Week 8 in College Football brings us ever closer to the College Football playoff teams being known. With a good number of still unbeaten teams, there is still a lot of uncertainty about who could make it. However, games are still to be played, and upsets can happen.
Let’s look back at week 8.
The number 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and the number 7 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions are both unbeaten coming into this week. They have both had fairly easy games so far, so much so that every week, I struggle to describe Penn State’s performance in words other than “they won”. Would they win this week against a Buckeyes side hoping to make the College Football Playoffs?
The Nittany Lions would have the game’s opening possession but would struggle to move down the field. The Penn State offense would punt after only 3 plays. The Buckeyes would have a somewhat better offensive drive in reply to this. Led by quarterback Kyle McCord, Ohio State would advance down the field and into the Penn State red zone. However, their drive would stall at the 15-yard line. This led to Buckeyes kicker Jayden Fielding attempting a 33-yard field goal. He would be successful with this attempt, and Ohio State would take the early lead.
Penn State would soon get a score on the board from themselves. Taking advantage of the strong return from the Buckeyes punt to end the previous drive, The Nittany Lions would start at their 38-yard line, and would quickly find themselves into Ohio State territory. However, this drive would stall at the Buckeyes’ 23-yard line. This led to Nittany Lions kicker Alex Felkins successfully attempting a 40-yard field goal to tie the scores.Embed from Getty Images
Then, our old friend the Festival of Kicking would show its face in Columbus, Ohio, but you could say that the whole game so far has been a Festival of Kicking, as every drive has ended in some form of kick. This shows how strong each team’s defenses are. However, we would soon see these defenses make mistakes. In a drive that started at their 39-yard line, Ohio Start would drive the ball down to the Nittany Lions’ 4-yard line. This was aided by a few penalties against the Penn State defense. Another penalty for the Nittany Lions moved the Buckeyes to the 2-yard line. From there, Ohio State running back Miyan Williams would find the end zone for the two-yard rushing touchdown.
In reply to this, Penn State would again try to break through the Buckeyes defense at try to find the end zone. The offense, led by quarterback Drew Allar made it down to the Ohio State 23-yard line, before struggling to convert another 3rd down. This led to a 41-yard field goal from Alex Felkins. 2 more drives ending in punts would take us to the halftime break. As the teams returned to the locker rooms, the Buckeyes would have a 10-6 lead in this extremely defensive game. Would the second half be any different?
The second half would open with 4 consecutive punts. At this stage of the game, this isn’t surprising. It would be clear that this would be a game for those of us who enjoy defense. What is interesting is that in those 4 drives, both teams advanced the ball for a grand total of 16 yards. Near the end of the third quarter, we would see some offense from the Buckeyes. The Kyle McCord-led offense would break through the Nittany Lions’ defense and find themselves at the Penn State one-yard line. On 3rd down, Miyan Williams would run for a loss of one yard, meaning that it would be 4th down from the 2-yard line. Ohio State decided to go for it, but their attempt failed. This handed possession to the Nittany Lions. Could they do anything with the ball?
The Nittany Lions would struggle to advance the ball 10 yards. On 3rd and 1 from their 11-yard line, Allar would throw an incomplete pass, meaning another failure for Penn State on 3rd down. The Nittany Lions would then punt on 4th down. However, Julian Fleming, the kick returner for Ohio State would fumble the ball, and this would be scooped up by Penn State, handing them back possession and another chance at scoring. With this second chance, Penn State would advance the ball 0 yards. Another punt would follow.
The Buckeyes would then show Penn State how to do offense. From their 10-yard line, Ohio State would drive down to the Nittany Lions’ 19-yard line, aided by some long passes from McCord. However, the drive would stall at the 19-yard line, setting up Jayden Fielding with a 37-yard field goal. He would be successful with the kick, widening the Buckeyes’ lead and giving us our first points of the second half.
