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 - Fine, so they beat Notre Dame.  I don't care.  I don't see any reason why they should go to the national title game.  Look at the fourth through eighth games on their schedule.  Three squeaker wins over mediocre Arizona, Washington State, and Washington teams, followed by a loss to a mediocre Oregon State squad.  You're telling me this is a national championship team?  What about Michigan, whose only loss came to the seemingly unbeatable Ohio State Buckeyes?  What about Florida, whose only loss came to a strong Auburn team?  Could Oregon State even stay within two scores of those teams?  The only reason USC might unjustly go to the title game is because they schedule this late Notre Dame media hypefest to build their stock.  I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and forget about USC's previous failures and close calls.  NO USC IN THE TITLE GAME!

Florida - The Gators got the win over a determined Florida State squad in the battle of who had the worst kicker.  I think I heard a stat that Florida's kicker has missed his last eight attempts, and Florida State's guy had missed his last four.  Something tells me that these teams aren't throwing scholarships towards their kicking game.  Chris Leak was impressive, as was Andre Caldwell, his leading receiver for the day.  If they can beat Arkansas in the SEC Championship, I can't think of an argument as to why they shouldn't get a shot at the national title.  Prepare to hear all kinds of crap about USC's decisive win over Notre Dame.  Don't fall for it.  In the grand scheme of things, Florida played a tougher schedule, has at least as many quality wins, and their loss is better.  This asssumes that they will beat Arkansas.  Even if they get it done, they may get screwed over.

LSU - Despite having a propensity to fumble the ball to Arkansas after converting first downs on Friday, the Tigers got a big road win over Arkansas.  It must suck to be an LSU fan, because they are truly a victim of the SEC monster.  Not only did they have to play four top ten opponents this year, they managed to beat two of them.  Four top ten teams.  My God.  That ain't right.  They have got to be up there in the nation's toughest schedules.  Furthermore, the two top ten teams that they lost to (their only two losses) were fairly close games.  The crazy thing is that they aren't even playing for the SEC Championship.  That's how tough that league is.  I'd feel slighted if I were affiliated with the LSU program.  I wonder if they will go to a BCS bowl.  Rutgers and Boise State will be going despite their weak schedules, and that gives LSU a legitimate right to complain.

BYU - The Cougars have quietly put together a nice little season.  John Beck is the best passer in the nation that I have gotten to see, and believe me, I've watched a ton of football this year.  Not Troy Smith, not Brady Quinn, not John David Booty.  I've caught about three or four BYU games this year, and every time he has seriously impressed me.  Beck is one of the players that I like, in that he makes the players around him look better, instead of the other way around.  His passer rating is bested only by Colt Brennan of Hawaii, who I hear good things about.  They don't show enough Hawaii games in Lubbock, Texas for me to form an opinion on Brennan.  I can tell you this, if he is indeed better than Beck, then that guy is good.  John won the game on the last play against Utah today, making what was almost an impossible throw across his body.  The kid can play.

Oklahoma - As much as I hate to do it, I have to give Paul Thompson and Bob Stoops some credit for putting together a season that got them to the Big 12 Championship.  Granted, they had some Aggie-related help, but to lose your starting QB and starting receiver and still win the Big 12 South is an accomplishment.  Thompson is a better quarterback than I gave him credit for, and Stoops deserves some recognition for pulling the team together.  That said, the university still should be deemed as having a lack of institutional control.  Give them the death penalty.  While we're at it, give OU fan Toby Keith the death penalty as well.  After all, he represents everything wrong with the Republican party.  Michael Moore fits that bill for the Democratic party, and is also deserving of the death penalty.  Damn, I'm kind of sadistic.  I blame politics.


On the Decline:

West Virginia - D'oh!  South Florida pulled one over on the Mountaineers in Morgantown on Saturday.  Just in case you thought that West Virginia fans had learned how to be real fans with their recent winning ways, they booed with ferocity in this game.  This came during a game in which quarterback Pat White was playing through pain.  Classy, Mountaineer fans.  Go start a riot.  Forget the fact that the dynamic duo of Slaton and White will be back next season to possibly take you even further than they did this year.  Boo them for having one mediocre game.  That's what real fans do.  Go ahead and boo Rich Rodriguez as well, because he's done absolutely nothing for your program.  Anyway, give USF some credit.  They almost beat Rutgers earlier this year, and are well on their way to a bowl game.  Well done, South Florida.  Your program is on the rise.  Keep it up.

