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Friday, November 3

Tigers seek to tame Terps this weekend

On Nov. 4, both the ACC title and a shot at the Orange Bowl figure to be hanging in the balance when the Clemson Tigers square off against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

WR Koren Robinson (shown here earlier this season) and N.C. State gave Clemson a tough game Saturday.

Currently, the Tigers are 6-0. They host a Maryland Terrapin squad this weekend that has failed to perform up to the level expected in the early going. Against N.C. State this past Saturday, the Tigers knew they were in a battle, hanging on for a hard-fought 34-27 victory.

The defense had its hands full against QB Philip Rivers and super blue-chip sophomore wide-out Koren Robinson. While there were a few offensive lulls in the game, the Tigers still managed to roll up 494 yards of total offense against the Wolfpack.

Junior signal-caller Woody Dantzler overthrew a few deep passes that could have been huge completions. But overall, Dantzler remains in the Heisman running after accounting for 100-plus yards rushing and over 300 yards of total offense for the fourth straight game.

Against Maryland this week, Clemson will be in excellent shape from a physical standpoint. The Tigers will also enter the game with a tremendous amount of confidence, knowing that the Terrapins have not scored a TD at Death Valley since 1991.

In this series, Clemson has won seven straight and 12 of the last 13, with the last Maryland victory coming in 1992 at College Park by a count of 53-23. The Terps haven't won at Death Valley since 1985.

Ole Miss offensive line a hurtin' unit
When the Ole Miss Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa (haven't won there since 1988) on Saturday to face the Crimson Tide, they'll be going to battle with a patchwork offensive line that has sustained a few key injuries.

They lost their leader up front when starting center Ben Claxton suffered a broken bone in his lower left leg against Tulane on Sept. 2. There is a chance he could see some action against the Crimson Tide. Up until last week's game against Arkansas State, senior Charlie Perkins has been filling in at center.

Unfortunately, Perkins, who has started four games, was injured during the second half last week and is out for the year. This has forced junior Matt Koon to switch from a backup OT spot to center. As you can see, the Rebels desperately need Claxton to work his way back into the starting lineup.

The play of the offensive line obviously impacts the yardage totals super blue-chip RB Deuce McAllister will be able to post. Versus Arkansas State last week, McAllister only saw action into the middle portion of the third quarter, still working his way back from the painful sprained right shoulder injury he sustained earlier in the year.

Two weeks ago against Kentucky, not wanting him to lift his arm above his shoulder, Ole Miss stayed away from involving him in the pass offense. Last week though, he finished with three receptions, including a 33-yard swing pass that he turned into six points. He'll continue to play through the pain against Alabama on Saturday, figuring to be at about 90 percent.

Last week against Arkansas State, backup Rebels signal-caller Eli Manning saw some action, completing 3-of-4 passes for 25 yards. The coaches are trying to work Manning in whenever the opportunity presents itself. Next season as a third-year sophomore, Manning will be the unquestioned leader of the Rebels attack. For now though, senior Romaro Miller continues to do a solid job, tossing three TD passes against Arkansas State last week.

Last week, underrated senior CB Ken Lucas turned in a fine effort, limiting ASU's talented senior wide-out, Robert Kilow, to just five receptions for 37 yards. Remember, in 1999 Kilow accounted for 377 yards of total offense against the Rebels. This time, though, the man-to-man cover skills of Lucas spelled the difference.

Wolverines weathering injury, grad losses
Before anyone out there starts criticizing the Michigan Wolverines, understand that considering their graduation losses and injuries on the defensive side, a 4-2 record should be nothing to be disappointed about.

Not only did Lloyd Carr's Wolverines lose six key starters to graduation, but all of those players are NFL-caliber performers. And they lost vital talent at every line of defense. Moving on were defensive linemen Josh Williams, Rob Renes and James Hall, linebackers Dhani Jones and Ian Gold, and defensive back Tommy Hendricks.