Penn State was now getting desperate. On their next drive, they would attempt a 4th down conversion from their own 43-yard line. They needed 4 yards. They didn’t get any. What they did do was hand possession over to Ohio State, who would take full advantage of the generous field position. The Buckeyes would quickly advance down to the Nittany Lions’ 18-yard line. From there, McCord would find Marvin Harrison Jr for the touchdown pass. In reply to this, Penn State would again attempt a 4th down attempt in their own half. This time,, Drew Allar would be sacked by Kenyatta Jackson Jr for 10 yards. This again handed possession back to the Buckeyes in a generous position.Embed from Getty Images
Unlike their previous drive, Ohio State could not go far with the ball, stalling at the Penn State 27-yard line, setting up a 45-yard field. However, Fielding would miss this.
We would then finally see something good on offense from the Nittany Lions. The drive started at their 27-yard line, and Allar and company would drive down into the Ohio State red zone and to the Buckeyes’ 8-yard line. From there, Allar would find Kaden Saunders for the touchdown pass as time ran out. The Nittany Lions would then attempt a two-point conversion, but like their conversion attempts of both 3rd and 4th downs, this one failed. In the end, while they scored a touchdown, it didn’t have a massive effect on the result. The number 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes had defeated the number 7 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions 20-12.
This game was defensive with a capital D. That is nice to see in college football, as you get many high-scoring blowouts most of the time. It shows that both of these teams are good-performing teams. For Ohio State, the victory keeps them unbeaten and on track for that unofficial title decided against rivals Michigan in the last week of the season. For Penn State, this is their first loss of the season, but I do not think it would have a large effect on the rankings. Next week, The Buckeyes travel to Camp Randall to face Wisconsin, while Penn State faces Indiana.
The South’s Oldest Rivalry
The number 10 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels are locked in a battle with Florida State to win the ACC. Led by quarterback Drake Maye, the Tar Heels are unbeaten so far this season. This week, they faced the poor-performing Virginia Cavaliers. I do like to mention that North Carolina and Duke are basketball schools. Virginia is another one of these, but unlike the aforementioned North Carolina and Duke, they have had no success on the football field. This should be a walk in the park for the Tar Heels. But who would win the South Oldest Rivalry?
North Carolina had the opening possession of the game but was unable to do anything with the ball as Drake Maye threw 3 incomplete passes. In reply to this, Virginia quickly drove down the field. Led by quarterback Tony Muskett, the Cavaliers converted a 4th down attempt from the North Carolina 33-yard line to move them into the red zone. From the 11-yard line, Virginia running back Mike Hollins ran the ball into the end zone to give the Cavaliers a surprise early lead.
This lead did not last long. On the next drive, the Tar Heels would strike back. From their 25-yard line, Maye and company would advance down to the Virginia 25-yard line. From there, the effective pairing of Maye and Devontez Walker would pair up for the 25-yard line touchdown pass to tie the game. However, the Cavaliers would not take the loss of their lead lying down. After two drives that ended in punts, Tony Muskett and his offense would again advance down the field. They would reach the Tar Heels 3-yard line before Mike Hollins would again run the ball into the end zone to return the lead to Virginia.
North Carolina would then reply in a very quick manner. From their 21-yard line, Tar Heels running back Omarion Hampton would reach their 38-yard line. Then, Maye would find Bryson Nesbit for a 62-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. On their next drive, the Tar Heels would again try to find the end zone. Unlike their last drive, they would take it much slower. North Carolina would stall at their 49-yard line but would decide to attempt a 4th down conversion. They needed 6 yards, but Maye threw an incomplete pass. This handed possession back to the Cavaliers.Embed from Getty Images
Virginia would successfully drive down to the Tar Heels’ 3-yard line, before being forced back 10 yards due to a holding penalty against them. Soon after, Muskett would throw a deep pass into the end zone. This pass would find the hands of the North Carolina defense, ending any chances of scoring. The Tar Heels would take the lead just before halftime, from a 43-yard field goal from kicker Noah Burnett.
