I submitted a number of questions regarding this week's Nebraska/USC game to Jim Wyzard who runs the USC Blog - Conquest Chronicles - here on SB Nation.
Here are his answers.
What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the 2006 Trojans?
The Front 7 on the Defense is one of our great strengths, anchored by Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson. Of course it was reported today that Ellis will be out for a few weeks due to knee surgery but sophomore Fili Moala is ready to step in. The linebacking corps is one of the best in the country. Led by Oscar Lua and Dallas Sartz they provide speed and range to stop the run and drop back into coverage as the play develops. Sophomore's Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga also bring young leadership to the defense and made names for themselves in last years campaign.
The Offensive line is also one our strengths. They will provide Booty the time to get the play to develop. The receiving corps is probably the best in the country and gives Booty a number of options other than Dwayne Jarrett.
The secondary has a lot of new faces and lost its leader, Safety Josh Pinkard, to a season ending knee injury in the Arkansas game.
Preseason, College Football News ranked the USC defense at number six - are they really that good?
Absolutely! The defense was our Achilles heel last year. There were a lot of new faces pressed into action because of a number of injuries. There were a number of freshman and sophomores who saw major playing time last year and that experience is what has made them one of the best overall defenses this year.
We've heard a lot about John David Booty, and we know about Dwayne Jarrett. Aside from these two, who are the biggest offensive threats that we've never heard of?
WR Steve Smith, TE Fred Davis and RB Chauncey Washington. When opposing defenses key in on Jarrett it some times leaves Smith in one-on-one coverage and that becomes his advantage. I sometimes think that they forget about him because the focus on Jarrett so much. Davis is a converted wide receiver and has the size and speed to both block and receive. Washington actually went to the same high school that I went to and his high school coach, Joe Austin, also went to USC and is a family friend. So Washington was someone we watched early on. I saw Washington play and he is the real deal if he can stay healthy.
Let's say John David Booty is knocked out of the game. Who are the backups and have they seen any playing time and what are your impressions of them/him(if any)?
Freshman Mark Sanchez is JDB's backup. Some think he has a better arm than JDB and he really stepped up in spring practice after booty went down with a back injury that required surgery. Backing Sanchez up is Mike McDonald. If we see McDonald in the game you know the wheels have come flying off.
How are the Trojans special teams?
PK Mario Danelo is pretty dead on and is a cool customer who goes about his work in a methodical manner. K Troy Van Blarcom regularly gets touchbacks on his kickoffs keeping opposing offenses form starting with good field position. Last year the punting unit hardly saw any action, this year will be different P Greg Woldneck will get some work.
Most people are willing to pencil this in as a win for the Trojans - what about you?
I never count an opponent out. Nebraska is a proud program that is on resurgence. As was seen in other games over the last 2 weeks anything can happen. Teams can't afford to look past any team on their schedule, you need to stay in the here and now. Do I think USC will win? Yes, I do but I would not say that it would be a blow out. The Nebraska defense looks pretty strong and the offense is stringing some plays together. The USC offense going up against the Nebraska defense will be a great match up.
What's going to happen Saturday? How's it going to happen and what will the final score be?
I think it will be a classic battle in the trenches, who ever controls the line will win the game. Turnovers will also be key. SC is one of the best at creating turnovers for takeaways.
Rumor has it there will be 20,000 plus Nebraskans at this game, any sites off the beaten path you'd like to mention? (Good eats, friendly places, etc.)
That many Nebraska fans at the Coliseum will make for a great atmosphere. I haven't lived in the L. A. area for a while but for great eats and atmosphere there is always Santa Monica or the South Bay area.
Anything else you want to add about Nebraska, the game, or college football in general?
I was in the service with a guy who was a die-hard Nebraska fan, his name was Stan Sharples, and we would argue constantly about who was the better of the two teams. I remember a defensive player from Nebraska in the 80's; I think his name was Derrie Nelson. Each time he sacked an opposing QB he would this thing called "the Hook". He was a pretty good player. I believe he was an All-American. Nebraska was always a tough competitor when I was growing up they have a proud tradition.