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Most likely hero

Bucs quarterback Vinny Testaverde. You remember how he threw just five passes in the first half against Dallas two weeks ago? Well, forget it. Coach Ray Perkins will likely turn Testaverde loose against the Cowboys' patchwork secondary, which will be playing without safety Vince Albritton, who leads the team in tackles. Ron Francis, who split time at right cornerback against the Cardinals, will work at free safety today. Manny Hendrix replaces Robert Williams at right cornerback and rookie Kenneth Gant is expecting to see lots of playing time. All of which means that Testaverde should go upstairs early and often against the Cowboys.Most likely goat

Bucs receivers. In Dallas, too many dropped passes resulted in too few third-down conversions. Backup wide receivers Danny Peebles and Frank Pillow are expected to see a lot of playing time in place of Bruce Hill, but neither has much game experience this season. Peebles still is waiting for his first reception this year. Goat horns will also be ordered for the Bucs defense if Dallas rookie Emmitt Smith, the only player to rush for more than 100 yards this season against Tampa Bay, goes for another 100.

Must game for

Peebles. He suffered a torn calf muscle that kept him out of most of training camp and when he returned, it was only as a kick returner and to watch Hill make Pro Bowl catches.

Peebles has a great attitude, but so did Don Smith and he's playing in Buffalo now. A few short receptions could go a long way toward getting Peebles out of the Bucs' doghouse.

Who's hungry?

Bucs linebacker Ervin Randle. His string of 24 consecutive starts was broken last week when Perkins moved Winston Moss to his right inside linebacker spot and started Kevin Murphy at left outside linebacker. Randle took the demotion like the complete pro that he is, but it cut to the bone.

As rookie linebacker Keith McCants continues to get more playing time, a few of the Bucs veterans will slowly be phased out of the starting lineup and right now the early odd man out is Randle.

Remember when?

The Bucs' best start after seven games was 5-2 in 1979. Tampa Bay started that season 5-0, but suffered its first loss to the then 0-5 Giants coached by (you guessed it) Perkins. It was the first pro victory by Perkins.

Notable

Running back Gary Anderson leads the NFL with 728 total yards from scrimmage (121.3 per game). Anderson's 325 receiving yards leads all NFL running backs and he is fourth among NFC rushers with 403 yards. Anderson has a bruised leg and is questionable for today's game. The 1,800 tickets remaining for today's game will go on sale at Tampa Stadium beginning at 9 a.m.

BUCS GAME DAY: COWBOYS VS. BUCS, 1 P.M., TAMPA STADIUM

The Dallas Cowboys make their first-ever appearance at Tampa Stadium this afternoon and the Bucs are grateful for that change of venue. No matter how many times the Cowboys have spurs left in their saddles by other teams, they never seem to fall off their horse against Tampa Bay.

Two weeks ago, the Bucs bumbled away a 14-10 loss to Dallas at Texas Stadium in a game that illustrated more of what's wrong with Tampa Bay than what's right with the Cowboys.

Dallas has suffered key injuries on the defensive line and secondary, and Tampa Bay may be without the services of wideout Bruce Hill. Moreover, a season-ending back injury to Scott Dill has left the Bucs' offensive line in a pickle.

No matter. The oddsmakers like Tampa Bay by 8{ _ its largest point spread in franchise history _ to beat Dallas for the first time in seven tries.

_ RICK STROUD

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