On the Rise:
Wisconsin - Wisky (not to be confused with my favorite beverage) is putting together a nice little season while all of the talk swirls around Michigan and Ohio State. They retained Paul Bunyan's Axe last week by beating Minnesota. Why are there all these ridiculous "trophies" in college football rivalry games? I'm going to digress from the Badgers and try to find the lamest trophy. Utah and Utah State play in the Battle of the Beehive Boot. Riiiight.... Or how about The Citadel and Furman's Battle for the Silver Shako? SFA and Sam Houston State have the Battle of the Piney Woods. My award for the lamest trophy goes to Houston and Rice playing in the Battle for the Administaff Bayou Bucket. Not only does it lose points for corporate sponsorship, Houston is not the bayou. Plus, a bucket is not valuable, unlike USC/Notre Dame's Jeweled Shillelagh.
Auburn - The Tigers got a huge win this week and spoiled the undefeated season of the Florida Gators. The two-QB system finally struggled for the Gators, and could even arguably be blamed for UF losing the game. The home crowd was going absolutely nuts, and their team did an excellent job of rebounding after last week's disappointing effort against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Perhaps the SEC will play out for a rematch of Auburn and Florida in the SEC Championship game. That would be a heck of a game to watch. Oh, and Tuberville is still complaining about the SEC and the national championship game. Guess what? If your boys hadn't lost to Arkansas, you would be on the fast track to the Fiesta Bowl. Shut up and focus on the game and your opponents, Tuberville. I'm going to laugh if your Tigers lose to Tulane because you were too busy whining.
Indiana - The Hoosiers got their biggest win in, well, ever against Iowa this week. Those who read my articles regularly know that I like the Iowa Hawkeyes, so I was a little disappointed that they lost. Still, I always like when underdog teams pull upsets, and their coach's recovery from brain surgery is a moving story as well, so I was not too bothered by their win. Coach Hoeppner's resiliency is one of those stories that puts things in perspective, and is possibly one of the reasons his team played with such an inspired effort against Iowa and got the win. Every once in a while, it seems like college football needs a "win one for the Gipper" story. And, every once in a while, it can lead to a struggling team defeating an extremely talented team. I was sad it had to be the Hawkeyes, but at the same time, happy for the Indiana Hoosier football program.
Boise State - The Broncos are 7-0, and they still have a hideous blue field. Jared Zabransky is a good quarterback, but Ian Johnson has been a huge part of their success. Johnson is leading the nation in touchdowns, and is averaging an impressive seven yards per carry. What I find more intriguing than that is the fun names on their roster. First, we have Drisan James, which to me, sounds like some new Japanese super-sealant. Then, we have Legedu Naanee, Jerard Rabb, Vinny Perretta, Tanyon Bissell, John Helmandollar, and Bush Hamdan. Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like an ethnic grab-bag, and it's in Idaho of all places. Score one for diversity. Anyway, the Broncos have a serious chance at running the table, because the conference is WAC. (Insert Napoleon Dynamite "yessss" for the pun.) And a "heck yes" if you understand the relevance.
Oklahoma State - The Copycats have already tied their conference win total from last season, and have been in every game this season. And somehow, Bobby Reid is second in the nation in QB rating. I was perusing "their" Academic Calendar (Copyright 2003 Texas Tech University System) in my research and discovered that they have a football game this Saturday. They play the Aggies in one of those "can they both lose" games. Their leading receiver is Adarius Bowman. Adarius? Does that mean "not Darius?" Maybe his parents couldn't decide on a name, but were both dead-set against naming him Darius. Anyway, Xerox U actually is playing fairly well, and Reid has the potential to be a dangerous QB. OSU has a tough next few games against TAMU, Nebraska and UT. Good luck with that. Actually, I don't wish them good luck. I wish them miserable failure.
On the Decline:
Iowa State - The Cyclones are having a year that is awfully similar to that of our Red Raiders. They had high expectations coming into the season, and have been a bit of a disappointment so far. Iowa State and Tech match up this weekend in what will be a crucial game for both programs. The winner of the game will likely be on the road to redemption, while the losing team may lose hope. Both teams have plenty of talent that has not played to their potential and put it together yet. The Cyclones and Red Raiders both have potentially explosive offenses as well. This is one of those games that is going to come down to who wants it more. Our Red Raiders are the more talented team, but Iowa State is no pushover, and will be tough to beat at home. It should be a good game, and one that is extremely important to the fans and the rest of the Big 12.
Utah - The Utes have fallen from the 12-0 year of two seasons ago to their current state of mediocrity. They lost to Wyoming last week. I had forgotten Wyoming had a football team. Still, I hear that the state of Wyoming has speed limit signs that just say "keep it safe," which seems like it could be all kinds of fun. Utah, BYU, and TCU are all having tough years and confirming the assumptions of the critics that the Mountain West is a inferior conference. There will be no mid-major BCS-buster from the Mountain West this year. Undefeated Boise State won in a blowout of Utah, so maybe they will play that role this season. Either way, Utah is proving to have been just a flash in the pan in 2004. Then again, there aren't many teams that would complain about having a 12-0 season. Right now, I'd be happy with an 8-4 season for TTU, so I guess I'll shut up.
