USC, Ohio State post big wins on first big college Saturday

Updated: August 31, 2003, 11:00 AM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Two ranked teams are in action Sunday in the first full weekend of the college football season.

No. 4 Texas entertains New Mexico State and No. 10 Virginia Tech hosts Central Florida.

Chance Mock, a strong-armed junior, will make his first career start for Texas. But the stars on offense for the Longhorns are receiver Roy Williams and running back Cedric Benson.

Last year, Texas matched a school record with 11 wins, but has yet to win a Big 12 Conference title under coach MackBrown.

New Mexico State posted a 7-5 record last season, finishing second in the sun Belt Conference behind North Texas.

Virginia Tech may have a quarterback controversy brewing. Bryan Randall, who had a solid 2002 season despite being fumble-prone, is listed as the starter, but could be pushed by freshman Marcus Vick, the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons quarterback and former Hokie Michael Vick.

Central Florida is beginning its second season in the Mid-American Conference. Southern California looked fine without Carson Palmer on Saturday. Ohio State did not look bad without Maurice Clarett, either.

The first full Saturday of the college football season saw both eighth-ranked USC and No. 2 Ohio State overcome notable absences to post impressive wins.

Matt Leinart took over as quarterback at Southern California and completed 17-of-30 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown in a 23-0 win over No. 6 Auburn.

"I am not really worried about those things," Leinart said when asked about replacing Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner. "I just go out and try my best, but tonight it was a team effort."

Leinart's first college pass was a five-yard TD toss to Mike Williams.

The Trojans won 11 games last season, capped by an Orange Bowl triumph over Iowa, and Saturday's win demonstrated they again could be a national title contender.

Auburn was touted in many publications as a national championship contender, but the Tigers suffered their first home shutout since a season-opening 19-0 loss to Virginia in 1998.

The other marquee game on Saturday was in Columbus, Ohio, where the Buckeyes began defense of their national championship with a 23-9 victory over No. 19 Washington.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel scored on runs on 22 and 11 yards and Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross also rushed for TDs for Ohio State, which extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games.

Among the bystanders was Clarett, the star tailback who ran for 1,237 yards last season and helped the Buckeyes to their first national title since 1968 as a true freshman. Clarett is serving a multi-game suspension for violating NCAA rules and giving false statements to campus police regarding the theft of a borrowed vehicle.

Clarett missed three games and parts of two others with injuries last year and the Buckeyes grew accustomed to being without him. It was more of the same Saturday as they jumped to a 21-0 halftime lead and never were seriously challenged.

Top-ranked Oklahoma donned replica uniforms of those worn by Bud Wilkinson's powerhouse teams of the 1950s, then coasted to a 37-3 rout of North Texas.

Next up for the Sooners is Alabama, which was a 40-17 winner over South Florida in its first game under coach Mike Shula.

No. 9 Georgia and unranked Nebraska also turned some heads Saturday with impressive wins.

David Greene threw for one touchdown and passed for another and Billy Bennett kicked three field goals as Georgia coasted to a 30-0 victory over Clemson.

The visit to the "Death Valley" was a potentially dangerous one for the undermanned Bulldogs, who were without several key defensive starters, including star end Will Thompson, who will miss the season with a knee injury. Coach Mark Richt also suspended eight players, but it did not matter as Georgia coasted to victory.

Barrett Ruud returned a fumble 15 yards for a score and Nebraska's oft-maligned defense forced five turnovers in a 17-7 victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State.

In other games, fifth-ranked Kansas State (2-0) topped Troy State, 41-5; No. 7 Michigan coasted past Central Michigan, 45-7; No. 11 Florida State routed North Carolina, 37-0; 13th-ranked North Carolina State ripped Western Carolina, 59-20; and No. 15 LSU defeated Louisiana-Monroe, 49-7.

No. 16 Tennessee defeated Fresno State, 24-6; 17th-ranked Virginia extended Duke's Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak with a 27-0 thumping; No. 20 Wisconsin ralliled past West Virginia, 24-17; No. 21 Florida toyed with San Jose State, 65-3; and 25th-ranked Iowa beat Miami Ohio, 21-3.

Third-ranked Miami, which saw its chances of a second straight national title spoiled in the Fiesta Bowl, opened the holiday weekend Thursday night with a 48-9 rout of Louisiana Tech.

No. 14 Maryland was not as fortunate, getting stunned in overtime by Northern Illinois, 20-13.

No. 12 Pittsburgh, No. 18 Notre Dame, No. 22 Purdue and No. 23 Arizona State open the season on September 6.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index