It's easy to distinguish Trojans from Hokies: Just look at point spread

August 26, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

THE DEFENDING national champion USC Trojans open the college football season against Virginia Tech on Saturday at FedEx Field, which can mean only one thing.

I get to go to Landover and - for one enchanted evening - root for the team in red and have a reasonable chance of going home happy.

The Trojans are my team. They've been my team since Mike Garrett won the Heisman Trophy in 1965. They were my team when O.J. Simpson was the greatest running back on Earth, though we don't brag about him much these days. They're still my team all these years later. I deliver this little slice of truth in advertising only because my journalistic objectivity was called into question yesterday by Ravens linebacker and former Virginia Tech star Cornell Brown.

"I can tell by the line of questioning where you're coming from," said Brown, who is actually proud he used to play for a team that allows itself to be called "the Hokies."

What is a Hokie, anyway? No one really knows. The name evolved from a college chant called "the Hokie yell" that dates back to the end of the 19th century. Virginia Tech students have been called that ever since, but the athletic department didn't adopt the name until somebody realized that "the Gobblers" didn't exactly strike fear into opposing teams.

There's no such confusion at USC, where every student knows what a Trojan is ... and some have even studied Ancient Civilizations.

Maybe that's why USC is favored by 18 1/2 points, but I'm guessing it has more to do with the Trojans being the best team in college football again this year, even without receiver-in-limbo Mike Williams and suspended running back Hershel Dennis.

Brown isn't giving an inch. He said the Hokies have a legitimate chance to open the season with a major upset.

"Absolutely, that's why they play the games," he said. "That might be to their [the Trojans'] disadvantage. They might be treating it like a preseason game."

Brown is dreaming, of course, but he threw out a challenge to the handful of young USC guys who are fighting to make the final Ravens roster. Rookie center Lenny Vandermade didn't flinch.

"We're definitely going to win that game," Vandermade said, "and I'm willing to bet that somebody is going to wear a [USC] T-shirt for a week. As a matter of fact, I've got a new 'SC shirt for somebody to wear."

Cornerback Marcell Allmond was strutting around the Ravens' locker room yesterday in a USC cap, and receiver Kareem Kelly had a new USC hat and T-shirt displayed in his locker.

Kicker Wade Richey is the only LSU player on the Ravens' roster, but - oddly - no one asked his opinion on anything.

If you're a USC fan, then your second-favorite team is whoever is playing UCLA, and vice versa. Former Bruins lineman Jonathan Ogden has had to suffer through the dramatic revival of the USC program under handsome and intelligent coach Pete Carroll, but he always has the same answer when the USC guys try to get under his skin.

"Whenever somebody from USC shows up," he said, "I just remind them that, when I was at UCLA, we beat USC four straight years."

You can look it up.

I did, because I know better than to take anyone from UCLA at his word.

Equal Time Dept.: I have a misguided friend in California who loves the Bruins and has a license plate frame on his car that says, "You can't spell SUCK without USC."

I think that's crude.

Final thought: I just rented Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. Frankly, it was the worst sports movie I've ever seen.

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