|USC Legends News|
Trojans' competition limited to rhetoric
Jim Harbaugh, the new Stanford football coach, is best taken in small sips, not large gulps.
Suddenly, the league has somebody who matches the boundless enthusiasm of the prince of the Pac-10, Pete Carroll of USC. Never mind that that's the only remote similarity between Stanford and the Trojans these days.
One day last spring, on what's supposed to be a cerebral, measured campus in Palo Alto, Harbaugh found himself so immersed in a drill called "Oklahoma" that he took it a step too far.
An offensive tackle blocks a defensive end, and a running back reads the collision and adjusts his path accordingly.
"I got all excited and emotional," Harbaugh confessed Thursday at Pac-10 media day.
He grabbed the football and jumped behind offensive tackle Allen Smith. Unfortunately, 6-foot-4, 252-pound senior defensive end Udeme Udofia slipped Smith's block and Harbaugh found himself at a decided size and equipment disadvantage.
"He popped me right in the ribs," Harbaugh said. "Hell, no, I didn't go down."
In fact, he clapped Udofia on the shoulder pads and asked him with a straight face, "You all right?"
So it's not so hard to imagine Harbaugh being impudent enough to do what he did last winter. On the subject of USC's lingering dominance of the Pac-10, Harbaugh said he was told by a Trojans staffer that Carroll wouldn't be staying any longer than the 2007 season.
That firestorm had long-since quieted when Harbaugh tried to ignite another one on the podium here. He called USC "not only the best team in the country, they may be the best in the history of college football."
"Gotta love Jim, don't you?" Carroll grinned, when apprised of Harbaugh's comment. "No way I'd have any understanding of what that's all about."
Carroll seemed more amused than perturbed, much in the manner of the big brother who regularly straight-arms his younger sibling into the mud whenever he chooses.
Make no mistake, Pac-10 football this year is not about Harbaugh, it's about USC. Which is to say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Sub-text of the day was this: Is this going to be an off-the-charts USC team, embellishing Carroll's 59-6 record the past five years? And if it is, could it, might it, have anything to do with a phenomenon described in the incendiary summer comments of Les Miles, the Louisiana State coach?
In so many words, Miles said the Pac-10 is not a lot more physical than Dancing with the Stars.
"I would like nothing better than to play USC for the national title," he said. "I can tell you this, they have a much easier road to travel. They're going to play real knockdown drag-outs with UCLA, Washington, Cal-Berkeley, Stanford — some real juggernauts ... [and] end up in the title [game]."
Funny thing, though. Miles failed to note that USC's two losses last year came inside the league, and that just about every time it meets quality opposition outside (see the mauling of Miles' alma mater, Michigan, in the Rose Bowl), it kicks booty and takes names.
So brazen was Miles' take that Bruce Davis, UCLA's all-league defensive end, rushed to the side of his crosstown rival.
"Les Miles has never come knocking on our door and asked to put them on our nonconference schedule," Davis snorted. "If we're so soft, schedule us. Let me know how your team feels after coming out here on the West Coast."
For his part, Carroll did his best to hose off speculation that they ought to just bronze the entire Trojans roster. He wouldn't concede that USC has put distance between itself and the other nine beggars in the league.
"It's a tremendous battle for us each week," Carroll said.
He could have been talking about practice.
The Trojans have a ridiculous array of tailbacks on hand, but that didn't deter Joe McKnight, an all-everything runner from River Ridge, La., from signing with USC in February. (Maybe losing him is what put Miles in such a foul mood.)
A couple of snippets from the USC media guide provide a glimpse into what awaits Miles' Nether Nine in the Pac-10:
The guide says of the Trojans defense, "A case can be made that almost each returning starter is an All-American candidate."
And Carroll is quoted, "Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing are the best three linebackers in the country. And believe it or not, they've got lots of guys pushing them for playing time."
It seems there's always somebody pushing the Trojans. Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles, join the club.
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