If Steve Sarkisian were a newcomer to Southern California, he might have been astounded this week when his head coaching debut with the Trojans was overshadowed by one player's bizarre lies about injuries and another player's accusations of racism.
Instead, this former USC assistant coach knows all about the circus that seems to follow the Trojans everywhere. Sarkisian can't wait to become the ringmaster Saturday when Fresno State visits No. 15 USC to open the season.
"I'm more excited than anything else," Sarkisian said, recalling a lifetime of trips to the venerable Coliseum.
Sarkisian gets a stiff test for his debut with the revamped Trojans, who thought they had some stability after a tumultuous 2013 with three coaching changes, innumerable off-the-field distractions and -- somehow -- 10 victories. The last of those wins was a 45-20 blowout of Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, setting up USC's first back-to-back games against the same opponent in 97 years.
Although 16 Fresno State starters return from last season's powerful team, the Bulldogs must figure out life after quarterback Derek Carr and his 27 school records. Carr now plays for the Raiders.
Arizona 58, UNLV 13: Anu Solomon threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start, and Arizona broke a 45-year-old school record with 787 total yards.
Solomon shook off some early-game jitters with a series of big plays to break the school freshman record for passing yards, highlighted by a 92-yard touchdown pass to Austin Hill on the first play of the second half.
Colorado State 31, Colorado 17: Alabama transfer Dee Hart rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns in his Colorado State debut to help the Rams rally past the Buffaloes in Denver.
Michigan State 45, Jacksonville State 7: Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter -- and withstood a hit to his leg that left him momentarily hobbled -- to help the No. 8 Spartans roll past the visiting Gamecocks.
Alabama-West Virginia: Florida State transfer Jake Coker and fifth-year senior Blake Sims have been vying for the Alabama quarterback job throughout preseason practice, and coach Nick Saban says it's too close to call. The second-ranked Crimson Tide's opener against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome on Saturday is probably another audition for both.
Ohio State-Navy: Ken Niumatalolo, coach of the Midshipmen, found the routine of watching film of fifth-ranked Ohio State to be cause for consternation leading up to Saturday's season opener.
"It seems like every time I turn on the tape that team gets better," Niumatalolo said. "Ohio State has always gotten great players, but Coach (Urban) Meyer has taken their recruiting to another level since he got there. There are phenomenal athletes at every position on the field."