O/NSO - Colorado Blvd. edition

As the USC Trojans and Michigan Wolverines approach their final weekend of preparation for Monday's Rose Bowl clash, those colorful parade floats are being readied, the marching bands are busy preparing for that 5 1/2 mile stretch down famed Colorado Boulevard, the Beef Bowl is history, and 2007 figures to be ushered in with plenty of cardinal and gold and maize and blue at New Year's Eve parties.

The Obvious – As the USC Trojans and the Michigan Wolverines approach their final weekend of preparation for Monday's Rose Bowl clash, those colorful parade floats are being readied, the marching bands are busy preparing for that 5 1/2 mile stretch down famed Colorado Boulevard, the Beef Bowl is history, and 2007 figures to be ushered in with plenty of cardinal and gold and maize and blue at New Year's Eve parties.

The Not So Obvious – Meanwhile, the O/NSO, still somewhat recuperating from last week's busy wrapping and unwrapping of our Holiday edition, has uncovered a number of items, issues, and memories that were put in storage until we could clean up all the celebratory ribbons, Scotch tape, and sweet tastes. So, let's do a little past, present, and future Auld Lange Syne as we approach the best bowl game on the planet, the Rose Bowl, Glendale or no Glendale, Arizona.

The Obvious – New Year's Eve has many memories, especially for those that include the Rose Bowl week as part of their past.

The Not So Obvious – As a young bachelor, one our favorite memories was to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where generally many students from the visiting Big Ten would gather. The memories still burn bright going to one New Year's Eve celebration in 1973 with students from Ohio State. There were giant pictures of coach Woody Hayes, quarterback Cornelius Greene, and running back Archie Griffin on the walls, giant OSU pennants, and the Buckeyes' fight song being played over and over. It really got your then young correspondent in a festive mood for the game. Gots to admit, those Buckeyes knew how to take the Ambassador's Grand Ballroom and turn it into a miniature versions of "The Horseshoe." So what is your best New Years Eve memory in regards to a Rose Bowl, good readers?

The Obvious – The Trojans have officially closed Rose Bowl practice to the public beginning today (Friday) and will do so through the last exercise on Sunday.

The Not So Obvious – Although the O/NSO attended practice this week, we have been asked that no specific practice reports be filed and we will certainly honor that request. A memorable Rose Bowl practice we will never forget attending was the opening day session for the Ohio State Buckeyes at East Los Angeles JC in preparation for the 1969 game. It was overwhelming to see the Buckeyes, who were preparing to take on the Trojans and O.J. Simpson. Compared to watching the Trojans practice, these Buckeyes of Woody Hayes looked like monsters. Hayes had two monster offensive tackles named Dave Foley and Rufus Mayes and they were the biggest linemen we had ever seen. Seeing fullback John Brockington, quarterback Rex Kern, and middle guard Jim Stillwagon was impressive, but seeing a young Jack Tatum, the legendary strong safety, was intimidating. We even got to see a future coaching great besides Woody leave the field. Does the name Lou Holtz, a Hayes' assistant, rings a bell? The Buckeyes beat the Trojans 27-16 and it didn't come as such a shock after having seen this collection of physical beasts.

The Obvious – The memory of late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler will be evoked as the Trojans and Wolverines get set for Monday.

The Not So Obvious – The following year after watching the Buckeyes work out at East Los Angeles JC, we had a chance to watch Schembechler and his Wolverines do the same. Bo was intense and how ironic that he had his first heart attack as kickoff for the 1970 approached. Our memories of his squad was watching All-America tight end Jim Mandich made one effortless catch after another. The Trojans won that Rose Bowl 10-3 and our memory of that game was a 33-yard scoring pass in the third quarter from Jimmy Jones to the late Bobby Chandler, securing a 10-3 Trojan victory. While neither of the offenses were exciting on that afternoon, the Trojans' legendary Wild Bunch was simply awesome, Bo or no Bo. For you trivia buffs with gray hair, who kicked the extra point and an earlier Trojan field goal?. Ah, we are impressed with your knowledge…..yes, it was former Lakewood High star Ron Ayala.

