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November 29, 2009

Rivals.com experts: What we learned

Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.

Olin Buchanan

Never doubt Oklahoma in Norman. All indicators seemed to suggest an impending Oklahoma State victory. The Cowboys had a chance to post a rare 10th win and make their first BCS appearance; OU was coming off a disastrous loss to Texas Tech. But the game was in Norman, where the Sooners have lost just twice in coach Bob Stoops' 11-year tenure and had a 29-game winning streak. Well, now it's 30. Not only did Oklahoma beat their cross-state rivals, the Sooners also embarrassed them 27-0. Maybe if the game was played in Stillwater, the Cowboys would have had a chance. But Oklahoma is close to unbeatable on its home field. The Sooners proved that again.

Wins in state rivalry games - well, most of them - cannot be taken for granted. OK, Florida rolled over Florida State and Virginia Tech toppled Virginia. But in most rivalry games the favorites struggled - or lost. In fact, a ranked team lost to its rival five times this weekend. Unranked South Carolina beat No. 18 Clemson 34-17; unranked OU blasted Oklahoma State 27-0; unranked Mississippi State topped Ole Miss 41-27; unranked N.C. State edged North Carolina 28-27; and (we'll count them even though their not in the same state) unranked West Virginia beat No. 9 Pittsburgh 19-16. Even when the higher-ranked teams won, they often had difficulty. No. 2 Alabama had to come from behind to beat Auburn, No. 3 Texas had to sweat out a win over Texas A&M and No. 19 BYU needed overtime to overcome No. 21 Utah.

Tom Dienhart

The Heisman Trophy is Colt McCoy's to lose. His effort against Texas A&M puts him in the driver's seat to win the trophy. He was 24-of-40 passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and he also ran 18 times for 175 yards and a score. It was one of the most impressive individual performances of the season. If McCoy has a similar effort next Saturday in the Big 12 championship game against a rugged Nebraska defense, I think he'll win the Heisman regardless of what Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow do in the SEC title game.

Maryland may be looking for a new coach. Saturday's 19-17 loss to Boston College was the latest setback in what has been a historically bad season in College Park. The Terps finished 2-10, the school's first 10-loss season. Since going 31-8 in his first three seasons, with an ACC title and three bowl appearances, Ralph Friedgen is 35-38 with three bowl appearances and four losing records in the past six seasons. Friedgen is 66-46 in nine seasons in College Park. And if Friedgen is gone, the head-coach-in-waiting plan hatched last offseason to make offensive coordinator James Franklin the top man also likely will be scrapped. Add it up, and Maryland AD Debbie Yow may have seen enough.

David Fox

Mark Ingram will not win the Heisman. Alabama's bid to get its first Heisman Trophy winner will have to wait. Ingram earned looks from Heisman voters in recent weeks, and he's a finalist for the Doak Walker Award - given annually to the nation's top running back. He might not win either after what happened over the weekend. Toby Gerhart was outstanding against Notre Dame on Saturday night, and Ingram was close to being a non-factor in the Tide's win Friday. Auburn keyed on Ingram and held him to 30 yards and 1.9 yards per carry. Alabama showed it could win without Ingram. Because of injury, Ingram touched the ball just twice for 10 yards in a 15-play, 79-yard winning drive. Ingram might get an invitation to New York, but he's out of the running to be the winner.

Miami is No. 2 in Florida (and it's not even close to No. 3 or No. 1). Miami sealed its spot as No. 2 in the state of Florida for the time being by beating USF 31-10. Miami's spot in the state should be no surprise. Florida is headed to a BCS game, while Miami already defeated Florida State on the way to a mid-level ACC bowl game. What's stunning is the gap between Miami and Florida State/USF at No. 3, a ranking that should stay this way for a while. FSU is going to need more than a coaching change to get back on track, judging by a 37-10 loss to Florida. USF would like to be in the conversation, but it's not. The Bulls annually flop in Big East play and showed little fight at home against Miami. The Hurricanes have a long way to go to catch up to Florida, but they are in far better shape than Florida State and USF.

Mike Huguenin

Put Boise State in a BCS bowl. It seems as if BCS bowl officials are trying to do anything they can to make sure coach Chris Petersen and Boise State don't get in a BCS game. Iowa or Penn State will be in a BCS game as an at-large selection. Oklahoma State was considered an at-large lock had it won at Oklahoma. Now, there's even talk that three-loss Virginia Tech could get an at-large bid. While it is mighty annoying to hear TV talking heads spout off that Boise "deserves" a BCS bid, the Broncos certainly have done more than anyone else being considered for an at-large bid. Plus, think of the public relations nightmare if an unbeaten Boise is bypassed in favor of a three-loss Virginia Tech team. You'd think BCS officials would know what a PR bonanza it would be if Boise State and TCU were in the BCS in the same season. Will either turn on TV sets? No. But would Oklahoma State? Would Virginia Tech? Iowa? (Penn State is a different story.) As for ticket sales, I would bet there will be some empty seats at the venue where Boise State (and maybe even TCU) would play. But would those seats be full if Cincinnati or Georgia Tech or Oklahoma State were there? No.

For Florida State to start on the road back to where it used to be, it's time for Bobby Bowden to go. FSU has fallen a long way this decade. The Seminoles used to be the class of the ACC - and one of the top five programs in the country. Now? They're not even one of the top five programs in the ACC. Bowden built FSU into a superpower, but he also has overseen its decline into mediocrity and national irrelevance. Why postpone the inevitable? While his departure isn't going to magically make FSU good again - it's going to be at least a two- or three-season process - it's time to find out if Jimbo Fisher can oversee the program. Not everyone is convinced he's the right guy, but it's time to start finding out.

Steve Megargee

Toby Gerhart might not win the Heisman Trophy, but he probably deserves it. Stanford is 8-4 this season, and Texas and Florida are undefeated. Those facts could prevent Stanford running back Gerhart from finishing ahead of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in the Heisman balloting. And that's a shame because Gerhart is looking more and more like the best player in college football this season. Gerhart delivered his third 200-yard game of the season Saturday in a 45-38 victory over Notre Dame, and he now has 1,736 rushing yards this season. Gerhart also has 26 touchdown runs and has reached the end zone at least three times in each of his past four games. He even threw a tying 18-yard touchdown pass Saturday before winning the game with a 4-yard touchdown run in the final minute. Too bad Gerhart doesn't play defense. Stanford has allowed an average of 34.8 points per game in its four losses. If Stanford had won two or three of those games, Gerhart would have a much better chance of winning the trophy he deserves.

The SEC and ACC are light-years apart. When the ACC won three of four head-to-head matchups with the SEC in the final week of the 2008 regular season, it raised suspicions that the league better known for basketball was beginning to close the gap on the nation's top football conference. So much for that notion. Instead of repeating its late-season success this year, the ACC embarrassed itself by losing all three of its rivalry games with the SEC. Florida's 37-10 demolition of Florida State came as no surprise, but the SEC pulled off two upset victories over ACC teams. ACC Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech lost 30-24 to seven-point underdog Georgia, while Atlantic Division winner Clemson fell 34-17 to three-point underdog South Carolina, a couple of results that don't exactly make next week's ACC championship game seem like appointment television.

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