Watching the big games in college football Week 8 was quite the entertaining exercise, unless you happen to be a fan of the losing teams.
The undisputed heavyweight of the nation continued to show why it was the top-ranked team this preseason. Other teams that started the season ranked high haven’t been nearly as impressive, while the second-ranked team in the nation was toppled in a little place called Happy Valley.
We saw a Heisman favorite put on another signature performance, which just so happened to contain the signature Heisman pose. Another big-time player who’d been out for a while reminded us all why he’s so special.
We’re looking at these angles and more in our top-10 takeaways from college football Week 8.
1. Alabama is the soul crusher of the college football world
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide continued to steamroll their SEC competition Saturday, crushing No. 6 Texas A&M by the score of 33-14.
If you didn’t watch the game and saw the score, you might assume the outcome was never in question. After all, Alabama has been brutalizing opponents all year. Yet that was not the case in this contest. Both teams came out swinging, landing some serious haymakers — both on the scoreboard and on the field.
We haven’t witnessed a more physical game this year than what happened at Bryant-Denny Stadium in this one. Freshman linebacker Mack Wilson set the tone early with a brutal hit on Speedy Noil that appeared to knock a tooth out. Texas A&M got its revenge a while later, only this time Donovan Wilson got tossed for targeting after crushing Damien Harris.
Scoring wasn’t easy early on for either team. The Aggies actually went up by a point in the third quarter, 14-13, when quarterback Travis Knight threw an absolutely perfect touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds in the back right of the end zone (watch here).
At this point, it really looked like the Aggies had a chance to pull off the upset.
Then Alabama’s freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts, started getting into a groove. Responding to Knight’s score, he led a punishing 14-play drive that chewed up more than six minutes of clock and ended 77 yards later with a four-yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley.
And this is the point in the game that the wheels started falling off for Texas A&M. After the two teams traded punts, Alabama’s defense scored yet another touchdown this season when big Jonathan Allen ran a Keith Ford fumble back 30 yards for the score.
Alabama has scored a non-offensive touchdown in 10 STRAIGHT games dating to 2015, the longest FBS streak in the last 10 seasons.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 22, 2016
One three-and-out later by Texas A&M’s suddenly stunned offense and Jalen Hurt buried the Aggies once and for all with a brilliant, ankle-breaking 37-yard score (watch here).
Game over. The Aggies went from being right there in this one to being blown out in almost the blink of an eye.
And that’s what we’ve grown to expect. Even against the top teams in the nation, once ‘Bama starts rolling, there is no stopping them. They did it to Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and now Texas A&M. At this point, it’s hard to envision any team hanging with Nick Saban’s gang for four quarters.
2. Penn State might have just sunk Ohio State’s playoff battleship
The No. 2-ranked Buckeyes had flirted with disaster a couple of times this year before trekking to Happy Valley to take on Penn State Saturday night.
Their luck ran out against the Nittany Lions, who used two humongous special-teams plays to topple Ohio State.
The Buckeyes had the game in the bag, or so it appeared, after three quarters. They led by two touchdowns heading into the final stanza, and it looked like another win would be tallied to their record.
Then Penn State woke up.
It started with an impressive 90-yard touchdown-scoring drive that took just five play early in the fourth quarter.
The defense stiffened up, holding the Buckeyes scoreless in the fourth quarter. Then came a blocked punt that quickly put the Nittany Lions in scoring range. They got three points out of that turnover, setting up a finish for the ages.
Ohio State’s offense marched right down the field, apparently in full control. They moved into field goal range and were set to go up by a touchdown with the 45-yard attempt.
Marcus Allen and Grant Haley had other ideas. Allen blocked the kick, and Haley returned it 60 yards for the game-changing touchdown (watch here).
This score put Penn State up by what was to the the final score of 24-21.
Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett did his best to lead the Buckeyes to victory, but the Ohio State offensive line was overrun on many passing downs. Barrett ended up running around like crazy to get away from the pressure. More often than not, he escaped. But when the game came down to the line at the end when he needed time, he had none, getting sacked on the final two offensive plays of the game for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will likely drop significantly in the rankings. And given the looming battle against Michigan at the end of the season, it could spell the doom of the program’s College Football Playoff hopes.
3. Auburn coming on strong in demolition of Arkansas
In one of the biggest shockers of the day, No. 21 Auburn absolutely wiped the field with No. 17 Arkansas, winning by the score of 56-3.
In a game we figured Arkansas would dominate physically, it was exactly the opposite at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday evening. The Tigers got out early with 28 unanswered points, starting the scoring onslaught with a 78-yard bolt for six by freshman receiver Eli Stove.
— Chris Renkel CBS 42 (@Chris_Renkel) October 23, 2016
Arkansas had no answers. After finally scoring on a field goal to provide some semblance of competition, the Razorbacks got their tusks sheared off and would not score again.
