I have written time and again at just how special Pete Carroll is. His positive attitude has been documented both on and off the field.
Carroll's competitiveness is legendary as ESPN's Ted Miller relates.
In 2001, Neuheisel, as Washington's coach, beat USC and Carroll on a late field goal, 27-24. They walked to midfield for the post-game handshake, and an understandably perturbed Carroll sort of slaps at Neuheisel's hand and says something like, "We'll get you next time."
When Neuheisel finished the story, I went, "So Carroll is sort of a jerk?"
And Neuheisel goes (and my memory is a little foggy so this is a paraphrase): "Oh, no, I just realized at that moment how competitive he was."
From that game on, USC is 75-10. And Carroll is 6-1 vs. UCLA.
Anyone else sort of think this one might get interesting?
I have no doubt that Neuheisel is every bit as competitive but this is a whole new ball game where the stakes are higher. Pete Carroll has been here before and understands whats at stake. He relishes the challenge and embraces it fully.
The target remains squarely attached to the Southern California Trojans.
Coach Pete Carroll loves it.
“It’s cool, it’s a beautiful thing,” Carroll said with a smile Thursday at Pac-10 media day. “That’s exactly what you hope for. Think of the alternative.”
The alternative would mean the Trojans aren’t dominating the conference, something they’ve done since Carroll’s second season as their coach. He’ll begin his eighth campaign Aug. 30 when USC plays a nationally televised opener at Virginia. A mega-matchup with Ohio State follows Sept. 13 at the Los Angeles Coliseum before the Pac-10 opener Sept. 25 at Oregon State.
Pete isn't going to sweat the small stuff he knows exactly what to focus on.
The target on SC's back will be there until someone knocks them off. Who will that someone be? Rick Neuheisel seems to think that it wil be ucla:
Shortly after, Neuheisel praised the Trojans and the winning, national championship-contending program Carroll has built, saying "You have to embrace them. … They deserve it."
By the end of his 15 minutes, Neuheisel was confidently vowing bring the Bruins even with the Trojans. He spoke of "when we catch them, and I say 'when,' not 'if.'"
Neuheisel loves to be the pest, he has been trying to tweek Pete Carroll and USC since he was hired in December. That's a lot of swagger to be throwing around before you have coached your first game but I get it, he HAS to say stuff like that in order throw some red meat at the more rabid faction of the fan base. But talk is cheap you have to produce and Slick Rick has a long way to go before he can start thinking about getting to the level that SC is at.
Of course Slick Rick couldn't leave well enough alone, he had to throw a little mud at the start of his remarks today with this shot across the bow:
The first thing you have to understand is that USC people hate being referred to as "Southern Cal." Hate it. In fact, a regular segment of their media guide and their media notes is a reminder that the school's preference is USC or SC or, basically, anything but Southern Cal.
Which brings us to the windup of UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel's remarks today, in discussing offensive coordinator Norm Chow and defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, both of whom had previously coached across town, and the idea that they'll be working together rather than competing each other, as offensive and defensive coordinators sometimes do:
" ... Those two, having a past relationship at BYU and Southern Cal, it's a huge asset. I couldn't be happier about the harmony on our coaching staff."
Accidental? I don't think so.
He can play these games all he wants but at some point he has to produce results.
The dynamic personalities between Carroll and Neuheisel will great for this rivalry. It is not out of the question to think that ucla will beat USC again in he coming years but beating your crosstown rival and being a national player are two different things and until ucla can get to that level this will be just another wild and crazy rivalry like so many others across the country.
Things are different for Neuheisel this time around. He has to prove he can win while playing within the rules no matter how minor some thought his past transgressions were. He also has to start from scratch with a pretty bare cupboard on the offensive side of the ball. Sure it was a neat parlor trick bringing Norm Chow, he gets a great OC while antagonizing Chow's former program but in the end Chow is no spring chicken and he has a limited time frame to get to where he was with USC. I will predict that Walker will be gone by the end of the season. Walker is good but not great, last years results with all that talent bear that out. A portion of the fan base didn't want him because they felt he was undermining Karl Dorrell no matter how despised he was and they also felt he self promoting his value with the mysterious head coaching offer that never seemed to materialize from WSU. The uncertainty of Walker's future has already caused one recruit to decommit and head to Notre Dame.
So the prodigal son returns. Rick can talk all he wants, he is saying all the right things to rile up the fan base. He can try to antagonize USC all he wants but in the end he has to win and he has to do it without breaking the rules. I don't know if he can do it as I have serious questions about his character and with the pressure on him to bring ucla back to some level of prominence with the limited time he will have it may be tough to keep the rabid part of the fan base happy.
Sure it will be entertaining, it will be interesting and it will be crazy but will it be worth it in the end?