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:

Florida - Hooray for Florida!  They made it into the national championship game with the combination of a good win over Arkansas and the miserable failure of USC.  Honestly, Florida/Ohio State is the best title game anyway.  USC would have folded against OSU, and the game would have not been close or interesting.  I think Florida's speedy defense matches up better against Ohio State's offense, and Florida's multiple threat offense might give the stout Buckeyes D a rare test with their different sets.  There aren't many offenses that are as creative as UF's in the Big Ten, so don't be surprised to see a good Ohio State defense have some trouble.  Ohio State will win if they can get their passing attack going, but I think it will be a better game than many expect.  It should be an exciting game, one of the best out of all the bowls, which is the way the NC should be.

Michigan - The Wolverines moved up this week without even playing because USC folded to a mediocre team for the second time this year.  Now, they get to face these same Trojans in a USC home game at the Rose Bowl.  If this game were played anywhere else, I'd pick Michigan with confidence.  However, it should still be an interesting game.  Mike Hart is a great running back, but he won't be able to run as easily on USC as most will think.  USC's secondary is their weakness, so if Mario Manningham and Steve Breaston can punish the coverage, then Michigan wins.  Expect lots of points in this one despite the talent on both defenses, as the field will be littered with some real playmakers.  I'm still going to go with the Wolverines in this game, even if it is a home game for the Prophylactics.  It will be close, and should make for a fun shootout.

LSU - Well, the college football universe righted itself for the Tigers, as they were able to make it into a BCS game thanks to Florida and USC.  They deserved it with the way that they finished off the year.  LSU now gets to match up with a Notre Dame team that hasn't won a bowl game since 1994.  Wait, does this mean that the Fighting Irish are usually overrated and get more credit than anyone else in football?  NO WAY!!  I'm inclined to think that Notre Dame won't win this one either, as they don't have the defense to stop a dangerous Tiger offense led by underappreciated quarterback JaMarcus Russell.  LSU, on the other hand, does have a defense that can rattle Brady Quinn and throw ND out of sync.  I like LSU in this one by double digits.  Brady Quinn needs to have a strong performance to keep up his draft stock, which will fall substantially with a loss.

Wake Forest - Wake Forest wins the ACC in football.  Demon Deacon fans didn't even see that one coming before this season.  They beat Georgia Tech in an extremely boring game without a touchdown.  The final score was 9-6, with a total of 564 yards of offense for both teams.  We've had more passing yards than that before.  The Demon Deacons are going to a BCS game, which sounds ridiculous in most seasons.  Still, give them credit.  The Demon Deacons got the job done, with their only two losses coming against ranked Clemson and Virginia Tech teams.  They will play Navy in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.  Maybe George Foreman will make an appearance.  Then again, I guess he's focused more on grills these days.  Can the Demon Deacons stop QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada?  More importantly, did I spell his name right?  I won't even pretend I can pronounce it.

Oklahoma - The Sooners keep winning games.  I had thought that the Huskers would put up a better showing the the Big 12 Championship, but they didn't get it done.  Oklahoma controlled the entire ball game, and as much as I hate to admit it, Stoops' coaching has been spectacular this season.  And to top it off, he likely gets AD back for the bowl game.  I'd bet my firstborn that Peterson plays.  It's a safe bet, because I don't want kids anyway.  Go to Wal-Mart, and you'll understand why.  Also, the last thing we need is a bunch of little Trents running around.  Anyway, on paper it appears that Oklahoma will win handily against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.  It all comes down to whether or not the Sooners take the Broncos as seriously as they should.  I'm expecting somewhere around 200 yards for Peterson.  I think this will be either a blowout or a huge upset.


On the Decline:

USC - D'oh!  Haha, this was great.  UCLA stops the hype machine in its tracks and makes most of the so-called great football analysts look like complete idiots.  I didn't hear anybody admit their overestimation of USC, either, which was weak.  I make mistakes.  I accidentally confused Arkansas' QB with someone else last week, and I had forgotten about the Big East's final games.  My bad.  It happens.  At least I have the character to admit it.  I redeemed myself with my national title game prediction and the fact that USC was undeserving of all their credit.   I'll get to that later, but odds are that I won't get the same emails about what I get right as I did last week for my errors.  ESPN's Pardon The Interruption is the only other form of sports media that I can think of who gives themselves accountability.  So points for them, points for me, and no points for USC.

Texas - How do you go from a national title shot to the Alamo Bowl in two games?  Ask Texas.  It just happened to them.  I guess this sort of thing happens when you get beaten by a Kansas State team who promptly gets blown out by Kansas in the next game.  Now, UT steals our bowl spot because they blew it late in the season.  Thanks.  Iowa is a team that could beat UT, since Texas has had the "we're too good to try" syndrome as of late.  Drew Tate needs to get it done, though.  Also, the Greg Davis monster keeps rearing its head with super-awesome offensive coordinating.  Mack Brown's clapping isn't working, either.  Gene Chizik is bailing while he can, so who knows what will happen with the UT D, which is coming off a tough year.  Jevan Snead is transferring, even though McCoy is a walking stick figure waiting to get snapped.  All is not well in Longhorn Land.  Aww, shucks.

