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Cornhuskers, Irish, Terps go hunting

Search party

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002

The search is on in college football this weekend: Notre Dame is looking for an offense, Maryland for its first win over Florida State, and Nebraska for a happy return to Happy Valley.

The 20th-ranked Fighting Irish (2-0) try to score their first offensive touchdown of the season Saturday when No. 7 Michigan (2-0) visits Notre Dame Stadium in the rivals' first meeting since 1999.

Maryland (1-1) is 0-12 against No. 5 Florida State (2-0), including a 52-31 loss last year in Tallahassee. The defeat, however, did not prevent the Terrapins from winning their first ACC title since 1985.

And then there's No. 8 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers (3-0) visit Penn State (1-0) for the first time since 1982, a year they'd like to forget.

The Nittany Lions, helped by a last-minute ruling of a reception near the Huskers' goal line, won 27-24 in the early season game and went on to become national champions. Nebraska won the rest of its games, but ended up No. 3 in the final AP poll.

Notre Dame wide receiver Arnaz Battle insists new coach Tyrone Willingham's West Coast approach is due to break through.

''We're very close to being an explosive offense,'' Battle says. ''We can go out and put points up against Michigan or any team. It's not defenses that are stopping us, it's ourselves. You've got to limit mistakes to be successful in this offense.''

In wins over Maryland (22-0) and Purdue (24-17), Notre Dame has kicked six field goals, scored twice on fumble recoveries, once on a punt return and once on an interception return.

The Wolverines aren't hurting for TDs, just field goals. Michigan has missed five of six attempts, but Philip Brabbs made the one that counted -- a 44-yarder as time expired in a 31-29 win over Washington on Aug. 31.

Every point is likely to count in this matchup of college football's two winningest programs. Five of their last six games have been decided by seven points or fewer.

Florida State tries to get its ACC title drive back in gear at College Park, where close to 50,000 fans are expected to pack Byrd Stadium.

''They won the ACC last year and not us, and I'll probably remind my players of that a few times this week,'' Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden says.

Terps coach Ralph Friedgen says his players are set for a street fight.

''You've got to be able to hit them in the mouth and expect to get hit, too,'' he says. ''I think our guys are ready for that. They know it's going to be a street brawl.''

The picks: No. 1 Miami (minus 37) at Temple

'Canes QB Dorsey will not throw three interceptions this week ... MIAMI, 59-7.

UTEP (plus 43) at No. 2 Oklahoma

UTEP allowed 77 points to unranked Kentucky last week ... OKLAHOMA, 59-0.

No. 3 Texas (minus 13) at North Carolina

'Heels capable of giving 'Horns a scare ... TEXAS, 31-20.

No. 5 Florida State (minus 14) at Maryland

Terps try to avenge '01's only regular-season loss ... FLORIDA STATE, 38-21.

No. 10 Washington State (plus 8) at No. 6 Ohio State

Cougs' QB Gesser has chance to state his Heisman case ... OHIO STATE, 30-27.

No. 7 Michigan (minus 3 1/2) at No. 20 Notre Dame

Can the Irish offense score a TD? ... NOTRE DAME, 28-27.

No. 8 Nebraska (minus 5 1/2) at Penn State

Huskers QB Lord faces first tough test ... PENN STATE, 27-24.

No. 9 Georgia (minus 5) at South Carolina

Gamecocks primed to top 'Dawgs a third straight year ... SOUTH CAROLINA, 21-20.

No. 16 Marshall (plus 11 1/2) at No. 11 Virginia Tech (Thursday)

With QB Leftwich at controls, Herd look for upset ... VIRGINIA TECH, 34-21.

Ohio (plus 41) at No. 12 Florida

Gators breeze in tuneup for Tennessee next week ... FLORIDA, 52-7.

Idaho (plus 32) at No. 13 Oregon

Ducks have 21-game win streak over Vandals ... OREGON, 49-10.

California (plus 13 1/2) at No. 15 Michigan State

Bears QB Boller throws a few surprises at Spartans ... CALIFORNIA, 28-27.

No. 17 Southern California (plus 2 1/2) at No. 18 Colorado

Buffs run game wears down Trojans ... COLORADO, 27-21.

Wake Forest (plus 13 1/2) at No. 19 North Carolina State

Wolfpack QB Rivers is nation's top-rated passer ... NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 41-24.

Northern Illinois (plus 22) at No. 22 Wisconsin

Badgers RB Davis gets a workout this week ... WISCONSIN, 37-13.

No. 23 UCLA (minus 7) at Oklahoma State

Bruins won't need last-minute scoring spree against Cowboys ... UCLA, 31-17.

Miami, Ohio (plus 12) at No. 24 LSU

RedHawks unable to handle Death Valley ... LSU, 31-17.

Louisville (plus 2) at No. 25 Colorado State

Rams defense ready for pass-happy Cards' QB Ragone ... COLORADO STATE 31-27.

Last week: 15-3 (straight); 9-8 (vs. points)

Season: 40-7 (straight); 25-17 (vs. points)



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