SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/02/2007 03:24:00 AM
On The Oregon Trail
Oregon fans set a decibel record for crowd noise last week against USC.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Last weekend, I heard from a lot of readers who said they enjoyed my chronicles of the pregame scene in State College. As discussed in this week’s Mailbag, that trip got me thinking about the varied and wondrous game-weekend atmospheres in different parts of the country.
So, seeing as I would be covering my first-ever game at Oregon this weekend, I decided to turn the trip into a full-out Blog “adventure.” This weekend’s Blog entries are going to focus less on the national scene and more on the actual, live scene here in Eugene leading up to Saturday’s showdown between No. 6 Arizona State and No. 4 Oregon. For any of you out there who, like me, have never been to this part of the country, or to this particular venue, you’ll get to experience it right along with me.
Having covered this sport for quite a little while now, I’ve been to nearly all of the nation’s most fabled college-football towns -- Columbus, Ann Arbor, Knoxville, Gainesville, Norman, Lincoln, Auburn, Baton Rouge, Austin, College Station, you name it. Eugene has been on top of my “not-yet-checked-off list” for some time now, possibly ever since my colleague Austin Murphy’s 2003 Sports Illustrated feature detailing Oregon’s super-duper space-age locker room.
To much of the country (myself included), the Ducks are synonymous with two things: Phil Knight and those neon uniforms. But as I’m about to learn, not everything about Oregon is “new-age” or “hi-tech.” There’s a lot of history here, even if the football team’s ascension to national prominence is a relatively recent phenomenon. And 40-year-old Autzen Stadium is supposedly every bit as loud and intimidating as all the classic venues in all those aforementioned towns.
You may have seen in the Mailbag that I sought out an Oregon student willing to be my personal tour guide for a day or two. I wound up receiving far more responses than I could possibly respond to. (If by chance you were one of those who wrote in and didn’t hear from me, please don’t take it personally. I’m sure we’ll run into each other at some point. Feel free to say hi.)
There was no specific screening process that went into choosing my host, but a couple things stood out about him. He was one of the first to write in, and from what I ascertained by his e-mail as well as a “reference” e-mail sent by one of his friends and a perusal of his Facebook page, it appears I may have found the Van Wilder of Oregon’s campus. His name is Eric Goss, and from what I’ve gathered, he’s the kind of guy that knows practically everybody at the school. In fact, if all goes as planned, his connections are going to help me land at least a couple of special guests in the Blog.
He’s also a huge Ducks fan, one who traveled to Ann Arbor this year for Oregon’s game at Michigan, and has pledged to show me why Ducks fans are among the craziest in the country. I can’t wait.
After making the long flight from New York to Portland on Thursday (a first-class upgrade from Delta certainly made it more bearable), followed by a two-hour drive down I-5 to Eugene late last night (where I learned that Oregonians can drive 55), I’m anticipating an extremely packed itinerary Friday (along with, I’m guessing, no shortage of impromptu craziness).
As I write this, I’m about to head off to meet up with Eric and his “guest” for lunch and some sightseeing. Check back throughout the day Friday and Saturday for my latest “reports.”
stewart, thanks for coming out west. i was born and raised in so california. i drove through oregon once about 15 years ago. nice place. none the less, i've been a duck fan since i was a kid back in the 50's. they were in the rose bowl, beat whoever, and i fell in love. i love pac-10 football and the ducks. go ducks!!!
Have a great time out here in beautiful Oregon, Stewart, but beware the wrath of the coach's wife. And for the love of all that's good and holy, don't bring up anything about child labor issues. You can be arrested for that on campus now, I believe.
Welcome, Stewart! Make sure you've got a good view of the pre-game opening video. And of the Duck cheerleaders. Bring a football, too, so you can join the thousands of kids on the field after the game.
Roseburg, Oregon supports the Ducks! GO DUCKS!!!! Watch for the new frosh WR...Pflu-Pglu! He has sticky hands. Please visit the Mo Center before the game or during halftime. That alone is a great experience! Our peeps will show you a college game day/night like you've never seen before...I guarantee it! When the after-game parties get busted, dont breathe in the pepperspray...it burns your lungs...LOL Looking forward to your feedback.
