Around the Nation

RaiderPower takes a lighthearted 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.


My apologies for the late arrivals on a few of my articles this week. I am in t-shirt fan land visiting the family, and they don't believe in the new-fangled internet.  I even had a futile search on Sunday for a free wireless network somewhere in South Austin with which to upload my articles.  Thinking I was in the Mecca of new-age coffee shop yuppie software employees, I assumed I could find a WiFi connection that didn't cost money.  First, I tried visiting uber-corporation Starbucks, only to find that they have apparently struck up an evil alliance with T-Mobile with the hopes of taking my hard-earned cash.  They chose not to inform of this until after I had swallowed my pride and ordered a vanilla latte, erroneously believing that it would allow me access to to their exclusive network.  Damn Starbucks.  They're all corporationey, and make money.  Then, I tried several other "mom and pop" coffee shops, none of which were open, and eventually gave up since I needed to go home and do yardwork in order to be able to afford the gas to drive back to Lubbock.  In retrospect, I should have just gone to an apartment complex and leeched off of some college students' wireless internet.  Maybe next time.


On the Rise:


LSU - Jamocha Russell pulled out the big win over the Vols on Saturday.  Whoops, I meant to type JaMarcus; but apparently I'm thinking Arby's.  Anyway, the Tigers scored in the final seconds on a touchdown pass from Russell to some guy named Doucet.  I'm glad I'm writing this instead of speaking it, because I have absolutely no clue how to pronounce the name Doucet.  Is it Dousay?  Or maybe Duckett?  I don't know, but hooray for me being a sportswriter instead of sportscaster.  Erik Ainge proved his girliness that I referred to last week by leaving the game because of a sprained ankle.  I'm not entirely sure, but I think that Ainge cried to his mommy and had her call LSU's mom and tell them to be nice to Erika.  And no, I don't feel bad about making fun of his injury, either, because Texas Tech QBs play through torn anterior cruciate ligaments.  That's how we roll. 

Wake Forest - The Satanic Churchleaders beat Boston College in what sadly may have been the best matchup of the college weekend outside of the land thieves/fake army game.  I'm not sure if this game was televised or not because I had all kinds of trouble finding even the simplest network channels on the parents' DirectTV.  I was just proud that I was able to find the TTU/Baylor game amidst the 43 Fox Sports networks on the guide.  I think it was under the FoxSportsSouthSouthWestUpperTexas network.   Anyway, BC's quarterback Matt Ryan played through the pain of an injury and still threw for over 400 yards.  See, Erika, this is what can happen if you're not a pansy.  Still, Wake Forest got the win in a close game that I wish I could have watched.  It sounds like it might have been interesting looking at the tiny box score at the end of the newspaper.

Louisville - The Cardinals beat West Virginia on Thursday, which surprised me.  I had thought the Mountaineers would run the table and then Morgantown would destroy itself in the biggest riot in history.  Then, Arnold Schwarzenegger would tell them that it's in your nature to destroy yourselves, and then ask why we cry, because it's something he can never do.  At least that's how it played out in my mind, and I think that I now owe James Cameron some money for referencing Terminator 2.  I'm sure that he needs it more than I do.  Anyway, Louisville terminated West Virginia's national title aspirations on Thursday.  The Cardinals play Rutgers this weekend in another matchup of undefeated Big East teams.  Here's hoping that Rutgers wins and my multiple one-loss team, Big East self-defeating, BCS-ruining, super-hyphenated scenario plays out like I want it to.  

Texas Tech - Well, we have had three straight good performances and are finally playing to our potential.  An upstart Baylor team was the latest victim.  Take that, Bare Raid.  ("Bare" referencing their lack of a passing game against us.  I'm so clever; I amaze myself sometimes.)  Harrell appears to finally be playing like the winner that most of us had envisioned, and there are precious few rumblings from the "I think the backup is better" crowd these days.  Shannon Woods has been everything we could have asked for and more.  The AFROS are back.  The defense is playing well.  The Red Raiders are finally a team once again.  Tech heads to OU this weekend for a huge game in which the Sooners will be looking to get some revenge for last year since they think they got screwed.  It should be a good one, and I think that we can take them.  We don't have a Franchione.

