Obvious/Not So Obvious Bowl edition

With the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and a moon over Miami, the No. 5 USC Trojans (10-2) make a rare East Coast January bowl appearance on Thursday evening against the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (11-1), as the Trojans showcase to the nation their back-to-the-future football program before a soldout Pro Player Stadium and a nationally televised audience in the 69th edition of the Orange Bowl.<

The Obvious - With the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and a moon over Miami, the No. 5 USC Trojans (10-2) make a rare East Coast January bowl appearance on Thursday evening against the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (11-1), as the Trojans showcase to the nation their back-to-the-future football program before a soldout Pro Player Stadium and a nationally televised audience in the 69th edition of the Orange Bowl.

The Not So Obvious - It wasn't overwhelming that Iowa was expected to bring over 40,000 fans to the Miami area this week, but the real eye-opener is the Trojans bringing in over 15,000 fans, which will certainly change the face of how other BCS bowls will view the traveling Trojans in future selections.

The Obvious - The Trojans, 25-15 in bowl games, have the nation's sixth highest bowl winning percentge (.625) among the 61 schools which have made at least 10 bowl appearances.

The Not So Obvious - This will be Iowa's 16th post-season game and they are 9-6-1. Last year, Iowa defeated Texas Tech 19-16 in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

The Obvious - The Trojans and Heisman quarterback Carson Palmer come into Thursday evening's supercharged game as a six-point favorite over the higher ranked Hawkeyes from the Midwest.

The Not So Obvious - While most will point to the explosive offenses of both teams, it is the highly questionable Iowa pass defense that makes Las Vegas shutter. Iowa ranked last among Big Ten teams in pass defense (270.9) and watched five opponents total 335 or more yards through the air, while USC "averaged" 307.1 yards per game.

The Obvious - Iowa's defense, however, held Michigan State's All-American receiver Charles Rogers to five passes and 78 yards, despite the fact that the Hawkeye secondary is short in height.

The Not So Obvious - The Trojans' prodigy freshman receiver Mike Williams from Tampa has noticed the performance of the Hawkeyes defending Charles Rogers, but says, "They've played against big receivers in the Big Ten plus speedy guys, but I don't know if they've played a team with three."

The Obvious - The receiving trio of Williams, Keary Colbert, and Kareem Kelly figure to present Iowa with the Hawkeyes biggest challenge to date, not to mention defending junior tight end Alex Holmes.

The Not So Obvious - However, when the night is over, it could be again the receiving out of the backfield that makes the difference as Norm Chow spreads the field and allows versatile running back Malaefou MacKenzie a chance to operate against the hyper Iowa linebackers.

The Obvious - Pro Player Stadium is expected to have 72,000 on hand and many of those will be rooting for the Iowa Hawkeyes, despite an outstanding turnout from Southern California.

The Not So Obvious - While Iowa fans will try to make it a Hawkeye "home game", it will be the Trojans who will come out of the tunnel dressed in their home cardinal and gold uniforms. SC has been named the designated home team.

The Obvious - Mike Williams needs five catches, two scores, and 20 yards to set a new national marks for a freshman.

The Not So Obvious - While Williams would appear to be in a strong position to make those marks come to pass on Thursday evening, perhaps Williams biggest mark may be on his blue-chip receiver buddy Andre Caldwell, a major Trojan recruit from the Tampa area, who figures to be at Pro Player Stadium.

The Obvious - The major key to a Trojan victory will be containing sper quarterback Brad Banks, who will remind many Trojan fans of Kansas State's Ell Roberson but better.

The Not So Obvious - While Banks is a good thrower and has a wonderful percentage, the kid runs like a tailback with enough moves to freeze a jackrabbit. The key will be the performance of All Pac-10 linebacker Matt Grootegoed, who leads the USC defense with 75 tackles, 7 sacks, and 15 tackles for loses.

The Obvious - Thanks to Iowa linebacker Fred Barr, the great myth of physical Big Ten football versus Pac-10 finesse football has again been recycled to the national audience, which includes some tasty bulletin board material for the Trojans' practice facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida.

