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Top takeaways from college football Week 8

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Fans watching college football Week 8 were not disappointed, as the action on Saturday provided an abundance of “wow” moments.

Some huge statements were made by top teams around the nation, and of course there were some upsets. One of them will reverberate for a while, as the nation’s No. 2 team fell in dramatic fashion.

These are the biggest takeaways from the college football games in Week 8.

Bearcats finally get a test, and fail

Cincinnati was undefeated heading into Week 8, but the Bearcats hadn’t really faced a single challenge unless you count UCLA in Week 1.

On Saturday, they were on the road against a tough Temple squad. Despite the defense forcing three interceptions, Cincinnati couldn’t hang on to win, coming up short in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Temple tied the game up in the final minute of regulation, capping off a seven-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Russo to Branden Mack. Russo threw his third touchdown of the game in overtime, and then Temple’s defense sealed the win with an interception.

It’s safe to say Cincinnati’s run as a top-25 team is over.

Smothering defense keeps Hawkeyes rolling

The Maryland Terrapins came into Week 8 averaging over 31 points per game. On Saturday in Iowa City, they scored a grand total of zero.

Granted, some of this was Maryland just being sloppy (like this). But overall, Iowa’s defense was just dominant. The Hawkeyes held Maryland to just 115 total yards, seven first downs while forcing two turnovers, which turned into 14 points.

That was more than enough to win at home, and suddenly the Hawkeyes are 6-1 and in great shape to challenge for the Big Ten West title with Penn State on the horizon.

Sooners ride ground game, discover some defense in blowout over TCU

The Oklahoma football program got back on the winning track with a blowout win over TCU Saturday, rebounding nicely from the Red River Shootout loss to Texas two weekends ago.

Nearly doubling up their rival, the Sooners easily won this one, 52-27. The team’s run game was dominant, piling up 323 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Of course, it’s hardly surprising that quarterback Kyler Murray was razor sharp, too.

Even better, the Oklahoma defense actually stopped an offense in the red zone for the first time all year. Additionally, it was excellent against the pass, which may be a direct result of the tough decision to fire defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

Badgers bounce back with easy win over Illinois

One weekend after getting pushed around by Michigan, Wisconsin was the bully in a lopsided blowout win at home over Illinois that featured a freak, short-lived blizzard.

The Badgers were relentless pounding the rock, ripping off 54 attempts while controlling the clock at a nearly 2-to-1 pace. Jonathan Taylor and Taiwan Deal both went well over 100 yards, and Wisconsin finished with 357 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

And aside from a couple of big plays, the Badgers had no trouble keeping Illinois in check, either. It really was the perfect bounce-back opportunity for this team, which has to keep piling up victories to have a chance of winning the conference title.

Auburn finally rediscovers ground game

The Auburn Tigers have fallen on hard times of late. Jarrett Stidham has been awful, and his shortcomings have been amplified due to a lack of success by Auburn’s rushing attack. In the two games prior to Saturday’s 31-16 win against Ole Miss, the Tigers had been held to just 216 yards on the ground.

Thanks to the efforts of JaTarvious Whitlow, they easily eclipsed that total in one game, shredding the Rebels’ defense to the tune of 269 yards and three touchdowns. Not surprisingly, the rest of Auburn’s offense ran much smoother, and the Tigers won their fifth game of the season.

Looks like Gus Malzahn’s job is safe for at least one more week.

Michigan flexes its muscles again with huge road win over MSU

Pure and utter domination. Forget about the scoreboard (21-7 in favor of Michigan) for a minute. The Wolverines held Michigan State to 94 total yards, didn’t allow a single third- or fourth-down conversion and held onto the football for more than 41 minutes on Saturday.

The only points Michigan State scored on Saturday came on a trick play (watch here).

Talk about embarrassing your opponent in their own house.

On the other side, Shea Patterson did something no Michigan quarterback had done since 2011, and his 79-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones broke the game wide open for the Wolverines (watch here).

The Wolverines are rising, folks. Now at 7-1, their only loss coming in Week 1 to Notre Dame, they’re a legitimate playoff contender heading into the final weeks of the season.

Somehow, Northwestern still leads B1G West

For a while, it looked like Rutgers was poised to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the college football season. Leading 15-10 in the third quarter, the hapless Scarlet Knights were so close to finally landing their second win.

Clayton Thorson finally got his offense into a bit of a groove in the fourth quarter and pulled out the win. But it was about as ugly as they come.

Northwestern is a very strange team. The Wildcats have lost games to Duke and Akron this year, yet they remain in first place in the Big Ten West with a conference record of 4-1, their only loss being the 20-17 Michigan game.

At this point, it’s anybody’s guess how this will end. With Wisconsin and Iowa coming up, and Notre Dame sandwiched in between, we’ll find out soon enough.

Lane Kiffin’s program going down in flames

Before the 2018 college football season began, FAU was picked by many analysts to emerge as a powerhouse and challenge UCF as the best team outside the Power Five.

Lane Kiffin was adamantly against these projections, and it turns out he knew what he was talking about. Not only has FAU failed to come close to those predictions, but this program is a dumpster fire.

On Saturday, the Owls were favored to win on the road against Marshall. The Thundering Herd tromped all over them in a 31-7 blowout win as they turned the ball over five times.

Now at 3-4 on the season and 1-2 within their own conference, the Owls are in a tailspin.

Penn State is nowhere close to elite

Okay sure. The Nittany Lions won. Winning is important. Just don’t be surprised if they drop a spot or two when the rankings come out on Sunday. Because Saturday’s victory on the road against Indiana was far from impressive.

It’s a trend we’ve seen all year with Penn State. This team has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball but rarely puts it all together. On Saturday, James Franklin’s team barely got past a mediocre Hoosiers squad after dropping two in a row previously.