Texas - The Longhorns have taken themselves out of chances at the national title, a BCS berth, and a conference championship in just two games.  This came against Kansas State and A&M.  Win one out of two of those games, and they go to the conference title game.  Did that sound like a difficult task on November 10th?  Colt McCoy played a poor game.  The announcers were making excuses for him by saying that he was still hurt from the KSU game.  (This was prior to the A&M cheap shot and the injury that followed, which I will cover later in the article.)  If he was that hurt, then he shouldn't have been playing.  If he wasn't hurt, then he just flat-out had a bad game.  Snead is a capable replacement, especially with the 20/20 hindsight that Colt would throw 3 INTs.  I understand that McCoy is a competitor, but sometimes you have to put the team needs first. 

Oklahoma State - Wow, the Cowboys are bad at winning close games.  They have lost every game decided by nine points or less this season.  Failure in the clutch will not produce a good season.  I've figured out why they keep blowing it late in games.  Stupidity.  At least that was the case today.  There was far too much Zac Robinson in the game, and that's not hindsight.  I was yelling that at the TV throughout the entire game.  Bobby Reid is plenty talented, and Zac Robinson isn't the Tim Tebow change-of-pace QB that they think he is.  It was the most surprising on the last drive, when they had a chance to drive down and win.  They put the guy with more experience on the bench, and threw a Freshman out there to try and win a huge game.  It's not like they are getting him ready to take over, either.  Reid is a Sophomore.  Oklahoma State just blew it.

Florida State - Fire Bobby Bowden!  This is great stuff.  Watching how miserable and defeated he was in the postgame interview brought a smile to my face.  Hell, I can't help but smile right now just by thinking about it.  It wasn't a good year for the Florida ACC teams.  Coker got fired the day after his team pulled a big upset over Boston College.  Ouch.  Can we say scapegoat firing?  I agree that his football program was full of criminals, but since when has the Hurricanes team not been like that?  His record was good at least, at 59-15, with two national championship appearances and one title.  Who will they go after?  More importantly, who actually wants the job?  If I had to guess, I'd say that they will either hire a talented coach from a smaller school a la Mike Price/UTEP, or get some good assistant coach who could be a head coach like Gene Chizik from UT.  I wish.

Oregon - The Ducks finished out the year strong.  Three straight losses sure does end the season on a high note.  They made an Oklahoma State-esque boneheaded QB decision by starting Brady Leaf Saturday against Oregon State.  Think about it.  He's a Leaf.  They have an unfavorable reputation in football for a reason.  At least Dennis Dixon is an explosive athlete.  Give him a chance.  Dixon will make mistakes, but he'll also create plays.  Leaf just makes mistakes.  They went with the urine-yellow jerseys today in an effort to reclaim the ugliest jersey award from Cal's yellow disaster.  All that Phil Knight money and all of those nice facilities can't buy the wins or a bit of fashion sense.  Here's hoping the same holds true for Oklahoma State and the Boone Pickens cash.  Good luck to OSU with making the traffic cone orange look appealing on days other than Halloween. 


The Unknowns:

Texas Tech - Did we drop a bowl spot because Texas lost?  Who knows.  We lost a spot in the conference standings, which was no fun.  One thing I am proud of, though, is the way that we finished the year, especially considering all of the teams that folded this week.  It's out of our hands now until our bowl game.  Will it be in El Paso?  Shreveport?  San Antonio?  Tempe?  I don't even have the first clue.  Here's hoping that the prospect of Texas' t-shirt fans gets them a Gator Bowl invite, because that's the only thing that I can think of that would help us out for sure.  One thing we have going for us is entertainment value.  Unless we're facing an incredible defense like in last year's Cotton Bowl, we tend to put on a good show with our explosive offense and draw big ratings.  Even most who dislike Texas Tech admit that our team is fun to watch when it is at full steam.

Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights are going BCS-ing, which is going to draw a little criticism from whichever of those SEC few-loss teams gets snubbed from the BCS.  Let's face it, the Big East fizzled down the stretch.  There were three supposed national title contenders from the conference.  Two of those teams lost to mediocre opponents in Pittsburgh and South Florida.  And, once again, here we are, with a questionable BCS bid from the Big East.  I like the program's story and all, but I think even some Rutgers fans would have to admit that some of the snubbed teams could beat them up and down the field.  I'm wondering if the BCS will think harder about rescinding the Big East's automatic bid if Rutgers lays a egg in their bowl game.  I have no doubt that the Big East is improving.  I'm just not sure that they're to the point where they'll always field a good champion yet.

