The Obvious - The nation was awakened Thursday evening to the strong possibility that the Miami Hurricanes may not be the only number one team in the country, as the No. 5 USC Trojans (11-2) turned the 67th Orange Bowl and the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2) into their own Field of Dreams and sent the Hawkeyes into Gatsby's Valley of the Ashes with a crushing 38-17 victory before an awestruck 75,971 witnesses at a humid Pro Player Stadium.
The Not So Obvious - After a 10-10 first half, it was an awesome 28-7 point second half offense-defense Trojan performance, yet typical of the 2002 Trojans. The onslaught reminded many longtime USC observers of the 1973 Rose Bowl game when the 1972 National Champions, considered USC's greatest team and probably the finest in college history, took a tense 7-7 halftime tie against highly-ranked Ohio State and exploded in the second half for 35 points and a resounding 42-17 national title victory.
The Obvious - On game day Thursday, Miami Herald columnist Greg Cole said, "USC probably ranks behind only Notre Dame in college football tradition and aura, but not lately."
The Not So Obvious - By winning their eighth straight, Cole may now remove the word "lately" and replace it with "currently" as the South and the rest of the country learned what many in the West have been seen developing since November, the USC Trojans have returned, at least for this season, and are positioning themselves to again be "Your father's USC Trojans."
The Obvious - The Trojans are now 9-1 in bowl games when USC has beaten UCLA and Notre Dame in the same year.
The Not So Obvious - The lone USC loss was back in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl against Penn State 26-10, the Trojans' first non-Rose Bowl defeat. The Trojans were led by Heisman winner Marcus Allen.
The Obvious - The keys to Thursday night's victory rested on two plays. In the first half, the beautifully executed early 47-yard pass play from Carson Palmer to Kareem Kelly to elevate the shock of Iowa's C.J. Jones opening 110-yard kickoff touchdown return, and the third quarter Justin Fargas 50-yard touchdown sprint, striking at the heart and soul of the Hawkeyes' front seven.
The Not So Obvious - On the balance of Norm Chow's prolific offense, the Trojans rushed the ball 49 times and passed 31 times for a total offensive package of 550 yards, thus alerting fans and calling out to running back recruits, that Chow intends to bring back Tailback U. to compliment his vaunted passing schemes.
The Obvious - While Chow's calls in the first half was a bit conservative at times and reminisant of Kansas State, it was the early long pass play to Kelly, which set the tone for the remainder of the game and put fear into the Iowa defense.
The Not So Obvious - Iowa's future NFL tackle Colin Cole said of the Trojan offense, "We were freaked out, and they kept using the pass to set up the run."
The Obvious - Earlier in the week, talkative linebacker Fred Barr of the Hawkeyes questioned the physical nature and lifestyle of USC by saying, "They've always been kind of cocky, out-west surfer boys. You've got the Iowa farm boys, home grown, home-cooked meals, things like that. Then you've got the fast food, go-to-the -restaurant-type boys on the other end."
The Not So Obvious - After the Trojans dominating performance in which the Trojans pounded out 247 rushing yards in historical, vintage USC style , Barr, who hails from South Florida, had a reversal of respect for USC by saying, " They (USC) were a physical football team. I still feel we didn't come to play, but I've got to give them credit. They beat up on us tonight."
The Obvious - While many kudos went to the Trojans' offense explosion in the second half, it was the defense that completely sent Iowa and quarterback Brad Banks into a funk.
The Not So Obvious - If there was a defining defense play outside of the blocked field goal attempt at the end of the half, it was a blitz and tackle by the Trojans' Matt Grootegoed (8th sack) on Iowa quarterback Brad Banks. Banks tried to squirm and stretch to rid himself of Grootegoed and explore the SC defense, but the All-Pac 10 sophomore was like velcro and was like a dog who would not let go of his master's legs.
The Obvious - There has been some continued talk of moving Matt Grootegoed to strong safety once the season ends, a rumor that Carroll says has no truth.
The Not So Obvious - The strength of Grootegoed at linebacker showed up in the second quarter when a Hawkeye running back got into the secondary and Matt came from behind a stripped the ball giving the Trojans a much needed turnover.
The Obvious - There more than a few Trojan defensive linemen that were annoyed at the constant reference that Iowa's offensive line was the best in the country and would beat up Troy's front. Even Trojan defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron couldn't take it and came out in print and said the Trojans had the stronger of the two competing units.
The Not So Obvious - One of the sweet performances was that of former Los Alamitos prep All-America star tackle Bernard Riley, who five years ago may have been the one that started USC's return to prominance when he upset the recruiting world and chose USC over UCLA, the favorite to gain Riley's services.
The Obvious - What a great ending to the Justin Fargas tailback story, as the senior ran for 122 yards on 20 carries, including two demoralizing scores in each half that you could feel all the way to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Not So Obvious - On Fargas' first half four-yard score through the heart of the left side of the Iowa defense, Fargas established the mindset for the rest of the game showing the Trojans were ready to play physical football and run on the unrunable Hawkeyes.