The Obvious – The Trojans and the Wolverines attended Disneyland earlier in the week.

The Not So Obvious – If there is one thing that the Trojans learned about the Wolverines at the Magic Kingdom is these Wolverines are big as in BIG. More than one Trojan player told the O/NSO after this week's practice they couldn't believe how physically "big" the boys from Ann Arbor are. One Michigan player in particular got the attention of the Trojans we talked with and that was Michigan junior All-America defensive tackle Alan Branch (6-6, 331). Ironically, Branch is not a Midwestern lad but hails from Cibola High in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Big Alan didn't exactly fly under the radar as he was selected to play in the prestigious 2004 U.S. Army all-America game in San Antonio.

The Obvious – Florida State defeats UCLA 44-17 in the Emerald Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – After watching the game, it's apparent that former Trojan coach and current UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker isn't quite the genius he appeared in the Trojans' stunning loss to the Bruins. Florida State took a combination of running back Lorenzo Booker, second half adjustments and defensive good fortune to humble the boys from Westwood. Watching the Seminoles do their thing with an offense that at times this year was downright offensive, places the Trojans' offensive coaching staff and players under a greater spotlight against Michigan, as if they needed it and weren't already.

The Obvious – Two Trojan coaches under the New Year's Day microscope will be offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and to a much lesser degree defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

The Not So Obvious – Minutes before Wednesday's 1:30 afternoon practice, Kiffin was observed jogging around campus down McClintock Avenue past the Seeley G. Mudd Building. Holt did the opposite, selecting to do his workout run after practice at 3:30. There is nothing like a good jog to relieve the upcoming stress, even before knowledge of Florida State's victory over UCLA.

The Obvious – After the loss to Florida State, UCLA defensive lineman Brigham Harwell, once a high valued Trojan recruit, said, "After we beat SC, we were on a high, but we knew that we needed to show the country that the SC game wasn't a fluke."

The Not So Obvious – From the opposite prospective, on New Year's Day, the Trojans will try to prove against Michigan that the UCLA loss was a fluke.

The Obvious – This will be the Wolverines' third Rose Bowl in the past four years.

The Not So Obvious – So do those media memebers that cover the Rose Bowl from the Midwest ever get tired of the assignment? Of the Rose Bowl beat, An Arbors News sportswriter Jim Cardy says, "I've covered some Super Bowls, some World Series, Final Fours, and there is nothing like the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. There may be game weeks that are better for various bowls, but on game day in the Arroyo Seco, in that little canyon, an immaculate field, the place filled with fans early, it's just a special place if you get even a little sunlight. Lloyd Carr likes to wax poetic about the Rose Bowl, but you can't understand why until once you go. It's one of those events that the athletes appreciate it as much as the fans."

The Obvious – The USC Bookstore on campus is full of Rose Bowl paraphernalia, everything from clothing to "Beat Michigan" buttons.

The Not So Obvious – Upon entering the Bookstore, there are Rose Bowl arrow logos on the floor pointing in the direction in which the Granddaddy of Them All items are located. Once up the escalator to the second floor, it's Rose Bowl banners handing from the ceiling with three plasma televisions showing a DVD replay of the 2004 Rose bowl game between the Trojans and the Wolverines. The O/NSO checked in just as Shaun Cody was blocking a UM field goal attempt in the first quarter. One of the more interesting items being sold is the black stickers that players are placed under players' eyes to counter the glare from the sun. Eyeblack.com is selling then with "USC" as the insignia as opposed to your stanard "area code."

The Obvious – Some have been somewhat critical of the play of Trojan senior linebacker Dallas Sartz over the course of his career.

The Not So Obvious – With Sartz as a starter, the Trojans record is 31-2.

