I recently returned from South Bend after watching Stanford dismantle Notre Dame. Satisfying. Stanford looked good but not spectacular, although an objective observer would probably have concluded that there was no way Notre Dame would ever beat this team. Some other thoughts:
- Notre Dame fans are knowledgeable and classy. There, I said it. I've heard this before (I understand Nebraska has a similar reputation) and I can vouch for the folks in South Bend on Saturday, from the parking lot attendant to the ushers to the fans themselves.
- It was eerily subdued walking across campus to the game. I asked an ND fan in the bathroom if it's always this quiet. He said, "no" mentioning that he noticed the same thing. I figure its partly that the fans see the writing on the wall for this season (its a "rebuilding year") and maybe they also expected to get whomped.
- Fun to see ND's hall of fame honorees on the old stadium wall: Paul Hornung, John Huarte, Alan Page, Nick Buoniconti, et al. (When they expanded some years back, they just extended the bowl upwards, creating a concourse underneath that still exposes the old brick facade.)
- More Stadium: A classic college sports venue. Our seats in the upper bowl were spartan, weathered wood benches with the numbers paint-stenciled on. They were also spaced wide so as to give lots of butt room. Nice touch. There is no jumbo-tron in ND stadium. Two basic scoreboards up top at either end with a small screen for score updates --no replays. Touchdown Jesus was clearly visible as we entered through the tunnel. Stadium photos forthcoming.
- Stanford v. Oregon. Need I say more? The most highly anticipated PAC game of the year so far. Gearhart ran them bowlegged last year and Luck lit 'em up long. This year, the running game isn't quite so good but Luck is better. Plus Stanford's defense is much improved. I'm psyched.
- Texas v. Oklahoma. Always a big one, but interesting this year because neither team has performed as advertised. Could sort out the pretender(s).
- Arizona State v. Oregon State. Not in the national spotlight, but these are two teams that bear watching. Oregon State always starts slow and this year is no exception, at least as far as their record (1-2) is concerned. But they lost in competitive games v. highly ranked Boise State and TCU. Give them points for tough scheduling while other programs load up on FCS teams. Arizona State could have beaten Oregon if not for turnovers and they darn near beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall. Many thought the Washington Huskies would be the surprise PAC team this year, but right now it looks like ASU may have a shot at laying claim to that moniker. Is Dennis Erickson finally ready to break out in Tempe?
The PAC is on the radar of many sportswriters this year. It will be interesting to see how they react when the conference starts cannibalizing itself, as happens every year. Will the conference be punished for having depth? (Wazzu excluded of course.)