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November 2, 2008

Rivals.com Experts: What We Learned

MORE: Weekend winners and losers

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

Olin Buchanan

TEXAS TECH QB GRAHAM HARRELL SHOULD BE THE LEADER IN THE HEISMAN RACE. Harrell, who leads the nation in passing, was sharp in throwing for more than 400 yards in a win over No. 1 Texas. He led a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive to beat the Longhorns. He's directing an explosive offense on an undefeated team that is a championship contender. He also outplayed Colt McCoy, who was the Heisman favorite. What else do you want?

THE ACC HAS NO DOMINANT TEAMS. It wasn't so much what we learned as much as what was reaffirmed. Florida State appeared on the verge of emerging as the dominant team, but was upset by Georgia Tech, 31-28. Virginia had a four-game winning streak snapped in an overtime loss to Miami. Every team except Maryland has at least two losses in conference play.

Tom Dienhart

IF FLORIDA WINS OUT, IT STILL MAY BE DESERVING OF A SPOT IN THE BCS TITLE GAME EVEN OVER UNBEATEN PENN STATE. The Big Ten's sorry state this season is well-documented. Contrast that with the landmine-filled road the Gators will have traveled should they win out. Florida will have beaten Miami, LSU, Georgia, Florida State and Alabama. No way, no how, does Penn State's resume trump that. How much mileage can the Nittany Lions get out of that win over Oregon State? Geez.

MICHIGAN SHOULDN'T GIVE UP ON RICH RODRIGUEZ. I know the Wolverines' 48-42 loss at Purdue guarantees the end of the program's 33-year bowl streak. But Rich Rod's resume at West Virginia suggests he will get Michigan on track once he totally infuses his philosophies. Be patient, Big Blue fans: Remember that Rodriguez went 3-8 his first year in Morgantown before turning WVU into a national power.

David Fox

WEST VIRGINIA IS BACK ON TOP OF THE BIG EAST. I watched West Virginia's four-game winning streak with some skepticism. Beat Marshall? The Mountaineers should do that every season. Beat Syracuse and Rutgers? They're the worst teams in the Big East, but they're still conference wins. Beat Auburn? Looks nice, but the Tigers are a mess. The Mountaineers' 35-13 win at Connecticut eased my doubts about West Virginia's ability to hang on to the Big East championship. With three touchdowns in the third quarter, Jock Sanders looks like the missing piece in the offense. And the defense was dominant, forcing five turnovers and holding Donald Brown to fewer than 100 rushing yards. With games left against Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh and USF, the Big East is West Virginia's to lose.

PENN STATE NEEDS TO BE ON UPSET ALERT. Penn State has no room for error. The BCS will take a one-loss team from the Big 12 or SEC or even USC, but the Nittany Lions cannot make the national championship game if they lose one of their last three games. Penn State could lose two of those games. Iowa's 27-24 loss at Illinois was the Hawkeyes' fourth of the season, but look at the box score: 56 rushing yards allowed and two interceptions. Meanwhile, Michigan State finally is starting to truly believe in Mark Dantonio's no-nonsense approach. The Spartans beat Wisconsin in the waning seconds. These are tough opponents who can control the clock with their running games. Either is capable of knocking Penn State out of the national championship picture and opening the door for Florida, Texas or Oklahoma to re-enter the title race.

Mike Huguenin

PHILLIP FULMER'S DAYS AT TENNESSEE ARE DRAWING TO A CLOSE. Tennessee's offensive woes continue to confound, as South Carolina handled the Vols 27-6. That's the third time this season Tennessee scored 10 or fewer points, the first time that has happened in Fulmer's tenure. The clamor grows ever louder for his dismissal. Getting swept by your biggest rivals Alabama, Georgia and Florida isn't good. Having a bad offense isn't good. And, frankly, why should anything be that different next season? Yes, the Vols won the SEC East last season. But they haven't been to a BCS bowl since 1999.

COLORADO COACH DAN HAWKINS IS GOING TO START FEELING THE HEAT. This is Hawkins' third season with Colorado. While the Buffs went to a bowl last season - making it appear the rebuilding project was ahead of pace - they have regressed this season. The offense is a mess, and after Saturday's loss to Texas A&M a bowl looks out of the question this season.

Steve Megargee

MIAMI HAS LEARNED HOW TO WIN. Miami already had regained respectability under coach Randy Shannon. The Hurricanes now may be ready to develop into a legitimate ACC title contender a season ahead of schedule. The same team that blew a two-touchdown lead against North Carolina and couldn't get a stop when it mattered against Florida State proved Saturday that it had figured how to win a close game against a quality opponent. Miami delivered a game-tying 95-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes of regulation, then stripped the ball from Cedric Peerman in overtime to beat Virginia 24-17 for its fourth consecutive victory. There might not be anyone in the ACC playing better right now.

TULSA ISN'T A LEGITIMATE TOP-25 TEAM. Now we know why it took so long for the undefeated Golden Hurricane to crack the national rankings: They never belonged there in the first place. Tulsa remains the class of Conference USA, but its 30-23 loss to SEC Western Division cellar-dweller Arkansas showed the Golden Hurricane aren't one of the 25 best teams. Tulsa entered the week as the highest-scoring team in the nation, but its offense produced just 23 points against an Arkansas team that ranked 102nd in the nation in scoring defense.

MORE: Weekend winners and losers

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