Kiffin, Sarkisian renew their budding rivalry

Lane Kiffin, left, and Steve Sarkisian still remain good friends as leaders of Pac-12 teams. Cal Sport Media via AP Images

LOS ANGELES -- By now, the connection is well-known: USC coach Lane Kiffin and Washington coach Steve Sarkisian used to work together as assistants for the Trojans in the mid-2000s and consider each other friends.

They worked closely together for five seasons in a six-year span between 2001 and 2006, with Kiffin primarily coaching USC's receivers and Sarkisian handling the quarterbacks. They were essentially co-coordinators in 2005 and 2006, and then both interviewed for the Oakland Raiders' head-coaching job the next winter.

When Kiffin took the job, Sarkisian replaced him as the Trojans' official offensive coordinator.

Now, they're classic rivals, preparing to coach against each other for the third time. (And likely the last time until 2015, unless both teams win their Pac-12 divisions in any of the next three seasons.)

Sarkisian has won one of the matchups, in 2010, and Kiffin has won one, in 2011. The tongue-in-cheek war of words between the two was louder and more public in the weeks preceding the previous two matchups, but there have still been a few quips from each side this time.

And there might be more on the line than ever now, as Saturday's game will presumably decide the owner of bragging rights for the next few years.

"I know Lane hates when I say this," Sarkisian said in his weekly news conference Monday, "but that's probably the most talented team in our conference."

Told of his remarks by USC's official website, Kiffin responded sharply while smiling: "He says that every year. He's just going to say that no matter what."

Kiffin called the Huskies "extremely talented" and said he and Sarkisian don't talk "quite as much" during game weeks as they normally do. He also said Sarkisian's style of offense has "really completely changed" since moving to the Huskies -- an assertion his father, Monte Kiffin, seemed to disagree with.

Sarkisian, the older of the two by 14 months, said it doesn't mean more to him to coach against Kiffin than any other opponents.

"I don't think it's different in that Lane and I are primarily offensive coaches," he told reporters in Seattle. "If we were on the same staff at SC when we were younger and he was a defensive guy and I was an offensive guy and then now we had moved and were calling plays against one another I think it would be a bit different."

Of course, the coaches' main mentor, former USC coach Pete Carroll, will also be in Seattle this weekend. His Seahawks host the New England Patriots in a big NFL game Sunday.

Kiffin indicated he had no plans to visit with Carroll over the weekend because of time constraints.

"Coach Carroll and his staff have a lot to do to prepare for their game, and so do we," Kiffin said. "So it's all business."