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However these two guys managed to meet up, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh face off against each other for the tenth time. They have become as entwined as peanut better and jelly. At least when the peanut butter hates the jelly. Carroll, born in San Francisco and raised in Larkspur, played college football at UOP and couldn’t make the grade in the USFL Honolulu Hawaiians. Harbaugh of course had a long and varied career as a successful QB at Michigan under (say it with me, Dennis) Bo Schembechler, and with the Bears, Colts, Ravens, and Chargers. Carroll took the long and winding coaching road, including stints with the Niners as their DC under George Seifert, and head coach of the Jets and Patriots, to varying amounts of success before becoming the head coach of the USC Spartans in 2000. Harbaugh spent a couple years with the Raiders as a QB coach before taking over that powerhouse of the Pioneer League, the USD Toreros. Success there got him the Stanford head coaching job in 2007, where he actively bugged Bill Walsh as much as he could to pick his coaching brain.
It was in the Pac-10 that the two first crossed paths. Carroll of course was king of college football, having won a couple national championships when Harbaugh came around. Harbaugh started the back-and-forth by saying Carroll would defect to the NFL in 2008, and blaming the news on an ‘insider’ at USC. Pete denied this, of course, and ended up coaching at USC 3 more years. Harbaugh also called USC the ‘best program in the country, and possibly the best college football team in history’ (sound familiar?). The fact Harbaugh beat USC as 28-27 as 41 point underdogs that year just added to the fun. Harbaugh lost in 2008, and then won the infamous ‘what’s your deal?’ game in 2009, 55-21, as Harbaugh went for 2 points on the last TD. Harbaugh’s record vs Pete was 2-1, having never lost in the LA Coliseum.
When various NCAA sanctions were about to castrate USC’s football program and take away Reggie Bush’s Heismann Trophy, Pete of course took off for the greener pastures of Seattle. Harbaugh meanwhile took Stanford to their greatest heights, and a #4 ranking as they defeated VA Tech in the Orangew Bowl. He interviewed for the NY Jets job in 2009, but they thankfully gave the job to Rex Ryan. Harbaugh then came to the Niners in 2011 as the Niners were looking to replace Aluminum Mike Singletary. In what was supposed to be a transition year in the wake of the lockout, and with little practice time, Harbaugh guided the Niners to a 13-3 record, validation for Alex Smith, and an opening day win over Seattle as Ted Ginn ran a KO and punt back for 2 TDs in the 4th quarter. They tacked on a win in Seattle later that season as the last time Seattle lost at home, until week 16 of this year at the hands of the AZ Cardinals. Harbaugh leads the NFL version of the rivalry 4-2.
Since then the teams have split their remaining skirmishes where the home teams have won. Seattle seems to hang their hat on the fact that they annihilated the 49ers in their house 42-13 and 29-3, while we squeaked our wins out at the Stick 13-6 and 19-17. All the while throwing fuel on the rivalry with Harbaugh calling the Seahawks cheaters for all their PED violations saying ‘if you have to cheat to win, then you’ve already lost.’ Brandon Browner said if he see Harbaugh he’d ‘wring his neck.’ Not so ironically, since that quote, Browner has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for substance abuse violations among 5 other suspensions. Fuel for the ever-stoking fires. The players seem to be having fun with it at least. Anthony Dixon called Seattle the ‘She-Hawks,’ and KJ Wright responding with the ‘Forty-Whiners’ in a twitter battle earlier this year. Hearing a miked up NaVorro Bowman after the Niners win over Seattle this year, they meet on the field and Russell Wilson says “Great game. We love playing you guys.”
Truth be told, and this is the beauty of the rivalry, is there is real animosity between the two coaches and now the fans. The ’12th man’ banner flown above the Stick was matched by a billboard in Seattle showing 5 Super Bowl trophies. In a very short time, this has turned into one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. The fact that the winner of this game becomes the NFC champion and thus reaches the Super Bowl makes the game even more significant and intense as these teams prepare for the game in Seattle. All in all, it should be a spectacular struggle between 2 very very good defenses and 2 smashmouth offenses.
Seattle can lay claim to winning the NFC West this year, but the NFC Champions will remain the San Francisco 49ers. Niners win 23-13. I think Russell Wilson has a bad day and commits a couple turnovers. Theusual clampdown by the defense keeps the score low.