It’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen on a weekly basis in college football. This last weekend, four of the top 10 teams in the AP rankings lost. Another three eked out one-possession victories.
Week 8 promises to provide another unpredictable load of games that should shake up the college football landscape.
Let’s look at some of the most compelling matchups and juiciest games on tap for Saturday’s action.
No. 9 Oklahoma at TCU
After a bye week to digest their Red River Rivalry loss to Texas, the Sooners will be chomping at the bit to bounce back against another Lone Star State adversary.
A balanced offense led by quarterback Shawn Robinson that averages over 414 yards per contest and a defense that concedes an average of only 20.2 points give TCU a chance to steal this one at home to improve to 4-3.
On the other hand, Oklahoma has a legitimate Heisman contender in quarterback Kyler Murray, and Robinson has thrown eight interceptions in his last five starts. The Sooners should therefore have the edge in the turnover battle and get back into the win column this weekend.
No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State
Coming off a great road win at Penn State, Michigan State riding momentum into its annual Paul Bunyan Trophy battle.
Michigan dismantled Wisconsin 38-13 in Week 7, though, and shot all the way up to No. 6 in the AP rankings. Coach Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines now prepare for their toughest road trip since a season-opening loss to Notre Dame.
The Spartans held dual-threat Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in check (13 carries, 37 yards) and could do the same to Michigan’s Shea Patterson.
That said, Patterson is a far more accurate passer, and the Wolverines have NFL-caliber talent at all three levels of their defense, led by lineman Rashan Gary. Although Gary’s playing status is up in the air, Michigan should have enough advantages to pull out a nail-biter in East Lansing.
No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU
With Alabama looming on the schedule next week, it’s vital LSU doesn’t look ahead to that make-or-break clash, especially after a 36-16 romp over Georgia.
Mississippi State defeated Auburn, then had a Week 7 bye. It’s going to be a test of wills between the Bulldogs and Tigers, as both offenses clearly prefer to pound the rock.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran for 195 yards and two scores versus Auburn, as Mississippi State had 349 yards on 57 rushing attempts. LSU’s Joe Burrow makes some plays with his feet but like Fitzgerald has accuracy issues.
This should be a low-scoring, gritty SEC drama. With that in mind, LSU’s tandem of probable first-round draft picks, linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams — along with friendly Tigers fans — should boost the hosts to another quality win.
Memphis at Missouri
Darrell Henderson has already rushed for over 1,100 yards while averaging 10.3 yards per carry. He had 191 yards rushing in Memphis’ 31-30 loss to UCF, which the Tigers must overcome in short order.
Highly touted quarterback Drew Lock and Missouri are a three-game skid and have a tough SEC slate remaining. Week 8 is far from a cakewalk intermission in the conference schedule, however.
Lock has thrown only one touchdown to five interceptions the past three contests and completed well below 50 percent of his passes.
If Henderson is brilliant again and Lock is forced into obvious passing situations, look for Memphis to get a key takeaway and pull the slight upset in a high-scoring affair.
Buffalo at Toledo
How about some MACtion? Toledo receiver and lethal return man Diontae Johnson is an all-purpose weapon. However, the passing game combination to eye in this one is that of Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson and top wideout Anthony Johnson.
Buffalo’s Johnson has a chance to be a first-round pick in 2019. While his surname-sharing counterpart should too have a future on NFL Sundays, Toledo’s defense, which yields 34.8 points per game, will really have its hands full.
Jackson is a strapping 6-foot-7 signal-caller who can launch it deep to Johnson on any given play. This could be a shootout, and the Rockets may well be frisky thanks to home-field advantage.
NC State offensive line vs. Clemson defensive line
The Wolfpack have an excellent quarterback in Ryan Finley. His savvy distributing and quick release have aided 16th-ranked NC State’s big men in pass protection. Finley has been sacked only twice through six games.
Don’t be surprised if the AP No. 3 Tigers double that sack total after Saturday’s showdown in Death Valley.
Clemson has four starters across its defensive front likely to hear their names called in the 2019 NFL draft. Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence are virtual first-round locks. Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant are probable Day 2 picks.
Finley must be swift and decisive in his reads and not let NC State’s incredible 60.9 percent third-down conversion rate slip too much for the Wolfpack to have a chance.
Justin Herbert vs. Gardner Minshew
Newly-minted AP No. 25 Washington State legitimately factors into the Pac-12 North divisional race. The Cougars have a major opportunity for a signature win at home against 12th-ranked Oregon.
Dynamic as the Ducks’ quarterback Herbert is, the man leading Washington State’s offense, Minshew, triggers the nation’s No. 1 passing attack that averages 413.7 yards per game. Herbert has thrown 17 touchdowns to five interceptions, while Minshew has tossed 19 scores and only four picks.
Cougars coach Mike Leach previously oversaw the program at Texas Tech. It’s no surprise he’s been airing it out at a dizzying rate this season. Oregon is Washington State’s toughest foe yet, and being that one-dimensional offensively could be the Cougars’ downfall.
Nick Saban vs. Jeremy Pruitt
When Alabama travels to take on Tennessee this Saturday, its legendary coach Saban will be facing off against his latest protégé to take a head gig somewhere else.
The last time Saban did this was in the most recent national championship game, where the Crimson Tide defeated Kirby Smart and Georgia in overtime.
Pruitt took over defensive coordinator duties for Smart last season, only to bolt for the Volunteers when the opportunity arose. After some early growing pains, Tennessee got back to .500 thanks to an impressive road victory over Auburn in Week 7.
It’s unrealistic to expect the Vols to pull an epic upset, yet this will be an invaluable “measuring stick” game for Pruitt and his retooling program.