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Florida State Seminoles start No. 7, Florida Gators No. 23 in Associated Press football poll

NEW YORK — For the seventh time in program history, USC sits atop the Associated Press preseason writers poll that was released Saturday — with a boost from LSU's problems.

The Trojans, banned from postseason play for the past two seasons, received 25 of 60 first-place votes. No. 2 and defending national champion Alabama received 17, No. 3 LSU 16 and No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 8 Michigan one.

"The ranking doesn't mean we've done anything as a team," Trojans safety T.J. McDonald said. "But it's good to see we're back where we're supposed to be."

At first, LSU was No. 1 with 28 first-place votes. But Tyrann Mathieu, a cornerback, kick returner and 2011 Heisman finalist, got kicked off the team a week ago reportedly for failed drug tests. In light of that, the AP extended the voting deadline.

"Tyrann Mathieu's a terrific player, but I don't think the overall effect will change LSU's results," said John Silver of the Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer, who did not change his ballot. "I don't think a corner can make that big of a difference. It hurts them but at the margins."

Seth Emerson of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph dropped LSU from No. 1 to No. 3, behind Alabama and USC.

"On the one hand, he wasn't exactly known as a lockdown cornerback and LSU has plenty of other talent," he wrote on his blog. "On the other hand, I was in the Georgia Dome last year when Mathieu single-handedly turned the tide of the SEC championship. He's a dynamic player. There's a reason he was fifth in the Heisman voting. "

The coaches' poll, which was released Aug. 2, has LSU at No. 1 followed by Alabama and USC.

AP has Florida State at No. 7, the third time since 2004 it has been in the Top 10. Last season, the Seminoles started No. 6, rose to No. 5 after two wins but began to fall after a loss to Oklahoma.

"I love being up there. I think it helps. The higher you start, the easier it is to climb," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "That's less places, less ladder holes you have to go climb and pull yourself up. We've just got to go out there and play and not worry about it. They've got us there, and now we've got to take care of business."

Florida sits at No. 23, the ninth consecutive season it has been in the preseason poll. USF and Central Florida were among those receiving votes.

Peppers says it was his UNC transcript

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Former North Carolina star Julius Peppers confirmed it was his academic transcript posted on the university's website but insisted there was "no academic fraud."

The school never confirmed the authenticity of the transcript, which lists the name of the Bears defensive end at the top and since has been removed, but said it is investigating how it wound up online.

The transcript lists a 1.824 grade point average with some of his highest grades in classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. A school investigation has found fraud and poor oversight in 54 AFAM classes from 2007-11 (Peppers' last semester was in 2001) with football players making up more than a third of the enrollments and student-athletes making up 58 percent of the overall enrollments in those classes.

The transcript could raise the possibility the AFAM troubles go back further than the four-year focus of the investigation. The school's report in May acknowledged the misconduct could reach before 2007.

"I can assure everyone that there is no academic fraud as it relates to my college transcript," Peppers said in a statement released by his agent. "I took every course with qualified members of the UNC faculty, and I earned every grade whether it was good or bad.

"I was never given unapproved assistance or preferential treatment in terms of my academic career because I was a student-athlete."

Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Thursday that former Gov. Jim Martin will lead a panel to address issues stemming from the internal investigation.

Oklahoma: Defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who has started 17 games over the past three seasons, was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation. He's the fifth Sooner to be suspended over the past three months.

Florida State Seminoles start No. 7, Florida Gators No. 23 in Associated Press football poll 08/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 18, 2012 10:37pm]

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