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College Football Week 8 Takeaways: Clemson Rallies, Oregon Controls the Pac-12, and LSU on the Rise?

Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers Football

An action-packed weekend of college football action is in the books. Oklahoma State and TCU scored huge wins in the Big 12, Oregon beat UCLA in a high-scoring shootout, and Clemson rallied to avoid a home upset against Syracuse.

Did you miss anything from Week 8? Here's everything to know, highlighted by the top takeaways and under-the-radar tidbits you may have missed:

College Football Week 8 Takeaways: Clemson Rallies, Oregon Controls the Pac-12, and LSU on the Rise?

Oregon Takes Control of the Pac-12
If Oregon was flying under the radar due to its season-opening loss to Georgia, it shouldn’t be anymore after Saturday’s win over UCLA. As each week passes, it’s easy to see how the Bulldogs are simply that good and in a different stratosphere than most FBS teams.

Oregon has made its case as the best team in the Pac-12 over the last few weeks, capped by a strong performance against UCLA. Quarterback Bo Nix continued his resurgence (22 of 28 for 283 yards and five touchdowns), and the ground game pounded the Bruins for 262 yards and a score. The Ducks only punted one time and converted half of their third-down attempts (6 of 12). In a game where two high-powered offenses controlled the pace, Oregon’s ability to get stops to force field goals (three by UCLA) and create one turnover was the difference in the game.

Four teams – Utah, UCLA, Oregon and USC – are the main contenders to win the Pac-12 going into Week 9. With a win over UCLA already and a home game against Utah on Nov. 19, coach Dan Lanning’s team has the inside track to one spot in the Pac-12 title game. The other spot? Likely the winner of UCLA-USC on Nov. 19.

TCU and Oklahoma State Score Key Big 12 Wins
The race to win the Big 12 might be the most entertaining conference battle in college football, but some clarity might be emerging atop the standings. TCU used another second-half comeback to remain unbeaten, defeating Kansas State 38-28 on Saturday night. And in Stillwater, Oklahoma State also rallied thanks to 14 points in the fourth quarter to edge Texas 41-34. The Cowboys did the small things right (zero penalties to 14 by the Longhorns) and only one of the nine drives by Texas in the second half went longer than 38 yards.

Texas, Baylor and Kansas State are also in the mix, but are TCU and Oklahoma State edging ahead in the Big 12 title mix?

Clemson Survives Syracuse’s Upset Bid
Stop us if you heard this before: A backup quarterback gave Clemson a spark to beat Syracuse. After Chase Brice had to come off the bench due an injury to Trevor Lawrence in ’18 to guide the Tigers to a win over the Orange, coach Dabo Swinney had to deploy freshman Cade Klubnik to spark the offense. The move helped, but the real story of the game for Clemson was its defense and ground game. Led by running back Will Shipley, the Tigers ran for 293 yards and overcame four turnovers on offense. After allowing 190 yards on Syracuse’s first three drives, Swinney’s defense allowed only 101 yards the rest of the way.

Inserting Klubnik into the lineup gave Clemson a spark, but the freshman only threw for 19 yards and ran for 15. Despite DJ Uiagalelei’s struggles with turnovers (three) and in-game benching, he’s expected to remain the starter. However, as Saturday’s game showed, Swinney won’t be afraid to make a change if needed.

And in the big picture, surviving and finding ways to win is crucial for any team to get to the CFB Playoff. The Tigers have a favorable close to the season - at Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and South Carolina - but likely can't avoid a slip if they want to make the top four at the end of the year.

LSU on the Rise?
With a new staff and several transfers stepping into key roles on both sides of the ball, it’s no surprise LSU started slowly in ’22. However, as Saturday’s win over Ole Miss showed, the Tigers might be rounding into form under first-year coach Brian Kelly. LSU fell behind 17-3 but rallied for a 45-20 win thanks to a strong effort on both sides of the ball. The defense pitched a shutout in the second half, while the offense scored four touchdowns on four consecutive drives to put the game out of reach. An Ole Miss rushing attack that led the SEC was held to 116 yards and no run went longer than 18 yards.

By no means has Kelly fixed all of LSU’s problems, but this team now has a chance to make noise in the SEC West. Alabama comes to Baton Rouge on Nov. 5, followed by road games against Arkansas (Nov. 12) and Texas A&M (Nov. 26). After a loss to Florida State and a 40-13 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 8, contending for the West Division crown seemed unlikely. But with Alabama up next, we should get a good idea of just how far LSU has progressed this year.

Texas A&M’s Struggles Continue…What’s Next?
Texas A&M had about as bad of a start as it could off a bye week. South Carolina returned the opening kickoff for a score, and the Aggies lost turnovers on their next two drives to allow the Gamecocks to open a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Although coach Jimbo Fisher’s squad played a little better the rest of the way and outgained South Carolina 398 to 286, the end result (30-24) was another loss. Texas A&M has now scored 24 or fewer points in eight straight games against Power 5 opponents and is 3-5 in that span. The Aggies average only 5.3 yards per snap in SEC games and rank near the bottom of the SEC in third-down conversions and big plays.

So what’s next in College Station? With a buyout that nears $90 million, it would obviously take a lot for Texas A&M to move on. However, Fisher should relinquish play-calling duties and let a coordinator modernize the scheme with an improved staff (especially up front). Talent isn’t an issue for the Aggies. However, something is missing, and Fisher has to take a long look at the entire program this offseason and make significant changes.

Quick Hits from Week 8

*Miami turned in a disastrous performance in a 45-21 loss to Duke. The ‘Canes lost eight turnovers, managed just 48 rushing yards, and gave up six sacks. The Blue Devils only outgained Miami 336 to 327. However, turnovers gave Duke prime field position for easy drives (and scores).

*Under-the-radar win on Saturday: East Carolina 34-13 over UCF.

*Oregon State beat Colorado 42-9 to improve to 6-2 this year. The Beavers are bowl eligible in back-to-back years for the first time since 2012-13.

*Boise State has quietly won three in a row since a 27-10 loss to UTEP. Saturday’s win over Air Force moved the Broncos to 4-0 in league play and entrenched their spot atop the Mountain Division. A Nov. 19 showdown at Wyoming looms large for the division crown.

*Alabama was outgained by Mississippi State (293 to 290) but dominated the Bulldogs once again for a 30-6 win.

*Outside of North Carolina, every team in the ACC Coastal has two conference losses. If the Tar Heels beat Pitt on Oct. 29, it would take a complete collapse to not win the division crown.

*Under-the-radar win II on Saturday: Texas Tech 48-10 over West Virginia.

*Wisconsin’s dominance over Purdue continued on Saturday with a 35-24 win. The Badgers have not lost to the Boilermakers since 2003.

*UTSA is the only team in Conference USA without a loss in league play. The Roadrunners won another thriller on Saturday, beating North Texas 31-27 to jump to 4-0 in C-USA games. With wins over WKU and North Texas already, coach Jeff Traylor’s team is in good shape to return to the title game.

*Liberty’s 41-14 win over BYU improved the Flames to 7-1 this year. The only defeat was a one-point loss at Wake Forest on Sept. 17.

*Five of the MAC’s six games in Week 8 were decided by seven points or less.