LAST SATURDAY, Hawaii provided a strategy for future USC opponents who might be wondering how to slow the Trojans: Keep their powerful offense off the field. Thanks to the Warriors' two time-consuming drives to open the game (the first of which ended abruptly on USC safety Darnell Bing's interception and 65-yard return for a touchdown), Heisman-winning quarterback Matt Leinart didn't take his first snap until 1:24 remained in the first quarter. From then until his exit two quarters later, however, he threw for 332 yards and produced five touchdown drives in a 63-17 victory.
But not every ranked team came away from its opener on such a high:
•Texas will be fine without running back Cedric Benson, now with the Chicago Bears. Using a tailback committee of junior Selvin Young, sophomore Ramonce Taylor and freshmen Jamaal Charles and Henry Melton, the Longhorns rushed for a total of 418 yards in a 60-3 rout of Louisiana-Lafayette.
•Tennessee's two-quarterback system has become a distraction. After sophomore starter Erik Ainge struggled against heavy underdog Alabama-Birmingham (5 of 14, two interceptions), steady senior Rick Clausen (17 of 24, 217 yards) helped the Vols escape with a 17-10 win. So who will start Tennessee's next game, Sept. 17 at Florida? "It doesn't matter," Vols coach Phillip Fulmer insisted.
•Virginia Tech will be as dangerous as Marcus Vick is. After a lackluster first half against N.C. State's swarming defense, Vick danced out of trouble numerous times after intermission--looking a lot like his brother Michael--and threw a perfect 19-yard touchdown pass to lift his team to a 20-16 win.
•Georgia can't be dismissed from the SEC title race. Projected to slip on defense after losing three standouts and coordinator Brian VanGorder to the NFL, the Bulldogs looked as dominant as ever against Boise State, holding a Broncos offense that averaged 48.9 points and 492.7 yards last year to 13 and 292, respectively. Quarterback D.J. Shockley, meanwhile, turned in a near-flawless performance (374 total yards, six touchdowns) in his first start.
•Auburn misses departed running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams, and quarterback Jason Campbell--all first-round draft picks--even more than it expected. New quarterback Brandon Cox threw four second-half interceptions in a 23-14 loss to Georgia Tech. On the ground Auburn gained only 50 yards on 23 carries. "Wow," said Tigers running back Tre Smith, "that's way worse than I thought it was." --Stewart Mandel
• For instant analysis from Stewart Mandel after Saturday's games and more coverage throughout the week, go to SI.com.
WEEKEND WARRIORS Georgia's Shockley, Texas's Young and Virginia Tech's Vick (left to right) each helped his team to a rousing victory.
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KEVIN C. COX/WIREIMAGE.COM
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