The Obvious and Not So Obvious

Fresh off a bye week that propelled them into the nation's top ten, the USC Trojans and their legion of cardinal and gold fans head north for Saturday afternoon's annual bay area battle with the Stanford Cardinal, who are fading faster than a pair of old John Elway jeans

The Obvious - Fresh off a bye week that propelled them into the nation's top ten, the USC Trojans and their legion of cardinal and gold fans head north for Saturday afternoon's annual bay area battle with the Stanford Cardinal, who are fading faster than a pair of old John Elway jeans.

The Not So Obvious - Stanford Stadium, which holds 85,000, is averaging just 39,683 fans in the Cardinal's first three home games.Should there be a big rain come Saturday, the stadium could turn into one little ABC football studio just needing John Saunders and Terry Bowden.

The Obvious - For some reason, Pac-10 teams seem to want to schedule the Trojans as their Homecoming game. The Stanford game will mark the third time this season that a Pac-10 team plans to party at the expense of the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious - So far, SC has split Homecoming games with an overtime loss at Washington State and crushing win at Oregon. Next week, however, the Trojans can turn the tables and host their own Homecoming party in a big game against Arizona State at 4:00 p.m. in the Coliseum.

The Obvious - The Trojans will be looking to avenge a crushing loss to Stanford the last time these two teams met in Palo Alto and break the Cardinal's three-game overall winning streak.

The Not So Obvious - Perhaps you don't remember last game at The Farm when quarterback Chris Lewis came off the bench in late in the contest and tossed a 20-yard touchdown killer to Jamien McCullen on the last play of the game for a 32-30 win.

The Obvious - Stanford enters the game with a seasonal record of 2-6 and 1-4 in the conference while the Trojans are flying high at 6-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-10.

The Not So Obvious - Would you believe that Stanford ranks last in the Pac-10 in passing? Hey, would you believe that Stanford led the Pac-10 in rushing prior to the Oregon game? Where have you gone Jim Plunkett?

The Obvious - The Trojan secondary will be licking its chops at a poor Stanford passing attack, which had only 75 yards against UCLA and 92 yards against Oregon, and the USC defensive line will be looking to stuff the run come this Saturday, something they have done quite well most of the time.

The Not So Obvious - First-year Stanford coach Buddy Teevens, formerly of Florida Gator fame, says of his fading offense, " It's been a season long thing you have to draw back and look what our guys are doing well and try and execute productively in those areas. The controlled pass has been effective for us. The tough thing is, it's a seven-yard per-catch average, and it takes a lot of those to get down the field. Why hasn't it been more productive? Probably a variety of reasons. They (the team) are as frustrated as I'am as well that we have a chance and don't capitalize on our opportunities."

The Obvious - The Trojans are favored by over 16 points to walk away with their seventh win of the season and perhaps move up the Bowl Championship Series' rankings.

The Not So Obvious - Stanford coach Teevens is impressed with the Trojans' defense, but he hasn't lost hope. Teevens says, "I've been impressed by what I have seen on tape. They (USC) have not allowed a lot of big plays. Their secondary is very gifted, and they pressure the passer, but people have put some points on the board. Hopefully, we have that opportunity as well."

The Obvious - With the game on ABC regional television, Heisman voters will get another look at Carson Palmer and his late bid to overtake the competition.

The Not So Obvious - Says ESPN's Mel Kiper of Palmer, "Palmer has turned in Drew Bledsole-type performances on a week-to-week basis. If Palmer continues to perform at this level the rest of the campaign and then puts on a show in the post-season, he could ultimately become a top-five pick in round one of the NFL draft. And he could potentially be in the mix as the No. 1 overall selection."

The Obvious - USC selects ticket prices for their home games based on the interest power of their opponents. Notre Dame tickets are more expensive than, say, California. It makes good business sense.

