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Pat Haden Fined $25,000 for Actions During USC vs. Stanford

Pat Haden, the USC Athletics Director and a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for running onto the field to confront an official.

The actions occurred during a 13-10 Trojans win over Stanford on Saturday. ESPN's Brett McMurphy initially reported the news Monday. The Pac-12 Conference then released an official report on the punishment, along with comments from commissioner Larry Scott:

"The conduct by USC Athletics Director Pat Haden was inappropriate," Scott said. "Such actions by an administrator in attempt to influence the officiating, and ultimately the outcome of a contest, will not be tolerated."

Here's a look at the confrontation, via SportsCenter:

Scott went on to mention Haden, 61, has issued an apology, which was passed along by Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. But that wasn't enough to avoid the punishment. 

College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock also issued a statement on the situation, per George Schroeder of USA Today:

One of the most notable components to Hancock's response was pointed out by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

In fact, following the disciplinary action, Dan Wolken of USA Today noted he believes the embattled should resign from the committee:

USC athletics director Pat Haden should resign from the College Football Playoff selection committee, and he should do it today. If he refuses, CFP executive director Bill Hancock should nudge him in that direction. And if Hancock doesn't want to go down that road, the 10 commissioners of the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences should intervene and demand a change.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see the public reaction to both the fine and Haden remaining on the committee. With this being the first season for the new system, it is already under fire just two weeks into the season thanks to Haden's on-field incident.

As for USC, the team is now 2-0 and dealing with even more controversy. While it is proving it can be a force in the Pac-12, it will have to battle through even more negative headlines to remain in the running.

The Trojans face off against Boston College (1-1, 0-1 ACC) Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.

 

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Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kynon's Korner: Marcus Mariota's Possible Heir, Lebron James & the No. 1 Recruit

Class of 2016 quarterback Seth Green was in Eugene, Ore. for the Ducks impressive 46-27 win over Michigan State at Autzen Stadium. It was Green's second visit to Eugene as the 4-star attended Oregon's summer camp over the summer. This time he got to see Marcus Mariota at his best as the Heisman Trophy contender threw for 318 yards and two scores on 17-of-28 passing. 

Green told me, "Yes. Oregon made me feel very at home. I'm very close with Coach (Erik) Chinander and Coach (Scott) Frost. The win did help them with me. Oregon is my leader."

According to 247Sports Director of Recruiting, Steve Wiltfong, the St. Paul (Minn.) East Ridge signal caller (subscription required) almost committed on his visit

When asked if Green can see himself doing the same thing as Mariota? Green responded, "Yes, but I'd like to be better."

Green added he doesn't have any other visits set up at this time. Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota are showing heavy interest in the dual-threat passer.

LeBron James Attends Ohio State's Huge Recruiting Weekend

Ohio State hosted a plethora of top ranked prospects for the ACC-Big Ten primetime showdown. Top 100 players, Josh SweatDamien Harris, and Jacques Patrick were among biggest names in attendance. Of course it didn't hurt to have Akron native, LeBron James, on the sidelines to show recruits the mega presence of the Ohio State brand. Head coach Urban Meyer said James is always welcomed and you can bet recruits took notice. Last year, Travis Rudolph got a chance to meet James on his official visit to The Shoe. 

Unfortunately Ohio State fans, the Buckeyes loss combined with the Big Ten's reputation for not being able to win big games will give schools from the ACC and SEC more ammo on the recruiting trail. 

One name to keep an eye on is Sweat, the No. 1 rated player in the 247Sports Composite. The 6'5", 240-pound weakside defensive end has the Hokies firmly in his top five and Virginia Tech's dominate defensive effort in Columbus will help the Hokies' pursuit of the in-state prospect. 

 

Former NFL veteran and LSU defensive lineman, Chuck Wiley, feels Sweat has barely tapped his potential. Wiley coached Sweat at Nike Football’s “The Opening” in July. Sweat's style of play has drawn comparisons to Jadaveon Clowney per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue

Wiley told me directly, “Sweat is physically gifted, but he is coachable too. He reminds of former LSU defensive lineman Barkevious Mingo. The Clowney comparisons are there and I see that. Both are elite pass rushers. Josh will need to fill out his upper body and increase lower leg drive to help in run support at the next level."

