Sunshine Shuffle: FSU on rise while rivals flail
Florida State is on the rise. Florida - in the words of Urban Meyer - is rebuilding. Miami is starting over.
If you want to see just how fast the hierarchy of college football can change these days, take a look at what's going on in the Sunshine State.
In one season under coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles have made up much of the ground they had lost to the Gators during the final bumpy seasons of Bobby Bowden's great career and zipped right on by a Miami program that never did blossom under Randy Shannon.
''I think it's huge,'' Fisher said Sunday. ''Usually Florida has been at the top of the country. That's where we want to be. You have to keep up with the guy who is your neighbor and your rival.''
THE BIG STORY
As unsavory as it was for Florida State to push Bowden out the door after last season, it's hard to argue with the results or the timing.
With a 31-7 victory against floundering Florida, the Seminoles beat the Gators and moved to 9-3 for the first time since 2003.
Meyer had owned the in-state rivalry since landing in Gainesville in 2005, the last three years hammering away at the foundation of Bowden's program with Tim Tebow-led blowouts.
When Meyer arrived in Florida, the Seminoles had already begun to slip. The days of contending for a national title every year in Tallahassee were over. Meanwhile, down at Miami, the Hurricanes' descent under Larry Coker was picking up speed.
Meyer won a national championship in his second season and another in year four. It's no coincidence that Meyer was cleaning up on the recruiting trail in the most fertile football state in the country while his rivals flailed.
Which is why we might end up looking back at Saturday, Nov. 27, as a momentous day in Florida State history - and earning a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game was only a small part of it.
Even before the 'Noles began pummeling the Gators (7-5) at Doak Campbell Stadium, handing Meyer his first loss in the series, Miami's regular season was coming to a dreary end with a 23-20 overtime loss to South Florida in front of a home crowd of 26,369 at Sun Life Stadium. Before the day was over, Shannon was fired.
Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt said Sunday the decision, ''was not made on 60 minutes of football'' and it's easy to believe him.
Shannon went 28-22 in his four years, including 7-5 this season, without an ACC title or a bowl victory. And now Miami, which has five national titles to its credit, is in the market for a new coach.
''We're going to do whatever it takes to get back to the top of the college football world,'' Hocutt said.
Meyer, of course, isn't going anywhere. But both the offensive (Dan Mullen) and defensive (Charlie Strong) coordinators from his national championship teams are gone. They have clearly been missed and more change is likely coming to his staff this offseason.
While there is reason to believe the Gators will bounce back strong as soon as next season, wasn't it just a couple of years ago that Florida looked as if it was on its way to replacing Southern California as the nation's marquee program?
Put it all together and Florida State is at this moment the most stable of Florida's Big Three programs heading, which hasn't been the case in years.
''The dynamics of teams and programs, the way the organizations are run is the key,'' Fisher said. ''It's so hard to get to the top and it's even harder to stay there.
''Hopefully we can keep it going in the right direction.''
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Daniel Thomas ran for 269 yards in Kansas State's 49-41 victory against North Texas and he wasn't even the game's leading rusher. Lance Dunbar of the Mean Green had 270 yards rushing. Since 1996, only one other time has a game involving Division I teams had players on each side rush for more than 250 yards, according to STATS, LLC.
On Sept. 28, 2002, Muhammad Abdulqaadir of I-AA Southern Illinois ran for 312 yards and Eastern Michigan's Ime Akpan had 251 yards rushing.
In games involving two major college teams, only twice since 1996 has each side had a runner go for at least 225 yards, according to STATS.
In 1996, Mike Lawrence of Kansas State ran for 252 and Iowa State's Troy Davis had 225. In 2003, Chris Barclay of Wake Forest ran for 243 and Maryland's Bruce Perry had 237.
- Bowl and NCAA officials must have been relieved when Georgia beat Georgia Tech 42-34 on Saturday night. The Bulldogs improved to 6-6 and became the 70th major college team to become bowl eligible. That's the amount needed to fill 35 bowls this postseason. There was some concern early in the season that there might not be enough bowl-eligible teams and an exception would have to be made to let 5-7 teams in to fill the spots.
- Connecticut needs to beat South Florida to win the Big East and go the BCS with an 8-4 record. Three other teams have reached the BCS with eight victories. Stanford (8-4) in 1999 as Pac-10 champion, Pitt (8-4) in 2004 as Big East champions and Florida State (8-5) in 2005 as ACC champion. If UConn loses at USF, West Virginia would win the Big East with a victory against Rutgers, giving it nine for the season.
- BCS Projections:
Championship game: Oregon vs. Auburn.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Stanford.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia.
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State.
Championship Saturday will set the BCS lineup and the two most important games will take place in Georgia and Oregon.
No. 2 Auburn plays No. 18 South Carolina at the Georgia Dome in the SEC championship game. If the Tigers win, it's on to Glendale, Ariz., to play for the national championship on Jan. 10.
No. 1 Oregon also heads to Arizona with a victory. The Ducks face Oregon State in Corvallis.
If either teams loses, No. 3 TCU is on deck to take a spot in the championship game, though if Auburn goes down there will be some heated debate about whether the Tigers should still play in the title game with a loss.
If both Oregon and Auburn lose, mayhem ensues.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Fla., contributed to this report.
Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrusso(at)ap.org.