What a weekend we had in college football during week eight. The B1G started their season in a dominating way, as (14) Wisconsin drubbed the Illinois Fighting Illini 45-7. However, the Badgers didn’t do it like Wisconsin teams of the past, they did it with their aerial attack. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz was 20/21 for 248-yards and five touchdowns. At one point Mertz completed 17 straight passes. He set school records for completion percentage in a game and also for throwing the most touchdowns in a game.
Out west in the Big 12, (6) Oklahoma State defended its home turf against Matt Campbell and his tough Iowa State program. The win for the Cowboys meant they are still alive for the College Football Playoff, even with the B1G starting up this past weekend. Spencer Sanders, who came back from injury to play, was 20/29 for 235-yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Chubba Hubbard had another grind it out day, where he ran the ball 25 times for 139-yards and one touchdown.
Finally down in the SEC, a struggling Auburn team figured out a way to slow down Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss, holding the Rebels to 28-points. Also in the SEC (2) Alabama crushed Tennessee 48-17. However, even though the Tide got the win, they lost star receiver Jaylen Waddle for the rest of the year with a broken ankle. Just to prove the SEC is wild and crazy this year, Missouri topped a tough Kentucky team 20-10. Finally after their big win over Auburn last weekend, South Carolina came out and got destroyed by an under-performing LSU squad who was without starting quarterback Myles Brennan.
With that trip around the country, you look all over and this is just a crazy season for college football. There have been upsets, great games, and wild moments, all culminating into a great season of college football so far. Before we get into Heismanology, and go over our predictions from the weekend, lets jump right into college football’s biggest winners and losers from week 8:
Winners: The Big 12’s Playoff Chances
With maybe their toughest game to date, Oklahoma State, basically the only team that has playoff life as a possibility, the Cowboys took down Iowa State at home. Chubba Hubbard had another big day, carrying the team on his back and running 25-times for 139-yards and a touchdown. Looking at the rest of the schedule for Oklahoma State, they have to host a tough Texas Longhorns team this weekend, then travel to (16) Kansas State and (24) Oklahoma, then finally ending with with a home match-up versus Texas Tech. After that the Cowboys have to beat TCU and Baylor on the road. With that schedule, and the ability to control the clock with Hubbard, it is a real possibility the Cowboys could come out of the Big 12 undefeated, which would be a nightmare scenario for the College Football Playoff Committee.
Losers: The Pac 12’s Playoff Chances
With the Pac 12 set to return after next weekend, a lot of eyes will be on a couple teams. Can Clay Helton and (21) USC start off on a good note while hosting a well-coached Arizona State team. Eyes will also be on Autzen Stadium, where (14) Oregon will host the Cardinals of Stanford. With the Pac 12 getting in on the action late, it’s hard to see any way a Pac 12 team can sneak into the playoffs. The B1G also started late, but they will have already played two games against conference opponents. It’s possible the committee would let an undefeated non-Power 5 team into the playoffs before the champion of the Pac 12.
Winner: The Heisman Race
With Ohio State starting conference play, Justin Fields is the name atop a lot of people’s Heisman ballot. On Saturday against a tougher than expected Nebraska defense, Fields was nearly perfect. He was 20/21 for 276-yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball more than expected, but he ended up with 15 rushes for 54 yards and a score on the ground. Trevor Lawrence also slacked a bit this weekend as he only threw for 289 yards and two scores. However, Lawrence is leaving the door open a little bit. Against Syracuse he threw his first pick-six in his career. With Fields coming back, to go along with Lawrence, Najee Harris, Mac Jones, and Travis Etienne, the Heisman race should go down to the wire.
