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SPORTS WEEKEND

The Key Games in College Football : Game of The Week

August 30, 1996

Texas Tech (9-3) at Kansas St.(10-2)

* STORY LINE: One of two inaugural Big 12 meetings, the other being Missouri at Texas. Politics? Kansas State was supposed to open at Texas A&M but begged off, so good-sport Texas Tech stepped in and volunteered to make the trip to Manhattan for the sake of goodwill and conference harmony.

* KANSAS STATE UPDATE: The Wildcats are the losingest program in Division I-A history, but one of five I-A teams to win at least nine games the last three years. Kansas State led the nation in total defense last year but lost its coordinator, Bob Stoops, to Florida

* TEXAS TECH UPDATE: Coach Spike Dykes' nice little rebuilding job--bowl appearances the last three years--got a bit tougher with the move to the Big 12. Throw in a Sept. 21 game at Georgia and you'll understand why going 9-3 will be tough. The Red Raiders do have eight returning offensive starters, among them quarterback Zebbie Lethridge and tailback Byron Hanspard.

* EDGE TO KANSAS STATE: It was good of Texas Tech to take a public relations bullet for the conference, but opening at Manhattan, Kan., against a rock-solid team, does not bode well for victory. Lethridge set a Southwest Conference record by throwing 211 passes without an interception last season, but had better think twice about testing the nation's best pair of cornerbacks, Chris Canty and Joe Gordon.

* THE LINE: Kansas State by 7.

KEY GAMES

Washington St. (3-8) at Colorado (10-2)

* STORY LINE: Koy Detmer returns at quarterback after missing the last eight games in '95 because of torn knee ligaments. All eyes will be on Detmer's surgically repaired right knee.

* WASHINGTON STATE UPDATE: The Cougars are trying to rebound from a 3-8 season but are starting over with a new quarterback and tailback. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Leaf will be making his fifth start.

* COLORADO UPDATE: Detmer's knee held up fine during training camp, but no one will know for sure until he takes a hit in game conditions. The Buffaloes have supreme skill players, led by Detmer and receiver Rae Carruth.

* EDGE TO COLORADO: Colorado should have no trouble with the rebuidling Cougars, but here's something to chew on: Nebraska beat Washington State by only two touchdowns last season, the smallest margin of victory for the national champions.

* THE LINE: Colorado by 20 1/2.

*

UNLV (2-9) at Tennessee (10-1)

* STORY LINE: There are three things you need to know about this game: The most-hyped quarterback of the summer, Peyton Manning, will lead Tennessee, the game figures to set the all-time attendance record for college football in remodeled Neyland Stadium, and the Volunteers are 53-point favorites.

* UNLV UPDATE: The Rebels, playing their first game as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, will start redshirt freshman quarterback Jon Denton, who has never thrown a pass in a college game.

* TENNESSEE UPDATE: Manning threw for 2,954 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and the Volunteers are expecting even bigger things from the famous son of another famous quarterback, Archie Manning. Neyland Stadium has been expanded to 102,544 seats and the NCAA-record crowd of 106,867, set at Michigan Stadium for the 1993 Ohio State-Michigan game, may soon be a former record.

* EDGE TO TENNESSEE: The question isn't whether Tennessee will win, it's whether it will cover the spread, which is 53 points.

*

Ala. Birmingham (5-6) at Auburn (8-4)

* STORY LINE: This is an ambulance chaser's delight. UAB is moving up to Division I-A after starting out as a club team in 1989. So let the drubbings begin.

* UAB UPDATE: Someone may want to blindfold Coach Watson Brown for this one. He has two quarterbacks who combined for four touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year, and a runner who averaged fewer than nine carries a game.

* AUBURN UPDATE: Bob Oliver makes his debut as defensive coordinator after years at arch-rival Alabama. Oliver needs to shore up a defense that finished 10th in the SEC.

* EDGE TO AUBURN: Some team was going to have to pay for Auburn's mediocre season a year ago, and that team is UAB. The Blazers will take their cut of gate receipts and hightail it back to Birmingham.

* THE LINE: No line.

*

Illinois (5-5-1) at Michigan (9-4)

* STORY LINE: So much for easing into the Big Ten schedule. The Illini need to fire their schedule maker. After this, Illinois plays USC and then Arizona. If you do the math, it adds up to 0-3.

* ILLINOIS UPDATE: Let's see, the team lost two of the premiere linebackers in the country--Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy--and the offense is a shambles. Need to know more?

* MICHIGAN UPDATE: The Wolverines lost 74% of their offense in Tim Biakabutuka, Mercury Hayes, wide receive Amani Toomer and tight end Jay Riemersma, but welcome back quarterback Scott Dreisbach, returning from a thumb injury.

* EDGE TO MICHIGAN: Illinois' inept offense is no match for Michigan's defense, led by Butkus Award candidate Jarret Irons. Illinois may have a tough time avoiding a shutout.

* THE LINE: Michigan by 12 1/2.

*

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