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USC gets deferential treatment from Pac-10 coaches
That's the route Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh and most of the Pacific-10 Conference coaches traveled to start chipping away at the iron-clad armor of USC, the preseason favorite to win the national championship.
If you can't beat 'em, praise the hell out of them. Make them think they're so good - and they are, no doubt about it - they'll bump their heads running out of the Coliseum tunnel.
The Pac-10 football media day - err, USC love fest - was all about paying homage to the Trojans on Thursday. Harbaugh has yet to coach a game in the Pac-10, but he was the biggest culprit. He did everything short of bowing at Pete Carroll's feet.
"There's no question in my mind that USC is the best team in the country, and may be the best team in the history of college football," Harbaugh said.
LSU coach Les Miles would've fallen right from his Southeastern Conference soapbox. Carroll simply smiled.
Harbaugh might be the new kid in town, but he'll say whatever he wants, especially if USC is involved.
Remember earlier this year when Harbaugh told a reporter he heard Carroll was leaving after the upcoming season? And now this coronation?
"You've gotta love Jim, don't ya?" Carroll said after learning of Harbaugh's latest gem. "We're just a bunch of guys trying to put together a terrific team. We'll see how far that takes us. Thanks, Jim."
The Trojans haven't taken a snap, but the games are already under way.
Oregon State and UCLA proved last year USC can't play for the national championship every year. And most coaches are proving they're not beneath charming the cardinal and gold right off the Trojans' backs.
USC garnered all 39 first-place votes in the media's preseason poll. Now that sounds about right.
Quarterback John David Booty is a fifth-year senior and if he stays healthy, is primed for a Carson Palmer-like senior year. USC has a gazillion talented running backs and the best linebacking corps in the country with Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers. It should be one of the best Trojans defenses ever with 10returning starters, but Troy Polamalu would have something to say about that.
All this talk about how great USC is - and by one man's opinion, the best of all time - can get a little embarrassing.
"Sometimes it does," Booty said. "We don't feel we're worthy of (Harbaugh's statement). That's the kind of take we have, which is good. That's how it should be."
In essence, Booty doesn't want the Trojans to succumb to the hype either, but that was a tough task Thursday. Good thing freshmen weren't at the Sheraton Gateway near LAX. They would've flown back to campus without a plane.
Truth is, most of the Trojans are used to it. Booty was around for the 2003 and 2004 national championships. He has seen it. Been there, done that. Worked out with Palmer and Matt Leinart. Just another day at Howard Jones Field.
Washington State coach Bill Doba wasn't ready to crown USC kings of college football since he has a hard time comparing teams from this era to Knute Rockne's Notre Dame teams which won five national championships by 1930.
But Doba wasn't afraid to jump on the "Fight On" bandwagon, either.
"I know one thing, criticism will get you nowhere," Doba said. "We sure as heck don't want to get them fired up any more than they already are. Pete's done a great job there."
So he's heard.
Again and again and again. And that was just Thursday.
Harbaugh's comments were likely made to douse the flames created by his announcement that he heard Carroll was leaving. But tabbing them the best team of all time wasn't exactly the best way to say "I'm sorry."
"I say what I think," Harbaugh said. "There's no purpose in terms of motivation. I tend to be frank."
And we have Oct. 6 circled on our calendars.
So does Harbaugh really think USC is the greatest of all time? Well, he said they might be the greatest. Carroll could've said Stanford might win 10 games this season, but he didn't.
Carroll has 18 returning starters and with his ability to charm every blue-chip recruit from every corner of the country, is the envy of Pac-10 coaches. Now, they're killing him with kindness. Singing USC's praises until Traveler comes home.
When it comes to beating USC, nothing else has worked.
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