It’s Flip Week at ESPN.com, where many of our conference reporters are venturing outside of our comfort zone to experience a different culture of college football. We’re going in with open minds and open arms, ready to embrace whatever we find.
Heather Dinich: For the past six years, I have covered the ACC for ESPN.com. Been to every stadium in the league, stood on the field at Lane Stadium for Enter Sandman, and watched Osceola and Renegade charge onto the field for one of the best pregame ceremonies in the country. Heck, I’ve even clumsily run down The Hill one summer in Death Valley.
Now it’s time to try something a little different.
On Thursday, I’m heading to Oregon.
What makes Oregon special? What traditions must I see and where should I go? The point of this trip is not to criticize; it’s to understand what Oregon fans love about their school, to learn about a Saturday in the Pac-12, and to see how it’s possible to all love and watch the same game through a different lens. It has nothing to do with the BCS standings, but it has everything to do with the passion the fans in Oregon have in defending their program and supporting it.
So, here I am, asking for a little help.
As a native of Northeastern PA and current resident in Maryland, I know nothing about visiting Oregon. Nada. Zip. Never been there. Portland is two hours from Eugene, you say? Had no idea.
I’m picturing beautiful scenery, amazing running trails, and … well, uniforms.
I’m expecting sort of a Willy Wonka room filled with nothing but uniforms, some sort of spectacular, magical array of combinations that would wow any recruit. I’m expecting facilities that would rival that of any NFL team -- shiny, immaculate locker rooms that ooze money, not stench.
I want to meet this Duck character (does he know an Ibis?). I want to find “the strip” downtown, check out the hot spots, talk to Oregon fans and alumni, visit your tailgate, eat your food, drink your … water.
All things Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller has already done, right?
Ted Miller: Heather, you might run into something even I haven't seen much in Autzen Stadium: Grumpiness.
Of course, the Ducks are coming off a dispiriting loss at Stanford, the second time in two years the Cardinal have derailed the Ducks' national title hopes. And which conference benefited from that? Hmm.
Anyway, per Eugene and Autzen Stadium and the University of Oregon. First things first: Bring ear plugs. Autzen is loud. I'm guessing the experience will be not unlike Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium, only with a Duck riding a motorcycle and without the Metallica.
Eugene is a great college town with an overall vibe that is much different than you'd find at the average East Coast football school. Fair to say things are a bit bluer in Eugene than, say, Tallahassee. You will encounter plenty of vegans and perhaps even a few anarchists in Guy Fawkes masks. You might encounter some odd smells wafting through the air…
Of course, the football program is purely plutocratic. You must tour Oregon's facilities, particularly the new football building. For one, it might give you some idea for a remodel of your home. Or remind you of a spa in the new Wynn resort in Las Vegas. Palatial? There are folks who live in actual palaces who would be jealous.
If you want to soak up some college atmosphere on Friday night, consider a visit to Taylor's or Rennie's Landing, purely in the spirit of this sociological research project. Not that I know the bar scene in Eugene well -- cough, cough. I just hear things, you know.
As for game day, be advised not to wear purple. Don't wander into the Oregon tailgate and say, "Go Huskies!" The most bitter Pac-12 rivalry is Washington-Oregon, though the Huskies haven't really been pulling their weight for the, oh, the past decade. I suspect the Northwest food choices will be different than what you see in the ACC -- as in grilled salmon instead of burgers and wings.
You also might want to wear rain gear and sensible shoes. While Oregon's facilities are spectacular, Phil Knight apparently hasn't felt the urge to build the Phil Knight Media Parking Lot. Old lot 8 can get pretty darn muddy.
HD: Ha, I am loving it already. Can’t wait to check it out. Oregon fans, if you have any suggestions for me to guide me on this trip, feel free to drop them in my mailbag or shoot me a note on Twitter @ESPN_ACC. If you see me walking around, don't be shy, say hello. ACC fans? I'll be back. Don't flip out on us. That's our job.