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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Oklahoma Sooners Complete Game Preview

The Tennessee Volunteers took care of business the first two weeks of the season, but warm-ups are over.

It's time for the Vols to travel to Norman to take on Oklahoma, and the fourth-ranked Sooners appear to be a matchup nightmare for a young UT team with questions abounding.

Can the Vols get their offensive line situation squared up enough to slow down OU's vaunted pass rush? Can the defense keep its impressive third-down run going? Will either of UT's injured offensive weapons (Von Pearson and Ethan Wolf) be available?

A lot must be sorted out before Saturday night's showdown, and there's not a lot of time to do it.

The Vols passed their first test in slowing mobile quarterbacks Chuckie Keeton and Fredi Knighten. They also overcame playing sluggishly after a short week of practice.

Now comes the biggest challenge so far.

On paper, it looks like UT's first loss of the season awaits, but there's no better way for the Vols' young team to grow up than to play grown men. That's about to happen.


Date: Saturday, Sept. 13

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma


Radio: Vol Network, Sooner Sports Network, Sirius/XM 91

Spread: Oklahoma by 21 points, according to OddsShark.com.

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top-25 Rankings, Week 3 Projections

The voters were impressed by the Oregon Ducks' 46-27 victory at home against the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night. So much so, they vaulted the Ducks ahead of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the latest Associated Press Top 25.

Alabama blew out Florida Atlantic 41-0 but struggled in Week 1 against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Tide had to sweat out a 33-23 win over the Mountaineers. It's possible that the less-than-impressive victory created some doubt in the minds of voters.

The other major change in the Top 25 involved the Ohio State Buckeyes. After Ohio State had some anxious moments against Navy in Week 1, it lost to Virginia Tech on Saturday 35-21. 

The loss sent the Buckeyes tumbling from No. 8 to No. 22 in the latest poll. Here's a look at the entire Top 25 released on Sunday morning, per ESPN.com.


AP Top 25RankTeamRecordPoints 1 Florida State (38) 2-0 1463 2 Oregon (16) 2-0 1415 3 Alabama (1) 2-0 1334 4 Oklahoma (2) 2-0 1303 5 Auburn 2-0 1236 6 Georgia (1) 1-0 1201 7 Texas A&M (2) 2-0 1101 8 Baylor 2-0 1043 9 USC 2-0 1039 10 LSU 2-0 1029 11 Notre Dame 2-0 815 12 UCLA 2-0 779 13 Michigan State 1-1 751 14 Ole Miss 2-0 703 15 Stanford 1-1 592 16 Arizona State 2-0 570 17 Virginia Tech 2-0 532 18 Wisconsin 1-1 391 19 Kansas State 2-0 285 20 Missouri 2-0 237 21 Louisville 2-0 234 22 Ohio State 1-1 222 23 Clemson 1-1 206 24 South Carolina 1-1 199 25 BYU 2-0 179


Looking Ahead to Week 3

The Biggest Game of the Week - No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina

The South Carolina Gamecocks are 1-1, but they haven't looked good yet this season. After losing 52-28 in Week 1 against the Texas A&M Aggies, the Gamecocks scored an unimpressive 33-23 win over the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday.

Needless to say, the Gamecocks' confidence can't be too high heading into a clash with SEC foe Georgia on Saturday.

South Carolina has allowed an average of 482 total yards through its first two games. With Georgia's Todd Gurley coming to the Palmetto State, that number could grow on Saturday. Barring a massive turnaround this week, South Carolina is going to fall below .500 and out of the Top 25.

With only one game pitting ranked teams against each other, there may not be much movement in the rankings—unless there are a few upsets.


Potential Upsets

East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Hokies are coming off a huge upset win over Ohio State. Could they be heading for a letdown against the East Carolina Pirates?

Pirates quarterback Shane Carden has it in him to produce a big-time performance. Carden had five 350-yard passing games in 2013, and that includes a 376-yard, three-touchdown performance against North Carolina.

The Hokies defense will have to be ready for a fast-paced and potentially explosive attack.


No. 21 Louisville at Virginia

The Virginia Cavaliers shocked a few doubters in Week 2 when they pushed the UCLA Bruins to the wire.

Even though the Cavs fell 28-20, their ability to force turnovers and limit highly touted quarterback Brett Hundley to fewer than 300 yards through the air proved how effective the team's defense could be.

Without question, Bobby Petrino's Louisville offense is on another level, but if Virginia can disturb the Cardinals' rhythm on offense, it could have a shot at knocking Louisville from the Top 25.

The Cavs haven't beaten a ranked team since 2011. A year after winning just two games, the roster seems intent upon playing hard for head coach Mike London. A big win over Louisville could go a long way toward establishing more job security.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: What You Should and Shouldn't Be Concerned About

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football scored a monster win Saturday in its last scheduled meeting with its rival Michigan, topping the Wolverines, 31-0, under the lights before a raucous crowd at Notre Dame Stadium.

Pretty good RT @edsbs: https://t.co/rko6txA69g

— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) September 7, 2014

Notre Dame put together a complete performance and shut out the Wolverines for the first time in the history of the series, which began in 1887.

The sack should clinch ND its first shutout in this series and the first shutout of Michigan by anyone in 365 games — 1984.

— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) September 7, 2014

The Irish, though, weren’t perfect Saturday, as head coach Brian Kelly and players were quick to note afterward. So what should Notre Dame fans be concerned about at this point in the season? What do they not need to worry about?

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Texas Football: What You Should and Shouldn't Be Concerned About After Week 2

Texas 41-7 loss to BYU was bad, as the Horns somehow figured out how to take a worse beating than last year's back-breaking beatdown.

Charlie Strong put it best in his postgame press conference: "It's an embarrassment. It's an embarrassment to this program. It's an embarrassment to this university, and I knew it, and I didn't do anything about it. And I take responsibility and all the blame for this loss."

