O/NSO - Michigan preview edition

With a majority of their heralded underclass headliners returning for the 2007 season, the No. 7/8 USC Trojans (10-2) and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (11-1) will present their case for next fall's No. 1 in Monday's Pasadena New Years Day gridiron courtroom also known as the 93rd Rose Bowl Game (2:00 p.m. PST, ABC).

The Obvious – With a majority of their heralded underclass headliners returning for the 2007 season, the No. 7/8 USC Trojans (10-2) and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (11-1) will present their case for next fall's No. 1 in Monday's Pasadena New Years Day gridiron courtroom also known as the 93rd Rose Bowl Game (2:00 p.m. PST, ABC).

The Not So Obvious – As both teams appear to have recovered from their late season disappointments, perhaps Michigan senior All-America defensive end LaMarr Woodley, a former Trojan recruit, summed it up best. Woodley said, "It's definitely like a national championship game at the Rose Bowl. You have two teams that had a chance to play for a national championship and we both got bad breaks. It's definitely going to be one of the biggest games."

The Obvious – The general consensus is Monday's game is a preview of 2007 and nobody in the college football world seems to dispute this factor, considering the amount of returning talent for both teams.

The Not So Obvious – The Detroit Free Press says, "Granddaddy of them all features two teams that may be disappointed to be there instead of in the title game, but you can't get more traditional than Michigan and Southern Cal. Winner is the likely preseason No. 1 next year."

The Obvious – The Trojans opened as 1 1/2-point underdogs to the Michigan Wolverines.

The Not So Obvious – What a difference a number of weeks can make as Pete Carroll's Trojans are now favored by 1-point to defeat Lloyd Carr's Wolverines. The only common opponent these teams had this season was Notre Dame, and both won going away. The Trojans spanked the Irish 44-24 while two months earlier Michigan stomped the Irish 47-21 at Notre Dame Stadium. On the face of it, it appears these two teams are evenly matched and even The Sporting News, in the their bowl previews, wrote, "No national title on the line? So what! This is as good as it gets, people." The Trojans are now a very slight favorite to eviscerate their pain of the UCLA loss and it would be hard to fathom that the Men of Troy could lose three games in one year on the scared turf in Pasadena. The O/NSO feels this game will come down to who really wants to win and lay the groundwork for the 2007 season. Realtors call it location, location, location. We call this year's Rose Bowl emotion, emotion, emotion.

The Obvious – Everybody has an opinion on Monday's Rose Bowl game.

The Not So Obvious – The Sporting News trio of Matt Hayes, Tom Dienhart, and Steve Greenberg call it USC 31-19, USC 30-27, and Michigan 34-29, respectively. MSNBC says Michigan 26-23. Fox Sports Peter Schrager selects the Trojans 45-42 (2 OT). CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd calls it Michigan, and Fox Sports' Peter Fiutak calls it USC 31, UM 27. ABC's Dan Fouts says USC while ABC analyst Tim Brandt picks Michigan.

The Obvious – Third-ranked Michigan's only loss is a 42-39 downer at Ohio State in its regular season finale.

The Not So Obvious – Is the Michigan offense that good or is the Ohio State defense that overrated? While some may argue that the Buckeyes were in control the entire game, the fact of the matter is that the Wolverines competed to the bitter end and the Trojans know all about teams that competed to the very end or have you forgotten two regular season games played in Corvallis and Pasadena?

The Obvious – Monday afternoon's game is being televised nationally on ABC (1:30 p.m. PST) with Brent Musburger, Bob Davie, and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth with sideline reporters Lisa Salters and Bonnie Bernstein.

The Not So Obvious – The national ESPN radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl will feature Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, and Todd Harris. If you thought McDonough was boring on television, you should hear this guy on radio (Zzzzzzzzzzzzz). The O/NSO recommends the Trojan flagship KSPN, which will begin broadcasting from the Rose Bowl at 9:00 a.m. with the usual cast of characters right up to the regular broadcast team of Pete Arbogast, Paul McDonald, and John Jackson.

