game? Thought so.

The Obvious – The Irish lead the series with the Trojans 42-30-3.

The Not So Obvious – Saturday marks the 80th anniversary of the first game in series, won by the Irish 13-12 during the 1926 Trojan Homcoming game in the Coliseum.

The Obvious – The Trojans, who have won 54 of their last 57 games, are defending a Pac-10 record 32-game home winning streak.

The Not So Obvious – Don't underestimate the impact that this streak has on Trojan opponents. They all know the current record and ND coach Weis is sure to bring it up as motivation. But so does the Coliseum faithful who know now that they can have as big an influence on Saturday night's game especially when the Irish are in third down situations and the "gong" is being played. Irish quarterback Brady Quinn has been known to "hyper out" when playing outside Notre Dame Stadium.

The Obvious – The popular Irish publication Blue and Gold annually produces a preseason Notre Dame yearbook.

The Not So Obvious – Showing great clairvoyance, in their Game 12 preview of this week's game, Blue and Gold wrote "With a berth for a national title showdown potentially at stake, another "Instant Classic" in this series fall Notre Dame's way, this time 37-31."

The Obvious – More than a few media outlets have pointed out that three of the Trojans' final four tough games are being played in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Notre Dame is 17-19-4 at the Coliseum.

The Obvious – The Notre Dame school newspaper, The Observer, ran a story on Tuesday how 75 members of the Irish band will be making the trip to the Coliseum per Charlie Weis request.

The Not So Obvious – The Observer wrote "The band will fly out at 8 a.m. Saturday from Chicago-O'Hare airport, perform at a pre-game pep rally organized by the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles near the Coliseum at Brewer Park and play on the sideline during the entire game. They will not, however, play at halftime and will not dress in their uniforms, which are being dry cleaned in preparation for Notre Dame's probable BCS appearance. The band will return early Sunday morning." The 75-member cap, according to director Lawrence Dwyer, was a mandate from the Trojans' fire marshal for safety concerns.

The Obvious – Notre Dame is coming off a 41-9 sleeper over the Army.

The Not So Obvious – Coach Charlie Weis admitted after the game that two-thirds of the plays the Irish practiced during Army week were to prepare for the Trojans. Weis just didn't let his players know it. Will this make a difference? Probably not since it still gets down to talent and the Trojans certainly aren't lacking in that department. The O/NSO believes the Irish may be too focused on the Trojans, thus adding pressure to an already pressurized situation.

The Obvious – The Trojan offense, under coordinator Lane Kiffin, is averaging 31.3 points per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish defense, under coordinator Rick Minter, is allowing 20.5 points per game, which would be sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans offensive line led by left tackle Sam Baker and center Ryan Kalil will be asked to control an impressive and physical Irish defensive front four.

The Not So Obvious – Keep an eye on the battles that bring out the front four charge of ND end Victor Abiamiri (6-4, 270) and California tackle Derek Landri (6-3, 277). Both have done a great job of applying pressure and Landri seems to have shaken his previous years' run of bad health. Abiamiri, the Randallstown, Maryland native, is looking at increasing his NFL stock against the Trojan tackles. Abiamiri, who has a team-high 10 sacks, figures to test Trojan right tackle Kyle Williams all night long. It will be of high interest to see how Williams holds up, considering the senior from Texas has been battling a virus all week.

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 392.1 yards in total offense, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish are allowing an average of 312.9 yards in total defense which would be sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans offense will need to punch in touchdowns as opposed to field goals to beat the Irish.

The Not So Obvious – It will be intriguing to watch the work of the Trojan offense on Saturday evening, especially with a national televised audience comparing Michigan and the Cardinal and Gold. It's doubtful the Trojans' offense can match Michigan's offensive demolition of the Irish (47-21), but it would be disappointing if this Trojan offense doesn't hang at least 30 points on the Irish. The Trojans' coaching staff knows that there will be an SRO number of media in attendance and watching on the tube, so unlike a 2:00 p.m. bar last call, the scoreboard sky is the limit.