Florida State is also making a big push with Sweat and they’ve had success recruiting out of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area in recent years landing notables Ronald DarbyAlec EberleEddie Goldman, and EJ Levenberry among others.

Wiley added, "Scheme wise I feel like he would do well at Florida State. He has the speed and lateral ability to drop into pass coverage. FSU likes those type of defensive ends. I can see Virginia Tech being a major factor too. When he was at The Opening he mentioned the chance to stay close to home, so his family could see him play. Watch out for Georgia, too. Defensive end Lorenzo Carter  signed there a year ago. Sweat and Carter have similar body types. The two of them coming off the edge could be scary in the SEC."

Perhaps most importantly, Virginia Tech's location could be a factor with the hard-hitting defender. His mom didn't accompany him to Columbus, Ohio. I wouldn't count out Ohio State yet in the race for Sweat especially with the selling power of James and reach of Ohio State's athletic department, but Virginia Tech certainly helped their chances over the weekend. 

4-star RB Soso Jamabo Takes Family to South Bend  

 

Plano (Texas) West running back Soso Jamabo was in South Bend with his parents for Notre Dame's 31-0 rout of Michigan. Recruiting insiders feel Jamabo could be committed by the time he returns home from his official visit. I caught up with Jamabo's trainer, David Underwood, to vet those rumors and get the latest on his recruitment.

"Soso was at Notre Dame this weekend with his parents. He likes the Irish, but I don't think he has a leader at this point," Underwood told Bleacher Report. "I know Arizona State is talking to him. UCLA is trying to get him for a visit. I think UCLA is next (visit) for him. He wants to go out west during the season. Baylor and Oregon are up there too." 

When I asked if he thinks Jamabo will commit early to Notre Dame? Underwood replied, "I don't think so. I know he wants to take his time with the process. It's not just about football. It's a life decision. He is comfortable heading out of state, so that won't be a problem. I could see him making a choice down the road. It could be on Signing Day or whenever he finds the right fit. His style of running would be great for the Irish or any other program." 

Underwood played running back at Michigan from 2001-2004. He has been helping Jamabo with the recruiting process since his sophomore year. 

Decision Time for 4-star Drew Richmond

On Tuesday, Sept. 9, Memphis (Tenn.) University School offensive lineman Drew Richmond will make his college decision. Richmond's finalists include Alabama, Ole Miss, Ohio State, and Tennessee. The mammoth tackle posted this message on Aug. 11:

Ole Miss received an unofficial visit from Richmond just five days after the tweet mentioned above which is a great sign for head coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels recruit the Memphis area hard, but the Vols are working to keep him in state. I reached out to 247Sports director of recruiting, Barton Simmons, get his take on the situation. 

"Ole Miss is making a huge push for him right now. I think it was crucial for them to get him on campus with his parents in August," said Simmons. "He is a kid that's close to his family and Ole Miss is right down the road. Also, with the way they've been playing you have to like Ole Miss' chances heading into Tuesday." 

Even with the planned announcement Simmons noted that Richmond will likely take other visits. The Vols have done a sensational job recruiting under head coach Butch Jones. If they miss on the in-state prospect it could be considered a blow for the time being, but expect them to keep pressing. 

Simmons added, "Its hard because as effective as Butch Jones has been recruiting, Memphis is still six hours away from Knoxville. It would be a huge win for Ole Miss. They had a great recruiting cycle the year they got Robert Nkemdiche, but they still need the kind of response regularly to be able to land a kid with Alabama and Ohio State among a list of favorites. This has the opportunity to be a real statement get for Ole Miss."

Stay tuned as Richmond will make his verbal commitment on Tues., Sept. 9 at 10 AM CT. 

Peach State 'Backer Roquan Smith Talks 'Dawgs

4-star linebacker Roquan Smith took an unofficial visit to Athens on Aug. 30 for Georgia's 45-21 win over Clemson. Last Friday, the 'Dawgs returned the favor as UGA assistant coach John Lilly watched Smith lead his team to a win over Veterans (Ga.) 

"Coach Lilly is a cool guy. It was big having him at my game not only for me, but giving my teammates a chance to get looked at," Smith told Bleacher Report. "That was big for me." 

