It was halftime at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., and while returning from the concession stands in the upper deck end zone seats, my wife tried to fill me in on some halftime scores of other games.
In this stadium of mostly blue and white, Temple was leading the Nittany Lions. The faithful were somewhat numb. Still confident, but in denial. I asked her for the Notre Dame score. "31-7," she said. I gulped, fully expecting her to say, Stanford leads. "Notre Dame on top," she said. Of course I didn't believe her. "No, that's what the scoreboard read." Then came the pubic address announcer: Stanford 13, Notre Dame 7.
She said, "Oh, maybe it was 7-3 and it was the first quarter and the 1 was right after the 3 so I thought it was 31 ..." I believed it was an honest mistake. When I heard the final score, I was surprised. The DVR later revealed the truth. The Irish lost by KO. Jim Harbaugh danced on their graves. In MMA terms, a submission.
However, here in semi-Happy Valley, I was witnessing a Penn State team on the field that was struggling mightily with a respectable, hustling Temple squad.
In the end, Penn State won after grinding it out, winning all of the late rounds. Temple coach Al Golden knew that Penn State had more big-time players. The Owls faded, especially after running back Bernard Pierce got hurt.
So Notre Dame got whipped by Stanford, who plays No.4 Oregon. If the Cardinal beats the Ducks, then Stanford is in the discussion for the national championship. And Andrew Luck can have his dad Oliver start looking for the best agent in the land and hope there's no NFL lockout next year.
As for Penn State, they visit Iowa, at night, and we will find out if they are simply mediocre, as they seem to be, or a developing young team that is getting better.
My bet is that they are ordinary at best. How they are still ranked is a testament to Joe Paterno and the respect he deserves. This blog post will look sagacious or foolish by Sunday, take your pick.
So here is my weekly Philadelphia-based regional rankings (if you can listen to the games live in Philly, then they are a Philly-based team):
1. Notre Dame (Dayne Crist); 2. Penn State (Rob Bolden); 3. Temple (Chester Stewart); 4. Rutgers (Tom Savage); 5. Villanova (Chris Whitney); 6. Penn (game-time decision). 7. Delaware (Pat Devlin).
Switch a few quarterbacks and I would flip the standings, too.
By Sunday morning's mass on campus, the Irish will be 2-3 and Penn State will be 3-2.
Maybe we can all go the Meinecke Car Care Bowl. At least it will be a sellout.