The Obvious – The Trojans rank seventh in the Pac-10 in sacks with 23.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish have recorded 29 sacks this season, which would tie ND with ASU for fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – Notre Dame week always bring out the name of legendary Trojan tailback Anthony Davis, who spent more time in Irish end zones (11 touchdowns) than any opponent in Irish history, regardless of position.

The Not So Obvious – The USC Credit Union is giving fans a chance to get an autograph from old No. 28 on Saturday between 4-6 p.m. in the Trojan Fan Fest area next to the peristyle end of the Coliseum. We are informed that it's one item to be signed and one autograph per person. There are no special "extras" for Irish fans, but there is a rumor out there that ND fans will be "airport screened" when they approach one of the Notre Dame's all-time nemesis.

The Obvious – Both the Trojans and the Irish have players on their rosters that will be coveted by those scrupulous agents, who figure to be out in force this weekend.

The Not So Obvious – So it must have gotten the attention of the Trojan coaching staff when they turned to Page 3 of Tuesday's Daily Trojan to see a rather large advertisement from the Gersh Agency, complete with their website address and a picture of one of their more successful clients, former Trojan nose tackle Mike Patterson, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. The agency, which also represents former Trojan offensive guard Fred Matua, certainly found a way to get the attention of Pete Carroll's players, especially with twin photos of Patterson in an Eagle and Trojan uniform

The Obvious –Trojan junior quarterback John David Booty (62.3%, 22 TDs, 6 int., 241.7 avg./g) is first in the Pac-10 in passing.

The Not So Obvious – Certainly history will be on the side of John David when he has his first start against the Irish. The Trojans have "averaged" 371.8 yards passing in their past four consecutive wins against the Irish. Thank you very much Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. FYI, Leinart and former Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps are the only QBs to ever start three straight victories over the Irish.

The Obvious – Everybody likes to compare John David Booty with Matt Leinart at the same stage.

The Not So ObviousCharlie Weis says, "This guy (Booty) can play. I mean, he can play. He can control the line of scrimmage, he can make all the checks. People talk about his arm strength. All I know is I see him completing balls wherever he throws them. Don't underestimate how good Matt was. I think as good as Booty is, as good as he'll become, which I don't know the answer to that, it's tough. It would be like me comparing one of my young guys to Brady Quinn right now. I don't think that would be giving them their just due -- giving Leinart his just due."

The Obvious – Notre Dame senior quarterback Brady Quinn (65.1%, 32 TDs, 5 int., 273.1 avg./g) is a major candidate for this year's Heisman Trophy.

The Not So Obvious – Apparently Quinn, a career 49-of-98 for 537 yards against the Trojans with three touchdowns and one interception, has kept a USC hat in his room to remind him of beating the Trojans. One thing the Trojans would love to do is have Quinn make the hat a permanent part of his room. Let's agree on one thing, good readers, with all due respect to Cal, Brady is no Nathan Longshore and will be the best quarterback the Trojan defense will face in the regular season.

The Obvious – The Irish offense will be facing a Trojan defense that may be the fastest unit he has faced this season outside of Michigan.

The Not So Obvious – So, it Michigan speed similar to the Trojans? Brady Quinn says, "Yeah, I think so. Michigan is a good example of some of the speed you see definitely with the front seven and also with the secondary. We've played with some similar teams with some speed like that in the secondary. I think Georgia Tech was also a good comparison, and a few other teams. Really they (USC) are a solid team all around. You can't just look at one particular position and point it out as overwhelming compared to the rest."

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense, under coordinator Nick Holt, is allowing 14.2 points per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Notre Dame offense, under the guidance of ND alum coordinator Mike Haywood, is averaging 33.2points per game, which would be first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – As good as quarterback Brady Quinn has been this year, it is senior All-America receiver Jeff Samardzija that may be the focus of defending Charlie Weis' high-powered offense.