The Obvious – Monday's game will be broadcast on the Trojans' flagship radio station, 710 KSPN-AM commencing at 9:00 a.m.

The Not So Obvious – It will be the usual five hour pre-game and two-hour post-game show extravaganzas, and, of course, the Rose Bowl game broadcast. We have waited till the final O/NSO game edition to billboard all those that have made your drive to and from the Coliseum more enjoyable or simply turned your living room into more Trojan game-like experience. Roll the credits, Roland. Pete Arbogast, Paul McDonald, John Jackson, Suzy Shuster, Steve Mason, Curt Sandoval, Darrell Rideaux, David Newbury, Brandon Hancock, Harvey Hyde, Colin Cowherd, Dave Denholm, Jeff Biggs, and Mia Harris. A job well done, gang.

The Obvious – The weather report for Monday in Pasadena is partly cloudy and windy with a high of 67 and a low of 45.

The Not So Obvious – The O/NSO weather report is whether the Trojans can establish a running game against the Wolverines and keep John David Booty from being harassed and mugged in the pocket. As for that running game, let's find out whether the Trojans are committed to having one or will they, upon having difficulty early, resort to a full air attack. Naturally, a lot depends on the Trojans' offensive line and All-America tackle Sam Baker and senior Kyle Williams in particular. While this is certainly a key to the game, don't be misled and avoid watching the battle between the Trojans all-star center Ryan Kalil and his battle with Michigan All-America nose tackle Alan Branch. If Branch gets a push up the middle, Booty better have one of those Lloyd's of London insurance policies.

A major area of interest will be whether there will be perceptible offensive strategy and in-game adjustments by Trojan offensive minds consisting of Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, and Steve Sarkisian, in that order. Defensively, we have faith in Nick Holt's defense to keep things manageable, but let' s find out whether Lloyd Carr does a better job of teaching his offense how to deal the Trojans' blitz package that completely destroyed the maize and blue in the 2004 Rose Bowl with a season-high nine sacks and turned quarterback John Navarre into a human tackling dummy.

The Obvious – The weather forecast for Ann Arbor on Monday calls for showers with a high of 47 and a low of 35.

The Not So Obvious – There was plenty of Michigan SoCal fan activity this weekend as the Wolverine faithful were seen enjoying the sun and spoils of famed Laguna Beach. The old boardwalk, quaint stores, and beachfront basketball courts saw fans dressed in maize and blue tossing the old pigskin along the ocean front. Who says the Rose Bowl is old hat?

The Obvious – The Trojan offense, under coordinator Lane Kiffin, is averaging 30.3 points per game, finishing third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Michigan defense, under first-year coordinator Ron English, is allowing 14.6 points per game, finishing third in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – You can bet that English, a 15-year college coaching veteran, has studied the UCLA game strategy used by former Trojan coach and UCLA DC DeWayne Walker.

The Not So Obvious – Like UCLA's Walker, English in his first season as coordinator has turned the Michigan defense around by employing a highly aggressive attack-style strategy. A number of Wolverine defenders credit English with the turnaround. English has also been a highly effective recruiting in our southland and it doesn't come as a surprise since he attended Pomona Ganesha and then played his college ball at Cal. He actually turned down an NFL coaching job with the Bears to stay at UM as defensive coordinator. How valuable is English? Standout UM linebacker David Harris says, "He makes sure you know what you're doing on every play and no matter how old you are or what grade."

The Obvious – The Trojans first Rose Bowl appearance was 1923 when the Men of Troy played Penn State and defeated the Nittany Lions 14-3.

The Not So Obvious – And, no, that wasn't JoePa's first season in Happy Valley. FYI, the Wolverines beat Stanford 49-0 on Jan. 1, 1902 in their first Rose Bowl experience.

The Obvious – The Trojans are averaging 387.9 yards in total offense, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan is allowing an average of 254.1 yards in total defense, finishing second in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – All-Pac-10 Trojan junior quarterback John David Booty (61.8%, 25 TDs, 9 int., 243.2 avg./g) finished first in the Pac-10 in passing.