Winner: The Biletnikoff Award
Nick Saban said it best last week, “Offense wins now, not just defense.” The Biletnikoff Award goes to the top receiver in college football. There are great receivers littered all around the country. Tylan Wallace of Oklahoma State, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave of Ohio State, Amari Rodgers at Clemson, Devonta Smith from Alabama, and Rashod Bateman from Minnesota are just a couple of names that come to mind when talking about the Biletnikoff Award. Unfortunately, Jaylen Waddle suffered a broken ankle this past weekend, or else he would be at the top of some people’s board. With offenses around the country throwing the ball more and more, the Biletnikoff Award race should be tight and exciting.
Loser: Shane Buechele and (16) SMU
Shane Buechele and SMU participated in what was supposed to be the best non-power 5 game of the year. SMU just participated in this game, and that’s all they did. (9) Cincinnati rolled into town and put the beatdown on the Mustangs. Cincinnati hadn’t played in about three weeks before this match-up, so many figured they would be rusty, and start slow. The game itself was all Cincinnati. Quarterback Desmond Ridder had a huge breakout game in Dallas. He was 13/21 for 126 yards and a touchdown. Ridder was also a menace in the ground game. He had eight rushes for 179-yards and three touchdowns. Buechele can pretty much cross his name off the list when it comes to Heisman consideration. He was 23/44 for 216-yards and one touchdown to go along with one interception.
Loser: Replay Technology
Indiana defended their home turf, as they pulled one of the shockers of the weekend, in beating (8) Penn State 36-35. The game was pushed into overtime when Penn State missed a potential game-winning kick. Penn State started with the ball in overtime and Sean Clifford led them to a touchdown in just four plays. Clifford completed a touchdown pass to Parker Washington. Penn State elected to kick the point after and just like that, the pressure was on Indiana. Michael Penix Jr., led the Hoosiers to a touchdown in only five plays. On third and goal Penix Jr., found Whop Philyor in the end zone for a nine yard touchdown pass. It is well known throughout the coaching world, that if you are an underdog, and get the ball second in overtime, you should go for two. Penn State is bigger and faster, so the Hoosiers took their chance.
- It’s hard to tell if the ball crossed the goal line before he landed out of bounds. On a closer look however, it seems like Penix Jr.’s body may have touched down out of bounds before he reached the pylon. However, the call on the field was a touchdown, and there is really no way for it to be overturned. Penn State fans will say he was out of bounds, and Indiana fans will say he scored. Well in the end it all worked out, and replay technology didn’t show enough to get it called back, so the Hoosiers won the game. Why is “replay technology” a loser this weekend you may ask. Well this ending is the perfect way to show people that replay doesn’t solve everything. The referees stuck with what they called on the field, and replay technology couldn’t prove them wrong.
Loser: Halloween is Happy Valley
In what was going to be one of the most important games of the college football season, Penn State will host (3) Ohio State next Saturday, October 31st. This game was already a bit of a bummer because Penn State would not be able to “white out” the stadium because spectators are not allowed in. However, after losing to Indiana, this game has lost most of its luster.
This is a must-win game for Penn State. If they lose to Ohio State, you can kiss Penn State’s playoff chances goodbye. When Penn State is able to walk into Beaver Stadium with 100,000 fans whiting out the stadium, it is such a cool tradition and a truly tough place to play James Franklin’s Nittany Lions. However, with Penn State losing and still no students allowed at games, this match-up doesn’t have nearly the build up we all thought we would see. Happy Valley on Halloween? Should be a white out with 100,000 screaming fans.
Winners: Army Black Knights
Everyone will be eligible to play in bowl games this year. However, Army was the first team in the country to secure their bowl bid by accepting an invitation to the Independence Bowl. With everything around the country being so different because of COVID-19 and other tense situations, it’s great to see the men who will lay down their lives for the United States secure their bid. Army vs Navy will still be played this year, and excitement is in the air.