After a promising first half that ended with just a six-point deficit for the Horns, the wheels completely came off in the second half. The Cougars scored on their first four possessions, threatening a shutout until late in the third quarter.

Since panic is never an option two games into a coaching career, the Longhorns simply have to move forward and fix whatever they can. That list includes developing a more advanced game plan for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who proved he can handle it, and building upon a defensive line that stood out amongst the wreckage.

Rather than Strong, Swoopes and that line, fans should be concerned about the offensive line and play-calling more so than anything else.

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Power Ranking Nation's Best Rushing Attacks After Week 2

While spread offenses have become more prevalent in recent years, rushing-based systems are still important in college football.

In fact, some of the top high-powered spread attacks, like Auburn, Clemson and Arizona State, have successfully incorporated the ground element as a major part of their offenses.

Moving the ball on the ground allows you to control the clock, control a game's pace and demoralize a defense over the course of 60 minutes. It's crucial to sustained success at the national level.

Through two weeks, a number of teams have emerged as the best rushing teams in college football. Here's a look at who they are. Criteria for this list included having one of the top 20 averages in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Teams' opponents and overall success were also taken into consideration.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 3 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Another batch of NCAA football results means a new set of rankings heading into Week 3.

An eventful early schedule has produced premier matchups over the first two weeks, which causes casualties in the Associated Press poll. This week, it's Michigan State and Stanford paying the price for falling to frightful foes.

The winners basked in the glory of triumph, as Oregon, USC and Virginia Tech all enjoyed sizable gains in the rankings. Hot off the presses, here's a look at the updated AP Top 25 after two awesome weeks of college football.


Week 3 Rankings Analysis 

Heading into halftime down 24-18 to Michigan State, Oregon turned on the engines with four second-half touchdowns, two through the air and another pair on the ground. Tasked with combating a stout defense, the Ducks masterfully answered the call with a 46-27 victory over the previously No. 7-ranked Spartans.

For that comeback victory, the AP rewarded Oregon by springing the school up a spot from No. 3 to No. 2.

Considering No. 1 Florida State has won its two games by a combined 31 points, one could argue Mark Helfrich's squad deserved a steeper ascension to No. 1. 

The Spartans, on the other hand, were punished for their defeat, sinking outside the top 10 to No. 13. Yet they didn't fall nearly as far as Big Ten rival Ohio State, who torpedoed down to No. 22 after losing 35-21 to Virginia Tech.

Filling in for the injured Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett completed nine passes in 29 attempts while surrendering three interceptions. He can't burden all the blame either, as the offensive line allowed seven sacks during the ugly defeat.

A title hopeful with Miller, the Buckeyes are another loss from vanishing from the AP Top 25 altogether. They won't face a ranked opponent until traveling to Michigan State in November, so they have an opportunity to rebound, starting this Saturday against 0-2 Kent State.

On a brighter note, Virginia Tech went from unranked to perched above Ohio State at No. 17. Per ESPN Stats & Info, this represents the school's most prominent victory over a ranked squad.

Head coach Frank Beamer understands the significance of the win, telling the AP (via USA Today) that this upset will put his club on the map.

"I think this is a big, big win for this program, for the status of this program," coach Frank Beamer said.

Even though it was a big win, rising all the way to No. 17 is an overreaction after one week. Despite the crooked numbers on the scoreboard, Virginia Tech gained three total yards fewer than Ohio State, benefiting from the freshman quarterback's inexperience.

After playing South Carolina tough in a 32-23 loss, East Carolina poses a threat to the Hokies' newfound respect on Saturday. Don't be shocked if the Pirates turn the tables on them with an upset of their own.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Odds: Week 3 Opening Lines, Huge Spreads Again

Following their stunning 35-21 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes as 10-point road underdogs in Week 2, the Virginia Tech Hokies have cracked the AP Top 25 rankings and open the week as 10-point favorites over the East Carolina Pirates.

The win was Virginia Tech’s second straight, against the spread and straight up, following a shaky end to the 2013 campaign in which they lost four of their last six SU, 1-5 ATS.

The Pirates are coming off a 33-23 loss to South Carolina as 14-point road underdogs, covering the spread for the seventh time in their last nine games. The Pirates are also 7-2 SU during that stretch.

The two teams met in 2013, with the Hokies posting a 15-10 win, but failing to cover as eight-point road favorites.

The Buckeyes will try to rebound when they host the Kent State Golden Flashes in Week 3 as 29.5-point favorites. Ohio State have lost three of four SU after riding a streak of 24 straight wins SU and are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven games.

Winless in their first two in 2014, Kent State are 2-7 SU and 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine games. However, the Golden Flashes have two betting trends in their favor, a 6-3 record ATS in their last nine as a road underdog and a 10-3 ATS run as a road team.

Oregon will be looking to extend their winning streak to four on Saturday when they take on the Wyoming Cowboys as 44-point home favorites. While the Ducks have been a strong bet as a September home favorite, 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four, they have been an overall disappointment to bettors, 1-5 ATS in their last six games as favorites.

Conversely, Wyoming have recently rewarded bettors who have shown faith in them on the road, going 15-5 ATS in their last 20 as road dogs.

In other Week 3 odds, Texas A&M opened as 32-point favorites against the Rice Owls. The Aggies are 4-0 ATS in their last four games when favored by more than 28 points, while Rice are 7-2 ATS in their last nine as road underdogs.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are enormous 47-point favorites over Southern Mississippi for Week 3, while Georgia opened as six-point road favorites against South Carolina.


Week 3 opening lines, as aggregated by Odds Shark

Louisiana Tech   -4            8:00 p.m.

North Texas                       Sep-11

Houston               -14          9:00 p.m.

BYU                        Sep-11

Toledo  -12          7:00 p.m.

Cincinnati                            Sep-12

Baylor   -27          8:00 p.m.

Buffalo                 Sep-12

Indiana-3            12:00 p.m.

Bowling Green                  Sep-13

Syracuse              -7.5        12:00 p.m.