The Not So Obvious – It figures that Booty will be a major target of Michigan physical intimidation. If the Wolverines get a chance to knock out John David, redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez will take control of the Trojans' offense. So what is Sanchez's take on the UM defense? Mark told the O/NSO this week, "They're big up front and their front seven is great. They're real physical and a tough, though defense. They are a typical Big Ten defense, real big, real strong, and linebackers that can move well. We need to exert our physical capabilities on offense and then just be accurate, and I know we will protect and we'll just take it one play at a time."

The Obvious – Michigan will start junior Chad Henne (61.7%, 20 TDs, 7 int., 183.2 avg./g) at quarterback.

The Not So Obvious – Henne (6-2, 224) has a prospective of the difference of playing in the Rose Bowl as a freshman compared to being a junior. The former Parade All-American from Wyomissing, Pa., said, "When you're a freshman you can't wait to get in the warm weather because it's cold here. When you get out there (Pasadena) you kind of are just roaming around. Now you know where to go. Now you just concentrate and focus and just prepare. We were out there two years ago and Texas was great when we played them. We want to finish off on the right note. The last two seasons, we didn't finish."

The Obvious – One of the major keys to the game will be the performance of the Trojans offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan linebacker David Harris seems have a respect for the Trojans' offensive line, which has come into scrutiny based on their last performance against UCLA. Harris said, "Their offensive left tackle Sam Baker is great in my opinion and I think their center (Ryan Kalil) is the best in the country. We have to come out and play our best. USC has dominated college football. They are a couple of plays from being in the national championship. They have explosive receivers and great young backs and they will come out fired up."

The Obvious – Monday's Rose Bowl game will be the Trojans 11th straight 2006 regular season sellout.

The Not So Obvious – Since both teams play in two of the largest stadiums in the country and have been regular visitors to Pasadena, it figures that the crowd factor will have less of an impact as perhaps normally would for teams not familiar with the Rose Bowl and large stadium environments.

The Obvious - Expect parking to be the usual mess, especially since a large number of folks have pre-paid parking passes.

The Not So Obvious – For those that have one of those green pre-paid passes, which entitles you to one general parking space at Brookside Golf Course, there is a reminder on it that says, "THIS TICKET WILL NOT BE VALID AFTER 11:30 A.M." It is suggested that you give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the Rose Bowl, especially considering the 11:30 a.m. parking deadline. FYI, the green parking pass is not good with limos, busses, or recreational vehicles parking and will not be honored at any of the "lettered" lots on the south side of the Rose Bowl. To avoid parade traffic congestion, it is suggested you arrive before 10:00 a.m.

The Obvious – The Trojans finished fifth in the Pac-10 in sacks with 29.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan recorded 42 sacks this season, finishing first in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – Certainly a central figure on the Michigan defensive line is senior defensive end LaMarr Woodley.

The Not So Obvious – Woodley is well aware of the Trojans perceived vulnerability on the offensive edges, jumping off sides, and the talent level of the Trojans offensive line and is very guarded in his analysis of John David Booty's penchant of getting ball batted down. LaMarr, who selects his words carefully, says, "Booty has developed into a good quarterback. Our main objective is to get to the quarterback. We think we have the best defense in the country. I don't remember their false starts (UCLA game), but I know that Sam Baker is good and so is the guard next to him (Drew Radovich). They're a good combination. Yes, I do flip from one side of the line to the other. Sometimes I am on the tight end side."

The Obvious – The Grand Marshall of this year's Rose Parade and "coin-tosser" will be famed Hollywood film producer/director George Lucas, a graduate of the University of Southern California.

The Not So Obvious – In Lucas's film classic Star Wars, the voice of Darth Vader is actor James Earl Jones, a graduate of the University of Michigan.