Smith said he definitely enjoyed his trip to the Classic City because of the way he was treated by fans and the staff. 

"The best part about the visit was just atmosphere. They made me feel at home and like I was a priority for their program," said Smith.

When asked if Georgia is recruiting him the hardest? Smith replied, "Yes they are. Trent (Thompson) wants me in Athens with him too."

The No. 4 outside 'backer in the 247Sports Composite said he will make an announcement after the season. 

5-star DL Daron Payne Takes Unofficial Visit to Alabama 

Birmingham (Ala.) Shades Valley defensive tackle Daron Payne has been busy over the last couple of weekends. Payne was at Auburn for the Tigers home opener on Aug. 30. This Saturday, the 5-star run-stuffer went down the road to Tuscaloosa for the Tide's contest against Florida Atlantic. 

"It was a nice visit. I got a chance to talk to Coach (Nick) Saban. He was cool, not that intimidating," joked Payne to Bleacher Report. "My parents grew up Alabama fans and they try to get me to go there, but I try not to listen to it. I have a great relationship with Coach (Mario) Cristobal. He treats me like a son." 

Payne enjoyed his trip to The Plains as well. He said the game was much closer, so he got a better chance to see what the defense was all about. The Yellowhammer State standout is planning to make his college announcement at the Under Armour All-America game in January. 

He told me, "I grew up an Auburn fan as a kid. However, I'm going to make my decision based on the depth chart and where I feel at home."

Mississippi State is also in the mix for Payne. His teammate Keith Mixon is committed to the Bulldogs. Payne said Hail State has done a great job recruiting him and they are one of his finalists along with Alabama and Auburn. 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Baylor Bears vs. Buffalo Bulls Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Baylor Bears have been a great bet over recent seasons, except from one angle. They are just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games as a road favorite.

Baylor is a big road favorite once again as it heads north for a rematch with the Buffalo Bulls on Friday night.

 

Point spread: Bears opened as 27-point favorites, but the number was climbing quickly, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Why the Baylor Bears can cover the spread

The Bears are off to a 2-0 start, and they've covered two big spreads already. Baylor opened this season by shutting out SMU 45-0, holding the Mustangs to 67 total yards, covering the number at -31. The Bears then demolished Northwestern State 70-6, racking up 720 yards of offense, covering at -47. And they did it all without Heisman candidate quarterback Bryce Petty, who missed the game with a back injury.

In his place, sophomore Seth Russell threw for 438 yards and five touchdowns. Baylor beat Buffalo last September down in Waco 70-13, easily covering as four-touchdown favorites.

 

Why the Buffalo Bulls can cover the spread

The Bulls are off to a 1-1 straight up, 0-2 ATS start, and while they're coming off a loss to Army, at least they went down fighting. Buffalo trailed by 30 early in the fourth quarter but rallied to pull within one score with three minutes to go. The Bulls actually outgained the Black Knights 549-466 but couldn't quite overcome three turnovers or cover as three-point road dogs.

Buffalo returned seven starters on offense from a unit that averaged 30 points per game last year and has put up 38 and 39 points in two games, respectively, this season. So perhaps the Bulls have enough firepower to keep Friday's game close.

Finally, Buffalo is 3-1 ATS in its last four games as a home dog, according to the Odds Shark college football database.

 

Smart Pick

Baylor is probably going to win this game—it's just a matter of by how much. Even if Petty can't play (as of early this week he was listed as questionable), this game is a talent mismatch.

But if Buffalo can put up three touchdowns on a Bears defense that only returned four starters from last year, it would have a good chance to cover this large spread. And that isn't all that far-fetched.

So in this spot, the pick goes with the home dog, plus all those points.

 

Trends:

  • The total has gone OVER in 10 of Baylor's last 15 games on the road.
  • Buffalo is 8-1 SU in its last nine games at home.
  • Buffalo is 3-1 ATS in its last four games as a home underdog.
  • The UNDER is 10-2 in Buffalo’s last 12 games as a home underdog.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

September 1 marked the beginning of a period when college coaches could reach out to prospective recruits who are entering their junior year of high school.

Labor Day came with a flurry of offers to some of the nation’s top 2016 prospects.

