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Florida Gators' challenge: Stop Georgia's Moreno

By the numbers

2 Coaches at Oregon since 1976, Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti.

3 Votes for UCF (2-5) in this week's Harris poll, a BCS component.

23 Straight wins in November for USC. Today, it's November again.

Quotable

"Something's going to happen in that game. I'll guarantee you that. If you go to that game, you'll get a great story. Don't come to ours. I'm serious. Something's going to happen after what happened last year. You can book that."

Miami coach Randy Shannon on the Florida-Georgia game

Family outing, finally

Georgia Tech fifth-year senior WR Andrew Smith has had today's game against Florida State circled on his calendar for, well, for as long as he has been in Atlanta. The former Jesuit High star knew this would be his first and only chance to play a team he grew up watching and a program to which his family has deep ties.

His mother and sister both graduated from the school, as did his stepmother and father, Barry Smith, a former All-American receiver for the Seminoles (1970-72) and longtime prominent booster.

"My parents say they're rooting for Georgia Tech in the game," said Andrew, a onetime walk-on, "but it's going to be tough for them to root against the 'Noles."

"It is going to be a fun weekend and it's also going to be a very interesting weekend and, from an emotional standpoint, it's probably going to be pretty strange," Barry added.

Not just pulling for a team other than the Seminoles, but donning another school's colors; it's senior day for Georgia Tech and Andrew's family gets to be on the field with him during the introduction of the seniors. Dad will be wearing his son's game jersey.

"Blood is thicker than anything. However, this will be the only exception ever," he said with a laugh.

One postscript: Andrew is set to graduate in December with his management degree, with honors, and three certificates (marketing, finance and prelaw). He has applied to the law school at Florida State.

Brian Landman, Times staff writer

No thanks

Agent Jimmy Sexton, who represents five SEC coaches among many others, had some interesting comments in the Birmingham (Ala.) News, and he said many coaches are avoiding what is perhaps the nation's toughest conference. Sexton said that coaches figure if their current schools can pay them what they would get in the SEC, they might be able to stay with their current teams much longer.

"A lot of coaches are starting to look at the SEC and say this might not be the best time to go there," Sexton said of the scrutiny of coaching in the league.

Win … or else

A man who played a central role in the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry of yesteryear has an office just a few steps away from Cornhusker coach Bo Pelini.

Has athletic director Tom Osborne given him any advice about what to do in today's game?

"He told me to win the game. He told me if I don't win, I'm fired," Pelini said, joking at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

The kicker is that Osborne lost the first five games he coached against Oklahoma, finally winning in 1978.

"He's been away from coaching long enough, in his mind he didn't lose any," Pelini said.

Pelini is nine games into his first season at Nebraska (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) and, of course, there are no must-win games yet. But the Nebraska-Oklahoma showdown comes close.

The fourth-ranked Sooners (7-1, 3-1) are the third top-10 opponent the Huskers will play, and their first eight opponents have a combined 38-25 record to date.

Not so easy

On paper, it looked perfect.

North Texas — the alma mater of "Mean" Joe Greene but mostly irrelevant in nearly 40 years since — would become prominent again by hiring Todd Dodge, the wildly successful high school coach at nearby Southlake Carroll.

Twenty games into this experiment, North Texas has two wins. Both were last season. With nine consecutive losses, UNT shares the nation's longest losing streak with Washington.

But before writing off Dodge as a failure, know this: The people who hired him still believe he's the right guy for the job.

"Everybody from my seat to the president, we're all behind him 100 percent," athletic director Rick Villarreal said this week. "We feel comfortable giving this man time to do what he needs to do."

About a month ago, Dodge thought the problems ran deeper than football so he ordered drug tests for all 86 players; 15 tested positive. They're getting counseling and frequent tests to make sure they're keeping clean.

"There are things going on here that are victories," Dodge said. "It's not coming up in wins right now, but in the big picture those are the things that have to change before the winning can happen on the field."

Information from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Fort Worth Star-Telegram was used in this report.

In preparing to face Georgia this week, one name has most often been mentioned when talking about the challenge Georgia poses: Knowshon Moreno. It was in this game last season that the Bulldogs running back burst into the national spotlight with a career-high 188 yards and three touchdowns in Georgia's 42-30 win over Florida. "He's as good as I've ever coached against, had on my team or any team I've been on," Gators defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. "… His consistency, productivity and he's so physical, he's so tough. He's great for the game of college football when you don't have to tackle him like we do this week."

After starting the season hampered slightly by an injury, Moreno is hitting his stride.

The sophomore is the SEC's second-leading rusher and has had five 100-yard rushing games this season, including three consecutive.

He needs 75 yards to become just the second Georgia player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons (joining Herschel Walker).

"I'm not doing anything different; I'm still learning, still getting better," Moreno said this week.

"The guys up front are doing a good job. I'm just learning and getting better every week."

Which is the big problem for the Gators — Moreno is getting better. Florida coach Urban Meyer said the play of the Gators' front seven and their ability to contain Moreno will be key today.

"With any great running back, and I think he's an excellent running back, you have to single-gap and take a guy out of the box," Meyer said. "… Guys have to contain their gaps. And the one thing about him, you think you have him contained and then he has an extra 60-yard run. So you've got to tackle very well."

Antonya English, Times staff writer

Florida Gators' challenge: Stop Georgia's Moreno 10/31/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 31, 2008 8:08pm]
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