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense, under defensive coordinator Nick Holt, is allowing 14.9 points per game, finishing first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Michigan offense, under first-year coordinator Mike Debord, is averaging 30.2 points per game, finishing third in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – One of the main cogs to the Michigan offense is an offensive line built around junior All-America tackle Jake Long (6-7, 316).

The Not So Obvious – Long, from Lapeer East High in Michigan, gave the fans of the maize and blue an early present by saying he would be returning for his senior year to try and win a national championship. At East High, Big Jake set school home run and RBI records as a junior, was a starting center on basketball team, and broke the East record in shooting percentage during junior year, shooting 62 percent. On, and did we mention he never allowed a sack during his prep career?

The Obvious – The Trojans' defense is allowing 293.8 yards per game in total defense, finishing first in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan is averaging 374.9 yards in total offense, finishing fifth in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – It figures to be a brawl on Monday and All-Pac-10 sophomore linebacker Rey Maualuga figures to be a Trojan enforcer.

The Not So Obvious – Of the Michigan offense, Rey Rey told the O/NSO, "They're big up front. They're hungry and they will be right up in your face. They a very big cutting team on the back side. We have to work on hitting the linemen and get off and look for the running back and look for the ball. It's going to be a great match-up. They'll be coming and we'll be hungry as well. They have technique and after that they've got that nasty side of them to pound the ball in the middle and run it down your throat and run it up the gap. The running back (Mike Hart) is a great runner and he never stops on first contact. He keeps running his legs. Their whole O-line is very good."

The Obvious – The Trojans have a solid group of former players and coaches that are in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame including the likes of Sam Cunningham, Pat Haden, Charles White, John McKay and son, and Pete Beathard to name a few.

The Not So Obvious – Inductees into this year' s Rose Bowl Hall of Fame include former Washington All-America defensive lineman Steve Emtman, sports journalist Rube Samuelson, and ASU quarterback Jeff van Raaphorst, who brother, Mike, is a former Trojan quarterback.

The Obvious – This will be the 93rd Rose Bowl Game.

The Not So Obvious – The first game was played 105 years ago and because the game was so lopsided, teams were reluctant to play for a number of years. The second Rose Bowl game was played in 1916, making the 2007 game the 93rd game. Get it?

The Obvious – The Trojan passing attack is averaging 253.2 yards per game, finishing third in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan's pass defense is allowing 211.1 yards per game, finishing seventh in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious –The Trojans will challenge the Michigan secondary with receivers Steve Smith (15.2 avg., 8 TDs, 81.2 avg./g), Dwayne Jarrett (13.3 avg., 10 TDs, 70.3 avg./g), Patrick Turner (9.4 avg., 2 TDs, 24.7 avg./g) and tight end tight end Fred Davis (8.9 avg., 3 TDs, 26.1 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – A major key to attacking the UM secondary is the success the Trojan receivers have with former Vista High star Leon Hall (5-11, 193), the highly decorated senior from north San Diego who recorded a 33-inch vertical leap during prep days. Of the Trojan receivers, Hall said, " What is he (Jarrett) 6-3? You can't let him get position on you. It's very likely you won't make the play and he will. He definitely uses his size to his advantage. You have to be in position with every play with him. Steve Smith is the slash and dash type guy that runs great routes."

The Obvious –StubHub is offering tickets to the Rose Bowl for fans in need.

The Not So Obvious – As of Sunday night, StubHub had ticket prices ranging from $155 to $1,200.

The Obvious – The Trojan rushing game is averaging 134.7 yards per game, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Michigan rush defense is allowing 43.0 yards per game, finishing first in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – Freshman C.J. Gable (4.2 avg., 4 TDs, 34.1 avg./g) will start again on Monday and will be joined by junior Chauncey Washington (4.7 avg., 9 TDs, 61.3 avg./g) and freshman Emmanuel Moody (5.8 avg., 2 TDs, 51.0 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – Against Ohio State game, the Wolverines surrendered 503 in total yards. It was also only the second time all season that UM allowed more than 60 rushing yards, giving up 187, although they still finished as the nation's top-ranked run defense. Considering that rushing has not consistency been the Trojans strong suit, this could be interesting for the Trojans parade of finally healthy running backs. A key, however, may be the physical condition and stamina of Chauncey Washington, who suffered an ill-timed bout with intestinal woes at the end of this week.

