By Times staff writers
Published November 20, 2004
FLORIDA AT NO. 10 FLORIDA STATE, 7:45
When Florida and Florida State meet, the Gators expect to face the most formidable defense they have seen all season. The Seminoles are ranked No. 1 nationally in rush defense, giving up just 61.9 yards per game on the ground, while Florida running back Ciatrick Fason is the SEC's leading rusher, averaging 107 yards per game. "It seems like they reload every year," center Mike Degory said. "Maybe different jersey numbers and different names on the back, but it's still the same team. Big strong, physical guys that have all the talent in the world. As an offensive line it's going to be our biggest challenge up to this point." Both teams have struggled this season, each on offense, Florida also on defense. The Gators' maligned secondary has improved over the past two games, but could be seriously tested tonight. The bad news for UF: while FSU has struggled offensively on the road, it has been solid at home. Florida quarterback Chris Leak is coming off a career-game last week, but this week will be a greater challenge. FSU is fourth in the nation in total defense (260 per game) and third nationally in scoring defense (13.1). Florida's biggest worry may be the streak: It hasn't won in Tallahassee since 1986. "Naturally we're trying to defend it as hard as we can, but they'll be trying to break it as hard as they can," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "So that'll neutralize anybody's motivational advantage."
USF AT CINCINNATI, 3:30
A win would be huge for USF's bowl hopes, which looked slim to none until the Bulls were resurrected with a two-game winning streak. Cincinnati, which has won three in a row, needs a win today or at Louisville next week to become bowl-eligible. The Bulls are 111/2-point underdogs, but they've fared well on the road, getting key conference wins at Texas Christian and Alabama-Birmingham. The Bearcats (5-4) are led by quarterback Gino Guidugli, who is tied for the conference lead with 21 touchdown passes. In Cincinnati's three-game winning streak, he hasn't thrown an interception nor has he been sacked, but those are two areas that have picked up for the Bulls. USF (4-4) had five sacks last week and had two interceptions, matching their total from the previous seven games. Look for junior running back Andre Hall of Dixie Hollins to break USF's season rushing record of 1,017 yards, set by Dyral McMillan in 1999. Hall needs 35 to pass McMillan, and he's averaging 122.9. The Bulls may again turn to senior Justin Geisler of Land O'Lakes, who took over for an injured kicker Santiago Gramatica (groin) last week and connected on three extra points and his first career field goal, a 33-yarder. One key for USF: keeping Bearcats receiver Hannibal Thomas in check. He lit up Southern Miss for 168 yards and three touchdowns in Cincy's 52-24 upset win two weeks ago.
- GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer
NO. 12 MIAMI VS. WAKE FOREST, NOON
There have been a national championship, bowl games, games against Florida State and Florida, but last week's win at Virginia may have been one of the biggest of coach Larry Coker's career at Miami. With their proverbial backs against the wall, Frank Gore rushed for 195 yards, Brock Berlin again played like a typical UM quarterback (four straight games without a turnover) and Roscoe Parrish scored two TDs - one on a return, and one on a gutsy fourth down call to seal the win. The defense slowed down a strong Virginia attack. All of that with no seniors on defense and three freshmen in the starting lineup: LB Romeo Davis and FS Anthony Reddick and redshirt LB Jon Beason. Davis and Beason made their first collegiate starts in the game (Davis had not even played on defense before). Now, UM is back in the hunt for an ACC title and possible BCS berth in either the Sugar or Fiesta bowls if it can win its last two games. Wake Forest is better than its record, with every contest decided by a touchdown or less. The Demon Deacons lost to North Carolina 31-24 last Saturday. They are led by running back Chris Barclay, the leading rusher in the ACC with 850 yards and seven touchdowns and the school's third all-time leading rusher. UM will have CB Antrel Rolle and OL Tyler McMeans back. The 'Canes don't completely control their destiny, which is why they will be pulling for UF against FSU as BCS tiebreakers would favor the 'Noles even though Miami won head-to-head. "Oh, sure, it's our advantage for the Gators to win," Coker said. "But when I'm pulling for the Gators, I'm really pulling for the Canes."
- MICHAEL SNYDER, Times correspondent
FLORIDA A&M VS. B-CC, 4
To hear B-CC coach Alvin Wyatt tell it, the 25th Florida Classic at Orlando's Citrus Bowl is FAMU's to lose, since the Rattlers have had three weeks off. "Their guys will be well rested and ready to play," Wyatt said. "I just hope they keep the score down." FAMU coach Billy Joe worries his team will be rusty: "If (three weeks off) was a good thing to have on your schedule, then a lot of people would have it." Both coaches agree that records don't matter in this game. It's only been called the Florida Classic since 1978, but the series began in 1925, with FAMU owning a 43-13-1 advantage. Bethune-Cookman has won 11 times since 1973 and two years in a row. No Wildcats team has won three straight years. A victory would validate the season for either team. After an aborted attempt to move up to Division I-A, FAMU was forced to take whatever games it could, and the result was what many are calling the toughest I-AA schedule in NCAA history. The Rattlers were blown out by Virginia Tech, Illinois, Tulane, Temple and Florida Atlantic. Meanwhile, after a strong start, B-CC has lost three of its past four, including losses to Hampton and Howard the past two weeks that knocked the Wildcats out of contention for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and a shot at a third straight I-AA playoff berth. The game has become more popular since moving from Tampa to Orlando in 1997. The Classic has drawn 70,000-plus to the Citrus Bowl the past five years, with a record crowd last year of 73,358.
ILLINOIS STATE AT FAU, 4
After three losses in the past four weeks, FAU (6-3) has a chance to finish strong with games against Division I-AA Illinois State (4-6), NAIA Edward Waters and rival Florida International. The Owls were outscored 59-13 the past two weeks by Troy and New Mexico State, but their offense should get a boost with the return of playmaker Roosevelt Bynes. Bynes, who is averaging 67.8 receiving yards a game, had missed three games after being suspended for undisclosed team rules violations. Illinois State has lost three in a row, including games to I-AA No. 1 Southern Illinois and No. 3 Western Kentucky.
WESTERN KENTUCKY AT FIU, 4
Things don't get any easier for FIU (2-5), which has lost four in a row. After last week's 53-32 pounding by I-AA No. 4 Georgia Southern - in which the Golden Panthers faded in the second half after leading 25-17 at halftime - they now face No. 3 Western Kentucky (8-2). This is the Hilltoppers' final regular-season game before preparing for a likely at-large playoff berth. FIU will have trouble acting as spoiler: Western Kentucky rolled up 535 yards of offense while allowing only 178 yards last week in a 45-3 victory over Western Illinois.