The Not So Obvious - USC has been physical enough to have won 24 of the past 32 games against Big Ten teams, and the Trojans are 61-27-2 all-time versus the Big Ten, so help me Woody Hayes.

The Obvious - The Trojans figure to quiet the strength issue against the Hawkeyes thanks to the two-year program of strength coach Chris Carlisle, who has greatly increased the physical power of USC players.

The Not So Obvious - Carlisle attended Mason City High School in Iowa, where he starred in football.

The Obvious - The Big Ten isn't even the Big Ten of old thanks to the advent of the passing game. In fact, the Big Ten is looking more like the Pac-10 of yesteryear.

The Not So Obvious - However, throwing down the challenge to the Trojans, Iowa linebacker Barr informed, "They (USC) are a good. team. They've got very talented people, but they're missing the physical aspect, which we bring to the game. " Apparently the Iowa coaches were hiding video of the Trojans' performances against such weaklings as Auburn, Notre Dame, and Trojan All-American strong safety Troy Polamalu.

The Obvious - Barr continued his barrage by adding, "Playing in the Big 10, we're pounding every week. I don't think they play that football in the Pac-10. It's definitely going to be be a fun game as far as the physical aspect."

The Not So Obvious - While Barr was more than happy to remind the nation that Iowa has the number two rush defense in the country, he was a public defender of the Hawkeyes' pass defense adding, "The only thing the media wants to talk about is our pass defense, which at the beginning of the season wasn't very good. If you take the stats from the last couple of games, its been dominating."

The Obvious - The Rose Bowl game has almost become the invisible game in Southern California illustrated by the fact that the USC ticket department sent out an internet notice announcing extra tickets for purchase to the Rose Bowl game for those not going to Miami.

The Not So Obvious - In the dirty game of BCS selections, Orange Bowl committee member Danny Ponce said of Iowa and USC, "It was a no brainer to invite Iowa. To say the Rose Bowl is still upset is an understatement."

The Obvious - One of the keys to the Trojans' offense will be to attack the confident Iowa defensive Iowa front with tailbacks Justin Fargas and Sultan McCullough, playing their final game to a national audience and NFL scouts.

The Not So Obvious - ESPN hairstylist and draftnick Mel Kiper said this week that he sees both Trojan tailbacks going in the mid- rounds of the draft, but sees McCullough's future as a cornerback. Kiper sees the intriguing potential of Fargas as the real sleeper.

The Obvious - The Iowa Hawkeyes led in the Big-10 in all-conference honors led by Heisman runnerup quarterback Brad Banks and Big 10 Lineman of the Year Eric Steinback (6-7, 290), who was one of two AP All-Americans.

The Not So Obvious - Trojan fans should keep an eye out for All-America tight end Dallas Clark, who figures to be matched with Trojan All-America strong safety Troy Polamalu.

The Obvious - Both Iowa's Dallas Clark and USC's Troy Polamalu appeared earlier on the ESPN post-season awards show, which prompted an uncomfortable situation when Clark said he was looking forward to seeing what Polamalu had to offer. Troy did not give a reaction.

The Not So Obvious - As the game nears, Clark reflected on his televised interview and said, "I was nervous and he (Polamalu) was nervous during that (ESPN) interview. I was just trying to loosen it up a little and just cracked a joke, but he didn't seem like he liked it very much."

The Obvious - Clarke may have been joking, but if you saw the interview, Clarke certainly didn't seem to be "cracking a joke."

The Not So Obvious - Clarke knows that Polamalu will cover him and probably will use the comment as motivation as Clarke comes across the middle on a pass pattern. Clarke says, "That's okay, because he'll have to do something about it on the field. I'm sure he'll get his chance."

The Obvious - While Iowa quarterback Brad Banks has gotten deserved publicity and awards, running back Fred Russell (5-8, 185) will play an important role in attacking the Trojan defense with what many experts say is college football's best offensive line, which averages 6-6 and 296 pounds.