Central Michigan                              Sep-13

Boise State         OFF        12:00 p.m.

Connecticut                        Sep-13

Pittsburgh           -27.5      12:00 p.m.

Florida International                       Sep-13

Ga Southern      -24          12:00 p.m.

Georgia Tech                     Sep-13

Ohio      -19          12:00 p.m.

Marshall                               Sep-13

West Virginia     -4.5        12:00 p.m.

Maryland                             Sep-13

Kent State           -26.5      12:00 p.m.

Ohio State                           Sep-13

East Carolina      -11.5      12:00 p.m.

Virginia Tech                      Sep-13

Central Florida   -9            12:00 p.m.

Missouri                               Sep-13

Massachusetts  -17.5      12:00 p.m.

Vanderbilt                           Sep-13

Louisville              -9.5        12:30 p.m.

Virginia                 Sep-13

Air Force              -9.5        2:00 p.m.

Georgia State                    Sep-13

Wyoming             -43          2:00 p.m.

Oregon                 Sep-13

Indiana State     OFF        3:00 p.m.

Ball State                             Sep-13

UC Davis                              3:00 p.m.

Colorado State                  Sep-13

Kansas  -20.5      3:30 p.m.

Duke                     Sep-13

Arkansas State  -17          3:30 p.m.

Miami                   Sep-13

Miami (Ohio)     -31.5      3:30 p.m.

Michigan                              Sep-13

Georgia                -3            3:30 p.m.

South Carolina                   Sep-13

North Carolina State       -1.5        3:30 p.m.

South Florida                     Sep-13

Iowa State          -15.5      3:30 p.m.

Iowa                      Sep-13

Arkansas              -4.5        3:30 p.m.

Texas Tech                          Sep-13

Alabama A&M                   3:30 p.m.

UAB                       Sep-13

Louisiana-Lafayette        -26          4:00 p.m.

Mississippi                          Sep-13

Mississippi State               -13          4:00 p.m.

South Alabama                 Sep-13

Minnesota          -8.5        4:00 p.m.

TCU                        Sep-13

Illinois   -15          4:00 p.m.

Washington                        Sep-13

Western Michigan           -2.5        5:00 p.m.

Idaho                    Sep-13

Army     -27.5      5:00 p.m.

Stanford                              Sep-13

Eastern Michigan             -11.5      6:00 p.m.

Old Dominion                    Sep-13

Southern Miss   -49          6:00 p.m.

Alabama                              Sep-13

Northern Illinois               -12          7:00 p.m.

UNLV                    Sep-13

Tulsa      -1.5        7:00 p.m.

Florida Atlantic                  Sep-13

Louisiana-Monroe           -28          7:00 p.m.

LSU                        Sep-13

Western Kentucky          OFF        7:00 p.m.

Middle Tennessee                          Sep-13

UTSA     OFF        7:00 p.m.

Oklahoma State                                Sep-13

Abilene Christian              OFF        7:00 p.m.

Troy                       Sep-13

Wake Forest      -14          7:00 p.m.

Utah State                          Sep-13

Kentucky             -17          7:30 p.m.

Florida                  Sep-13

Purdue-29          7:30 p.m.

Notre Dame                       Sep-13

Southern Cal      -20          8:00 p.m.

Boston College                  Sep-13

Tennessee          -21          8:00 p.m.

Oklahoma                           Sep-13

UCLA     -6            8:00 p.m.

Texas                    Sep-13

Navy      -13          8:00 p.m.

Texas State                         Sep-13

Southeastern Louisiana OFF        8:00 p.m.

Tulane                  Sep-13

New Mexico State           -10.5      8:00 p.m.

Texas El Paso                     Sep-13

Portland State   OFF        8:00 p.m.

Washington State                            Sep-13

Penn State          -3.5        8:00 p.m.

Rutgers                                Sep-13

Rice        -30          9:00 p.m.

Texas A&M                         Sep-13

Arizona State     -13.5      10:00 p.m.

Colorado                              Sep-13

Nebraska             -10          10:30 p.m.

Fresno State                      Sep-13

Nevada                -16.5      11:00 p.m.

Arizona                 Sep-13

Northern Iowa  OFF        12:00 a.m.

Hawaii                   Sep-14



Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia vs. South Carolina Complete Game Preview

Despite opening weekends that went drastically different for each team, this Saturday's meeting between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks still figures to be instrumental in shaping the SEC East.

The Gamecocks began shaking off an embarrassing season-opening loss to Texas A&M with a victory over East Carolina in Week 2.  A win over the Dawgs would put coach Steve Spurrier's squad back in the hunt for an eastern division crown.

Meanwhile, Georgia drew national attention for its decisive win over Clemson to open the season and used an off week to refine schemes and develop a game plan for the Gamecocks.

Here's what you need to know about this game:


Date: Saturday, Sept. 13

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina


Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Gamecock Sports Network

Spread: Georgia by 3 per OddsShark.com.

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College Football Picks Week 3: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

Through two weeks of the 2014 college football season, we've already seen a bevy of unexpected results. Some teams that received significant hype over the offseason proved to have very little substance, while some underappreciated squads made names for themselves with big wins.

In the aftermath of Week 2 contests, the AP released its new Top 25 poll, which included plenty of movement. After some ugly performances from a few top teams—Ohio State tops that short list—a couple of new teams find themselves on this week's list.

Vegas oddsmakers have already released the opening lines for Week 3 of the college football season, so let's go ahead and decide the outcome of each Top 25 squad's impending contest based on those odds.

All game odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

The AP poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.


Pick Analysis

(24) South Carolina vs. (6) Georgia

Georgia is only giving three points to South Carolina on Saturday. It's time to break out your wallet, because the Gamecocks haven't given us any reason to believe they can keep up with the Bulldogs.

In Week 1, Georgia's win over Clemson was a thing of beauty. The Bulldogs clicked in all phases of the game, racking up 459 yards of offense while pummeling the Tigers by a score of 45-21. Hutson Mason managed the game nicely from the quarterback position, and Heisman hopeful Todd Gurley rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns.

