College Football- Week 8 Recap and Week 9 Preview

What appeared to be a relatively uneventful Saturday last weekend turned out to be one of the season’s most exciting, as many one-loss teams still in the hunt for BCS berths and with longshot title hopes survived big scares, many in spectacular fashion. Briefly, to recap:

  • Touchdown Jesus was the star of the many exciting finishes as Notre Dame overcame a 17-13 deficit late in the game with defense, smart clock management, and of course, the Brady Quinn-Jeff Samardzija connection. After losing the ball on downs with under three minutes to play, the Irish looked to be finished. But then the Irish stopped UCLA on three straight downs and used all their timeouts to earn one last chance to score with a little over a minute left. Quinn hit Samardzija with a 45 yard TD pass with 27 seconds left to play. Samardzija actually caught the ball at about the 20-yard line with three defenders surrounding him but simply refused to be tackled. An Amazing finish to be sure, although the Irish can’t be feeling too good about their chances at USC if they had this much trouble with a seemingly inferior UCLA team at home. We’ll see…
  • Nebraska gave Texas all they could handle and could have easily won what surely was the biggest game for the program in five years. Texas got the ball back after Nebraska carelessly fumbled while holding a 20-19 lead late in the game. Then Texas nailed a 22-yard field goal after bringing on a walk-on kicker! Fabulous stuff. Even with the loss, Nebraska proved that they are back. I actually felt the need to move them up a slot in my rankings.
  • Other close games involving one-loss teams included Tennessee’s narrow win over Alabama after trailing the entire game and California’s overtime win over a relentless Washington team. Erik Ainge led a touchdown drive in the final minutes to give the Vols the win, and Marshawn Lynch scored for the Golden Bears on the opening possession in overtime, which was all Cal needed. However, Washington’s hail mary pass to put the game into overtime was possibly the best since Kordell Stewart’s pass to Michael Westbrook in that win over Michigan!
  • In a less relevant but no less amazing contest, Michigan State somehow overcame a 38-3 third quarter deficit to shock Northwestern. I honestly can’t decide what is more puzzling, that this Spartan team was somehow trailing Northwestern by 5 touchdowns or that they were able to score that many in a quarter and a half. The loss was obviously crushing for Northwestern but would have been program-destroying for Michigan State, who appears to finally have gotten a break after a steady free-fall since the Notre Dame loss.
  • Clemson affirmed itself as a strong BCS contender by dominating Georgia Tech 31-7 on national TV and holding Heisman contender Calvin Johnson without a reception. The Tiger rushing attack looked unstoppable, as the tandem of sophomore James Davis and freshman C.J. Spiller racked up over 350 yards and 3 touchdowns. Clemson is improving with each game and is starting to look scary on both sides of the ball.
  • Miami and Florida State didn’t improve their situations much Saturday, although Miami did avoid involving themselves in another brawl. In the meantime, they nearly lost to lowly Duke with a somewhat depleted squad. The Seminoles are now in last place in the ACC Atlantic after a narrow home loss to the underrated Boston College Eagles. Last place! Yikes.

TOP 25 OF THE MATTY

  1. Ohio State (8-0)
  2. Michigan (8-0)
  3. USC (6-0)
  4. West Virginia (7-0)
  5. Texas (6-1)
  6. Notre Dame (6-1)
  7. Louisville (7-0)
  8. Arkansas (6-1)
  9. Auburn (6-1)
  10. Florida (6-1)
  11. Tennessee (6-1)
  12. California (7-1)
  13. Clemson (7-1)
  14. LSU (6-2)
  15. Boise State (8-0)
  16. Boston College (6-1)
  17. Nebraska (6-2)
  18. Oklahoma (5-2)
  19. Rutgers (7-0)
  20. Georgia Tech (5-2)
  21. Wisconsin (7-1)
  22. Wake Forest (6-1)
  23. Texas A & M (7-1)
  24. Missouri (7-1)
  25. Georgia (6-2)

HEISMAN WATCH

  1. Troy Smith, Ohio State
  2. Steve Slaton, West Virginia
  3. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
  4. Ray Rice, Rutgers
  5. James Davis, Clemson
  6. Mike Hart, Michigan

GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND

#13 Clemson at Virginia Tech, Thursday at 6:45 CST, ESPN

I haven’t been crazy about Virginia Tech’s team right from the start, and it hasn’t helped that they weren’t even competitive in their only difficult ACC games against Boston College and Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, Clemson’s rushing attack looks to be unstoppable. This game is at VT and is the Thursday night game which tends to be dominated by the home team in the ACC. However, VT lost 38-27 to Georgia Tech, and Clemson just beat the Yellow Jackets 31-7. That’s 35 points if you carry it over, which is not always the best way to bet on college football games, but you make the call. I’m calling this my lock of the week for Clemson to cover the measily 4 point spread.  Clemson 31, Virginia Tech 14.

#18 Oklahoma at #24 Missouri, 11:00 CST, ABC

This game doesn’t excite me a great deal as it seems pretty clear that Nebraska and Texas will meet again in the Big 12 championship while the rest of the conference struggles to hang on to a Top 25 ranking. This appears to be the battle for third, although Texas A&M is beginning to loom larger than expected. Anyway, losing Peterson hurts, but you’ve got to root for the Sooners, who still have superior athletes on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma 24, Missouri 17.

#25 Georgia vs. #10 Florida, 2:30 CST, CBS

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, held on a neutral field in Jacksonville, is always a great college football tradition. Georgia has had its struggles this season but always gets up for this rivalry. Their once powerful running game has been slightly depleted by the injury to Thomas Brown, but they still have power behind Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware. The defense has been relatively strong, but not as strong as Florida’s, nor is the offense as versatile due to its dependence on the run. Florida’s weapons will be too much here, although I don’t expect a killing as the Bulldogs will play with a lot of heart.  Florida 28, Georgia 17

#11 Tennessee at South Carolina, 6:45 CST, ESPN

Tennessee has overachieved all season but has looked incredibly impressive throughout, with their only loss coming in a close one at home against Florida. South Carolina has been improving steadily, most noticably in its near upset of Auburn a few weeks back, but really hasn’t reached the tougher part of its SEC schedule quite yet. It should be a great coaching matchup and a close game. Tennessee has superior athletes but South Carolina has home field advantage on national TV and a lot to gain. I expect a dogfight!  Tennessee 24, South Carolina 23

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