Clash of the coaches · Steve Sarkisian (above) and Chris Petersen are each in their second year of coaching at their new respective universities. – Mariya Dondonyan | Daily TrojanIt was not too long ago that I thought Chris Petersen might become the next head coach of USC football. Two seasons ago, when former head coach Lane Kiffin was fired after the implosion at Arizona State and Ed Orgeron’s title as interim head coach had an emphasis on the “interim,” Athletic Director Pat Haden launched a national search for someone to become the full-time head. Petersen, then the head coach at mid-major Boise State, frequently came up whenever name-brand programs were in search of someone to reestablish that brand. Of course, the Trojans’ search ended with Steve Sarkisian, then the Washington head coach, and Petersen filled the void for Sarkisian at Washington.When Petersen and Sarkisian step into the Coliseum together on Thursday night, the sports world will get to see an interesting case study on executive leadership. The head coaches have a lot in common, so they make good partners for comparison about the future of our respective football programs. Along with their similarities are some significant and noteworthy differences.Should the Trojans have hired Petersen over Sarkisian? Probably not, and I say that mostly because I have faith in the Athletic Department’s judgment. Additionally, the two have only completed one season at their second major head coaching destination, so time will tell if there’s any significant, long-term impact the respective coaches have on their programs. But it’s always fun to speculate, and there’s enough history these two have had in the game to have a legitimate argument about it.When looking at the two’s resumes before the 2013 season, one is clearly more impressive in my book: Petersen.Petersen took a middle-of-nowhere school into the national spotlight. The Broncos had consistently won the Western Athletic Conference before he took over in 2006, but no one could have predicted the success he would have during his eight-season tenure in Boise.The team had two undefeated seasons, three undefeated regular seasons, three BCS bowl wins and a four-year stretch between 2008-2011 of going 50-3, the most ever wins in that span by an NCAA football team. That the College Football Playoff didn’t come into existence until after Petersen’s tenure is a national sports travesty. While the Broncos’ in-conference schedule never compared to the Power Five teams playing for the national championship, Boise State consistently had big wins early in its season over big, non-conference opponents like Virginia Tech and Oregon.Sarkisian’s head coaching tenure was much less remarkable before coming to USC. He made a Washington program that was the absolute bottom feeder of the Pac-12 decent, but he earned the nickname “Seven-win Sark” for never taking Washington to the next level during his five-year stint. When Sarkisian was hired as the head coach at ’SC, many — including myself — wondered if his hire had more to do with his success as a Pete Carroll disciple than as a head coach himself.So what’s happened to the two since their new gigs? Again, it’s still early to make this judgment, but the Trojans have gotten noticeably better under Sarkisian, and the Huskies have actually performed worse so far. The Huskies went from 9-4 with a bowl win in Sarkisian’s last season — technically Sarkisian had left for USC before the bowl win, but we’ll still give him some credit — to 8-6, with a bowl game loss last year. They’ve already lost both of their real tests this year in Cal and Boise State, and the road doesn’t get any easier as they move into the meat of their conference slate. They also have not generated any headlines over their recruiting class.It’s not hard to imagine USC winning the Pac-12 South this year and going on a streak of a couple years of playing for the conference title and a de facto national playoff. There might be some long term concerns regarding the future of Oregon, and there could be a vacuum in North division for a consistent, national champion contender along with Stanford, but Petersen has yet to show any evidence of moving Washington into the direction of where his Broncos once were.Thursday’s game still isn’t a gimme for the Trojans, but it’s probably the second easiest test besides Colorado left on the schedule of a team with arguably the nation’s toughest schedule. My instinct doesn’t say “trap game.” I still think the Trojans can afford to lose one more conference game and still win the South based off of how crazy it has been so far, but there would be some real concern from me if the Trojans dropped tomorrow’s game.But if the Trojans do take care of business, fans should be sure to appreciate it as more than just that. It’s a reminder of how hard it is to build a program in the Pac-12. Washington had a run of success in the ’90s, including a pair of Rose Bowls and national championships, but really hasn’t amounted to anything this decade. That Sarkisian kept that team bowl-eligible for most of his tenure, but that Petersen, the guy who made blue turf look legit for a couple of seasons, can’t, should reassure our faith in our program going forward. Given the tradition and recruiting hot spot to build upon, the possibilities are endless for a Sarkisian-led program.