The Obvious – One Trojan who has elected to forego the Rose Bowl experience is true freshman safety Antwine Perez, who has left Troy and has returned to New Jersey to embark in a new direction.

The Not So Obvious – Considering the talent pool and competition, what's more surprising is that more players haven't pulled the transfer trigger. Pete Carroll and his staff have done a magnificent job of trying to get the freshman on the field as soon as possible. The problem with one freshman doing it, of course, leads to the possibility others might prematurely make a hasty move. Blame in on expectations and blown-out-of-proportion accolades coming out of high school. While we believe freshman should have the right to play immediately as much as junior have the right to head to the NFL, if there was still the old "Troybabe freshman team," Perez might be still a Trojan. Then again, if a kid is not starting and is homesick, that is a tough issue to overcome, especially for one like Perez who left high school early to come to Troy.

The Obvious – One of the most "memorable" comments in American history was President Bill Clinton's "it depends what ‘is' is."

The Not So Obvious – Recently we had a major interpretation issue whether former Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow said " may be" or maybe" in referring to former Trojan and current UCLA DC DeWayne Walker and his comparison to Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, either as coaches or as friends. The O/NSO listened to the interview five times and we can't tell if Chow is saying "may be" or "maybe." Either way, we did not find the manner or the Chow transcript to be insulting or provocative. What needed to be done was to follow up with Dr. Norm for clarification of what the old master was trying to say. If you have heard the interview, you may find yourself agreeing with the O/NSO, although we tend to lean to the "maybe" rather than the "may be." Confused? Who's on first? What's on second. I don't know is on third. Abbott!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Obvious – More of the more famous lines in the all-time movie classic, The Godfather, is when Don Corleone says, "I am gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

The Not So Obvious – Reports are that the same line could apply to Trojan fullback Jody Adewale, the former Roosevelt running back flash, who apparently has given up a final year of playing for the cardinal and gold to concentrate on getting his masters degree. According to reports, the likeable Adewale, who bled cardinal and gold from his prep days, was highly encouraged to enter a the masters program and will work in the athletic department and receive two more years of education. Jody was never going to draw a Sunday paycheck in The League, so this is an excellent "big picture" decision. Of course the Trojan football program is also a winner in that they pick up another valuable "ride" to give another prep phenom. A win-win situation for both parties, it was the type of "persuasive" powers that would have made the late Marlon Brando proud.

The Obvious – The Trojans loss to UCLA took place on Dec. 2, which means the Men of Troy didn't have overwhelming length of time to Monday's game.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan last played on Nov. 18 and the O/NSO sees this as a major advantage for the Trojan if you are looking for one. It could take the Wolverines as long as an entire half to get back into the swing of things, especially with the Trojans' speed factor. However, Michigan All-America offensive tackle Jake Long takes exception. Long says, "I don't think the layoff will hurt us. We really haven't stopped practicing, lifting and running and watching film. I really don't think the layoff will hurt us. We've been practicing fast, game-speed and everything."

The Obvious – The Trojans and the Wolverines have a combined record of 0-3 in their last three combined Rose Bowl appearances.

The Not So Obvious – The Wolverines are also 0-2 in their last two trips to any bowl appearances, which reminds the O/NSO to ask how do you make Wolverine cookies? Put them in a big bowl and beat them for three hours.

The Obvious – In the latest check of Rose Bowl ticket availability, prices at such "department stores" such as StubHub and Ebay were showing inventory that was going at base price.

The Not So Obvious – So is there little interest in this year's Rose Bowl? Well, there was plenty of spirit at the USC store in the Crystal Court of the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa this week. In fact, the front of the store had Rose Bowl window dressing and included a large, painted sign that read "Beat Michigan." FYI, the USC store was doing a brisk business in apparel.

The Obvious – The Trojans are eagerly awaiting the future arrival of Servite linebacker Chris Galippo, the two-time Orange County Register Defensive Player of the Year, who loves video football games.