The Cavaliers would open the second half with a strong attempt at trying to regain the lead they lost just before halftime. Their drive would stall at the Tar Heels 41-yard line, but, as they only required 2 yards, Virginia decided to attempt a 4th down conversion. They were unsuccessful with this, and possession was handed back to North Carolina. This would prove costly for the Cavaliers, as the Tar Heels would quickly find themselves in the Virginia red zone. Then, from the 3-yard line, Drake Maye would run with the ball into the end zone for the rushing touchdown to widen the Tar Heels lead.
In reply to this, the Cavaliers would strike back quickly. The Tony Muskett lead offense would drive down the field and cross into the Tar Heels red zone. Then, Mike Hollins would have 4 attempts to find the end zone. It would be 4th time lucky for Hollins, as from the Tar Heels’ one-yard line, he would score the touchdown to bring Virginia back into the game. Soon after, the scores would be tied again. Taking advantage of a poor punt from North Carolina, the Cavaliers drive would start from the Tar Heels 33-yard line. They would struggle to move the ball, but this set up Cavaliers kicker Will Bettridge with a 45-yard field goal attempt. He would be successful with this attempt, and the scores would be tied.
But not for long. On the next drive of the game, the Tar Heels would again drive down the field and reach inside the Virginia red zone. However, their drive would stall at the 10-yard line. Noah Brunette would then successfully kick a 27-yard field goal to give North Carolina a small lead. A lead that they would soon lose. In reply to the field goal, the Cavaliers would quickly drive down the field, reaching the Tar Heels 14-yard line. From there, Muskett would find Malik Washington for the touchdown pass to give Virginia the lead again. Could the Tar Heels strike back?Embed from Getty Images
Things could have been much worse for North Carolina soon after. The Cavaliers would again reach the Tar Heels red zone. However, they would fumble the ball which would then be scooped up by the Tar Heels defense. The following drive began well for North Carolina but stalled at the Cavaliers’ 20-yard line. Needing a touchdown, they decided to attempt a vital 4th down conversion. They would be unsuccessful. The Tar Heels’ final attempt would be even worse, with Drake Maye being intercepted. The Cavaliers had done it. The Virginia Cavaliers had defeated the number 10 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels 31-27.
For Virginia, this is a massive upset. This is only their second win of the season, and to beat not only a ranked team but their rivals is impressive. For North Carolina, their unbeaten season is over, and a loss to an unranked 2-win team in a game which on paper they should easily win will have a massive effect on their ranking. Next week, Virginia will hope to continue this form against the Miami Hurricanes while the Tar Heels will hope to redeem themselves against Georgia Tech.
Utah Stop The Trojans
This is the third week in a row that I am writing about the USC Trojans and their star quarterback Caleb Williams. Last week, the Trojans lost their unbeaten record against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a game where Williams underperformed. This week, the now 18-ranked Trojans faced the number 14-ranked Utah Utes. Would the Trojans return to winning ways, or will they lose another game?
Utah would have the opening possession of the game, and would quickly open the scoring. From their 47-yard line, Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes would find wide receiver Sione Vaki for a 53-yard touchdown pass to take the lead. This lead would not last long. Caleb Williams would start better than he started last week and move his offense down to the Utah’s 45-yard line. From there, Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd would run with the ball into the end zone to record a 45-yard rushing touchdown to tie the score. Good start from both sides.
After a poor Utah drive next, the Trojans would again find the endzone. USC would find themselves at the Utes’ one-yard line after Williams found Tahj Washington for a 51-yard pass. From the one-yard line, Zachariah Branch would find the end zone for the touchdown to take the lead. However, they would not have the lead for long. In reply to the Trojans’ touchdown, the Utes offense would drive down to the USC 10-yard line. From there, Bryson Barnes would run with the ball into the end zone to tie the scores up again.Embed from Getty Images
The rest of the half was not great. Every single drive bar one ended with a punt. The Festival of Kicking had left Columbus, Ohio, and had made its way to Los Angeles, California. I did mention that one drive in this part did not end in a punt. This came from Utah. From their 20-yard line, the Barnes lead offense was able to reach the Trojans’ 16-yard line, This was aided by a 36-yard from Barnes to Vaki, which had an additional 15 yards added on to it due to a personal foul penalty on the play against the Trojans. At the 16-yard line, their drive stalled, but the Utes decided to attempt a 4th down conversion as they only needed one yard. They were unsuccessful in this attempt, handing possession back to USC.
