The Obvious and Not So Obvious

UCLA star tackle Mike Saffer, whose father Donnie played on some of the legendary John Wooden basketball teams says, "Any time you sign-up with a school , you think about beating your rival four years straight. You don't think it's going to be the other way around."

The Obvious - Two years ago in another USC-UCLA classic, Trojan senior kicker David "Victory" Bell immortalized himself in Trojan lore with a 36-yard winning field goal in Pasadena to inflict yet another UCLA nightmare loss, 38-35. Now in the year 2002, the No. 7 ranked University of Southern California Trojans return to that same Rose Bowl Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for the 72nd meeting against the No. 24 ranked UCLA Bruins, the first time both teams have come in ranked since 1993.

The Not So Obvious - It may very well come down to the kicking game for the Trojans. USC is no stranger to beating UCLA with the field goal when it hurts the most. In 1977, USC's Frank Jordan connected on a 38-yarder to crush the Bruins with two-seconds left in a 29-27 Trojan victory. The Trojans have even spoiled a potential Bruin game-winning field goal when USC's George Achica broke through to block a potential UCLA celebration.

The Obvious - This will be the second meeting between Bruin coach Bob Toledo and Trojan coach Pete Carroll, who has returned the Trojans to the high mountains and has cut deeply into UCLA's recruiting territory.

The Not So Obvious - It has been some years now, but many older Trojan fans will remember that Bob Toledo was a USC secondary coach from 1976-78 and has a National Championship and two Rose Bowl rings.

The Obvious - While Trojan and Bruin offenses and defenses will be the primary focus, it figures that again the game will come down to the special teams, especially the kickers.

The Not So Obvious - The most dangerous player for the Bruins and a threat to the Trojans will be former Anaheim Esperanza kicker Nate Fikse (5-9, 180, who is drawing rapid attention from NFL scouts. Fikse has has converted 10 of 11 field goals, 9 of 9 extra points, and punts for an average of 41.5. The Trojans will hope that Ryan Killen can continue his improvement in the kicking department and will be this year's David Bell. This area of the special teams, my friends, could very well be the difference on Saturday.

The Obvious - USC and UCLA are scary close in many vital Pac-10 team statistics when comparing offenses and defenses. In fact they are so close, you would think it would be a "Pick-Em" game.

The Not So Obvious - Consider that USC ranks third in total offense and UCLA third in total defense. Consider that USC ranks second in rushing offense and UCLA ranks second in rushing defense. Consider that USC ranks fourth in passing offense and UCLA ranks third in passing defense.

The Obvious - Carson Palmer has been Heisman-like in his last several games and a good performance against the Bruins on near-national ABC television will be a big boostto his campaign.

The Not So Obvious - While Palmer has been the rage of the media this week including several mentions on shows like Regis Philbin and a big feature in USA Today, the two UCLA freshmen quarterbacks, Drew Olson and Matt Moore, have not thrown an interception in their past 66 attemps mapping three games.

The Obvious - Carson Palmer knows full well the pressure of being a freshman quarterback playing in the big game, especially this years. This week, Palmer expressed his understanding for what the Bruin quarterbacks must be feeling in anticipation of their first trip to the pressure chamber known as the USC-UCLA game.

The Not So Obvious - Was Palmer trying on purpose to get the following quote up in the UCLA lockerroom as psychological warfare? "It's a tough position to be in as a freshman, " said Palmer."You don't understand everything that's going on, and you don't realize what it all means."

The Obvious - The winner of Saturday's game will take home the coveted 295-pound Victory Bell, which has been in service since 1942.

The Not So Obvious - The Victory Bell, which only comes out of the warehouse or vault two days a year, has been painted cardinal 32 times while in USC's hands and blue 27 times when UCLA has been victorious. There have been four ties, but that "paint issue" will no longer be an issue thanks to overtime.

The Obvious - USC enters Saturday's game against the Bruins with a three-game rival winning streak and visions of a major bowl invitation.

The Not So Obvious - In the Trojans' modest winning streak, they have outscored the Bruins 82-42, including last year's 27-0 whitewash over the Westwooders. Speaking of last year, it's hard to believe that running back Chris Howard, who ran for a big option touchdown against the Bruins in the Coliseum, is now a Trojan trivia answer.

The Obvious - USC will rely on its hard-hitting defense to intimidate the young Bruin quarterbacks and stuff the small, but speedy freshman running back Tyler Ebell, the second player in UCLA history to rush for at least 100 yards in six consecutive games.