The Not So Obvious - So just how much is a nationally-ranked Trojan ticket worth at Stanford Stadium come this Saturday? The base price of the ticket will go for $28.00. By the way, the stadium is one of the worst to view a game as the field seems miles away surrounded by a running track and the seats are as hard as rocks. Take a cushion, folks.

The Obvious - The Trojans have a three-game winning streak coming into Palo Alto and turn Stanford Stadium into their own private scrimmage.

The Not So Obvious - USC has lost their last three games to Stanford and since 1991, the Cardinal are 6-5 overall against USC and 3-2 at Stanford Stadium.

The Obvious - At one time, the Trojans thought they were going to sign Stanford star wide receiver and two-sport star Teyo Johnson (6-7, 240) to a USC letter of intent out of high school.

The Not So Obvious - Double-teamed this season, apparently things have not gone well for Johnson this year and the coaches have been the first to point it out. Cardinal wide receiver coach David Kelly says, " Some of Johnson's problems are of his own making. He was tremendous in the spring, but he hasn't played up to the same capabilities of what we saw in the spring. Something was missing. He wasn't the same player that left in the spring. Every coach could see it."

The Obvious - Teyo Johnson is also a star basketball player for Mike Montgomery's Cardinal basketball team.

The Not So Obvious -Apparently those close to the program say that on the Sundays when the football team doesn't practice, Teyo goes out and practices basketball. The kid won't say if he is going to the NFL or NBA, and he won't comment if he plans to leave school early. As a side note, Teyo's buddy and former Trojan recruit Amon Gordon is playing defensive end for the Cardinal.

The Obvious - When Buddy Teevens came from Florida to take the Stanford job, only line coach Roger Stillwell, an original member of the famed Thunder Chickens' Rose Bowl squad, was left on The Farm from the Tyrone Willingham's staff.

The Not So Obvious - Four former Trojan coaches are on Teevens' staff this season. Do the names Mike Sanford, Wayne Moses, Steve Morton, and Mark Banker ring a bell? Sanford, who played at Troy in the seventies, is the Stanford offensive coordinator and was Keyshawn Johnson's receivers coach during the 1995 Trojan Rose Bowl campaign. Morton actually did a fine job as SC's offensive line coach during the Hackett era.

The Obvious - The Cardinal have had some USC "sons" in their football program in recent years. John Vella's kid found his way to Stanford not too long away.

The Not So Obvious - Garry Cobb Jr. is a back-up member of the Cardinal secondary. His dad is former Trojan star linebacker Garry Cobb, who was a member of the 1979 national champions and spent a number of years in the NFL. Least we not forget the Cardinal's Marcus McCutcheon out of Huntington Beach Edison High, the younger brother of SC's Daylon.

The Obvious - The Trojans are very excited about the return of the running game against Oregon thanks to the performance of Justin Fargas and an inspired offensive line.

The Not So Obvious - Stanford might have their problems, but in their past four games, the defense has limited opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game and less than three yards per carry. However, the Cardinal have been outscored 86-55 in the first quarter of their games and are giving up 33.4 points per outing.

The Obvious - The Trojan defense will be tested by a Stanford running game that features two NFL-bound huge running backs in Kerry Carter and fullback Casey Moore.

The Not So Obvious - Casey Moore is considered one of the best fullbacks in Stanford history. That is pretty good smack considering that the Cardinal have sent to the pros Jon Richie to the Raiders and Greg Cormella to the Tennessee Titans. Moore, by the way, has Stanford's biggest play on offense this year with a 43-yard run.

The Obvious - In order to survive in the Pac-10 of the new era, you better be able to put some points on the board.

The Not So Obvious - The Stanford Cardinal are "only" averaging 22.5 points per game. This won't cut it when you look back and see that the Cardinal lost earlier this year to ASU 65-24.