Make sure you: Visit Hayward Field ... and come back in July for the US Olympic Trials. Try a Tracktown Pizza. Walk to Autzen from campus, cross the footbridge over the Willamette...it'll be a spectacular Autumn day on Saturday. Be on the field (surely you have a field pass) for the Duck-on-Harley entrance so you can feel that big hog's pipes. Get into Mac Court, where sometimes they have to stop basketball games becasue the baskets are swaying from the crowd's frenzt & stomping. And don't oversleep! Game-Day starts at 7:00 AM, in the dark. Bring a good sign.
Oh yeah, visit the Oregon pioneer statue in the heart of campus. If you're a Simpson's fan, you've seen the statue before. And Pre's Rock .... got a running medal or race bib you can leave behind (No? Oh.).
Stewart. Your ranking of the relative quality of teams that play in different conferences falls in the realm of pure speculation. You have no way of knowing what Ohio State's record would be, for example, if they played in the SEC or PAC-10. Could 6-3 Florida be 9-0 if they played in the Big-10? Neither you nor anyone else knows. Would Kansas be 9-0 if they played in the SEC? Perhaps. Maybe they would be 7-2 or 6-3? The truth is that, with a few rare exceptions, there is insufficient information to rank teams that play in different conferences. Such rankings are not based on reason. They fall into the realm of speculation and have a lot more to do with the bias of the voters or people who programmed the computers that do rankings than they do about the relative quality of teams.
Stewart, while I am definately happy with your experience in Eugene, I have a few problems with your analysis ( which is obvioulsy your opinion, and that of a lot of other parraquats !). First off, I think it is totally eroneous that the SEC is the best conference in college football. I also think the fact that the southeast of this United States should be 'tabbed' as the "Mecca of college football" is completely unfounded. Note to reader: I reside in an unknow Pac-ten town
A few questions:
1) Why is it that every time an underdog in the SEC wins, it turns into a "win"? And by "win", I mean that it only increases the Power of the SEC.
2) Why is it that if any underdog in any other conference wins, it only concretes the conferences interiority ?
3) Why can a team ( to be unamed ) be scrutinized by only handling adversity with colossal wins?
4) What the F is wrong with todays media? ( rhetorical question to myself and all of the WEST COAST. ) We already know. They get sleepy and go to bed before any games that are worth notoriety on the West side of the United States of America.
Come on, just because the SEC beats up on each other doesn't mean they are supperior. It simply justifies my theory that they are "impotent" in college football.
Just do me a favor and step out of the "Buthole of this great country (SEC)" , and into anywhere North or West of Florida and step outside of the box. ( I learned that in my freshmean business class ). Just look at the big picture.
Come on, there are way more worthy teams than a L.S.U. a.k.a. " The Bayou Bengals " team to be number 2 in the BCS.
Perhaps a metaphor:
What would you prefer? A beach that actually has wave breaks, great food, and cool people that actually speak english or the tragic middle part of "Deliverance?" No brainer!
Wake up America, mostly the media east of the bread basket and do this college football world justice.
Let's give Mizzou some credit - they went in to Colorado and won by 45 points - better than Kansas' 5 point win and the Sooners lost there. Mizzou beat Nebraska by 35 points (and no TDs) vs. Kansas' 37, but Husker's did score 39 points!!! And Mizzou did lose AT Oklahoma - by only 10 pts, which is by far the closest competition that the Sooners have had at home!!
Stewart. Your ranking of the relative quality of teams that play in different conferences falls in the realm of pure speculation. You have no way of knowing what Ohio State's record would be, for example, if they played in the SEC or PAC-10. Could 6-3 Florida be 9-0 if they played in the Big-10? Neither you nor anyone else knows. Would Kansas be 9-0 if they played in the SEC? Perhaps. Maybe they would be 7-2 or 5-4? The truth is that, with a few rare exceptions, there is insufficient information to rank teams that play in different conferences. Such rankings are not based on reason. Rather, they reflect the biases and anecdotal arguments made by those who vote in the polls or of those who establish criteria on which computer rankings are based. All of this has little to do with the relative quality of NCAA football teams. If you don't believe this, just look at the number of times that the #1 ranked team in the polls going into the NCAA basketball tournament has actually won. Not very often. Polls don't reflect reality.
This isn't an argument for a playoff system because it is likely not possible to include all of the worthy contenders who have a reasonable crack at winning. Rather, it's an argument for abandoning these beauty contests we know as Polls and admitting the truth that there is no NCAA football champion.