GAME OF THE WEEK No. 25 South Carolina (2-0) at No. 8 Georgia (2-0) WHERE: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
WHEN: 3:30 p.m.
TV: CBS-Ch. 12
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This is a rivalry that has become heated the past three years, as the Gamecocks have taken two of three from the Bulldogs. South Carolina believes it should be three straight; last year, Gamecocks fullback Andrew Pinnock fumbled at Georgia's 2-yard line late and the Bulldogs escaped with a 13-7 victory. Georgia needs a victory in its SEC opener to strengthen its hopes for another conference title, but the Bulldogs also want to assert their superiority over the Gamecocks.
WHAT YOU SHOULD WATCH: South Carolina's wide receiving corps. They have dropped 17 passes the past two games, driving coach Lou Holtz crazy. Holtz has tried almost everything to remedy the problem, even entertaining the thought of hiring a psychologist. The Gamecocks will probably find a way to hang on to the ball today. The more difficult task could be getting open. Troy Williamson, Matthew Thomas and Syvelle Newton, among others, need to stretch the field to keep the Bulldogs from loading up on the line and stuffing the Gamecocks' running game.
WHOM YOU SHOULD WATCH: South Carolina quarterback Dondrial Pinkins. The big question entering the season was whether Pinkins, a junior from Camilla, Ga., was poised enough to lead the Gamecocks on the road in the SEC. That question gets answered today against perhaps the best defense in the conference. Pinkins made a few bad decisions that didn't cost his team in last week's 31-7 win over then-No. 15 Virginia. With a few poor reads today, the rout could be on.
AT STAKE: Georgia has much more to lose than South Carolina. With next week's huge trip to Louisiana State looming, the Bulldogs can't afford to head to Baton Rouge 0-1 in the SEC. A loss would deliver a severe blow to the notion that Georgia is capable of challenging for its second straight SEC title. For the Gamecocks, a loss wouldn't be the end of the world. Last week's win over Virginia was the one they absolutely had to have. If they compete and avoid being blown off the field, the Gamecocks can go home feeling less than shattered.
HE SAID IT: "For us to be 15-point favorites - I don't think we've ever scored 15 points against them." - Georgia coach Mark Richt, who has scored 13 and 9 points in his two meetings with the Gamecocks.
WE SAID IT: This was a game that would have given Georgia trouble two years ago, but the Bulldogs have come a long way since. South Carolina showed last week that it has made significant strides on offense and defense, but it's tough to imagine Pinkins leading the Gamecocks to a victory in Sanford Stadium. Georgia's defense should do enough to keep its offense from having to score a lot of points. Richt might be too conservative on offense to win by 15, but the Bulldogs should still win comfortably.
AROUND THE ACC AND SEC Georgia Tech (1-1) at No. 10 Florida State (2-0) WHERE: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
WHEN: 8 p.m.
TV: ABC-Ch. 6
THE STORYLINES: Georgia Tech hopes to prolong the good vibes generated by last week's surprising 17-3 upset of Auburn. ... The Yellow Jackets allowed just 230 yards of total offense by the Tigers. ... Florida State is averaging 490 yards per game, a figure that ranks 16th nationally. ... Florida State escaped Atlanta last year with a 21-13 win after Stanford Samuels picked off A.J. Suggs in the end zone with 20 seconds remaining. ... The Seminoles have not lost to Georgia Tech since they joined the ACC in 1992, and they're the only team in the ACC with a winning record against the Yellow Jackets. ... Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is tied with former Virginia coach George Welsh for the most career ACC wins with 85.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There's no doubt about the game's key matchup: Florida State will try to run the ball, and Georgia Tech will try to stop it. The Seminoles are averaging 216 yards on the ground and the Yellow Jackets are giving up just 63. Georgia Tech gave up just 40 last week against Auburn's decorated running backs, but something tells us stopping Florida State's Greg Jones will be a lot tougher. Jones might be the best tailback in the country, and - unlike Auburn - he has an offensive line that can block and a quarterback who can throw.
AT STAKE: Given the lowly preseason expectations, no one at Georgia Tech will be too upset if their team comes home with a loss. Last week's upset took a lot of pressure off coach Chan Gailey, so he and his team don't have much to lose tonight. If the Yellow Jackets beat the heavily-favored Seminoles, push Gailey's name to the top of the list for national coach of the year honors.
Middle Tennessee (0-2) at Clemson (1-1)
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: 5 p.m.