The Not So Obvious – Last year at Notre Dame Stadium, the 6-5 Samardzija was a major cog in the Irish offense against the Trojans by grabbing six receptions for 99 yards and a 32-yard touchdown catch. The Trojans could try to limit "The Shark" by putting 6-1 DB Terrell Thomas on him. As UCLA found out earlier this season, Samardzija is not only a great football player but a superior athlete as he pitched pro baseball this summer with Boise and Peoria, Class A Chicago Cub teams. The Valparaiso native is a smart one, too, earning a 3.051 GPA last year.

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 – The Irish are averaging 397.5 yards in total offense, which would be third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The one glaring weakness to the O/NSO concerning the Irish offense is their offensive line, which has had some gapping holes poked in it by hard-charging defensive linemen.

The Not So Obvious – Okay, how about the fact the Irish offensive line ranks 89th nationally in sacks given up? Ouch! One match-up to watch will be how the Trojans attack true freshman offensive right tackle Sam Young (6-8, 305), who figures to get "schooled" at some point by Trojan defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who has been on fire the past two weeks with four sacks. As an added note of interest, Young is the same kid the Trojans were in hot recruiting pursuit when Young was a senior last season at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. With the Irish giving up Brady Quinn sacks like Christmas presents, focus in on Trojan nose tackle Sedrick Ellis (6-1, 295) as he tries to poke holes in Irish senior center John Sullivan (6-4, 279)

The Obvious – Saturday's game will another stiff test for Pete Carroll's defense.

The Not So Obvious – One area of concern this week was the condition of linebacker Rey Maualuga's wrist, which was in a cast. Of course one jokester cracked, "If you were alarmed at the sight of Rey's hand in a cast, you should have seen the other guy." It figures that Saturday night's game will be a bloodbath of emotion and don't expect Maualuga to pass on an opportunity to leave his calling card with the Irish.

The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging 250.0 yards per game, third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish pass defense is allowing 186.1 yards per game, which would be sixth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious –The Trojans will explore the Irish secondary with receivers Steve Smith (15.9 avg., 8 TDs, 87.4 avg./g), Dwayne Jarrett (12.7 avg., 7 TDs, 67.8 avg./g), Patrick Turner (9.0avg., 2 TDs, 25.2 avg./g) and tight end tight end Fred Davis (8.2 avg., 3 TDs, 21.2 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – Well, has the Irish secondary gotten any better this season? No is the correct answer and much not faster either. There are, however, familiar names in senior safety Tom Zbikowski (5-11, 202), the pro boxer, who burned the Trojans last year with a 60-yard punt return in South Bend, and junior corner Terrail Lambert, the former Oxnard St. Bonaventure star who has risen on the Irish depth chart to become a factor. Lambert, who can play hot and cold, leads the Irish with three interceptions this season. The O/NSO believes the Trojans will attack both these Irish secondary members with great gusto.

The Obvious – Safety Tom Zbikowski has had individual success against the Trojans, but his senor class has never tasted victory against the Cardinal and Gold.

The Not So Obvious – So how will Zbikowski feel if the Irish tank again against the Trojans? Tom said, "It would be pretty bitter. Still got a little bitter taste in my mouth from last year. You know, when you watch film, you watch a little bit of the game from last year, you replay that ending a thousand different ways. Definitely gets to you a little bit."

The Obvious – The Trojans have no players from the state of Indiana, thus no starters (duh).

The Not So Obvious – The Irish have 12 players who hail from California, including starting wide receiver Rhema McKnight (La Palma Kennedy), and defensive starters in defensive linemen Derek Landri (Concord De La Salle) and Chris Frome (Saugus Hart), who suffered a season ending injury against the Trojans in South Bend, and starting defensive back Terrail Lambert (Oxnard St. Bonaventure). All but Lambert are seniors.

The Obvious – Irish fans are still stewed over the "Bush Push" of Matt Leinart to seal the last minute victory last season at Notre Dame.

