Week 8 of the college football season is here, and it has a lot to live up to after four top-10 upsets last week.
Only two matchups between ranked teams take place this week — and both are in the prime-time spotlight. No. 19 Michigan travels to No. 2 Penn State, and the “White Out” will be in full effect. The classic rivalry between No. 11 USC and No. 13 Notre Dame will kick off at the same time in South Bend. Those games are fun, and they’ll follow the rivalry between No. 1 Alabama and Tennessee.
Those are the highlights on the schedule as we begin the second half of the season. The first College Football Playoff rankings are coming on Oct. 31.
Here is our Week 8 primer:
It’s already looking like the “Year of the Running Back” in college football, with Stanford’s Bryce Love leading the way with 1,387 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Two running backs, however, can make their statement in those marquee games. One you know: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (649 yards, six touchdowns) has the obvious spotlight against a Michigan defense that has allowed just 85.8 rushing yards per game and three rushing touchdowns.
We’re also looking more at Notre Dame’s Josh Adams, a back who has impressed with 776 yards and five touchdowns on just 86 carries this season (a 9.0 yard-per-carry average). The Irish rank fifth in the nation in rushing with 308 rushing yards per game, and they can flex that attack against the Trojans on Saturday.
Adams, meanwhile, averages 7.1 yards per carry for his career, but he had just 109 rushing yards total in games against Georgia and Michigan State. This is his chance to put up big numbers on a big stage, and maybe even come up with the big run.
Do that, and he’ll be in that conversation too.
Coach on the spot
Tennessee coach Butch Jones is up against it this week. The Vols range from 34-to-36-point underdogs against Alabama in most sportsbooks, a line comparable to Kansas at No. 4 TCU, which sits at 38 points. What does that say about the state of Tennessee football?
Perhaps the most disheartening part is the safer bet is to take Alabama to cover. Nick Saban is on a malicious scorched-earth tour through the SEC, and the Vols are simply in the way. He’s 10-0 against Tennessee, and everybody knows who Tennessee’s coach was the last time in the closest of those 10 matchups. Let him remind you.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) October 18, 2017
The largest margin of victory in the series? Alabama beat Tennessee 51-0 in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 29, 1906. The biggest blowout since was the Crimson Tide’s 49-10 victory in Knoxville last season. If Alabama wins on Saturday, it would tie the longest win streak in series history, when the Tide beat the Vols for 11 years from 1971-81. Paul “Bear” Bryant was Alabama’s coach during that streak.
That’s what Jones is up against as hot seat rumors continue to swirl now. They’ll get even stronger after Saturday.
Has the market for upsets tapped out for Week 8? We did just see four top-10 teams lose to unranked opponents. Nothing shocks us anymore. No. 2 Penn State has the most difficult matchup of top 10 teams this week, so we’re going back to the well with No. 8 Miami.
The Hurricanes are going to play close games — and that was in the case in a last-minute victory against Georgia Tech on Oct. 14. Syracuse comes in looking to play spoiler for the second straight week after knocking off No. 2 Clemson last week.
These schools haven’t met since their Big East days in 2003, and the Orange haven’t beat the Hurricanes since a 66-13 victory on Nov. 28, 1998. That game holds a record for most points scored in Syracuse history. Three years later, Syracuse allowed the most points in school history in a 59-0 loss.
Looking forward to a shootout here on Saturday.
Trying to figure out Penn State-Michigan? We’ll break it down like this: 12 of the 20 games between these teams have been decided by 10 points or more, and the remaining eight contests were one-score games. This is the first time both teams come in ranked as ranked opponents since No. 13 Michigan got a 27-24 overtime victory over No. 15 Penn State in 2002. We think it breaks that way in a back-and-forth Big Ten slugfest, befitting how the rivalry started in the first place.
What about Notre Dame-USC? The last three games have been decided by an average of 21 points per game. Both teams haven’t been ranked since 2009, a 34-27 game in which the Irish tried to rally from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
The lesson? Both teams are ranked in both games. They will be close, perhaps instant classics like in 2005.
Think about it …
We mentioned the high number of top-10 upsets at the top, despite the fact these two last two weeks have featured just three games between ranked teams. As of now, the only games between ranked teams next week are No. 2 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State and No. 16 N.C. State at No. 13 Notre Dame.
Don’t worry — the big games are coming in November. The rankings will change, but here are those ranked games:
Week 10: No. 2 Penn State at No. 18 Michigan State; No. 7 Clemson at No. 16 N.C. State; No. 14 Virginia Tech at No. 8 Miami; No. 25 LSU at No. 1 Alabama; No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 10 Oklahoma State; No. 22 Stanford at No. 15 Washington State
Week 11: No. 18 Michigan State at No. 6 Ohio State; No. 13 Notre Dame at No. 8 Miami; No. 3 Georgia at No. 21 Auburn; No. 4 TCU at No. 9 Oklahoma
Week 12: No. 19 Michigan at No. 5 Wisconsin
Week 13: No. 16 South Florida at No. 20 UCF; No. 6 Ohio State at No. 19 Michigan; No. 1 Alabama at No. 21 Auburn; No. 23 West Virginia at No. 9 Oklahoma; No. 15 Washington State at No. 12 Washington; No. 13 Notre Dame at No. 22 Stanford
You were worried? Those are the games that will shape the College Football Playoff race before conference championship weekend. We still have a long way to go.