Behind a solid defense and a timely offense, Utah has emerged as a contender in the Pac-12 South. The Utes took a step forward in the division race with an overtime victory over Oregon State on Thursday night, improving to 2-1 in conference play with a huge showdown against USC ahead next Saturday.
Leading the way in Utah’s victory was running back Devontae Booker, who earns Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors for Week 8. The junior college transfer gained 229 of Utah’s 315 yards in the win, averaging 7.2 yards per rush on 32 attempts.
Booker scored three times on Thursday night, including twice in overtime. The junior’s 19-yard run in the second overtime gave the Utes a 29-23 victory and put coach Kyle Whittingham’s team just one win away from earning bowl eligibility.
But with Booker’s tough running and a defense holding opponents to just 21.7 points per game, Utah has its sights set on something bigger – a Pac-12 South title – than just bowl eligibility over the next few weeks.
Defensive Player of the Week: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Missouri’s defense was simply dominant on Saturday night in the Swamp. The Tigers held the Gators to 13 points and 283 total yards, while forcing six turnovers in a 42-13 rout. Ray was the headliner for Missouri’s defense, recording six tackles (1.5 for a loss), one forced fumble and two sacks. Ray’s forced fumble resulted in a touchdown return by Markus Golden, which gave the Tigers a commanding 35-0 lead in the second half. In seven games this year, Ray has recorded 10 sacks and forced two fumbles.
Coordinator of the Week: Tony Gibson, West Virginia
Gibson and West Virginia’s defense had the right answers to stop Baylor’s high-powered offense in Saturday’s 41-27 upset victory. The Mountaineers held the Bears to just 318 yards (lowest mark for a Baylor offense since 2010), and Gibson’s defense limited Baylor to 4.0 yards per play (lowest since 2009). West Virginia also recorded four sacks and pressured quarterback Bryce Petty throughout the second half. The Mountaineers allowed only one touchdown in the final two quarters, while five of Baylor’s seven second-half drives traveled just 32 yards or less. The performance on defense was a big reason why West Virginia knocked off the Bears on Saturday.
Freshman of the Week: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Chubb is the Athlon Sports’ freshman of the week for the second week in a row. With Todd Gurley sidelined once again, Chubb handled the bulk of the workload in Georgia’s backfield and rushed for 202 yards and two scores on 30 attempts in the 45-32 win over Arkansas. In two games as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 back, Chubb has 345 yards and three scores.