The Not So Obvious – There was the less heralded "Bush Push" when Reggie took it to the house with one of his three scoring runs and safety Tom Zbikowski pushed The Roadrunner from behind in the Irish end zone, a sure sign of blue and gold frustration.

The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 142.2 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish rush defense is allowing 126.8 yards per game, which would be seventh in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – True freshman C.J. Gable (4.2 avg., 3 TDs, 25.0 avg./g) will start again on Saturday, but junior Chauncey Washington (4.9 avg., 8 TDs, 70.3 avg./g) figures to be on call as the game progresses.

The Not So Obvious – No question that Gable is pulling his load and raising some eyebrows along the way. Depending on the needs of the moment, it will also be interesting to see if freshmen tailbacks Allen Bradford or Stafon Johnson get some carries. Bradford as seen increased playing time and has become a very vocal leader of the freshmen, not surprising since his spirits are on a "high," thanks to increased playing time. Allen was very animated last Saturday in the Trojans big victory over Cal.

The Obvious – A key player in the Notre Dame defense is middle linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr., a junior from Tampa (Fla.) Bay Tech High.

The Not So Obvious – Crum (6-0, 225), who leads the Irish in tackles (83), assisted on four tackles and a quarterback hurry last year against the Trojans. A sociology major, his father, Maurice Crum, Sr., played linebacker for Miami, earning first-team All-America honors as a senior in 1990 and lead the Hurricanes in tackles three consecutive years.

The Obvious Dennis Packer is the public address announcer for Trojan home games in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Packer will have his hands, ur, mouthful with Irish safety Chinedum Ndukwe, who is second in tackles (82) behind Maurice Crum, Jr. A native of Powell, Ohio, Ndukwe will have a lot to say how the Trojans passing attacks functions. Chinedum has some experience in defending great quarterbacks; he is a former high school teammate of Irish quarterback Brady Quinn at Dublin Coffman High.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 92.1 yards rushing per game, first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish rushing game is averaging 123.7 yards per game, which would be ninth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Irish feature running backs junior Darius Walker (4.9 avg., 7 TDs, 98.5 avg./g) and true freshman James Aldridge (4.2 avg., 0 TDs, 27.0 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – If history serves the Trojan defense well, expect to see plenty of draws and screens to Walker, whose father Jimmy played for Lou Holtz at Arkansas. The Georgia native is a fine little runner, but don't get him confused with a Marshawn Lynch of Cal. A back to keep an eye on Saturday and for the Irish future is Aldridge (6-1, 215), a product of Merrillville, Indiana. Little known fact is that this young Irish bruiser became a star at Merrillville High (Ind.) after transferring from St. Louis (Mo.) Hazelwood Central High after his sophomore year. The Irish have been easing this kid in behind Walker.

The Obvious – The Trojan Bookstore is gearing up for the holidays, especially in the second-floor clothing and souvenir department.

The Not So Obvious – There are now three plasma wide screens hanging from the ceiling showing Trojan football DVD highlights. It appears to be a good marketing tool, since a number of folks stopped to look at the plasma screens and the merchandising tables below.

The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 196.5 yards per game, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish pass offense is averaging 273.7 yards per game, which would be first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Irish have outstanding receivers in 6-5 senior Jeff Samardzija (13.7, avg., 10 TDs, 79.9 avg./g), 6-0 senior Rhema McKnight (13.4 avg., 14 TDs, 70.5avg./g), and senior tight end John Carlson (13.5 avg., 4 TDs, 62.1 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – Carlson is out with a knee injury and has been replaced by 5th year senior Marcus Freeman (6-3, 245), a senior from St. Paul, Minn. If the Trojans put their emphasis of defense in stopping wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, Charlie Weis does love going to his tight end. A veteran, Freeman actually graduated in May with a degree in marketing. Marcus also hails from the same Minnesota high school, Cretin-Derham Hall, as starting offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who was once a Trojan recruit many moons ago. In fact, Harris was on his Trojan recruiting trip the year (2002) that Carson Palmer bombed the Irish secondary into oblivion.

