Top storylines for college football Week 8

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With four ranked-versus-ranked matchups and plenty of other very intriguing games on the schedule in college football Week 8, we should be treated to another fabulous weekend of action.

Last weekend, four of the top-eight teams in the nation were defeated, shaking up the rankings in a big way.

Are we in for more of the same in Week 8? One can only hope.

These are the things we’ll be paying attention to once the big games commence on Saturday in college football Week 8.

Can Sparty pull off another huge upset?

Just when it looked like Michigan State was moving into the realm of irrelevance, the Spartans roared back to life with a rousing upset win over Penn State in Happy Valley. Now at 4-2 on the season with a 2-1 B1G record, the Spartans are preparing to host arch-rival Michigan, which has become quite the force in recent weeks.

Both of these two teams are outstanding when it comes to defending the run. One would expect Jim Harbaugh to continue to pound the ball, however, especially after the Spartans were gashed in a big way by Miles Sanders last weekend.

The Wolverines are more potent on both sides of the ball, and on paper they should win on Saturday. Of course, the same was said last year, and Sparty found a way to win. Michigan State could very well pull off yet another upset over its rival, which would all but cripple Michigan’s playoff chances in 2018,.

Sooners in need of a big-time rebound 

The last time we saw the Sooners they were stunned by Texas in an instant Red River Shootout classic. Oklahoma gave up 501 yards and 48 points in that contest, which heavily contributed to Lincoln Riley finally making the decision to fire defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

Will Ruffin McNeill be able to do what Stoops could not? We’ll soon find out. The Sooners are headed into Forth Worth for a date with TCU. The Horned Frogs are no offensive powerhouse, but quarterback Shawn Robinson has the ability to make big plays through the air and on the ground.

Of course, TCU will have to figure out a way to stop Kyler Murray to pull out a win. Good luck with that.

Bearcats looking to stay perfect

Since stunning Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins in Week 1, Cincinnati has quietly gone about its business, rattling off six straight wins to open the season. The Bearcats come into Week 8 ranked in the top 25 for the first time all year, but it’ll take their best performance to stay ranked.

They face perhaps their toughest test of the season on the road against Temple. The Owls have some explosive offensive playmakers, led by senior running back Ryquell Armstead, who has 626 rushing yards and six touchdowns this season.

Cincinnati’s third-ranked scoring defense will have to remain sharp for the Bearcats to remain undefeated heading into Week 9. Of course, Michael Warren II (11 rushing touchdowns) will also have something to say about the outcome.

Wounded Badgers should feast

One weekend removed from a humiliating loss to Michigan, the Badgers are set up perfectly for a huge rebound performance.

Illinois has broken down defensively the past month, allowing an average of 38 points in its last four games. Penn State put up 63 points a few weekends ago, and Wisconsin’s ground attack should thrive against a defense that has allowed nearly 200 rushing yards per game.

The Badgers are probably not going to be a factor in the playoff race. But at least they can get back on track in a big way at home on Saturday.

How far down the rabbit hole will Auburn fall?

The 2018 season started out with a bang for Auburn, which was the No. 7 team in the nation leading up to the LSU game. The Tigers took down Washington in Week 1, and Jarrett Stidham looked like he might actually give them what they needed to make a real run at the playoff this year.

Since then, the Tigers have taken a nose dive toward irrelevance, losing three of their last five games, including their last two and culminating with an embarrassing upset loss to Tennessee last weekend.

Fans are calling for Gus Malzahn to lose his job, with one fan going so far as to start a GoFundMe account to raise money for his incredibly expensive buyout.

A road trip against Ole Miss will tell us how far down the rabbit hole this team has fallen. The Rebels are awful defensively. If the Tigers can’t figure out a way to conjure an offense this weekend, an already tenuous situation could spiral completely out of control.

How much will Tua play against Tennessee?

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be surprising whatsoever to see Tua Tagovailoa play one half against a team like Tennessee. Thanks to plays like this, he’s been putting the Crimson Tide so far ahead in the first half of games this year that he still has yet to play in the fourth quarter of any game in 2018.

There’s a bit more at play right now, however. Tagovailoa aggravated his sprained knee last Saturday against Missouri. He caused quite a stir when he remained on the ground following a scramble, then spent well over 10 minutes inside the medical tent with his parents and medical staff.

Thankfully there was no significant damage. Tagovailoa’s expected to practice all week leading up to the team’s road game in Knoxville. But one has to imagine Nick Saban will be careful about keeping his superstar in the game too long in a game that should be over by halftime.

Massive ACC showdown in Death Valley

It’s time to see if NC State is for real. The Wolfpack have flown under the national radar in a big way, thanks in large part to the lack of competition on their schedule. Last weekend’s five-point win over Boston College was their toughest test to date.

Now they’ve got a real challenge on their hands. The Wolfpack will be in Death Valley Saturday for a date with No. 3 Clemson, which is elite on both sides of the ball.

It’s going to be interesting to see if NC State’s underrated defense can keep Travis Etienne from running wild. He’s been on an absolute tear the past four games, racking up an average of 163.5 rushing yards per game and a total of 10 touchdowns in that span.

Additionally, it’s going to be exciting to watching Ryan Finley (one of the top pro prospects at his position) go up against the vaunted Clemson defense. This game is going to be a blast.

