Utah State Aggies

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Antwaun Woods #99 of the USC Trojans and Osa Masina #58 of the USC Trojans pressure Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies on this pass play during the first quarter of a game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean Haffey/Getty Images)
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USC bans two Trojans from all football-related activities amidst rape investigations

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Under fire for its handling of a disturbing off-field situation, USC has suddenly reversed its course.

The Trojans program announced Tuesday afternoon that linebackers Osa Masina and Don Hill have been banned from all football-related activities and will not play in the Week 3 game against Stanford.  Masina and Hill had been suspended for the first two games but had controversially been permitted to practice and otherwise participate in all other football activities during the week.

“Under the university’s further guidance, it has been decided that they have been suspended from participation with our football team,” head coach Clay Helton stated.

Both players are under investigation in California for allegedly raping a woman this past July.  Masina is also being investigated in Utah for the alleged rape of the same woman.

Neither player has been charged in connection to the allegations as the investigations continue.

Masina (pictured, left) was a five-star 2015 recruit who was the top-rated player at any position in the state of Utah.  He played in 12 games as a true freshman last season and was credited with 25 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, with the highlight of his first year as a Trojan coming on a fumble return for a touchdown in the season-opening win over Arkansas State.

Hill appeared in five games a redshirt freshman last season

USC starting LT ejected after getting physical with official

USC v Utah
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For the second straight week, a USC football player has cast his university and his program in a negative light.

Just a couple of minutes into USC’s Week 2 game with Utah State, starting left tackle Chuma Edoga was ejected from the game after he got physical with an official.  Edoga and a USU player were involved in some extracurricular activities following the play and the official attempted to restore order, but was met by an angry — and large — lineman who was in no mood for his brand of officiating.

The Trojans were penalized 15 yards for the personal foul, and the sophomore was given the boot.

In last week’s season-opening loss to Alabama, Jabari Ruffin cleat-stomped a Tide player in the groin. Ruffin was suspended for the first half of today’s game.

As of this posting, USC holds a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Knee injury could sideline starting USC lineman Toa Lobendahn for Week 2, if not longer

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Adoree' Jackson #2 of the USC Trojans celebrates his touchdown with Toa Lobendahn #50 to take a 14-0 lead over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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To say that USC’s 2016 season has gotten off to a resounding thud would be an understatement.

Embarrassed by Alabama in the opener, the Trojans piled on themselves with a shameful display of groin-stomping during the course of the woodshedding.  At practice earlier this week, JuJu Smith-Schuster and a teammate in a physical altercation that saw punches thrown and the star wide receiver briefly leaving practice.  And then there’s the ongoing rape investigation involving a pair of linebackers hanging over the program as well.

Now, a starting offensive lineman, Toa Lobendahn, could be sidelined as the Trojans look to bounce back in Week 2.

Lobendahn (pictured, No. 50) sustained an injury to his right knee in the loss to the Tide, and has not practiced at all this week even as it didn’t knock hm out of the opener.  Fluid was drained from the knee Tuesday, with Lobendahn undergoing an MRI Wednesday night.

Head coach Clay Helton gave the center a “50-50” chance of playing Saturday against Utah State, and even allowed that Lobendahn could be out for an extended period of time.

Lobendahn missed the last half of the 2016 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.  He also underwent surgery in high school on the same knee that’s ailing him now, leading Helton to say the program plans “to be ultra-careful” with his situation.

When healthy, Lobendahn has started every game of his collegiate career.  He’s made eight starts at left guard, five at left tackle, five at right guard and three at center

Group of Five Power-Ranking: It’s Houston and everybody else

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars takes the field for warmups with his teammates prior to the start of their game against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Advocare Texas Kickoff on September 3, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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As you no doubt know by now, one spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up at the end of the year will be reserved to the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference as viewed by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Houston of the AAC took that honor last season with a 12-1 record and took advantage of it by smacking around Florida State in the Peach Bowl. As the 2016 season got underway, Houston left little doubt they intend to be back in the New Years Six lineup again this season, and they may even have their sights now locked in on a possible playoff debate down the line.

One thing to take note here is I tend to not give teams credit for winning games against FCS opponents. Naturally, there were a handful of those games this past weekend. Also, I do not include BYU or Army in this power-ranking, as they do not qualify for the automatic New Years Six bowl spot the way the system is currently organized. But each had solid victories this weekend as well. So, if I had to rank the Group of Five candidates after one week of games, here is how I would rank them to date.

