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SPORTS WEEKEND | COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 3 PRIMER

Tee Ball May Be Answer for Volunteers

September 18, 1998|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Peyton Manning, the greatest quarterback in Tennessee history, is history.

Oddly, that's the good news as Tennessee tries to break Florida's five-year hex when the teams meet in Knoxville.

Manning was 0-4 against the Gators and was often painful to watch, no more so than in his four-interception, first-half effort two years ago in a 35-29 loss at Knoxville.

Manning seemed cursed by Florida, which made his ascension to the NFL almost a relief to devotees of the Volunteer-Gator series.

Tennessee fans now have to like their chances with Manning's scrambling successor, Tee Martin, attacking the Gator defense. What if Martin does to Florida what Manning could not?

"I think he's got a ways to go, career-wise, to match anything Peyton has done," Volunteer Coach Phil Fulmer said. "But certainly, there'd be a big celebration."

Five of Fulmer's 11 losses have been inflicted by Florida.

Both schools have been ranked in the top 10 in each of the last four meetings and, all four times, Florida quashed Tennessee's national title hopes.

Yet, Florida Coach Steve Spurrier was cautious this week in speaking of his streak against the Volunteers.

"One team doesn't beat the other team all the time," Spurrier said.

What has Spurrier worried?

Tee Martin.

While the Gators harried pocket-passer Manning with waves of defensive pressure, that ploy might not work against Martin, a fleet-footed junior.

"We'll expect the quarterback to run the ball a little," Spurrier said.

Florida's defensive front may be the nation's best, but the combination of Martin, running back Jamal Lewis and receivers Peerless Price and Jeremaine Copeland could keep the Gator defense off balance.

Florida's offense is still a work in progress, with a Canadian import, quarterback Jesse Palmer, still trying to adjust to the American game and Spurrier's accent.

* Line: Florida by 3

Game of the Week

No. 2 Florida (2-0) at No. 6 Tennessee (1-0)

Channel 2, 5 p.m.

Rating The TV Games

Ratings

**** Don't leave the recliner

*** The yardwork can wait

** OK to flip to fishing show

* For pro scouts only

*** Central Florida (2-0) at Purdue (1-1), 9 a.m., ESPN

Golden Knight quarterback Daunte Culpepper gets his one shot on national television to woo Heisman voters.

Line: Purdue by 4 1/2

** No. 20 North Carolina State (2-0) at Baylor (0-1), 9:30 a.m., FSW2

The key word is "letdown" as the Wolfpack stumbles into Waco after a weeklong, post-Florida State victory celebration that will seem hollow if Baylor pulls off the mild upset.

Line: North Carolina State by 4 1/2

** No. 17 Texas A&M (1-1) at Southern Mississippi (0-1), noon, FSW

How 'bout that Aggie defense? Two weeks after Nebraska "held" Louisiana Tech receiver Troy Edwards to an NCAA-record 405 receiving yards, the A&M boys limited Edwards to 67 yards and won, 28-7.

Line: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

*** BYU (1-1) at No. 9 Washington (1-0), 12:30, Channel 7

An intriguing matchup of schools that have defeated Arizona State, thought by some to be a national title contender. Washington needs the victory to set up a big one at Nebraska next week.

Line: Washington by 9 1/2

** No. 8 Penn State (2-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0), 12:30, Channel 2

Folks in Pennsylvania remember when this used to be a rivalry. Now it's the kickoff campaign to Joe Paterno's run at Bear Bryant's record.

Line: Penn State by 26

*** No. 7 LSU (1-0) at Auburn (1-1), 2 p.m., ESPN

Don't walk away from the set. Seven of the last eight meetings between Tigers and Tigers have been decided by less than a touchdown.

Line: LSU by 5

* North Carolina (0-1) at Stanford (0-2), 3:30 p.m., FSW

A game with national implications starring two programs and coaches on the rise. Uh, wait a minute. That was last year. This year, no such luck.

Line: North Carolina by 8

*** Virginia Tech (2-0) at Miami (2-0), 5 p.m., ESPN

The Hokies clobbered Clemson and East Carolina and have won three in a row against Miami after losing the first 12 in the series.

Line: Miami by 3 1/2

** Iowa (1-1) at No. 16 Arizona (2-0), 7 p.m., FSW

Hayden Fry. Fry Hayden? Farmhands in Iowa prepare the placards as the Hawkeyes careen down a slippery slope toward oblivion, starting with this no-win task in Tucson.

Line: Arizona by 11

Also:

* Cincinnati (0-2) at Army (0-1), 9 a.m., FSW (Cincinnati by 1 1/2)

* Louisville (0-1) at Illinois (1-1), 9 a.m., ESPN2 (Illinois by (6 1/2)

* Maryland (1-1) at No. 19 West Virginia (0-1), 3 p.m., ESPN2 (West Virginia by 20).

5 Things To Look For

1. Missouri extending its record against No. 1 schools to 0-8 when it visits Ohio State, but we're demanding asterisks. Missouri deserved to beat No. 1 Nebraska last year in Columbia. The Tigers lost in overtime after Nebraska tied the game in regulation on a miraculous, if not illegal, last-second play.

2. Arizona State Coach Bruce Snyder seeking guidance from UCLA football crisis managers as the Sun Devils begin the long haul back from 0-2. UCLA, of course, rebounded from 0-2 in 1997 to finish 10-2 and No. 5 in the polls. Arizona State starts the healing process this weekend against North Texas.

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