All of this meant that at halftime, the Utes and Trojans were tied at 14-14.
The Utes would get the opening score of the second half. From their 41-yard line, Barnes and company would drive down to the Trojans 6-yard line. From there, Barnes would find Landen King for the 6-yard touchdown pass, to retake the lead. Things would get better for the Utes on the next drive. Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd would fumble the ball at around the 50-yard line. The ball would then be scooped up by the Utes defense. This turnover would be costly for USC, as Utah would advance down the field to the Trojans 15-yard line. From there, Barnes would find Vaki for the touchdown pass to increase their lead even further.
In reply to this score, USC would score a touchdown of their own. From the Utes 27-yard line, Caleb Williams would find Kyron Hudson for the touchdown pass. However, there was a penalty against the Trojans on the play. There was also a penalty against the Utes as well. These offsetting penalties stripped USC of the touchdown. After this, they couldn’t find the end zone again and had to settle for a 44-yard field goal from Trojans kicker Dennis Lynch.
While they could not score a touchdown from their offense, the Trojans defense could find the end zone. On the next Utah drive, Barnes was intercepted by Calen Bullock, who would return the ball to the end zone to give USC a pick 6 touchdown to get back into the game. Both teams would then score a field goal to keep the Utes lead at 5 points with two minutes left.
Utah would then have a poor punt, which the Trojans would return to their 11-yard line. From there, Caleb Williams would run the ball into the end zone to give the Trojans a one point lead. USC would then attempt a two-point conversion, but this would fail. With not much time left and only one point down, Utah knew what they had to do.
From their 25-yard line, Utah would make it down to the Trojans 21 yard line. With time running out, this setup Utes kicker Cole Becker with a 38-yard field goal to win the game. Becker would be successful with this kick, and the number 14-ranked Utah Utes would defeat the number 18-ranked USC Trojans 34-32.Embed from Getty Images
For Utah, this win puts them to 6-1 for the season and keeps them in the race for the PAC-12 title. For the Trojans, this is their second loss in two weeks, and their third close game in a row. Their College Football Playoff hunt is all but over. They may not even be ranked for next week. How this may affect the draft stock of Caleb Williams is still to be found out. Next week, Utah faces Oregon, while USC faces California.
What happened to the other ranked teams?
#2 Michigan @ Michigan State
The number 2 ranked Michigan Wolverines faced another easy opponent this week. This time it was state rivals the Michigan State Spartans. The Wolverines season so far is a bit like a cheesy 60’s superhero show. Fight a lot of “henchmen” and easy to defeat opponents, before facing off against a strong opponent at the end of the episode. For Michigan, that is Ohio State, and that is happening in a couple of weeks. Wolverines quarterback J.J McCarthy threw 4 touchdowns as Michigan shut out Michigan State 49-0
#16 Duke @ #4 Florida State
The number 4 ranked Florida State Seminoles hoped to continue their strong season against the number 16 ranked Duke Blue Devils. For the first three quarters of this game, the Blue Devils were winning and looked like they could cause their second upset of the season (the first being their victory over Clemson, who are struggling this year). However, Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis and company put on their jets in the final quarter, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to defeat Duke 38-20. This continues their undefeated season and keeps them in the race for the number 4 seed in the College Football Playoff.
Arizona State @ #5 Washington
The number 5 ranked Washington Huskies are another unbeaten team left in College Football. Led by star quarterback Michael Penix Jr, this week they faced the 1-6 Arizona State Sun Devils. On paper, this should have been a blowout. In reality, the Huskies needed a strong final quarter to take victory away from the Sun Devils. An 89-yard pick 6 touchdown from Mishael Powell sealed a 15-7 victory for Washington, who remain unbeaten.