Oklahoma - I'm putting them on the decline for several reasons, but mainly because it's fun. This season began with the Bomar/Quinn debacle, and the hits just keep on coming. Oklahoma unnecessarily kept Adrian Peterson in the game with the score 27-9 late in the fourth quarter, and AD breaks his collarbone and is reportedly out for the season. Good call on that one, OU, you have successfully cut your offensive production in half. On top of that, Rufus Alexander, arguably OU's best defender, was arrested Sunday. It was minor stuff, but yet another black eye to the program. The NCAA is also hanging around in Norman until November as I understand it. If you ask me, OU just screams a lack of institutional control. See Sampson's recruiting violations, BRS&I paychecks, AD's car deal, arrests, etc. What else do you need, NCAA? Drop the hammer.
N.C. State - After two straight weeks of defeating ranked opponents, the Wolfpack go and drop one to Wake Forest at home. It's clear that N.C. State is not the program that it once was, even with the two good wins. Those have been more than offset by the bad losses to Akron, Southern Miss, and Wake Forest. Chuck Amato has gone from definitely on the hot seat to off of it, and now appears to be back on it in the span of a month. Personally, I don't know what to think about the guy. He wears some super-awesome shades and talks like a teenaged boy whose voice keeps breaking because he is in the middle of puberty, and who spent the night before yelling at a rock concert and smoking eight packs of cigs. That's all I'm sure of. At least he drives a Corvette, so he's got that going for him. He can make a quick getaway if they run him out of town.
Texas Tech - It's hard to argue against this one at the moment, as we have already totaled our losses from last year in half of the season. However, instead of pointing out what went wrong and complaining about things that already happened that we can't change, let's get a little more productive. One of our forum members, JTChance1, thought up what is quite possibly the most poignant and inspirational thing to ever come out of a message board. It was proposed that we as fans show support in a time when it is needed most by simply mailing a postcard of encouragement to players on the team through the athletic office. This is a way to truly show our strength as a fanbase, and I encourage all of the Red Raiders to participate. The thread is located here. Please join in.
Rutgers - Can the Scarlet Knights be for real? Last week, they had an impressive blowout win over a decent Navy team. They remain undefeated, as do fellow Big East teams West Virginia and Louisville. What happens if Louisville beats WVU, Rutgers beats Louisville, and WVU beats Rutgers, and all of them finish 11-1? It would be a BCS disaster. I'm pulling for Rutgers to run the table, though. That sure would be fun. I wonder if the BCS committee is wishing that they had listened to the critics who lobbied to rescind the Big East's automatic BCS bid for believing that the teams were undeserving. Now, the Big East might screw the system over for the opposite reason. And then, two of the so-called power conferences, the Big 12 and ACC, are having weak years. I'm not proud to call our conference weak this year, but I have to face the troubling truth.
Clemson - Hooray, they beat up on Temple last week. Southlake Carroll might be able to accomplish that. Props go out to Clemson for not running up the score too much, though. They were on pace for nearly a hundred points at halftime, and obviously let up. Maybe Tommy is the non-evil Bowden that I didn't think existed. Anyway, the Tigers will get a true test this weekend against Georgia Tech. It's at home, but the Yellow Jackets will be the first truly dangerous offense that Clemson has faced this season. Georgia Tech has plenty of big-play potential with mobile QB Reggie Ball and receiving threats Johnson & Johnson. I think Georgia Tech is the better team, but Clemson may pull out the victory in front of the home crowd. It should be a close game, and whoever gets the win in this one will have a substantive victory for their place in the polls.
Nebraska - Nebraska has played some pretty good football, but does not have a signature win. The only ranked team that they have played, USC, sent them home with a loss. However, we find out what kind of team the Huskers are this weekend as they face Texas. I think this will be the game of the weekend, Texas has the speed on defense to give the Nebraska offense fits. Conversely, the Cornhuskers have a front seven that is capable of disrupting McCoy's rhythm and limiting UT's passing game. Expect quite a few turnovers in this one and a close, low-scoring game. Nebraska should have a very good chance of pulling the upset and ruining Texas' title aspirations. I'm going to get bold and predict that NU gets the win. I don't think McCoy can handle a truly hostile environment and strong defense yet. Young QB's haven't done so well this year.