Winners: (11) BYU’s Zach Wilson’s Heisman Chances
Zach Wilson and the BYU Cougars are the real deal this year. Is it possible that BYU could secure a playoff birth? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should write the Cougars off. Zach Wilson, the signal caller for the Cougs is having a special season. Not only is BYU undefeated, but they have a legitimate Heisman contender in Junior Zach Wilson. This season alone Wilson has passed for nearly 2,000-yards and 16 scores to only one interception. Many people will look at the Cougars competition and write off Wilson. However, players don’t pick who they play year in and year out. If he keeps up this pace the rest of the season, there is no doubt Wilson should be in New York for the Heisman Ceremony.
Losers: CBS, FOX, and ESPN
In two weeks the (1) Clemson Tigers will travel to South Bend, Indiana for their toughest conference game in a couple of years. (4) Notre Dame bounced back from the ugly win over Louisville two weeks ago and crushed Pitt 45-3. Notre Dame and Brian Kelly look to be the first team to beat Clemson in an ACC match up in 3 years. This is perfect prime-time match-up for an ABC game with Herbstreit and Chris Fowler in the booth. However, because of Notre Dame’s deal with NBC, they will televise the game, not CBS, FOX, or ESPN. This game should be the most televised game in Notre Dame in 5-6 years or so. Can Notre Dame topple the giant, just like NBC is toppling the rest of the networks? It’s too soon to tell.
Winner: Luke Fickell’s Resume
Ever since Fickell took over at (7) Cincinnati, many people have said that he deserves to get a new deal with a top power-5 program. With his Bearcats sitting undefeated, and coming off of a blowout win against their toughest opponent to date, (22) SMU. The year before Urban Meyer came to Ohio State, Fickell took an incredibly young team to a 6-6 record and the Gator Bowl. The next year he went back to his old job as co-defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. Fickell was named the head coach at Cincinnati on December 10th, 2016. From then on he has built up his resume to be one of the best in the country for a young coach. He has a combined record of 36-20 at Cincinnati, which includes trips to bowl games two years in a row, with a third coming this year.
During the off-season he received interest from schools like Michigan State, Florida State, and West Virginia. Fickell, however, chose to stick in the Queen City. However, he is not longed for Cincinnati and after an impressive year already, his name will be all over big time schools wish lists. If Clay Helton continues to be on the hot seat at USC, don’t be surprised if Fickell gets an offer to coach the team in 2021. Also to note: Luke Fickell was one of thirteen coaches named to the watch list for the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award.
Winner/Then Immediately a Loser:
Graham Mertz, a red-shirt freshman, tore up the skies Friday night in Wisconsin. He tied a school record for consecutive completions in a game at 17. The signal-caller for Wisconsin tied school records for completion percentage (20/21) and touchdowns thrown in a game (5). Mertz had the Badgers looking like a team that could beat you through the air, and on the ground. After Mertz’s record night, he had this to say, “It was definitely fun,” Mertz said after the game. “I owe it to Coach [Jon] Budmayr and Coach [Paul] Chryst, we took a ton of time, one-on-one meetings and really just sorted the game plan out and we knew what we were doing and I felt confident in my ability to go execute and I think there’s definitely some stuff we need to clean up. A lot more stuff we can clean up.” However, after such a great showing, Wisconsin fans were making claims of Graham Mertz for Heisman. Let’s slow our roll there Wisconsin. On Saturday it was reported that Mertz had tested positive for COVID-19. Just like that, Wisconsin fans were back to square one. According to B1G rules this year, if you test positive, you are out for 21-days no matter what. It’s a stupid rule considering Nick Saban got the virus, and was coaching the football team two days later after three negative tests. This puts Wisconsin in a tough spot. Jack Coan, the quarterback for the Badgers last year is still injured. Oh, and Graham Mertz’s backup, Chase Wolf missed practice on Monday.
Winners: The Big Game (Ohio State vs Michigan)
(3) Ohio State has won the big game every year since 2012. If that continues this year, they will tie Michigan in 1901-1909 for the longest streak in the rivalry. Ohio State has one of the top three offenses in the country. Justin Fields is a stud, along with his cast of receivers like Chris Olave, Garett Wilson, Julian Fleming, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. However their offensive and defensive lines could use some help. I would expect Ohio State to have figured out their line issues by the time Michigan comes to town.
