Following the lead of my esteemed blogging colleagues, I'm going to rank the 10 best stadium "atmospheres" from the Pac-10 games I covered in 2010.
Today we rank 10-6. Tomorrow, the top-five.
There are three major factors: 1. Stadium color and intensity; 2. The "bigness" of the game; 3. The quality of the game and its performances. And, obviously, I'm only ranking games I attended.
10. Arizona at Stanford: Look, the stadium wasn't full. I wrote about that then, and, yes, it subtracts from the atmosphere when two highly ranked teams play and only 43,506 people show up. But, man, oh, man, this was an impressive performance by Stanford, a 42-17 domination on both sides of the ball that truly announced the Cardinal as an elite team. Said coach Jim Harbaugh afterwards: "I'm not a guy who concerns himself with polls ... But speaking on behalf of my guys and Stanford football, this is a one-loss team that's only lost to the No. 1-ranked team in the country [Oregon]. It's probably about time they got some recognition."
9. Oregon State at Arizona: Hey, the home team doesn't win every time! The 'Zona Zoo was out in force to watch its then-No. 9 Wildcats, but they were stunned 29-27 by the Beavers in a game that featured 1,027 yards of offense and five touchdown plays of 33 yards or longer. Both quarterbacks turned in stellar performances: Arizona's Nick Foles completed 35 of 46 passes for 440 yards with three TDs, and Ryan Katz appeared to have a "hello world" effort after he completed 30 of 42 for 393 yards and two touchdowns. Oregon State improved to 2-0 in Pac-10 play for the first time since 2003, and the victory felt meaningful for the Beavers. It wasn't. What was meaningful was the season-ending knee injury to Beavers receiver James Rodgers.
8. Oregon at Oregon State: There was the rivalry-game intensity and the stakes were extremely high for the Ducks in the Civil War. It was a competitive game, though Oregon pulled away in the fourth for a 37-20 win. While Beavers fans don't want to hear it, the atmosphere was made by Oregon fans celebrating an undefeated regular season and their euphoria over playing Auburn for a chance at the program's first national title.
7. Arizona at Oregon: At least at present, Autzen Stadium is the Pac-10's loudest and most frenzied venue. This was a Friday night after Thanksgiving ESPN game between two ranked teams. And there was some tension. The No. 21 Wildcats led the No. 1 Ducks at halftime. And then -- click -- they got steamrolled 48-29. The victory clinched the Pac-10 title for Oregon.
6. Oregon State vs. TCU (Cowboys Stadium): The game wasn't great, though it was competitive into the fourth quarter before TCU prevailed 30-21. But this one is personal. I've been to a lot of stadiums. I'd consider myself a bit jaded. But palatial Cowboys Stadium is just something else. The "wow" factor here is all about the venue.