Auburn, Missouri and Wisconsin were the big winners from Saturday's action.
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Auburn takes command of SEC West – The SEC West race is far from over, but Auburn took a big step towards reaching the SEC Championship with a 24-17 win over LSU. Just like every team Auburn faced so far this year, LSU had trouble slowing down Cam Newton. The LSU defense entered this showdown allowing 83.6 rushing yards per game, but was gashed by Auburn for 440 yards and three scores on the ground. Newton rushed for 217 and two touchdowns, including a dazzling 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The Auburn defense has struggled all season, but didn’t face much resistance from LSU. Quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee struggled to get anything going, and running back Stevan Ridley was held to 37 yards. With Auburn’s win over LSU, the race to represent the SEC West in Atlanta is heading towards a November 26 showdown. With Alabama creeping up the polls and the Tigers likely to be heavy favorites in their remaining three games, the Iron Bowl will be one of the most anticipated games of 2010.
2. Missouri knocks off Oklahoma – Success against Oklahoma has eluded Missouri. Coming into Saturday’s game against the Sooners, the Tigers lost their last seven matchups in this series, with the last win coming in 1999. Two of the seven losses came in the Big 12 title game and neither matchup was close. However, all of that bad luck ended for Missouri on Saturday night. The Tigers held off Oklahoma 36-27, earning arguably one of the biggest wins in the Gary Pinkel era. The Missouri defense sacked Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones only once, but forced two interceptions and held DeMarco Murray to his worst rushing output of the season. The Tigers are 7-0 for the first time since 1960, but a huge game against Nebraska looms on Saturday. If the Tigers knock off the Huskers, Missouri can throw its hat into the national title discussion.
3. No letdown for Wisconsin – One week after beating Ohio State, most figured Wisconsin couldn’t follow with the same effort on the road against Iowa. However, the Badgers delivered another clutch performance, edging the Hawkeyes for a 31-30 win. The key play for Wisconsin came deep in the fourth quarter, with punter Brad Nortman taking the snap and rushing 17 yards to earn a first down. The Badgers converted another fourth down on the drive, leading to the game-winning touchdown with Montee Ball punching it in from eight yards out. Quarterback Scott Tolzien was an efficient 20 of 26 for 205 yards and one score, while John Clay added 91 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The loss to Michigan State means the Badgers need a little help to get to the Rose Bowl, but the rest of the schedule is manageable and an 11-1 finish could mean an at-large BCS berth.
4. Chaos in the Big East – The Big East was one of the most difficult conferences to project in the preseason and after eight weeks, no one still has a clue what to expect. West Virginia looked like the class of the conference, but suffered a shocking defeat to Syracuse in Morgantown. Although the Orange continues to show improvement in the second year of the Doug Marrone era, it was a game the Mountaineers should not lose. Cincinnati appeared to turn a corner after back-to-back wins, but couldn’t slow down a struggling South Florida offense on Friday night. Connecticut was a preseason favorite, but the Huskies have an uphill battle to win the conference after getting shutout at Louisville. After suffering an opening week defeat at Utah and a blowout loss against Miami, most wrote Pittsburgh off. However, the Panthers shuffled their offensive line, and the passing game has come alive behind Tino Sunseri. The Panthers are the lone unbeaten in the Big East and at least for this week, look like the favorites to represent this conference in the BCS.
5. Nebraska bounces back – Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was pulled against Texas, but the redshirt freshman shook off any disappointment from that game with 435 yards of total offense in a 51-41 victory over Oklahoma State. Although Martinez has dazzled with his rushing ability, question marks remained about his passing skills, but Saturday’s performance should ease those concerns. The Nebraska defense has struggled stopping the run this year and allowed Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter to rush for 201 yards. The victory over the Cowboys was huge for Nebraska, with a key Big 12 North game against Missouri this Saturday. If the Huskers knock off the unbeaten Tigers, Nebraska should win out and make a return appearance to the Big 12 title game.
Other thoughts from Week 8
Iowa State’s 28-21 win over Texas was one of the most surprising scores from Week 8. The Cyclones were 0-7 against the Longhorns before Saturday’s victory, which puts Iowa State at 4-4 and right in the mix for a bowl berth. The victory over Texas was similar to last season’s 9-7 win over Nebraska – a game the Cyclones were given no chance to win, yet found a way to pull off the upset. A lot of credit is due to Paul Rhoads, who has already shown in two seasons he is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation.
Boston College has made a trip to a bowl in every season since 1999. However, that streak appears to be in jeopardy after a 2-5 start. Although winnable games remain, the Eagles may need to beat Syracuse on the road in the season finale to get to six victories.
The big winner from unbeaten teams continuing to fall in the polls? Boise State. The Broncos are no lock to run the table and still need some help, but with each loss from the unbeaten teams from BCS conferences, Boise State moves closer to an appearance in the national championship.
The first season in the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame is headed to a likely 6-6 finish. The Irish were easily handled by Navy on Saturday, their third loss in four games to the Midshipmen. Getting Notre Dame back to a BCS bowl won’t be easy next year, but Brian Kelly is the right man for the job and just needs a little time to get the ship pointed in the right direction.