Four juniors who have earned a coveted 5-star rating were among the players receiving the most attention.

The nation’s top corner, Virginia standout Levonta Taylor, was a player in high demand. Georgia is his latest offer, but the Bulldogs joined Arizona State, Duke, Kentucky and USC in tendering the 5’10”, 170-pound Taylor, per Jamie Oakes of Wahoos247.

Alabama commitment Demetrius Robertson made headlines last weekend when he visited fellow SEC power Georgia for the Bulldogs’ season-opener. Upon returning from Athens, the nation’s top athlete was offered by Miami, Michigan and North Carolina.

Fellow Georgia native Isaac Nauta, the nation’s top tight end in the 2016 class, picked up offers from Pac-12 powers USC, Stanford and Arizona State. Virginia also joined the chase for the 6’5”, 240-pounder.

In Lyndell Wilson and Ben Davis, the state of Alabama is home to two of the nation’s premier outside linebacker prospects in the 2016 class. Davis had a busy week, as three SEC teams—Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee—offered the 6’4”, 225-pounder. Miami also offered Davis, who, as John Talty of AL.com notes, is the son of former Alabama standout Wayne Davis. 

While the battles for 2015 prospects are winding down, the race to land the nation's top prep juniors is just heating up. 

 

Ohio State, Alabama Raid Texas

Texas is annually one of the nation’s top breeding grounds for prep talent. While the Lone Star State has its share of in-state college powers, many of the nation’s top programs aggressively recruit in a territory as fertile as any in the country.

Recruiting powerhouses Alabama and Ohio State were among the heavyweights who were active last week in Texas in pursuing the state’s top juniors. 

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide offered a pair of 4-stars in defensive tackle Ed Oliver and receiver Dee Anderson. The 6’2”, 285-pound Oliver is ranked as the nation’s fourth-best defensive tackle and the No. 31 player overall in the 2016 class. Anderson, who is committed to LSU, has caught 12 passes for 242 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games this season, according to Sonny Shipp of Geaux247.

A trio of 4-star prospects—quarterback Tristen Wallace, wide receiver Devin Duvernay and defensive end Justin Madubuike—earned offers from Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.

Duvernay, who also picked up an offer from Washington last week, is the nation’s fifth-best receiver and the No. 38 player overall in the 2016 class. Texas A&M and TCU also offered Madubuike, who recorded 69 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore. Wallace racked up 518 yards of total offense and seven total touchdowns in his debut as the quarterback of Dallas area powerhouse DeSoto High School.

Both schools have had success in Texas in recent years, and both schools are increasing their efforts there in the 2016 cycle.

 

Michigan State after 2016 QBs

With Connor Cook entering his junior season, Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans are searching for a signal-caller in their 2016 class who could potentially be the quarterback of the future in East Lansing. 

Dantonio and his staff offered a pair of the nation’s top signal-callers in the 2016 class in 4-star talents Jake Zembiec and Seth Green.

“I was really excited because that’s one of the places I really wanted to get an offer from. I went over there over the summer and did really well at their camp,” Zembiec told SpartanTailgate (subscription required). “I also got along with coach (Brad) Salem really well.”

The 6’3”, 220-pounder, who threw for 1,926 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore, is the top player in the state of New York for 2016.

Meanwhile, Green represents the top talent from Minnesota’s class of juniors, with the Spartans representing his latest offer, according to SpartanTailgate.

The 6’3”, 210-pounder holds offers from Oregon, Wisconsin, Louisville and Minnesota—among others.

Both players are familiar with the Spartans, as each were participants in Dantonio’s summer camp in June.

 

Ole Miss Trying to Start Fast in 2016

Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels are likely to sign a smaller class in 2015 due to a small number of upperclassmen on this year’s squad. However, he and his staff were one of the most aggressive schools to tender offers last week.

The Rebels offered top 2016 prospects in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.

In addition to their tender to Davis, the Rebels also offered the top corner in Alabama in 4-star John Broussard.

Staying in the south, 4-star quarterback Jawon Pass—the nation’s second-best dual-threat passer—was offered by Freeze. The 6’5”, 225-pounder holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, Notre Dame and Ohio State, among others. 