Making matters worse was the loss of blue-chip safety Cato June for the year with a knee injury. In addition, DE Jake Frysinger was lost for the season after suffering a broken bone in his foot during the season opener against Bowling Green. They have also had to deal with a key injury to senior DE Eric Wilson.

Not only did Lloyd Carr's Wolverines lose six key starters to graduation, but all of those players are NFL-caliber performers.

Wilson returned to action against Purdue last week, after missing time due to a sprained knee he sustained against UCLA in mid-September. Wilson, one of the Wolverine captains and a real team leader, will be counted on to provide a boost on defense this week against Indiana.

By the way, in case you didn't notice, the Wolverines have switched Justin Fargas from running back to the defensive secondary in an effort to get him on the field. This was evidently brought about after Fargas recorded three special-teams tackles against UCLA and two stops versus Illinois. Fargas made his debut in the deep patrol against Purdue last week, seeing action as a backup to DeWayne Patmon at free safety.

With the all the graduation losses and injuries, it shouldn't be a shocker that Michigan is allowing 18.3 points per game. What may surprise you is that they are still ranked third overall in scoring defense in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State (11.2 points per game allowed) and Minnesota (17.7).

Normally, allowing nearly 20 points per game would put you sixth or seventh in the conference. However, that's not the case this year with the offensive explosion that has taken place in the Big Ten. After facing Kurt Kittner and Drew Brees in back-to-back weeks, the Wolverines have to deal with Antwaan Randle El and the Indiana Hoosiers potent attack on Saturday at "The Big House" in Ann Arbor.

Currently, the Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 38.4 points per game. The problem is that Indiana's defense has been unable to even slow down quality opposition, allowing a conference-high 34.6 points per game.

Injured Bulldogs to benefit from week off
When the surprising 4-1 Mississippi State Bulldogs return to action at LSU on Oct. 21 after their open date Saturday, they'll be in excellent shape on the injury front.

Defensive lineman Dorsett Davis, who saw limited action in Mississippi State's 17-10 win over Auburn last Saturday, should be in much better shape against LSU. He's been working his way back from a bruise in his lower leg that required surgery to relieve the pressure.

LT Pork Chop Womack certainly welcomes the off week. He's been at less than 100 percent since the start of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his lower left leg. He's been playing through the pain all year, missing just 15 plays or so against Auburn.

Additionally, starting CB Kendall Roberson figures to be ready to go against LSU. He sat out the Auburn game after spraining the MCL in his left knee versus Florida on Sept. 30.

DT Henderson a bright spot for Vols
Tennessee, which fell to 2-3 after a 21-10 loss at Georgia, is also off this weekend and will be looking to regroup. They open the second half of the campaign at Neyland Stadium against Alabama, then travel to Columbia to face Lou Holtz's Gamecocks of South Carolina.

The key for the Vols the rest of the way will be how quickly their young, inexperienced offensive line comes together.

John Henderson has been unblockable, performing at a level that reminds some observers of a young Reggie White when he was earning All-American recognition with the Vols.

Compounding matters was the loss of center Fred Weary for the season due to a high-ankle sprain. Weary, a junior, could apply for a sixth year and have two seasons remaining with the Vols. Redshirt freshman Scott Wells is filling the void, anchoring a UT offensive line that also starts a true freshman, a pair of sophomores and a junior.

Even with the struggles Tennessee has had thus far, you cannot overlook the dominating performance that has been turned in by junior DT John Henderson.

The physically gifted 6-foot-6, 290-pound Henderson has been unblockable, performing at a level that reminds some Volunteer observers of a young Reggie White when he was earning All-American recognition with the Vols.

Through five games, Henderson has been tremendously active, recording 34 tackles, five sacks, two additional stops behind the line of scrimmage, two fumble recoveries and one caused fumble. Against Georgia this past week, he finished with a career-high 10 tackles.

So while Georgia's senior DT tandem of Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud steal the headlines, the Vols, with Henderson, may just have the most consistently dominating defensive lineman in the conference.

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