The Not So Obvious – Every incoming freshman has a goal when reporting to Troy. Chris told the OC Register, "I'll be on ‘NCAA ‘08' next year, so I'm sure that will be my favorite (video game)."

The Obvious – There is nothing like being on Colorado Boulevard when the clock strikes midnight and the new year is ushered in.

The Not So Obvious – One of the great New Year's Eve mistakes of your friendly scribe was the time way-back-when we were cruising down old Colorado in our brown Ford Pinto with the mag rims and wide-tire wheels. Cruising with a friend named Ronnie, Ronnie thought it would be cool to roll down our windows as we watched how the masses on the sidewalks celebrated that magic midnight moment. Wrong move, Ronnie! With our windows rolled down and the change of year at hand, people rushed our car with shopping bags full of colored confetti and dumped it in both the front and back seats of my Pinto. It was initially stunning to say the least. Trying to cleaning it out later was also stunning.

The Obvious – Trojan senior offensive tackle Kyle Williams misses a practice because reports say he was angry for being replaced by junior Matt Spanos, who has since been ruled ineligible for the Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – Yes, it is old news, but there are some basic facts for the past, present, and future. The past tells us that Spanos may well have replaced Kyle had Matt been eligible, but Pete Carroll told reporters after the Spanos ruling that "we never had planned to start him (Spanos)." The past also tells us that Kyle played a poor game against UCLA and he would be first to admit that.

The present tells us that Kyle is a senior who has paid his dues. The fact that Spanos, who has now twice let his team down by not attending to his academics, is no fault of Kyle Williams.

The future is that Spanos will probably start next year at right tackle if gains eligibility. The bottom line is that it isn't hard to figure out why Williams was angry if earlier reports were correct. Why should a junior, who has not played one down the whole season because of grades, replace a senior in the starting lineup for his last game, in the Rose Bowl no less? What does it also say to Williams' seasonal backup Charles Brown? Oy veh, way too many questions. Just start Williams and if he messes up in the first series, pull the plug and play musical tackles.

The Obvious – Another Trojan who appears to have booted his last Rose Bowl kickoff is Troy Van Blarcom, who has been dismissed from the university for failing to maintain the minimum grade point average.

The Not So Obvious – Yikes!!! Troy was such a major defensive weapon and now we find that he has been dismissed from the university. We would like to have more compassion for the former Orange Lutheran star, but the fact is considering all the help and tutoring players receive from the Trojans' athletic department, we don't hold the coaches accountable whatsoever. There is nothing wrong with trying to get a grade changed; the O/NSO got two changed in college myself from a C to a B, but failing to achieve a minimum GPA, which allows eligibility after constantly flirting with disaster? In Troy's case, this was the third semester and the gong. Let's give the players who are eligible the opportunities, so help me David Buehler.

The Obvious – Thursday night, the Trojans made their way over to Lawry's for their part in the annual Beef Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – According to some earlier reports, players weren't so thrilled with the idea since they have been to the famous eatery three of the past four years. However, when it was time to chow down, nobody was complaining about "false starts" and nobody rejected any plates handed to them. Some Trojans even gave a new meaning to "piling on."

The Obvious – Senior fullback Brandon Hancock, who missed the entire season due to injury, is giving signals that he is indeed interested in returning for one more tour of duty with the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious – Where there's smoke there's fire and in this case, smoke and fire is a good thing as the return of Hancock would be a special holiday gift for the Men of Troy. Some would argue his unfortunate injury along with Ryan Powdrell's helped create an offensive philosophy void that was never filled. If Brandon wants to, is granted permission to return, and can avoid his past star-crossed injury career, the Trojans' future backfield just got immeasurably better for 2007.

The Obvious – Thanks to his bowl and Ohio State record, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has been the subject of many jokes over the years.

