Around The Nation

RaiderPower takes a look at the teams around the football nation. Who is on the rise, and who is experiencing a decline? Who are the unknowns at this point? Which teams are looking like contenders in their league, and who looks like they have a real shot at the national title? Come inside to read more.

On the Rise:

Texas Tech - The Red Raiders got a good road win in the latest chapter of Tech > Aggie.  The game featured great performances by Harrell, Johnson, Woods, Garcia, Dawson, Filani, Parker, the O-line, etc.  Aggieland is a sad place for football fans once again, as their players, coaches, and fans really needed this one.  I'm beginning to sincerely feel for some of the Aggies that I like, e.g. PsychoAg.  Not only are they trapped with a head coach who exudes ineptitude as of late, Texas A&M tickets at Kyle Field have the worst return on investment of any purchase ever.  That is, unless you're the visiting team.  TTU fans can get three wins at Jones Stadium for less than TAMU fans pay to see a loss at Kyle.  It's not that the Aggies are a particularly bad team, it's that this may be another season in which A&M football as a whole loses hope.  I'm glad to be a Texas Tech fan.

Florida - Chris Leak and the Gators continue to get it done.  That said, I'm not sure that I agree with the playing time that Tim Tebow is getting.  In their last game against Alabama, Tebow came in for Leak, who was slightly struggling.  Perhaps this is just me agreeing with Leach's philosophy that playing two quarterbacks is nothing but trouble.  Then again, maybe it's the same "light a fire under his bum" technique that Leach used so effectively on the receiving corps.  Still, I feel that you shouldn't undermine a QB for fear of damaging his leadership, especially when the QB has arguably caught more flak than he deserved.  However, Urban Meyer is the one making the big bucks to make decisions like these, not me.  Maybe this is the year they shake off the underachievement reputation and return to dominance and win the SEC. 

LSU - LSU is easily the best 4-1 team in the nation.  Their only loss was to Auburn in a thrilling SEC shootout with a final score of 7-3.  The scoring summary for that game is laughable. Here it is, in its entirety: "Colt David 42 yard field goal. Brandon Cox rush for 1 yard for a touchdown."  Riveting.  Anyway, back to LSU.  They beat down Mississippi State in a offensive showcase, which is a rarity in the SEC world.  I have always felt that JaMarcus Russell was a talented and underutilized quarterback, so maybe the coaching staff is finally coming around and giving him more control in the offense.  Hell, it worked for Vince Young.  Russell and LSU get a true test this weekend when they go on the road to face the Florida Gators in what will be the best game of the weekend outside of the always-bitter rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma in the Red River shootout.

Ohio State - It's hard for a team that is #1 in the nation to be on the rise, but following last week's convincing win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, they left no question as to who should be the top-ranked team.  Their defense made Drew Tate, who I consider to be an extremely talented quarterback, look like a deer in the headlights.  Part of it was that Tate looked like he was just having an off day, a la Harrell at TCU, and part of it was the fantastic play of the always-tough Ohio State defense.  There is no more talk of the "but their defense is replacing so many starters" argument that their critics loved to discuss before the season.  James Laurinaitis is already a star, and may very well be the best linebacker in the nation.  With this defense, and Heisman candidates Troy Smith and Ted Ginn on offense, they have the ingredients for a national title.    

Oregon - Is it possible? Could there actually be more than one good team in the Pac-10?  Say it ain't so.  This weekend marks the annual "who will be the runner-up to USC for the Pac-10 title and lose to the third-best Big 12 team in the Holiday Bowl despite having the home crowd" game.  This time, it's California vs. Oregon in a defensive showcase.  I think the over is going to be about 135 points for this one.  I'll be rooting for one team to blow out the other, so somebody gets exposed as a fraud.  Anyway, Dennis Dixon, Oregon's QB is an explosive athlete.  However, all I'm hearing about is Cal's Nate Longshore, while Marshawn Lynch seems to do more for the team.  My pick in this one is Cal, because it's at their place.  Still, if Cal loses this one, my "Longshore is overrated like Aaron Rodgers was because Pac-10 defenses suck" theory is sound.


On the Decline:

Colorado - And the losing steak continues...  Oh, Colorado.  This joke just keeps on going.  Every time I almost start to feel bad for laughing at their struggles, I remember their fanbase and then everything's okay.  If there is much more of this, people are going to start calling him "Fran" Hawkins.  Jokes aside, the Buffs put out a decent effort against Missouri.  In that game, both defenses were pitiful, considering that they were both rated in the top ten in total defense.  This game perplexed me, though.  I can't figure out if Mizzou isn't all that they're cracked up to be, or if Colorado has what it takes to possibly turn it around.  Odds are that it's a bit of both.  Still, Colorado is one of those teams who is playing just poorly enough for our team to overlook them and have a ridiculous road loss.  It better not happen, or I will feel the urge to break things.

