There’s nothing like the first reveal of the BCS standings to remind us that half a dozen teams are worthy of playing for two spots in the national title game.
Saturday evening ended with Florida State demolishing Clemson 51-14 on the road in a matchup of top five teams, putting FSU in a similar class as Alabama and Oregon. The Seminoles’ win was as complete as anything a national title contender has done to another top team this seasons, but FSU may have trouble getting into the coveted 1-2 scenario when the BCS is revealed Sunday night.
Alabama and Oregon have done nothing to be left out of the top two, but they were ranked higher earlier, so FSU may have to wait its turn.
If the eighth week of the season is any indication, though, the pecking order of top teams is anything but settled. Besides Clemson, top 10 teams Louisville and UCLA lost their first games of the season.
And that doesn’t touch on the carnage in the SEC. LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Georgia all lost unranked teams, showcasing either the weakness of top teams or the depth of the conference, depending on your perspective.
College Football Week 8 Recap: Three and Out
Three Things We Learned from Florida State 51, Clemson 14
This Florida State team is different. Feel free to file that statement away for when the Seminoles lose to NC State, Syracuse or Wake Forest. But Florida State looked like it’s finally ready to carry the weight of a team to bring the Seminoles back to glory. A good portion of the credit falls on Jameis Winston, who leads the team with a charisma rare in college football and even rarer for a redshirt freshman. It doesn’t hurt that Winston finished 22 of 34 for 444 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Florida State won every quarter and never showed a lapse that could have sparked an explosive offense like Clemson’s playing at home.
Florida State’s defense is nasty. Winston is a Heisman contender, for sure, but Florida State’s defense held Clemson down all night. First-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt with two first-year defensive assistants held Clemson and hotshot offensive coordinator Chad Morris to 326 yards of total offense and 3.8 yards per play. Clemson didn’t have a play of 20 yards, and Tajh Boyd wasn’t much of a factor with 164 yards of total offense with a touchdown and two interceptions. FSU defensive back Lamarcus Joyner finished with eight tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and a sack.
Clemson still has hope. The Tigers don’t have much to salvage here. Clemson needed a touchdown in the final 30 seconds to avoid the first 40-point loss in the history of Death Valley to say nothing of a top-three team losing by 37 at home. This is a demoralizing loss that could wreck an entire season, especially with road trips against Maryland and Virginia in the next two weeks. But if Clemson returns to form through the remainder of the year, the Tigers can still be a strong candidate for at-large consideration in the BCS with a game at South Carolina to end the regular season. A top-10 finish for the first time since 1990 is still possible even if an ACC title and more are slim.
Three Signature SEC Moments
Butch’s big win. The Volunteers missed out on their big breakthrough under Butch Jones against Georgia when Pig Howard’s fumble at the goal line went out of the end zone for a critical touchback. When the second chance came, Tennessee pounced. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier burned his final two timeouts prior to a punt in the final three minutes, and Tennessee drove the ball 63 yards for the game-winning 19-yard field goal for a 23-21 win. Marquez North, a star in the making, had a one-handed 39-yard catch through tight coverage to set up the winning field goal. The victory was both Tennessee’s first win over a ranked team and first SEC win in October since a 31-13 defeat of South Carolina on Oct. 31, 2009 under Lane Kiffin.
SEC West offenses. The idea of Auburn going back and forth with the Texas A&M offense would have been unthinkable a year ago. Then, the Tigers lost 63-21 to the Aggies in 2012 and then went scoreless in final next two SEC games. On Saturday, the Aggies’ defense did its part in helping Auburn to a 45-41 win, but the turnaround is staggering. Auburn’s 251 points this season is 27 more than the Tigers scored all of 2012. Not a bad seven games for first-year coach Gus Malzahn. Auburn wasn't alone. Malzahn's pal Hugh Freeze led Ole Miss to 525 yards in a 27-24 upset of LSU. The Tigers hadn't allowed 500 yards in a game since giving up 533 in a win over a Geno Smith-led West Virginia in 2011. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had his best game of the season, completing 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards. LSU's Zach Mettenberger reverted to his 2012 form, completing 19 of 33 passes with three interceptions.