The Obvious - The Trojans' All-America safety Troy Palamalu's Orange Bowl turned into a nightmare as he only saw two plays during the game and spent much of the game riding an exercise bike after an apparent ill-advised, pre-game injection into a hamstring problem.
The Not So Obvious - Iowa's All-Big Ten safety Bob Sanders also left the game at times due to an eye injury administered by the Trojans' Marcell Allmond during a punt return. Interesting enough, Sanders played in Erie, PA. for coach Joe Moore, the legendary former offensive line coach under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. Yep, the same Joe Moore that won a lawsuit againt Notre Dame and Bob Davie, thus helping send the Irish into "their" dark period.
The Obvious - One of the great gridiron mind contests going on throughout the game was between USC's offensive coordinator Norm Chow, the Frank Broyles Award winner, and the Hawkeyes' highly-respected defensive coordinator Norm Parker, a disciple of George Perles at Michigan State.
The Not So Obvious - While Chow came away looking every bit the "genius" on the winning end, earlier in the week, the "Norms" ate at the same table by chance during an Orange Bowl dinner. Said Chow, "It was an intimate setting, and I did sit across from Norm (Parker). He didn't share any secrets, and I was careful not to do the same." Late Thursday evening, it was also evident all the "secrets" were not longer secrets.
The Obvious - There had been some question by some about the Hesiman voting and should Carson Palmer have won the award over Iowa's AP Back of the Year Brad Banks. Many of Bank's teammates made direct comments about knocking Palmer into the Bahamas and questioned Carson's ability compared to Banks.
The Not So Obvious - After Palmer had thrown for 301 yards and one touchdown, Iowa's Barr admitted, "He (Palmer) proved why he won that award tonight. He dropped back and picked us apart and when we least expected it, he'd take off and run."
The Obvious - In the last three games against UCLA, Notre Dame, and Iowa, the Trojans have outscored their opponents 134-51.
The Not So Obvious - Should the on-fire Trojans finish second in the rankings after Friday night's Fiesta Bowl, it would be USC's highest finish since the 1978 national championship season captained by Lynn Cain and the late Richard Dimler.
The Obvious - During the season, Iowa had blocked four kicks, all for scores.
The Not So Obvious - There was a piece of irony and change of momentum when the Trojans' Bernard Riley blocked a 28-yard field goal by All-America kicker Nate Kaeding to conclude the first half.
The Obvious - One of the biggest fears during the season was the depth of the rapidly improving offensive line, especially. So when versatile offensive guard Eric Torres went down with a broken ankle, it appeared the Trojans were in real trouble.
The Not So Obvious - With Torres' injury, in stepped in the unsung Derek Graf to center and Norm Katnik moved from center to guard and the Trojans never missed a beat. The development of depth of the Trojan line was never more apparent. Applause to line coach Tim Davis, in charge of guards and centers, who was unable to use frosh prodigy guard Fred Matua, who was trying to perserve his reshirt year.
The Obvious - Back-up center Derek Graf is so typical of this year's team, which played with so much heart and desire. Graf, who did get stood up a number of times early on in the game, settled down and provided the Trojans with the heart of senior leadership that was typical of this season.
The Not So Obvious - Graf's contributions to the game were especially meaningful to all the Trojan running backs and his father, Allan, who started at guard on the 1972 national champs. The elder Graf, who was a usual visitor to USC practices, as had to endure the pain of watching his son be a back-up and through injuries. but what a crowning moment for that Trojan football family in Miami.
The Obvious - Speaking of the offensive line, tackles Jacob Rogers and Winston Justice kept getting better as the game unfolded, allowing Trojan runners to turn the corner and cut back as they wished.
The Not So Obvious - Benefiting from the fine tackle play of Rogers and Justice was senior Sultan McCullough, who had a fine game in relief of Fargas. Sultan showed scouts that maybe corner is not his position on Sundays by dragging Hawkeyes after getting into the Iowa secondary and reading holes as well as he has in his inconsistant and injuried career.
The Obvious - The Trojans were simply being the Trojans when their self-destructive special teams opened the game with their typical inept play, which was erratic kickoffs, coverage, and decision making -welcome back pooch kicks.
The Not So Obvious - The fine punt return play of walk-on Grieg Carlson of Palisades HS, who had a 41-yard return against an Iowa team that dhad not allowed a return longer than 14 yards during the regular season. Carlson had another big return called back and suffered a deep chin cut which required the SC medical staff to literally staple his chin back without an injection.
The Obvious - Iowa came into the game ranked higher than USC, but they were considered an underdog in Las Vegas.
The Not So Obvious - Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a coach of the year winner in many circles, said after the game, "We got flat-out outplayed in the second half, outplayed, and outcoached. It's been a long time since we've been in one of these."