The Not So Obvious – Recently, an Ann Arbor judge was ruling in the case of a ten-year-old boy who accused his parents of beating him. After reviewing the evidence, the judge announced his intention to make the boy's grandmother his custodian. The boy protested this, stating that the grandmother also beat the boy. Finally, the judge awarded custody of the boy to Lloyd Carr and the Wolverines, since the judge rightly determined that "they can't beat anybody!"

The Obvious – There are a number of post-season prep All-America teams and one of the most publicized is the USA Today All-America team.

The Not So Obvious – On Wednesday, USA Today came out with their annual first and second team offensive and defensive teams, including a number of Trojan verbals. The lone Trojan first-team offensive selection was Westlake Village Oaks Christian running back Marc Tyler, but there were two first-team defensive selections in Avondale (Ariz..) Aqua Fria DE Everson Griffen and Anaheim Servite linebacker Chris Galippo.

There were two second-team offensive Trojan verbals in linemen in St. Augustine (Fla.) Nease's James Wilson and Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic's Kris O'Dowd. Potential Trojan verbals included Washington D.C. Ballou DT Marvin Austin, USA Today Defensive POY, first-team two-way RB/DB Joe McKnight of River Ridge (La.) John Curtis, and second-team Long Beach Poly DB Donovan Warren. Orange Lutheran TE Blake Ayles was placed on the Juniors to Watch list.

The Obvious – As the week has unfolded, many Trojan and Michigan fans have been seen together discussing Monday's game.

The Not So Obvious – A Trojan fan in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and says, "Wanna hear a Michigan joke?" The guy next to him replies, "Well before you tell that joke, you should know something. I'm 6' tall, 200 lbs., and I am a Michigan alumnus. The guy sitting next to me is 6'2 tall, weighs 225, and he's a Michigan alumnus. The fella next to him is 6'5 tall, weighs 250, and he's a Michigan alumnus. Now, you still wanna tell that joke?" The Trojan fan says,"Nah, not if I'm gonna have to explain it 3 times."

The Obvious – The Wolverines play in one of the most famous stadium in America and it's called "The Big House" because of its enormous capacity.

The Not So Obvious – So did you hear they are changing the playing field at "The Big House" to cardboard? Yeah, because Michigan has always looks better on paper.

The Obvious – One of the highlights for out-of-town visitors to the Rose Bowl is to see many of the famous sites around Los Angeles.

The Not So Obvious – This past week, a number of maize and blue attired Michigan fans have been seen on the Trojan campus checking out Heritage Hall and the Bookstore.

The Obvious – One of the most missed aspects of ABC's Rose Bowl coverage will be the absence of legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson, who has retired.

The Not So Obvious – Not that bowl trips are all fun and games, but the Michigan coaches did enjoy a special evening out Dec. 23 when they were hosted by Keith Jackson.The Michigan coaching staff was treated to dinner with Jackson, who recalled numerous stories from college football seasons past. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said, "We had a great evening with him. One of the most enjoyable evenings I've ever spent at the Rose Bowl. It was just a lot of fun to be with Keith."

The Obvious – Two of Michigan's greatest, former President Gerald Ford, who played on Michigan's 1932 and '33 national championship football teams, and football coach Bo Schembechler, have passed to glory within the past month and a half.

The Not So Obvious – To fans and alumni of Michigan, all previous kidding aside, please accept our condolences on the losses of two of America's most honored citizens.

The Obvious – And finally, on New Year's Eve you either belong to the Party Hardy Club and become a human kegger or you bring in the Chinese cuisine and watch one of a plethora of television spectaculars ringing in the new year.

The Not So Obvious – As for the O/NSO, it looks like the traditional Asian take-out from Pick-Up-Stix and an HDTV Times Square adventure with the immediate family. Nope, those days of cruising Colorado are history, but come Monday afternoon in the Arroyo Seco, there is no minimum age, height, or weight limits. On Monday afternoon at the Rose Bowl, everybody is an undergraduate student majoring in good times.

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