Two years ago, Jim Harbaugh and Stanford buried USC’s hopes at a national title, 23-21, in what’s largely believed to be the biggest upset against the point spread in college football history. Last year, USC went to Palo Alto and won 45-23 in a game that got a little coach-chippy with some unnecessary scoring in the final minutes, with Pete Carroll telling reporters that he “doesn’t care what [Harbaugh] does.” Mr. Carroll, it might be time to start caring.
It’s a toss-up whether to characterize last weekend’s 55-21 score as “misleading”; on one hand, Stanford absolutely put it on USC, running all over the Trojans for the entire game. On the other, it was still a 7-point game in the fourth quarter before the Cardinal broke it open; in fact, if last year’s late scoring was a misdemeanor, this was a gross felony, with Harbaugh even going for 2 late to try to hang 50 on the Trojans. Carroll, as you can imagine, was unamused.
“What’s your deal? What’s your deal?” Carroll said, according to two sources near enough to hear.
“What’s your deal?” Harbaugh retorted, and that was that.
Now there’s the brevity of wit for you. It is also evidence of what will be a lingering dislike-a-thon between the two men, punctuated by Harbaugh’s impish yet gratuitous two-point conversion attempt after Stanford’s seventh - yes, seventh - touchdown. It looked like what it was, Harbaugh putting a knee in Carroll’s exposed coaching nethers.
On one hand, that’d be a dick move even if it were two people playing Xbox against each other. Pete Carroll probably had his feelings genuinely hurt for about 10 minutes after the game before making up his mind to get even. If Harbaugh has a wife, consider her already slept with–perhaps even in the unholiest of holies. Depends on how vindictive Carroll’s feeling.
All that said, this is the same USC team that was routinely scoring 40, 50, sometimes over 60 points on its conference brethren, turning the Pac-10 into a de facto Pac-1-and-the-9-Dwarves over the course of the decade. Seeing the Trojan defense get scorched for over 100 points in just its past two games must be satisfying for the rest of the conference, even if a bit unsporting.
The real question is whether it’s going to matter if Harbaugh just made Carroll’s and USC’s eternal sh*tlist. While Carroll’s not the kind of guy who’s going to hold a grudge and dwell on negativity - that’s not his thing, y’know - he certainly is the kind of guy who’s going to use this curb-stomping as a motivational point for his Trojans over the next, say, 363 days.
But who’s to say that motivation’s going to work? It sure is weird to see the Trojans as the team getting bullied and not doing the bullying. We’ll see if they’ve got the mental fortitude to bounce back from such a big loss. If the Stanford game is an indication of how they handled the Oregon loss, um, that’s not a good sign.