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No. 1 Alabama puts a Hurts-ing on No. 20 USC

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With a score this lopsided, you have to wonder how else No. 1 Alabama might have needed to handicap itself to make romp over No. 20 USC competitive. Because as it is, the Tide played with a true freshman quarterback playing in his first game behind an offensive line that is still congealing, and in its first game without its longtime defensive coordinator and Heisman Trophy-winning running back. And Alabama still won 52-6.

USC was simply no match for Alabama. Perhaps it USC is still paying for the residual effect of the Reggie Bush sanctions. Perhaps it was playing with a rookie head coach against the greatest to ever do it. Perhaps USC just simply wasn’t ready. Perhaps it was all of those things combined. The final result saw its former head coach Lane Kiffin drop half a hundred on the team that fired him, and the Trojans learned exactly how far they have to go to reach the level of college football they once owned.

Saturday’s game before a sold out AT&T Stadium actually started well for the Trojans. USC accepted the ball to open the game, hit a 36-yard connection from Max Browne to Darreus Rogers on its second play and took a 3-0 lead, which it held to the midway point of the second quarter.

Then Alabama grabbed the lead on a 39-yard scoring strike from Jalen Hurts to ArDarius Stewart, and it never looked back.

In barely a quarter of game action, Alabama turned a 3-0 deficit into a 38-3 laugher. Marlon Humphrey returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown to put the Tide’s defense on the board, and Hurts accounted for three third-quarter touchdowns — another long strike to Stewart (71 yards, this one) and two short runs.

Hurts endured some typical boneheaded freshman plays — including fumbling away a zone read exchange on his very first snap — but recovered to connect on 6-of-11 passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing nine times for 32 yards and two touchdowns. And this is probably a low point for him.

USC notched a second field goal late in the third quarter, and Alabama responded by tacking on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a two-yard plunge by Bo Scarborough and a 45-yard catch-and-run score from starter Blake Barnett to Gehrig Dieter.

Overall, Alabama (1-0) held just a 15-11 edge in first downs but out-gained the Trojans 465-194. The Tide gained 7.4 yards per play to USC’s 2.9, and held a 242-64 edge on the ground. Ronald Jones II led USC (0-1) in rushing with seven carries for 46 yards — 46 of which came on one play — while Damien Harris paced Alabama with nine carries for 138 yards.

Jim McElwain says Florida is heading to Texas to “beat the heck out of Michigan”

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It goes without saying that coaches will say what coaches say. Suggesting their team is on a mission to score a big win in front of fans clad in the school colors should not be taken for anything more than simply aiming to get a rise out of the fans. Mission accomplished for Florida head coach Jim McElwain, but possible bulletin board material for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Speaking before Florida students over the weekend, McElwain laid it out there by saying his Gators were looking to do one thing against Michigan; win with authority.

“We’re heading to Dallas here in a couple weeks to go beat the heck out of Michigan, and then come back to you guys,” McElwain said, according to SEC Country.

The Gators are opening the college football season next week in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten. Florida will be a bit undermanned with the recent suspension of seven players, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Michigan also won the most recent meeting between the two schools, with Harbaugh’s Wolverines dominating McElwain’s Gators in the Citrus Bowl two seasons ago (41-7).

Michigan will be looking to reestablish its identity with a good amount of roster turnover this season, but the depth hit from the recent suspensions in Gainesville may help give Michigan an edge. Either way, we can only look forward to seeing how Harbaugh potentially responds once this claim from McElwain makes its way to Ann Arbor.

Roll Tide! Alabama tops preseason AP Top 25; OSU, FSU, USC receive first-place votes

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For the fourth time under head coach Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide will begin a college football season as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25.

The defending SEC champions received 52 first-place votes from the AP voters, easily pulling away from No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Florida State. Both the Buckeyes and Seminoles received first-place votes, as did No. 4 USC. But none of those schools received more than four first-place votes from the voters. Alabama and Florida State meet in Week 1 next week in Atlanta.

Defending national champion Clemson was left without a first-place vote, but still starts the year highly-ranked at No. 5. They are followed by Penn State, fresh off a Big Ten championship from last season. Defending Pac-12 champion and College Football Playoff participant Washington starts the year at No. 8, one spot behind the defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners with a first-year head coach in Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma travels to Columbus, Ohio to play Ohio State in Week 2. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State round out the top 10 in the preseason AP poll.

The lone Group of Five team in the preseason top 25 is USF, with new head coach Charlie Strong taking over the Bulls. Strong’s new team is ranked No. 19, a few spot s ahead of his old program, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns (now coached by Tom Herman).

The SEC leads the country with six teams appearing in the preseason AP Top 25, followed by the ACC and Big 12 with five ranked teams each. The Big Ten and Pac-12 each have four schools represented. No independent teams appear in the preseason top 25.

And here is the full AP Top 25 preseason poll, with first-place votes noted);

  1. Alabama (52 first-place votes)
  2. Ohio State (3)
  3. Florida State (4)
  4. USC (2)
  5. Clemson
  6. Penn State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Washington
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Oklahoma State
  11. Michigan
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Stanford
  15. Georgia
  16. Louisville
  17. Florida
  18. Miami FL
  19. USF
  20. Kansas State
  21. Virginia Tech
  22. West Virginia
  23. Texas
  24. Washington State
  25. Tennessee

Tennessee WR Josh Smith to miss start of season with broken collarbone

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Tennessee will be without wide receiver Josh Smith at the start of the season, including the season opener in Atlanta against Georgia Tech next week. Smith will be out of action for the next four to eight weeks with a broken collarbone.

This is the latest injury setback for MSith, who has had ankle surgery in the past as well as a groin injury in January. After catching 13 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown last season, MSith was expected to be a larger contributor to the offense this season as a slot receiver. That may eventually to prove true, but just how soon he can get back on the practice field, let alone a game field, remains to be seen.

At the minimum four weeks, Smith would likely not be returning to the field until a Week 3 matchup with UMass in Knoxville or the Week 4 SEC East battle with Georgia, also in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee has a bye week after the Georgia game to allow for an extra week of rest and recovery if needed. If Smith is out for a full eight weeks, his first game back for the Vols could potentially be the October 21 game at Alabama.

Smith also returned six punts last season for a total of 35 yards.

CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: Playoff Predictions

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Fair warning: CFT’s 2017 College Football Playoff predictions are boring

But, sometimes, reality is boring.

Alabama and Ohio State have pulled ahead of the pack in recruiting, return a number of players — or, at least, a large enough number to outflank the competition — and are still coached by Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. As such, our staff is picking (with one outlier) those two to square off for the 2017 national championship, with different views on how the title game goes down.

Kevin
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Florida State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Penn State
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Alabama

Bryan
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Florida State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over USC
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Alabama

Zach
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Florida State
CFP National Championship: Alabama over Ohio State

John
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over USC
Sugar Bowl: Florida State over Alabama
CFP National Championship: Ohio State over Florida State