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College Football Week 8 Recap: Kansas State, Florida solidify BCS contender status

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The skeptics are nowhere to be found in Manhattan, Kan., and Gainesville, Fla. Of course, Alabama and Oregon keep rolling in the national title hunt, but two potential usurpers continue to state their resounding cases week after week.

A month after defeating Oklahoma 24-19, Kansas State erased any misgivings about the Wildcats’ clout as a national contender by pounding West Virginia 55-14 in Morgantown. In the process, Collin Klein likely flip-flopped his spot with Geno Smith for the nation’s Heisman frontrunner of the week.

Meanwhile, Florida continues to defy the numbers by defeating South Carolina by 33 points, an astounding feat considering the Gators were outgained 191 yards to 183 and its quarterback passes for fewer than 100 yards in the third consecutive game.

Those weren’t the only statements in Week 8, but they were the loudest.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 8 RECAP: THREE AND OUT

THREE TAKEAWAYS FROM KANSAS STATE 55, WEST VIRGINIA 14

Collin Klein

Kansas State is leaving no doubt. The book on Kansas State last season was an opportunistic team at best, lucky at worst. Indeed, the Wildcats were outgained in every Big 12 game other than Kansas despite a 7-2 conference record. This year’s team is downright dominant, a point reinforced by the win over West Virginia. Kansas State opened up a 24-0 lead before Tavon Austin’s kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Wildcats scored 52 points before West Virginia’s first offensive touchdown. Kansas State also held West Virginia to 243 yards, its lowest total since a loss to LSU on Sept. 25, 2010.

Collin Klein is the Heisman frontrunner. Klein likely wrestled the Heisman lead away from West Virginia’s Geno Smith when the unofficial power rankings come out early this week. Klein played a part on all seven of Kansas State’s touchdowns with four rushing TDs and three passing. Klein easily out-dueled Smith in the passing game with 323 yards (on 19 of 21 attempts) to Smith’s 143 yards with two picks.

Memo to hot quarterbacks: Avoid Arthur Brown. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw his first interception since the regular season finale against USF last year, a streak of 327 consecutive passes without a pick. The first interception of the season went to Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, who recorded the first interception of the season against Baylor’s Robert Griffin III a year ago.

THREE TAKEAWAYS FROM FLORIDA 44, SOUTH CAROLINA 11

Will Muschamp

Florida is unstoppable in the second half. Whatever Florida’s coaching staff is doing in the second half, it’s working. The Gators are outscoring SEC opponents 108-18 after halftime, including 23-5 against LSU. Florida has allowed one third-quarter touchdown (to Tennessee on Sept. 15) in conference games, but the offense under coordinator Brent Pease may be even better. The Gators have scored on their first possession of the second half in five of six SEC games, the exception being LSU. Florida scored on its second possession of the third quarter against the Tigers.

Florida has elite special teams. The Gators turned last week’s win over Vanderbilt thanks to a blocked field goal and a fake punt. The trend continued against South Carolina when the offense couldn’t move the ball. Punter Kyle Christy (54.3 yards per kick) won the field position battle, and the do-it-all Trey Burton stripped the ball and recovered a fumble from South Carolina punt returner Ace Sanders -- a player who knows a thing or two about turning games on special teams. Florida also blocked a field goal for the second consecutive week.

Spurrier’s frustrated. Florida found a way to neutralize Jadeveon Clowney’s impact on the game: One- and two-yard touchdown drives. Even though Clowney caused problems for the Gators offensive line in the entire first half, turnovers doomed the Gamecocks from the get-go. Two special teams fumbles and Connor Shaw’s fumble on the first snap of the game set up short fields for Florida. By the second half, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was frustrated enough to yank quarterback Connor Shaw, but it made little difference in the 44-11 rout. “The only thing you can hope is that your guys give it their best shot and not just lay the ball down and basically say, ‘Here, Florida, we don’t want to win. You guys take this fumble and this fumble and this fumble,’” Spurrier said after the game.