Vanderbilt’s win over a ranked team. James Franklin has done many things to make Vanderbilt relevant in football from reaching bowl games and recruiting at an SEC level. But until Saturday, he’d never earned a win over a ranked team. The Commodores. Vanderbilt used a 17-point fourth quarter to upset No. 15 Georgia 31-17. The win ended the Commodores’ 17-game losing streak to ranked teams, going back to a win over No. 13 Auburn on Oct. 4, 2008. Georgia’s offense has been riddled with injuries, but so was Vanderbilt on Saturday. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels left the game on crutches in the second quarter, but backup Patton Robinette led three scoring drives, going 9 of 15 for 107 yards with an interception and a rushing touchdown. Georgia helped Vanderbilt as two fumbles and a snap over the head of punter Colin Barber gave the Commodores the ball in Georgia territory three times in the fourth quarter.
Three Seasons Gone Awry
Florida. By Saturday afternoon, it was tough to believe Florida was an AP top 10 team in the preseason and a legitimate SEC East contender two weeks ago. The Gators had their worst all-around games in decades in the 36-17 loss to Missouri. The 151 yards on offense was the fewest in a game for the Gators since 1999, and the 500 yards was the most since the 2007 season against Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. For the second consecutive week, Florida's injury-riddled offensive line was mauled, contributing to 92 passing yards and six sacks. Making matters worse, Florida’s secondary, considered one of the best in the SEC, gave up long pass plays all day. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk, who ascended to the starter’s job after an injury to James Franklin, averaged 8.2 yards per pass. With games remaining against Georgia, Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State, the Gators may have trouble getting the two wins they need to be bowl eligible.
Northwestern. On Oct. 5, Northwestern was 4-0 and preparing for the biggest game in Evanston in years. Now, the Wildcats are wondering when they might find their first Big Ten win of the season. With Venric Mark and Kain Colter out, Northwestern lost to Minnesota 20-17, its third loss in a row. Northwestern’s offense was lost without its two starts, averaging 4.6 per play and turning the ball over three times. The Wildcats, once considered a Big Ten Legends contender, has no easy picks for a Big Ten win. The remaining schedule is at Iowa, at Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and at Illinois.
Maryland. The Terrapins spent one week at No. 25 in the AP poll after starting 4-0. The good feelings were dashed in a 63-0 wake-up call to Florida State that including a thundering hit on C.J. Brown that kept the quarterback out for a week. The Terrapins escaped Virginia 27-26 a week later, but Maryland’s prospects for the remainder of the season are considerably dimmer. Brown has returned, but his standout receiving duo of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were lost to season-ending injuries in a shocking 34-10 loss to Wake Forest. Diggs and Long had combined for 66 receptions for 1,078 yards. No one else for Maryland has more than 14 catches. Maryland (5-2) faces Clemson next week, but should be able to get a bowl game with home games against Syracuse and Boston College.
Moving the Chains
Stanford’s defense. The Cardinal may have a tough time getting back into the national championship race with a loss to Utah on the resume, but Stanford still has a defense good enough to win a title. The Cardinal held UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley to a career-low 219 yards of total offense, and the Bruins averaged 4.5 yards per play, down from 6.7 entering the game. Safety Jordan Richards had 10 tackles, two interceptions and a pass breakup while linebacker Shayne Skov corralled the UCLA run game.
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. The soap opera surrounding Clowney’s injuries and Steve Spurrier’s postgame frustration with the defensive end’s decision not to play against Kentucky has been a hot topic for talking heads. It should be put to rest after Saturday. Despite the loss to Tennessee, Clowney had his finest game of the season. In a matchup with one of the best tackles in the country in Antonio Richardson, Clowney finished with 2.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hurries.