The SEC's Twitter account received quite a reaction when it asked if Gurley is the Heisman front-runner:

It's not as if Clemson was a no-name team, either. In Week 2, the Tigers took out their pent-up aggression on South Carolina State, winning by a score of 73-7.

As for South Carolina, it allowed Texas A&M to accumulate 52 points in Week 1 and made quarterback Kenny Hill a household name. You'd think the team would rebound against East Carolina in Week 2; however, that wasn't the case at all.

While the Gamecocks notched their first win of the season, they won by just seven points with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Once again, South Carolina's defense faltered, allowing 453 yards of offense to the Pirates.

Now, just imagine what the Bulldogs will be able to do.


Texas vs. (12) UCLA

Don't look now, but the UCLA Bruins may not be as good as advertised. Sure, they currently hold a 2-0 record; however, those two wins came in close contests against unranked teams. Expect that trend to continue in Week 3.

The Bruins have yet to find an identity. In Week 1, Virginia's defense absolutely tortured quarterback Brett Hundley. His offensive line just couldn't hold up against the pressure, and the end result was a dismal 43.2 passer rating. The offense couldn't get anything done, and the defense had to bail out the team.

It was completely different in Week 2 against Memphis. Hundley looked much better, completing 33 of his 44 passing attempts for 396 yards, three touchdowns and one interception; however, there was no running game to speak of—the Bruins averaged just 3.5 yards per carry as a team. Making matters worse, the defense didn't show up at all, allowing 469 yards of offense and 35 points to the Tigers.

UCLA was lucky to escape with another win. SportsCenter tweeted exactly how close the game was in the fourth quarter:

Texas is also an up-and-down team this season. The Longhorns looked decent in Week 1, defeating North Texas by a score of 38-7. The offense wasn't overwhelmingly impressive, but the defense allowed a grand total of just 94 yards to the Mean Green.

Things didn't quite go according to plan against BYU in Week 2. While the Texas defense looked good at times—Taysom Hill struggled through the air, completing 18 of his 27 attempts for 181 yards and a pick—it gave up five rushing touchdowns, losing 41-7.

The Longhorns aren't coming off a particularly favorable performance, but they play at home against a UCLA team that hasn't exactly found its groove yet this season. Expect a close one here.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans Have Swagger Back, and It Appears It May Be Here to Stay

Gone was the sense of entitlement.

Gone was the swagger that came from matching what those around the program said to what the program did every Saturday.

Gone was the aura that emanated from the Song Girls, the marching band and Traveler galloping across the field.

After a two-year bowl ban, 17 losses since the start of 2010 and a coaching reign that saw fans chanting for a firing, a glimpse of what USC was and may be again was evident Saturday in a 13-10 victory at Stanford. The win gave the Trojans a major boost in their quest to re-establish themselves as not only a Pac-12 power but a playoff contender for the national championship.

"It's been a long four years," USC athletic director Pat Haden admitted to the Los Angeles TimesBill Plaschke. "We've been through a lot. We're finally coming out of it."

On Sunday, the polls reflected increased respect for the Trojans as they jumped (from No. 14) to No. 9 in the AP poll and to No. 10 in the coaches poll.

USC is back.

But it was more than kicker Andre Heidari's game-winning 53-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining in the game or running back Javorius Allen's career-high 154 yards that rekindled memories of the Student Body Left, Student Body Right days, when Heisman Trophy candidates and All-American running backs seemed part of the program's DNA.

It was also the sight of USC coach Steve Sarkisian going ballistic with the officials, and Haden (a former All-American QB and Rhodes Scholar) coming out of the press box to argue with them on the sidelines after receiving a text message from the USC sideline. 

It was good football and good theatre.

It was the attitude that said, "We are USC."

Yes, they are. And while this season is only in its preliminary stages, it isn't a stretch to suggest that when the campaign wraps up in January with its first-ever College Football Playoff, USC will be part of the show.

Beating Stanford—which became a Pac-12 force in the power vacuum created when USC tumbled because of the severe sanctions levied against it by the NCAA—for the second consecutive year has set the table for USC to return among the game's elite. 

Oregon isn't on the regular-season schedule, and a potential conference title game meeting would be at the neutral site of Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. That leaves two major threats in the Pac-12 South: Arizona State, which must travel to L.A., and UCLA, which has looked less than overpowering in two wins over Virginia and Memphis.

Sarkisian, who arrived in December from Washington and was once a longtime assistant under former coach Pete Carroll, hinted as much after the game Saturday.

"No telling what might happen now," he told reporters. "We might just see these guys again in a few months [in the Pac-12 title game in December]."

There was a time not all that long ago when such confident chatter was a staple of USC conversation.

After the program had grown dormant in the years after John McKay, and John Robinson had directed the school to five national championships between 1962-78, Pete Carroll arrived and, in short order, turned the Trojans forward.

After stumbling out of the gate in 2001 with a 2-5 start, USC went 67-7 over the next 74 games. It won 34 straight during one stretch and captured back-to-back AP national championships in '03 and '04. The Trojans finished in the top four of the final AP rankings seven times, and they lost a total of nine games from '02-08.

USC games became must-see events. Average attendance jumped from fewer than 60,000 per game to more than 85,000. Celebrities such as Will Ferrell mingled with former Heisman winners and All-Americans on the sidelines at home games.

It was a stretch of success that came with a huge cost, however.

The NCAA hit the program with a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships after an investigation found that former tailback Reggie Bush had received improper benefits from marketing agents. Fourteen victories were crossed out of the record book, an '05 national title vacated.

Carroll, while not directly implicated, was the man in charge at the time. Six months before the penalties were handed to the school, Carroll left to return to the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.

It has been a tough trip since, characterized by missteps, mistakes and, at times, chaos. It seemed to peak last season when Haden fired coach Lane Kiffin midseason. That left the team in the hands of assistant Ed Orgeron, who soon quit (upon Sarkisian's hiring), leaving the program in the hands of assistant Clay Helton for the team's visit to the Las Vegas Bowl.

