The Obvious and Not So Obvious

The game figures to be decided by the performance of USC quarterback Carson Palmer, and a Trojan team that has not committed a turnover in eight quarters.

The Obvious - Here Come The Irish...We Are SC....The Notre Dame Victory March...Fight On....Blue and Gold....Cardinal and Gold...10-1....9-2....The Leprechaun....Traveler....Rudy....John Wayne....The Shillelagh...93,000....No. 6....No. 7....BCS...The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum....and presenting on Saturday evening to the nation, the 74th chapter of college football's longest running and greatest intersectional, the University of Southern California Trojans and the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Not So Obvious - Game day on the Notre Dame campus is perhaps the greatest of all college football experiences, but the actual intense game experience belongs to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the atmosphere is by far more electric and tension is ten cents a ton due to the large mix of Trojan and Irish fans.

The Obvious - The reason that USC does not always play Notre Dame at the end of the season home and away is the difficult South Bend weather in late November.

The Not So Obvious - The Irish arrived in Los Angeles Thursday evening after eating their Thanksgiving dinner back in Indiana. They seem to have brought some South Bend wind and rain that could carry on through Saturday afternoon, possibly affecting the Coliseum turf and the Trojans' speed advantage.

The Obvious - The Trojans have not swept UCLA and Notre Dame in the same year since 1981.

The Not So Obvious - The Trojans have not swept UCLA and Notre Dame back-to-back since 1978.

The Obvious - This is the final game for 21 Trojan seniors, and they will be honored prior to the kick-off running through the "Heritage Tunnel" flanked by former Trojans greats.

The Not So Obvious - One of the Irish greats will be in attendance on Saturday, but he won't be running through the "Heritage Tunnel". ABC's Regis Philbin will be at the Coliseum, and he has been really pumping the abilities of Carson Palmer on his morning show.

The Obvious - Rudy is one of the fine inspirational movies that really shows the spirit of a game-day for a football game in South Bend, and USC fans have reason to be thankful.

The Not So Obvious - The folks that made the movie made sure that they mentioned the USC-Notre Dame game. In the early part of the movie, Rudy's family gathers around the television to watch the USC-Notre Dame game from Los Angeles. Trojan fans appreciate the plug.

The Obvious - USC comes into Saturday's game with a five-game win streak and an eight-game Coliseum win streak.

The Not So Obvious - Notre Dame is coming in with a six-game win streak against the Trojans when you take into account the Irish three-game streak and add it on to coach Tyrone Willingham's prior three-game streak against USC when he was at Stanford. For the record, Willingham was 4-3 against the Trojans as Stanford coach.

The Obvious - The game figures to be decided by the performance of USC quarterback Carson Palmer, and a Trojan team that has not committed a turnover in eight quarters.

The Not So Obvious - Notre Dame coach Willingham is certainly impressed with Palmer and the Trojans and is aware his team's chances rest with his defense's ability to stop Palmer. Willingham informs, " I think it is obvious to anyone following SC football that he (Palmer) is playing absolutely the best football of his career. I think most would probably say as well as any quarterback that may have played there."

The Obvious - The Irish should have an advantage this year in stopping Palmer, considering that the Irish coaching staff is has six former Stanford staff assistants, including former both Cardinal offensive and defensive coordinators.

The Not So Obvious - One Irish coach who should know Palmer well is defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who schemed against Palmer at Stanford. Baer commented, " I think the biggest difference is he (Palmer) has had the same offensive coordinator now for two years. I think prior to this year, he had three offensive coordinators in three years, and that's tough."

The Obvious - The Irish figure they can stop the Trojans' running game and play the pass by having their corners pressure the Trojan receivers like Kansas State did so successfully. The Trojans balanced offense will be severely tested by the rugged Irish defense, which is giving up 13 points per game.

The Not So Obvious - With the Trojans' offense scoring at a 34.8 clip, the biggest difference in this year's Trojan team is the balance of run and pass. This season, USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow has an attack that has seen 428 rushing attempts and 417 passing attempts.

The Obvious - One Trojan moment that Notre Dame will hope to avoid will be after each Trojan touchdown, when the USC band plays Alfred Newman's "Conquest", and Traveler gallops down the Trojans' sideline.

The Not So Obvious - Conquest has been played at USC games since 1950, and it was incorporated into Trojan tradition from the 1947 motion picture classic "Captain from Castile".

The Obvious - One moment that USC fans hope to avoid will be after each Notre Dame touchdown, when the Notre Dame High School band plays the "Victory Clog", a fast, intimidating Irish jig.

The Not So Obvious - The "Victory Clog", which is actually known in the music world as "Damsha Bua" by O'Brien, is usually accompanied by the dancing Irish Guard, but the Notre Dame band and Irish Guard do not make the trip the bi-yearly trip Los Angeles.