Auburn rushed for an astonishing 543 yards and outgained Arkansas 632 to 215. It was complete and utter domination that nobody saw coming.
Heading into this game, we wondered which team would prove itself as a legitimate powerhouse. At this point, it’s clear the Tigers are miles ahead of the Razorbacks heading into the critical home stretch.
4. Lamar Jackson reasserts himself as Heisman favorite
It's almost like he's trying to tell us something ?. pic.twitter.com/feGgTr2qb7
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 22, 2016
Saturday’s early game between No. 7 Louisville and NC State was over quickly. Lamar Jackson had a ridiculous first half, putting the Cardinals up by the score of 44-0 while scoring four touchdowns.
Here’s the run in which the Heisman pose, shown above, was accomplished — a 74-yard dash through NC State’s defense.
74 yd TD pass Louisville! https://t.co/ILtu13avO3
— Kevin Causey (@CFBZ) October 22, 2016
The final score read 54-13. Louisville just cruised through the second half. Jackson didn’t add too much to his overall tally in that second half before exiting midway through the fourth quarter so Kyle Bolin could get some garbage-time work in.
In total, Jackson accounted for 431 yards and the four touchdowns.
This brings his seasonal numbers up to 3,069 total yards and 34 touchdowns. After a mediocre showing against Duke in Week 7 (following a bye, no less) it looked like the talented sophomore quarterback might let some of his fellow playmakers around the country in on the Heisman race.
Not so much.
The Cardinals have the best player in the nation quarterbacking their offense. And right now, it’s not all that close — no offense intended to Jabrill Peppers.
5. Nebraska still undefeated, but true tests await
Heading into Week 8, we wondered if No. 8 Nebraska was truly worthy of being counted among the nation’s best. The Cornhuskers featured an undefeated record yet still had yet to truly establish itself as a dominant power in the Big Ten.
After a rather uninspiring 27-14 win against Purdue to go 7-0, we’re still not convinced this team is for real. Thanks to a stellar effort by their defense in the second half, the Cornhuskers kept their perfect record intact.
Purdue, coming into this game, sported a 3-3 record and had given up almost a touchdown more than it scored per game on average. Needless to say, it was a bit surprising to see the Boilermakers up by four points at the half.
Yet, if we’re being honest, that’s kind of what we have seen this year out of the Huskers. Oregon and Illinois both went up at the half, giving Nebraska trouble early. And these aren’t top teams. Purdue, Oregon and Illinois now have a combined record of 7-14. Yet all three gave the Cornhuskers a scare.
What is this team going to do taking on the likes of Wisconsin and Ohio State the next couple of weeks?
If we’re being honest, Nebraska is going to be in deep trouble competing against these two Big Ten teams. While it’s been a long time since the Huskers went undefeated this late into the season, their fans should brace for a heavy dose of reality.
6. West Virginia’s defense is legit
It’s safe to say No. 12 West Virginia, now 6-0, is one of the top-10 teams in the nation.
Last weekend, when the Mountaineers shut down Texas Tech and Patrick Mahomes to the tune of 48-17, it was an eye-opening performance. Yet Mahomes wasn’t right, dealing with a throwing shoulder injury, so it was fair to wonder how legit West Virginia’s defense really is.
That question was answered in resounding fashion this Saturday as the Mountaineers hosted TCU — a team that averaged more than 530 yards and 40 points per game heading into the game.
Both of those averages were unattainable for the Horned Frogs, who managed just 300 yards and lost big, 34-10.
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) October 22, 2016
The defensive prowess of West Virginia carried the day, and the 10 points surrendered represented the end of a rather long streak for TCU. The Horned Frogs had previously scored at least 20 points in 36 straight games, per ESPN Stats & Information The interesting part? West Virginia was the last team to keep them from doing so, back in 2013.
This performance marked the second time in as many weeks that West Virginia had shut down one of the top offenses in the nation.
Combined with its own potent offense, led by senior Skyler Howard, this program is looking like a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.
7. Leonard Fournette was making up for lost time
Last year’s early-season Heisman darling missed a few weeks with an ankle sprain, but he was back with a vengeance Saturday night.
In a game No. 25 LSU really needed to win in order to retain positive momentum, Fournette provided the jet fuel that propelled the Tigers over No. 23 Ole Miss.
The dynamic running back got things started with a bang, ripping off a 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter when the Tigers were down 10-0 (watch here).
He followed that up with two even longer touchdown runs of 76 and 78 yards. Thanks to those outstanding plays, Fournette finished with 284 yards on 16 carries for an astronomical average of 17.8 yards per carry.
He also reminded defenders everywhere why it’s just a bad idea to go for a tackle above the waist.