1. Houston (1-0)

It’s pretty simple, really. Houston was the Group of Five team to beta last year and entered 2016 with that expectation once again. No better way to stay ahead of the pack than by jumping all over Oklahoma, a Big 12 favorite this season. It is predicted Houston could have a stranglehold on this top spot in my personal ranking for quite some time, as I actually have gone on record predicting an undefeated season by Houston. The odds are they could be tripped up somewhere along the way (Louisville?), but after getting by the Sooners you have to be feeling pretty good if you are a fan of Houston.

2. Western Michigan (1-0)

The Rowing PJ Flecks managed to do something in game one that Stanford was unable to a year ago; win a game at Northwestern. True, the Broncos did not have to battle against a time zone shift as the Cardinal did for an early kickoff, and the Broncos nearly handed Northwestern a win (quite literally), but a win’s a win. It’s not as though this is a hapless Northwestern squad either. The Wildcats won 10 games last season, but Western Michigan hung around long enough and took advantage of some late opportunities and had a lucky break go their way in the end. They’ll take it and claim the second spot in the ranking this week. They might just have enough to stay there for a while too.

3. Southern Mississippi (1-0)

Watch out for Southern Mississippi this season. Nick Mullens had some rough moments against Kentucky but pulled it together with a strong running game charged by Ito Smith and George Payne to rally on the road against Kentucky.Southern Miss outscored the Wildcats 28-0 after halftime en route to a 44-35 victory in Lexington, already putting the hopes of a bowl game on thin ice for Kentucky.

4. South Alabama (1-0)

Staying on the road in the SEC, we have the South Alabama Jaguars fresh off a nail biter of a road win at Mississippi State. The Jags fell juts behind Southern Miss here because they nearly let the Bulldogs off the hook. Mississippi State moved right down the field following a kickoff out of bounds, and had the game-winning field goal attempt clang(a) off the goal post, giving the Jaguars a win. But applaud the effort. They put Mississippi State in a hole when they needed it the most.

5. Boise State (1-0)

I whiffed at Boise State last season, but the Broncos got off on the right foot this season. While not of the same caliber of Houston’s win, it was hard not to be impressed with how Boise State smacked around Louisiana-Lafayette on the road. Boise State made the trip down to Louisiana and left with a 45-10 victory in far more impressive fashion than I anticipated for this one. It was the kind of blowout win Boise State would make routine in their prime a few years back. Could this be a sign of things to come? In any event, you get credit for winning head-to-head games against other Group of Five conferences, and the Mountain Wets Conference definitely needed that. Boise State could keep the pressure on Houston to keep winning, if the Broncos can avoid messing up things on their own.

On the Radar: Tulsa, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Cincinnati, Navy, USF, East Carolina, Toledo, Wyoming, New Mexico, Air Force, Utah State, UNLV, San Diego State, Marshall, Georgia Southern

Tempers flare as USC’s ‘a mad football team right now’

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  JuJu Smith-Schuster #9 of the USC Trojans can't control this pass during the first quarter of a game against the Wisconsin Badgers during the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The frustration from Saturday’s embarrassing blowout loss to Alabama has apparently spilled over to USC’s practice field.

What was described as a chippy session Tuesday turned Trojan teammates on one another following a pass breakup late in the practice.  All-Pac-12 wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t appreciate the level of celebration defenders displayed after making a play on him, leading to the receiver and safety Ykili Ross going at it with each other.

Specifically, Smith-Schuster took a few swings at the defensive back before teammates and coaches broke up the scuffle.  Smith-Schuster then stormed off the field briefly before being coaxed back by Adoreé Jackson, although the receiver didn’t participate the remainder of practice.

Despite the Trojan-on-Trojan violence, Clay Helton didn’t seem particularly upset over the situation.  In fact, the head coach seemed quite pleased with the fire his team was showing.

We’ve got a mad football team right now,” the coach said. “Wish we could play today, to be honest with you. But it was ultra-competitive out here today, which is a good sign.”

One of Helton’s other players disagreed, with offensive tackle Zach Banner labeling it “unacceptable.” “You’re not allowed to do that with your teammates,” the lineman added.

The first test of who’s right or wrong will come Saturday as USC will look t bounce back against Utah State Saturday.