The Not So Obvious - Palmer provided more UCLA bulletin board material by saying, " I feel sorry for any quarterback that has to face our (USC) defense. I can't even imagine having to do it as a freshman. Our defense does so many different things and always is in your face. They can make things rough on a young quarterback."

The Obvious - The UCLA team is outraged that the Trojans have been sending adminstration to New Orleans and Miami to pump USC's chances in the BCS selection process.

The Not So Obvious - You'd think that the Bruins would be more outraged having lost to the Trojans three years straight. But let's face it, one doesn't think that the Bruins wouldn't be making the same presentations if they were in USC's position? Right!!!!!!!!!!

The Obvious - As seniors in high school, the names of Marcus Reese, Mike Seidman, Mike Safer, and Ricky Manning were once on the blue-chip boards of USC football coaches. These heralded seniors face the distinct possibility of never beating the Trojans in their careers, and the 14 Bruin seniors could be the first Bruins senior class to lose four-in-a-row against USC in 23 years.

The Not So Obvious - Only UCLA senior Jon Dubravac, a fifth-year senior knows what it is like to beat the Trojans, as he played on the Bruin special teams as a reserve in a 34-17 win.

The Obvious - Seniors on both teams know the stakes are high and the memories long once you enter your senior year for the city battle. Nobody wants to end it with a loss to their bitter rivals.

The Not So Obvious - UCLA star tackle Mike Saffer, whose father Donnie played on some of the legendary John Wooden basketball teams says, "Any time you sign-up with a school , you think about beating your rival four years straight. You don't think it's going to be the other way around."

The Obvious - One of the hidden battles of Saturday's tea party will be the battle of hometown radio announcers Pete "Pom Pom " Arbogast, and UCLA's Chris "Squeeler" Roberts.

The Not So Obvious - The real treat will be listening to both school's color analysts. Both teams will feature former quarterbacks as the Trojans trot out Paul McDonald and UCLA Matt Stevens. It is interesting to hear the two "professors" give their "players" take on the action. Of course, neither McDonald or Stevens can hold a candle to Petros Papadakis, the "Crazy Guggenheim" (if you're old enough to remember the Jackie Gleeson show) of color commentators.

The Obvious - In his senior season at Fresno Edison, UCLA corner Ricky Manning was heavily recruited by the Trojans. This week Manning apparently lost his poise in some interviews about the Trojans, which by the way, the USC team will be shown for entertainment purposes only.

The Not So Obvious - The Trojans' three-game winning streak has taken its toll on Manning. The hard-hitting corner says of the streak, "Man, I didn't think it was possible when I came here, especially after winning eight straight. Everytime they beat us, I think we were the better team, but they outplayed us. That's what's upsetting. We don't want the golden sombrero."

The Obvious - In all this senior talk, the one senior who may be more intense than any of the Trojans may be USC tailback Justin Fargas, who will get his one and probably only last shot at the Bruins in a soldout Rose Bowl.

The Not So Obvious - Lost in the emotion of the UCLA seniors vow to beat this year's Trojans, USC conversely brings a senior class that has never lost to the Bruins. Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu,
Kareem Kelly, Sultan McCullough, and Fargas can close the door on UCLA with a stunning four-peat, something that hasn't been done since the era of 1976-79.

The Obvious - The Trojans are current 5 1/2 point favorite to defeat UCLA and insure at least a Holiday Bowl invitation as the Pac-10's second place finisher.

The Not So Obvious - USC is 3-7 versus UCLA in games played at the Rose Bowl. Of course, if UCLA with two freshmen quarterbacks and a redshirt freshman tailback can beat a talented USC team led by NFL-bound Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu, the Bruins indeed deserve to go to the Holiday Bowl.

The Obvious - Much of the game will depend on the pass protection and running yards that the USC offensive line provides for Palmer and Fargas.

The Not So Obvious - UCLA has three really fast and quick linebackers in Brandon Chillar, Marcus Reese, and Spencer Havner.
Their ability to get to Palmer on the blitz will be crucial for the Bruins. If the Trojans can give Palmer some time, it will be paramount due to the toughness of the Bruin secondary.

The Obvious - One of the great chess matches of the afternoon will be that of USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow and UCLA defensive coordinator Phil Snow.

The Not So Obvious - One of the things that USC did against Arizona State was to pull some of their tackles and have more movement along the line. This may have been Chow's way of getting Snow's attention on the film sessions.

The Obvious - USC defensive tackle Shaun Cody is recovering from knee surgury and will not play in Saturday's game.

The Not So Obvious - The happiest Bruin on the field will be offensive guard Eyoseph Efseaff (6-3, 301) who was ripped a "new one" last year by Cody. Cody went through Efseaff like you-know-what through a Christmas goose.

