Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Among the dozens of assistants Earle Bruce hired during a two-decade run as a college head coach were the two men whose teams will meet Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
Bruce gave USC's Pete Carroll his first full-time coaching job with Iowa State in 1978 before they both went to Ohio State the next season. Carroll departed after 1979 to apprentice for Monte Kiffin at N.C. State. Three years later, Bruce brought in Tressel from Syracuse to coach Ohio State's quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Though Bruce has more history with Tressel and hired Carroll at the infancy of his career, he noticed Carroll's trademark boyish enthusiasm that has restored USC as a national powerhouse.
"Pete was alert, he knew the game of football," Bruce said this week. "He could relate well with kids. The Southern Cal kids, he could relate to better, but he relates to all kids. ... He can teach the game of football. That's what's important, even then. But he's grown."
Tressel and Carroll have been contrasted all week: the conservative, sweater-vested football purist vs. the effervescent mastermind who has proven that you can have fun and win (a lot) at the same time.
Bruce acknowledged that Carroll is "a little loose" with his approach, which can be good and bad.
"That means that maybe sometimes you're loose when you're playing a great opponent, that's OK," Bruce said. "But when you're playing Stanford and you're loose, you lose to a team that's never won a game yet. What the hell are we talking about? You don't want to do that. You want to be a little more steady than that."
Bruce credited Ohio State's businesslike approach for helping avoid a disastrous loss to Ohio University last Saturday.
"We were pretty serious about the game of football," Bruce said of the Buckeyes. "I'm not mocking what approach [Carroll] takes because he's a successful football coach and has done a great job. But regardless, he really fits the Southern Cal job very, very well."