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O/NSO: Bye Week II edition

The Obvious: The Trojans have drawn their second bye week of the season.

The Not So Obvious: Considering the Trojans are out of the national picture, near flat-lined in terms of their chances of winning the Pac-12 South Division, the O/NSO can’t remember when the final three games (Cal, UCLA, Notre Dame) of a season seemed so critical to the momentum for a first-year USC head coach unless you look back and realize that the same could have been said of Pete Carroll back in 2001.

The Obvious: In his first season at Troy, Pete Carroll came into the final four regular season games with a record of 2-5.

The Not So Obvious: In Carroll’s final four regular season games, the Trojans won four in a row defeating Arizona (41-34), Oregon State (16-13), Cal (55-14), and UCLA (27-0). Although the Trojans lost to Utah 10-6 in the Las Vegas Bowl, the following season the Trojans went 11-2, including a 38-17 Orange Bowl victory over stunned Iowa, and the rest is history.

The Obvious: CFP-ranked No. 10 Notre Dame will play at CFP-ranked No. 9 Arizona State this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (PST) on ABC.

The Not So Obvious: With so much at stake for both teams and a chance for Trojans fans to see the Irish play a common Trojans opponent, it’s must-see TV. The O/NSO calls it the Irish and don’t ask for a point spread.

The Obvious: The Trojans defeated CFP-ranked No. 19 Arizona, 28-26, in Tucson in on Oct. 11.

The Not So Obvious: Yet even with the Wildcats big loss at UCLA, Arizona is still ranked in the AP this week at No. 21 while the Trojans are “others” receiving votes. And for the record, not really close to cracking the Top 25.

The Obvious: Colorado State is the closest university I the honorable mentions category to cracking the AP Top 25.

The Not So Obvious: The Rams are ahead of the Trojans in points received. CSU has 67 votes as opposed to the Trojans 47 votes.

The Obvious: Pat Haden is the Trojans athletic director.

The Not So Obvious: In his weekly address to the public, Haden remains steadfast that the football team’s scholarship numbers are an insight into the challenges of Steve Sarkisian’s team. Haden said, Given our severely diminished numbers, it is remarkable what we have been able to do with generally less than 50 players each game. It has been astounding. I think the staff has done a good job.” 

The Obvious: The Trojans have lost two critical games that they could have won – Arizona State and Utah.

The Not So Obvious: Pat Haden says, I feel awful, as I know Coach Sarkisian does, about losing two games that we had an excellent chance of winning. But I am very optimistic about where we are heading. I think we are going to have a good recruiting class. We are going to have a lot of really good, young players next year.” 

The Obvious: It’s looking more and more that it will be Oregon and Arizona State in the Pac-12’s December championship game in Santa Clara.

The Not So Obvious: The intrigue of such a matchup would be that neither team played each other during the regular season. Of course, maybe that is a good thing for ASU. Then again, not seeing the “O” offense in awhile could be a real detriment, especially early in the game.

The Obvious: The Trojans host Notre Dame during Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 29.

The Not So Obvious: If you’re a Trojans fan, you want the Irish to beat ASU not only because keep the Trojans hopes alive in the Pac-12 South Division, but because it would make it that much sweeter if a one-loss Irish team comes to the Coliseum with a possible College Football Playoff bid on the line. Imagine the Trojans upsetting the favored Irish to knock them out of any College Football Playoff contention. Does that send goose bumps down your cardinal and gold spine?

The Obvious: Trojans All-America defensive lineman Leonard Williams is one of 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award.

The Not So Obvious: Former Trojans All-America offensive guard Brad Budde (1979) is the lone Trojan to win the Lombardi Award, named after legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. The award is given to the nation’s top college lineman who also “best exemplifies the discipline of Vince Lombardi.”

The Obvious: Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler’s career numbers have really started to make their way up the charts of the USC football record books.

The Not So Obvious: However, no matter how great the numbers, the only numbers that count are championships, and no USC quarterback is in better position to agree with that than Matt Barkley, although he really had just one season to win a championship. Of course, Barkley’s senior season saw the Trojans start off No. 1 in the country and we all know what happened from there.

The Obvious: By now, most Trojans fans have seen the home uniforms that UCLA wore last Saturday night against Arizona.

The Not So Obvious: Well, so much for those traditional blue and gold uniforms. Wow, were they U-G-L-Y. The O/NSO has always like the Bruins traditional home uniforms, but Jim Mora’s boys really are the poster child for not messing with good uniform traditions.

The Obvious: The Trojans will travel to play the CFP-ranked No. 18 UCLA Bruins on Saturday, Nov. 22.

The Not So Obvious: With both teams allowed to wear their colorful home uniforms, thanks in part to the push by former Trojans coach Pete Carroll, let’s hope the Bruins don’t ruin the tradition by wearing those horrendous uniforms they wore for Arizona.

The Obvious: Former Trojans All-America quarterback Carson Palmer has his NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals, pulling away from the pack with a 7-1 record.

The Not So Obvious: Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy and super competitor. No question about it, Carson was the catalyst who got the Pete Carroll era after a rough start.

The Obvious: Former Trojans quarterback Mark Sanchez took over last Sunday for injured Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles and led the Eagles to a 31-21 over the Houston Texans.

The Not So Obvious: Sanchez, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Texans, has waited quietly and patiently to show his Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly, the former head coach at Oregon, what he can do in a game. Kelly was impressed and don’t forget if Sanchez goes down, former Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley is in the bullpen. You can never have enough USC quarterbacks on your team.

The Obvious: Mark Sanchez was once the starting quarterback and local darling of the New York Jets.

The Not So Obvious: Sanchez was formerly known in the Big Apple as the “Sanchise,” and everything imaginable was marketed with his image. Apparently there are some that don’t realize he’s no longer a jet. In an advertisement next to a Sanchez story regarding his efforts against the Houston Texans, there was Mark in a Fathead wall graphic photo in his full Jets uniform. Who goofed, the O/NSO has got to know!

The Obvious: And finally, Matt Lopes is a redshirt freshman safety out of Palos Verdes (Calif.) High.

The Not So Obvious: The talented kid is the son of Trojans Senior Associate Athletic Director Steve Lopes, and it’s not exactly a secret that his son can play. Although Steve’s son is a walk-on, he didn’t exactly arrive at Troy without a football pedigree. During his senior season, Matt was named All-CIF Northern Division Offensive Player of the Year and even rushed for 1,651 yards with 25 touchdowns and recorded 25 tackles plus three interceptions on defense. Not bad indeed for a “walk-on.”

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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