New Jersey natives Ahmir Mitchell and Jovani Haskins also received offers from Freeze. Mitchell is a 4-star athlete who could play receiver or safety at the next level, while Haskins is a 3-star tight end whose recruitment is in its infant stage.

Another tight end to net an offer from the Rebels is 4-star Ohio product Jake Hausmann. The 6’5”, 235-pounder is rated as the nation’s second-best tight end and the No. 71 player overall in the 2016 class.

Given their numbers situation in the current cycle, expect the Rebels to continue to burn up the recruiting trail in the 2016 class.

 

2016 Florida OL Piling Up Offers

Included in the Rebels’ offer spree was 3-star Florida offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux

However, Ole Miss was hardly alone in its interest in the 6’4”, 282-pounder.

Boston College, Clemson, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Temple entered the race for Boudreaux, who is now up to 45 offers. 

As Andrew Kulha of Voice of The Hawkeyes notes (subscription required), there’s one school he hopes hops on board sooner than later. 

"I'm hoping they offer soon," Boudreaux said of Iowa. "Coach Wallace really likes me and loves my film, and I love that they put lots of offensive lineman in the NFL."

With the lengthy list of teams after him, Boudreaux seems like an early candidate to rise in the next batch of rankings released by sites such as 247Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Another 2016 offensive lineman who was greeted with multiple offers last weekend is 4-star Virginia native Clark Yarbrough. Jamie Oakes of Wahoos247 reported that Arkansas, West Virginia and Arizona State are the latest offers for the 6’5”, 255-pound tackle.
  • Pennsylvania 4-star tight end Nasier Upshur picked up a pair of offers from ACC schools. FSU and Virginia are the latest offers for the 6’3”, 233-pound junior.
  • Tennessee native and 2016 4-star safety Joejuan Williams earned offers from Nebraska, Temple and Arkansas.
  • Staying in Florida, 2016 4-star corner Trayvon Mullen was offered by Florida State, Florida and Mississippi State last week.
  • 4-star athlete and Texas standout D’Eriq King earned offers from Rutgers and TCU.

  

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Mariota Takes Down Michigan State for College Football's Top Performance

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had a phenomenal day Week 2 against Michigan State. Throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, Mariota led the Ducks to a 46-27 win over the Spartans. Will he win the Heisman?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Mariota Takes Down Michigan State for College Football's Top Performance

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had a phenomenal day Week 2 against Michigan State. Throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, Mariota led the Ducks to a 46-27 win over the Spartans...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's 2-0 start to the season may look pretty in the box scores, but it has been far from perfect.

The Tigers opened their highly anticipated 2014 season with a pair of comfortable home victories—a 24-point win against SEC West foe Arkansas and a 46-point rout of San Jose State.

But as always, there are several areas head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff are concerned with at this point in the young season.

The defending SEC champions had several major questions heading into the early part of the campaign, and a few of them still linger heading into the season's first bye week.

With 10 days to go before No. 5 Auburn's nationally televised Thursday night showdown with No. 20 Kansas State, let's take a look at three things fans should be concerned about and three things they shouldn't be concerned about from the Tigers' first two home wins.

 

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT

1. Nick Marshall's Passing

Because of his suspension and backup Jeremy Johnson's fantastic first-half performance against Arkansas, senior quarterback Nick Marshall has only played five quarters so far this season.

But those five quarters haven't shown the passing improvement that Marshall's coaches said he made over this offseason.

Marshall is still the same game-changing weapon on the read option he was last season—and Auburn could very well compete for the SEC and national titles again on the back of that dominance with the run—but some of the play calls against San Jose State showed Malzahn wants to see more success through the air.

The Tigers do not need for Marshall to become a gunslinger who throws it for 300 or more yards every game, but icy stretches like he had in the second quarter with five straight incompletions could be a major problem against SEC defenses. 

Auburn has a wealth of talent at wide receiver with Sammie Coates (who should be back for the Kansas State game, per AL.com's Brandon Marcello), D'haquille Williams, Melvin Ray and Ricardo Louis, but they are going to need their starting quarterback to step up and rebound from a weak passing performance against San Jose State.

 

2. Fumbles

Ball security was a problem for the Auburn offense last season, and the first two games haven't shown any improvement.

