Well that was fun. Welcome back, Florida State.
Week 8 was another wild and crazy week in college football. Two more undefeated teams went down while a few one-loss teams served notice that they’re not to be counted out just yet.
In the week’s marquee matchup, Florida State rallied past Notre Dame, then held on with a dramatic 4th-and-goal stop to seal a 31-27 victory and remain perfect on the year.
Florida State rallied from three second-half deficits and finally took the lead 31-27 on a Karlos Williams touchdown run with just under eight minutes to play, but the Fighting Irish weren’t done yet.
Everett Golson managed to lead the Irish to Florida State’s 2-yard line with under a minute to go, extending the drive with a crazy 4th-and-19 conversion. He appeared to have thrown the game-winning touchdown pass with 13 seconds left, but the play was called back due to offensive pass interference. Notre Dame then had 4th-and-goal from the 18, and Golson’s pass was intercepted.
A week after a dramatic come-from-behind victory over TCU, Baylor couldn’t repeat the feat, falling to West Virginia 41-27 in a penalty-marred game. The Bears were whistled for eight pass interference penalties and tallied 18 penalties for a conference-record 215 yards.
West Virginia’s defense held Baylor to just 318 yards, over 300 below its season average. The Mountaineers sacked Bryce Petty four times and limited the Bears to just one touchdown in the second half.
TCU rebounded from that heartbreaking loss to Baylor in a promising fashion: the Horned Frogs crushed Oklahoma State 42-9. Trevone Boykin threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns while TCU’s defense held Oklahoma State to just 258 yards and kept the Cowboys from scoring a touchdown for the first time in seven years.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for the state of Oklahoma, the Sooners were pretty much knocked out of the playoff race by dropping a game at home to Kansas State, 31-30. The kicking game doomed the Sooners, as Oklahoma had an extra point blocked and missed two field goals, including a chip-shot from the 1-yard line with four minutes to go. Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was outstanding, passing for 225 yards and two TDs while adding another 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Arizona State exorcized some of its demons by defeating Stanford 26-10. The Sun Devils were dominated by Stanford twice last season, including in the Pac-12 championship game on their home turf.
ASU scored the most points against Stanford’s defense all season while its own defense turned in its best performance of the year. ASU’s defense has nine new starters and has struggled this year, but the unit managed to hold Stanford to just 76 yards rushing and 288 yards of offense.
Texas A&M and Alabama have had some wildly entertaining matchups featuring plenty of offense the past two years, and that was half-true this year. There was plenty of offense, just none of it belonged to A&M.
Alabama trounced the Aggies 59-0, scoring 35 points in the second quarter alone. Alabama held A&M to just 172 total yards of offense while racking up 602. It was the Crimson Tide’s largest win since 1991 and largest SEC win since 1979.
Looking Ahead to Week 9:
There’s not much on the schedule this week. Aside from our Game of the Week, there is only one other matchup involving two ranked teams, and that’s #3 Ole Miss taking on #24 LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense (10.6 points per game) and is tied for first in interceptions (15).
LSU has struggled against the SEC this year, going 0-2 against Mississippi State and Auburn. LSU’s defense is once again among the best in the country, but its offense leaves much to be desired. The Tigers rank 98th in passing offense, and quarterback Anthony Jennings is only completing 50 percent of his passes. LSU needs to be able to run the ball to keep Jennings from having to try and beat Ole Miss solely with his arm.
Other SEC contenders will be in action, but none are in marquee games. Top-ranked Mississippi State heads to Kentucky, #4 Alabama faces Tennessee, and #5 Auburn hosts South Carolina in the only game that has the potential for intrigue. South Carolina has been a huge disappointment thus far, but the Gamecocks were ranked in the top ten coming into the season and a favorite to win the SEC East. If they can play up to that potential, then things could get interesting. However, South Carolina has given up an average of 31 points a game this year, and that’s been against teams that aren’t nearly as capable on offense as Auburn.
In the Big Ten, Ohio States looks to rebuild its reputation and continue to claw its way back up the polls after that disastrous home loss to Virginia Tech a few weeks back.