The Obvious – ND coach Charlie Weis pulled out all the stops last Sunday to get his team off the Army high and to immediately begin focusing on the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – According to Irish players, they walked into their Sunday team meeting and Weis was wearing a USC hat with the Spirit of Troy blaring in the background. Quarterback Brady Quinn commented, "I mean, if you know Coach Weis, you know he's always up to something. I think when we first came in, kind of heard the song playing and everything, as we walked in the team meeting, everyone understood he had something planned. He showed a couple clips of some things that were said on TV and everything. I think more than everything else, he wanted to get us in the right mindset of where we need to be this week. It's funny because it reminded me of actually being back in the stadium, hearing that music over and over again. It's kind of the same song. It just kind of puts you back there and prepares you what it really sounds like to be there. He didn't look very good. I told him he needed to take that hat off as quickly as he can."

The Obvious – The Trojans place kicker is junior Mario Danelo, who is 11 of 12 on field goals, first field goal percentage in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish feature senior place kicker Carl Gioia, who is 7-of-11 on field goals, with a long of 40 yards. Gioia would be tied for ninth in the Paa-10 Conference.

The Obvious - Trojan sophomore punter Greg Woidneck is averaging 38.8 yards per kick, ninth in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Irish senior punter Geoff Price, from Hurst, Texas, is averaging 45.7 yards per kick, which would be first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – It is common knowledge this is the Trojans biggest recruiting weekend of the season.

The Not So Obvious –Nobody has owned the recruiting world like Carroll and his ability to bring most of his top recruits to the Trojans' biggest games, Notre Dame or UCLA. Of all the billboard recruits coming into the Coliseum on Saturday, the one that the O/NSO finds most intriguing is defensive tackle Marvin Austin (63, 300, 4.9) from Washington D.C. Ballou. Scout.com's No. 1 defensive tackle, this kid is a beast. Not far behind in our interest is Arizona offensive lineman Kris O'Dowd and Arizona defensive end Everson Griffen, who are strongly considering Troy. If you're interested in seeing these blue chip athletes, check out the Trojan Walk when they are expected to walk in with the team at the peristyle end. Oh, and did we mention that Arkansas running back Broderick Green, Texas wide receiver Terrance Toliver, and Chicago defensive end Martez Wilson are also expected in the parade of prep stars?

The Obvious – Hall of Fame Trojan tackle Anthony Munoz will be honored at halftime.

The Not So Obvious – Trading cards bearing Anthony's photo will be given out at the game.

The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 52.8 penalty yards per game, seventh the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Irish are averaging 56.0 penalty yards per game, which would be seventh in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans and the Irish are the nation's featured televised game of the weekend.

The Not So Obvious – Yes, Mrs. O/NSO, there are some Pac-10 games of interest on the tube this Thanksgiving weekend and one very important non-Pac-10 game. Friday's festivities begin with "Remember us" LSU at "How'bout a rematch, Tommy Trojan," Arkansas (11:30 a.m., CBS) and "How far can we drop?" Oregon visiting "We're the USC Trojans dressed in Orange and Black" Oregon State (12:30 p.m., FSN) in the Civil War. On Saturday and prior to the Trojans and the Irish, "Is Norm Chow the next Sun Devil coach?" Arizona State traveling to "Is this the Pac-10's top comeback story?" Arizona (3:00 p.m., FSN).

The Obvious – And finally, there will be plenty of stars at the Coliseum from all walks of Americana including the expected likes of Donald Trump, Will Ferrell, James Caan, Ken Griffey Jr., Charlie Sheen, and Marshall Faulk.

The Not So Obvious – Yes, from the celebrities of Hollywood to the celebrity of BCS teams, everybody seems to have an investment in this Thanksgiving weekend's colossus. Even next week's crosstown rival, UCLA, has a vested interest in Saturday night's proceedings, having lost to the Irish. What does it all mean? It can mean only one thing; it's USC and Notre Dame and once again as in generations past, all national championship roads lead through the archways of the fabled Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.


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