Week 8 of the 2016 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments. Alabama continued to distance itself from the rest of the nation, as the Crimson Tide handled Texas A&M to remain unbeaten. LSU and Auburn scored key victories in SEC West action, Penn State knocked off Ohio State to score the biggest win of coach James Franklin's tenure in Happy Valley, while SMU upset Houston to end the Cougars' hopes of getting into one of the New Year's Six Bowls.
With the eighth weekend of games in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 8:
College Football Week 8 Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Joe Williams, RB, Utah
Williams decided to retire from football after Utah’s Week 2 win against BYU but returned to the team after injuries decimated the depth chart at running back. Since returning to the team, Williams has looked like a different player than the one who accumulated 22 carries in the first two games, as the senior capped off a 52-45 win over UCLA on Saturday with 332 yards (Utah single-game record) and four scores. Over the last two contests, Williams has rushed for 511 yards and five scores.
Defensive Player of the Week: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Allen set the tone in the trenches for another standout effort by Alabama’s defense in Saturday’s win over Texas A&M. Allen recorded six tackles (one for a loss), one sack and returned a fumble 30 yards in the third quarter to help the Crimson Tide pull away for a 33-14 victory.
Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
Saturday night’s shootout between Texas Tech-Oklahoma featured 125 points, 1,708 yards and 75 first downs. Riley’s offense was the difference in the game, as the Red Raiders couldn’t find an answer to stop quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Joe Mixon and receiver Dede Westbrook. The Sooners averaged 11.2 yards per play and scored six touchdowns of 40 yards or more.
Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Brent Pry, Penn State
Pry and the Penn State defensive staff pushed the right buttons to keep Ohio State’s high-scoring offense in check on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions limited the Buckeyes to five yards per play – the lowest mark of the season for Ohio State – and generated 11 tackles for a loss, six sacks and forced one turnover. Pry’s defense held its own despite being on the field for 37:19, and this unit limited J.T. Barrett and Mike Weber to a combined 97 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions also stepped up with the game on the line, sacking Barrett twice on the final drive of the game to secure victory.
Freshman of the Week (Offense): Ben Hicks, QB, SMU
Hicks led the way for SMU in the 38-16 victory over Houston. The redshirt freshman completed 16 of 31 throws for 228 yards and three scores and rushed for 12 yards and one touchdown.
Freshman of the Week (Defense): Trevon Hill, DL, Virginia Tech
Despite the absence of two starters, Virginia Tech’s defensive line didn’t miss a beat against Miami. Hill was a big reason why the Hokies won the battle in the trenches, as the freshman recorded five tackles (1.5 for a loss) and 1.5 sacks in the 37-16 win over the Hurricanes.
Team of the Week: Penn State
The Nittany Lions scored the biggest win of coach James Franklin’s tenure with a 24-21 upset victory over Ohio State. Penn State was outgained 413 to 276, but a blocked punt to set up a score, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and 11 tackles for loss on defense was more than enough for Franklin’s team to pull off the upset and knock the Buckeyes from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Unsung Hero of the Week: Jordan Willis, DL, Kansas State
Willis recorded seven tackles (three for a loss), two sacks, one pass breakup and one forced fumble to lead the way for Kansas State’s defense in a 24-21 victory over Texas.