The Obvious - The Notre Dame Clubs of Southern California have for years tried to pay for the Notre Dame band to come to the Coliseum, especially since the USC band goes back to South Bend for the Trojans' visit.

The Not So Obvious - Ironically, third-year Irish band director Ken Dye holds a degree from USC. Hopefully in the future, the former Trojan will lead drive to bring the Irish band out to Los Angeles in the future. That be an entertaining site on the Coliseum field seeing both bands perform.

The Obvious - The Irish premiere corners, Vontez Duff and Shane Walton, will have a great influence on the outcome of Trojans' offense.

The Not So Obvious - Vontez Duff out of Copperas Cove, Texas was one of the nation's running backs out of high school, while San Diego Bishop School' Shane Walton, one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the nation's top defensive player, has intercepted seven passes this fall, the most since Todd Lyght picked off eight in 1989. In addition, Walton is also a former high school standout soccer player, who scored 45 goals his senior year.

The Obvious - The Notre Dame offensive lines have traditionally dictated which direction the game usually goes against the Trojans. In last year's 27-16 win over the Trojans in South Bend, the Irish rolled up 346 yards in total offense, 208 of it on the ground.

The Not So Obvious - With a senior dominated offensive line, just how does Notre Dame like being a big underdog after last year's win in which the Trojans committed three costly turnovers? Offensive tackle Jordon Black says, "This is a team that loves situations like this. When the pressures on, we respond. The Florida State and Michigan game were examples of that. Any challenge this team has, we look forward to."

The Obvious - The Trojan defense will see quite a battle brewing between Notre Dame's highly-touted center Jeff Faine and SC middle backer Mike Pollard.

The Not So Obvious - Many pro scouts say that Jeff Faine (6-3, 298) from Sanford, Florida is just an "animal". Faine may become the first Notre Dame All-America center since Tim Ruddy in 1993. USC's Michael Pollard (6-0, 225), who has greatly improved over two season, will hope to out-quick the bruising Faine, a former USA Today, first-team prep All-American.

The Obvious - The Trojan fans are concerned over the condition of center Norm Katnick's ankle and how well he can play against Notre Dame' star inside linebacker Courtney Watson, one of three finalists for the Butkus Award given to the country's top linebacker.

The Not So Obvioius - Trojans fans should be more concerned about the ankle of Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser, whose status may likely affect next week's UCLA game, which will determine the Trojans' Rose Bowl hopes and dreams.

The Obvious - If the Trojans win Saturday night, it will be their first win over ND since a 1998 10-0 upset of the then ninth-ranked Irish.

The Not So Obvious - Quarterbacking that Notre Dame team was Arnez Battle, who is now the number one receiving threat for the Irish. In the 1998 game as a quarterback, Battle was 7-of-19 for 94 yards and two interceptions. Battles' assessment of this year's Trojans, "Going out to USC is going to be a great challenge."

The Obvious - The year 2002 marks the 30th anniversary of Anthony Davis' six-touchdown performance against Notre Dame at the Coliseum, which USC won 45-23 on its way to the national title.

The Not So Obvious - In a a nice touchy-feely article by the Times' Gary Klein, Davis' feat is recounted in detail and quotes former Davis teammate Allan Graf, whose son Derek may start at center for the Trojans.

The Obvious - With a very physical Notre Dame defensive line, the USC offensive line led by tackles Jacob Rogers and freshman Winston Justice appear unanimous in having Justin Fargas start at tailback due to Fargas' ability to hit the hole quickly, making it easier to sustain a block.

The Not So Obvious - Attacking the Irish defense and following blocks will be paramount for the Trojan tailbacks on Saturday. 1972 stellar guard Allan Graf on the importance of running backs reading blocks, "The thing that was so great about Anthony (Davis), and something I haven't seen since Marcus Allen, was the way he knew how to set up blocks. He was a lineman's dream. He knew how to help himself by helping the people blocking for him."

The Obvious - While USC has increased its look at out-of-state recruiting with coach Lane Kiffin, USC has no players on its roster this season from the state of Indiana.

The Not So Obvious - Notre Dame has seven players from California including James Bonelli (Camarillo), Pat Dillingham (Portola Valley), Chris Frome (Saugas), Derek Landri (Concord), Rhema McKnight (La Palma), Shane Walton (San Diego), and Mike McNair (Corona Del Mar).

The Obvious - Trojan tailback Justin Fargas, who played against ND as a freshman at Michigan, will have a little incentive for his possible final Coliseum performance against the Irish. Playing against Notre Dame, Fargas will have the backdrop of hearing his high school, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, play for the Irish football team during the game as guests of USC.

