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Surging Gators look to take control of SEC East
College football’s Week 8 action features several key matchups in the SEC (as usual), a pivotal Big 12 game in Morgantown a battle for supremacy in the state of Michigan.
No. 77 Connecticut at No. 67 Syracuse
Four of the eight teams in the Big East do not have a loss in league play. Connecticut and Syracuse are not in that group. The Huskies are 0–2 after losing at home to Temple last week. The Orange are 1–1 with a win over Pittsburgh and a loss at Rutgers.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 35 Tennessee
The Volunteers are 0–3 in the SEC for the third time in Derek Dooley’s three seasons as the head coach. There is a very good chance UT will be 0–4 in league play for the third time in three years after Alabama’s visit to Neyland Stadium Saturday night.
No. 52 BYU at No. 3 Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense has now gone four straight games without giving up a touchdown — although Stanford came very, very close to crossing the goal line in overtime last Saturday. It won’t be a surprise if the streak reaches five games. BYU ranks 78th in the nation in scoring (25.6 ppg).
Notre Dame 24-10
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 4 Florida
It’s stop No. 3 for South Carolina on what has to be the most difficult three-game stretch that any team in the nation will face in 2012. The Gamecocks split the first two games, beating Georgia at home and losing last Saturday at LSU. Now it’s off to Gainesville in a game that will go a long way in determining the SEC East champion.
No. 5 Kansas State at No. 13 West Virginia
Heisman voters will be watching this game with interest. WVU’s Geno Smith and K-State’s Collin Klein are strong favorites to be among the finalists.
West Virginia 34-30
No. 66 Purdue at No. 6 Ohio State
Urban Meyer put out an APB for “tough guys” after the Buckeyes gave up 49 points in a too-close-for-comfort win over Indiana last week. There are no issues with the Ohio State offense; Braxton Miller & Co. have scored a total of 115 points in the past two weeks and are averaging just over 40 points for the season.
Ohio State 41–20
No. 7 LSU at No. 22 Texas A&M
Good pitching usually stops good hitting. We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon if the LSU defense can slow down what has been the SEC’s most explosive offense. Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football.
No. 94 Kansas at No. 8 Oklahoma
The OU offense has come alive after losing at home to Kansas State. The Sooners have totaled 1,057 yards and 104 points in wins over Texas Tech and Texas. Kansas continues to struggle; the Jayhawks are one of two AQ conference teams (Boston College is the other) in the nation without a win over an FBS opponent.
No. 10 Georgia at No. 82 Kentucky
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play.
No. 99 Colorado at No. 11 USC
Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (20.8 ppg) and scoring defense (41.3 ppg). That is not a good combination.
No. 12 Florida State at No. 48 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes’ offense is slumping. After scoring 38 points or more in four of their first five games, the Canes have scored a total of 17 in the past two.
Florida State 41-24
No. 54 Virginia Tech at No. 14 Clemson
Here’s a troubling stat if you are a Clemson fan: The Tigers are allowing an average of 7.6 yards per play in ACC games, the worst in the league by a considerable amount. That needs to improve down the stretch.
No. 60 Utah at No. 15 Oregon State
The Beavers continue to be the biggest surprise in the nation. Last week, backup quarterback Cody Vaz stepped in and threw for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in a 42–24 win at BYU.
Oregon State 30-13
No. 75 South Florida at No. 16 Louisville
South Florida is the only team in the Big East that has given up over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing. The Bulls rank seventh in the league in total defense and have allowed 93 plays of at least 10 yards. Not good.
No. 17 Rutgers at No. 65 Temple
Temple handed Rutgers some of its most disheartening losses in school history in the late 1990s early 2000s. Some bad Temple teams won four straight over some bad Rutgers teams, the worst of which was a 48–14 loss at home in 2000. Those were not fun times for the Scarlet Knights.
No. 47 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan
Michigan is 4–2, but both losses came away from home vs. top-five teams (Alabama and Notre Dame). The Wolverines have won their two Big Ten games by a combined score of 99–13. This is a solid Michigan team that is better than its ranking (No. 23 AP, No. 25 coaches). The Wolverines will snap their five-game losing streak to State — and do so in convincing fashion.
No. 84 Middle Tennessee at No. 19 Mississippi State
Mississippi State fans are looking forward to a likely showdown at Alabama in two weeks between a pair of 7–0 teams. But first the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee club that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.
Mississippi State 34-20
No. 20 Stanford at No. 50 California
For only the second time ever — and the first time since 1892 — the Big Game will not be played in November or December. Stanford must bounce back from an emotional (and controversial) overtime loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. Close games are nothing new to this team; five of the Cardinal’s six games have been decided by seven points or less.
No. 21 Cincinnati at No. 63 Toledo
The schedule hasn’t been daunting, but Cincinnati has been quite impressive on offense in 2012. The Bearcats are averaging 6.8 yards per play, which ranks ninth in the nation. That number likely will go up after playing Toledo.
