Dennis Erickson's career has taken him through 148 collegiate wins, two national championships at Miami and two stops in the NFL.
Perhaps his finest days were in the Pac-10, where Erickson turned the fortunes of two programs. Along the way he won coach of the year honors at Washington State and Oregon State.
His latest Pac-10 reclamation project, Arizona State, could be the toughest.
It's not Arizona State's fault. The Sun Devils, a bowl team in six of the last seven years, are in better shape than the other two programs Erickson inherited in the league.
It's just that Erickson will face stiffer competition in Tempe.
"To me by far (the Pac-10) is the best I've ever seen," Erickson said. "Anyone can beat anyone. You have to be ready to play every week or you're going to get your butt kicked."
Though USC has won at least a share of the Pac-10 title for the last five seasons, the rest of the league has raised its level of play, the 60-year-old coach said.
With 18 returning starters and a roster stocked with NFL talent, the Trojans are again the favorite to win the Pac-10 and play for the national championship. And again USC, with its Heisman contending quarterback and ferocious defense, is the top story on the West Coast.
At Pac-10 media day, the other nine coaches were asked about USC nearly as much as their programs, so forgive them if their USC speeches sound rehearsed.
"I believe the reputation outside of the conference is that there's one school in this conference and everybody else. If you ask coaches, we don't like that," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "If anything, it really draws the impression that this conference needs to keep a mind-set of improving our reputation."
His fellow coaches would much rather remind echo Erickson's assertion that the Pac-10 is in its best shape ever.
In 2006, the conference had three teams with at least 10 wins (USC, Oregon State and Cal) for the second consecutive year.
For 2007, only Washington and Oregon State will turn to new starters at quarterback. Only Cal and Arizona do not return their leading rushers from a year ago.
While USC has its share of superstars (10 first-teamers on the Rivals.com preseason All-Pac-10 team), the other nine coaches have players to tout.
For example, USC does not have the league's best defensive back. That would be Arizona's Thorpe Award candidate and four-year starter Antoine Cason.
For now, USC doesn't field the conference's most dynamic playmaker. That would be Cal, whose DeSean Jackson has scored 21 touchdowns in 24 career games.
USC doesn't field the conference's most experienced or biggest offensive line. That would be Oregon State, which returns four starters - three whom have started at least 23 consecutive games.
And USC can no longer claim to be the only Pac-10 team with a national championship coach. Erickson matches Pete Carroll championship ring for championship ring with titles at Miami in 1989 and '91.
While the Trojans are sorting through their crowded backfield, the Pac-10's best running backs - at least to start the season - are playing outside of California.
Only three active players have run for more yards over the last two years than Oregon State senior Yvenson Bernard. Arizona State's Ryan Torain had the fourth-best debut by a running back in the history of the Pac-10 with 1,229 rushing yards after his transfer from junior college.
Despite the strides the rest of the conference has made in the last few years, the perception away from the West Coast is that the gap between USC and the other nine programs is more of a chasm thanks to some embarrassing out-of-conferences losses by Pac-10 teams last season.
As USC rolled over SEC Western division champion Arkansas 50-14 in Fayetteville, three other Pac-10 schools lost on the road to SEC teams by more than two touchdowns. And as USC dismantled then-No. 3 Michigan 32-18 in the Rose Bowl, two Pac-10 teams lost bowl games to non-BCS opponents by 30 and 17 points.
Pete Carroll doesn't need to be convinced that the other nine Pac-10 programs are breathing down his neck, even if his team is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation in the preseason.
USC lost two conference games last year, and three other league opponents came within a touchdown of upsetting Carroll's team. Meanwhile, the Trojans beat all four of their nonconference opponents by at least two touchdowns.
"Our toughest games by far last season were in our conference," Carroll said. "This is an extraordinary conference. There's great coaching and excellent offenses and excellent football players. We're challenged every week. Our score spreads make it obvious."