The Not So Obvious - Tailback Russell says, "Hopefully, since they (USC) are so fast, we can go right up the gut and just pound them with a good offensive line and the two backs we have. You've got to go at them because going to the outside, the pursuit is so fast, they're going to shut everything down."

The Obvious - For the most part, the Trojan staff and their players have been very low-key about Iowa, not trying to incite the Hawkeyes or bring on a challenge.

The Not So Obvious - However, fiery defensive line coach Ed Orgeron finally couldn't contain himself about the constant reference that the Iowa offensive line was better than his defensive line. In the Daily News, Orgeron said, "I think we're better than they (Iowa's offensive line) are. I don't see them overwhelming anybody." Okay, let's get ready to rumble!!!

The Obvious - USC has one of the best rush defenses in the nation giving up just 80.2 rushing yards a game and 281.75 total yards per outing.

The Not So Obvious - Iowa is averaging 222.1 yards rushing per game with a total offense average of 432.9.

The Obvious - Running back Fred Russell, who led Iowa in rushing with 1219 yards - fourth highest in Hawkeye history, is coming back from a shoulder injury and has had plenty of time to watch film on the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious - Russell 's film breakdown of the Trojans, "Being out, I've had a lot of time to watch film and what I've seen (of USC) is good team speed, a good defensive line, and a lot of athleticism. They've got speed we haven't seen yet, and it will be a real test for us. We're going to have to play well and I think we will."

The Obvious - One of the big keys to the Orange Bowl will be the apparent speed advantage that the Trojans have over the Hawkeyes.

The Not So Obvious - With both teams having been off since November, Pete Carroll informs, "Ask a player who's off a month and doesn't play in a game. They always feel that game speed is a question mark. I can only gauge us relative to how we always practice - and we're practicing the same. You still can't get it to game speed. We just can't get that done. "

The Obvious - The Trojans' chances may again come down to the foot of sophomore kicker Ryan Killeen, who showed more confidence and poise in the two pressure games against UCLA and Notre Dame. USC is 16 of 24 on field goals and 49 of 54 on PATs.

The Not So Obvious -Kicker Killeen will probably need a near perfect game for the Trojans to match the Hawkeyes' highly-honored Nate Kaeding, who is 20 of 22 in the field goal department.

The Obvious - The recent appearance of O.J. Simpson at the Trojans' practice facility brought a great deal of responce from players, fans, and media.

The Not So Obvious - Whatever your personal judgements on the man, it should be remembered that Simpson was invited by tailback Justin Fargas and was accepted by the team as O.J. Simpson, the Heisman Trophy winner and all-time USC great. Certainly not invited by the USC adminstration, give the Trojan staff credit for a positive handling of a no-win situation.

The Obvious - A key to the direction the game may be headed will be revealed in the first quarter as both teams get a feel for the other's speed and strength.

The Not So Obvious - Carroll agrees with the first quarter speed element assessment by saying, " The first quarter is when that (speed element) is going to happen. We'll find out somewhere in the first quarter." The Trojans will attempt to "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!"

The Obvious - Regardless of the outcome, the Trojan football program has returned, at least for this season, to the elite of college football, thanks to a remarkable senior class.

The Not So Obvious - As a reward for this year's senior class, Carroll has given his seniors their own rooms in the swank Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa.

The Obvious - The Westin is one of the premier properties in the Fort Lauderdale area and is 12 miles from Pro Player Stadium. The resort has 998 rooms rising 39 stories above the Atlantic Ocean.

The Not So Obvious - The Westin has a 60-foot atrium ceiling of glass and looks like something out of a Star Trek movie. Besides having an 18 hole golf course and a 10-clay court Tennis Center, the pool has an outdoor bridge pool with an infinity edge, see-through bottom, and waterfalls flowing into a 240-foot lagoon below.

The Obvious - It was no wonder when seeing the Trojans' hotel that tailback Justin Fargas commented that now he knows what playing in a BCS game means.

