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The Key Games In College Football

September 20, 1996


FLORIDA (2-0) at TENNESSEE (2-0)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PDT, Channel 2.

* STORYLINE: It's the Hatfields-McCoys of college games as non-golfing pals Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee) and Steve Spurrier (Florida) lead their teams into a fray that has national championship, Heisman Trophy and bragging rights implications. Last year in Gainesville, the Volunteers led, 30-14, late in the second quarter before the Gators rallied with 48 unanswered points and a 62-37 victory. Gators have won eight of the last 10 meetings, including three in a row. Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning and Florida's Danny Wuerffel meet in an early Heisman showdown.

* FLORIDA UPDATE: Patty-cake wins over Southwestern Louisiana (55-21) and Georgia Southern (62-14) afforded the Gators the chance to save all their good "ball plays" for the Volunteers. Florida's defense appears tougher under new coordinator Bob Stoops, hired away from Kansas State. The offense is as good as it was against everyone last season save Nebraska.

* TENNESSEE UPDATE: After blowing out UNLV in the opener, 62-3, the Volunteers got a tougher-than-expected test against UCLA on Sept. 7, winning, 35-20. Manning could start in the NFL this season, but has yet to beat Florida. No one will be more motivated than star running back Jay Graham, whose fumbles on consecutive possessions last year allowed Florida to turn a 30-28 third-quarter deficit into a 41-30 lead.

* EDGE TO FLORIDA: Much as he might be despised, Spurrier is a great game coach whose ego lives for these kinds of moments.

* THE LINE: Tennessee by 3.


USC (2-1) at HOUSTON (2-1)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Prime Sports.

* STORYLINE: The Trojans are 2-0 post-Penn State, outscoring patsies Illinois and Oregon State, 101-20. Alas, USC should welcome back one of its top two suspended tailbacks, Delon Washington, while Shawn Walters will be held out at least another game.

* USC UPDATE: The ground game looks pretty solid after backups LaVale Woods (12 carries, 122 yards) and Chad Morton (13 for 143) got in their track workouts against Oregon State. Third road trip in four games for USC.

* HOUSTON UPDATE: The Cougars under former Raider offensive line coach Kim Helton are off to their best start since 1990. Senior quarterback Chuck Clements is for real, with nine touchdown passes and two interceptions.

* EDGE TO USC: The Trojans have easily handled the Cougars the last two seasons at the Coliseum, 49-7 and 45-10, but expect things to be tighter at the Astrodome.

* THE LINE: USC by 19 1/2.



* KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30, pay-per-view.

* STORYLINE: Who would have thought? An important Atlantic Coast Conference game not involving Florida State or Virginia.

* GEORGIA TECH UPDATE: Rambling Wreck is 2-0 for the first time since 1990.

* NORTH CAROLINA UPDATE: The story so far has been quarterback Chris Keldorf, a junior college transfer from Palomar.

* EDGE TO NORTH CAROLINA: Win at Syracuse gave Tar Heels the confidence they could beat anybody. Good thing, because next week they get Florida State.

* THE LINE: North Carolina by 10 1/2.


NOTRE DAME (2-0) at TEXAS (2-0)

* KICKOFF: Saturday, 9 a.m., pay-per-view.

* STORYLINE: This is upstaged only by Florida at Tennessee this weekend, as Texas tries to avenge last year's 55-27 loss in South Bend.

* TEXAS UPDATE: The Longhorns are rested and untested, with two victories since Aug. 31 over rollovers Missouri (40-10) and New Mexico State (41-7).

* NOTRE DAME UPDATE: After surviving a five-alarm, 14-7 opening scare at Vanderbilt, the Irish put a 35-0 home hurt on Purdue last weekend.

* EDGE TO NOTRE DAME: Texas Coach John Mackovic is 7-0-1 after bye weeks, but that's not as impressive as Lou Holtz hanging around South Bend long enough to break Knute Rockne's record for most games coached.

* THE LINE: Notre Dame by 3 1/2.



* KICKOFF: Saturday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN.

* STORYLINE: This has been a great series, especially since 1988, as five of the six games have been decided by six points or fewer.

* LSU UPDATE: The Tigers, highly touted coming in, barely won their opener, 35-34, against Houston. Sophomore tailback Kevin Faulk, whose suspension was lifted, rushed for school-record 246 yards in 21 carries.

* AUBURN UPDATE: Terry Bowden looked like a genius wooing Alabama coordinator Bill Oliver to run his defense as the Tigers posted shutouts in their first two games. But the defense was a relative sieve in last week's 45-28 win over Mississippi.

* EDGE TO AUBURN: LSU looked shaky in its opener; Auburn has won three games convincingly.

* THE LINE: Auburn by 7.



* KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Prime Sports.

* STORYLINE: The Sun Devils crave respect after last year's 77-28 loss in Lincoln in a game that was 63-0 at the half.

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