BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/19/2012

Thiel: Huskies fans should cheer USC for 1 day

Notre Dame remains the lone undefeated team in the BCS. Only the Trojans stand in the way of denying the Irish and creating chaos. Fight on, USC.

For the good of Washington and all of college football, Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans need to beat Notre Dame Saturday. / Wiki Commons

So here are Huskies football fans, pulling for coach Lane Kiffin and USC to win Saturday. Sometimes, it is an unclean thing to be a college football fan.

Why should Washington adherents pull for USC? Two reasons:

1) A win over Notre Dame will help preserve the job of Kiffin, who received the dreaded vote of confidence from his boss, Trojans athletic director Pat Haden, after Saturday’s 38-28 loss to UCLA and its rookie coach, Jim Mora. In the great tradition of votes of confidence, that means Kiffin, whose outfit was ranked No. 1 by many in the preseason and is now 7-4 (5-4 in Pac-12), is at plank’s end.

If/when he’s fired, I barely need to tell you who is No. 1 on Haden’s poach-coach list. Name almost rhymes with treason, which is unfortunate. I don’t think anyone using more than his or her brain stem should look askance at Los Angeles native and former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian aspiring to be the next Trojans’ head coach.

2) Defeating Notre Dame will ruin the Irish’s unbeaten season, the last one among BCS championship game aspirants. That means the seven teams still in the hunt today could have a decent argument about their qualifications for the title, which throws BCS selection guesswork into the fetid swamp of systemic failure that it so richly deserves.

I’m aware that some quasi-playoff format is scheduled to replace the current cataract-cluttered vision of college football’s seasonal conclusion. But some quality suffering needs to take place first by fans around the country to fully appreciate the pile that the BCS has foisted upon the cash-paying public all these years.

After losses Saturday by the top two previously unbeaten teams, Oregon and Kansas State, each 10-1, Notre Dame (11-0) was rated No. 1 in the new BCS rankings Sunday, followed by three SEC teams, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, all 10-1. Washington remains at No. 25. Several big games remain, but the Irish have the shortest route. Their regular season concludes Saturday in Los Angeles.

In the current field, a Notre Dame win guarantees an appointment to the BCS title game Jan. 7, which gives the Irish a shot for the mythical national championship they last won in 1988. The 24-year absence from contention has been a delight for those of us who look upon Notre Dame as many baseball fans regard the Yankees — an insufferable empire built of equal parts success and hubris that draws attention inordinate to its station.

Obviously, Notre Dame has been in the college football wilderness for a long time — at least three losses in every season since 1993 — but try as I might, eye moisture has yet to develop for their plight.

So the Trojans’ chance to mess up the Irish as well as the BCS is too juicy to worry about the Pac-12 rivalry. Besides, the last thing anyone in the Seattle-area sports media needs in December is covering another UW search for a football coach.

It that likely? Not at the moment.

But if you’ve followed college football the last few years, it’s been an acid trip. Aside from who’s No. 1 or No. 2,  many fans don’t know what time games start, what TV channel has the game, what conference their team is in and which scandal will catch what coach. From tattoo parlors to chopper rides with mistresses, it’s almost like . . . well, the rest of America.

The latest twist came in LA, when USC, where a team a manager in the past week was fired for slightly deflating footballs to help USC’s passing game, lost to the crosstown waifs, UCLA, for only the second time in 14 years. A year ago, they beat the Bruins 50-0.

Having watched Mora up close when he was the Seahawks coach for a year in 2009, he isn’t THAT good. USC has taken a chilly dip.

Yet Haden told the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke by phone that Kiffin, whose team was down 24-0 before rallying, was solid as his coach.

“Lane is my head coach, 150 percent, now and hopefully for a long time,” Haden said. “I see the future. I see the potential. I know what he’s been fighting through and I like what he’s done.”

He said that after USC rallied from a 24-0 deficit to turn a rout into respectability. But being respectable against the Bruins is not an agenda item for any of the Trojans boosters.

USC will continue to feel the consequences of NCAA sanctions for years, even though it is bowl eligible for the first time in two seasons. The scholarship losses, 10 less than the maximum annual 25, were the most serious gut-punch. The misdeeds came under the watch of former coach Pete Carroll. Kiffin has been charged with the cleanup. But he has done enough silly things, like switching players’ jersey numbers in an attempt to fool opponents,  that cause many to wonder about Kiffin’s judgment.

Now USC must attempt the upset  with a redshirt freshman at quarterback in his first start. Kiffin said Sunday night that Matt Barkley, who injured his shoulder late in the game against UCLA, is out, and Max Wittek will get his first college start.

What the heck. Stanford Saturday also started a redshirt freshman at QB, and all Kevin Hogan did was beat the Ducks in Autzen Stadium.