Maryland - The Terps beat Clemson today, holding it down for the UnderArmour brand.  The Tigers did not protect this house.  Click Clack, and stuff.  Touchdowns were not very popular in this one, as there were six field goals in the game.  Score one for my buddy's fantasy league, as his kicker is Clemson's Jad Dean.  Another Bowden loss should make for some good times for Maryland.  Handing Bowdens losses in a span of a few weeks must be all kinds of fun.  I know that I'm having fun writing about it.  Terrapins quarterback Sam Hollenbach is quietly putting together a nice little season.  Maybe it's just me, but Hollenbach seems like one of those players who will fly under the radar and one day become a good NFL quarterback.  He's big enough at 6'5" to get his shot at the next level, so we'll just have to wait and see.  Maybe they'll call him Uncle Sam someday.


On the Decline:

Clemson - Haha!  The Tigers have successfully taken themselves out of the BCS and ACC title race in just two games.  That's got to sting.  QB John Proctor has been aptly named with the prefix of his last name, considering that his last few performances have essentially emitted excrement.  (I just noticed that I used three words in a row that started with the letter "e," which I'm fairly sure makes me awesome.)  Still, in Clemson's defense, their losses have come to talented Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Maryland teams.  However, the polls only like the winners.  If Tommy loses again next week to a pitiful N.C. State team, he better start to watch out for more flying bottles.  Still, I propose that the bottles make their way towards 'ol Bobby instead.  Old guys getting hurt at football games is apparently the trend these days anyway.  Ask JoePa.

Missouri - Well, the Tigers have likely lost their shot at appearing as the North representative in the Big 12 championship game with Saturday's loss to Nebraska.  Perhaps this is for the best, as the Cornhuskers probably have a better chance of beating Texas.  You see, Nebraska has enough program history to where the officials might actually not help out UT, which could be an interesting and novel phenomenon.  Also, the Cornhuskers will have vengeance on their minds for literally handing Texas a win earlier in the season.  Furthermore, the crowd in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium should be pro-Husker.  And it will probably be cold, which means that Mack Brown will hurt his hands from clapping so often for no particular reason.  Maybe Mangino will show up to watch his increasingly popular "UT bias" theory in action, because you know the cold weather won't affect him.

Miami - Chalk up another Hurricanes loss, this time to the Virginia Tech Hokies.  This game was an offensive showcase, with the winning team having a grand total of 139 freaking yards.  What is this, the SEC?  Also, after the game, it was discovered that Virginia Tech's quarterback is a bald-faced liar.  In reference to Miami, he stated that "They're a great bunch."  I can only assume that this was a misquotation, and that he really said something like "they're a great hang around if you want to add to your criminal record."  Or "they're a great bunch...when it comes to performing drive-by shootings and lowering an area's property values."  Expect an increase in gang-related homicides over the next few days as the Miami team "deals with the loss."  I would be scared for Wes Welker for residing in the area if I didn't know that he was bulletproof. 

N.C. State -  Well, the Wolfpack lost again, this time to Georgia Tech.  What was even more amusing was the AP headline for the game.  "Ball-to-Johnson combo helps Jackets keep NC State at bay."  I think they probably could have done a better job of wording that.  However, I have to commend the writers who covered the Arkansas/South Carolina game for pulling off a family-friendly article with names like Nutt, Dick, and the Gamecocks.  Anyway, the N.C. State Wolfpack are bad, and everyone has forgotten about the couple of good wins that they had earlier in the season.  Chuck Amato is likely browsing the classifieds at this very moment.  It's a far cry from the Rivers/McLendon days of old, and it appears that the Wolfpack are destined to miss a bowl game this season following their fourth straight loss.  This is more than a down year, it's a down program.