The Obvious - One of the keys to limiting the Stanford running game will be the move of Mike Patterson from tackle to nose guard for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious - The Trojans' Patterson (6-0, 280) will be looking into a Stanford interior offensive line that will features center Tom Kolich (6-6, 295), left guard Dustin Stimson (6-3, 305), and right guard Greg Shindler (6-5, 317), who is considered a fine pro prospect.

The Obvious - The move of Patterson to nose guard means that the recovering Bernard Riley is ready and returns to his familiar tackle spot in place of the injuried Shaun Cody.

The Not So Obvious - Despite the offensive troubles of Stanford, they still have the very talented Kwame Harris at offensive tackle. Harris was considered by many to be the nation's top offensive lineman out of Delaware. In fact, some say he is the top NFL prospect now in the entire Pac-10.

The Obvious - Many times over the past two season, Trojan fans have wondered why Norm Chow does not use the shotgun more often to provide time for Palmer.

The Not So Obvious - Of Chow's decision to drop the shotgun package, Palmer says, "The shotgun takes away from our timing and our rhythem. When you are in the shotgun, you can have problems with the snap."

The Obvious - The Trojan offensive line, which has received its share of frowns, received some nice publicity this week in the Orange County Register, highlighting their positive play as the season has unfolded.

The Not So Obvious - Two of the starters hail from Orange County in Lenny Vandermade (Mater Dei) and Norm Katnick (Foothill).

The Obvious - The Trojans received good news on the recruiting front when Moreno Valley Canyon Springs' linebacker Drean Rucker verballed.

The Not So Obvious - Drean's father played at Oklahoma."I can play as a freshman, start, " said the younger Rucker. "They only have one other linebacker, that's it."

The Obvious - Stanford Stadium, built in 1921 and has bleacher-style seats, is one of the biggest stadium's in the Pac-10 and has hosted the 1985 Super Bowl.

The Not So Obvious - The stadium has also hosted the 1928 acceptance speech of Herbert Hoover and the 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer. If you are a Trojan fan headed to Saturday's game, you should know that no horns and noise makers are allowed in the stadium, and, get this, fans are not allowed to bring in "whole fruit".

The Obvious - One player that figures to watch the game on ABC television is Trojans' recruit Matt Spanos, two-way tackle from Corona, who has been selected to play for California against Florida January 4th at Mount San Antonio College.

The Not So Obvious - Drean Rucker has also been selected to play in the Cal/Florida game. By the way, Rucker's high school coach says that Drean is better at this stage than one of his former stars, Solomon Bates, now at ASU.

The Obvious - The Stanford defense allows 33.4 points per game, and the Trojan offense will be looking for an early knockout to avoid giving the faultering Cardinal hope.

The Not So Obvious - Norm Chow has given Palmer the right to change a play at the line of scrimmage. "There is a called play, but I can always check to another play," informed Palmer. "We usually only have two options at the line."

The Obvious - Stanford coach Teevens is also aware of the Trojans' high-scoring offense and has some concern about his team's ability to stay with the USC.

The Not So Obvious - Says Teevens, "Defensively, we need to eliminate the big plays, and we need to play team football. We haven't demonstrated the ability to put 45-50 points on the board. We need a special game to get to that level."

The Obvious - If you had a chance to catch Pete Carroll on the WeAreSC.com chat site on Thursday, you found the coach to be honest,direct, and informative in his answers.

The Not So Obvious - Coach also had a surprise for the chat folks as Troy Polamalu made an appearance and even answered a couple of questions. The session went so well and so under control that it figures this will not be the last time Carroll makes an appearance nor his players.

The Obvious - Things are so bad for the Stanford football team that in the school newspaper, the big sports headlines are going to the women's volleyball and basketball teams.

The Not So Obvious - Recently in the Long Beach Press-Telegram Pete Carroll was asked about the future of freshman running back Hershel Dennis and Carroll replied, "When we come back to spring football, he's the starting tailback. He's going to be the guy and I expect a lot out of him." If things go according to plan against Stanford, Trojan fans hope to be seeing a lot of Dennis on Saturday.

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