Top Ten Struggles
Nine of the top ten teams in the AP Poll were active on Saturday and nothing came easy for any of them, even Alabama, who dominated Missouri 39-10, didn’t come away unscathed as star QB Tua Tagovailoa was forced to leave after aggravating his knee injury. Georgia and Washington both lost on the road to top twenty opposition. Meanwhile, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Texas all struggled to get things going early at home against unranked opponents. UCF, who trailed 30-17 at halftime, shut Memphis out in the second half of the game in order to pull off a win in a 31-30 thriller. Many bettors saw the Knights as a lock to cover their 4.5 point spread on the road, but UCF will be happy just to have won the game. West Virginia got rocked by Iowa State, a team that upset both Oklahoma and TCU last season and kept the Sooners close all game again this year. Preseason Heisman favorite Will Grier was held to only 100 passing yards, which surely takes him out of the race. But the biggest losers of the week, however, are Penn State, who were never able to play to their full ability against an aggressive, unranked Michigan State team that controlled possession throughout, and held the third-ranked scoring offense in the country to only 17 points. That loss moves the Nittany Lions to fifth in the Big 10 East standings, which means they will have their work cut out for them if they want to return to the conference championship game.
At the end of the day, we ended up with four out of the top ten losing, three more winning in one-possession games, and the other two winning by 14 or more points. The teams that won may not gain much in terms of style points for their playoff resumes, but will no doubt be happy with their wins. Eight undefeated teams remain after Week 7 action, but it seems unlikely that all of them will remain that way through conference championships. Especially if we get to see any more weeks like this.
Who Leads the Group of Five Schools if UCF Falls?
For 30 minutes on Saturday, it looked like the Knights might finally lose their first game in almost two years. Even though they came out with a win, whatever hopes they had of making the playoff took a hit after almost losing to an unranked team. But it got us thinking: UCF has more issues than last season, and if they do lose a game, would they still be the front-runner for a G5 New Years Six bid? They likely would, especially if American Athletic Conference opponents USF and Cincinnati remain undefeated until they have to face both in the final two weeks of the season. Although neither USF nor Cincy has looked impressive, both could potentially have two or three losses at this point and it would be a big boost for the Knights if they can both stay undefeated.
Outside of the AAC, there are several good teams waiting for the Knights, Bulls, and Bearcats to slip up. North Texas (6-1) and UAB (5-1) in Conference USA are two teams worth watching and will face off next week in Birmingham. Mean Green QB Mason Fine is one to watch and may be one of the best players you’ve never heard of. In the MAC, 6-1 Buffalo would be the favorite, although their 42-13 loss to Army could raise some questions. The Mountain West has four or five teams who could potentially sneak into the conversation, so we’ll see how things play out over there. The Sun Belt also has a few teams who could make it interesting, namely Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, whose only losses came to Clemson and Penn State, respectively. The situation as a whole will be worth keeping track of, but all of this will only matter if the three teams from the American all slip up.
Michigan, LSU Make Statements
Maybe we expected this from LSU since this was their third win over a top ten team so far this season, but Michigan has struggled in games against ranked opponents under Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines under Harbaugh were just 4-8 against ranked opponents before dismantling Wisconsin 38-13. Their defense looked great against the Badgers, holding them to just 283 yards and 11 first downs while keeping Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook to a stat line of 7/20, 100 Yds, TD, 2 INT. As far as the offense, QB Shea Patterson may have played his best game of the season as well. His 81 yard run on the Wolverines second drive was the longest run by a Michigan player since Denard Robinson ran for a 72 yard gain against Indiana in 2010. They’ll likely have three more shots at ranked opponents this season as their next two games are against Michigan State and Penn State, and then have to travel to Columbus to face Ohio State in the final week of the season.
The race for the SEC division titles just keeps getting more exciting every week. Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky all have one loss in the East, while Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU are the top three in the West. The Tigers victory over Georgia may be the most meaningful for now, as the road to the SEC championship game will likely go through LSU. Their defense was incredible, holding Georgia to just 13 points and forcing four turnovers in their 36-16 victory. The Tigers are also finding out what works for them on offense, running the ball 51 times for 275 yards as a team, and their efficiency on fourth down helped them score an extra 13 points throughout the game. Just seven years ago, people called LSU at Alabama “The Game of the Century”, which was won 9-6 by the Tigers. Their matchup on November 3rd this season may not be that huge, but it did just gain a lot more significance.
Top Games of Week 8
Colorado at (15) Washington
(6) Michigan at (24) Michigan State
(16) North Carolina State at (3) Clemson
(22) Mississippi State at (5) LSU
North Texas at UAB
(12) Oregon at (25) Washington State
Three Stars of Week 7
1. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
33/44, 412 Yds, 3 TD
On a day when almost half of the top 10 went down, Haskins helped the Buckeyes hold off Minnesota 30-13. He had his second consecutive 400-yard passing game, becoming the first player in Ohio State history to have two such games. With running backs JK Dobbins and Mike Weber struggling against the Gophers defense, Haskins stepped up in a big way. He also owns three of the top ten single-game passing yard totals in school history and jumped to the top of the Heisman leaderboard after another great performance.
Through seven games:
2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson: 2,161 passing yards, 18 TD
— All-America Game (@AllAmericaGame) October 13, 2018
2. Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State
34 Att, 181 Yds, 4 TD; 3 Rec, 51 Yds
Kansas State stopped a three-game skid with their 31-12 win over Oklahoma State, and Barnes was a huge reason why. The Wildcats relied on Barnes and their running game to keep the Cowboys 12th ranked scoring offense off the field, and it worked to perfection as Kansas State held the ball for 37 minutes compared to 22 for Oklahoma State. All of Barnes four touchdowns came in the second half, as he continued on from a career game last week against Baylor. He also became the first Kansas State player with back-to-back games of at least 175 rushing yards since Darren Sproles in 2003.
3. Flynn Nagel, WR, Northwestern
12 Rec, 220 Yds, 2 TD
With three minutes left in their game against Nebraska, Northwestern was losing 31-21 and had a 5.1 percent chance of victory (which went down to 1.7 percent at its lowest point). But on the final two drives of the game, Nagel caught four passes for 68 yards as the Wildcats managed to send the game to overtime, eventually winning 34-31. He also managed a career-high 220 yards and two touchdowns against the Cornhuskers, including a 61-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter to bring the score back to 28-21. Nagel and Northwestern go up against Rutgers and their 109th ranked scoring defense next week.
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa: 21/33, 320 Yds, 6 TD, INT
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: 17/23, 322 Yds, 5 TD
Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Ole Miss: 26/35, 387 Yds, 2 TD; 17 Att, 141 Yds, TD
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU: 15/30, 200 Yds; 13 Att, 66 Yds, 2 TD
Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis: 31 Att, 199 Yds, TD
Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State: 17 Att, 162 Yds, TD
Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota: 23 Att, 157 Yds, 2 TD
Jamauri Bogan, RB, Western Michigan: 15 Att, 75 Yds, 4 TD
Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: 4 Rec, 196 Yds, 2 TD
Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green: 8 Rec, 206 Yds, 2 TD
Trevon Brown, WR, East Carolina: 13 Rec, 151 Yds, TD