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.

On the Rise:

USC - They beat Cal, which wasn't entirely surprising considering the trends of the Pac-10.  What bothers me is that people are actually talking about USC deserving a shot at the title game.  They lost to Oregon freaking State.  I can name seven teams who have one loss to a far better opponent.  Florida (lost to Auburn), Arkansas (lost to USC), Michigan (lost to Ohio State), Wisconsin (lost to Michigan), Louisville (lost to Rutgers), Notre Dame (lost to Michigan), and West Virginia (lost to Louisville).  And several of those teams played a tougher schedule.  USC is getting some serious points for just being USC, and that is complete B.S.  I guess I can take comfort in the fact that it's not Texas in their place instead.  Nothing would make me happier than USC losing to UCLA to close out their year.  Except maybe an OU death penalty, or proof of UT paying refs.

Florida - The Gators won huge over the weekend in a 62-0 shellacking of the Western Carolina Catamounts.  (I had to look up what a catamount was, and apparently it's just a fancy word for a puma.)  Anyway, the numbers in the game sound made up.  For one, W. Carolina had only 59 total yards in the game to Florida's 582.  So apparently, Florida is almost ten times as good as Western Carolina. Then, the QB comparisons were oddly rounded off and proportional, as if they were trying to prove that Tim Tebow is twice as good as Chris Leak.  Tebow threw for exactly 200 yards, with an average of 16.7 yards an attempt and two touchdowns.  Leak threw for 100 yards with an average of 8.3 yards an attempt and one touchdown.  It's like on NCAA '07 when I get really OCD and start trying to get the receivers equal touches or a certain number of passing or rushing yards.

Arkansas - I'm pretty surprised that the Razorbacks are going to play for the SEC Championship.  I'm not even going to pretend that I saw this one coming.  Then again, Darren McFadden is really good.  They have a seemingly tough game coming up against LSU this week, but if Ole Miss can almost beat the Tigers, then anyone can.  I'll probably root for LSU in that one.  I can't find myself saying "go hoggies" without feeling like I just beat up a small child.  Not that I do stuff like that.  Although, it would have been a retaliatory and slightly justified strike considering that there was a kid pretending my back was a damned soccer ball during the Oklahoma State game.  Arkansas has a legitimate shot at making a BCS bowl if they win one of their next two games.  Especially if it's that major conference championship thing.  I bet that will improve their odds substantially.

Ohio State - Well, I was right about Ohio State beating Michigan.  I was wrong about it being so close.  It wasn't the greatest game ever, though.  Take away the #1 vs. #2 and "programs with tradition" hype, and look at the actual game itself.  It wasn't that great.  Good, but not great.  In fact, you could even argue that our game against Oklahoma State was just interesting, if not more so, from an entertainment standpoint.  Our game featured two explosive offenses and came down to the very last play, and it wasn't even televised.  Still, Michigan kept it close enough to where the "rematch" talk is going to annoy me for the next month or so.  Hooray.  It's going to be that and USC/Notre Dame.  I can't wait to hear about these programs so I can get to know more about their history and why I should appreciate their greatness.  I'm really looking forward to it.

Kansas - The Jayhawks are bowl-eligible with their big win over Kansas State on Saturday.  That game was a turnover-fest, with ten of them in the game.  On a sad note, a person was killed in a car accident in a bus that was headed to watch the game.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, the aforementioned KSU fan probably wouldn't have wanted to watch his team commit six turnovers and lose to KU anyway.  Also, one of the KSU DBs was seriously injured during the game and taken off on a stretcher, but apparently was seen moving his left leg.  It was just a bad week for Kansas State, but at least they can rewatch the tape of the Texas game to cheer up.  And Mangino always has those triple meat cheeseburgers topped with hot dogs and chili as comfort food.  That, or anything else below Mangino on the food chain.  Which includes, uh, everything on Earth.


On the Decline:

Rutgers -  D'oh!   Rutgers lost to Cincinnati when the Bearcats played with a QB who had never started a game before.  It isn't like they barely lost, either.  Rutgers was behind for most of the game.  It was pitiful.  Maybe the football program was too busy worrying about how they were going to spend their new cash.  Cincinnati isn't known for being good at football at any level.  And what the hell is a bearcat?  I looked it up, and apparently that is a real animal.  That said, bearcats are far from indigenous to Ohio.  However, it still sounds logical when compared with Sam Houston's BearKat, which they claim "denotes a mythical creature."  It's mythical, alright; mainly because everyone else knows how to spell the word "cat."  Anyway, Rutgers can still go BCS if they beat Syracuse and WVU, but if they can't get it done, then the Cinderella story is officially over. 