No. 24 Texas Tech at No. 26 TCU
Last October, Texas Tech stunned the college football world by knocking off Oklahoma, ranked No. 3 at the time, 41–38 in Norman. The next week the Red Raiders lost at home to Iowa State 41–7. Now, after beating previously unbeaten West Virginia 49–14, Tech finds itself in another “week after” game. This time around, will the Red Raiders be able to avoid a no-show the week after a breakthrough game?
Texas Tech 28-27
No. 69 Minnesota at No. 25 Wisconsin
After three games, Wisconsin ranked 94th in the nation in rushing offense (119.7 ypg) and 116th in total offense (276.0 ypg). Now, the Badgers rank 48th in rushing (181.1 ypg) and 87th in total offense (374.0 ypg). It’s still not what we expect from this program, but there are significant signs of life.
No. 117 Idaho at No. 27 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech rolled up over 600 yards of offense vs. an SEC team last week, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs battled Arkansas to the wire before falling 59–57 in what will be one of the more memorable games of the season. This one will be far less exciting.
Louisiana Tech 65-17
No. 29 Nebraska at No. 40 Northwestern
This is a sneaky good game between two teams that have aspirations of representing the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska, which gave up 63 points in a loss at Ohio State two weeks ago, has to win this game to remain a threat in the division race.
No. 42 Baylor at No. 30 Texas
Baylor snapped a 12-game losing streak to Texas with a 30–22 win in Austin in October 2011 and followed up with a 48–24 victory in Waco last December. Now, the Bears will be aiming for their first-ever three-game winning streak against UT. Scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem against a Texas defense that has given up 111 points in the last two games. But can Baylor slow down the Longhorns enough to win the game? That is the big question.
No. 31 Washington at No. 32 Arizona
Washington has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date. The Huskies have played teams ranked third (Oregon), sixth (LSU), 10th (USC) and 20th (Stanford) in the initial BCS standings. They are 1–3 in those games, with the one win coming vs. Stanford. This is not a bad team, despite its rather ordinary 3–3 overall record.
No. 41 Iowa State at No. 33 Oklahoma State
Should we be concerned that Oklahoma State was held to 371 total yards and 20 points against Kansas last week? Possibly, but we are willing to give the Pokes a mulligan.
Oklahoma State 31-27
No. 101 UNLV at No. 34 Boise State
UNLV held leads of 21–0, 28–7 and 31–21 last week against rival Nevada but ended up on the wrong end of a 42–37 final. Bobby Hauck’s team doesn’t have much to show for it, but the Rebels are an improved team in 2012. Now, can they keep it interesting in Boise this week? Not likely.
Boise State 37-17
No. 36 NC State at No. 64 Maryland
Maryland is a surprise at 4–2 overall and 2–0 in the ACC despite having an offense that ranks last in the league with 267.5 yards per game.
NC State 24-17
No. 91 San Diego State at No. 37 Nevada
The Wolf Pack avoided disaster last week, rallying from 21–0 to beat UNLV 42–37 in Vegas. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who missed last week’s game with an injured back, is expected to return to action. That’s not good news for San Diego State.
No. 39 Penn State at No. 46 Iowa
Penn State has won four straight after losing its first two games, and each of its four wins has come by 11 points or more. Bill O’Brien has done a tremendous job in a very difficult spot.
Penn State 21-20
No. 43 North Carolina at No. 59 Duke
Duke must recover from a gut-wrenching loss at Virginia Tech last Saturday. The Blue Devils, seeking their sixth win of the season, led 20–0 in the first quarter but did not score again and lost 41–20. The Devils still have five more opportunities to become bowl-eligible, but they might be an underdog in all five games. North Carolina, which can’t play in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, is quietly playing very good football.
North Carolina 24-20
No. 106 Rice at No. 44 Tulsa
Tulsa has emerged as the team to beat in Conference USA West thanks to a 4–0 start in the league. The Golden Hurricane lead the nation in sacks (4.71 per game) and tackles for a loss (9.86 per game).
No. 49 ULM at No. 45 Western Kentucky
It’s the game of the year in the Sun Belt. Western Kentucky is 5–1 with the lone loss at Alabama, while ULM is 4–2 with an overtime loss at Auburn and five-point loss at Baylor. These aren’t just good Sun Belt teams; they are good teams period.
Western Kentucky 31-30
No. 121 New Mexico State at No. 53 Utah State
Utah State has lost two games — at Wisconsin and at BYU — by a total of five points. New Mexico State has lost all five of its games vs. FBS foes. Maybe that’s why Utah State is favored by 30.5 points.
Utah State 47-17
No. 55 Northern Illinois at No. 110 Akron
Northern Illinois has 14 plays from scrimmage of 40 yards or more. Only two teams nationally have more (Baylor and Georgia Tech). It could be a long night for the Akron defense.