TCU - Just when everyone thought that TCU was finally a program to be reckoned with, they get blown out at home by BYU.  My sarcastic thanks go out to the Horned Frauds for making us look bad.  Twice.  Sure, John Beck is a good QB, but their success against the TCU defense gives teams a reason not to fear our offense by comparison.  I was enjoying our unstoppable reputation, too.  Still, I'm cheering on the purple team, because I'm going to be seriously angry if we go 10-2 and miss a BCS bowl because TCU decided to stop winning games.  If that scenario were to occur, I might find myself traveling to Fort Worth to throw batteries at Range Rovers, BMWs, and anyone unfortunate enough to be wearing purple.  I'm a Tech fan; that's how I roll.  Except they will be used batteries.  Them things is expensive.  (Props to anyone who gets that reference.)

Arizona State - Derek Shaw made the right decision by getting the hell out of this place.  Not only have they just had the poo beaten out of them by the only two decent teams that they have faced, there appears to be some dissention within the program considering the transfer of quarterbacks Keller and Shaw.  If this is case, the problems with the program will only be exacerbated by losses.  It appears that the Sun Devils have some demons of their own.  Damn, I'm good at making lame puns.  Still, the ASU QB, Rudy Carpenter, has nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.  I wonder if their head coach is wishing he had done a better job of keeping the other quarterbacks around about now.  I'll be honest, I don't even know who their coach is, but considering what seems to be happening, I'm gong to go out on a limb and say that they need better leadership. 

Michigan State - Drew Stanton is supposed be this great QB, right?  I'm beginning to buy CFN's anaylsis from not too long ago, which stated the Michigan State is usually the most overrated team in the nation.  Still, Javon Ringer appears to be aptly named, as he is averaging over seven yards per carry.  Conventional wisdom would suggest that the guy probably needs more carries.  I'm no coach, but it might work, considering that most teams are going to expect the Spartans to try and win the game on the arm of Stanton.  How does a talented team lose to Illinois?  The Illini win was rather humorous for several reasons.  For one, they imitated the midfield flag planting that MSU did to Notre Dame, which incited a little brawl.  Also, I discovered that Illinois' QB is Isiah "Juice" Williams.  Maybe it's just me, but that's probably not the best nickname.

Utah State - Here's a feel good story for our TAMU friends.  At least you aren't these Aggies.  In their first four games, Utah State failed to score a point on offense, prompting their offensive coordinator to resign.  These particular Aggies are last in the nation in scoring and offense.  Ouch.  I can't even laugh at this.  My conscience would haunt me forever. The only funny thing here is the possibility that I get to make comparisons between the two Aggie programs if TAMU struggles.  Wait, I found something else kind of entertaining.  Their QB's name is Leon, and I was reminded of the old Bud commercial with the Terrell Owens-like athlete who thinks that he can do no wrong.  "So your four fumbles weren't a factor?" "Hey, those other guys should have jumped on the ball."  That pretty much summarizes Utah State's disaster of a season thus far.


The Unknowns:

Oklahoma - I don't buy the Paul Thompson smoke-and-mirrors act.  Stoops is reiterating the "Thompson is a good QB" routine far too often for it to actually be true.  Maybe Bob is just trying to convince himself.  Peterson is the team.  Frankly, I feel a little sorry for the guy.  For one, he's laying his health on the line every game with all his carries, which endangers his NFL future.  Add to that the fact that his father, who spent much of Adrian's life in prison, can't provide moral support by attending games.  Then again, Peterson may not care because he has been spending his time doing things such as cruising around in free Lexuses.  Or is it Lexi?  Anyway, their defense has still been unimpressive, and the team as a whole looks like they are ready to be exposed.  We'll find out Saturday if Texas will be the team that proves me right.

Texas - Is Texas for real?  I don't think we'll know after this weekend, whether they win or not.  UT has the speed on defense to play man coverage with OU's receivers and stack the middle to stop Peterson.  If they do that, they win.  I think they will.  However, I will probably be more impressed if they can win at Nebraska in what will be McCoy's first hostile environment.  Another thought; if OU beats Texas, will UT fans turn on McCoy?  I'm not talking about the "I think the backup is better no matter who starts" internet trash that litters nearly every talented team's message board, I'm referring to booing players and such.  If OU wins soundly and Colt starts out slow against Baylor the following week, expect the boo parade.  Couple that with Snead's supposed unhappiness, and Mack might just throw Jevan in and create another QB disaster.  One can hope.

Notre Dame - Thinking about the Fighting Irish makes my head hurt.  Not only does ND conjure up a multitude of feelings, I just get befuddled when trying to assess their team.  I like Charlie Weis, yet I have much contempt everything his team stands for.  (That would be the disparities between the credit that Notre Dame gets as opposed to everyone else.)  Samardzijahjahsbha runs his mouth too much and Brady Quinn seems like nothing more than a pretty boy.  And yet, I like the fight in Rhema McKnight and Darius Walker.  Zbikowski is a neat little story, but PsychoAg made a good point by floating the question of how it's okay for Zbikowski to get paid to box, but Jeremy Bloom can't play football for skiing in the Olympics.  I don't want to think about ND or write about them.   However, the media gives me no choice.  Maybe that's what I really hate.