The Obvious – The Trojan Marching Band will be a major "player" for both the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl and is directed by Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, a graduate of Michigan.

The Not So Obvious – Dr. Art, who received his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from Michigan, was once a trumpet playing member of the Michigan Marching Band.

The Obvious – The Trojan defense is allowing 97.7 yards rushing per game, finishing second in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Michigan rushing game is averaging 189.2 yards per game, finishing first in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – Michigan features junior running back Mike Hart (5.0 avg., 14 TDs, 126.2 avg./g) and freshman Brandon Minor (5.9 avg., 2 TDs, 23.5 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – Hart (5-9, 198), who holds the national high school records for touchdowns in a career (204) at Onondaga Central High School, was asked earlier to compare the Trojans' defense with Ohio State. The junior from Syracuse, New York, said, "USC's defense is definitely better than Ohio State's defense. There is no question in my mind. They have a better front seven and better safeties. It's the best defense I've seen on film. They're a great defense. They're faster and they're quicker and their linebackers are a lot faster and those safeties will come down and hit. Ohio State's safeties didn't really come down and hit. USC is the real deal on defense."

The Obvious – Michigan sophomore defensive end Eugene Germany (6-2, 279), a former All-CIF selection from local Pomona High, originally signed a letter-of-intent to play with the Trojans in 2004.

The Not So Obvious – Eugene attended the Trojans' fall camp but left team prior to start of season and academic year and then signed with Michigan in 2005. The O/NSO memory of Germany during summer drills was Eugene as a tight end running down the sidelines after catching a short pass. He could really move for a big man. Germany played in six games this season for UM and played small roles on special teams and limited scrimmage time.

The Obvious – The Trojan pass defense is allowing 196.1 yards per game, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – The Michigan pass offense is averaging 185.8 yards per game, finishing ninth in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – Michigan has spectacular receivers in sophomore Mario Manningham(19.5 avg., 9 TDs, 69.3 avg./g), senior Steve Breaston (10.9 avg., 1 TDs, 46.2 avg./g), and junior Adrian Arrington (14.2 avg., 7 TDs., 42.5 avg./g).

The Not So Obvious – Like most defenses, it starts with the front four and the Trojans down linemen will be a focal point to easing the pain of a Trojan secondary that must play with injured junior corner Terrell Thomas, whose shoulder has become as unreliable as a teenage boy showing up on time for a date. If the Trojans twin terror linemen Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis find a way to broach the offensive line of the UM, the Trojans' secondary will have room to operate. We like Manningham and because of Breaston's speed, he is always threat for a big game, but watch out for Arrington, he is kind of a hidden factor.

The Obvious – The Trojans won the 2003 AP National Championship by defeating Michigan 28-14 in the 2004 Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious – Six current Trojans that performed in the 2004 Rose Bowl game include linebacker Dallas Sartz (7 tackles, 2 for a loss, 1 sack, 1 deflection), who is hoping a hip flexor doesn't limit his playing time on Monday, injured tailback Hershel Dennis (7 carries, 17 yards), injured Brandon Hancock (2 receptions, 8 yards), and receiver Steve Smith (1 reception, 9 yards). Offensive tackle Kyle Williams and receiver Chris McFoy also played. Including those players who saw action, there are 27 Trojans that were on the roster.

The Obvious – The Trojans place kicker is junior Mario Danelo, who is 12 of 13 on field goals, first in field goal percentage in the Pac-10 Conference with a long of 44 yards.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan features senior place kicker Garrett Rivas, who is 16-of-19 on field goals and second in Big Ten field goal percentage with a long of 48 yards. Did we mention that Garrett is the all-time UM leader in field goals and points?

