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Vols have history on their side

No. 13 LSU and No. 8 Tennessee have met only 28 times, but what a series it has been - for the Vols.

Tennessee leads this series 20-5-3 and has been dominant in Knoxville, the site of today's game. The Vols have an 11-1-1 edge on their home field, one of those victories snapping a 19-game LSU winning streak in 1959, one year after Billy Cannon led the Tigers to the national championship.

The big play came late in the '59 game when LSU scored to trail 14-13. Of course, Cannon got the call but couldn't get the 2 yards needed for a two-point conversion and a victory that would have produced a second consecutive national crown for the Tigers.

The game came a week after Cannon's Heisman Trophy-clinching Halloween night 89-yard punt return that gave the top-ranked Tigers a 7-3 victory over No. 3 Ole Miss.

Last year, Tennessee beat LSU 30-27 in overtime after the Tigers had built a 21-0 lead in a Monday night home opener rescheduled because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"We've got to avenge that loss and show our fans and the state of Louisiana what LSU football is all about," Tiger safety Craig Steltz said.

That history brings us to today, wondering why LSU (6-2, 2-2 SEC) is a 31/2-point favorite over Tennessee (7-1, 3-1).

LSU has lost to Auburn 7-3 and Florida 23-10, a pair of road games. Tennessee's only loss was to Florida, 21-20, at home. The Vols have won five in a row since then.

"We are totally focused on LSU," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Our team has to have an attitude for this game - find a way or make a way. That's basically where we are."

Erik Ainge, Tennessee's only proven quarterback, has a sprained right ankle. If Ainge can't go, the Vols, who to take the SEC East need to keep winning and hope Florida loses a conference game, would be left with redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton. He has thrown four passes this season.

Several other Vols have been playing despite injuries.

"Ankle-itis is going around, man," said receiver Jayson Swain, who has a sprained ankle. "We have to find a way to get it done, ankle or no ankle."

Others with sprained ankles include offensive tackle Arron Sears and linebacker Jerod Mayo. Sears has a hurt elbow and toe as well.

Tailback Arian Foster missed several games with a sprained ankle, and when he returned, LaMarcus Coker went down with a sprained knee and has missed some games.

Ainge says he'll play. There's no doubt LSU's defense, which leads the nation in giving up only 211.63 yards a game and is second in scoring, giving up 8.25 points, will play, too. But the last time the Volunteers faced a defense giving up fewer than 10 points a game, they scored 51 at Georgia.

By the numbers

3 Fantastic finishes that have helped Wake Forest to its first 7-1 record since 1979. The Demon Deacons blocked a winning field goal against Duke, intercepted a pivotal pass against North Carolina State and, with North Carolina at its 3, intercepted a final pass in the end zone.

200 Consecutive home games that Michigan will have attendance of at least 100,000 or more, assuming the Wolverines get that many today against Ball State. The streak dates to 1975.

5-4 The height of Syracuse kick returner Max Meisel, who is the shortest player in Division I-A this season, the school's sports information office said. Meisel, who weighs 149 pounds, walked on last season. Syracuse is off this week and plays at USF on Nov. 11.

126-10 The combined margin of Ohio State's victories over its past three Big Ten opponents (Michigan State, Indiana and Minnesota).

Compiled by Times staff writer John Strickhouser using information from Times wires.

Five things

1. Georgia Tech has clear sailing to the Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship Game. Tech's remaining schedule - at N.C. State, at North Carolina, against Duke, at Georgia - ranks fifth easiest among the nation's 119 Division I-A teams.

2. UCLA (4-4, 2-3 Pac-10) is in serious danger of not being bowl eligible. Its remaining schedule features No. 10 Cal, Oregon State, at Arizona State and No. 9 USC. The last time UCLA failed to play in a bowl game was 2001, when it declined an invitation to the Humanitarian Bowl.

3. If the season ended today, Texas' pass defense (254.4 yards per game) would be the worst in modern program history, dating to 1953 when the school started keeping consistent statistics. The school record is 227.7, set in 1988. Today's opponent, Oklahoma State, features quarterback Bobby Reid, who is No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency, and Adarius Bowman, who is third nationally in receiving yards per game at 109.63.

4. Bob Stoops will coach his 100th game at Oklahoma today. In his eighth season, Stoops, 46, is 81-18 and said this week that he could see himself coaching another 100 games at OU. But there is speculation that Stoops will leave for the NFL, possibly for the Cowboys if Bill Parcells retires.

5. Tens of thousands of Kansas State fans read an open letter last week from former coach Bill Snyder urging them to be patient and give first-year coach Ron Prince time to build his program. One person who did not read the letter was Prince. "It appeared in the media, and I just couldn't take time to read those things about our team in the media," he said. "I talk to Coach Snyder often. He didn't tell me about the letter, didn't ask my opinion of the letter." Prince said he was grateful for Snyder's unsolicited gesture.

Missing link

Michigan's Chad Henne has made two touchdown passes in the past three games, when top receiver Mario Manningham has been out because of knee surgery. In the first six games, Henne had 13 TD passes, nine to Manningham.

Quotable

"It's a play I can make 100 percent of the time."

Juice Williams, Illinois quarterback, after he overthrew wide-open tailback E.B. Halsey against Wisconsin last week (Williams is a freshman - perhaps he hasn't taken Percentage 101 yet)

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