Louisville - The Cardinals are arguably the best Big East team, but they won't go to a BCS game.  And LSU might be the second-best SEC team, but they won't play in the conference championship.  I guess that it doesn't always work out the way that it should.  As an example, somehow, our boys ended up 7-5.  (bangs head against wall)  Anyway, Louisville has come up with a good team with Brohm back at QB and a potent stable of running backs.  Mario Urrutia had a big receiving day as well, with 144 yards and a touchdown.  Maybe it's just me, but Urrutia sounds like a disease.  I'll be honest, I have no clue about the etymology of his name or how to pronounce it.  Is it like minutiae?  Okay, so I just wanted to throw a big word in there to sound smart.  However, if you've read my articles before, you've probably already figured out that this isn't the case.

Wake Forest - How did the ACC end up with Wake Forest and Georgia Tech playing for the championship?  Oh, that's right; Miami is a bunch of criminals and Florida State is coached by senility.  Boston College can't close out games, Clemson was overrated all year long, and Virginia Tech lost to the wrong team.  Is Wake Forest good enough to win a major conference championship?  Perhaps, but what does that make the rest of the conference?  Sure, they had a decent season, but they're still the Demon Deacons. had a trivia in one of their articles about naming one player on the Demon Deacons' roster.  I failed.  I felt a little ignorant at that moment, but then I realized that the media hasn't even spoken of Wake Forest throughout the year.  They're too busy trying to convince everyone that USC deserves a shot at the national title.

Boise State - Can a team that wins all its games not be deserving of a BCS bid?  Utah and Hawaii are about as close to a quality win as they got.  The rest of their schedule is littered with the likes of Idaho, Sacramento State, and Nevada.  Don't get me wrong; they're a decent team.  Ian Johnson is an underrated back, and Zabransky is a capable QB.  That said, the blue field is still cheesy.  I'm not much on the novelty-type stuff.  I have decided to refer to them as the Smurfs until they decide to get rid of the oddly colored field.  If they lose their BCS game, I will call them the Smurfettes.  Then again, Smurfs are asexual.  And Papa Smurf didn't create Smurfette, Gargamel did.  She was sent in as Gargamel's evil spy with the intention of destroying the Smurf village, but the overwhelming goodness of the Smurf way of life transformed her.  Don't get it?  See Donnie Darko.


Random (and possibly offensive) Thoughts:

Upsets - I expected a few upsets this week with all of the big rivalry games, but holy hell.  Clemson loses to South Carolina at home, UT loses to A&M at home, West Virginia loses to South Florida at home, Arkansas loses to LSU at home, Miami beats Boston College, Georgia beats Georgia Tech.  There could have been more, as Tennessee barely beat Kentucky, Florida won a close  FSU, Oklahoma squeezed by OSU, and BYU beat Utah on the last play of the game.  My remote was working overtime on Saturday.  At one point, I had to choose between watching USF pull an upset, seeing if UF would pull it out over FSU, keeping tabs on the bedlam game, and watching our basketball team defeat UTEP.  I mostly watched the basketball game, mainly so I could see Knight peddle television sets, drilling, insurance, and dog food because he's a sellout.  At least we won.

Gimmick offense - As a Texas Tech fan, I have heard the gimmick label attached to our offense over the years by ignorant national media outlets just because we pass more than almost anyone else.  We don't run a bunch of trick plays, nor do we have ridiculous formations or strange personnel in on a bunch of our plays.  You want to see gimmicky plays?  Go watch the tape of the Nebraska game against Colorado.  On fourth down, NU ran a direct snap to their safety while the quarterback did the distraction of supposedly walking off to give up on the play.  They also ran a fake FG during that game, and kept doing that pre-snap formation shifting.  Want more examples?  How about Arkansas' "wildcat" thing where McFadden takes the snap as the quarterback while rarely attempting a pass?  How about Oklahoma State's late sideline playcalling?  How about all of Kansas State's halfback passes against UT last week?  How about the Florida QB switcheroo with Tebow and Leak?  I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with running this type of stuff, I'm just pointing out that if our offense is supposedly gimmicky, then what the hell are all of those plays?  The simple fact is, most of this stuff is just innovative offense, and is one of the reasons that college football is more fun to watch than the uniformity of most of the offenses in the pros.  No more gimmick labeling.  Man Law.