The Not So Obvious - Each standard room goes for $299 per night, and there was availability for Trojan fans Dec. 31 - Jan. 3. Now if you go through the internet, the cost is reduced to $284.

The Not So Obvious - Nobody is more appreciative of what this year's senior class has done than Pete Carroll. Carroll makes no bones about it when he says, "We should always and forever be indebted for all (the seniors) have done. They've given us a chance to jump-start our program and get a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about the Trojans. They're responsible for so much."

The Obvious - The Trojan offensive line, which has been outstanding protecting Carson Palmer all season, will probably get its most severe test since the Kansas State game.

The Not So Obvious - So how does the Hawkeye defense intends to slow down Carson Palmer and the powerful Trojan passing game? "If we can get to him and hit him a couple of times, that should rattle him up a bit, " says Barr, a native of South Florida.

The Obvious - A guest at a recent USC practice to learn more about the Trojans' defensive philosophy was the legendary Lou Holtz, who was once considered a candidate to coach the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious - Hotz was impressed with this year's USC defense and said, "They (USC) knock people back and they knock'em down. Wheather it be pass defense, they just have the complete package that works together. Pete's had a great defense going back to the 49'ers."

The Obvious - ABC is televising the game nationally at 5:00 (PST) and has assigned the trio of Tim Brant, Ed Cunningham, and Samantha Ryan.

The Not So Obvious - Brant, a former linebacker and captain at Maryland, has a son who plays for UCLA . Cunningham is a name that should be familiar to Trojan fans. He was once an offensive guard for the 1991 National Champion Washington Huskies, but has lost 80 pounds since his transition from lineman to broadcaster. Ryan's mentor into sports broadcasting is Baseball Hall of Fame announcer Bob Wolff.

The Obvious - With the Orange Bowl being the only game in town Thursday evening, the Trojans will get one last national chance to leave a lasting impression on the direction of the program and one final "recruiting exposure" for this and future year's recruits.

The Not So Obvious - For out-of-California players like Lendale White, LaMarr Woodly, and Shaun Crable, this may be the final push push. Rumor has it that Chris Leak will attend the game since he is looking strongly at USC and Iowa, while it has been learned that running back White has reduced his college choices to USC and a school east of the Mississippi. Our lips our sealed. Okay, think Forbes Field.

The Obvious - While Trojan fans feel that recruiting has come to a sudden halt after a flurry of high-profile commits, probably the biggest and most important signing is that of Norm Chow's return to Troy.

The Not So Obvious - So, how long does Chow stick around? If you believe ESPN and recruiting guru Tom Lemmings, Chow has told Chris Leak he will stay for all of Leak's years at Troy. A current rumor has Leak staying in the East due to family considerations.

The Obvious - Recently, a number of future Trojans received post-season honors from local media. One of those players is Eric Wright of San Francisco Riordan, SF Player of the Year, who rushed for 1166 yards and 14 TDs to go along with 18 receptions for 268 yards and 4 scores.

The Not So Obvious - Riordan coach Oross, the school's 30-year mentor, says Wright (6-0, 180) ranks with his past stars Derek Lovelle and Steve Sewell, both NFL backs. Says Oross, "Not only that, he (Wright) is a very intelligent player."

The Obvious - Another Trojan commit who will be watching the Orange Bowl game on ABC is defensive lineman commit Alex Morrow of Rancho Cotate, the North Bay Player of the Year.

The Not So Obvious - Morrow draws great praise from his coach. Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy says, "He (Morrow) has a great combination of strength (365-pound bench press), speed (4.7-40), and size (6-6, 265). You can't coach what Alex has."

The Obvious - Despite the fact that USC has won their last 7 games and Iowa their last 9 games, both USC and Iowa have NEVER won a game in the state of Florida. Both are 0-4 and certainly somebody's streak is about to be broken or continued.

The Not So Obvious - This year's Trojans have been streakbusters and streakmakers, so for their final curtain call on the 2002 season, a win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the unexpected Orange Bowl would be the perfect ending to a remarkably unexpected season, not to mention the recruiting streak momentum heading towards Letter of Intent Day.

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