LOOK OUT pic.twitter.com/VQTT0cAYby
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) October 23, 2016
Fournette’s performance, combined with LSU’s defense, which forced two Chad Kelly turnovers, gave the Tigers a convincing 38-21 win over Ole Miss to improve to 6-2 on the season.
Things are looking up for this program. It sure seems like interim head coach Ed Orgeron has the players in a good place after a 2-2 start and the loss of former coach Les Miles.
The same cannot be said for the Rebels, who dropped to 3-4 on the season and have just one win against a ranked team to their credit.
8. Washington is quietly scary-good
There is no doubt the Pac 12 is weak this year, so it’s hard to exactly how good No. 5 Washington is right now.
That said, the Huskies are undeniably impressive. Ranking in the top six in both points scored and points allowed, they are strong on both sides of the ball and appear to be getting better as the season wears on.
They ran both Stanford and Oregon out of the stadium in their previous two contests by a combined score of 114-27.
Washington dominated yet another Pac 12 rival Saturday at home. beating Oregon State by a score of 41-17.
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 23, 2016
Quarterback Jake Browning came into the game with 23 passing touchdowns and kept dealing against the Beavers with three more. Best yet, he’s only thrown two interceptions all year and has added four more on the ground the past four games.
Washington runs the ball well, too, and tallied 219 yards on the ground against a Beavers defense that was helpless to stop anything it did.
The Huskies are ridiculously good defending the pass, which is why they could give the top teams in the Big Ten and SEC some trouble in the College Football Playoff. This proficiency was on display once again Saturday, as Washington forced two interceptions and held Oregon State to 148 passing yards on 27 attempts.
Next weekend should tell us a little more about the Huskies. They’ll be heading to Salt Lake City next weekend to take on No. 19 Utah, which also won this weekend in a shootout over UCLA.
9. Wisconsin keeps Big Ten championship dream alive with tough road win
In order to keep their Big Ten championship hopes alive, the No. 10-ranked Badgers absolutely had to win Saturday on the road against a very tough Iowa squad.
Heading into the contest on a two-game losing streak against two of the top three schools in the nation, a third straight loss would have sent them hurtling down the rankings faster than you reach for your alarm on a Monday morning.
Thankfully for Wisconsin and its fans, that didn’t happen. Instead, the Badgers bounced back from those two losses with an impressive performance at Kinnick Stadium that was much more one-sided than the final score, 17-9, indicates.
Running back Corey Clement, finally healthy, played like it. The senior rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown, pounding away at Iowa’s front seven all game long. His strong play helped the Badgers carry the Heartland Trophy back to their side of the field Saturday.
Corey Clement said UW came to Iowa with a purpose: "We had to get what was ours back. Running across that sideline was an awesome feeling."
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) October 22, 2016
The passing game did its part, too. Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston combined on 256 yards with a touchdown.
Wisconsin’s defense was stout, as usual. It did not surrender a touchdown and held Iowa’s rushing attack to just 83 yards on 27 carries — a smothering effort.
While Ohio State and Michigan will have each other to battle for the Big Ten East. But with the big win Saturday, Wisconsin, though still 2-2 in the conference, will likely be the Big Ten West champ if it wins out.
Upcoming battles against Nebraska (which still has to play Ohio State in Columbus) and Northwestern will clear things up the next couple of weeks.
10. Boise State lucky to hold on against BYU
The No. 14-ranked Broncos are lucky to remain undefeated heading into Week 9 after a scare at home against BYU on Thursday night.
The first quarter was owned by the home team, which put up 14 unanswered points to open the game. The first touchdown of the game went to running back Jeremy McNichols, who is closing in on an FBS record.
#BoiseState RB Jeremy McNichols has scored a touchdown in 19 straight games.
— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) October 21, 2016
That’s the good.
Now here’s the bad. Boise State was not sharp at all, turning the ball over five times, including two pick-sixes by quarterback Brett Rypien. Meanwhile the Cougars remained turnover free.
The Cougars opened the second quarter with a field goal, then added the two defensive touchdowns to go up by three. The two sides traded touchdowns before BYU went up by six on a fourth-quarter field goal.
On the next drive, Rypien, who rebounded nicely after the two huge mistakes, led the Broncos on a 10-play drive that ended with a McNichols four-yard touchdown run. The extra point gave the home team a one-point lead that almost wasn’t good enough to win the game.
The two teams traded punts, leading to one last try for the Cougars to pull off the upset in Idaho. And they came awfully close.
After Taysom Hill drove BYU into field goal range on an impressive 15-play drive that ate up the remainder of the clock, kicker Rhett Almond had his game-winning attempt blocked by Boise State nose tackle David Moa.
It’s the second weekend in a row in which the Group of 5’s best hope for the College Football Playoff was nearly knocked off after Colorado State took the Broncos to the limit in Week 7.
As Tennessee learned the hard way, too many brushes with fire means you end up getting burned. Hopefully Boise State avoids that fate.