Remember 2007, when it seemed like nobody wanted to play for the national title? Seemingly every week, contenders lost after ascending the rankings: Boston College, Kansas, Missouri, South Florida, just to name a few.
Well, 2013 might be shaping up that way.
After last week, three teams have clearly established themselves above the rest. As for everyone else, it’s a crapshoot at this point as nine ranked teams fell.
Top 25 Decimated
It was not a good day to be a ranked team, especially in the SEC. Week 8 was a massacre as nine ranked teams lost. The #3, #6, #7, #8, #9, #11, and #15 teams all lost, and #20 Washington was thrashed by Arizona State.
Central Florida started things off on Friday night by going on the road and upsetting #8 Louisville 38-35. The Golden Knights rallied from a 28-7 deficit by scoring 24-straight points then scored a touchdown with 23 seconds left to take the lead for good.
That set the stage for Saturday. Stanford rebounded from its upset the week before and handed #9 UCLA its first loss, 24-10. Arizona State ran roughshod over Washington, defeating the Huskies 53-24 and holding the nation’s leading rusher, Bishop Sankey, to just 22 yards on 13 carries.
The most-hyped game of the week turned out to be a dud when Florida State drilled Clemson 51-14 on the Tigers’ home turf. Jameis Winston threw for 444 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns while the defense forced four Clemson turnovers.
The vast majority of the carnage, though, came in the SEC. Missouri silenced the doubters with a convincing 36-17 win over #22 Florida despite being without starting quarterback James Franklin. The Tigers entered the week at #14, but thanks to all the upsets, Mizzou is now #5. Vanderbilt knocked off a banged-up Georgia squad 31-27. The Commodores came back from 13-points down to record their first win over a ranked team since 2008 and first victory over the Bulldogs since 1991.
Tennessee couldn’t seal the deal against Georgia a week earlier, but the Volunteers didn’t let this one slip away against South Carolina. Tennessee kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired to beat the Gamecocks 23-21 and give coach Butch Jones his first SEC win.
Despite Johnny Manziel’s 454 passing yards and 5 total touchdowns, #7 Texas A&M couldn’t hold off surprising Auburn in a 45-41 defeat. The Tigers racked up 379 yards rushing, including 100 from quarterback Nick Marshall, against a porous Aggie defense to overcome a record-setting performance from A&M receiver Mike Evans. The sophomore had 287 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as Auburn sacked Manziel on fourth down to seal the upset.
Number 6 LSU also was not immune to the upset bug as Doctor Bo Wallace and Ole Miss prevailed 27-24 on a last-second field goal. Just a week earlier, Ole Miss nearly upset Texas A&M before falling on a last-second field goal, but the time the Rebels were on the other end. Wallace was surgical, completing 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards. It nearly wasn’t enough as LSU overcame a 17-point deficit to tie the game at 24 with just over three minutes to go. However, Wallace led the Rebels on a long drive that bled the clock and ended with the game-winning field goal. The win was even more surprising considering Ole Miss was missing five starters on defense, but the patchwork unit forced three interceptions from LSU’s Zach Mettenberger.
Looking Ahead to Week 9
It’s almost as if the schedule makers knew we’d need a break after the chaos of the past two weeks. Week 9’s slate of games definitely pales compared to what last week offered–no matchup of undefeated top-5 teams–but all is not without hope.
The Big 12 features a an intriguing matchup between two teams that are a combined 13-1. Undefeated Texas Tech is #10 but hasn’t really been tested and lacks a marquee win. Nobody really knows what to think of the Red Raiders, but if Kliff Kingsbury’s squad can beat #15 Oklahoma, it’ll be time to start taking Tech seriously. On the other side, Oklahoma came out sluggish against woeful Kansas after suffering a humiliating loss at the hands of bitter rival Texas. A win over a top-ten team would do wonders for the Sooners and help them get back into the BCS mix. It’ll be a battle of strength vs. strength as Texas Tech boasts the nation’s second-best passing offense while Oklahoma is tops in the country in pass defense.
There are some other games that don’t look great on paper but have potential. Florida State is rolling and may be the best team in the country after demolishing previously undefeated and third-ranked Clemson while NC State is 3-3. However, the Wolfpack upset Florida State just one year ago. Florida State did have a close call against Boston College, and if the Seminoles are still basking in the glory of last week’s huge win, they could suffer a letdown and let NC State end their dream season.
Alabama has flown under-the-radar a bit, despite being the top-ranked team in the nation for the entire year. The Crimson Tide haven’t been as dominant this season as in years past, with the offense struggling against Virginia Tech and Colorado State while the defense got riddled by Texas A&M. Tennessee is rebuilding in its first-year under Butch Jones, but the Vols took Georgia to overtime and upset South Carolina last week.
Speaking of South Carolina, the Gamecocks travel to Columbia to take on this years most surprising team, the undefeated and fifth-ranked Missouri Tigers. Mizzou will be without starting quarterback James Franklin, but replacement Maty Mauk stepped in and led the Tigers to a 36-17 win over Florida and the Gator’s vaunted defense. South Carolina also has injury issues at the quarterback position as Connor Shaw left the game against Tennessee with a knee injury and is likely out for the game.
Once again, though, the highlight of the weekend comes from the Pac-12. A pair of 6-1 teams will square off when #25 Oregon State hosts #6 Stanford. The Beavers have won six-in-a-row after dropping their opener to Eastern Washington, thanks to quarterback Sean Mannion and a powerful offense. Mannion is nation’s leading passer with 2,992 yards and is second with 29 touchdowns while only tossing 3 interceptions. Receiver Brandin Cooks already has 76 catches for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns. They’ll be facing a stout Stanford defense that yields less than 250 yards a game through the air. The Cardinal will be looking to beat Oregon State for the fourth-straight year, but with a huge game looming next week against #2 Oregon, Stanford will have to make sure it doesn’t look past the Beavers.
In terms of rankings, the biggest matchup this weekend pits #3 Oregon against #12 UCLA. As if Oregon’s offense wasn’t explosive enough–quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown for 19 touchdowns without an interception while also contributing 9 rushing touchdowns–star running back De’Anthony Thomas is expected to return to action against the Bruins. UCLA has some weapons of its own in quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Anthony Barr, but the Bruins are banged-up. Running back Jordon James has missed the past two games, and left tackle Simon Goines is questionable for the game.