The Not So Obvious - Fargas' counterpart for the Irish is tailback Ryan Grant, a former New Jersey state player of the year in 2000 out of Ramsey Don Bosco Prep. The 6-1, 211-pounder says of Saturday's game, " Coming off a good win (42-0 over Rutgers), I think I know what we can do against USC. With a good week of practice, I think it will put us in a good situation going into the game. It's just a matter of us going after it this week, understanding this is our last shot in the regular-season. We've got to go all out, especially against that caliber of team."

The Obvious - In the Irish losses, Ryan Grant has fumbled and was in the Irish doghouse, thus drawing the ire of coach Willingham.

The Not So Obvious -What Grant doesn't say is the Irish coaches are scared stiff about his penchant for fumbling in key situations, something the Trojan defenders have been well informed. The Trojans have recovered 13 fumbles this season.

The Obvious - Notre Dame junior quarterback Carlyle Holiday should give Trojan fans some nervous moments with both his ability to pass and run, especially after last week's passing record touchdown throws against Rutgers. Said Rutgers' coach Greg Schiano, "If Holiday can throw like that, and they run routes like that, they're going to be pretty tough to beat."

The Not So Obvious - Last year against the Trojans in South Bend, Holiday was named NBC/Chevrolet Player of the Game by completing 9-of-12 passes for 133 yards, and he added 125 rushing and one touchdown in a come-from-behind 27-16 win. Trojan fans, beware of the return of the option for a one-night performance.

The Obvious - Trojan freshman punter Tom Malone, the Pac-10's best, and rejeuvenated kicker Ryan Killeen had wonderful moments in the smashing victory over UCLA. These two may have as much to do as Carson Palmer in determining a USC victory over Notre Dame, however let's cool the short kick-offs.

The Not So Obvious - Perhaps the greatest strength of the Irish team invading Los Angeles is the special teams, especially kicker Nick Setta and punter Joey Hildbold. Setta has made 86 straight extra points and ranks 4th in ND history for field goals (33). Punter Hildbold is a semi-finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the second time in three seasons averaging 40.5 for his career.

The Obvious - If Carson Palmer has a great game against the ND defense that ranks second in the nation in pass efficiency defense (85.92), third in scoring defense (13.18 points), and fifth in total defense (270.64), his moment on primetime ABC television may move him to the head of the Heisman list.

The Not So Obvious - Palmer already appears to have a vote from none other than South Bend Tribune columnist David Haugh, who says of Carson, " Palmer, to this voter, has simply taken his team further than (Larry) Johnson (Penn State) and done so in a more spectacular fashion against slightly stiffer competition. Admitedly the difference between them is as close the space between two guys running a 4.4 and a 4.5 40-yard dash."

The Obvious - With a Trojan basketball game and 92,000-plus heading into downtown for the game, the area figures to be a nightmare, especially if it rains.

The Not So Obvious - USC will run shuttles from the LA Convention Center's South Hall, and Venice Parking structure. Parking is said to be $10 with shuttles to the Coliseum. Of course you can always pay the $50-plus that the sharks will be charging across the street from the Sports Arena.

The Obvious - As the Irish rest in their Pasadena Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Spa, Notre Dame would be well-served to know that USC has a November record of 212-121-20 (.629) all-time.

The Not So Obvious - Trojan coach Pete Carroll is adding to that record by being currently 6-0 in two Trojan seasons in November. Come to think about it, didn't Lou Holtz used to house his teams at the Newport Marriott? Newport or Pasadena? No brainer.

The Obvious - Few college teams can crow that they play their two biggest rivals back-to-back every other year.

The Not So Obvious - USC is 15-19-4 against Notre Dame in games immediately following UCLA, but the Notre Dame series is tied 7-7-1 when both teams are ranked in the AP Top Ten.

The Obvious - The last time both teams were ranked in the AP Top Ten was in 1988, and USC is 11-9-3 when the Trojans enter the game ranked higher than the Irish in the AP poll.

The Not So Obvious - The winner of Saturday's game retains the shillelagh. The foot-long stick has a ruby-adorned Trojan heads with the year and game score representing USC victories, while the emerald-studded shamrocks stand for Notre Dame wins. The winner of Saturday's game gains year-long possession of the trophy. There are now 42 shamrocks, 26 Trojan heads, and 5 combined medallions on now two shillelaghs.

The Obvious - Another tradition at the beginning of the final quarter for both schools. The USC band will strike up "The William Tell Overture", while the Notre Dame High School band will do the Irish tradition of the "1812 Overture".

The Not So Obvious - So, who wins the game and further confuses the BCS? We'll know after the game by which band plays "Conquest" and which band plays "Damsha Bua".

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