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October 8, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

In a day and age of keeping up with your neighbors, the state of Colorado may be the house on the block destined for Extreme Makeover.

Colorado shares its border with seven states, but among the group, Colorado may be the lowest in national perception for high school football.

Yep, the weeds are high. The paint is peeling. All is not well.

Actually the only thing that is good is the foundation.

Denver (Colo.) Mullen has been the only team from the state ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 in the last three years. The Mustangs were not ranked in 2008, but checked in at No. 21 in 2009 and currently reside at No. 48.

The program is solid. This year's team is led by a linebacking trio of Leilon Willingham, Brady Daigh, and Connor Healy that is among the best in the nation.

The group is one of the reasons Mullen is 6-0 with five shutouts - a reason this team should be headed to the Top 25. But it isn't. Here's why - the rest of the state is struggling, as it always seems to be

Last house on the right
Colorado has had limited success in the national rankings despite being one of the more heavily participating states among its neighbors.

Here is how the states break down in terms of 11-man football teams.

269 - Oklahoma
248 - Kansas
218 - Colorado
192- Arizona
166 - Nebraska
99 - Utah
98 - New Mexico
56 - Wyoming

-Source NFHS.org

Mullen, in fact, beat the supposed No. 2 team, Lakewood (Colo.) Bear Creek last week by 20 points, 34-14.

Mullen is the only school in Colorado to be in the final poll since the rankings were expanded to 100 teams in 2008. It's an amazing stat considering the state has the third-highest number of teams in the Rocky Mountain area, is the leader in the region for pro football (all pro sports for that matter) and has numerous top college football programs.

And if you think such a one-in-done scenario is common in that part of the country, where there are fewer schools and not as much passion for football, think again.

Consider this about the bordering states of Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming since 2008:

  • Arizona has had three teams ranked at end of each year. This year, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton sits at No. 9, Chandler (Ariz.) High is No. 43 and Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial is No. 59.

  • Oklahoma has had numerous teams included in the ranking but only ended the season with two teams each of the past three seasons, as traditional powers Tulsa (Okla.) Union and Jenks (Okla.) High have been ranked at season's end each year.

    Amazingly, New Mexico and Nebraska are stronger.

  • New Mexico had Las Cruces (N.M.) High at No. 100 in 2008 and is currently represented by No. 83 Las Cruces (N.M.) La Cueva.

  • Nebraska, which does not have a team ranked in 2010, has had its previous two state winners ranked nationally. Omaha (Neb.) Millard West was No. 95 in 2008 and Omaha (Neb.) Millard South was No. 93 last season.

    The state, in fact, has been passed by in perception and rankings by even Utah, which has less than half the number of schools playing 11-man football.

  • Utah has had five teams ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 over the past three seasons but has ended the previous years with just three teams officially counting in the tally. South Jordan (Utah) Bingham is the top team. The Miners finished No. 30 in 2009 and entered this weekend at No. 15. It is one of two schools in the state currently ranked.

    For comfort, Colorado must look to Wyoming and Kansas.

  • Wyoming has never had a school ranked - though we hear it will dominate if we decide to introduce a rodeo ranking.

  • Kansas has only had Hutchinson (Kan.) High ranked nationally, when the Salt Hawks were the No. 18-ranked team with its undefeated season in 2009.

    Mullen, simply put, stands alone.

    Founded in 1931 as a boarding school for orphan boys, Mullen slowly evolved into one of the most successful Lasallian private high schools after it changed its focus in 1966, when the last of the orphans graduated and paying boarders joined the students.

    The school now plays host to just under 1,000 co-education students as well as one of the best football teams in the state.

    It just doesn't host many good football games: No other team in Colorado is ranked inside the Top 250 teams nationally.

    Mullen has the ability to schedule games against out-of-state competition - it won at Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst last year, 17-7 - but it has been otherwise slow to do so.

    That needs to change. Or Mullen will be left to be the nicest house in a bad neighborhood.

    MORE: RivalsHigh 100 Scoreboard | Thursday night roundup

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