Clemson at No. 8 FLORIDA STATE, 3:30
Florida State senior offensive tackle Ray Willis said last year's 26-10 loss to the Tigers has "lingered." Why? Well, the once-beaten Seminoles (1-2, 0-1 ACC) were No. 3 in the Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the BCS ranking, so they had a shot to reach the finale had they not lost to a struggling Tigers (1-2, 1-1) in the fifth annual Bowden Bowl. Fast forward and FSU again has a loss, still believes it can move into title contention and the Tigers are reeling with consecutive losses. Whether the familiar setup plays out again may depend on FSU's running attack vs. Clemson's run defense. Tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker are coming off strong performances against Alabama-Birmingham, combining for 175 yards rushing and another 49 yards receiving. That eased the pressure on mercurial quarterback Chris Rix, who still hasn't thrown a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Tigers seemingly haven't been able to replace last year's top defensive tackles, Donnell Washington and DeJuan Polk; they're allowing an average of 230 yards on the ground, 100th out of 117 in Division I-A. "Our inability to stop the run the first three games is definitely a concern and one we need to address," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. If they don't do better, they'll need quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and the offense to move the ball against the nation's third-stingiest defense. "From the first play you watch," Whitehurst said, "I think they're faster, more physical, than anybody else. ... I think they're better than they were last year."
_ BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writer
KENTUCKY AT NO. 16 FLORIDA, 11:30 A.M.
After being shut out in its opener against Louisville, Kentucky (1-1, 0-0 SEC) scored 51 in a win over Indiana last weekend, showing glimpses of the versatile offense coach Rich Brooks expected. Quarterback Shane Boyd is the leader of a unit that lost six starters from last season. Boyd poses problems for the Gators because of his mobility. He has completed 35 passes for 377 yards in two games but also has rushed for 147, seventh in the SEC. Florida's experience with Tennessee's Brent Schaeffer could be beneficial because he plays a similar style. Freshman running back Tony Dixon is coming off a 105-yard performance and has been a pleasant surprise for Kentucky. The Gators average 415 yards in total offense, while Kentucky's defense is giving up 425 per game. Chris Leak has had two stellar games for the Gators (1-1, 0-1), but Kentucky's 3-2-3 defense caused Florida lots of problems last season. And its offensive line will have its hands full with all-conference defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns and Ellery Moore, who leads the SEC in tackles by defensive ends with 14. Florida's 17-game winning streak against Kentucky is tied for sixth on the NCAA Division I list for consecutive wins over a team they play annually. "It's going to take somebody stepping up at the right time to make a play," Brooks said. "It's usually somebody new in the program because they are not used to losing."
_ ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times staff writer
SOUTH FLORIDA AT TEXAS CHRISTIAN, 7
For the second week in a row, USF (1-1) faces a backup quarterback making his first start of the season. South Carolina's Syvelle Newton threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns last weekend, and TCU (2-1) starts senior Brandon Hassell, who has a 7-2 record as a starter and has passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns this season in relief. The Horned Frogs return three skill-position players with 1,000-yard seasons on their resume: running backs Lonta Hobbs and Robert Merrill have rushed for 1,000, and senior Reggie Harrell is the only Frogs receiver to record a 1,000-yard season, getting 1,012 last year. Junior running back Andre Hall of St. Petersburg has been the Bulls' best offensive weapon, with a team-high 53 receiving yards and 98 rushing yards. He also returned four kickoffs for a 27.8-yard average last weekend, so expect his offensive role to continue to increase. Stopping the run will be key to USF's success in Fort Worth _ the Bulls haven't allowed an opponent to run for more than 16 yards on any play this season, and no opposing player has finished with more than 46 yards. The Bulls have a 20-5 all-time record after a loss, and today's game is their fourth in Texas. The Bulls won at Houston and North Texas in 2002 and lost at Baylor in 2000.
_ GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer
NORFOLK STATE AT BCC (1-1), 1
Justifiably weary of hurricanes and worse news that has plagued the team this season, Bethune-Cookman's only concession to Hurricane Jeanne was to decide to play earlier in the day. It is the home and MEAC opener for the Wildcats, who saw their first home game washed out by Frances and since have been dealing with the death of freshman Kovensky Pierre, killed last week in a car accident. B-CC (1-1) led Grambling State 13-0 at halftime last weekend but lost 24-23 on a late field goal. Norfolk State (0-2) has lost 12 straight games and its last six meetings with B-CC.
FLORIDA A&M VS. TENNESSEE STATE, 3
The good news for FAMU (0-3) and its many young, inexperienced players is that today's opponent in the Atlanta Football Classic is not in Division I-A. The Rattlers have lost three in a row to I-A teams and may have trouble righting themselves against Tennessee State. The Tigers (3-0), spurred this season by senior running back Charles Anthony (178 yards a game), are coming off a thrilling and confidence-building 21-20 victory over Jackson State. FAMU, meanwhile, is only averaging 87 total rushing yards but is getting some production out of quarterbacks Ben Dougherty and Josh Driscoll, who are combining for 276 yards a game on 63.5 percent passing.
_ SHARON GINN, Times correspondent