Northern Illinois 37-16
No. 72 Auburn at No. 56 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006.
No. 95 Boston College at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has given up 42 points or more in its last three games — all losses. That streak will come to an end this week.
Georgia Tech 34-20
No. 62 UCF at No. 118 Memphis
It was back to reality last week for Memphis. One week after breaking through with a 14–10 win over Rice, the Tigers lost 41–7 at East Carolina. UCF is playing its first road game since Sept. 8.
No. 68 Pittsburgh at No. 116 Buffalo
The first season of the Paul Chryst era has been a disappointment — the Panthers have lost four games — but Tino Sunseri has shined at the quarterback position. The oft-maligned quarterback ranks eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 10 touchdowns and two picks.
No. 111 Wyoming at No. 71 Fresno State
I thought Fresno State was ready to make a statement and beat Boise State last week. I was wrong. The Bulldogs lost 20–10 to fall to 4–3 overall. They should get win No. 5 without much trouble.
Fresno State 30-20
No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 73 Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done a tremendous job at Kent State. The Golden Flashes are 5–1 overall and 3–0 in the MAC despite playing only two of their first six games at home.
Kent State 30-27
No. 74 Ball State at No. 105 Central Michigan
Central Michigan has failed to capitalize on a potential breakthrough win at Iowa in Week 3. Since that victory in Ames, the Chippewas are 0–3 and have given up a total of 136 points. Last week, they were beaten soundly by Navy 31–13 at home before a sparse crowd. Dan Enos could be in trouble.
Ball State 37-13
No. 78 East Carolina at No. 98 UAB
Don’t expect too much production on the ground in this game. East Carolina ranks 108th in the nation in rushing with 103.7 yards per game. UAB is at 117th with 82.3 yards per game.
East Carolina 34-20
No. 81 Wake Forest at No. 80 Virginia
These two struggling teams have something in common: They’ve both lost to Duke and Maryland, in that order, in their last two games. Statistically, Virginia ranks in the middle of the pack in both total offense (51st) and total defense (53rd), but the Cavs have been undone by turnovers (119th in turnover margin).
Wake Forest 27-23
No. 83 San Jose State at No. 113 Texas-San Antonio
The Spartans must regroup after losing at home 49–27 to Utah State in a battle of improving WAC programs. Here’s a scary stat: San Jose State quarterback David Fales had a net of negative-98 yards rushing thanks to getting sacked 13 times.
San Jose State 34-10
No. 85 Indiana at No. 92 Navy
Indiana has averaged 35.0 points in its three Big Ten games. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Hoosiers are giving up 42.3 points in league games. The result is an 0–3 record, but Kevin Wilson’s club is showing signs of significant improvement. IU has lost its last two games, to Michigan State and Ohio State, by a combined seven points.
No. 104 FIU at No. 86 Troy
Mario Cristobal’s name won’t be linked to as many jobs this offseason. FIU is 1–6 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt after losing at home to Middle Tennessee last week. The Golden Panthers ranked 14th in the nation in scoring defense last season (19.5 ppg) when they went 8–5; this year, they rank 108th (37.3 ppg) with five games to play.
No. 88 Marshall at No. 103 Southern Miss
No program has fallen faster than Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles went 12–2 last year and capped their season with a 24–17 win over a very good Nevada team in the Hawaii Bowl. This year, however, USM is 0–6 under new coach Ellis Johnson, who is not a popular man in Hattiesburg.
No. 90 New Mexico at No. 107 Air Force
New Mexico is last in the nation in passing offense (59.0 ypg) and is the only team in the country with just one passing touchdown. But the Lobos are winning games under first-year coach Bob Davie, who has implemented an option attack in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 27-24
No. 93 Bowling Green at No. 123 UMass
Bowling Green has won three straight games and is in position to challenge Ohio for the MAC East title. The Falcons should be 4–1 in the league when they head to Oxford on Nov. 7.
Bowling Green 44-13
No. 112 Tulane at No. 97 UTEP
Curtis Johnson picked up his first win at Tulane last week, a 27–26 victory over SMU at the Superdome. The Green Wave hadn’t scored more than 13 points in any game before “busting out” and putting 27 on the board.
No. 114 Army at No. 115 Eastern Michigan
These two teams have combined to win one game this season —Army's 34–31 victory over Boston College. Eastern Michigan ranks 70th or worse in every key stat maintained by the NCAA, with the exception of net punting. The Eagles, who have a lot of practice in the area, rank seventh with an average net of 42.2 yards.
No. 124 FAU at No. 122 South Alabama
It’s been a rough first season for Carl Pelini at FAU. The Owls are 1–5 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt. They have been bad on defense and really bad on offense. It’s tough to find a win on FAU’s schedule if it doesn’t get one this week.
South Alabama 27-17
Last week: 40-11