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HOLTZ UPSET OVER ANOTHER NO. 2 RANKING

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Two is not Lou Holtz's favorite number.

Last season, the Notre Dame coach was upset when his team finished second behind Florida State. He thought the Irish deserved to win the national championship because they beat Florida State and both schools finished with one loss.Now, Holtz is unhappy over Notre Dame's No. 2 preseason ranking behind Florida in The Associated Press college football poll. He doesn't understand why an Irish team that lost 13 starters - including its quarterback and three first-round NFL draft picks - should be ranked so high.

"People have as much business picking us No. 2 in the preseason this year as they did picking us No. 2 at the end of last year. Neither one of them makes sense to me," Holtz said.

It made sense to the AP's national media panel, which almost made Notre Dame No. 1. The Irish received only two points fewer than Florida in the closest preseason poll ever.

Rather than focus on what Notre Dame lost, voters thought about what the Irish retained - a roster filled with blue-chip players and potential All-Americans. They include tailback Lee Becton, safety Bobby Taylor, receiver Derrick Mayes and sophomore Ron Powlus, touted as Notre Dame's next great quarterback before ever playing a down in college.

"There's a lot of expectations, but I can't worry about living up to that or playing a certain way," said Powlus, who missed his entire freshman year with a broken collarbone.

Notre Dame received 13 first-place votes and 1,414 points in the preseason poll. Florida, which won a school-record 11 games last season, got 15 first-place votes and 1,416 points.

"We're certainly honored," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Being No. 1 is very special to me, my players and all Gator fans."

Florida's only other No. 1 ranking was in 1985, when it held the top spot for one week before losing to Georgia 24-3.

"I can assure our Gator fans that we will do everything possible to hold this ranking as long as we can," said defensive end Kevin Carter. "I can't wait to play our opening game (against New Mexico State) on Sept. 3 and hear our 84,000 fans screaming `We're No. 1."'

It's the fifth straight year that a team from the Sunshine State has been No. 1 in the preseason poll. Miami got the nod in 1990 and '92, while Florida State was the pick in '91 and '93.

Florida State is third this year with 10 first-place votes and 1,407 points. Nebraska, which lost to the Seminoles 18-16 in the Orange Bowl, is fourth with 18 first-place votes and 1,398 points.

Michigan is fifth, followed by Miami, Arizona, Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Rounding out the Top 25 are Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio State, Illinois, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia and Clemson.