Counting Sarkisian, the Trojans cycled through four coaches in four months. Remarkably, they still won 10 games.

Once a longtime assistant under Carroll, Sarkisian has been forced to expect the unexpected in his short tenure running the show at USC.

Before the season started, he faced internal strife when he suspended team captain Josh Shaw for fabricating a story about saving his nephew from drowning in a swimming pool. Sarkisian had to deal with charges from running back Anthony Brown that Brown was quitting because he felt Sarkisian was a racist (an accusation Sarkisian called "ridiculous" and Brown deleted from his Instagram account).   

Despite the problems of the last few weeks, Sarkisian has brought stability to the football offices after the last few years of turmoil under Kiffin. And then there is the talent level. Rivals has ranked USC's 2015 recruiting class as the best in the conference (and No. 10 nationally), which has bolstered a roster with talent returning at all of the offensive skill positions and seven starters back on defense.

With a 2-0 start, it would appear USC is indeed "coming out of it," as Haden suggested. The program has always had the first-line talent to compete with anyone, including crosstown rival UCLA, which has also re-emerged as a Pac-12 and national force under the guidance of coach Jim Mora.

The Trojans are sitting in prime position, with a schedule that seems manageable, starting with a prime-time road game Saturday night at Boston College on and back-to-back home contests against Oregon State and Arizona State.

After that, the biggest obstacles appear to be a road game at Arizona on Oct. 11, the annual meeting with UCLA (in the Rose Bowl) on Nov. 22 and a regular-season finale with Notre Dame a week later. Then could come the rematch with Stanford that Sarkisian hinted at or a date with No. 3 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

With the early self-destruct button hit by the Big Ten in terms of its national championship hopes, USC might need to reserve some space on the sidelines for a Will Ferrell sequel soon.


Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe.

Follow him on Twitter @blauds.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans Have Swagger Back, and It Appears It May Be Here to Stay

Gone was the sense of entitlement. Gone was the swagger that came from matching what those around the program said to what the program did every Saturday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 3

There are going to be better weeks of action in college football than the slate of games on tap for Week 3. Let's just call a spade a spade in that regard. Still, there are enough juicy games and marquee teams in action to keep things interesting. 

Below, we'll take a look at the rankings and make a few predictions for the top squads in the country. Spoiler alert: Don't expect a ton of upsets this week.



Georgia at South Carolina

In a week largely devoid of top-notch matchups, this SEC clash is the cream of the crop. Coming into the season, it was expected the SEC East would come down to one of these two teams, and with South Carolina already losing to Texas A&M, its season will be on the line here. 

Of course, slowing down Todd Gurley won't be easy. The Heisman candidate absolutely shredded Clemson in Week 1, rushing 15 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and he took a kick to the house, too, giving him four scores already on the season. 

So good has Gurley looked on the season, a former college star, Herschel Walker, has already been heaping the praise on him this year, per Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of SI.com:

'Every time he touches the ball,' Walker said, 'you’re looking for something to happen.'

Walker didn’t get a chance to talk with Gurley after Georgia’s 45-21 victory over Clemson on Saturday, a game in which he set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns. But Walker said Gurley knows 'how special he is to me.'

'Todd is the best running back in college football,' Walker said. 'Right now, you can’t argue that point.'

Walker might be a bit biased—he's a Georgia alum, after all—but it's hard to argue with his assessment of Gurley. 

Of course, when South Carolina was blitzkrieged by Texas A&M, it wasn't the running game that killed them. Yes, it gave up 169 yards on the ground and a rushing score, but it was the 511 passing yards and three touchdowns it gave up to Kenny Hill and Co. in the passing game that really did the Gamecocks in during the 52-28 loss.

It will be interesting to see if they can slow down the very different attack Georgia will bring into Williams-Brice Stadium. If South Carolina can contain Gurley, it'll likely win this game at home. But if Gurley gives the Heisman voters another marquee performance, Georgia's going to come away with the vital victory.

Prediction: Georgia wins


Tennessee at Oklahoma 

Let's be clear right up front: Oklahoma is probably going to roll Tennessee. Trevor Knight has been brilliant thus far (553 passing yards, three touchdowns), the Sooners have allowed just 23 total points in two games, and the talent on this team is really impressive. They have one of the truly balanced offenses in college football (286.0 passing yards and 222.0 rushing yards per game).

Knight will be the difference, of course. If he's consistently a stud, Oklahoma will be tough to top. Thus far, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports has been impressed:

But Tennessee is no pushover. Despite a pretty weak schedule to start—to be fair, Oklahoma hasn't been tested either—the Vols have been impressive in their 2-0 star, as quarterback Justin Worley has been excellent (520 passing yards, five touchdowns).

Still, Tennessee is a young team, and the trip to Memorial Stadium might be a taller task than it's ready for at the moment. Oklahoma looks, once again, like one of the most talented and balanced squads in the country. It'll prove it Saturday night.

Prediction: Oklahoma wins


Other Marquee Teams in Action

Look folks, there just aren't a ton of prime-time matchups this week, so let's buzz through a few of the bigger contests.

Baylor should cruise against Buffalo. UCF might give Missouri a headache or two, but it couldn't pull off the win over Penn State, and it won't take down the Tigers, either. Louisville should squeak by a tough Virginia team that played UCLA really tough.

Oregon will demolish Wyoming. Stanford will recover in style against Army, while Notre Dame will handle Purdue without any issue. UCLA will make BYU's rout against Texas look like a paper cut when the Bruins face the Longhorns.

USC's defense will shut down Boston College. Texas A&M will breeze past Rice, and Arizona State won't be troubled by Colorado. Perhaps Nebraska will have learned from its scare this weekend and take Fresno State seriously. If it does, it'll win big.


