Florida State finally knows how many of its walking wounded will play Saturday, and the news is pretty good.
Offensive linemen Montrae Holland and Antoine Mirambeau and running back Nick Maddox got the green light from the FSU training staff to suit up against N.C. State.
"I expect all three of them to play unless something comes up unexpectedly," coach Bobby Bowden said.
All three practiced Thursday evening and said they felt good to go.
Holland has missed two games since spraining his ankle against Wake Forest.
Mirambeau and Maddox missed FSU's last game after being injured against Georgia Tech. Mirambeau sprained his knee and Maddox severely sprained his ankle.
"I feel great for Saturday," Mirambeau said. "I'm very excited about this game. We get to play against the coach (former FSU assistant Chuck Amato) that recruited me. It's one of those games I'm really excited to play in. It's almost like the Miami game."
McPHERSON READY: With a win, FSU would clinch the ACC championship and a BCS berth. That fact is not lost on the Seminoles, but it's not enough to rattle freshman quarterback Adrian McPherson, who is making his fourth start.
"He's got three games under his belt, and I think he'll get better and better as he plays because the one thing we can't teach him is experience," Bowden said.
Amato has said he will load up the box with eight and sometimes nine players to stop FSU's running attack, leaving the game up to McPherson.
"That's what I like," McPherson said. "If they underestimate me and load up the box then I've got show them that I'm capable of getting the job done."
It should help McPherson that Maddox, Holland and Mirambeau will be back in the lineup.
"Getting them back will really get the offense back to where it was," McPherson said.
_ JASON SCHNEIDER
Milestones within reach
TAMPA _ Facing the possibility that Thursday could be their final practice of the season, the Bulls stuck to their routine.
"Nothing different," USF coach Jim Leavitt said.
But that doesn't mean Saturday's contest with Houston is just any game.
"It could be the last one we play this year," Leavitt said. "We can go 4-0 against Conference USA teams. We've never won nine games at South Florida. This has a chance to be very unique and special.
"The next game is always a big game. It's never just another game."
Leavitt still believes a bowl berth is within reach, but he has taken a realistic approach with his players.
"I can't lie to them," he said. "They still have a chance, but it will be much easier if they win out. They have a better platform at 9-2 than 8-3."
One player not making the trip to Houston is sophomore Matt Groelinger. The defensive lineman turned an ankle in practice when he stepped in a divot and hit a sand hole.
"We're lucky that didn't happen more," Leavitt said.
_ ANTHONY GAGLIANO
Zook ready to advise QB
GAINESVILLE _ While Rex Grossman is deciding whether to return to Florida for his senior season, he has a great resource to turn to in Gators coach Ron Zook.
Zook, an assistant coach in the NFL for six seasons, believes he knows what NFL personnel officials are looking for in a quarterback.
"I know a lot of people who can get good information for him, who can help him decide what's best," Zook said. "He has my blessing whatever he does, because I have a lot of respect for that young man."
Grossman is regarded as anything from a first- to third-round pick should he leave after the season.
_ TIMES WIRES