MOVING THE CHAINS
LSU winning the LSU way. Until LSU finds consistent quarterback play, the Tigers are going to have to win games like they have the last two weeks. Texas A&M dominated most of the first half, but LSU capitalized on two turnovers in the final two minutes to take a 14-13 lead at halftime. The Tigers kept the pressure on Manziel in the second half, who threw three total interceptions in the 24-19 loss. As long as Zach Mettenberger continues to struggle (11 of 29 passing, 97 yards), LSU will need to have capitalize on every defensive opportunity and gash opponents with the run game (219 yards, two touchdowns).

Notre Dame’s will to win. A goal line stand against Stanford followed by a grinding ground game against BYU, Notre Dame is pushing the right buttons in its 7-0 start. BYU scored the first offensive touchdowns on the Notre Dame defense since Sept. 8 (both passing, Notre Dame still hasn’t allowed a rushing TD), but the Irish responded with 143 yards from Theo Riddick and 114 yards from Cierre Wood. The run game eased the absence of starting quarterback Everett Golson, who missed the game following a concussion last week. Brian Kelly erased any question marks after the game by noting Golson would start next week against Oklahoma.

Taylor Martinez in the clutch. The Nebraska quarterback saved the Cornhuskers from another upset loss to Northwestern by leading two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Northwestern led by 12 in the fourth quarter, but Martinez capped scoring drives of 80 and 76 yards with touchdown passes. Martinez, who also led a second-half comeback against Wisconsin earlier this season, completed 27 of 39 passes for 342 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns. The game, though, wasn’t sealed until Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien missed his first field goal attempt of the year.

FALSE STARTS
Heartbreakers. This wasn’t a great week for teams to complete upset bids. Without an injured Braxton Miller, Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive and and overtime possession to hold off Purdue 29-22. Michigan couldn’t score a touchdown on Michigan State, but won the game 12-10 on a Brendan Gibbons’ field goal with five seconds remaining. Northwestern squandered a 12-point fourth quarter lead to lose 29-28 to Nebraska. TCU scored 10 points in the final 2:25 to force overtime against Texas Tech, but lost 56-53 in the third OT. Despite rallying behind a backup quarterback, Maryland was denied a bid to start 3-0 in the ACC when the Terrapins missed a 33-yard field goal with two seconds left to lose 20-18 to NC State. And poor USF: The Bulls took a brief lead in the fourth quarter at Louisville, but lost their seventh Big East game in the last two seasons in which they’ve held a fourth quarter lead.

Auburn. Another week and another new low at Auburn. The Tigers lost 17-13 to Vanderbilt, despite the Commodores’ fourth-quarter fumble among other miscues daring Auburn to take advantage. At 1-6 overall and 0-5 in the SEC, Auburn is off to its worst start since starting 1-6 in 1952. The Tigers are the first team to start with this poor a record within two years of winning a national title. Auburn has also lost to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the same season for the first time in school history.

Cincinnati. Three undefeated teams at this stage of the season was a source for pride for the Big East. That number is down to two after Cincinnati lost 29-23 at Toledo. The Bearcats led for only 13 seconds in the third quarter thanks to a kickoff return for a touchdown by Toledo’s Bernard Reedy erasing a brief Cincinnati lead. The loss takes the shine off a Friday matchup with undefeated Louisville next week.

HEISMAN MOVERS
Kenjon Barner, Oregon. The Ducks’ all-purpose dynamo De’Anthony Thomas has been pedestrian so far in Pac-12 play. Instead, Kenjon Barner has been Oregon’s offensive MVP. Barner rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yard score in Thursday’s 43-21 win over Arizona State.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. The possibility of a freshman reaching New York as a Heisman finalist may have to wait. The Aggies quarterback was 29 of 56 for 276 yards and three interceptions against LSU. Meanwhile, the Tigers kept Manziel from breaking off any long runs as he rushed for 27 total yards. The last freshman to be a Heisman finalist was Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, runner up to Matt Leinart in 2004.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State.Before the sophomore left the game with a head injury, Miller was 9 of 20 for 113 yards and an interception, 47 yards and a touchdown and a Purdue lead. Miller was taken from the stadium to the hospital, but the injury was reported to be not as serious as it seemed when Miller was carted off the field.