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. CBSSports.com, 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.