Can Colorado pull off upset following tough loss to USC?

Washington is clinging to national relevancy after suffering its second loss of the season last weekend in overtime to Oregon. An upset loss at home to Colorado this weekend would all but seal the Huskies’ fate as a second-tier Pac-12 team.

The Buffaloes were undefeated heading into last weekend’s clash in Southern California. Their offense was held in check and fell apart on third downs, despite the best efforts of superstar receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who went over 100 yards for the fifth time this season.

In all likelihood, Colorado will likely face a similar fate this Saturday. Washington’s defense is very good, and the Buffaloes don’t have enough firepower outside of Shenault to consistently beat the Huskies in Seattle.

Penn State desperate to stop the free-fall

Nittany Lions fans must be getting tired of the yo-yo James Franklin experience. A few weekends ago, his unconscionable decisions at the end of the Ohio State game cost them a win. Then last weekend Penn State was embarrassed at home once again by Sparty.

So, how far will this team fall?

If Penn State doesn’t dominate Indiana on Saturday, the tumble down could be precipitous. Following this coming road game, the Nittany Lions will host Iowa, hit the road for a date with Michigan and then head back home to host Wisconsin the weekend following that.

Suddenly, it’s not crazy to imagine that Penn State could be 5-5 at the end of that stretch.

Can Scott Frost get the monkey off his back?

With his loss last weekend against Northwestern, Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers fell to 0-6 on the season — the worst start in the 128-year history of the Nebraska football program.

Next up is a competitive Minnesota team that gave Ohio State a run for its money during the first half of last weekend’s game. Nebraska’s defense is exceptionally awful, and the Golden Gophers have a few playmakers capable of taking advantage.

The Huskers are favored to win at home, which would make another loss all the more devastating.

Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez needs to take care of the ball, and Nebraska’s defense needs to stop making mistakes to avoid dropping yet another heartbreaking game.

Heavyweight SEC showdown at Tiger Stadium

Are you a fan of slobberknockers? Do you prefer jarring hits over touchdowns? If you said yes to these questions, then Saturday’s SEC showdown between Mississippi State and LSU is the game for you.

The two starting quarterbacks — Nick Fitzgerald and Joe Burrow– have combined to throw 10 touchdowns this year in 13 combined games. TEN! It wouldn’t be shocking if there were more defensive touchdowns than passing touchdowns when it’s all said and done.

Quite aside from the fact that defense will reign supreme, this is a huge game in terms of national ranking and SEC standings for the Tigers. One more conference loss could spell doom for their playoff aspirations, and they still have to face ‘Bama and Texas A&M before the season ends.

Boilermakers looking to play spoiler at home against Ohio State

Purdue fans are riding high right now after seeing their team rip off three straight wins, including the surprising blowout over Boston College a few weeks back. The Boilermakers can move the ball offensively with the best teams in the nation and feature one of the most exciting playmakers you’ll see all year in Rondale Moore.

Now it’s put up or shut up time, as they prepare to host the No. 2 team in the nation.

While Purdue might be able to continue making things happen offensively against the Buckeyes, the real question is whether it can find a way to keep Dwayne Haskins from going off. Based on the way Haskins has shredded every other defense he’s faced this year, don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen Saturday.

Can USC make it four in a row?

Since losing two in a row to Texas and Stanford, the Trojans have been on fire. They’ve won their last three games, including an impressive victory over Washington State — the Cougars’ only loss to date.

All three of those wins came at home, however. Now it’s time for true freshman JT Daniels to take the show on the road once again. He’s struggled on the road, and both of the team’s losses came away from Southern California.

Utah features a stingy defense that has allowed just 16 points per game and ranks fourth nationally against the run. Daniels is going to probably need to win this game with his arm. He’s improved, but this will be a great barometer game to show just how far along he’s come at the midway point of the season.

Kentucky looks to bounce back after first loss 

The Wildcats are coming off their bye, which was needed after their five-game winning streak was ended by Texas A&M two weekends ago.

Next up is a feisty Vanderbilt team that came close to beating Florida last weekend before melting down at the end of the game. The Commodores also gave Notre Dame a hard time a few weeks back.

The one reason to have faith that Kentucky will get back on the winning path is that Vandy is not good against the run. The Commodores allow over 183 yards of rushing offense per game. Benny Snell Jr. should feast, and the Wildcats should move to 6-1 on the season.

Cougs and Ducks clash on the national stage

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Pullman for the first time ever as the Washington State Cougars host the Oregon Ducks. In all likelihood, these two teams represent the Pac-12’s last hope of somehow sneaking into the College Football Playoff — if such a hope exists at all.

Adding to the allure of this matchup, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is considered by many who cover the NFL draft to be the top quarterback prospect in the nation. (Here’s a great example why). It’s going to be fascinating to see how he deals with going against Washington State’s 10th-ranked pass defense.

Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew is no slouch, either. Between him and Herbert, these two gunslingers have racked up 4,035 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air.

Though in the end, it might boil down to how well Oregon’s running backs perform against a rather squishy run defense that has allowed 12 rushing scores on the year. If the Ducks can dominate on the ground, the game should be theirs for the taking.