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Mississippi State Bulldogs Broadcast Legend Jack Cristil Passes Away at 88

In what is a sad moment for college football and America in general, Mississippi State has announced that one of the greatest broadcasters of our time or any time, Jack Cristil, has passed away at the age of 88.

Jack will be remembered as the iron man behind the microphone—636 total football games, which accounts for over 60 percent of the total games in Mississippi State history.

MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin took to Twitter to address the sad news.

Very sad to share this: Mississippi State lost it’s Voice tonight, Jack Cristil. #HailState#WrapItInMaroonAndWhitehttp://t.co/erQU8oAc8v

— Scott Stricklin (@stricklinMSU) September 8, 2014

MSU President Mark E. Keenum also offered words about Cristil in the school's announcement: 

As a lifelong Bulldog, my heart is heavy at learning of the passing of legendary MSU broadcaster Jack Cristil. Jack's deep love of this university was always evident in his words and in his deeds. He was a tireless ambassador for Mississippi State and he brought great honor and distinction to our university as one of the most revered radio announcers in American history.

Funeral arrangements weren't immediately known, but all communication about such events will come from the MSU Office of Public Affairs.

Fan groups are calling for respects to be paid at the family's commemorative brick.

If you wish to pay your respects to Jack Cristil in person, his brick is found in section I-2. pic.twitter.com/AOyAbKEFvA

— M&WN (@mandwnation) September 8, 2014

Cristil was a recipient of the Ronald Reagan Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, given by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters, and won the Mississippi Broadcaster of the Year Award a record 21 times. Perhaps no one in any sport will ever be as well-known for who they called games for as much as Cristil was with Mississippi State football.

In addition to his football games, Cristil called roughly 55 percent of all of the school's basketball games. He did football for 58 seasons and basketball for 54.

Fittingly, Cristil's last football game called was one of the most memorable in recent times, as it was the 52-14 Gator Bowl win over the Michigan Wolverines in 2011.

Follow Dan Irwin on Twitter @irwinsports or on Facebook.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Ranking the 10 Best Under-the-Radar Players After Week 2

The 2014 college football season is now two weeks old, and we certainly have our list of superstars and playmakers.  But the Big Ten is full of top-tier athletes making a difference for their teams, and despite a lack of attention, these under-the-radar players are making big impacts in the Big Ten.

Every great quarterback needs great wide receivers, and every great running back needs great offensive linemen.  There are even quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs that are overlooked because of their team's overall lack of success.

These players are some of the best Big Ten players in 2014, so it's a bit strange we haven't heard more about them.  We'll remedy that right now.


Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.


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Week 2 College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner

College football is a cruel, ruthless game, one that regularly rips the hearts out of unflappable grown men and raises it to the sky for the world to see. 

Enter McNeese State coach Matt Viator, who watched his team come up seconds short of pulling an upset so large it would have been difficult to grasp. Following the game, just a short while after the Nebraska scoreboard read 31-24 in favor of the Cornhuskers, Viator reacted exactly how anyone in his position would have reacted while waiting to address the media.

McNeese State coach Matt Viator. The agony of defeat pic.twitter.com/izr6o2wKKE

— Dirk Chatelain (@dirkchatelain) September 6, 2014

Now, we don’t have the full context of this image, which is noteworthy. Nonetheless, it does its part in summarizing the emotional toll that comes with excitement followed by the harsh reality of crushing disappointment. 

When you’re an FCS program assumed to be there for a paycheck—and that’s exactly what you’re doing, no matter how we try to spin it—we assume defeat is just all in a day’s work. Not for these coaches, though. The paycheck theory never applies, particularly when the stigmas are long dead deep in the fourth quarter. 

McNeese State was close, so close that it took a monumental effort from one of the nation’s best players—more on that in a bit—to secure a victory. 

There is no comfort in being paid a large sum of money to come to a stadium and nearly pull off the unthinkable. In the end, a loss is still a loss, and you can feel the hurt without truly understanding this kind of emotional burn. 

College football is an amazing game; college football is a cruel, alliance-less monster.

Given the weekend that was, particularly for a certain conference that will remain nameless (for now), this sentiment can be shared in plenty of cities. As for other awards and observations from Week 2, including the best fan of the college football season, here they are.


Offensive Player of the Week: Vernon Adams Jr., Eastern Washington

Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had himself a day against a Top 25 team. Adams completed 31 of 46 passes for 475 yards and seven—yes, seven—touchdowns on the road against Washington. He also ran for 17 yards, which, well, somehow feels far less significant than the other numbers listed. 

What’s even more impressive is that this performance came against one of the most experienced defenses in the country. And while his team was unable to pull the monster upset—losing 59-52—his work should be lauded. 

It’s also worth highlighting that through two games, only 11 teams have thrown for seven touchdowns. (No big deal, it took him 60 minutes.)


Dominant Defender: Danny Shelton, Washington

How can the Offensive Player of the Week and the Dominant Defender come from the same game and two different teams? Allow me to explain this peculiar circumstance. 

Yes, Washington gave up 52 points to Eastern Washington (see above), but that was through no fault of Danny Shelton’s. The senior defensive tackle finished the game with 12 tackles and four—yes, four—sacks in the 59-52 victory. 

Through two games, the 339-pounder has six sacks overall. He is currently first in the nation and out in front by a wide margin; the next-closest player has three-and-a-half sacks through two games.

His image above pretty much sums up Washington's current season rather perfectly.


Video Game Box Score

— Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen completed only four passes in the Hogs' 73-7 win against Nicholls State. These passes totaled 117 yards. On paper, this isn’t all that impressive. But when you consider that all four of these completions resulted in touchdowns, you enter a bizarre world of offensive production.

— To say College of Faith struggled against the Tusculum defense would be a gross understatement. Yes, these are the names actual Division II programs, and they made history on Thursday night. The Tusculum defense held College of Faith to minus-100 total yards and minus-124 yards rushing in a 71-0 victory, both NCAA records. Burn the film, College of Faith. Burn it and never look back.