Duke - Make the losing streak seventeen straight.  Perhaps there is a correlation between strong academics and weak football programs when it comes to private schools, as Stanford is making a strong case for the "worst Division I-A team" as well.  Take that, rich kids.  You can't play football.  Go home in your 2007 Lamborghini to your giant mansion and yell at your 32 maids.  Then do a line of cocaine and complain about how your life is so tough since your giant Ferrari cake didn't make it to your weekly party.  I scoff at your private education, country clubs, and Versace clothing.  You don't know how to live it up by budgeting limited cash, making sacrifices to get by, and being self-sufficient.  Stupid rich kids.  That is, unless you want to give me a small scrap of cash, at which point I will retract everything that I said and bow to your greatness.


The Unknowns:

Tennessee - Rocky no-longer-near-the Top.  The Volunteers lost to LSU at home despite being ranked higher, as I had predicted.  Far from an embarrassing loss, but it was their second of the year, which makes a BCS bid a bit tougher to come by.  At least Tennessee alum Peyton Manning won last night in the pros.  Also, Tennessee has the most unstable quarterback situation of anyone in the top 25.  Erik Ainge is suffering from a severe case of vaginitis, and his backups are relatively inexperienced.  If it weren't for some talented wideouts, the Volunteers would likely be in much worse shape than they are right now.  I can't decide if I think that their defense is good or not, and to be quite honest,  right now I don't have the capability to look up statistics with which to base a judgment upon since I am internet-less in the parents' house for one more night. 

BYU - After a rough start with early losses to Arizona and Boston College, BYU has run off six straight wins on the fast track to winning the Mountain West.  The Cougars have returned to their old-school form of the pass-heavy offense pioneered by 'ol Lavelle Edwards.  John Beck is a very capable passer, and BYU is putting up big numbers with both their yards and scoring.  With Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah left to come, it seems a likely scenario that the Cougars will win out.  It will be interesting to see which bowl that they end up in if this turns out to be the case, and will likely depend on how the other teams with two losses or less do.  Let's face it, the Mountain West is not the best conference when it comes to strength-of-schedule.  Just ask TCU, who went to the Houston Bowl after suffering only one loss last year.  That's not quite the case this year.

Oregon - The Ducks are likely Ore-gone from the Pac-10 title race, and also out of the BCS picture.  Still, it's a big weekend for Oregon and their hideous uniforms as they travel to play USC.  Oregon may actually pull off the upset, since USC is still gloriously overrated.  If they get it done, it won't necessarily make the Ducks a good team, but the media won't let you believe that.  USC, Texas, and Notre Dame are infallible, remember?  Recall that Oregon is a team who lost to Washington State, and USC is a team that lost to Oregon State.  Not exactly impressive.  I guess that Cal is probably the best team in the Pac-1, even with their highlighter yellow uniforms that are almost worse than Oregon's diamond-plated debacle that they slightly modify every week.  I thought California was supposedly on top of the fashion world.  Oh yeah, Arnold Schwarzenegger is in charge.

Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets kind of confuse me.  I like them as a team, and I tend to find them entertaining to watch.  However, I can't shake this feeling that the team is missing something.  I can't even place what it is.  They have a decent quarterback in Reggie Ball, and underrated running back in Tashard Choice, and arguably the nation's best wideout in Calvin Johnson.  Their defense isn't great, but gets the job done.  Still, Georgia Tech just gives me this hunch that they are going to make a good bowl game and get completely dominated by a team that is supposed to be on or near their level.  Maybe it's Chan Gailey that is the mysterious missing link.  At least I think that Gailey is the Georgia Tech coach.  I can't look it up with the magic of the internet thanks to my parents being really cheap and not caring about the wonders of computing technology.

Oklahoma - The jury's still out on Peterson-less OU.  It was only through virtue of A&M failure at its finest that OU was able to escape Kyle Field with a win.  Allen Patrick rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries, so maybe he is decent after all.  However, Patrick is still nowhere near Peterson's level, and I think that OU is beatable.  Still, there is no doubt that OU has had us circled on the calendar since last season, and will show up to play.  Anyone who forces Paul Thompson to beat them with his arm has had success against the land thieves.  Here's hoping that the referees don't play a part in the result or help either side, although it would be a little funny if OU lost on a controversial call.  That said, I'd prefer to beat them soundly so they can't complain at all.  Make no mistake; this may be our toughest win of the year, even with Oklahoma's tumultuous roster this year.