USC - The Trojans might just be the worst undefeated team in the nation. And that list includes Boise State and Rutgers. Okay, I'm exaggerating. Still, USC has had three straight weeks of truly unimpressive victories over mediocre teams. I'm honestly wondering if Oregon State won't upset USC in two weeks. The Beavers have a "dam" good chance of winning if they play their hearts out. (I could make a less-tasteful pun about Beavers and Trojans, but I'll try and keep it family-friendly.) The point is, USC has looked beatable. Then again, a win is a win, and I've always said that I wouldn't mind winning each game by a point. The prophet Vin Diesel had a similar quote about "winning the race by an inch or a mile" in The Fast and the Furious, which is probably the most well-acted movie ever. It's either that or one of Chuck Norris' award-worthy films.
Missouri - The Tigers finally looked vulnerable in a close loss at A&M. Chase Daniel once again proved to be the best quarterback in the Big 12, though. The difference in the game proved to be Missouri's first near-touchdown, in which Jordan Peterson did a Don Beebe impression by forcing a fumble from behind a receiver right near the end zone to spoil a touchdown and give his team the ball on a touchback. If you recognize the name Jordan Peterson, it is because that is the same guy that our Red Raiders picked on all day in the win over the Aggies. I'm actually happy for the guy. I'm not pleased to be looking up at A&M in the standings, as that is a relatively new and different thing for TTU fans, but if this win is a reason to keep Fran around, then it was worth it. I'm sure Little Debbie is happy to have the continuing contributions from his salary as well.
Random (and possibly offensive) Thoughts:
One time, at band camp - The Wisconsin Badger band has been put on probation for hazing, boozing it up, and engaging in "highly sexualized behavior." Maybe the band is trying to shake the stereotypical geeky image. Wait, never mind, it seems that the AD had previously allocated funds so the cheerleaders and dance team could travel separately to avoid being badgered by the apparent pervs in the band. (Re-read that last sentence if you missed one of my infinitely clever puns.) Furthermore, I didn't know that "sexualized" was a word. I've got a new line to try on the ladies now. "You feel like getting sexualized tonight?" It will totally work. There was another great quote from this situation. The hazing involved the shaving of a band members head, and supposedly "the individual would have preferred to keep his hair." Oh, the humanity.
BC's Steve Aponavicius - This was a neat little story in what was otherwise an ugly weekend for football. Aponavicius is a walk-on kicker who made the team after being discovered continually kicking a friend's football in the stadium in pursuit of a dream. He also practices the Flutie-perfected art of the drop kick, so here's hoping that makes it into a game. Flutie is still the man. Anyway, Steve got his chance when BC's struggling kicker ran into some off-the-field trouble, and made the most of it on Thursday with a 2 FG, 2 EP effort. His teammates enjoyed every minute of it beside him, and it was the kind of thing that you like to see in sports. Occasionally, a guy like this comes along and reminds us what the game is all about. We had it with Wes Welker. UT had it with Michael Ungar. It's easy to like players who appreciate every moment out on the field.
Miami/FIU brawl - This was awesome. Not only did it remind me of why I absolutely despise the Miami Hurricanes, it was the most ridiculously idiotic spectacle I've seen in a long time. There were guys swinging helmets as weapons, kicking other players, and trying to stomp on people who fell down. And on top of it all, one of the Miami announcers condones their actions, says he wants to join in, and proposes that they continue the fight in the tunnel. Go Canes. My father said once that most colleges recruit players out of high school, but Miami recruits from penitentiaries. I don't think he was joking or exaggerating. I did get worried when the police ran in to break it up and added firearms to the equation, though. Luckily, there wasn't a shiv in the immediate area or there would be funerals this week, followed by a retaliatory drive-by.
Duke rape case - I realize this has nothing to do with football, but I don't write a lacrosse column, so here goes. I don't believe anyone's testimony on this one. First of all, the stripper who was supposedly raped kept falling down because she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, so her recollection of the night is far from reliable. And yet, the supposed rapists' accounts of what happened are suspect, and the guys look and act like what I imagine a rapist to be. Then, I find out that there was little to no DNA evidence linking them to the crime, and there are oversights by the DA and possible motivation to convict so he would be re-elected. Conversely, I find it a bit odd that some of the accused immediately bailed on the party post-alleged rape. I guess the only people who know for sure what happened are the three Dukies. Dickie V must be proud.
Temple of doom - These poor guys. They have lost nineteen straight, and are clearly not on the same level as most of the other Division I-A teams. In the past four seasons, they have won a total of three games. Ouch. I can't even make fun of that, or I won't be able to sleep at night. You have to wonder if they are even going to keep the football program in the same league as the big boys. In all of this, I discovered another nice little deed, though. Most people have heard about the inspirational story of Clemson CB Ray Ray McElrathbey, who is raising his little brother by himself to keep him away from a household of drugs. Well, the Temple team raised $1,500 to donate to help out Ray Ray and his noble cause. My sincerest admiration goes out to the Temple Owls for this, as well as to McElrathbey for doing the right thing to give his brother the right future.
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)