In fact, while Auburn was fortunate to recover the majority of their fumbles last season, they lost three of four against Arkansas and San Jose State. The Tigers rank near the bottom nationally in both fumbles and fumbles lost through the first two weeks of the season.

Marshall's fumble at the end of what would have been a 50-yard rushing touchdown to open last Saturday's game was particularly troublesome for the Auburn offense, and the quarterback said he is ready to correct his mistake and move forward.

"It was tough because ball security is something we always work on," Marshall said after the San Jose State game. "It was at the last second, when I was about to celebrate, that he punched it out. Being a quarterback, you have to have a short memory, to put it behind you and play the next play."

Auburn's coaches stressed ball security throughout the offseason, and limiting turnovers will be crucial heading into the Kansas State game and the meat of the SEC schedule. Lost possessions weren't difference-makers against the Razorbacks and the Spartans, but tougher opponents might be able to feast on them.

 

3. Lack of a Dominant Pass-Rusher

Without first-round NFL draft pick Dee Ford or the injured Carl Lawson, Auburn hasn't had the easiest time getting to the quarterback through its first two games of the season.

"We definitely need to get better at pass rush," Malzahn said last week. "If you think back to this time last year, it was real similar and we got better each week. That's what we're working really hard to do."

Auburn showed some improvement against San Jose State with four sacks and several more hurries of Blake Jurich, but only time will tell if the performance was more about Auburn improving or San Jose State being so far behind in talent, especially on a young offensive line. The defense only had one sack against Arkansas and its massive offensive line.

Fortunately, the Tigers look like they have a couple of potential answers ahead of the trip to Manhattan.

Sophomore Montravius Adams had a career night against the Spartans with six tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack, and the athletic 300-pounder took snaps at both tackle and end. Starting middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy is also an option in some third-down packages, giving Auburn more athleticism off the edge.

 

WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T BE CONCERNED ABOUT

1. Special Teams Play

Auburn lost key starters on both offense and defense, but the biggest change from 2013 to 2014 was in the special teams unit, which had to replace a starting kicker, punter, holder, punt returner and kick returners.

Through two games, the Tigers have shown the special teams consistency they have been known for the last few seasons. 

Redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson has been an early star, handling kicking, punting and kickoff duties without any major problems. Carlson won the SEC Freshman of the Week award after his impressive all-around debut against Arkansas:

"That was one of those things that was affecting my stress level going into the first game with a new kicker, who happens to punt, and he’s a freshman," Malzahn said during his weekly Tiger Talk radio show last Monday. "But he handled himself like a champ."

Senior Quan Bray has shown an impressive first step in his return to punt return duties, and he recorded his first special teams touchdown in the second quarter of the San Jose State game. Bray ranks third nationally in average yards per return with 28.67 and is one of 14 players to take back a punt for six points so far this season.

 

2. New Offensive Line Starters

The entire left side of Auburn's dominant offensive line from a year ago is gone—tackle Greg Robinson is now playing on Sundays for the St. Louis Rams, while guard Alex Kozan misses the entire 2014 campaign after back surgery.

But Auburn's veteran front five has not missed a beat with the preseason shuffle.

Even with Shon Coleman holding down a new starting spot, senior Chad Slade flipping back to left guard, Avery Young moving inside to right guard and Patrick Miller returning to his old role as starting right tackle, the Tigers' offense is still lightning up the scoreboard.

Auburn is seventh nationally in total rushing yards with 660 and is tied for eighth in sacks allowed with just one through the first two games.

There were plenty of preseason doubts about how Coleman would fill Robinson's spot on the depth chart and how the position changes could keep the offense from playing to its full potential. The Tigers' attack has had hiccups, but you can't point the finger at any of the five offensive linemen through two solid games.

 

3. Replacing Tre Mason

Malzahn might still view Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant as the co-starters at running back, but Auburn seems to already have its replacement for former Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason.

Artis-Payne has taken over the between-the-tackles, every-down role Mason carved out for himself midway through last season, while Grant continues to be a big-play threat on sweeps and outside runs by rushing for 8.8 yards per touch.