Missouri -  Missouri has taken a nose dive in the last half of the season, giving Iowa State their first Big 12 win.  I tried to read about the game, but I don't think that ESPN covered the right game.   Anyway, the Tigers have dropped four out of their last five, and taken themselves from Big 12 title contender to middle of the pack in a few short weeks.  Whoops.  Still, as Red Raiders, we need them to lose to Kansas next week to stay ahead of them in the bowl selection process.  (Side note: My thanks to Iowa State and Kansas for helping us out on Saturday with their upsets.)  This proves that young QBs seem to all have to deal with the same break-in period.  Colt McCoy is the only QB out of all the young Big 12 guys who has really had significant success, and much of that can arguably be attributed to his supporting cast.  And even he injured his vagina last week.

Iowa -  Okay, so Iowa isn't as good as I thought that they were.  I had them pegged as a Big Ten contender before the season started.  Instead, they lost five out of their last six to move to 6-6 on the season.  I couldn't believe that Drew Tate did not take his team further this year.  Tate is an emotional player, for better and worse, and it seems that this season was more of the worse.  When playing well, he's one of those guys that the other players rally around, but when playing poorly, he can cause the players around him to get down on themselves.  Still, the team is more than one player, and the season's problems were much bigger than Drew.  Their offense was not as potent as expected, and their defense did just a serviceable job.  Also, I had expected a better coaching job from Kirk Ferentz.  This is starting to sound familiar.  Iowa may even meet us in a bowl.

Miami - The Hurricanes have officially made it to where it isn't even fun to give them a hard time anymore.  I'm feeling nothing but pity for them these days, not just because of what happened to Pata, but because they can't even win games anymore.  I don't even want to watch the Boston College/Miami game, because I won't like the result no matter what happens.  I don't want to see Boston College kick Miami while they're down, nor do I want to see Miami defeat a Boston College team who I have a growing affinity for.  I propose that they just don't play this game and the Hurricanes forfeit.  Miami has bigger fish to fry right now than a football game, and BC doesn't want or need to play this one.  Everyone would understand if the Hurricanes sat this one out to get things back in order and let the players have time both to think and pay their respects to Pata.

Oregon - The Ducks are on a tailspin back to mediocrity.  Uniform karma.  Once again, it has turned out that the conference has earned the Pac-1 label.  California is now 9-3 and Oregon has dropped to 7-4.  And this isn't a bunch of juggernauts beating each other up like in the SEC or Big Ten.  It's a few overrated teams losing to mediocre opponents.  I'd love for Tech to get another shot at Cal in the Holiday Bowl, although there an extremely slim chance that we will make it into that game unless the Holiday Bowl selection committee really feels like scheduling the rematch.  I think we could possibly pull a 2004 all over again.  Bet on the Big 12 team in the Holiday Bowl.  That is, unless Texas A&M is playing and Franchione has to make a decision on converting a short-yardage play or going for a field goal.  We all know that's got disaster written all over it.


The Unknowns:

Texas Tech - It's been a weird ride this season, even more so than usual.  Losing to Colorado and giving Texas and OU all they can handle?  I don't get it.  The only thing I know for sure is that we are an extremely dangerous team to play because you never know who is going to show up.  This makes us a tough bowl team because we are difficult to prepare for.  However, it would be nice for Red Raider fans to be able to experience a bit more consistency from our team.  The good thing about this season is that we worked through some adversity, and thus, both our coaching staff and players appear to have learned quite a bit from it.  With the young talent that we have on both sides of the ball, we are setting up for a strong future if we can get the team to come together in the next few offseasons.  Until then, we need to practice hard and learn what we can.

BYU - The Cougars are headed to the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl, which to me seems a pretty lowly bowl game for how talented BYU appears to be.  I'm not sure if Mormons gamble or not, so Vegas might not be much fun for BYU anyway.  Also, these bowl names are getting ridiculously long and giving me headaches from reading too many words.  This one follows the Company Name + Product Line + City formula.  However, it's got nothing on the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which follows the City/County + Non-Profit Cooperative Financial Institution + Sub-Tropical Plant formula.  They should make the naming process for bowls be filled in on letter boxes with only twenty spots.  You know, those ones that your full name or address never seems to fit on.  Let's subject these sponsoring companies to the same limitations.  It's only fair.

LSU - It's hard to rag on a team whose only losses have come to the #3 and #5 teams.  However, the Tigers almost lost to a pathetic Ole Miss team at home, which raises a bit of a red flag in my book.  Although, LSU has a bright future with QB commit Jarrett Lee.  I wouldn't be surprised at all if Lee leads them to a national championship.  I've seen this kid play, and he is the real deal.  Apparently, they also have commitments from guys named T-Bob Hebert and Todderick Bajoie.  Okay, seriously, T-Bob?  Were his parents expecting to give birth to a steak or something?  On to Todderick.  I guess they had trouble picking between Todd, Derick, Eric, and Rick, so they just covered all their bases.  And Bajoie sounds like some Cajun soup.  Mmm....Cajun.  I think I might have to head over to Jazz tonight.  Or maybe just eat some Zatarain's Jambalaya Ready to Serve Rice.

