Beavers No. 1? 'Sports Illustrated' Says So (8/8/01)

Aug. 8, 2001

Associated Press
Aug. 8, 2001

PORTLAND, Ore. - The dream comeback the Oregon State football program has been making
the last couple of years just pushed the Beavers to the top of the national rankings, at least in the opinion of Sports Illustrated.

The magazine named Oregon State No. 1 in its preseason poll, putting pressure on the
Beavers like they've never felt before.

'It puts the target on our head,' said Mitch Barnhart, OSU athletic director.

'For the last couple of years we've been one of those teams that has quietly gone about
our business, but now we are in the spotlight.'

The Sports Illustrated college football preview issue, which hit some newsstands Wednesday,
also features OSU tailback Ken Simonton along with Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington on the cover. The headline is 'State of War: In Oregon a National Title is at Stake!'

Oregon is ranked seventh by Sports Illustrated.

At practice Wednesday, the ranking was all the talk between players who had a hard time
hiding their excitement, Barnhart said.

'I don't think the new kids that signed up were expecting to deal with this,' he said.

It's a different story for head coach Dennis Erikson, who is focusing on making the
prediction come true - not the prediction itself.

'Right now the only thing I'm thinking about is Fresno State,' he said, referring to the
Sept. 2 nationally televised opener in California.

He admits his first reaction to the ranking was 'shock.'

Yet Erickson appreciates the attention.

'It is nice to have our program recognized,' he said. 'It shows that people around the
country are taking notice of what we've accomplished.'

Unlike other rankings that consult sports writers or coaches, the Sports Illustrated ranking
is a general consensus reached by the editorial staff, said Rick McCabbe, spokesman for the magazine.

Sports Illustrated picked Nebraska to finish first last year, Penn State in 1999, Ohio State
in 1998, Penn State in 1997 and Tennessee in 1996. None of them finished the season they were picked to win it all in the No.1 slot.

The magazine is known for making an untraditional choice as its top pick, said Wiles Hallock,
historian of the Pacific-10 Conference.

'And it's a good idea,' Hallock said, 'because if they pick Florida and they win - big deal.'

Picking OSU is good public relations for the school and Sports Illustrated, Hallock added.

The magazine cover featuring Simonton also will boost the Oregon State campaign to help its
star running back win the Heisman Trophy, Barnhart said.

Simonton finished second in voting for the 2000 Heisman Trophy and is considered a
frontrunner this year.

Harrington, who will lead the rival Ducks at Oregon, also is considered a strong contender.

With so much attention on both Oregon programs, people around the nation are going to have
a difficult time ignoring the teams now, Hallock said.

'All of a sudden Oregon - particularly Oregon State - is jumping into the limelight,' he
said. 'It makes you wonder what's happening up there.'

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