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AROUND THE STATE

No. 2 Miami at No. 7 Penn St.

Miami is coached by Dennis Erickson (37-3 in four seasons at UM, 87-34-1 in 11 seasons overall). Penn State is coached by Joe Paterno (245-62-3 in 27 seasons at Penn State and overall).

Game plan: For Miami, forget Florida State. This is the Hurricanes' second national title game in two weeks. UM rarely plays two difficult games in consecutive weeks and not since the 'Canes played Notre Dame and South Carolina in 1987. They had a week off between Florida State and Michigan in 1988. UM quarterback Gino Torretta must use the 'Canes' speed advantage with receivers Horace Copeland, Kevin Williams and Lamar Thomas. This is the first test for Penn State quarterback John Sacca, whose brother, Tony, was hammered in last year's game. Sacca threw for 303 yards _ third-most in school history _ last week against Rutgers. For Penn State, this also rates as a national title game. The Lions' lone remaining test is against Notre Dame in November. The Nittany Lions are locked out of the bowl alliance and already are committed to the Blockbuster Bowl.

Game notes: This is the third meeting of Top 10 teams this season (Miami-FSU and Michigan-Notre Dame were the others). Penn State leads the series 6-4, including 3-1 at home. The Lions haven't thrown an interception in 244 attempts dating to last season. The Hurricanes are 46-8 on national TV since 1980. UM has won nine consecutive games following FSU games. UM was penalized 124 yards to Penn State's 15 in last year's meeting. Penn State has given up only 72 points this season, UM just 30.

RANDY CREMER

LSU at No. 23 Florida

Louisiana State is coached by Curley Hallman (6-10 in two seasons at LSU, 29-21 in five seasons overall). Florida is coached by Steve Spurrier (20-6 in three seasons at UF, 40-19-1 in six seasons overall).

Game plan: Both teams are in the middle of slides. Since upsetting Mississippi State, LSU has lost three in a row. The Gators are working on a two-game losing streak for the first time since 1989. Like Tennessee and Mississippi State, look for LSU to stick to a three- or four-man rush and force the Gators to throw. The Tigers can be a bit unpredictable on offense because Hallman has a habit of switching quarterbacks. He started three quarterbacks in the first four games. The best news for Florida is that LSU does not rely on the option like UF's first three opponents. Some UF players say the lack of passing in the option offense is the reason the team has just three sacks and no interceptions.

Game notes: The Gators have won four in a row over the Tigers. This game breaks a streak of five consecutive nationally televised games for Florida, dating to the end of the 1991 season. As he has been since the second quarter against Tennessee, Florida quarterback Shane Matthews is one touchdown pass from breaking the school record of 56. He is tied with Kerwin Bell. The Gators have a 13-game winning streak at Florida Field.

_ JOHN ROMANO

North Carolina at No. 8 FSU

North Carolina is coached by Mack Brown (19-29-1 in five seasons at UNC, 36-57-1 in nine seasons overall). Florida State is coached by Bobby Bowden (147-45-3 in 17 seasons at FSU, 219-77-3 in 27 seasons overall).

Game plan: The Seminoles should find running and passing considerably easier this week. After playing Miami, anything would seem easier. The big question: Can FSU bounce back from another tough loss to the Hurricanes? And the Tar Heels will put up a fight. They are second in the ACC in total defense, allowing 302 yards per game. But those numbers have come against teams such as Wake Forest, Army, Navy and Furman.

Game notes: FSU has followed a loss to Miami each of the past two seasons with another loss, to Auburn in 1990 and to Florida last year. FSU cornerback Corey Sawyer leads the ACC and is third in the country with five interceptions. He has no return yardage, however. North Carolina's Natrone Means has 10 career 100-yard games, and the Tar Heels are 10-0 in those games. But he's never had 100 against a team with a winning record. FSU freshman Tamarick Vanover is second on the team with 16 receptions for 230 yards and two touchdowns and has returned three kickoffs for 199 yards and two touchdowns. FSU leads the series 2-0-1, with the most recent game a 10-10 tie in 1986.

_ BOB HARIG

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