Two games into a new college football season, USC fired coach Clay Helton and sent a clear message from Seattle to Tucson — the stakes have never been higher in the Pac-12 Conference.
Consider that the league has an aggressive new commissioner in George Kliavkoff rather than the reactionary Larry Scott, who's been meeting people in back rooms everywhere to improve the tarnished Pac-12 football image.
Even with an alliance in place with the Big Ten and ACC, Pac-12 realignment remains a reality at all times, no matter what anyone's been saying or doing recently.
TV contracts are coming up for renewal soon and the league needs to have the very best product available in place to sell itself.
This means USC needs to be a powerhouse again, a team to be feared at all times, Alabama of the West Coast.
This past weekend, Oregon took a huge step forward in its football fortunes by beating Ohio State on the road and on national TV, thus firmly establishing itself as the Pac-12's dominant force until someone proves otherwise.
USC no doubt took notice. No doubt was envious. Say goodbye Clay.
Closer to home in the Northwest, University of Washington coach Jimmy Lake received yet another wake-up call with news of Helton's ouster, this coming on top of the losses to Michigan and Montana.
He needs to put his program in order and quick or he'll be checking the want ads with Helton.
Lake has one of college football's coveted jobs, which comes with that expensive stadium remodel that's still being paid off, the huge obsessive fan base and nearly every resource an FBS coach could want.
While people throughout the Seattle area are outwardly unhappy with the state of Husky football to begin this season, they might get real angry if the unthinkable happened next.
The most pressing question surrounding Helton's firing is who will replace him. The Trojans had their Mario Cristobal in hand and didn't know it when they didn't promote Ed Orgeron from interim coach to full-time coach and let him go to LSU.
If USC wants to make a big splash with a proven new coach, someone they flirted with once or twice before, consider this candidate.
Hang on to your seat cushions, Husky fans.
He's a Californian currently on a two-year sabbatical from coaching football to recharge himself. When he stepped down at the UW, he never said never when asked if he would coach again.
The Trojans surely will call Petersen to see if he's the least bit interested. If he gives them even the slightest opening, they will wave enormous sums of money at him, promise him everything he wants and give him a new challenge.
USC took a coach away from the Huskies once when it hired Steve Sarkisian after it was unable to attract Petersen, who ended up in Seattle.
The Trojans might not take no for an answer this time.
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