Random (and possibly offensive) Thoughts:

John L. Smith - Michigan State announced that he will be fired at the end of the season.  Why they chose to leak this now, I have no idea.  I guess they feel that the rest of the season is not worth anything.  It's not like announcing an impending regime change will adversely affect the morale of the program or anything.  Seriously, someone explain to me how announcing this right now helps anything.  I'm not saying that getting rid of Smith was a bad decision, I'm saying that the announcement was horribly timed.  Smith isn't getting it done with a talented team, and that is inexcusable in the cutthroat world of college football.  I think we all know what John's middle initial "L" stands for.  Maybe he should remove the L from his name to avoid embarrassment, and blend in with the rest of society.  Then again, that might be difficult with such a unique name as John Smith.

The NCAA accidentally does the right thing - Much to my surprise, Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn actually have to suffer more punishment than just a transfer of school.  They were ruled ineligible for this season and forced to pay restitution for their ill-received income to charity.  For the record, Rhett transferred to Sam Houston State, while "Just Dumb" Quinn ended up in Montana.   Now, all that the NCAA has to do to get back into my good graces is reverse the way that they handled nearly every other decision that they have ever made.  That, and giving OU the death penalty, issuing a public apology for the crappy officiating in the OU/Oregon game, the UT/Tech game, and granting Jarrett Hicks an extra year of eligibility for making him sit out a quarter of the season for no reason.  Hell, if Dusty Dvoracek can get one for alcoholism, this isn't asking too much.

JoePa gets hurt - While I was not at all happy to see this happen to old Joe, I was far from surprised that it did, considering his career choice at this stage of life.  This kind of stuff happens when you put the elderly in close proximity to potentially dangerous situations.  Especially when the geriatric in question is using enhanced vision spectacles.  It's like leaving an old guy in the Serengeti and giving him a Swiss Army knife with which to fend off predators.  The results are not going to be in favor of the old guy.  That is, unless that person was Chuck Norris.  In that case, several species would become extinct from a roundhouse kick-related epidemic upon the region as Walker, Texas Ranger solidified his place atop the food chain.  And the Swiss Army company would receive a return of an unused knife in the mail along with a note that says "thanks, but no thanks." 

Juggernauts are lucky - Top ten teams Florida, Michigan, and Ohio State almost lost to Vanderbilt, Ball State, and Illinois.  That would have been kind of fun, as I love upsets, and the hype machine would have imploded.  I guess these teams were looking ahead.  The TV execs rejoiced at Ohio State and Michigan pulling out the squeaker wins.  Apparently, Ohio State and Michigan will play against each other this season.  I haven't heard about it.  I wonder if USC and Notre Dame will play as well.  Anyway, I still think that we're headed for a Florida/Ohio State championship game.  Also, I'm still hoping that Rutgers runs the table, beating two top-ten teams, and proves that the BCS absolutely will not let a program with a small fanbase play in the NC due to ratings.  Rutgers and Boise State unfortunately have no chance of playing in the title game this year, or ever.

Franchione is still a bad coach - Just in case anyone was thinking that Denny deserves a bit of credit for A&M's success thus far, Fran decided to prevent A&M from getting a big win over the Sooners.  Sir Snack Cake decided to not even give his team a chance to win the game with two idiotic field goals late in the game while down seven and four points, respectively.  I was wondering what he was thinking by not going for a TD from the 2-yard line with one of the nation's touchdown leaders in the backfield.  On the second field goal with just over two minutes left in the game, I was appalled at how Fran seemed to actually be trying to lose.  I can't even imagine what Aggies were thinking.  Then, just in case the coach's mistakes weren't enough, A&M hands the Sooners a fourth down conversion by having too many men on the field.  Score one for the 12th Man. 


-Trent Wycoff

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


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