For five seasons Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian coached side by side for USC under Pete Carroll. These were the Golden Years of the Carroll era, when recruiting hummed along with the greatest of ease and wins, national championships and Heisman trophies piled up seemingly effortlessly.
In fact, in the last two of their five years together at Troy, Kiffin and Sarkisian shared responsibility for the offense.
The two coaches remain good friends and will meet for the third time this Saturday in Seattle when USC takes on the Washington Huskies at Century Link field.
In 2010, the Huskies shocked the Trojans with a last second field goal to win the game. In 2011, USC demolished Washington 40-17.
The Trojans enter this game with a 4-1 record, ranked 11th in the AP poll and 9th in the Coaches poll. The Huskies are 3-2 with their losses coming against LSU and Oregon. Of note, Washington defeated the same Stanford team that beat USC 12 days earlier.
The transitive property cannot be applied to football, but sometimes it is hard to resist.
Nevertheless, Washington remains a potential trap game for the Trojans. USC is already racking up penalties like crazy and the extreme noise at Century Link field will not be to the Trojans' advantage.
But let’s take a look at some specific Kiffin and Sarkisian traits and how they stack up in this 2012 matchup between the Pac-12 opponents.
Sarkisian has the advantage when it comes to game planning.
Come on, put aside your Trojan loyalty for 17 seconds. Lane Kiffin’s game plans have been mediocre at best this season. They are predictable, they are not balanced and frequently seem fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants illogical.
Sark put together a game plan for the Huskies game against Stanford—which took place 12 days after that sloppy, disgusting game in Palo Alto played by the Trojans—and beat the then No. 8 ranked Cardinal.
The Huskies beat the same Stanford team that USC could not get past. The Huskies beat the same Cardinal team that Kiffin couldn’t make second half or in game adjustments in order to eke out the win.
So don’t think for a second that the No. 11 Trojans go to Seattle with an easy, effortless win. You can be certain that Steve Sarkisian has thoroughly reviewed tape of USC’s 2012 season-to-date and has come up with a plan to effectively shut down the Trojan offense long enough to grab out the win.
The upset of Stanford was Washington’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent since the Huskies knocked off the No. 3 USC in 2009 during Sarkisian’s first season at Washington.
This game can be a trap for the Trojans if not treated very seriously.
Where Lane Kiffin’s (and the Trojans’ of course) strength lies is in recruiting. Kiffin’s team has the talent. The Trojans are riddled with four and five star recruits, all Pac-12 and All-American players.
There’s just, of course, 10 fewer of them than on opposing sidelines for the next several years.
We’ve already seen the Trojans struggle with depth issues due to injury. However, the second and—what there is of—the third string are higher caliber athletes than USC will face in most of their opponents this season, including Washington.
Between Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer, Khaled Holmes and the defense—USC is loaded.
However, it seems to me that they lack a certain sort of chemistry. Almost like the parts are greater than the sum of the whole.
I believe the Trojans are just finding their identity for the season. This game against Washington is the sixth game of the 2012 campaign. I expect the Trojans to come out looking like the team their fans expected them to be this season.
One issue many Trojan loyalists have had with Lane Kiffin this year is his lack of second-half adjustments and in-game adjustments. Kiffin makes a plan and he sticks to it. It makes me miss Pete Carroll more and more with each passing week.
That is not something you can say about Sarkisian. Steve seems to have learned well under Carroll’s tutelage.
Facing Stanford and down 13-3 late in the third quarter, Washington got a 61-yard touchdown run from RB Bishop Sankey on fourth-and-one. This was the Huskies first offensive TD against a FBS opponent since the very first quarter of the first game of 2012 against San Diego State.
The Huskies then proceeded to put together a nine-play drive (obviously including another fourth down conversion) which finished off with Kason Williams grabbing a quick screen pass from Huskies QB Keith Price. Williams broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and dashed downfield for 35 yards and the go-ahead score with just 4:53 left in the game.
Washington came back from 10 points down to shock No. 8 Stanford 17-13.
That’s a coach who knows how to make adjustments.
I happen to think Steve Sarkisian is the better offensive mind and Lane Kiffin is the better recruiter. Together on one team (preferably USC of course), they would be a formidable team.
USC will beat the Huskies by at least two touchdowns.