The Obvious - Trojan sophomore punter Greg Woidneck is averaging 38.6 yards per kick, finishing seventh in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan sophomore punter Zoltan Mesko, who was born in Timisoara, Romania, and whose father is a professional bowler, is averaging 41.5 yards per kick, finishing fifth in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – The Trojans new kickoff performer is sophomore David Buehler, who replaces academically excused Troy Van Blarcom.

The Not So Obvious – Make no mistake about it, Van Blarcom was a major threat in keeping opponents at bay with his touchbacks, but Buehler, who had one kickoff this year at Stanford, has a powerful leg and has had enough days leading up to the Rose Bowl to get his rhythm. Michigan has had no such academic disruption and features the multi-faceted Garrett Rivas from Tampa Jesuit, who has nailed seven touchbacks for a 61.8 average.

The Obvious – It figures that Traveler, the Trojans famed white horse, will be in attendance and for big games such as Monday's, it is not uncommon that the rider wears the original Charlton Heston "Ben Hur" movie helmet.

The Not So Obvious – Prior to the 1902 football game, the Tournament of Roses conducted chariot races.

The Obvious – Although there won't be any this year, there have been 18 Heisman Trophy winners that have played in the Rose Bowl including Trojans O.J. Simpson (1968), Charles White (1979), Marcus Allen (1981), Matt Leinart (2004), and Reggie Bush (2005).

The Not So Obvious – Michigan's Rose Bowl Heisman performers include Desmond Howard (1991) and Charles Woodson (1997).

The Obvious –The Trojans are averaging 52.1 penalty yards per game, finishing sixth the Pac-10 Conference.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan is averaging 45.8 penalty yards per game, tenth in the Big Ten Conference.

The Obvious – USC is a university of 17,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate and professional students.

The Not So Obvious – Michigan is a university of 25,555 undergraduates and 14,470 graduate students.

The Obvious – Before each home game, the Trojans host a Fan Feast area, which features activities, music, and food near the peristyle end of the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – The Rose Bowl is offering a Food Zone because "there is limited space available for tailgating around the stadium. According to the Rose Bowl Game Day Guide, there will be a "variety" of food and beverages available for purchase in Lot "H" just south of the bowl beginning at 10 a.m.

The Obvious – The Trojans and Michigan are the lone consensus prime time 2 p.m. game (ABC) on New Year's Day.

The Not So Obvious - If you don't have to be at the Rose Bowl parking lots by 11:30 a.m. or just planning to watch the Pasadena extravaganza on your new HD set, here are day's visual activities: Outback Bowl (Penn St. vs Tennessee) at 8 a.m./ESPN, Cotton Bowl (Auburn vs Nebraska) at 8:30 a.m./Fox, Capital One bowl (Wisconsin vs Arkansas) at 10 a.m., Gator Bowl (Georgia Tech vs West Virginia) at 10 a.m./CBS, and the Fiesta Bowl (Boise St vs Oklahoma) at 5:30 p.m./Fox.

The Obvious – The public address announcer for the Rose Bowl is expected to be Chuck Taylor, the PA voice of UCLA football.

The Not So Obvious – Before Taylor, the Rose Bowl rotated a number of local public address voices. So for you trivia experts, who did the public address for the 1996 Rose Bowl featuring the Trojans and Cinderella Northwestern? If you answered the person that writes the O/NSO, you are correct sir, and you win dinner for two at the Dairy Queen of your choice.

The Obvious – And finally, while all eyes will be on Pasadena, it also figures that fans of the Arizona Cardinal will be looking in with thoughts that their next coach, should Dennis Greene be given the pink slip by Cardinal owner Bill Bidwell, might be the man that has taken the USC Trojan football program to the top of the college football world.

The Not So Obvious – Could this be Pete Carroll's last game as the Trojans' football coach, despite a recent denial by college football's finest coach? It all figures to become a chain reaction of conclusions or delusions, depending on the rumor of the day. However, this is all speculation for the future, and there is some unfinished business in the minds of the Trojans and their fans, and that business begins at 2:00 p.m. on Monday and that's no rumor.

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