Ohio State’s backfield. The Buckeyes got a complete game from its starting backfield duo of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde just when they needed it. Miller missed three games with injury and struggled two weeks ago against Northwestern, a game in which Hyde lifted Ohio State with 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns. On Saturday, Hyde again displayed the physical run game and balance by running for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in a 34-24 win over Iowa. Miller also had his best game of the season, completing 22 of 27 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns to go with 102 rushing yards. Ohio State needed every bit of it as Iowa flourished early in the passing game. The Buckeyes had already lost safety Christian Bryant to a season-ending injury, and cornerback Bradley Roby was ejected early due to a targeting penalty.
Texas A&M’s defense. The defense finally put the Aggies into a position where Johnny Manziel couldn’t come to the rescue. The Aggies offense kept giving A&M leads, including as much as 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the defense continuously opened the door for Auburn to answer. Even when field position was good, Auburn was able to drive down the field for four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more. Texas A&M gave up 379 rushing yards and 6.3 yards per carry in the 45-41 home loss. The Aggies gave up a total of 615 yards and have allowed at least 434 yards against each FBS opponent this season.
Washington. Is the top of the Pac-12 this good or is Washington drifting back into 7-6 territory? The Huskies will find out in the second half of the season, but after a 53-24 loss to Arizona State, it looks more like the latter. Washington played respectably in a loss to Stanford two weeks ago, but the Huskies have lost three in a row, the last two decisively. Arizona State outrushed Washington 314 to minus-5, thanks in part to six sacks of Huskies quarterback Keith Price and seven sacks overall. The Huskies already lost a chance at the Pac-12 North, but they’ll probably need to beat Colorado and Cal in the next two games to reach the elusive eight-win mark in the regular season.
SEC East injuries. The SEC East injury bug struck again. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw left the loss to Tennessee with what was described as a strained left knee, and Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels jogged to to the locker room in the second quarter but returned on crutches. Kentucky’s Jalen Withlow joined the injured list with an ankle injury earlier this week, and Missouri’s James Franklin missed his first start of the season. Georgia, already having lost No. 2 running back Keith Marshall and top two receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, didn’t have Todd Gurley for the third consecutive week. And Florida has lost five starters to injury this season. The West wasn’t total immune either as Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri may be out for a significant amount of time with a knee injury.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. Manziel’s place in the Heisman race may be unmoved despite a 45-41 loss to Auburn. Manziel completed 28 of 38 pass for 454 yards with four touchdowns, and for the second consecutive week, he returned from an injury scare to lead a touchdown drive. With 48 rushing yards, Manziel had the fifth game of at least 500 yards in his career. If there is any knock on Manziel, it’s his two interceptions against Auburn.
Bryce Petty, Baylor. Brett Hundley, Tajh Boyd and Teddy Bridgewater all slipped in the Heisman race after this week’s action. Expect Petty to take their place. Petty had another ridiculous stat line in a 71-7 win over Iowa State: He completed 23 of 31 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 14 yards per pass attempt this season.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon. Mariota probably remains the frontrunner, but it's worth noting Mariota had his first turnovers of the season with two fumbles against Washington State. Mariota hadn’t had a turnover since throwing an interception in a loss to Stanford on Nov. 17, 2012. Mariota still finished 23-of-32 for 327 yards with two touchdowns in a 62-38 win over the Cougars.
Three Teams Who Had to Sweat
Michigan State against Purdue
Oklahoma against Kansas
Pittsburgh against Old Dominion
Three More Ridiculously Good Receivers
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Marquez North, Tennessee
Three Scary Good Tight Ends
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Nick O’Leary, Florida State
Interim coach records
Mike Bath, Miami (Ohio) (0-2)
Ed Orgeron, USC (1-1)
T.J. Weist, Connecticut (0-2)
Dang, They’re Good
Dang, They’re Bad
Best Games Next Week
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
South Carolina at Missouri
Stanford at Oregon State
Rushing yards for Jordan Lynch. The Northern Illinois quarterback broke a 23-year-old record with 316 rushing yards in a 38-17 win over Central Michigan. The previous FBS record for rushing yards for a quarterback was held by Northern Illinois’ Stacey Robinson, who rushed for 308 yards against Fresno State in 1990. Somehow, this game was tied at halftime, and NIU led only by a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Plays run by BYU in a 47-46 win over Houston. It was easy to overlook as the ranked SEC teams self-destructed Saturday afternoon, but BYU defeated previously unbeaten Houston in a wild 47-46 game. The Cougars ran 113 plays in a game decided in regulation. Bronco Mendenhall installed an up-tempo offense this season, running at least 90 plays against Virginia, Texas and Utah. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill accounted for 564 yards of total offense himself (421 passing, 143 rushing). Hill, who failed complete 40 percent of his passes in each of the first three games, is 79 of 121 (65.2 percent) in his last four.
