9. The Stanford-USC rivalry

1970 Stanford/USC program

It's also important to put the sheer epic scale of the post-2006 Stanford-USC rivalry in brief perspective. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the dramatic improbability of the individual games that have transpired on the football field and lose sight of just how much off-field animosity has poured gasoline on an already raging fire.

We continue our ambitious offseason series, counting down the top 40 moments of the Harbaugh/Shaw era.

No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though we've since assumed all the trappings of a football powerhouse – the three straight runner-up finishes in Heisman voting, the two straight BCS bowl berths and top-10 finishes, the top-ten 2012 recruiting class, or the eminent graduation of top pro prospect of the last decade – it wasn't that long ago that Stanford football was an afterthought.

On December 19, 2006, new athletic director Bob Bowlsby hired Jim Harbaugh, a former star quarterback, but an unproven coach who had never worked at the FBS level. The rest, as they say, was history.

We are pleased present Stanford football's 40 most memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.

9. The Stanford-USC Rivalry: What's Your Deal?
Jim Harbaugh's arrival sparks a bitter war between Stanford and USC

Consider this next brief stop on our countdown a summary of legendary events that have already been listed, most particularly the 2009 "What's Your Deal?" 55-21 Coliseum beatdown (No. 19) and the 2010 Andrew Luck last-minute Trojan-slaying heroics (No. 17).

This can also be considered as an appetizer for two of our countdown's main courses, which - as any casual fan has certainly already guessed - are both coming as our countdown winds down leading up to 2012's August 31 kickoff versus San Jose State.

It's also important to put the sheer epic scale of the post-2006 Stanford-USC rivalry in brief perspective. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer dramatic improbability of the individual games that have transpired on the football field and lose sight of just how much off-field animosity has poured gasoline on an already raging fire.

Jim Harbaugh started it all by igniting a war of words soon after his 2007 hiring. In March of that year, he was quoted as saying rival USC head coach "Pete Carroll's only got one more year, though. He'll be there one more year. That's what I've heard. I heard it [from] inside the staff."

Afraid of a potential negative recruiting backlash, Carroll immediately and sharply rebuked that comment. Harbaugh had his own response ready, declaring "we bow to no man, we bow to no program here at Stanford University." For the record, Harbaugh's intitial statement was incorrect; Carroll would remain at USC for three more years before returning to the NFL. But that was beside the point: Stanford's new general had already stirred the pot and stuck his chest out at Troy even after his school's dismal 1-11 season. That bravado became stuff of legend when the Cardinal shocked the Trojans, 42-point favorites, 24-23 at the Coliseum later that year.

By 2008, Harbaugh and Carroll's back-and-forth spread to the field. They battled in a contentious timeout war at the end of the Trojans' retaliatory blowout that season. The Cardinal ended up scoring a touchdown at the final gun that ensured they would cover the 24-point spread in the 45-23 loss. It all seemed petty at the time, but it was readily apparent that there was no love lost between the generals.

Of course, the Stanford-USC coaching rivalry tension exploded in 2009, when the Cardinal handed the Trojans their worst home beatdown ever and even went for two up by 27 points in the fourth quarter. We'll let the video and the rest of this Top 40 countdown tell the rest of the story.

50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, Luck, and a phantom clipping call
40. Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests
38. Steamrolled - Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of UW
37. Opening act - 2009 win over Ducks launches a November to remember
36. Going bowling - Loss to Sooners doesn't ruin first bowl game since 2001
35. "Shut up and play football" - Cal jaws pregame, falls behind 45-0 in 2010
34. Look ma, no legs - Luck throws a 52- yard dart while in free fall
33. Sit down - Burfict's head leads to go-ahead TD, Wilkerson's ices W at ASU
32. Injury bug - Despite multiple injuries, 2011 Card manage to rally
31. Whale watching - Stanford starts recruiting at an elite level
30. Suck for Luck - The media machine anoints the next football savior
29. Outta my way - Luck bounces off Cattouse for a 50-yard run
28. 0 for 3 - Card post three shutouts in 2010 campaign
27. Laying the wood - Luck lays out Wright
26. Concussed - Owusu is knocked out of four games
25. Jumping ahead - A 21-3 lead vanishes in Autzen in 2010
24. So close, yet so far - Luck's worst game costs Card 2009 Big Game
23. Run, Toby, run - Gerhart takes over against the Irish
22. Xs and Os… and Ys and Zs - Stanford toys with defensive coordinators
21. "The perfect football player" - Marecic makes purists weep
20. Rumor Mill - Report: Harbaugh to take every NFL job
19. "What's Your Deal?" - Stanford hands 'SC worst home beatdown ever
18. Continuity Unknown to Mankind - Shaw named Harbaugh's successor
17. Whitaker Beats USC - Cardinal hand the Trojans another soul-crusher
16. We've Got the Axe - Stanford wins first Big Game in six years
15. Return of the Red Zone - Cardinal students populate the stadium in force
14. Blown Away - Stanford takes VT to the woodshed in Orange Bowl
13. Streaking - Stanford wins 10 straight games by 25+ points
12. Dance With Girl Who Brung Ya - Card settle for FG attempt, loses Fiesta Bowl
11. College Gameday to The Farm - Campus welcomes ESPN
10. Thanks, John - Stanford builds new stadium, enters the arms race

David Lombardi, a TV and radio (95.7 The Game SF) personality in the Bay Area, is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years. You can check out several of his Stanford calls and other writing at www.davidlombardisports.com.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!

TheBootleg.com Recommended Stories

  • Stanford’s 300-page playbook is renown for its unmatched complexity, and as such, represents a major obstacle to newcomers who hope to see the field. In this Bootleg exclusive, however, we have…

  • Every week, Fantasy Football Expert Rusty Reeves predicts a heaping handful of players who will decline in the coming weeks. They should be downgraded at least one tier. Some of the names here are…

  • This loss is representative of the season: a painful, last-minute affair as the D hung on valiantly, but the offense could never seize control. We track our blog of the last five minutes and the two…

  • The San Mateo (Calif.) Serra offensive tackle, Jack Dreyer, will be playing close to home...

  • Adrian Peterson’s defense attorney Rusty Hardin blasted the NFL commissioner over his handling of Peterson’s suspension, saying he is trying to make up for the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice situation…