North Texas decided to pull the plug on the Todd Dodge experiment, leaving offensive coordinator Mike Canales to serve as interim head coach the rest of the year. Dodge was 6-37 in his tenure, with three wins coming over Western Kentucky. The decision to hire Dodge was a curious one, especially since his only experience as a college coach was from 1992 to 1993 as North Texas’ quarterback/receivers coach.
With Baylor’s 47-42 win over Kansas State, the Bears are bowl eligible for the first time since 1995. Quarterback Robert Griffin is having an outstanding season, throwing for 18 scores, 2,373 yards and completing 66.7 percent of his passes. The Bears sit atop the Big 12 South with a 3-1 record in conference play, but have difficult matchups against Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma remaining. Although the Bears are longshots to win the Big 12, an upset along the way wouldn’t be a surprise.
The SEC East is a mess, but here come the Georgia Bulldogs. Sure, the competition the last three weeks isn’t great, but this team has made progress and gets a shot at Florida this Saturday. The Bulldogs still need some help to get past South Carolina in the SEC East, but things are looking up after a rough start for Mark Richt.
Western Kentucky snapped a 26-game losing streak with a 54-21 victory over UL Lafayette. With North Texas visiting next week, the Hilltoppers could earn back-to-back victories for the first time since 2007.
With Western Kentucky’s win, only Akron and New Mexico remain winless in FBS play. New Mexico’s best shot at a win would appear to be in the next two weeks with games against Colorado State and Wyoming. Akron’s best shot will be on November 6 against Ball State or November 26 against Buffalo.
As if the 60-13 loss suffered to Oregon wasn’t enough bad news for this week, UCLA found out quarterback Kevin Prince will miss the rest of the season following knee surgery. Prince was a key piece to the UCLA pistol attack, and the Bruins may have to tweak the offense to fit Richard Brehaut the rest of the year. The Bruins faced an uphill battle to get bowl eligible with Prince and with the sophomore out for the rest of the year, UCLA will likely finish with a losing record.
Looking ahead to Week 9
A small sample of what’s ahead
Florida State vs. NC State (Thursday)
Seminoles can take huge step towards ACC Atlantic title with a win over Wolfpack.
West Virginia vs. Connecticut (Friday)
Huskies desperate for a conference win, while Mountaineers looking to bounce back after disappointing loss to Syracuse.
Tennessee vs. South Carolina
Volunteers are down this year, but won’t be an easy out for South Carolina.
Louisville vs. Pittsburgh
With Louisville’s win over Connecticut, this is suddenly an important game in the Big East.
Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M
Mike Sherman is feeling the heat in College Station, but a win over the Red Raiders would put the Aggies one step closer to bowl eligibility.
Baylor vs. Texas
After getting bowl eligible, can Robert Griffin lead Baylor to a huge upset in Austin?
Missouri vs. Nebraska
Win against Oklahoma was huge for Missouri, but will mean nothing if it can’t get past Nebraska and win the Big 12 North.
Michigan State vs. Iowa
If the Spartans can knock off the Hawkeyes, a 12-0 record to finish the regular season seems likely.
California vs. Oregon State
Will California’s struggles continue on the road?
Stanford vs. Washington
This game features one of the top quarterback matchups of Week 9 – Andrew Luck vs. Jake Locker.
Georgia vs. Florida
The loser of this game faces an uphill battle and needs a lot of luck in order to win the SEC East.
Utah vs. Air Force
With a date against TCU in Week 10, Utes have to be careful not to overlook a good Air Force team.
Michigan vs. Penn State
Injuries beginning to mount for Nittany Lions, and that’s a major concern on defense with Denard Robinson up next.
Oregon vs. USC
This is USC’s bowl game and with two weeks to prepare, Oregon will have its hands full.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Arizona State QB Steven Threet (concussion) – questionable to start Week 9
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett (bruised shoulder) – probable to start Week 9
Arkansas WR Joe Adams (ankle) – probable to start Week 9
Arkansas WR Greg Childs (ankle) – probable to start Week 9
Boston College DE Alex Albright (broken fibula) – out remainder of season
Colorado QB Tyler Hansen (ruptured spleen) – out for remainder of the season
Connecticut QB Michael Box (concussion) – questionable to play in Week 9
Kansas QB Kale Pick (concussion) – questionable to play in Week 9
Kansas QB Jordan Webb (shoulder) – questionable to play in Week 9
Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin (ankle) – questionable to play in Week 9
Missouri DT Dominique Hamilton (broken ankle) – out for remainder of season
Nebraska DE Pierre Allen (knee) – questionable to play in Week 9
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (hamstring) – DNP against Navy, probable Week 9
Notre Dame DT Ian Williams (knee) – questionable to play in Week 9
Notre Dame LB Carlo Calabrese (hamstring) – questionable to play in Week 9
Penn State QB Robert Bolden (concussion) – questionable to play in Week 9
Purdue QB Rob Henry (lacerated finger) – questionable to play in Week 9
San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman (hip pointer) – expected to play in Week 9
Syracuse RB Delone Carter (bruised hip) – questionable to play in Week 9
Wisconsin RB James White (sprained knee) – questionable to play in Week 10
Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks (sprained ankle) – probable to play in Week 10