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Eugene pool runs deep in this game

Memo to Georgia: The road, this week, does not lead back to you.

It leads to Oregon.

Not generally considered the cradle of anything except rain, Oregon is suddenly a cross-legged guru from which all college football eminence flows.

No. 6 California plays at No. 11 Oregon in Eugene in a marquee game being televised by ABC and announced by former Oregon quarterback Dan Fouts.

Oregon has been coached since 1995 by Mike Bellotti, but when he looks across the field Saturday, it’s going to be like looking in a pond reflection.

Cal is almost an Oregon subsidiary.

Golden Bears Coach Jeff Tedford was Oregon’s offensive coordinator from 1998 to 2001, and since arriving in Berkeley five years ago, Tedford has raided Eugene like your teenager raids the snack cupboard.

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Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, receivers coach Dan Ferrigno and running backs coach Ron Gould once drew plays in Eugene.

Cal’s director of football operations, strength and conditioning coach and equipment man all formerly worked in Oregon.

So did the team’s video coordinator, head equipment manager, assistant equipment manager and a recruiting assistant.

You can’t cross a train track these days without tripping over Oregon ties.

Boise State, star of last year’s college football show and coached by former Oregon offensive coordinator Chris Petersen, plays at Southern Mississippi tonight.

Kentucky, guided by former Oregon coach Rich Brooks, is 4-0 with at least one conference victory for the first time since 1950. The Wildcats are ranked No. 14 in this week’s Associated Press poll, highest since the 1977 team finished No. 6.

“There’s a lot of good things going through Eugene,” Brooks said Wednesday.

Brooks held the Oregon post from 1977 through the Ducks’ 1994 Rose Bowl run before handing the program off to Bellotti, his obviously able offensive coordinator.

Oregon has had two coaches in two decades.

They toss the word “patience” around like manhole covers these days, but Kentucky stayed with Brooks as the program transitioned through the post-Hal Mumme probation period.

Brooks went 9-25 his first three years but pleads guilty with an explanation. Fighting Florida and Georgia with 68 scholarships instead of 85 is like swimming with an anvil tied to your foot.

“We’re in a quick trigger cycle right now because people don’t have patience,” Brooks said. “I believe a lot of it is some of the people making those decisions don’t have athletic backgrounds to understand what it takes, or don’t have the conviction to stand up to some of the instant heat that comes from a percentage of fans that love to get on the Internet and talk radio.”

Fran Curci, at nine years, remains the longest tenured football coach in the history of Kentucky.

Brooks survived in Eugene after going 4-18 in his first two seasons and beat the clock by finishing his fourth year at Kentucky 8-5 with a bowl win against Clemson.

“People stuck with him here at Oregon through the tough times and it paid off,” Bellotti said.

Now it’s Kentucky getting a dividend check.

Bellotti and Brooks had a funny-how-it-all-worked-out phone conversation after Kentucky upset Louisville on Sept. 15 and Oregon improved to 3-0 after a win against Fresno State.

“It took three or four years to get to the point where they could be competitive,” Bellotti said of Kentucky. “But he saw it coming. He knew it and I think the administration believed in him.”

Staying with Oregon as a topic . . .

UCLA plays Saturday at Oregon State, which is coached by Mike Riley, who attended Corvallis High and coached at Linfield College outside Portland.

Linfield, a Division III school, is trying to extend its NCAA record of consecutive winning seasons to 52. The streak started in 1956. Linfield, though, is 1-1 this year and plays Willamette on Saturday in Salem.

UCLA was once coached by Tommy Prothro, who coached Brooks as a player at Oregon State and then later hired him to join the Bruins’ staff.

Brooks was hired at Kentucky by Mitch Barnhart, formerly the athletic director at Oregon State.

UCLA also employed Bob Toledo, a former Oregon assistant coach.

Toledo is now head coach at Tulane, which this week plays host to No. 2 Louisiana State, which this year hired offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who last year was offensive coordinator at . . . Oregon.

* No. 1 USC is flying over Oregon this week on its way to Seattle to play Washington. Two of the most successful coaches in USC history, John McKay and John Robinson, were former Oregon players and assistant coaches.

USC also once employed an assistant coach with a booming voice who is now lowering booms at Mississippi.

His name is Ed Orgeron, which rhymes with Oregon.

Ole Miss this week plays in Athens.

Hey, Georgia, what do you know -- the road did lead back to you.

Blitz package

* The biggest lesson learned from Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy’s postgame tirade against Daily Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson is that the public doesn’t always side with the public’s right to know. Post-rant sentiment has weighed heavily in Gundy’s favor.

Most people don’t care that less access to players makes it more likely columnists will write opinion pieces that control-freak head coaches don’t like. Or that more access to players, not less, leads to closer shades of the truth. Asked Monday whether he regretted his outburst against the columnist, Gundy said: “I should have written it out prior to going in there because I had more information to cover and I didn’t get to it. I forgot it.”

* Unranked Cincinnati’s shocking win over No. 7 Rutgers last year doesn’t seem so shocking now. The Bearcats have won seven consecutive games starting with that victory and are 4-0 this year and ranked (No. 24) in the Associated Press poll for the first time since Oct. 25, 1976. Cincinnati visits the state of California for the first time in 49 years Saturday when it plays at San Diego State in a battle of cities known more for their zoos than their college football.

* Nobody is really expecting defense to play a prominent role when Oregon (No. 1 in Pac-10 scoring offense at 48.5 points a game) and Cal (No. 3 at 41.5) play. But Cal Coach Tedford, in order to win, clumsily offered, “somebody’s got to slow each other down.”

* Friday night at No. 18 South Florida would be a good time for No. 5 West Virginia to prove it’s not a title-contending tease. The Mountaineers are not currently considered in the same class as the Fab Four -- USC, Louisiana State, Oklahoma and Florida -- because a lot of people don’t think West Virginia can win an important game when it has to.

Last year, West Virginia fell short at Louisville and suffered an embarrassing home loss to South Florida.

Payback time?

“It may be mentioned a little bit,” West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I’m not a big guy on harping on the so-called revenge factor. If it helps guys get focused during the week, that’s fine. Once the ball gets kicked off, I think what happened in the past is in the past.”

The short background story on Florida State vs. Alabama this week, in Jacksonville: It’s fair to say that, for years, the biggest loves in Bobby Bowden’s life were his wife, Ann, and Alabama football. Bowden was raised in Birmingham idolizing the Crimson Tide.

Bowden even spent a semester at Alabama, playing quarterback, before he returned to Birmingham to marry Ann Estock, his high school sweetheart. Bowden can still recite the starting lineup of the 1946 Alabama Rose Bowl team and nearly left Florida State in 1986 to become Alabama coach but decided to stay in Tallahassee to finish what he started.

“When I was a youngster, Alabama was my team and I Iived and died with Alabama,” Bowden said. “It will be a different experience now on the other side.”

What goes up . . . Kentucky wide receiver Kennan Burton says he can’t get too excited over the Wildcats’ 4-0 start: “We can’t say we turned the corner because just as fast as you go up, it could be just as fast going down.”

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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