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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thursday Night Lights

When you're in college, the weekend starts on Thursday nights. Every club within flyer-dropping distance of a campus hosts a college night on Thursday. Anyone whose schedule allows avoid Friday classes. The lure of the coveted weekend and all that comes with it is too great. And in college football, it means getting things underway on Thursday night.

For the record, as a USF alumnus, I hate Thursday night games, my dear alma mater being 0-for-everything in them. Still, my own teams woes aside, it is nice to have football to enjoy before the work week ends. Likewise, teams that play on Thursday nights get to enjoy a much less cluttered space than those who join the fray with everyone else on Saturdays.

Once simply the bastion of also-ran conferences - I'll include my own Big East/American in this  - Thursday nights are increasingly hosting marquee matchups, but never has there been a Thursday slate more anticipated than this week, featuring #10 Baylor at #6 Oklahoma AND #3 Oregon at #5 Stanford. This confluence comes at the collision of two entities jockeying for position: The fledgling Fox Sports 1, which is televising the Big 12 matchup, and the Pac-12, which seeks attention to combat the east coast media bias. Both games were expected to be big, certainly, but I'm sure no one knew when the schedule came out that a Thursday night in November could be this big.

For perhaps the first time since the series began, I'm recognizing a Thursday night game as the Band on the Road Game of the Week. The Oregon Marching Band is making the trip to Stanford, which is significant for a few reasons. First, mid-week games require the team and the many moving parts that accompany college football to miss class, especially for the away team. Secondly, the Oregon band isn't one that does a whole lot of away travel. In fact, the Stanford game is the band's one trip this year, not even making it to Washington, a border rival and a mere 4 1/2 hour bus ride as opposed to the 8 1/2 to Palo Alto. What that says is that this is a big game - it has decided the Pac-12 North for as long as such a division has existed - and that the Oregon brass believe that having the band present at a big game is advantageous, which I love to see. Whether it's bringing a slice of home into a rival stadium or playing defense against the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, the Nike-clad Ducks are hitting the road.
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