The Tigers also have a bit more depth at the running back position behind the two seniors. While Mason, Artis-Payne and Grant were the only key rushers alongside Marshall last season, Auburn now has a pair of freshmen who have game experience.

Peyton Barber got a few touches on the final drive of the Arkansas game, and Roc Thomas took the reins late in the San Jose State game. Thomas' first career carry was a short touchdown run, and he gave fans a glimpse of the agility and tackle-breaking abilities that made him a coveted in-state prospect.

While the Auburn offense continues to put more of an emphasis on throwing the ball, the base of Malzahn's attack continues to be the deadly run game, even without Mason. If these backs can hold onto the football, fans could be in for another record-breaking season on the Plains.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Ohio State Marching Band's Halftime Show Pays Tribute to Popular TV Shows

New director, same great band.

The Ohio State University Marching Band has been dealing with some controversy recently, but the current members aren't letting that keep them from putting on an entertaining halftime show. The band's latest intermission joins the long list of stellarshows that it has performed.

During halftime of Saturday's home opener against Virginia Tech—which the Hokies won, 35-21—the band paid tribute to a wide range of popular television shows, from The Simpsons to I Dream of Jeannie to Game of Thrones.

No band provides better GIFs than Ohio State's.

[The Lantern TV]

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Forget Todd Gurley, QB Hutson Mason Is Georgia's X-Factor Against South Carolina

It's safe to say that, aside from Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill, not many people have had better starts to their seasons than Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

All Gurley did in his season debut against Clemson was rush for 198 yards and three touchdowns, scored another on a 100-yard kickoff return and set a single-game Georgia record for total offense with 293 yards.

Now the Heisman contender has had two weeks to recover from his strong debut and prepare for Saturday's SEC opener at South Carolina, with head coach Steve Spurrier's crew uncertainly gearing up to shut down Gurley.

“He is a big, strong back,” Spurrier said, according to Josh Kendall of The State. “He and the quarterback at Oregon are the Heisman leaders right now, but hopefully he may not be the leader (after Saturday). He’s going to get his yards, there’s no question about that. He’s going to get his yards against everybody."

Gurley will still have a great day against the Gamecocks, but it'll be his quarterback—redshirt senior Hutson Mason—who will be the X-factor on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Mason served more as a game manager in the opener, completing 18 of 26 passes for 131 yards. Considering Gurley and fellow running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel ran wild, that was the right plan from head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

Mason hopes that it's different against the Gamecocks, according to Seth Emerson of the The Telegraph (Macon, Ga.).

“I’m sure South Carolina when they get to prepping for us is gonna think, ‘Load the box,'" Mason told Emerson. "I hope they do. We’re gonna throw it. And I hope we throw it the first play of the game.”

South Carolina can't take any chances. It's going to have to load up against Gurley, which will expose its biggest weakness—pass defense. The Gamecocks struggled to get pressure against a stellar Texas A&M offensive line in Week 1 and looked lost at the back end, struggling to cover A&M's deep and versatile wide receiving corps.

They looked better against East Carolina, but Georgia is loaded at the skill positions just like A&M, and it'll be up to Mason to take advantage just like the Aggies did.

He will.

Mason has been in this system for four-plus years, learning behind record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray. He looked sharp in the spring, nailing back-shoulder fades not only deep downfield but also in the red zone, which was a big part of Murray's game. 

South Carolina will go in with a game plan to shut down the Georgia running game and put pressure on Mason in a hostile environment, and with a supremely-talented wide receiving corps that includes Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, Mason will succeed with flying colors.

As I wrote this spring, that could put more emphasis on tempo within the offense, something that Mason said he preferred after the spring game.

For the most part, Georgia' game plans have been relatively conservative in Columbia over the last two decades, as Kendall noted on Twitter.

That will change Saturday afternoon.

Whether the Gamecocks successfully take away Gurley or not, there will be more pressure on Mason's shoulders to be a difference-maker for the Bulldogs in a game that will define the early-season landscape in the SEC East.

He'll succeed.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

TV: ABC

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

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

Begin Slideshow

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?

Begin Slideshow

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.

Begin Slideshow

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.

Begin Slideshow

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

TV: CBS

Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Gamecock Sports Network

Spread: Georgia by 3 per OddsShark.com.

Begin Slideshow

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.

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