So when does a game become as much about how ingrained a team is in a player's head as what that team is capable of on the field? When it's the Bulldogs vs. the Gators. Florida has won 13 of the past 14 meetings, including six in a row. It's not as if Georgia has inferior talent, so is the psychological aspect key? "I think you'd have to say yes at this point," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I think if a team loses two or three times I don't know if it's so much of a psychological issue. But when it gets to the point that it has gotten with us, I'm sure the mind can play games with you. ... We've just got to get a great plan and get them to understand it. And then we've got to get them to play loose. We've got to get them to have a little fun out there and get after it. That's really all we can do." On the other side, Florida is dealing with its most chaotic week of the season. Its coach, Ron Zook, was fired Monday but will finish out the regular season. The players are angry, the coaching staff's situation is uncertain. And how the Gators will react is anybody's guess. Florida faces one of the premier defenses in the league, led by defensive end David Pollack. Georgia is allowing just 262 total yards and 14.1 points per game. The game features the league's No. 1 and No. 2 rated quarterbacks in Florida's Chris Leak (1,831 yards, 17 TDs) and Georgia's David Greene (1,491 and 12 TDs). The Gators' young secondary will have its hands full with Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson, who are second and third, respectively, in the league in receiving yards (83.4, 74.4).
- ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times staff writer
NO. 5 FLORIDA STATE AT MARYLAND, 3:30
The Seminoles defense has been the team's consistent strength. FSU is eighth nationally, allowing an average of 265.7 yards, and ninth in scoring defense, allowing an average of 13.4 points. FSU hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in the past 11 quarters; Wake Forest scored twice last weekend on an interception and fumble return. "What we've done is pretty impressive," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "It doesn't have a thing to do with how we're going to play against Maryland." Fear the Turtle? Well, not if the Terrapins offense continues to struggle as it has the past three games. Maryland gained 81 yards against Georgia Tech, 91 against North Carolina State and 194 against Clemson. Even the wizardry of coach Ralph Friedgen can't make up for poor play at QB (Joel Statham) and injuries along the offensive line that hasn't allowed the same five to start in consecutive weeks. "I think we're growing each week; we're learning," Friedgen said. The saving grace for Maryland has been its defense, led by former Seminole High star MLB D'Qwell Jackson. He's the top tackler in the ACC (11.1 a game). "He plays good; boy he plays good," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "He's a typical Florida player who gets away from us and goes and stars somewhere else." FSU redshirt sophomore QB Wyatt Sexton hasn't had his best games on the road (Syracuse and Wake Forest), needing strong second-half performances to rally his team and keep it in the race for the ACC title and a Bowl Championship Series bid.
- BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writer
NO. 4 MIAMI AT NORTH CAROLINA, 7
The Hurricanes head to Chapel Hill for their second straight ACC road game in North Carolina. Brock Berlin threw a school-record tying five touchdowns in last weekend's 45-31 win over N.C. State. UM is looking for its 11th straight win against a team that is struggling, but has notched wins at home against the Wolfpack and Georgia Tech. Miami will have to replace starters on both its lines after losing OL Tyler McMeans and DL Santonio Thomas to injuries last weekend. Redshirt freshman Derrick Morse will get his first start at right guard, replacing McMeans. Sophomore Kareem Brown will replace Thomas at defensive tackle. While Morse received his first significant playing time last weekend, Brown started a game last year and has seen considerable action as UM rotates in many defensive linemen. Backup quarterback Kyle Wright and starting receiver Ryan Moore are expected to miss the game with ankle injuries. The North Carolina defense has struggled, ranking next to last (116th) in total defense in the NCAA, allowing 503.9 yards per game, but UM coach Larry Coker says he thinks the Tar Heels represent a stronger challenge than they might appear. "We were the best defensive team in America a few weeks ago; now all of a sudden we're not," Coker said. "That's a week-to-week process. You look at who North Carolina's played - they've played some of the best offensive teams in the country. You look at Utah, Louisville, some teams that have racked up a lot of points against them." UM's offense has looked like the high-flying aerial 'Canes of the past the last two weeks, and it would be a shock if that didn't continue this week. Look for UM to try to get electric kick returner Devin Hester more involved in the offensive game plan.
- MICHAEL SNYDER, Times correspondent
UCF AT MARSHALL, 2:30
Expect another rough game for UCF (0-7, 0-4 Mid-American Conference), which owns the nation's longest losing streak (11 games). After losing their previous two games by a total of seven points, the Golden Knights were pounded 43-7 by Miami (Ohio) a week ago. Marshall (4-3, 3-0) has won four in a row since opening the season with losses to Troy, Ohio State and Georgia. Seven Thundering Herd players scored touchdowns in last weekend's 48-14 victory over Buffalo.
B-CC AT NORTH CAROLINA A&T, 4
The Wildcats (4-2, 3-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) have had two weeks to recover from their 28-14 loss to South Carolina State, and find themselves still in the running for the MEAC title. Now that starting quarterback Jarod Rucker's injured ankle is on the mend, B-CC is ready to make a run. North Carolina A&T (3-5, 1-3) should not pose a huge threat, but could keep the game close. The Bulldogs have only been blown out once this season, 42-3 by Wake Forest on Sept. 18.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT FAMU, 4
Neither team needs to win here, but both could use the boost. FAU (5-1) is coming off its first loss, 17-13 to Louisiana-Monroe at home, but it has won 10 in a row on the road. FAMU (3-5), which has been beaten up on the road by I-A programs all season and then last week rolled up more than 600 yards in a 50-14 rout of Savannah State, has no idea how it compares with the rest of the second-tier state schools. This will be the Rattlers' final game before its Nov. 20 grudge match with Bethune-Cookman.
FIU AT NEW MEXICO STATE, 8
FIU (2-3), which has lost two straight, is still reeling from its collapse a week ago. The Golden Panthers had a 24-0 second-quarter lead over McNeese State but allowed the Cowboys to come back to win 30-27. Quarterback Josh Padrick completed just 13 of 31 passes for 204 yards. This is homecoming for New Mexico State (2-5) and the first meeting between the teams.