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Wednesday’s football: Momentum key to opening night

Detroit News wire services

Knoxville, Tenn. — Tennessee and Appalachian State open the season tonight attempting to build on the momentum each team established late last year.

Ninth-ranked Tennessee opens with its highest Top 25 position since October 2006 after winning its final six games last season. Defending national champion Alabama and San Diego State are the only Football Bowl Subdivision teams with longer active winning streaks.

Appalachian State is coming off an 11-2 season in which it won it last four games.

Now both teams try to continue those surges even after the natural roster turnover that occurs with each offseason.

Appalachian State has won 17 of its last 19 games and has a veteran offensive backfield featuring quarterback Taylor Lamb and running back Marcus Cox. It is a relative Football Bowl Subdivision newcomer who made its first bowl appearance last season and defeated Ohio, 31-29, in the Camellia Bowl.

USC player under scrutiny

Osa Masina, the linebacker who has been the subject of criminal inquiries and USC-administered discipline this week, clipped on his chin strap this week and trotted onto the practice field.

Masina is under criminal investigation in Utah for an alleged sexual assault that occurred near Salt Lake City, a police spokesman said Tuesday. The same day, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said Masina is under investigation in Los Angeles for an unspecified incident.

Monday, coach Clay Helton announced that Masina had been suspended for USC's opening game against Alabama on Saturday for "a violation of team rules."

And before that, on Thursday, Masina had been served a search warrant on USC's campus.

No charges have been filed against Masina.

Rudolph helps autistic kid

Wide receiver Travis Rudolph was among several Florida State players visiting Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Fla., on Tuesday when he saw autistic sixth-grader Bo Paske, sitting alone in the cafeteria.

Rudolph grabbed a slice of pizza and asked if he could join him.

The child said, “Sure, why not,” Rudolph recalled after returning to campus.

The scene — captured in a photo and shared on Facebook — had tears streaming down the face of Paske’s mother, Leah.

“We just had a great conversation,” Rudolph said. “He had a nice smile on his face. Just a really warm person.”

Big 12: No East Carolina

East Carolina is out of the Big 12’s expansion derby.

School officials said they have been told by conference officials they no longer are being considering for membership.

School spokesman Tom McClellan said commissioner Bob Bowlsby notified Chancellor Cecil Staton of the decision Tuesday by phone.

Athletic director Jeff Compher said it’s “obviously not the decision we were hoping for,” but also added “we were able to tell our story to not only the Big 12, but the entire nation.”

East Carolina is beginning its third season in the American Athletic Conference after winning two Conference USA championships in football in the 2000s.

News wire services contributed.