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Few things in the sporting world carry the energy of two undefeated teams on an inter-conference collision course in mid-October. Perhaps a bout for conference control between two top 10 ranked teams could be up to the challenge. Well, it’s Christmas in October as we received both gifts this past weekend.
The Clemson Tigers were barely able to make enough plays to fend off the upset minded Syracuse Orange, handing them their first loss. Out west, the Oregon Ducks had no issues, disposing of the UCLA Bruins in dominant fashion handing them their first loss as well.
We’ll discuss those two contests and more in our Week 8 top 10.
1.) Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0) defeated Iowa Hawkeyes 54-10
Turning Point: The Iowa defense was playing incredible, forcing the Buckeyes to settle for field goals on multiple possessions. As the score was 19-10 in favor of Ohio State, Buckeye linebacker Tommy Eichenberg secured a pick-six to push the lead to 26-10. This was an obvious deflation of the Hawkeyes since they didn’t score another point all game.
Biggest Takeaway: Everyone knows the Hawkeye offense is very bad but the Buckeye defense showed out. The offense got off to a very slow start and eventually put it together with multiple scores in the second half but they really have the defense to thank. They forced six turnovers, held the Hawkeyes to only three points on offense and only 158 yards. Stellar to say the least.
Next Week: Away vs. #13 Penn State Nittany Lions
2.) Tennessee Volunteers (7-0) defeated Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks 65-24
Turning Point: Even though it was early, it was Williams Wright’s interception of UT-Martin quarterback, Dresser Winn’s pass. The Vols were leading 14-7 at the time but the Skyhawks had made it deep into opponent’s territory again. That shift in momentum to get zero points and have a turnover that ignited the stadium felt as if the game was out of reach already. It especially felt like that when that turnover was turned into another TD to end the first quarter.
Biggest Takeaway: The Vols slow start wasn’t totally unexpected after the hard earned win last week. Hendon Hooker’s short afternoon with 276 yards, three touchdowns (TDs) and a nice scramble kept his Heisman resume in tact. This may be the best offense in the country but the defense still has holes, allowing nearly 400 yards to the Skyhawks.
Next Week: Home vs. #19 Kentucky Wildcats
3.) Michigan Wolverines (7-0) on BYE
Next Week: Home vs. Michigan State Spartans
4.) Georgia Bulldogs (7-0) on BYE
Next Week: Neutral Site (Jacksonville) vs. Florida Gators
5.) TCU Horned Frogs (7-0) defeated #17 Kansas State Wildcats 38-28
Turning Point: Down 28-17 at the intermission, the Horned Frogs needed some positivity to make the comeback. A long 13-play, 77-yard TD drive was a start but the game really made a turn when interim Kansas State quarterback, Will Howard, went down. Coming up short on third down, the next play was a missed field goal which got the crowd really energized and sparked some belief on the TCU sidelines.
Biggest Takeaway: The offense was incredible as always but the Horned Frogs defense didn’t have many answers for Howard, who did an incredible job filling in for Adrian Martinez. Howard’s first four possessions were all TDs, really putting TCU’s defense on their heels. Of course they started to figure it out and get some stops but they won’t always be so lucky.
Next Week: Away vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
6.) Clemson Tigers (8-0) defeated #14 Syracuse Orange 27-21
Turning Point: After a quarterback swap in favor of freshman Cade Klubnik, the Tigers were staring at a 3rd and 21 on his first drive late in the third quarter. Scrambling to the sideline, he was hit out of bounds thus extending the drive. Thanks to the penalty, the Tigers were able to find the end zone, which cut the deficit to 21-18, giving Clemson the momentum needed to mount the comeback.
Biggest Takeaway: Even though they were able to pull out a win against a tough Syracuse squad, there’s still many questions about this team. The defensive line is the only unit that shows up every week. Now with questions in the quarterback room, will the team be able to remain focused without knowing if they will get good quarterback play? Time will tell but fortunately they have the bye week to figure out the way forward.
Next Week: IDLE
7.) Oregon Ducks (6-1) defeated #9 UCLA Bruins 45-30
Turning Point: Up 17-10 with 10:49 to go in the first half, the Ducks decided to get tricky and steal a possession. A beautifully executed onside kick gave the the ball back to an offense that was on fire. This momentum shift that ended up in a 24-10 Ducks lead with the TD drive felt like a mountain that the Bruins were never going to be able to climb.
Biggest Takeaway: Quarterback Bo Nix looks extremely comfortable in the offense, making the right reads and throwing strikes with accuracy downfield. When the offense is playing this good, the defense just have be average for them to win games. Right now, there’s no doubt this is the team to beat in the PAC-12, and not because of the ranking but because of how they’re executing.
Next Week: Away vs. California Golden Bears
8.) Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) defeated #24 Mississippi State Bulldogs 30-6
Turning Point: Early in the third quarter, when the score was 24-0, the Bulldogs had a long drive that came up empty handed. Having a 14-play 50-yard journey that took up nearly five minutes, which was null and void, was a killer. The Bulldogs had multiple first half drives into Tide territory that resulted in zero points but this specific drive felt like the nail in the coffin.
Biggest Takeaway: When the offense and defense play complimentary football, this team is solid. It was alarming to watch the struggles in the run game but that’s why quarterback Bryce Young is the Heisman holder, making incredible plays with his legs and arm. Also, seeing the defense’s response following last week’s performance was a subtle reminder that Nick Saban historically plugs holes better than anyone.
Next Week: IDLE
9.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1) defeated #20 Texas Longhorns 41-34
Turning Point: The stage was set, all knotted up at 34 with under four minutes to go. Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders hit wideout Bryson Green on a slant, which he turned into six points after a few broken tackles. That 41-yard score to give the Cowboys a seven-point lead proved to be enough as they hung on to win.
Biggest Takeaway: Thankfully Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers had quite the inaccurate outing, going 19/49. That takes nothing away from the effort on the defensive side of the ball to spurn the Longhorns in the fourth quarter. They have to find a way to get the offense going sooner though because they won’t always be able to make the comeback like they did against Texas. The Baylor game should be the blueprint for this squad.
Next Week: Away vs. #22 Kansas State Wildcats
10.) USC Trojans (6-1) on BYE
Next Week: Away vs. Arizona Wildcats