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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/03/2007 04:01:00 PM

Saturday Observations, Part I

Autzen Stadium
Although it only holds 54,000 people, Autzen Stadium is one of the nation's loudest venues.
Tom Hauck/Icon SMI

EUGENE, Ore. -- Hello again, dear readers.

After we parted ways last night, I had a chance to sample some of Eugene’s nightlife with my new Oregon buddies Goss and A.J. It was fun, but kind of surreal. The bars were by no means overflowing. And if not for Goss periodically shouting out, “Go Ducks!” -- particularly whenever he saw an Arizona State fan -- a visitor would never have known there was a football game taking place the next day.

This is a phenomenon that bugs lifelong Ducks superfan A.J. to no end. As I described to him my Friday-night experience in State College a week earlier, where you couldn’t walk for 20 seconds without hearing a “We Are … Penn State!” chant, I could see the blood starting to boil. “You’ll see,” he said. “We might not be a football school on Friday night, but from Saturday morning until the end of the game, it’s another story.”

Well, I’m happy to report that on a gloriously sunny, early Saturday afternoon (contrary to the fog you may have seen during GameDay, which, admittedly, I was not up at 7 a.m. to watch, but heard about), I left my hotel, drove about 10 minutes through town, took a left on Leo Harris Parkway -- and like an oasis in the desert, was suddenly besieged by all the sights of a “football school.”

A sea of green tents. RVs lined up in a row. Smoke rising from the grills. All against the backdrop of the humongous “O” on the side of Autzen Stadium. With the skies clear and the foliage surrounding the parking lots a perfect, autumn hue, I can’t imagine a more idyllic football setting. While the whole scene may not be quite as grandiose as that of an Ohio State or Michigan (keep in mind, the stadium itself seats about 40,000 less than those places), I’m sure these people are having themselves a plenty good time.

In fact, I’m about to go out and join them. But first, a few early-Saturday observations from my perch in the press box high above the stadium (where the Oregon band is currently practicing below me):

• There was a brief moment there where it appeared like No. 1 Ohio State might be in for a scare against Wisconsin (the Badgers went up 17-10 early in the second half), but just as we saw last week against Penn State, the Buckeyes have no shortage of offensive firepower. I saw Chris Wells pop a couple of big runs (because, believe it or not, the Big Ten Network is available on the Autzen jumbotron) as OSU won going away to improve to 10-0.

• Some might say it’s karma for all those years that Nebraska piled it on hapless Big 8/Big 12 foes like Kansas, I can’t help but feel sorry for Huskers fans (of which there is no classier bunch out there) watching the now-superior Jayhawks pile up touchdown after touchdown. As I write this, it’s 76-31 early in the fourth quarter.

A word of advice to Bill Callahan and defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove: Don’t try returning to Lincoln tonight without heavy security.

• Is there a more charmed team in the country this year than Virginia? The now 8-2 Cavaliers pulled out their third one-point win in four games (and fifth win by either one or two points), 17-16 over Wake Forest, thanks in part to Demon Deacons’ All-America kicker, Sam Swank, missing a 47-yard field goal on the final play.

• Finally, remember that discussion in the Mailbag a couple of weeks ago about my prematurely dubbing Kentucky’s Rich Brooks as one of the nation’s worst coaches? To get a sense of how highly the ex-Ducks savior is regarded here: There’s a sign above one of the Autzen end zones dubbing this “Rich Brooks Field.”
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 4:40 PM   by Chris
Do you even try and hide your pro-ACC bias?
Posted: 5:00 PM   by Eric
What does 76 points against Nebraska do for Kansas' ranking this week? They are undefeated, play in the Big 12 and have been very impressive throughout the year. They should definitely be ranked higher than a one-loss Oklahoma team from the same conference. Will you move them into a more lofty perch when you fill out your ballot this evening?
Posted: 5:01 PM   by Gobbles96818
What ACC bias? He mentioned the conference once in the WF-UVa game.
Posted: 5:02 PM   by Rich
Stewart, I think your ranking of South Florida has blown up in your face eh? Good call there...
Posted: 5:05 PM   by Chris
"Gobbles96818 said...

What ACC bias? He mentioned the conference once in the WF-UVa game."