UCF @ #6 Oklahoma
The number 6 ranked Oklahoma Sooners returned to action after defeating the Texas Longhorns at Red River to face the UCF Knights. While there is a large gap between these teams this season, this game was incredibly close. Sooners quarterback Dilon Gabriel threw for three touchdowns as the Sooners would defeat the Knights 31-29. This victory keeps their undefeated season alive. And for those of you who care, General Booty did not play in this game. When will he take the field?
#8 Texas @ Houston
Coming off their loss in the Red River Rivalry, the number 8 ranked Texas Longhorns faced an old rival in the Houston Cougars. The Longhorns would take an early 21-point lead, but Houston would soon close that gap. A CJ Baxter 16-yard rushing touchdown late in the 4th quarter would give Texas a 31-24 victory.Embed from Getty Images
Washington State @ #9 Oregon
After losing to Washington last week, the number 9 ranked Oregon Ducks faced the Washington State Cougars in what was an important game for Ducks quarterback Bo Nix. This game was Nix’s 54th college game, which is an NCAA record for most career starts. Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward had a strong game, throwing for 438 yards, but the Ducks would win this game 38-24.
#17 Tennessee @ #11 Alabama
The number 11 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide faces the number 17 ranked Tennessee Volunteers this week. The best way to describe this game is a literal game of two halves. The first half was dominated by Tennessee, with Squirrel White scoring a 39-yard touchdown from quarterback Joe Milton III. However, the second half was all Alabama, with the Crimson Tide scoring 27 unanswered points to give them a 34-20 victory. This victory keeps Alabama in control of their division so the SEC championship is still in reach for the Crimson Tide.
#13 Ole Miss @ Auburn
The number 13 ranked Ole Miss Rebels faced the Auburn Tigers this weekend. In the last couple of weeks, Ole Miss has been playing good football. Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart threw for 200 yards in a game with no field goals and only touchdowns. Ole Miss would hold on for a 28-21 victory.
Army @ #19 LSU
The number 19 ranked LSU Tigers faced the Army Golden Knights. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels threw 3 touchdowns and the Tigers would score 8 overall in their 62-0 blowout victory.
South Carolina @ #20 Missouri
The number 20 ranked Missouri Tigers faced the South Carolina Gamecocks this weekend. The Tigers took the lead early in this game and never looked like losing it. Tigers quarterback Brady Cook scored two touchdowns in their 34-12 victory.
#22 Air Force @ Navy
Making their first appearance in the top 25 this season are the number 22 ranked Air Force Falcons. Air Force is undefeated so far this season and hoped to keep that record against another Armed Forces side, the Navy Midshipmen. Air Force dominated the Navy, defeating the Midshipmen 17-6 in a defensive affair.
North Texas @ #23 Tulane
The number 23 ranked Tulane Green Waves faced the North Texas Mean Green in the battle of the teams with the word “Green” in their name. Tulane would take an early lead, but North Texas would have a strong third quarter scoring 3 touchdowns to close the gap. The scores would be level going into the final minutes of the game. But, Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt would score the winning touchdown as the Green Waves would win 35-28
Minnesota @ #24 Iowa
Both teams’ defenses were on show as the Number 24 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes faced the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It would be the Golden Gophers’ kicker, Dragan Kesich who would steal the show, kicking 4 field goals in Minnesota’s 12-10 victory over Iowa.Embed from Getty Images
#25 UCLA @ Stanford
The number 25 ranked UCLA Bruins faced the Stanford Cardinals. Surprising no one, UCLA dominated this game, with Bruins running back Carson Steele scoring three touchdowns in their 42-7 victory.
So, that was week 8 in College Football. In the next couple of weeks, the College Football Playoff committee will be meeting to give us their first ranking and tell us who would make the playoffs currently. But, with still more football to play, it can and will all change.