The Obvious - USC still has an outside shot of making the Rose Bowl, but the Trojans must beat UCLA and Notre Dame while Washington State must lose to Washington and UCLA.

The Not So Obvious - With a Trojan win over UCLA, USC would be very happy to send the Bruins out to beautiful El Paso for the Sun Bowl and, of course, eliminating any UCLA dream of playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day.

The Obvious - There were many Trojan fans who got mighty concerned when their UCLA tickets didn't arrive in the normal pattern of mailing.

The Not So Obvious - In calls to the USC ticket department, Trojan fans were advised that there was a "printing problem" with the tickets, and they would be mailed early this game week. If tickets didn't arrive, Trojan fans would have to pick them up at Rose Bowl Will-Call. Could you have imagined that line?

The Obvious - One of the worst places to eat in any stadium in the country has traditionally been the Rose Bowl and their "famed" hot dogs.

The Not So Obvious - Trojan fans, however, will be treated to some much-needed food options in the Rose Bowl's outside "food courts". For your tasting pleasure, participting vendors include In-N-Out,, Subway, and Robins' Wood Fire BBQ & Grill. Of course for Trojan sweet toothes, you can partake of Krispy Kreme/Coffee Bean.

The Obvious - One of the "games within a game" will be the amount of recruits that both schools are trying to bind. Saturday's recruiting "game" features the Trojans' recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, who cannot legally make contact due to the fact this is a UCLA home game, and Bruin coordinator Gary Bernardi, who can talk all we wants.

The Not So Obvious - Gary Bernardi was a coach for the Trojans during the period of 1987-92. Wonder if Bernardi will bring up his USC connection to Mission Viejo's all-star tackle Drew Radovich, who is a guest of UCLA for Saturday's contest. According to sources at Mission Viejo, Radovich is now a heavy lean to become a Trojan. Some believe the kid could announce after the Notre Dame game.

The Obvious - Perhaps the best match-up of the day will be the Trojan receivers and the Bruin defenders. Big-time athletes will be on stage for all to view. Get the VCR set.

The Not So Obvious - While most will want to see USC frosh prodigy Mike Williams battle DB Matt Ware, it will be the day that Kareem Kelly explodes, since the Bruins are aware that Keary Colbert is the possession receiver.

The Obvious - With the Notre Dame game to follow, it is always best for Trojan fans to prepare for the great parking fee inflation of the surrounding Coliseum area.

The Not So Obvious - It is hard to believe that parking for Saturday's UCLA game will be a token five bucks at Brookside Golf Course. The good news is that it cheap. The bad news is takes until the next day to get out of the joint.

The Obvious - One area that Trojan fans will want to watch will be the poise of USC's punter Tom Malone. The Pac-10's leading punter will be in his first UCLA game, in the intimidating Rose Bowl. and there is no substitute for experience of this magnitude.

The Not So Obvious - UCLA has scored three touchdowns on blocked punts in the last two years. Outside of Malone, USC still ranks last in most Pac-10 special teams standings.

The Obvious - ABC will televised Saturday's game with Keith Jackson, Dan Fouts, and Todd Harris.

The Not So Obvious - Keith Jackson says the 1967 USC-UCLA game in the Coliseum the best game he has scene. The game featured the famous "23-blast" audible by Trojan quarterback Toby Page that led to O.J. Simpson's 64-yard legendary run in the fourth quarter to beat UCLA 21-20.

The Obvious - UCLA will get their first opportunity to see the stellar play of USC freshman like receiver Mike Williams, punter Tom Malone, tackle Winston Justice, running back Hershel Dennis, corner Justin Wyatt, and perhaps cameo appearances of Brandon Hancock, Mike Ross, and Dallas Startz.

The Not So Obvious - UCLA has played ten true freshman this year, the most since 1972. All of the UCLA youngsters played in the Arizona game.

The Obvious - The Trojans' defense has been hit at times by the big play as was the case by Washington State's running back Green monster touchdown run.

The Not So Obvious - UCLA has 12 scores of 30 yards or longer, and UCLA's longest run is a 73-yard jaunt by Tyler Ebell.

The Obvious - So we now turn to the obvious. Southern California is ready, both the team and the area. The folks in Las Vegas are not calling for a Trojan smashing as the odds would indicate.

The Not So Obvious - If you are the type that likes to make a friendly wager, remember, USC is 18-18-2 (.500) against UCLA in season when the Trojans next game is Notre Dame at the Coliseum. Place your bets, gentlemen.

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