Nebraska - The Huskers did not impress in the Big 12 Championship.  What I had thought would be a good game was nothing more than a turnover-fest by Nebraska.  Zac Taylor was off his game, completing less than half of his passes.  Nebraska also needed more production out of their running game than they got.  Even a defense as talented as theirs never stood a chance with all of the bad positions that they were put in by the offense.  Still, the Huskers are headed to a very intriguing Cotton Bowl game against Auburn.  If you ask me, this will be one of the best games out of all of the bowls.  Nebraska and Auburn's hard-hitting defenses should make it fun to watch for fans of physical play.  This is an SEC fan's dream matchup.  I'm guessing that it will be a hard-fought, low-scoring game, much like last year's Cotton Bowl.  Hopefully, they have better luck.

Kansas State - Following an embarrassingly lopsided loss to Kansas, the Wildcats should be ready to make a good showing in the Texas Bowl against Rutgers.  This is a dangerous game for the Scarlet Knights, who are likely going to be disheartened after their tough overtime loss to West Virginia.  Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lack of motivation to play against Kansas State after thinking BCS for the last month or so.  While Rutgers is probably the better team, I'm expecting this to be a close game because the Wildcats have nothing to lose, and Rutgers has everything to lose.  Josh Freeman must rebound from his horrid six-turnover outing against Kansas, so expect an inspired effort from him.  However, Ray Rice should be able to just run all over the Kansas State defense if he is given the chance.  Whoever can minimize their mistakes wins this one.

Hawaii - Well, they had won nine games in a row prior to Saturday, and had crept into the Top 25.  Now, they're right back out.  After this loss, they're headed to....wait for it....the Hawaii Bowl!  I don't think a vacation to Hawaii means as much if you already live in Hawaii.  I wonder if they dream about dust storms, snow, and the easy living in Texas.  While there is a Texas Bowl, which is in a Houston climate that is like Hawaii plus pollution, there's no Lubbock Bowl.  Maybe there should be.  Call it the Raider Bowl. Hell, if a pizza company's website can get a bowl, why not?  (Somewhere, an A&M fan makes a highly original TTU/pizza delivery joke after reading this.)  Anyway, I guess pure home field advantage helps out the Warriors, much like USC will have with the Rose Bowl and New Mexico will have with guessed it....New Mexico Bowl.  Yahoo.


The Unknowns:

Texas Tech - Hello Insight Bowl.  We will play the Minnesota Golden Gophers, which makes this our newest adversary.  Call me crazy, but that isn't particularly intimidating.  Maybe it's the "I wish I was Mighty Mouse" pose in which he looks to be in mid-sprint.  Up, Up, and Away!  Wait, gophers can't fly.  Furthermore, he's wearing a sweater without pants or underwear.  He's exposing himself.  Arrest him.  Perhaps they just caught him in a bad pose, so I looked for more pictures and discovered this.  Apparently, he also doubles as The Fonz.  And in this picture, he looks as casual as I've ever seen someone look who forgot to put on pants.  The football teams' abilities are not going to decide the game, like some people think.  It's going to come down to Flamboyant Bucktoothed Rodent vs. Yosemite Sam.  My bet is on Raider Red.  He has guns.  Fake guns.  Oh yes.

Louisville - The Cardinals are in fact headed to a BCS game with the Big East's automatic BCS bid.  They handed Connecticut a beat down on Saturday, which proves.....uh, I'll have to get back to you on that one.  Go PapaJohns Cardinal Stadium home-field advantage.  After the game, Brian Brohm had a Yoda-esque quote of "adversity, we've been able to overcome it."  The only adversity that I know of that Louisville has faced this year is Michael Bush's injury.  Oklahoma wins the adversity award, but everything other than the Oregon officiating was their fault, so I don't have much sympathy for them.  Anyway, Louisville had a good season other than the big Rutgers upset, so I guess they deserve the BCS bid.  The Big East automatic BCS bid worthiness argument is quieted for a while, but it will likely resume next season unless there's a repeat performance.

Oregon State - The Beavers' game against Oregon was filled with all kids of fun names, as both OSU and Hawaii hit up the East Coast Samoan recruiting pool fairly regularly.  There were all kinds of vowels on the back of the players' jerseys, complete with a variety of hyphens and apostrophes.  Somehow, the Beavers played thirteen games this year, so their nine wins becomes less impressive.  Still, in the Hawaii game, their quarterback Matt Moore outshined the supposedly great Colt Brennan.  This game didn't end until past 2 a.m. here, which is apparently past the bedtime of ESPN's statisticians, so I can't provide the supporting stats.  I'm too lazy to bring up another sports website.  The mouse is really heavy, and I just don't have that kind of energy because I stayed up to watch this game.  I promise that Moore was the better quarterback.'s honor.