Georgia - Georgia has to be the worst 5-0 team in the nation.  They had an extremely difficult time with both Colorado and Ole Miss, who are having abysmal seasons.  That said, they have been without QB Joe Tereshinski, who claims that he will return in time for the Tennessee game.  Maybe he is the missing part of Georgia's offense, and perhaps now they will actually play like a top ten program is supposed to.  Regardless, the Bulldogs still have one of the coolest mascots in football.  Yes, it is a just a bulldog in a sweater, but I just can't look at one of those little guys without smiling.  Bulldogs are one of those rare things in life that are somehow hideous and adorable at the same time.  Judging by their season thus far, it is possible that Georgia fans feel the same way about their football team.

USC - They nearly lost to the Washington State Cougars.  A late touchdown catch by WSU's Dwight Tardy was the spark that the Cougs needed in the third quarter, which was when USC took control of the game.  You could even say it was, uh, tardy.  (Okay, I'll stop.)  Anyway, USC seems quite a bit like TTU this year.  Both teams are offensive juggernauts, both have a stellar receiving corps, and both have a QB with high expectations who is playing pretty well.  Also, both teams seem very vulnerable when they are Jarrett-less.  The only difference between the two is that USC's Jarrett's off-the-field issues were cleared in a timely fashion prior to the season.  Hmm...  Since we're talking about these teams, how neat of a game would a USC-TTU BCS bowl be?  I'd watch that even if I didn't like either team.  Again, one can dream.


Random (and possibly offensive) Thoughts:

Is A&M our rival? - There is no doubt that Tech and A&M fans love to beat and hate to lose to one another.  Is that all that it takes to constitute a rivalry?  After all, both schools tend to have the greatest attendance for their game against UT.  Furthermore, Tech's recent dominance of the series suggests that it isn't one of those true rivalry games where it will be a close game, no matter how well or poorly the teams are playing.  These days, the only time when the Tech-A&M game is close is when it's at Kyle Field and it is their quasi-super bowl.  The last few in Lubbock have been blowouts, and A&M hasn't won at the Jones since 1993.  Tech has now won four out of the last five and nine out of the last twelve games.  Is it a rivalry?  Depends on who you ask.  One thing is for sure; it will always be one of the bigger games of the year for both programs.

Texas/OU - There's no doubt that this is a rivalry.  This game is almost always a toss-up.  What I'm more interested in is what percentage of the crowd at the game will actually have attended either school.  For those of you who haven't spent time around either program or attended this game, OU and Texas are the kings of t-shirt fans.  The backwoods OU fans show up for this one, and they epitomize the scary, toothless, Deliverance-esque stereotype that you are envisioning.  Meanwhile, UT brings their contingent of bandwagoners as well, and it's not just the Hispanic crowd.  And then there are the Metroplexuals who have no connection whatsoever to either school, but will slap on apparel of whichever team is favored to win the game.  If that team loses, then they will go home and change into the other team's clothes.  I wish I was exaggerating.

That disturbing "squeeze" tradition - Everyone who watched the A&M broadcast probably had the same bewildered expression on their face when they saw a single-file line of Corps dudes bent over each other while grabbing their testicles and wincing in pain.  For those who were unaware of the tradition behind it, it was a shocking and horrifying sight.  Even those who knew the reasoning for it were shaking their heads in embarrassment because they knew what it looked like on TV.  I think at that moment, the TV rating for the broadcast jumped from G for "General Audience" to TV14 for "Parents Strongly Cautioned."  I can appreciate and even admire some traditions like swaying in the stadium and Muster, but the squeeze thing is just plain creepy.  I have no doubt that A&M lost some prospective students by having that appear on national television.

Lou Holtz - Why is this man getting paid to speak?  I'm not usually one to poke fun at a speech impediment, but you can barely understand Lou.  Also, the guy is like a broken record.  Here is the structure of his usual input.  It starts out "I remember when," followed by a garbled mess of an irrelevant tangent that eventually leads to Notre Dame.  Holtz is like the Dick Vitale of college football with his homerism, except Lou doesn't have the same energy, color, or a lame catch-phrase.  Still, he does have those thick, ridiculously oversized spectacles that are all the rage these days.  He's got nothing on JoePa and his yellowish-tinted glasses from the early 1970s, though.  That guy is way ahead of the rest of the fashion world.  He's also obviously aware of the advances in modern optometry, and spends plenty of time perusing the very latest in designer frames. 

Martellus Bennett and "Tellocity" - It's one thing for a guy to refer to his play by turning part of his name into a physics-based play on words.  However, when that same person's play fails to impress when it counts, and the supposed ingenuity behind the term is overshadowed by a humiliating statement about West Point, all that is left is a really lame nickname.  I realize Martellus is only a Sophomore, but seriously, what has he done for A&M so far?  He is supposed to be this fantastic two-sport star, but he hasn't been much of a factor in either football or basketball yet.  Maybe I'm missing something.  Still, I kind of feel like coining a word based loosely on my name.  What if from now on, every time that I show up somewhere, I announce that I just made a "Trentrance?"  See, it's not even cool when I do it, and I'm super-awesome.



-Trent Wycoff

(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at

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