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Most compelling matchups in college football Week 8

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no Red River Showdown on the college football Week 8 schedule, but this coming weekend will be full of enticing matchups, nevertheless.

A few ranked teams face crucial road tests in Week 8, which also features three ranked-versus-ranked matchups. In particular, seven big games have caught our eye as particularly compelling.

No. 3 Clemson vs. Louisville

The Tigers roared at home in Week 7 as they pummeled poor Florida State into submission. In all likelihood, Clemson will probably romp again this Saturday on the road against Louisville.

However, the reason this game is one we’re going to be keeping tabs on is that the Cardinals have suddenly become dangerous on offense. Since their bye week after losing to FSU, the Cardinals have piled up 103 points. They knocked off Wake Forest (ranked No. 19) last Saturday in a thriller as freshman quarterback Evan Conley exploded with two passing touchdowns and a rushing score in place of Micale Cunningham.

No. 9 Florida vs. South Carolina

The mighty Florida defense was brought low last weekend as Heisman candidate Joe Burrow continued his remarkable run of excellence. Now, the Gators hit the road again for another test against a Gamecocks team that just knocked off Georgia (No. 3) in Athens.

South Carolina’s offense is built tough. Ryan Hilinski is expected to play after suffering a sprained knee on a scary-looking hit against Georgia. The Gamecocks run the ball extremely well and average over 193 yards on the ground per game. The battle in the trenches is going to determine whether that trend continues against Florida’s dominant front seven.

Likely, the X-factor in this one will be Kyle Trask, who continues to play well at quarterback for the Gators.

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 25 Washington

Since losing to Auburn in Week 1, the Ducks have rebounded with five straight wins. Justin Herbert remains one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and this year he’s backed by a stout defense that is allowing just five points per game since the Auburn game.

It’s never easy to beat Washington in Seattle, though. And the Huskies bring a fierce defense of their own to this matchup. The biggest thing we’ll be watching for is to see which Jacob Eason shows up. He’s been spectacular at times this season, but he has also put up some stinkers against Cal, Stanford and USC.

Temple vs. No. 19 SMU

This is an interesting matchup. The Mustangs are coming off a bye following a narrow overtime win over Tulsa and remain undefeated. The Owls are coming off a huge upset win over Memphis and did a fantastic job shutting down the potent Tigers offense.

SMU’s offense is dynamic, led by former Texas star Shane Buechele, and scores more than 44 points per game. The Temple defense has shown the ability to shut down high-flying passing attacks, though, as demonstrated against Maryland back in mid September. Will the Owls pull off another upset, or will the Mustangs keep galloping toward an undefeated record?

No. 18 Baylor vs. Oklahoma State

The Bears are lucky to have escaped Week 7 with their undefeated record intact. They were aided by a horrible call against Texas Tech in overtime last weekend, which allowed them to win in double overtime. Now, they enter Week 8 as road underdogs against an Oklahoma State team that can score points in bunches, and rested up after a tough loss against Texas Tech two weeks back.

Baylor’s offense will score points. The big thing we’re going to be interested to watch unfold is whether the Bears can continue to play outstanding defense against an offense that averages nearly 40 points per game.

No. 17 Arizona State vs. No. 13 Utah

If ever there was an opportunity for Herm Edwards’ young team to announce itself as a program to be reckoned with, this weekend is it. Utah hasn’t lost at home yet this year and is known for being one of the tougher teams in the nation.

This contest also features two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the nation. Utah’s Tyler Huntley is a warrior. His never-say-die approach keeps the Utes in every game, and he can make big plays happen with his arm and legs. ASU’s freshman phenom Jayden Daniels is a blast two watch, and he’s flying high after a monster game against Washington State that saw him score the game-winning touchdown in epic fashion.

No. 16 Michigan vs. No. 7 Penn State

The biggest game of Week 8 in terms of national interest, this Big Ten clash in Happy Valley is ABC’s prime-time game on Saturday night.

Penn State has been one of the nation’s best scoring teams on both sides of the ball, winning by an average score of 42-8. The Nittany Lions are coming off a hard-fought road victory against Iowa and proved they can win ugly. They may need to do it again against a Michigan team that doesn’t know any other way to win.

The big thing we’re going to be focused on here is whether Shea Patterson can do anything positive against a Penn State defense that is known for making quarterback’s lives a miserable wreck.