Neuheisel needs time to make USC feel the hate

This is the last in a seven-part series on story lines to look for during the upcoming college football season.

August 04, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Pete Carroll vs. Rick Neuheisel might be the slam-dunk story line of 2010, provided Carroll stays at USC and Neuheisel stays clear of the NCAA.

It's only a fantasy story line now -- wishful, selfish, read-all-about-it thinking.

Los Angeles needs to get USC and UCLA football on the same pigskin page.

It's been a lopsided hate affair since 1991, when UCLA won the first of eight straight meetings. Then USC won seven straight before that shocking 13-9 loss in 2006.

That was a nice poke in the ribs.

Carroll vs. Neuheisel has the makings of McKay vs. Prothro, or Robinson vs. Donahue, but don't set your alarm clock for 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Right now, Pete has a cannon and Rick has a water pistol.

My gauge for any new coach given a five-year contract at a Pacific 10 Conference school in Westwood that lost the year before at Utah by 38 points is showing progress by Year 3.

Carroll beat the clock at USC when he assumed control in 2001, taking Paul Hackett's haggard hand-me-downs to the Orange Bowl in two years.

Neuheisel has talked openly of "playing for big prizes." He's already upped the competitive ante in town and proclaimed it's only a matter of "when" UCLA chases down USC.

That's the kind of bravado Bruins fans have been waiting to hear.

But this year?

UCLA's goal should be avoiding booby prizes.

One pop-the-hood appraisal suggests USC will continue to dominate the local scene and UCLA will continue to dominate in basketball.

UCLA's best shot at pulling close to USC seemed to be last year, when it had 20 senior starters, the tough games at home, and debuted at No. 14 in the preseason Associated Press poll. The voting coaches were only slightly less delusional, ranking UCLA at No. 17.

And then it all went splat, UCLA went 6-7, Karl Dorrell was shown the door, Neuheisel was ushered in, and the promise of a new day was promoted.

But these are still the old days. UCLA was picked to finish fifth in this year's Pac-10 media poll, which should have prompted saliva tests.

We see a UCLA team with no offensive line, a shaky quarterback situation, and 10 tons of Tennessee coming to town Sept. 1.

We see a UCLA team that needs DeWayne Walker's defense to keep winnable games close enough to pickpocket in the end.

We see possible pencil-ins against Arizona, Washington State, Stanford and Washington and, beyond that, needing lucky bounces to make the Poinsettia Bowl.

USC might have more talented players just starting with the letter "M": Mays, McKnight, Maualuga, Moore, Moala and Mustain.

For UCLA, the "M" is for maybe, with the goal to make it "move over."

To get anywhere, though, you have to start somewhere.


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