Anti-Video Game Box Score

— Well, I suppose we have to include the College of Faith offense here. Not your week, College of Faith.

 — Oh, SMU. We’re going to be saying this a lot this season, aren’t we? After getting obliterated by Baylor in Week 1—which is understandable—the Mustangs fell to North Texas by the score of 43-6. Worst of all, however, is that the Mean Green finished with 15 penalties for 139 yards and still cruised. Oh, and SMU finished 1-of-11 on third downs, turned the ball over five times and rushed for eight yards.


Biggest Surprise: Pat Haden’s Sideline Cameo

During a football game, an athletic director of a major college football program received a text message from a staff member, requesting he come down to the field. He did. That’s weird as is, but let’s get weirder.

From there, USC’s Pat Haden—also known as College Football Playoff Committee member Pat Haden—argued with officials on the sideline. This encounter prompted a flood of columns and tweets requesting that Haden resign from the committee immediately.

The response was unexpected but not at all surprising.

Should a committee member be pleading for his team during a game? Probably not.

Should an athletic director suddenly transform into a mascot? Probably not.

Should an athletic director be on the committee that decides a college football postseason in the first place? Probably not.

Should Haden give up his seat? No. Let's just relax and find something else to be unexplainably mad about.


Best Moment 

Disclaimer: If you’re a McNeese State fan, please skip to the next section or throw your computer through the nearest window. 

Nebraska running Ameer Abdullah delivered a play that will be analyzed by football scientists for years to come. Tied with McNeese State with less than a minute remaining, Abdullah caught the ball in space and then turned into a superhero for 58 yards.

His touchdown gave Nebraska a victory—and maybe did a bit more for his head coach.

Watch it again. And again. And again. It still won’t seem real.


For the Highlight Reel 

With Michigan State driving, poised to close the gap on Oregon, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu—the Ducks’ best defensive player—delivered the spectacular. 

The All-American’s acrobatic leap proved to be one the key moments in Oregon’s 46-27 win over Sparty. It also deserves multiple viewings, because 99.9 percent of us would tear everything in our bodies attempting such a dive.

Take it away, Gus.

You can’t have him yet, NFL. He’s ours for a little while longer.


If the College Football Playoff Started Today... (or Why I Hate Your Team)

It’s that time again; time to make fanbases mad with rankings that carry absolutely no bearing on what the College Football Playoff will look like. I promise, Pat Haden did not campaign for USC’s inclusion below; this was my own doing. 

  1. Oregon
  2. USC
  3. Georgia
  4. Florida State


Fan of the Week: Shirtless, Hatless, Disgusted Vanderbilt Fan

What do you do when your team is 0-2 and was outscored 78-10 in the first two weeks at home? Well, you do the reasonable thing: You rip off your shirt and hat, toss them with the utmost disdain from the stands and walk out sans your dignity (and the necessary attire to be served in most restaurants).

Vandy fan so upset he just took off his hat and shirt, threw them on the field and walked out. #vandy#olemisspic.twitter.com/C3tFqFpjfv

— Audra Martin (@Audra_Martin) September 6, 2014

Bless you, sir. Keep fighting the good fight.


Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. Let's just forget that weekend ever happened, Big Ten. I promise not to bring it up if you won't. In fact, I've already forgotten about it. No, I'm not crying. OK, maybe I'm crying just a little bit. I need a moment.

2. What an impressive win for Oregon, and what a game overall. Marcus Mariota is truly spectacular, and Michigan State (to me) is still a Top 10 team. It'll be fascinating to see where these teams go from here and the playoff implications that will follow.

3. Even without Bryce Petty, the Baylor offense is machine-like. You could throw for 300 yards. Yes, you. And on the topic of offense, how good is wideout KD Cannon going to be? Heck, how good is he now? The true freshman caught six passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern State…in the first half.

4. Everett Golson is a different quarterback, and I say that knowing that tougher cornerbacks and competition are still to come. With that necessary disclaimer out of the way, it would seem he’s on the verge of a pretty special season after what we saw against Michigan. He’s must-see TV at the moment. 

5. As good as business is for college football—and business is very, very good—the infusion of money and conference-hopping has killed some of the most important games, which are the roots of our enjoyment. The fact that Michigan and Notre Dame are ending their rivalry is a gut-punch to us all.


How to Not Start a Game, Starring Western Illinois

When receiving the opening kickoff, here is a short list of things one should not do.

1. Fumble

2. Fall Asleep

3. Get Caught Texting

4. Vomit

5. Do This…

Kyle Hammonds of Western Illinois found himself in kickoff purgatory after dropping the ball. The result was an early 2-0 lead for Wisconsin after only one second of play. This will win you bar trivia at some point; bank on it.


This Week in Large Man Greatness

Hello, Preston Smith.

The Mississippi State defensive end picked off his second pass of the season, and he did so in spectacular fashion.

The 270-pounder followed up the one-handed snag by taking it back for a touchdown. He remains the Bulldogs' best defensive back. I'm kidding, sort of.


This Guy

Winner at life. pic.twitter.com/JsVldZPNP0

— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 6, 2014

It’s the Dri-FIT bandana, the gas station sunglasses, the 14-pound headphones and that amazing blonde mane that make Brock Hekking a football treasure. 

The Nevada defensive end has a look about him that is unique from any player in college football. It’s the mullet, certainly, but it’s so much more than that. The image above was taken as Hekking warmed up for Washington State on Friday evening, and it creates an accurate representation of the most interesting college football player on the planet. 


And This Guy

We see your breathtaking mullet and raise you this gentleman’s mustache-beard hybrid, which belongs in some sort of facial hair museum. (If one doesn’t exist, let’s build one, just for this.)

You probably take your job very seriously, but I doubt you look as serious as this man did while waiting to escort Nevada head coach Brian Polian to the locker room.

That mustache-beard actually is a third-degree black belt and carries mace. Proceed with caution.


