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Mastering the Bulldogs-Vols matchup

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published October 7, 2006


GATORS' GANTLET

A visit from No. 9 LSU today begins a three-game stretch against top-10 opponents that could put the Gators in the thick of the national title picture or behind the 8-ball in the SEC. Florida travels to Auburn next week, then faces Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 28. Here are some thoughts from two people who have some experience with such a challenge.

LOU HOLTZ, former coach who is now an in-studio analyst on ESPN: "You get through that three-game stretch, no one is going to argue who's No. 1."

BILL CURRY, former coach who is now an analyst for ESPN: "I never saw a team win three emotional drainers in a row; you run out of gas," Curry said. "That's a rule of thumb. I think that's a danger for (Florida coach) Urban (Meyer)."

Who has the edge today when Georgia hosts Tennessee, a game with implications for the Gators in the SEC East? Check out the opinions of three former college coaches who vote in the Masters Coaches Poll (www.mcspoll.com), which this week ranks the Bulldogs No. 12 and the Vols No. 14:

JOHN COOPER, former Arizona State and Ohio State coach: "Tennessee is the most improved team in college football. Give the credit to (offensive coordinator) David Cutcliffe. Last year, they had one play of over 40 yards. In their first four games this year, they have 10 already. Erik Ainge is throwing the ball extremely well. As for an edge, I'd say running goes to Georgia, throwing goes to Tennessee, with the defenses even. I guess with the game in Athens I'd go with Georgia as a slight favorite."

PAT DYE, former Auburn coach:

"Playing in Athens should give Georgia some kind of advantage. On offense, Tennessee is trying to become more balanced. Erik Ainge is having a great year and he has outstanding receivers. Georgia has a stronger running game but has three passers that are struggling. So we have two completely different styles of offense. Tennessee appears to be very good on defense and Georgia is outstanding. Both teams have good kickers. If it is a low-scoring game, Georgia should win. If it is high scoring, Tennessee should win."

DON NEHLEN, former West Virginia coach:

"Even though the game is being played in Athens, I think Tennessee has an edge. Both teams know Georgia is struggling to score points, and Tennessee is better than most people are giving them credit for. Both teams have good defenses and kick well. But it has been my experience that when you don't know who your quarterback is and the other team is settled at quarterback, the team with the settled quarterback is going to win."

KEEP THAT REMOTE HANDY

College football clashes with playoff baseball today for Michigan sports fans. The Detroit Tigers host the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the AL division series beginning at 4:30 p.m., the same time as kickoff for the Michigan State-Michigan football game in Ann Arbor, 40 miles to the west.

BY THE NUMBERS

Minus-11/2: Difficult to believe, but Vandy is giving up points on the road today against Mississippi.

4: Straight years that the Georgia-Tennessee winner has gone on to play for the SEC championship.

12: Touchdowns, plus three field goals, for Texas in the final two minutes of the first half in the Longhorns' past 18 games.

15: Sacks of Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards the past two games - eight by Washington State, seven by UCLA.

28: Consecutive home victories for Southern Cal since Tyrone Willingham coached Stanford to a victory in Los Angeles five seasons ago. Willingham tries again today with Washington.

2-10: The records of Ohio State's next six opponents over the past two weeks.

236.2: Rushing yards per game by Garrett Wolfe of Northern Illinois, more than all but six Division I-A teams.

800: Dollars, the minimum donation by nonstudents to the Longhorn Foundation this year to be eligible to buy tickets for today's Texas-Oklahoma game. Texas doesn't set the price, but fills orders from the top down on its donor list, with the biggest contributors getting first shot. Oklahoma uses a points system based on various considerations including donations and other ticket purchases.

QUOTABLE

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier understands what Georgia coach Mark Richt is going through with an unsettled QB situation. Few have more experience with QB rotations than Spurrier, who did it routinely in the '90s at Florida: "I've always tried to be as fair as possible to quarterbacks, but you also have to treat them a lot like the left guard. If you're not getting the job done, give the next guy a chance."

No. 10 Georgia AT No. 13 Tennessee, 7:45 p.m., ESPN