THE STORYLINES: Clemson, which beat Furman last week after suffering a 30-0 loss to Georgia in the opener, hopes to gather some momentum for next week's visit to Georgia Tech. ... Middle Tennessee is coming off a 29-10 loss at Georgia in a game that the Bulldogs led just 10-3 at halftime. ... The Tigers will continue to try running the football. They are averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, and their longest rush this season is 11 yards. ... Clemson linebacker Leroy Hill leads the ACC in tackles for loss (6) and total tackles (29). ... Tigers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw for 301 yards in last week's 28-17 win over Furman, just the eighth 300-yard passing game by an individual in school history. ... Clemson receiver Kevin Youngblood tied a career high with 10 catches against Furman. He has caught at least one pass in 17 consecutive games dating to the 2000 season. ... Tigers tailback Reggie Merriweather, a former North Augusta star, has rushed for 20 yards on six carries.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Clemson could have more trouble against the Blue Raiders than was expected before the season. The Tigers' problems running the ball are well documented, and Middle Tennessee seems capable of shutting down the ground game today. If Clemson isn't physical up front, the Blue Raiders could keep things close. If the game is still in doubt in the fourth quarter, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers react in front of their home crowd.
AT STAKE: After the knee-buckling loss to Georgia and last week's uninspiring win, Clemson has all the appearances of a fragile team that is unsure of itself. The Tigers need confidence heading into next week's game at Georgia Tech, and that kind of confidence can be gained from beating the Blue Raiders up front and bagging a decisive victory. A close win won't eliminate many of the doubts hanging over the program. A loss could make coach Tommy Bowden's job security go from bad to horrible.
DIVISION I-AA Georgia Southern (1-0) at McNeese State (1-1) WHERE: Cowboy Stadium, Lake Charles, La.
WHEN: 8 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports South
THE STORYLINES: Georgia Southern makes its first road trip of the season after last week's 35-0 win over Savannah State in Statesboro, Ga. ... The Eagles and Cowboys meet as the nation's No. 2 and No. 3 ranked Division I-AA programs, according to this week's Top 25 poll released by The Sports Network/CSTV. ... The Eagles were 4-1 on the road last season. ... Cowboys coach Tommy Tate led his team to a national-title game appearance last season and earned the Eddie Robinson Award as the top coach in Division I-AA. ... The only previous meeting between the two teams was in the first round of the 2000 playoffs. The Eagles won 42-17 in Statesboro.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Eagles scored on their first three possessions to spark last week's win over Savannah State, and a similar start could be pivotal against a much stronger team. Georgia Southern could also get a boost on special teams, where the Eagles blocked two punts last week.
AT STAKE: This is a great opportunity for the Eagles to show what they've got on the road. Last week's shutout win had its drawbacks, chief among them five turnovers - the most since seven against Massachusetts in the 1998 title game. Georgia Southern can't afford to be careless with the ball tonight.
OTHER SEC GAMES Arkansas (1-0) at Texas (1-0) Noon-The last meeting between these two longtime rivals was the 2000 Cotton Bowl.
Auburn (0-2) at Vanderbilt (1-1) 12:30 p.m.-The Tigers have won 11 straight over the Commodores.
Florida A&M (1-1) at Florida (1-1) 6 p.m.-The Gators get a break before playing host to Tennessee next week.
Louisiana-Monroe (0-2) at Mississippi (1-1) 7 p.m.-The Rebels have given up 343.5 passing yards per game.
Kentucky (1-1) at Alabama (1-1) 7:45 p.m.-How did this game become ESPN's prime-time matchup?
Western Illinois (2-0) at Louisiana State (2-0) 8 p.m.-The Leathernecks are averaging 34.5 points per game. The Tigers are giving up 10 points a game. Take a wild guess which gives.
Mississippi State (0-1) at Tulane (1-1) 8 p.m.-The Bulldogs have outscored the Green Wave 215-56 in the past five meetings.
OTHER ACC GAMES N.C. State (1-1) at Ohio State (2-0) Noon-Don't be surprised if the Wolfpack make things interesting.
Purdue (0-1) at Wake Forest (1-0) Noon-The Demon Deacons won 24-21 last year in West Lafayette, Ind.
Virginia (1-1) at Western Michigan (1-1) 2 p.m.-This might not be an easy game for the Cavaliers.
Rice (0-1) at Duke (1-1) 6 p.m.-The Blue Devils are fifth nationally in turnover margin.
The Citadel (1-1) at Maryland (0-2) 6 p.m.-Terrapins quarterback Scott McBrien is struggling.
NATIONAL GAME OF THE WEEK Notre Dame (1-0) at Michigan (2-0) 3:30 p.m.-Wolverines tailback Chris Perry is averaging 8.5 yards per carry.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS 5-South Carolina's national rank in turnover margin. The Gamecocks ranked 76th last season.
102-Clemson's national rank in rushing offense (79.5 yards per game).
94-Yards N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers needs to become the ACC all-time passing leader.
THE LAST WORD "If they want to give it to me 20 or 30 times, I'm going to give it 20 or 30 times. I'm just going with the play-calling, that's all. Just get me on the field." - Georgia tailback Michael Cooper, a former Screven County star who is expected to get his first collegiate start today
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT WHO: Ben Troupe
HIGH SCHOOL: Butler
POSITION: Tight end
NOTEWORTHY: Troupe has seven receptions for 76 yards this season, including a long of 20 yards.
FUN FACT: Troupe is a sociology major.
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