The Obvious - Before the game, both teams ate streak at Smith and Wollenskys. About 300 players attended and restaurant manager Arthur Forgette gave the nod to Iowa saying, "I think the farm boys had a little size on the West Coasters."
The Not So Obvious - After the game, Iowa's shellshocked defensive back Derek Pagel said, " I don't know if we've ever quite seen anything (USC) like that this year, with their combination of speed and aggressiveness."
The Obvious - Freshman wide receiver sensation Mike Williams, playing before family and Tampa friends, was unstoppable and almost untackleable singeing the Hawkeyes' secondary for six catches for 99 yards and a tough 18-yard touchdown reception from Palmer.
The Not So Obvious - Just what must be the current collective thoughts of the three Florida football powers, who completely blew the recruiting and evaluation process of the talented Williams. With all the publicity being directed to Williams, the Trojans can always turn to Keyshawn Johnson, who seems to be Williams' mentor in charge of ego control.
The Obvious - Mike Williams has credited Trojan receivers Kareem Kelly and the dependable Keary Colbert for his developement through the season, especially after his gut-check performances after his Kansas State disappointment.
The Not So Obvious - A reflective Williams, who looked even better on Thursday and was almost impossible to bring down on the first hit, said after the game, "Tonight was a big deal for my family got to see me play. In previous games, I have come out hot in the first half and disappeared in the second half. Tonight, it was vice versa."
The Obvious - There were many Trojan celebrities on the sidelines including Keyshaun Johnson, Brian Kelly, Rodney Peete, Tony Boselli among others.
The Not So Obvious - Also in attendance in Miami was a smiling Pat Haden, who said of the Trojans after the game, " I didn't know what to expect (from Iowa). I am incredibly impressed with the Trojans' defense. Pete (Carroll) is a hands-on coach and the players really like it, and he was able to turn the offense over to Norm Chow. Brad Banks reminded me of Carlyle Holiday at Notre Dame. I've always been proud of my alma mater (USC) and proud of Pete Carroll and his results."
The Obvious - The officials for the Orange Bowl were from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Not So Obvious - After three quarters, USC led 31-10, and Iowa had 80 yards in penalities. A key element of the game was the penalties. Iowa kept self-destructing with 13 flags for 85 yards, while SC contained itself to six penalties for 45 yards.
The Obvious - After starting the game with a rocky start, the Trojans' Darrell Rideaux shook off some poor special teams play and shaky defense to come on strong as the the game progressed, even missing out in the final quarter on an interception that would have gone the distance.
The Not So Obvious - The play of strong safety Jason Leach, who learned at the beginning of the game he would replace the injuried Polamalu. Leach made some big plays including a great read of an errant Bank's pass.
The Obvious - The temperature at game time was around 76 degrees, but the humidity was a tough 85-90 percent.
The Not So Obvious - The Hawkeyes were wilting and he Trojans were gaining strength as the game wore on. It was said before the season that USC's strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle's was making a difference, and it was certainly apparent in Miami. It was an especially rewarding win for the former Iowa native.
The Obvious - The Trojans' defense held another heralded runner, Iowa tailback Fred Russell, to under 100 yards on the ground, as Russell gained only 45 yards in nine carries.
The Not So Obvious - Just how much more limited the Hawkeyes would have been if Polamalu had played? During his stay in Miami, Polamalu said of his Ronnie Lott-style tackles, "I don't think I'm a great hitter at all, really. I think they just run into me the wrong way."
The Obvious - As the game took on the characteristics of the UCLA thrashing, the Orange Bowl began to look like the Rose Bowl, as the place looked liked a hurricane warning had gone out and all the Iowa fans were scurrying for shelter.
The Not So Obvious - While the Iowa fans were getting out of Pro Player Stadium in a hurry, Trojan fans were doing their usual stay to the end and enjoyed Art Barter's band, which was placed behind the end zone as if it were an away game.
The Obvious - Prior to the game, Iowa defensive end Math Roth said, "You watch old (USC) tapes, and it's always USC in the Rose Bowl. I think when you play a program like that, it's more motivation."
The Not So Obvious - Apparently USC's Pete Carroll needs more motivation to say the Trojans are back. Carroll said "One season doesn't mean a darn thing. We need to come back next year and the next year. It's going to take a few years before I'll be able to say we have returned."
The Obvious - The Orange Bowl was presented by Play Station 2, and according to Iowa corner D.J. Johnson, he played the the USC/Iowa game three times. Johnson said, "Everytime I've played it, it's been a close one. They've won once and we won twice."
The Not So Obvious - Being 11-1 prior to the Orange Bowl, Iowa was never blown out both during the regular season or in Play Station 2. Commenting on the Hawkeyes never having been blown out this season, USC's Norm Chow remarked,"They haven't played USC."