The Hoosiers ran all over Penn State’s defense, and Trace McSorley saw his impressive touchdowns streak end at 34 games in a row.

At some point, those in power at Penn State have to acknowledge that Franklin’s teams consistently fail to reach their potential. The next three games will likely highlight this in a big way, as it won’t be shocking if the Nittany Lions end up with three straight losses to Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Clemson made quite a statement against NC State

NC State had a chance to make a big statement against Clemson. Both teams were undefeated, but the Wolfpack were still fighting for national respect. Respect that’s still going to be tough to find after getting pummeled by the No. 3 team in the nation.

Showing up big on both sides of the ball, the Tigers were the ones making a statement.

They dismantled NC State’s high-powered offense, holding it scoreless until garbage time in the fourth quarter. Ryan Finley threw two interceptions and had the worst game of his season, while his counterpart, freshman Trevor Lawrence, made no mistakes at all.

Looking ahead at Clemson’s remaining schedule, an undefeated season appears to be on the horizon, barring an upset of mammoth proportions.

Alabama cannot be contained

Tennessee never had a chance against the visiting Alabama Crimson Tide. Of course, that was the assumption even before the game ever took place, but what happened in the first quarter of Saturday’s game was akin to a full-grown Grizzly boxing a toddler.

Tua Tagovailoa continues to astound. He threw for 306 yards and four touchdowns, wowing with his accuracy and poise under pressure (like this).

The end result was yet another blowout win for the Crimson Tide, who are now beating their opponents by an average score of 54-16.

LSU is next. Is there any hope for the Tigers? If there is, it’s a minuscule amount.

Nebraska finally gets off the schneid 

After the Cornhuskers let yet another win slide through their fingertips last weekend, it was fair to wonder if they were going to win a single game this season.

We now have our answer, as Scott Frost finally landed his first win as the head coach at Nebraska. And what a way to do it. His Huskers dominated Minnesota in a surprising 53-28 blowout win at home.

Adrian Martinez was practically flawless leading his offense, completing all but four of his 29 attempts for 276 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Three different Cornhuskers rushed for over 100 yards (including Martinez) as the Minnesota defense parted like the Red Sea.

Now that the monkey is off his back, Frost can continue to rebuild this program in his own image with slightly less national skepticism.

LSU’s defense is great, but Nick Fitzgerald just stinks

On paper, LSU should have won Saturday night. And of course, it did.

That’s not the big takeaway here. As we’ve seen throughout the 2018 season, Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is not a quality starter. As if any further proof was needed, his performance against the Tigers was the cherry on top.

Fitzgerald completed just 8-of-24 attempts for a paltry 59 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handful of rice — something that’s been happening all season long.

Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorehead should have turned his offense over to sophomore Keytaon Thompson weeks ago. He never did, and now his team is 1-3 in conference play and careening toward the bottom of the pile in the SEC.

South Florida had way too much trouble with UConn

The South Florida Bulls are undefeated, but they sure don’t look good. Just like we saw last weekend when the Bulls barely found a way to beat Tulsa, they played a very sloppy game overall against Connecticut on Saturday, winning 38-30.

In particular, South Florida’s defense is a problem. The Bulls were helpless to stop UConn’s ground game, allowing the Huskies to run wild to the tune of 322 yards and four touchdowns.

That, combined with a mistake-prone game from quarterback Blake Barnett, allowed Connecticut to hang around all game long.

It’s worth pointing out that the Bulls were favored to win this game by 33 points. At some point soon, South Florida is going to get burned.

Kentucky keeps winning ugly

The Wildcats improved to 5-1 on the season with a 14-7 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Neither the score nor the outcome is particularly surprising. But this might surprise you: Kentucky had just 18 yards passing the ball, and only one player came down with any catches.

Quarterback Terry Wilson put up Army-esque stats, completing just 3-of-9 passes for 18 yards and a touchdown. While the passing game was practically non-existent, Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown while Kentucky racked up 280 rushing yards total.

It was as ugly a win as you could ask for. The Wildcats overcame two early fumbles and somehow gutted out yet another win, thanks to their impressive defense and the continued excellence of Snell.

WAZZU made a huge national statement

Talk about a huge week for Washington State. In addition to the fact that the Cougars were featured in primetime against the high-powered Oregon Ducks, ESPN chose to make Pullman its destination for “College GameDay” Saturday — a first for the program, and one that necessitated a state of emergency.

Oregon wasn’t prepared for the fury that followed. The Cougars came out swinging and scored the first points of the game in dramatic style with an absurd trick play. By halftime, it was 27-0 in favor of the home team as the crowd roared its approval.

The greatness of Justin Herbert would not allow the Ducks to go into the night quietly. He brought them back in a big way, pulling to within seven points midway through the fourth quarter.

That’s when Gardner Minshew, who was tremendous all night long, put the pedal to the metal once again and led Washington State on another touchdown-scoring drive to put the game away.

Purdue did, too

Given the way Ohio State had played in recent weeks, Buckeyes fans had reason to feel a bit nervous about Saturday night’s game on the road against a Purdue squad that had won three straight.

But nobody saw this coming.

The Boilermakers laid into the Buckeyes with haymaker after haymaker, really asserting their will upon their opponent starting with one bold play. Head coach Jeff Brohm called for a fake field goal late in the second quarter. Instead of going up by seven points, his bold move led to a touchdown, and an 11-point lead at the half (watch here).

Purdue’s defense, and some bad mistakes by Ohio State, helped the Boilermakers extend their lead, which blossomed late thanks to the play of running back D.J. Knox and the incomparable Rondale Moore.

The Boilermakers have now won four straight games, and it’s clear Brohm has them trending up in a big way.