Leave it to Florida to strike a nerve before a big game.

Earlier this week, Gators offensive tackle Mo Collins called Peyton Manning ``highly overrated'' and running back Fred Taylor said the Vols ``know they can't beat us.''

Must be time for No. 4 Tennessee at No. 3 Florida.

Florida, it seems, has a way of getting under the skin of its opponents.

In the weeks leading to the Sugar Bowl, chief Gator baiter Steve Spurrier complained about Florida State's late hits on Danny Wuerffel after a regular-season loss at Tallahassee.

Before the '96 game against Tennessee, defensive end Tim Beauchamp said Manning gets easily rattled in the pocket.

Both times, Florida won, beating Florida State 52-20 to win its first national title after taking out Tennessee 35-29 last September.

Manning's reply?

``For one thing, Florida has the platform to talk. They're defending champions,'' he said. ``We don't have the right or the room to talk. We're in second place.''

Florida (2-0) has beaten Tennessee (2-0) the past four years, and even though the Gators have a new quarterback in Doug Johnson, their defense may give them an edge.

Both teams had last week off. Two weeks ago, Florida set a modern-day school scoring mark in an 82-6 win over Central Michigan, while Tennessee hung on for a 30-24 win at UCLA.

So far, Manning has thrown for 651 yards and seven touchdowns, while Johnson has thrown for 541 yards and nine touchdowns.

In Seattle, the No. 7 Huskers play No. 2 Washington a year after being shellshocked at Arizona State, 19-0.

Ahman Green, the Huskers' I-back, said his team was bothered by the crowd noise at Sun Devil Stadium in '96, and wants to avoid a similar problem at Husky Stadium.

Nebraska, which had a tough time against Central Florida last week, will have other problems, such as trying to stop quarterback Brock Huard and running back Rashaan Shehee.

The picks:

No. 1 Penn State (minus 21) at Louisville

Lions turn thoroughbred Curtis Enis loose against Cardinals. ... PENN STATE 41-17.

No. 7 Nebraska (plus 3) at No. 2 Washington

Huskers' defense has hands full dealing with Huard & Co. ... WASHINGTON 27-17.

No. 4 Tennessee (plus 4) at No. 3 Florida

Peyton Manning can't beat Gators by himself. ... FLORIDA 38-27.

No. 5 Florida State (minus 20) at No. 16 Clemson

Tigers almost caught napping last week; will give Seminoles a test. ... FLORIDA STATE 31-20.

No. 6 North Carolina (minus 23) at Maryland

Tar Heels defense all over Terps. ... NORTH CAROLINA 31-0.

Baylor (plus 25 1/2) at No. 8 Michigan

With Brian Griese at the controls, Wolverines prep for Notre Dame next week. ... MICHIGAN 41-13.

Arizona (plus 17) at No. 9 Ohio State

Buckeyes QB Stanley Jackson 13-0 as a starter. ... OHIO STATE 28-20.

No. 12 Auburn (plus 5 1/2) at No. 10 LSU

Game could turn on play of QBs _ Auburn's Dameyune Craig vs. LSU's Herb Tyler. ... LSU 24-21.

Arkansas (plus 17 1/2) at No. 11 Alabama

Hogs may not even get a chance to score TD this week. ... ALABAMA 44-6.

No. 13 Iowa (minus 26) at Iowa State

Iowa State had Troy Davis, Iowa has Tavian Banks (517 yards in two games). ... IOWA 45-10.

Brigham Young (plus 8) at No. 14 Arizona State

BYU last won in Tempe in 1965. ... ARIZONA STATE 34-24.

No. 17 Michigan State (plus 2 1/2) at Notre Dame

Can Irish be as bad as they looked in first two games? ... MICHIGAN STATE 31-24.

No. 18 Virginia Tech (minus 23 1/2) at Temple

Hokies' Ken Oxendine runs all over outmanned Owls. ... VIRGINIA TECH 35-10.

No. 19 Washington State (minus 9 1/2) at Illinois

Illini's new coach Ron Turner still looking for win No. 1 ... WASHINGTON STATE 35-21.

No. 21 Stanford (minus 11 1/2) at Oregon State

Cardinal bounces back from loss at North Carolina ... STANFORD 33-14.

No. 22 Miami (minus 15) at Pittsburgh (Thursday)

Watch out Hurricanes, Panthers think they can win ... MIAMI 28-21.

Air Force (plus 11 1/2) at No. 23 Colorado State

Air Force one of only two unbeaten WAC teams ... COLORADO STATE 28-20.

Northeast Louisiana (plus 29 1/2) at No. 25 Georgia

Bulldogs want to stick around Top 25 awhile. ... GEORGIA 45-13.


Last week: 15-5 (straight); 11-7 (spread)

Season: 42-7 (straight); 25-20 (spread)