Jim Harbaugh Incites Rivalry, Pete Carroll Finds New Enemy

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Jim Harbaugh Incites Rivalry, Pete Carroll Finds New Enemy
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If you grew up in Ohio, chances are you still reserve a good deal of hatred for Bo Schembechler; it's Woody Hayes if the tables are turned.

These days, the Red River Rivalry brings the collective Oklahoma and Texas blood to a boil hotter than their chilies, with Bob Stoops and Mack Brown hanging over the pot.

This weekend, Pete Carroll and USC fans found a new Public Enemy No. 1: Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal.

USC fans will surely have Harbaugh firmly held in a special cold, dark place in their hearts after making the classless decision to embarrass Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans.

With a victory clearly in hand after a fourth-quarter thumping of USC on both sides of the ball, and on the heels of a pick six, Harbaugh sent his Cardinal offense back to the ball for a two-point conversion with the score 48-21.

We knew why. Pete sure as hell knew why.

The only reason for Harbaugh to go for two points in that situation is to throw up 50 points on USC. To be clear, that was not the sportsman-like thing to do.

It's rubbing USC's worst loss in 43 years (and most ever points surrendered) in their face. There's no other conceivable purpose in calling that play.

But it also might be the smartest thing that Harbaugh has ever done.

Harbaugh has never been accused of being brilliant. He was a great high school and college quarterback and was fairly successful in the NFL.

He's a great motivator, a good football mind, and right now he's making the sort of decisions that impress the check-writing alums and inspire new recruits to choose Stanford over other competing powerhouses.

He surely guarantees himself a better recruiting class for this year as a result of that play call, whether you like it or not.

But Pete Carroll does not forget these things. He takes losing personally. He takes it to heart. If you've paid any attention over the better part of the last decade, you know that Pete (and every single person on Earth with Cardinal and Gold in their veins) will be gunning for Harbaugh and the Cardinal next fall.

As USC's rivalries with Notre Dame and UCLA continue to be unimpressive (this year in South Bend was actually fairly interesting), the Stanford Cardinal are responsible for the last three losses at the Coliseum (in 2001, 2007 and 2009).

Even with Oregon's drubbing of USC two weeks ago, and Oregon State's recent successes against the Trojans, Harbaugh's call puts them at the top of the USC "Must Kill" list.

Watch Pete's lips move, and you can even listen to what he says, but I guarantee you it took a great amount of personal restraint for Pete to avoid telling Harbaugh where he can shove that two-point conversion as they shook hands in the middle of the field.

In the end, the two-point conversion didn't matter. In fact, the final score would've been one point worse had they kicked the PAT.

And Harbaugh wasn't running the score up on the Trojans (even the second- and third-string players were running through the Trojan defensive front seven), they scored 55 points by outworking and out-hustling USC to close out the game.

It's the same way Carroll has put up gaudy numbers over the last seven seasons from time to time. Florida consistently puts up north of 50 points, as do Texas, Oklahoma and a slew of other teams with high-powered offenses.

But rarely do you see one of the coaches from those storied programs make a call simply to insult and slap the other team.

It's simply a matter of principles, and this weekend proved that Palo Alto is home to a coach without many.

The gauntlet has been set, and Oct. 9, 2010, all eyes will be on the Stanford campus to see what the next installation of the budding (and bubbling) rivalry between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll will hold.

One way or another, it's sure to be exciting.

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