Total yards for Michigan, a school record. The Wolverines needed every school record they set in a 63-47 win over Indiana. Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten record with 369 receiving yards, the second-highest total in FBS history. Devin Gardner also set school records with 503 passing yards and 584 yards of total offense.
Buried on the Depth Chart
Connor Halliday’s record.
Washington State’s quarterback set a dubious record with 89 pass attempts against Oregon, breaking Drew Brees’ record of 83 passes for Purdue in 1998. In a game settled early the third quarter, Halliday finished 58 of 89 for 557 yards with four touchdowns and four picks.
Joe Southwick’s broken ankle.
Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick suffered a broken ankle on his first snap against Nevada. Once backup Grant Hendrick settled in, Boise State was just fine. The junior completed 18 of 21 passes for 150 yards with an interception and gave the Broncos a different dimension at the quarterback position with 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Boise State will need more of that as Southwick probably won’t return anytime soon.
Kent State’s 2-6 start.
The Golden Flashes were on the verge of an automatic BCS bid last year before losing to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game last season. Now Kent State is on the verge of missing a bowl game. Kent State lost 38-21 to South Alabama to start 2-6 in Paul Haynes’ first season. South Alabama, though, is having a nice season for a second-year FBS program. The Panthers, who gave Tennessee fits three weeks ago, are 3-3 with the bulk of the Sun Belt schedule remaining. South Alabama went 2-11 in its first FBS season last year.
Three Surprise Undefeated Teams
Texas A&M proved it would be a factor in the SEC last season, and now it’s Missouri’s turn. The Tigers moved to 3-0 in the SEC East after defeating Florida and Georgia in back-to-back weeks. Granted, the Bulldogs and Gators are beset by injuries, but Missouri knows as well as any team how injuries can derail a season. The Tigers had their own issues in a 5-7 season in 2012, including quarterback James Franklin’s shoulder injury. Franklin is hurt again, but that didn’t stop Missouri from starting 7-0 for the first time since 2010 when the Tigers upset a top-ranked Oklahoma team in Columbia. The reason for the start this season has been defense led by end Michael Sam, who’s had nine sacks the last four games.
Texas Tech (7-0).
For a moment, Texas Tech looked like it would finally fall back to earth. About to go up by 17, the Red Raiders fumbled at West Virginia’s 1-yard line. The Mountaineers scored off the turnover and rallied to a 27-16 lead in the third quarter. But freshman Davis Webb, Texas Tech’s second rookie starting quarterback this season, led the way back for a 37-27 win. Webb was 36 of 50 for 462 yards with two touchdowns, and Jace Amaro, a matchup nightmare at 6-5 and 260 pounds, caught nine passes for 136 yards with three touchdowns. Texas Tech faces Oklahoma next week.
The moment the ACC has been seeking since expansion has finally happened. Miami and Florida State are both unbeaten and in the top 10 deep in to October. To say Miami deserves more skepticism than Florida State would be an understatement. The Hurricanes endured injuries to Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett and four interceptions from Stephen Morris to defeat North Carolina 27-23 on Thursday. The UM defense surrendered 500 yards to a 1-5 North Carolina team, but the bigger issue is turnovers. The Hurricanes have coughed the ball up 12 times in the last three games and have been minus-four in turnover margin during that span.