Last week, I wondered if mentioning Notre Dame and Nick Saban in the same column would summon the same evil spirits as yelling "Bloody Mary" three times into a darkened mirror.

Saturday I got my answer.

The setting was State College, Pennsylvania, hardly a spooky place by any stretch of the imagination -- an area dubbed "Happy Valley," presumably by people still drinking after Anthony Morelli's first year on the job. (At least, that's what I'm told.) The mood was electric with College Gameday on the scene, music sending shockwaves through the cool autumn air, and beer flowing like the salmon to Capistrano. It was the perfect atmosphere for a primetime upset of top-ranked Ohio State under the bright, whited-out lights of Beaver Stadium.

My plan was simple, really: Find tickets and write about the environment for today's column. Seemed easy enough. Since graduating from Penn State, I've never been shut out of a big game. Never. With a stadium capacity of well over 100,000 people, finding tickets ain't exactly brain surgery. My time-tested maneuver has always been to wait until an hour before kickoff when prices plummet like the recent housing market and search for vultures wanting quick, cut-your-losses kind of bucks. It's more bulletproof than Kevlar.

So I gave it a shot. As the sun set on State College and Old Main struck seven o'clock in the distance, I set up shop in front of the stadium. I scouted for the most desperate-looking students, the most intoxicated-looking parents, the most puzzled-looking fans. And, sure enough, I found my target.

Actually, they kind of found me.

Standing among hoards of other ticketless fans with only fifteen minutes until kickoff, a middle-aged couple stumbled to my post. The man honed in on me like a heat-seeking missile and asked, "You need some tickets?" A friend and I kindly obliged. It was almost meant to be.

"You see," he said, "it's my wife's 47th birthday, and I think she drank a little too much. We just want someone to take our place." Perfect! The exchange was made. My streak was in tact.

"Enjoy the game," he said with a coy grin as we ran off to the other side of the stadium.

"Oh, we will," I yelled in the midst of a dead sprint.

But at the gate, filled with anticipation, with the electronic ticket reader humming an awful shriek of doom, I knew the college football gods were getting even. It became obvious then and there that sweet, middle-aged couple was really a set of clandestine henchmen sent to avenge my year-long jabs at every team under the sun. Not by plague nor mutiny nor denial of the afterlife.

Nope ... just through counterfeit tickets.

I've heard a lot of debate over whether the final two minutes of last Thursday's Boston College-Virginia Tech game -- on which I whiffed, by the way -- should be enough to qualify Matt Ryan as the Heisman frontrunner. My response: Um, is it required that we even give out the trophy this season?

In all seriousness, I guess the answer is yes. Maybe. In a season as crazy as 2007, I think we're stuck looking for reasons to list players as candidates instead of searching for reasons to eliminate them. Ryan's showing on Thursday was as defining a moment as we've seen all season. And I'm thinking that has to qualify him for something. Whether that's a Heisman or free Taco Bell is up to the voters.

Ty Willingham, that is. You know, the coach of Washington? How's he been doing lately?

Last I remember, the Huskies were 2-0, and we were wondering whether Washington could knock off the No. 10 Buckeyes. Naturally, this fueled an epic series of Charlie Weis vs. Willingham debates that raged throughout mainstream media.

Well, ain't it ironic how those have stopped now that Washington would be an underdog against a jar of cashews?

Here's my point: If you took Notre Dame and its media magnetism out of the equation, this wouldn't even have been a relevant news story. To put a different spin on things, if the shoe were on the other foot at the end of this season, are there any Washington boosters that wouldn't jump at the chance to have Weis trolling their sidelines in 2008? Food for thought.

1. Better Nerf product? "Turbo" football / Bow and arrow

2. More dangerous undefeated team? Hawaii / Kansas

3. Better baseball movie? Major League / The Sandlot

4. Smarter bet? Notre Dame (-3.5 points) / Navy (+3.5 points)

5. Wackier desperation play ? Trinity (2007) / California (1982)

6. Larger NFL stock drop ? John David Booty / Chad Henne

7. More watchable dating show? Date My Mom / Blind Date

8. Uglier uniforms? Oregon / Syracuse

9. Better social network? Facebook / MySpace

10. Hotter coaching seat? Bill Callahan / Dennis Franchione


While Soulja Boy's Crank That makes less sense than a game of drunken Mad Libs, I'll give the kid credit on two fronts:

1) He has effectively turned the word "Superman" into a transitive verb. Granted, the context of said verb might not be, um, embraced by Merriam-Webster anytime soon, but he's still done it.

2) His dance is quickly becoming the gold standard for celebration in the sports world. As Arash Markazi pointed out in his latest Pop Culture Rankings, Devin Hester, the Texas football team, Sebastian the Ibis, and Bo Ryan have already gotten in on the action; and I swear I saw Broncos tight end Tony Schleffer attempt it on Monday Night Football. When random tight ends are doing your dance, you know you've arrived.

Ty Hildenbrandt writes Campus Quick Slants every Wednesday. E-mail Ty at with your comments, questions and random observations.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.