Oklahoma - The Sooners are 9-2 with the always interesting Bedlam game coming up.  Peterson is supposedly not ready to go yet, but I doubt Stoops would go around telling everyone if he was.  It's going to feel awfully weird rooting for Oklahoma since a possible Gator Bowl invite for the Sooners would help our bowl selection.  Also, my love for Texas Tech is greater than my hatred of the Sooners.  And that's saying a lot.  I'll be impressed if Oklahoma can get a decisive win over the Cowboys in Stillwater.  After all, at this point, OSU has absolutely nothing to lose and a bowl invite to protect in addition to the already potent rivalry.  The OU/OSU game is a better game than it gets credit for.  Since 1995, OSU has won five games and OU has won six.  By competitiveness, that has the TTU-A&M game beat.  TTU eight (nine if you count this year), A&M three.  Owned.

Boise State - Well, they have run the table so far and have an automatic invite to the BCS if they win this weekend.  Yet, they managed to not play a ranked opponent their entire season, which raises some worthiness questions.  Like it or not, everyone is going to judge their entire season based on their BCS game.  Right now, they are projected in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas, which would be interesting to say the least.  That game would be the matchup of a school that gets all the credit in the world vs. a school that is having to fight for every ounce of respect that they get.  I only see two possible scenarios in that possible game.  Texas takes them seriously and beats them by four or five touchdowns in the worst BCS game of all time, or Boise State takes advantage of UT's complacency, pulls a Kansas State, and gets the upset that embarrasses UT to no end.


Random (and possibly offensive) Thoughts:

Ole Miss tried not to suck - The Rebs almost beat LSU.  The key word being almost.  How is Ole Miss 3-8?  I realize that the SEC is a tough conference, but come on, you guys have the potential to be a good team.  I've seen you do it.  Ole Miss' RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his ridiculous name was held to only 96 yards, which generally means that their offense struggled.  He is their star player, after all.  I found out that they are recruiting a QB named Cannon Smith, which is fun.  It would be even more fun even his weakness is arm strength.  Anyway, apparently he will play in the Army All-American game in San Antonio, which we at the RP staff plan on attending.  That should be fun.  I'm looking forward to seeing Gerald Jones in action.  That should be good times, and perhaps Swoff can reclaim his shuffleboard title.  I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Navy makes a feeble attempt at a cover-up - Well, a few Navy players admitted to taking steroids, but the testing that would have proved it was delayed until after the drugs had enough time to disappear from the players' systems.  Did they actually think that no one would figure out this genius strategy?  They need to take some spin control and cover-up lessons from UT, since they're so incredibly good at it.  Exhibit A Exhibit B.  At least now I can take comfort in the fact that our military isn't getting away with all kinds of giant conspiracies.  Except for that Area 51.  That place totally exists.  They have to protect the hangar where they filmed the moon landing and hid that spaceship.  That is, unless those guys with guns just stand in the hot sun and divert traffic around part of Nevada for no particular reason.  You figure out which sentence is sarcasm.

Big 12 apologizes for blown call (since it didn't involve UT) - Apparently, the officials screwed the pooch again in the Missouri-Iowa State game.  The surprising thing was that the conference admitted a mistake.  I guess as long it doesn't have any effect on a "flagship school," they can actually tell the truth.  And, since this game wasn't televised and got little exposure outside of those people who were actually at the game, I guess they figured it would be okay.  Not that I'm actually complaining too much, since the call in question apparently kept Missouri from winning the game and still possibly finishing below us in the bowl selection process.  Texas A&M will finish below us in the conference standings when they lose to UT, but it's going to be up the selection committees as to how much their joke of a non-conference schedule matters.  Good thing they beat Army.

Missouri gives Pinkel raise after losing two straight games and prior to losing to ISU - They might have been a little preemptive with this one, especially if Missouri loses to an upstart Kansas team.  Here's what I don't get.  Missouri had a great start, but is fizzling down the stretch.  To me, that implies a poor job of coaching.  Teams should get better towards the end of the year.  And what kind of timing is that?  At least wait until the end of the season to evaluate him.  It would be like A&M evaluating Franchione directly after his fun non-conference games.  Just because he hadn't really failed yet (other than the Army scare) doesn't mean that he won't later in the year.  Although TAMU should really renew Fran's contract.  I think he is the best thing to happen to the Aggies in years.  And so does every other team in the Big 12 that likes seeing them continually waste talent.

Steve Spurrier back to the state of Florida? - Apparently, Spurrier was supposed to take the hypothetical coaching vacancy at Miami earlier this week.  This was a rumor that exploded into near-fact, and was then put down by both Miami and Spurrier.  Miami apparently wants to keep Coker around for some reason, and Spurrier is reportedly happy at South Carolina.  Supposedly, he believes that he will get a SEC championship at the lesser USC.  Good luck with that, since you'll be fighting an uphill battle in recruiting in the toughest conference in the nation.  Anyway, the big story here for me was how this b.s. got exacerbated by the media.  I also heard that Colt McCoy and Cedric Benson saved lives with their superhuman heroic abilities to inform outside parties of semi-life-threatening events.  No one made those stories out to be more than they were, either. 


-Trent Wycoff

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

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