AUSTIN, Texas - Before leaving for the Lone Star State, my radio cohort and Sunday Gazette-Mail columnist Frank Giardina advised me the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium crowd would not be intimidating to West Virginia's football team. It certainly wouldn't be a rowdy crowd, a la Milan Puskar Stadium.
I listened. Frank has been around the block a time or three.
Then came Saturday night. Perhaps bolstered by a healthy Mountaineer contingent, WVU played in front of what San Antonio Express-News writer Mike Finger called "the largest - and almost certainly loudest" crowd in stadium history. Texas coach Mack Brown called it "by far the loudest" he'd ever heard in Austin.
For the Mountaineers, all was different. Yet WVU won. Before 101,851 in DKR.
It's an important point. It's one that helped place West Virginia at No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll.
And it's one that, perhaps, should have lifted the Mountaineers even higher, a la the USA Today coaches poll.
See, while both South Carolina and Florida jumped WVU in the AP poll, the Mountaineers were the only of the three teams to win on the road this past Saturday. They were the only ones to defeat a highly ranked team chock-full of five-star recruits before such a hostile crowd.
My top four in the vote went like this: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. South Carolina, 4. WVU.
I think we can all agree on Alabama at No. 1, no? Oregon, meanwhile, is a solid No. 2. If, though, you want to argue that, go for it.
The Ducks have been impressive in every outing, including a 49-0 whitewashing of the Fighting RichRods of Arizona. But Oregon's only road win was 51-26 at Washington State.
One could also argue against South Carolina. In the last three games, the Gamecocks have defeated Missouri (31-10), Kentucky (38-17) and, this past Saturday, Georgia (35-7). South Carolina's only road wins, however, were at Vanderbilt (17-13) and Kentucky.
There is, however, such a thing as an eye test. The Gamecocks passed it with flying colors in drubbing former No. 5 Georgia, wherever the game was held. Remember, too, the polls reflect the hottest teams in addition to the ones earning the most credit.