Speaking of (13) Michigan, or that team up north, they looked very impressive in Saturday night’s victory over now un-ranked Minnesota. Newly crowned quarterback Joe Milton led the Wolverines with 225 passing yards while going 15/22 and one touchdown. The four-headed monster (Hassan Haskins, Zach Charbonnet, Blake Corum, and Chris Evans) that is Michigan’s backfield combined for 256-yards rushing and five touchdowns. The Wolverines’ defense played great as well, combining for five sacks, eight tackles for loss, and one interception. Donovan Jeter intercepted a pass from Tanner Morgan and took it to the house. With all that being said, will this year be like the last eight, with Ohio State winning easily, or will Michigan put up a fight and beat Ohio State? We shall see.
On Saturday Rutgers officially checked themselves into the B1G conference with a win over a poorly coached Michigan State team 38-27. In beating the Spartans, Rutgers and new head coach Greg Schiano snapped their 21-game losing streak in the B1G. The Knights used a balanced offense against the Spartans. Signal caller Noah Vedral was 18/29 for 169-yards, a touchdown, and one interception. The Rutgers ground game combined for 41 carries for 106-yards and four touchdowns. Welcome to the B1G Rutgers, with this win you are officially a part of the conference.
Plays of the Week:
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba Matrix-like touchdown catch from Justin Fields:
2. Michael Penix Jr.’s Winning two point conversion over Penn State:
3. Georgia Southern’s Wesley Kennedy III Punt Return:
- One helmet sticker goes to the referees in the Indiana versus Penn State game. They took their time looking at the play from different angles. However, they did not see enough to overturn the call on the field. So kudos to the refs sticking to their guns.
- Greg Schiano gets a helmet sticker as well. Before Schiano took the head coaching job, the Knights had lost 21-straight B1G conference games. In Schiano’s first game he led his team to a possible program-changing win.
- Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder gets two helmet stickers. One is for beating a top-25 team on the road. The other is for Ridder’s incredible offensive performance including his 91-yard touchdown scamper.
- Chubba Hubbard gets two helmet stickers as well. One for the big time win over a tough Iowa State team. The other for his ability to, literally, carry his team to victories. He has 94 carries for 478-yards and five touchdowns on the year.
- Mack Brown gets two stickers as well. One for crushing conference rival North Carolina State 48-21. The second is of course for his legendary dance moves in the locker room after the win.
Heismanology: (Jacob will release his Heismanology and Top Ten tonight on The Fourth & Long Podcast. We are live at 9:30 Eastern)
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: 131/191, 1,833 passing yards and 17 touchdowns.
- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: 115/146, 1,905 yards and 12 touchdowns.
- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: 126/161, 1,928 yards and 16 touchdowns.
- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: 20/21, 276-yards and two touchdowns passing. (One Rushing Touchdown as well)
- Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: 103 Carries for 595-yards and 14 touchdowns.
JB Top Ten:
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas A&M
Updated Prediction/Best Bets/Locks Records:
JB: 4-6-1 (2-0 on Locks) (0-0 Trivia)
Jacob: 3-1 (0-0 on Locks) (0-0 Trivia)
Well, there you have it. Last week was very exciting and this week should be even more exciting. We welcomed back the B1G and even included Rutgers in the conference. We will be going live tonight for the Fourth & Long Podcast at 9:30 Eastern Time. You can catch us live on Facebook and Backsportspage’s YouTube page. Tonight we will recap week 8 and get into some segments including trivia, one minute debate, podium for our favorite college football players of all-time, and much more. Be sure to tune in or catch up tomorrow on the YouTube page. Comment on the feed or ask any questions. It’s a great time to be a college football fan, unless you’re Wisconsin. All kidding aside, we all hope the best for Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf if they do indeed have COVID-19.
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Jacob – @PiccuitoJacob
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