Mascot Nightmare Fuel

The Stanford Tree is here, mutant tongue exposed, ready to find you while you sleep for the rest of time. Never has such a huggable, cartoon piece of fabricated wood been so utterly horrifying.


Mascot Nightmare Fuel: Part 2

Speaking of mutants, I propose we start testing Maryland mascots for HGH and other performance-enhancing substances. Terrifying.


From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

I wonder if Arkansas State did this on purpose pic.twitter.com/fKkFMPzRhr

— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) September 6, 2014

You’re losing to a bed and breakfast, UConn. pic.twitter.com/9HpmPS7Nn6

— Ryan Nanni (@celebrityhottub) September 6, 2014

Looked familiar. https://t.co/4hdzMw3bxY#WarEagle

— Auburn Tigers (@AuburnTigers) September 5, 2014

Waiting for Michigan to score pic.twitter.com/Q3a27Zcw5A

— Kevin (@KevinJamal7) September 7, 2014

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. Rice Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Rice Owls at Kyle Field on Saturday in a contest between two former Southwest Conference teams. Rice is 0-1 and coming off a bye week after opening the season with a 48-17 loss at Notre Dame.

The Aggies are 2-0 and ranked No. 7 in the latest AP poll. Texas A&M is coming off a 73-3 win over Lamar. The Aggies will be looking to improve their record to 3-0 and get their young team some more experience against the Owls. 

Texas A&M has played 14 true freshmen during the first two games of the season. Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff need to continue to give those young players snaps in order to prepare them for the upcoming conference schedule.

The Rice game will be another opportunity for the Aggies to improve before they enter the meat of their conference schedule. This is a look at how the two teams match up with each other.   

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Ohio State Football: What You Should Be Concerned About

The Ohio State Buckeyes suffered their first home and regular-season loss under Urban Meyer Saturday night, getting blasted by Virginia Tech in a 35-21 upset.

It was a crushing defeat for a team that was hoping to rely on a strong defense and an upgraded group of skill-position players in the wake of Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury.

As Ohio State tries to refocus for a run at a Big Ten title, what should Buckeyes fans be most concerned about? 

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Mizzou Football Preview: Tigers Host Central Florida in Week 3

In what may be their toughest nonconference game remaining, Mizzou gears up to host the defending Fiesta Bowl champions, Central Florida. UCF opened the year with a historic contest in Dublin, Ireland against Penn State, but never looked the better team and fell to the Nittany Lions, 26-24, after a furious comeback wasn't enough for Penn State's late field goal.

But if you think that the Knights are coming into Columbia with their heads down, think again. This team thrives on playing in tough situations and sees nothing but opportunity with their visit to Columbia this weekend.

Mizzou comes into Week 3 with a 2-0 record as expected and has done so while looking decent on offense and questionable on defense. Russell Hansbrough has been able to essentially become that primary back who may have an amazing season. Marcus Murphy has been critical as a multi-functional player. Darius White and Bud Sasser have made themselves big targets for quarterback Maty Mauk.

Players have stepped up on the defensive side of the ball but have let opponents gash them in the running game. So how will Mizzou fare against UCF? We examine all aspects.

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College Football's All Week 2 First-Team: Top Performers at Every Position

College football's second week taught us a familiar lesson that we can't seem to retain: that the weakest slates of games on paper will always be the best on the field.

Despite featuring just two all-ranked matchups, Saturday provided rigorous entertainment from noon until the wee hours of Sunday morning, starting with an FCS team taking a ranked team to the brink during the noon games and ending with UTEP doing the same to Texas Tech around 3 a.m. ET.

In the end, the weekend gave us a number of standout players who did well to earn their helmet stickers. Some were already household names, and others came from relative nowhere, but all of them left Week 2 feeling good about their lot moving forward.

In putting together this list and recognizing these players, statistics were relied upon but not adhered to. A player can dominate without showing up on the box score—especially if he plays defense—and the quality of opponent was also taken into account.

Sound of below and let me know whom else you would add.

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USC Football: An Ugly Win at Stanford May Set Up a Beautiful Season

As victories go, USC's 13-10 win at Stanford was anything but pretty.

An offense that spent most of Saturday sputtering was propped up by a bend-but-don't-break defense that did just enough to keep the Cardinal frustrated when a multitude of opportunities presented themselves to quarterback Kevin Hogan and company.

But given that the Trojans played far from their best game in Palo Alto and still found a way to win portends of great things for the men of Troy as they go forward, and for those who follow USC, it is likely that a win such as this might be the best thing that could happen to them.

After all, did anyone really expect that the Trojans would go for 100-plus plays and 700 yards against a tough Stanford defense like they did against the hapless Bulldogs of Fresno State?

Of course, that answer is "no," but to be fair, few would have predicted that USC would be held to 59 plays either.

Yet that is what happened, and despite the stumbles by the offense, the Trojans still found a way to come up with a "W" along with a No. 9 ranking in the latest AP poll.

What should be remembered is that this win came against a very good Cardinal team on the road and for a team in only its second game under a new coach and an even newer offense.

And while things did not go as planned, it probably could not have gone better for a team that now is entertaining notions of a special season in 2014.

Having now won a tough game under difficult circumstances, head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff can go to sleep at night knowing their charges can win big games when the chips aren't falling their way.

And what is even more heartening for this staff is the knowledge that the Trojans will just keep getting better with an offense finding its way in the hurry-up and a strong defense that should keep improving under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Now the Trojans hit the road once again, but this time to meet an underwhelming Boston College team. The biggest fear here is a letdown, although that isn't likely under Sark and his aggressive staff.

And at 2-0 in this young season, the Trojans can look forward to a bye after the Boston College game, and if things go right, God help the Beavers of Oregon State the following week.

So while winning by 20-plus points and rolling up 500 or so yards against the Cardinal might have been nice, winning the way they did should put a lot of smiles on their fans' faces when and if the chips are down for the cardinal and gold later in the season.

Who says you can't put lipstick on a pig?


Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

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