Meanwhile, Washington under Sarkisian has grown its four-year regular-season victory total from five to six to seven, with a chance Friday to get to 8-4 with a win over woebegone Washington State., looked at the bowl field Sunday and projected Washington will be in the Sun Bowl Dec. 31 in El Paso as the Pac-12’s No. 4 bowl team against Miami (6-5), the Atlantic Coast Conference’s No. 4 seed.

USC was projected as the No. 5 seed, going to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco against Navy. Bit of a comedown, yes?

But never mind the future, Lane Kiffin. Seattle, and America, looks to you Saturday to take the air out of Notre Dame.


  • Kevin

    Terrible Idea. ND losing would virtually guarantee an all SEC National Championship. Find someone outside of the SEC who would find that entertaining.

    • art thiel

      Yet another reason for a real playoff system, better than the current one in planning. But as for all-SEC final, we’ve seen it, rarely, in college hoops. If its the two best teams, why not? But in college ball, the champioinship game entrants have played five tourney games to get there.

      • effzee

        This is why all the conference movement in the last few years. They know some kind of playoff is inevitable, so they are setting it up so they can still manipulate the system. They know full well (from the basketball tourney) that a true playoff creates parity. The last thing people in Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio, etc., want is to lose to Boise St or TCU in a first round playoff game. Football is just far too important to life in those places, and even more important is maintaining the perception that they dominate football. I mean, can you imagine living in those places and not having football to look forward to? *shudder*

        • El Kabong

          Your compassion for “those places” is well placed. Let them have the perception. I want the real McCoy in South Bend. They have focused on linemen, and linebackers. Those guys bend but don’t break. I hope they get their chance, and I hope it means beating the tide. That would be good for football.

  • Wilky

    AND Stanford !! So hope they beat UCLA and win the North !! AND the Pac12 title….just as long as it isn’t Oregon !!

  • bill

    As an alum of both the Huskies and of ND, I could never bring myself to EVER root for the trojans…unless they were playing the ducks!

    • El Kabong

      Your education is complete young skywallker.

  • Jamo57

    I have to disagree with your premise about Sark, Art. I think if USC were to blow out Kiffin this year, Sark would be less likely to take the gig. Moving into the stadium is one big reazon and USC really hasn’t begun to feel the brunt of the scholarship reductions yet. Sark’s a smart guy and probably realizes SC still has dark days ahead. Better to stay put in the new Dawg Palace.

    Oh and one other big reason to pull for ND, it removes all possibility of the Ducks getting to the title game.

  • Brett

    Most UW fans are rightfully rooting for ND because it would ensure that the Ducks get left out of the championship game. Sark’s not going to USC whether Kiffin keeps his job or not. Haden wouldn’t follow up a Pete Carroll wunderkind hire with another one, and even if he were offered the gig, I don’t believe Sark would take it. He would have to deal with the scholarship limits and UW is set up well in the future with the new stadium and promising core of young talent.

  • effzee

    I honestly don’t think Sark “aspires” to be the Trojans coach. He’s not a USC alum, and I just don’t see him deciding to replace the other Carroll protege. He’s already the HC of the 2nd most successful program in 100+ years of the Pac-(Whatever) Conference. I think if/when he makes a move it will be to the NFL, and not to the one program in the conference that is more prestigious than where he already is.

  • Diamond Mask

    “Eye moisture has yet to develop for their plight.” VERY FUNNY.

    About the only time I ever root for the Trojans is when they’re playing Notre Dame. So not a problem here.

  • El Kabong

    I wanted to organize a blanket party for the big kid who writes with such authority, that I actually envisioned him writing this column with an empty chair to this port side. But I can’t. A Husky first, an Irish die hard second, this actually makes sense. Nevertheless, even for such and end, I must deny this wish. Hammer time Irish, and USC must feel some hard hitting wrath before I am content. Oh and if Sark makes a terrible mistake, The Mora Kid would be welcomed by most of Husky nation, no hesitation.

  • Steve Graham

    Fetid swamp, indeed. The future four-team playoff, as imperfect as it will be, can’t come soon enough. However, even if the Golden Domers beat USC, Art, you needn’t worry about lack of quality suffering, as it takes two to play a championship game. The hair-pulling angst/paranoia emitted by fans of surviving one-loss teams will send the BCS Gods, and their trusty computer, HAL III, a clear message about that steaming “pile” they’ve created. Not that they’ll care.

    As for Sarkisian, I can’t see him leaving right now, no matter what happens in LA on Saturday.

  • Roslyndawg

    Art, you’re the best sportswriter in the area. But please, it should be “The scholarship losses, 10 fewer than…”, not 10 less. Fewer is used for individual items, less is used for bulk items. For example, we say fewer cookies and less milk. Thanks for the great site and your greaat writing.