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Tough Florida defense is the life of this party

Florida's defense deserved a rousing toast after this game -- even if it wasn't a cocktail party.

The Gators forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, helping ninth-ranked Florida beat Georgia, 21-14, yesterday and continue its recent dominance in the rivalry.

Florida has won eight of nine and 15 of the last 17 in the series that has been known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, although school and city officials are trying to downplay the moniker because of its negative imagery.

Whatever you want to call it, it's been all Gators lately.

Florida remained atop the Southeastern Conference's East Division and moved a step closer to returning to the conference title game for the first time since 2000. The Gators (7-1, 5-1) need to beat Vanderbilt and South Carolina to make that happen.

The Bulldogs (6-3, 3-3) lost for the third time in four games and essentially dropped out of the division race.

Although Andre Caldwell scored two early touchdowns -- a 12-yard run and a 40-yard reception from Chris Leak -- Florida's defense got the credit for this one.

The Gators led, 21-0, after Georgia fumbled on the opening play of the second half. Derrick Harvey knocked the ball out of Kregg Lumpkin's hands, and Ray McDonald returned it 9 yards for a score.

Ohio St. 44, Minnesota 0 -- Troy Smith added to his Heisman Trophy résumé by running for one touchdown and throwing for another, and the top-ranked Buckeyes rolled past the Golden Gophers in Columbus, Ohio.

Antonio Pittman rushed for two scores for Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten), which has won every game this season by at least 17 points.

It was another impressive performance by a defense that came in tied for the national lead in fewest points allowed (8.2 per game). Ohio State intercepted Minnesota's Bryan Cupito three times and never faced a serious threat from Minnesota (3-6, 0-5).

The Buckeyes' offense dominated, piling up 484 yards, though three lost fumbles kept the score from being more one-sided before a homecoming crowd of 105,443.

Michigan 17, Northwestern 3 -- Mike Hart ran for 95 yards and a touchdown to help the No. 2 Wolverines pound out a rain-soaked win over the Wildcats in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hart and a swarming defense kept Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) on track for a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at Ohio State Nov. 18. The Wolverines were 30-point favorites against the Wildcats, who just a week earlier had collapsed in record-setting fashion by blowing a 35-point lead against Michigan State, but Northwestern (2-7, 0-5) trailed only, 10-3, midway through the third.

Tyrell Sutton, who had 172 yards on the ground against Michigan State, found very little room against Michigan's top-rated run defense. He finished with 6 yards on seven carries, and Northwestern rushed for minus-13 yards.

Texas 35, Texas Tech 31 -- Colt McCoy threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns, and the fifth-ranked Longhorns erased a three-touchdown deficit to overcome the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas.

Texas (8-1, 5-0 Big 12) didn't take its first lead until early in the fourth quarter when McCoy threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Quan Cosby to make it 35-31.

Texas Tech (5-4, 2-3) had chances in the final 6:14, but twice failed on fourth downs inside Texas 35. Graham Harrell completed 42 of 62 passes for 519 yards and three touchdowns.

Auburn 23, Mississippi 17 -- At Oxford, Miss., Brandon Cox passed for a season-high 253 yards and a touchdown and John Vaughn kicked three second-half field goals, enabling the seventh-ranked Tigers to slip by the Rebels.

Auburn (8-1, 5-1 SEC) trailed Mississippi (2-7, 1-5) twice, but converted two third-quarter interceptions thrown by Brent Schaeffer into 10 points. The win was the Tigers' 21st in their last 23 regular-season SEC games and kept their conference and national title hopes alive.

Tennessee 31, S. Carolina 24 -- Erik Ainge threw two touchdown passes to Bret Smith and the No. 8 Vols (7-1, 3-1 SEC) ended a year of ugly memories from last year's loss to the Gamecocks (5-3, 3-3) with a victory in Columbia, S.C.

Notre Dame 38, Navy 14 -- At Baltimore, Brady Quinn accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one running) and the No. 11 Fighting Irish (7-1) amassed a season-high 471 yards in their 43d consecutive victory over the Midshipmen, the longest winning streak against one opponent in NCAA history.

Arkansas 44, Louisiana-Monroe 10 -- At Little Rock, Ark., Darren McFadden ran for 129 yards and a touchdown and also threw for a score to power the No. 13 Razorbacks (7-1) and give Houston Nutt his 100th coaching victory.

Wisconsin 30, Illinois 24 -- Forced to play much of the way without injured star running back P.J. Hill, the 17th-ranked Badgers (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) rallied from a two-touchdown halftime deficit at home as John Stocco threw for 217 yards and a TD.

Oklahoma 26, Missouri 10 -- Paul Thompson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the No. 19 Sooners (6-2, 3-1 Big 12) turned five mistakes by the No. 23 Tigers (7-2, 3-2) into points in a road victory.

Oklahoma St. 41, Nebraska 29 -- Dantrell Savage ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and Nathan Peterson returned a fumble for another score as the Cowboys (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) upset the No. 20 Cornhuskers (6-3, 2-2) in Stillwater, Okla.

Texas A&M 31, Baylor 21 -- The 22d-ranked Aggies (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) prevailed in Waco, Texas, behind two touchdown catches by Martellus Bennett -- one for 75 yards -- and Mike Goodson's clinching 64-yard scoring run with 2:15 left.

Oregon 55, Portland St. 12 -- At Eugene, Ore., Jeremiah Johnson ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns and the No. 25 Ducks (6-2) overpowered the 1-AA Vikings (5-4).

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