An interesting week of football - Normally, when UT loses, and there are multiple upsets, it's a good week for me.  However, the UT loss dropped us a place in the Big 12 South, and threw a complete kink in the mix of the Big 12 bowl selection.  I expended quite a bit of energy trying to figure out who to root for in Saturday's games to get TTU the best bowl bid.  I couldn't decide whether to root for OU or OSU in the Bedlam game, because I couldn't figure out if an OU win or loss would help the chances of a Big 12 team going to the Gator Bowl.  After further confusing myself with Big East conference standings and comparing their teams versus ours, I finally decided to just root for the team that I disliked the least.  This also proved troublesome, as I found myself thinking, "I can't root for that" every time their band played Boomer Sooner or that stupid prolonged note that they love to do.  Then, I would see OSU fans giving the "pistols up" and Boone Pickens' ugly mug, and I would think "I can't root for that, either."  So I just decided to stop worrying about it and watch some football, whilst cringing often in the Bedlam Game.  I made a giant bowl of Frito Pie, which may very well have been the greatest meal ever devised by man in all of it's 10,000-calorie glory, and engorged myself in front of many great games.  At least my remote hand got a workout from checking up on so many close games.  I can't remember a week like this, in which there were so many games decided on a final drive.  It was really entertaining, and I wish that I had spent less time worrying about bowls and just enjoyed the sport.  After all, the bowl committees are the ones who decide anyway, so it's really not worth giving a rat's ass about in the end.

UT/A&M extended analysis - I began Friday by losing a little bit of my hetero street cred for accidentally catching about three minutes of "The View" prior to the UT/A&M game.  I also discovered a hilarious facebook group comparing Colt McCoy to Butters.  However, Colt was more like Professor Chaos for UT against A&M with his three interceptions.  Here's a small visual aid that I did.  Anyway, A&M managed to score first in the game, but blew the extra point in what can only be explained as an effort to entertain me.  The announcers then obsessed over Bevo, who is drugged up as much as he can be without collapsing.  Then, one of the commentators says the dumbest thing ever about the Aflac duck, saying "How did that duck survive thanksgiving?"  The co-commentator's response was classic: "Well, he's not a turkey."  Somebody needs some practice with the See N' Say.  Perhaps Vince Young can help him out, since mastering that device was his major in college.  The strange thing about the game was that Texas actually wasn't getting the calls.  Welcome to your opponent's usual world.  The officials missed a few offsides calls, and the offensive pass interference call that negated a TD will be talked about in Austin for a while.  I personally wouldn't have called it, but I understand why they did since Sweed's hands were on the facemask of the A&M defender.  The next play, Butters threw an awful pass that two A&M defenders could have intercepted, and one of them made the play to keep points off the board.  I'm fairly sure that Mack started clapping after that play.  Martellus Bennett made one play that I can remember, and somehow managed to get injured.  This seems to happen often, so either he is just a complete pansy, or his body is under some serious strain from being a two-sport star.  And we know the latter can't be true.  Anyway, A&M managed to score a late TD which ended up being the game-winner, and in doing so, proved my prediction for the game to be way off.  Also, Kellen Heard takes a blatant cheap shot on McCoy way after a play ended, which really was uncalled for and slightly reaggravated his shoulder/neck injury.  Shortly after, an A&M commercial came on about honor and integrity.  Then, Colt got injured even worse on another hit, but at least this one was somewhat legal.  I'm never happy to see injuries (unless they happen to Terrell Owens or Jeremy Shockey), but I wasn't particularly shocked to see McCoy get hurt.  I think that Colt weighs approximately 91 pounds, so I was a bit surprised that he lasted this long in a league as physical as the Big 12.  That said, I truly wish him the best with a speedy recovery, as I actually kind of like the kid.  Texas' last hopes were dashed on a late interception that came because Sweed ran a lazy route.  So Texas simultaneously loses their BCS hopes and a Big 12 title shot, but our beloved Red Raiders drop to fourth in the South.  It's no fun having Aggies who aren't known as PsychoAg thinking that they don't suck again, but at least Fran is going to stick around for a little longer now.  So at least we've got that going for us.  That, and Scoreboard.


-Trent Wycoff

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

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