NO. 6 FLORIDA VS. NO. 5 TENNESSEE, 8
The big storyline is Urban Meyer's spread offense finally meets the SEC, but if history is any indication, the running game may be the star. In 13 of the past 15 meetings, the team that has rushed for the most yards has been victorious. The Vols' game plan will be simple: line up and let Gerald Riggs run straight at the Gators, then open it up for quarterbacks Rick Clausen and Erik Ainge. Meyer gives Tennessee (1-0) the edge in the trenches mainly because the UT offensive line averages 300 pounds, a significant size advantage; Florida (2-0) hopes to counter with speed. Florida leads the SEC in pass defense (133.5) and is second in scoring and total defense. The Vols said they see a much improved Florida defense on film. "They are playing a lot of man coverage and they are blitzing a lot, so they are a lot different, better from last season," receiver Chris Hannon said. Another critical element will be Florida's offensive line against the Vols' defensive front, both of which should be their team's respective strengths. Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said the Gators' new spread offense isn't anything he hasn't seen before, but it's impressive. "What Florida has done is a good job of putting all the pieces together, with the ability to run the zone, run the option off of it, misdirection nakeds, the reverses and the screens," Fulmer said. "They make you defend every bit of the field, then complicate it with their ability to throw so well down the field."
- ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times staff writerNO. 8 FSU AT NO. 17 BOSTON COLLEGE, 7:45
The Eagles (2-0) play their first ACC game and it's a big one, against FSU (2-0, 1-0) in a showdown between the preseason favorites to win the Atlantic division and a spot in the inaugural league championship game. No wonder ESPN's College GameDay is in Chestnut Hill. But beyond the hoopla, BC should help answer some questions. FSU is seventh nationally (202.2 yards) in total defense, but for the first time it's facing a veteran quarterback in Quinton Porter, who has completed 76 percent of his passes, a dynamic receiver in Will Blackmon, and an experienced, imposing offensive line: tackles Jeremy Trueblood (6 feet 9, 321 pounds) and Gosder Cherilus (6-7, 320), guards James Marten (6-8, 315) and Josh Beekman (6-2, 325), and center Patrick Ross, is the runt of the litter at 6-4, 298. FSU's defensive interior is largely youngsters with the exception of former Chamberlain High star Brodrick Bunkley. Neophyte corners Tony Carter and Gerard Ross also figure to be tested more so than they've been. Redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford will make his first road start. He struggled against Miami but was far better against Division I-AA the Citadel, although he did commit three turnovers. The Eagles have just three sacks, but star end Mathias Kiwanuka is 6-7 and fast and likely will draw a lot of attention.
- BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writerUSF VS. CENTRAL FLORIDA, 7
Attendance will be strong - after never doing so before this season, USF will open the upper deck at Ray-Jay for the second week in a row to accommodate another crowd of 40,000-plus. The Bulls (1-1) have the nation's top pass defense, but they haven't faced a quarterback as experienced as UCF's Stephen Moffett, who was recruited by the Bulls out of high school. UCF's rush defense is fifth-best in the nation, having held South Carolina to 32 yards in its season opener, but the Knights (0-1) haven't seen a back like USF's Andre Hall, who is averaging 112 yards and should move into second on the Bulls' career rushing list, passing former teammate Clenton Crossley. With 16 losses in a row, UCF has Division I-A's longest losing streak. Last year, Army had just snapped a 19-game losing streak when it came into Tampa and pulled off a 42-35 upset. Army hasn't won since, but the memory of that loss will remind the Bulls not to take any opponents lightly.
- GREG AUMAN, Times staff writerNO. 13 MIAMI AT NO. 20 CLEMSON, 3:30
A must win the second game of the season? It could be as the Hurricanes look to avoid the program's first 0-2 start since 1978, while avenging a 24-17 overtime loss to the Tigers at the Orange Bowl last year. "Is it do or die? No," UM coach Larry Coker said. "It's a very important game." UM may have lost its opener to FSU, but it appears it has a quarterback in strong-armed Kyle Wright, who showed poise despite being sacked a Miami record nine times. The 'Canes hope getting senior guard Tony Tella back will help in pass protection. Miami, which could be without starting tailback Tyrone Moss (bruised shin), wants to get young backs Derron Thomas and Charlie Jones into the mix this week. Freshman Kenny Phillips likely will start at safety with Anthony Reddick lost for the season to a torn ACL. The 'Canes special teams struggled against FSU and the pressure is on ex-Countryside standout kicker Jon Peattie and punter/holder Brian Monroe to correct the breakdowns that helped cost Miami the opener. Tigers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (32-of-41 for 363 yards, two TD passes and no interceptions) leads a dangerous attack that includes RB Reggie Merriweather, who had the game-winner against the 'Canes last season and has helped the team to a 2-0 start.
- MICHAEL SNYDER, Times correspondentFAU AT MINNESOTA, 8:30
Florida Atlantic faces its third team from a major conference in as many weeks, after losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State. Minnesota, with wins over Tulsa and Colorado State this season, brings a potentially explosive running game led by Laurence Maroney (168 yards/game, 7.1 yards per attempt) and a defense that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown in 17 quarters. Minnesota's mission: stop quarterback Danny Embick, who leads the Owls in passing (195 yards/game) and rushing yards (28.5). FAU has been outscored 53-22.B-CC VS. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE AT JACKSONVILLE, 7
Once again, these teams - both 2-0 - are expected to be in the running for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. Last year's meeting, a 28-14 South Carolina State victory, knocked B-CC out of the race. It's too early to say this game will be as critical - it's the conference opener for both - but Wildcats coach Alvin Wyatt said he is looking forward to seeing his team tested. Wyatt hopes one of his three quarterbacks (Lawrence McCloud, Jarod Rucker, Jimmie Russell) will do well enough to win the job.HOWARD AT FAMU, 7
FAMU (0-2) probably will start its third quarterback in as many weeks as the Rattlers look toward senior Josh Driscoll to lead their sputtering offense. While far from outstanding in a 37-3 loss to USF, Driscoll (5 of 12, 23 yards) at least showed some of the leadership that first-year coach Rubin Carter is looking for. FAMU receiver/returner Roosevelt Kiser could have a big day, considering poor kick return coverage played a big part in Howard's 22-12 loss to Hampton last week in its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener as it fell to 1-1.
- SHARON GINN, Times correspondent