STANFORD -- David Shaw isn't Jim Harbaugh and Lane Kiffin isn't Pete Carroll, but Stanford vs. USC is pretty much as big as ever.
That's all a good thing heading into Saturday's tilt at Stanford Stadium -- for the two programs and definitely for Shaw and Kiffin, the young heirs to this rekindled and recently recalibrated rivalry.
"It's a little more friendly rivalry, a little more respectful, than it was for the last couple of head coaches," Kiffin said on the Pac-12 conference call this week.
Unlike Carroll and Harbaugh and their "What's your deal?" confrontation after Harbaugh gleefully ran it up on USC in 2009, Kiffin and Shaw almost certainly won't be screaming at each other in the moments after this game.
And also unlike the two previous titans, maybe Shaw and Kiffin won't take their jousting to the NFL after a few years.
Given their ages, current level of success and presumed intent to hold onto these jobs, Kiffin vs. Shaw could be the titular matchup for quite a while.
"I know that's his plan; he knows that's my plan," Shaw told me this week. "That we hope to see each other and maybe we'll do this thing for a long time and retire from these jobs we have right now, somewhere way down the road."
Shaw is 40 (eight years younger than Harbaugh), 1-0 as a head coach vs. the Trojans, and would love to continue Stanford's current 4-1 run of dominance against USC.
Kiffin is 37, almost a quarter century
They're the stewards of the rivalry, but in a very different way than their predecessors.
"(Comparing Kiffin to Carroll is) like comparing me and Jim -- the product on the field is very similar, but we just do it different ways, we're different personalities, we're different people," Shaw said.
"And you could say the same thing (about USC). Lane is not as upbeat and energetic all the time like Pete was, just like you can say that about me and Jim.
"But at the same time, we're both football lifers. We've grown in this business, being coaches' kids. We're very serious about what we do and how we do it, and I think our teams reflect that."
Shaw is more genial and less frenzied than Harbaugh, but he has some of the same rabid competitive drive and cunning.
Kiffin is more sarcastic and controversial than Carroll, but he recruits just as maniacally and gets the Trojans to play just as hard.
The big overlap: They're both sons of big-time NFL defensive coaches -- in fact, Monte Kiffin and Willie Shaw were together on the Minnesota Vikings' staff in the early 1990s.
"I think my dad first met Monte sometime in the '80s," David Shaw said. "I think there is that mutual respect through our fathers and through our families."
Shaw said he first met Lane Kiffin during Kiffin's stormy Raiders tenure; Shaw, interestingly, also spent time as a Raiders staffer, but that was years before Kiffin got the head coaching gig.
Now both sons are offensive gurus, which fits right in with West Coast football. (A quarterbacking overlap: Shaw inherited Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft; Kiffin inherited Matt Barkley, the presumptive No. 1 pick in next year's draft.)
Other than Oregon's Chip Kelly, who has a monster program but has had thoughts of leaving for the NFL recently, Shaw and Kiffin loom as Pac-12 giants for the long-term.
Harbaugh's great accomplishment was raising Stanford to this spot, which started in 2007 when Harbaugh openly targeted USC and Carroll, proclaiming that "we bow to no program here at Stanford." Later that year, as a huge underdog, Harbaugh's Cardinal beat then No. 2 USC at the L.A. Coliseum.
Just last year, Luck rallied Stanford back and won in triple overtime, also at the Coliseum. That's a rivalry. That's what Stanford and USC still are playing for.
"I think we feel like we are on par with anybody else that plays this sport," Shaw said. "The way that we're recruiting, the way that we're upgrading our facilities like everybody else is ... but we're doing it our way, which is special."
So what's Shaw's response to Kiffin's point that there's more respect between the USC and Stanford coaches now?
"My response is, 'Thanks, Lane,' " Shaw said, laughing. "I don't have a response to that. Lane and I get along very well.
"We would love to beat each other, but at the same time, he and I, we're fine."
USC vs. Stanford is fine, too. It's not as much about personalities as it used to be, it's about the football, and it will always be important as long as these two programs and these two coaches keep it that way.