Posted: 5:23 PM   by Matthew
I will be shocked if Callahan isn't fired this week.
Posted: 5:24 PM   by Charles
Kansas beat a Nebraska team that is said to have lost their way. What's the point? Beating up on weaklings should not count, but this seems to be the season where it is rewarded.
Posted: 5:45 PM   by Gobbles96818
I did, Chris. WTF are you talking about. Spell it out for me. I'm just a stoopid Big-10 homer.
Posted: 5:46 PM   by Chris
I can't hold your hand, buddy.
Everyone knows Stew has a bias against whatever conference the reader is from. It is a given, like a postulate! So even mentioning a conference shows a bias one way or the other :)

While I am not sure KU is better than OU, I think they need to ranked ahead of OU based on the body of work. At this point in the season if you are undefeated in a major conference you ought to be ranked above a one loss team especially a team with a conference loss in the same conference. KU beat CU; OU lost.

If beating up on weaklings (as the poster writing about KU-NU) should be discounted, will the NU folks go back and discount all the times they piled on the Big 8 (12) teams that were much weaker? I doubt it.

Will Callahan even finish the season? In college, I doubt there is a reason to fire a coach during the season for on field performance unless it helps you hire the next coach (see UNC last year with the Butch Davis hiring). Off the top of my head I cannot think of an out of work coach that NU would want so is there a value in it? As bad as this team is, what assistant would one elevate during the season?
Posted: 5:50 PM   by Keith
I'm with ya, Gobbles...I see no bias. He just mentioned that UVa has had some close calls this year. You could insert any other team into that same statement. Now, if he had said, "The Most Awesomest Team from the Most Awesomest Conference in the by-God-US-of A The ACC, Virginia", then he might be on to something.
Posted: 6:09 PM   by Charles
Who has Kansas beaten? After today even the win over K-St is suspect. There are too many highly ranked teams who don't even own one quality victory. And there are others, such as BC squeaking by Va Tech, where it is hardly something to base your entire resume on. It looks like we will end up with Hawaii in a BCS bowl, or Boise St claiming a ticket if they beat Hawaii, and there is not even a good victory on the slate.
You guys don't see the ACC bias? It's almost as blatant as his Gateway conference bias.
Posted: 10:15 PM   by Greg
Virginia a charmed team?? The only reason this game was close is 14 uncalled holding infractions by the Wake offense.

Charmed?? Please tell me what other team in the nation is 8-2 having lost its leading RB, CB, WR1, Guard1 and TE for all or a portion of the season? Oh, and I forgot it's WR2 and starting fullback?

Charmed? IfJameel Sewell, the architect of five game winning drives wasn't hurt against NC State, we would likely be discussing a 9-1 club.

Charming huh?
Posted: 12:57 AM   by Sean
I don't know. We have had over 75 years of consternation about who the national champion has been whether it was the 1925 Alabama Dartmouth split title. No worries, it does not matter, but it has been good for the game and the "regionalization" of the game. It should not be different. It should remain the talk of the town. College B-ball is not as passionate as football and does not generate as much money and prestige for a university, city, town, state as football. We can talk about who is best for a month in December until we have the final games in January. Ohio State still needs to beat Mich and Ill, LSU needs to win out, Oregon needs to win out, etc. Let's see how our friends in the media will allow us to stay calm and collected and just watch a bunch of maturing young men attain excellence on the field.
Posted: 1:44 AM   by bgault

I can only assume based on your bashing of Kansas that you are either:

1. In support of a playoff of some sort;

2. An SEC supporter trying to justify why LSU continuing to squesk victories out counts more than an undefeated Big-12 team.

As a supporter of Ohio State, I'm used to getting bashed, but it's an outright travesty that Oklahoma is ranked higher than KU right now. Earlier in the season I understand why there would be skepticism (see USF), but have you actually watched KU play at all? THEY ARE DAMN GOOD.
Posted: 10:37 AM   by Bill
That's the best you can do for Virginia, is it? CHARMED. No credit for gutsy play that never gives up. In another scenario you would be singing the praises of such a team, like the 'never-say-die' CHARMED Colorado Rockies. But, Mandel, we know your agenda on this one all too well. It is just a CYA for your consistent overlooking the Virginia football team in your polls. You love U. Conn., right? Well, they are one of those four schools whose ass was kicked by U.Va. You should try to find a job that you are good at. Football reporting doesn't seem to be one of them.
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