California - Cal's matchup with A&M in the Holiday Bowl intrigues me.  For one, Cal isn't good at defense, but A&M can't throw the ball.  A&M just remembered how to play some defense, but the late hits need to go.  Cal hasn't really faced a team that likes to be as physical as TAMU.  The Aggies are probably the better team, but they have the Franchione liability factor, so who knows.  Rushing offenses aren't really popular in the Pac-10, so the Ags have the differentiation factor.  Then again, all that it would take for Cal to win the game is a potent passing attack, which they sort of have.  They could guarantee themselves a win if they wore Red Raider jerseys.  Burn!  Then again, Texas Tech apparel is probably not too popular around Berkeley after 2004.  Anyway, if I were a betting man, I wouldn't touch this game with a ten foot pole.  Anything could happen.

Boise State - Hmm....  The Smurfs are looking much better now at 12-0.  Name the only other undefeated Division I-A team.  Oh yeah, Ohio State.  Okay, so you'll find few people who consider Boise State's 12-0 to be as impressive of an accomplishment as Ohio State's 12-0, but it's hard to find fault with their undefeated record.  Still, they're going to the Fiesta Bowl to face Oklahoma, so they'll have their chance to prove themselves.  I'll be rooting them on, because it would be a huge upset, and because it's just impossible for me to root for OU.  I won't be surprised at all if OU wins big, but I won't enjoy it if they do.  Hopefully Zabranksy can put up some points and Ian Johnson can pound the ball on the ground to give them a chance to pull the upset.  However, BSU will likely have the not so fun task of facing Adrian Peterson.  Still, go Smurfs.


Random (and possibly offensive) Thoughts:

Callahan apologizes for losing - I'll be honest, this surprised the hell out of me.  I guess it depends on your perspective as to whether this is a good or bad thing.  Some will likely look at it as a "yeah, you did screw up" situation, while others will think that shouldering the blame shows character.  At least he gave the haters a bullseye for the blame game, which will likely lessen the player-bashing within the NU fanbase.  And since this edition is all about self-accountability, Callahan's statement fits right in.  He also had an interesting "hillbillies" comment towards OU fans earlier in the year, so Bill is providing all kinds of media fun.  I can't decide if I like Bill or not.  The expletive that he shouted to OU fans made me laugh, but a coach should be above that.  One thing's for sure, he's done a good job of modernizing Nebraska's offense, even if it is a continuing process.

JoePa is going to coach until he dies - Paterno will be Penn State's coach forever.  Even after he passes on, his coffin will call plays from the graveyard.  His epitaph will probably read "32 toss weak," "play action TE slant," etc.  He'll have playcalls set up for the next half-decade.  In all seriousness, what is Penn State going to be without JoePa?  No one else will be able to just jump into the coaching job and win fan support with how long Joe's been there.  As much as there are Spike Dykes references to the good ol' days within the Tech fanbase, I can't imagine what the next coach, or more likely, coaches will have to go through.  The Nittany Lions are all about the old school, not the new age.  You have to admire how much JoePa loves PSU and the game.  However, the cold hard truth is that the longer he sticks around, the longer it will take for everyone to move on.

Games the nation doesn't care about - Central Michigan and Ohio played in the MAC Title game last week.  These are schools that no one could name the locations of if it wasn't so blatantly obvious with their names.  Central Michigan is playing in the Motor City Bowl against Middle Tennessee State in a supposedly Division I bowl game while Oklahoma State and/or Kansas might be sitting at home.  Houston also played Southern Miss in the C-USA championship, and Heisman candidate (chuckle) Kevin Kolb played his second-to-last collegiate game.  U of H won the game, which pleased the Coug fans that for some reason inundate our rivalries board.  In all seriousness, though, Houston is becoming a decent program, and Art Briles is a good coach.  However, the fact is, they aren't going to command much respect or attention while they're in Conference USA.

Hawaii puts on a show - We get it, Hawaii.  Your state is a tropical island.  You have your own unique culture.  I can respect that, but it's getting to be a bit much.  The Hawaiian shirts that the coaches wear, the pregame tribal dances, and the enormous shirtless Samoans covered in war paint make it seem like a contrived show to draw in tourist money.  You would think that with all of this, they would be able to keep the trash off of the field.  I'm probably just trying to find things to complain about since Brennan passed Symons' single season passing mark in unimpressive fashion last night.  Let's face it, B.J. played against tougher competition for his numbers.  I was fairly disappointed in Brennan's play after all that I've heard about him this year.  It's not really fair to judge a guy by what he did in one game, but that's all I have to go by.  Therefore, B.J. > Colt.

I'm a damn genius - Now, I'm not one to pat myself on the back, so I'll just let one of my quotes from November 7th's edition of Around the Nation speak for me. "I still think that we're headed for a Florida/Ohio State championship game."  Even last week, I reiterated that USC was not the second-best team, and I caught quite a bit of flak for it.  So the way I figure it, I'm smarter than 95% of the guys who get paid lots of money to analyze the college football universe, who were all talking about how great USC was last week.  The only other media outlet I found that wasn't bowing to USC's greatness after the Notre Dame game was CFN.  Props to them for getting it right, but more importantly, props to me.  MEEEEE!!!!  I vote we scrap the BCS and just let me decide who plays in the bowls and national championship.  Texas Tech earned a title shot this year, right? 


-Trent Wycoff

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

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