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A NUMBER OF REASONS LEAVES USC-OHIO STATE IN DOUBT

Ohio State is a lock to beat Southern California tonight - or to get humiliated again - depending on which stat you choose. Since a cranky Denison University coach named Wayne Woodrow Hayes came to Columbus, Ohio, in 1951, on 10 occasions the Buckeyes have lost to a team by at least 25 points one year and played them again the next. They're 9-0-1 in those games. That's revealing since tonight's marquee opponent at Ohio Stadium is No. 3 USC, which embarrassed the Buckeyes 35-3 last year at the L.A. Coliseum. But not all the numbers support No. 8 Ohio State. For instance, USC has beaten the Buckeyes six times in a row and has won its past nine games against Big Ten opponents - by an average of 24 points. The Trojans have also won their past 11 games overall and their past nine nonconference road games.

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Being Tim Tebow for a week

What would it be like to be Tim Tebow? Cory Wilkes spent the week getting a bit of an idea.

The redshirt freshman at Troy spent the week mimicking Florida's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in preparation for today's game in Gainesville..

"It's going to be a great challenge for me ... and hopefully some very fun practices," Wilkes told the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser this week. "I'm pretty excited about it."

Wilkes and Tebow bear a striking resemblance.

Except that Tebow is 5 inches taller, almost 60 pounds heavier, throws left-handed and has almost 4 miles of passing yardage in his career.

Okay, there's not much resemblance at all.

"They said I had to put on two pairs of shoulder pads to make me look like him," Wilkes said.

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Quotable

"I don't like them. I try to let them know it with my pads rather than my mouth."

Julian Miller, West Virginia DE, on quarterbacks, saying hitting one and then finding out he doesn't have the football is like expecting an Xbox for Christmas and getting socks instead

* * *

Quotable II

"I think if everybody got suspended for saying something, half the teams wouldn't have guys to play games."

Chris Petersen, Boise State coach, on not suspending Byron Hout, who was chatty after beating Oregon, then punched out

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Ball Coach searching for points

No. 21 Georgia and South Carolina play a pivotal SEC East game tonight, with Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier desperate to find a more consistent offense.

If recent history is any indication, boosting his offense may not be easy in this game. Since Spurrier's arrival in Columbia, defense has dominated the series with Georgia - 18 points are the most either team has scored in the past four games.

"Historically, they've been close games all four years I've been here, and it possibly could be another one like that,'' Spurrier said. "We're looking forward to going to Athens to see if we can't play a little bit better offensively. ... Offensively we've not done very much against them, and they've been low-scoring games.''

The Gamecocks are relying on QB Stephen Garcia, who was 13-of-22 for 148 yards in a 7-3 win over North Carolina State.

"Stephen did okay last week,'' Spurrier said of the former Jefferson High standout. "He took care of the ball pretty well; we only had one turnover. But other than that, what he needs to do is try to stay in the pocket and throw the ball. He has a tendency to run out a little too quickly at times, then other times he's needed to run out. ... If we can get him picking out the right guy to throw to and making really good decisions all the time, then certainly he's got a chance to be an outstanding quarterback.''

Antonya English, Times staff writer

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Embattled coaches bowl

Notre Dame and Michigan, both 1-0, meet in Ann Arbor, Mich., in another huge game for the careers of coaches Charlie Weis and Rich Rodriguez. Weis entered his fifth season knowing he probably needs to win nine games to keep his job, and his Irish came out fighting with a 35-0 win against Nevada. QB Jimmy Clausen, right, looked sharp and the defense looked sharper. Rodriguez, whose 3-9 season in his first year in Ann Arbor made the blue bloods suspicious, entered the season with scandalous contentions of NCAA cheating. Rodriguez held tempers at bay with a 31-7 opening win against Western Michigan. But the heat gets turned back up in this one.

* * *

Just kicking it

Connecticut has made some changes to its kicking game after having six punts blocked last season, including three by North Carolina.

When the Huskies (1-0) host the No. 19 Tar Heels (1-0) today, they will be using a punt protection scheme that involves putting three players in the backfield and spreading the offensive line across the field.

Coach Randy Edsall, above, said the formation, called "The Shield," allows the Huskies to simplify their blocking schemes and account for all rushers.

"For us, this formation fits our personnel a little bit better, and you don't have to involve your center in the protection," he said. "As long as the snap and the kick get off in time, people should be able to get in there and block without an issue.

Last year, in their old spread punt formation, UConn failed to account for North CarolinaLB Bruce Carter, who blocked three punts. Matt Merletti fell on one of them for a touchdown in the Tar Heels' 38-12 win.

Information from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Montgomery Advertiser was used in this report.

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