The Buckeyes are on a roll, having won four-straight and scoring at least 50 points in each game. Penn State has lost its past two, to Northwestern and woeful Michigan, and has struggled mightily along the offensive line.
However, this will be the first true big test for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. The game will be primetime at night, on the road, in a hostile environment with 100,000+ fans. Can he keep his composure?
Elsewhere in the conference, Nebraska looks to keep pace with division-leader Minnesota–yes, you read that right–against Rutgers.
Michigan State hosts Michigan. Viewer discretion is advised.
Out west, Kansas State hosts Texas while West Virginia looks to maintain its momentum going against Oklahoma State a week after upsetting previously-undefeated Baylor. The Mountaineers are banged up, but having Kevin White helps. The receiver leads the nation in receiving yards per game at 145.7 and has topped 100 yards in every game this season.
The Pac-12 ought to once again provide some late-evening entertainment. It’s an inter-state battle as Washington takes on Arizona State while Arizona faces Washington State.
The Sun Devils should have quarterback Taylor Kelly back. The senior missed over a month with a foot injury. If he isn’t ready to go, then ASU has a more-than-capable backup in junior Mike Bercovici, who has thrown for over 1,300 yards with ten touchdowns and two picks in Kelly’s absence.
Arizona looks to get back on track after dropping one to USC two weeks ago. The Wildcats face pass-happy Washington State and quarterback Connor Halliday, who has already thrown for over 3,330 yards with 28 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, the next-closest passer is 695 yards behind Halliday, and that’s with Halliday already having a bye week. Considering Arizona ranks 106th in pass defense, expect this to be a wild one.
If you ever watch a Utah football or basketball game, you’ve probably heard of the MUSS, or Mighty Utah Student Section.
The MUSS was established in 2002 and takes its name from a line in the school’s fight song: “no other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss.” It is more than just the Utah student section, though; the MUSS is more along the lines of a European football team fan group.
Students register to join the MUSS and get reserved seating at football games, an exclusive pregame tailgate, and discounted prices to an away game. MUSS members also get customized t-shirts that distinguish them from other fans. The MUSS is open to students only, although MUSS members can register non-student guests for events.
At Utah football games, the MUSS is about 6,000 strong and has a number of gameday traditions such as the Third Down Jump and False Start Tally. The former requires the MUSS to jump around and go nuts whenever an opponent faces third down while the latter entails hanging a “5” on the railing whenever the opposing team has a false start penalty. It’s akin to the K’s you see at a baseball game.
In 2004, the football team began wearing a MUSS decal on the back of its helmets.
Game of the Week:
#20 USC vs. #19 Utah
In a battle for supremacy in the Pac-12 South, USC travels to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes on Saturday night.
Both teams are on a roll. USC has won its past two games, knocking off then-undefeated and #10 Arizona at home followed by a drubbing of woeful Colorado. Quarterback Cody Kessler set a school record by throwing seven touchdown passes against the Buffs, including four in the first quarter alone.
He’ll have to keep up that stellar play against the Utes, as USC’s potent rushing attack, led by Javorius Allen, may find yards few-and-far-between in this one.
Utah ranks second in the Pac-12 in rush defense and leads the country in sacks. The Utes average 5.5 sacks and 10.2 tackles for loss per game, tops in the country for both stats.
Utah blew a big lead against Washington State, but the Utes have rebounded, upsetting then-undefeated and #8 UCLA on the road then prevailing in double overtime against Oregon State.
Devonte Booker has carried the load, and he ranks right behind Allen in rushing yards per game in the conference at 123.7 and is coming off a 229-yard, three touchdown performance against the Beavers.
Utah’s defense will need to come up big once again because if Kessler can get going and make some plays through the air, the Utes will hard-pressed to keep up. Utah has struggled throwing the ball; the Utes are second-to-last in the conference, averaging just under 200 yards through the air per game. Throw in the fact–no pun intended–that USC leads the conference in interceptions, and it’s clear that Utah’s quarterbacks will need to perform better than they have this season if they want to beat USC.