Pac-10 top game atmospheres: Nos. 1-5

February, 1, 2011
2/01/11
9:00
AM ET
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.

Monday we ranked Nos. 10-6. Today, it's 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

5. Oregon at California: While Oregon's 15-13 victory here has been wildly miscast as a game the Ducks won because Cal screwed up a go-ahead field goal -- the kick came on the first play of the fourth quarter -- this was Oregon's closest game, the only one decided by single digits until the national championship game. And the closeness created a nice tension in Memorial Stadium as Bears fans entertained for much of the second half real visions of pulling the upset. The Ducks fourth-quarter drive that ate up the final 9:25 off the clock -- 18 plays, 17 runs -- was a thing of beauty: A good team having a bad night that nonetheless asserted its will to take control at the end.

4. Oregon at USC: More than a few folks saw this as the Ducks most worrisome potential stumbling back: A game at once-fearsome, but now just solid, USC. More than a few folks sold it as "USC's bowl game," and a couple of Trojans agreed that assessment wasn't that far off. The Trojans gave Oregon some trouble until the Ducks flicked their switch and won going away 53-32. The atmosphere in the Coliseum, at least for three quarters, was nearly what it was for big games during the Trojans recent glory days. And the torch was passed.

3. Iowa at Arizona: Forget for a moment the Wildcats' five-game losing streak to end the season. This 34-27 win over then-No. 9 Iowa felt like the Wildcats signature win under Mike Stoops, a game in which they advanced from a good program to a top-25, even top-10 program. The 'Zona Zoo went nuts when quarterback Nick Foles led a nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive for the go-ahead points. And it went even nuttier when the Wildcats recorded three consecutive sacks when Iowa took over, needing its own clutch drive to tie.

2. Stanford at Oregon: This game was Oregon's "hello world" performance, a 52-31 shellacking of a very good Stanford team that once led 21-3. The atmosphere in Autzen Stadium as Oregon poured it on was electric. The game, played on Oct. 2, firmly established the Ducks as a national title contender and LaMichael James as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Further, it established that the Ducks were better with Darron Thomas at quarterback rather than Jeremiah Masoli. And as the season went on, and Stanford didn't lose again, this became the most impressive regular season performance by any team, other than perhaps Auburn's comeback win at Alabama.

1. BCS National Title Game: Speaks for itself: It was the biggest game of the year and one of the toughest tickets in college football history. While Auburn's 22-19 win over Oregon was a bit sloppy as a whole, the final five or so minutes were thrilling.

Here are all the games I covered in 2010-11.

Week 1: Oregon State vs. TCU (Cowboys Stadium)
Week 2: Stanford at UCLA
Week 3: Iowa at Arizona
Week 4: Oregon at Arizona State
Week 5: Stanford at Oregon
Week 6: Oregon State at Arizona
Week 7: No game
Week 8: UCLA at Oregon
Week 9: Oregon at USC
Week 10: Arizona at Stanford
Week 11: Oregon at California
Week 12: Arizona at Oregon
Week 13: Oregon at Oregon State
Bowl week: BCS National Championship game

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