COLLEGE FOOTBALL: What To Watch In Week Eight

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With the first College Football Playoff Rankings just a week and a half away, we still don’t have a clear picture of which way the committee will go.

Cincinnati has its highest ranking in the history of the program as it sits at No. 2 in the polls, but will the committee recognize a non-Power Five school in its rankings? Or will the win against a 2-4 Indiana team and a weak schedule the rest of the way doom the Bearcats playoff chances?

Alabama lost to an unranked Texas A&M team, but only dropped four spots in the rankings. Where will they be ranked in the first playoff poll? And does the SEC have a legitimate shot at getting two teams into the CFP?

Those questions remain to be answered, so we focus on the week at hand.

The week eight slate isn’t going to fire anyone up. There isn’t a single top-25 AP matchup on Saturday, but there are some intriguing games.

Let’s dive into the week eight slate of the college football season.

No. 6 Michigan vs Northwestern — 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX

As Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines prepare for what could be their biggest matchup of the season against Michigan State in week nine, they better make sure not to look past the matchup right in front of their eyes.

Northwestern — sitting at 3-3 and led by coach Pat Fitzgerald — has been a disappointment to date, but a win against Michigan would quickly change things around.

“We have to play cleaner than we have on the road this year,” Fitzgerald said. “We have not played very well on the road. This is by far probably the best team we’ve played all year to this point. It’s not even close, in my opinion, watching everybody on tape that we’ve prepared for. So this is going to be a huge challenge.”

Michigan is coming off a bye week after beating unranked Nebraska, but needed a fourth quarter comeback in a three point win.

“The team has been very locked in. Daily, weekly,” Harbaugh said. “I think I’ve really continued to be pleased with how they attack every single day.”

Iowa State vs No. 8 Oklahoma State — 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX

Oklahoma State moved into the top-10 for the first time this season after beating No. 25 Texas 32-24 on the road, but a visit to Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, is the perfect setting for a trap game.

After losing a close one to Baylor in week four, Iowa State put a beatdown on Kansas in week five and took down Kansas State 33-20. Head coach Matt Campbell knows he’s facing a top defense in Oklahoma State, giving up just 307.2 yards per game.

“There’s so many guys on this defense,” Campbell said. “I feel like they’ve been there 15 years on this defense. It’s like names and numbers, that it’s like, ‘Geez.’ … I feel like there’s a great sense of mastery of knowing exactly where they need to fit, where they need to be. I think it allows them to have a ton of success.”

Running back Jaylen Warren was fantastic against Texas, rushing for 193 yards on 33 carries, but Iowa State’s defense is playing at another level. They’re ranked third in the country in yards allowed per game (251.3) and allowing just 16.3 points per game.

UCLA vs No. 10 Oregon — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

We all know that Oregon is the Pac-12’s only shot at the College Football Playoff, however bleak the chances.

UCLA is 5-2 in Chip Kelly’s fourth season at the helm, and a victory over Oregon would point to the program turnaround being complete. Especially with “College Gameday” coming to the UCLA campus.

Oregon and UCLA are second and third in the Pac-12 in scoring, with both offenses posing a problem for defenses with their dual threat quarterbacks.

“Everything they do is trying to put your defense in conflict,” Kelly said. “They probably throw more RPOS or run more RPOS than anybody in the country. It’s kind of what their MO is. They’re trying [to] trick you and fool you. We’ve got to be really disciplined with our eyes. Our defense has to be really disciplined this week.”

No. 4 Alabama vs Tennessee — 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

At least this game won’t be at Neyland Stadium, giving Tennessee fans a chance to cool off following their meltdown late in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss.

Alabama has won 14 straight against the Vols, but head coach Nick Saban isn’t taking Tennessee lightly.

“You can say it however you want to say it, but it’s significant if you don’t have success in the game, because it’s significant to a lot of people,” the Tide coach said. “And whatever happened in the last however many years will have no impact on this game at all. The only thing that matters is what happens now.”

“For now, this week, it’s a rivalry game to me and I hope it is to everybody in our organization.”

Josh Heupel has Tennessee playing well in his first year as head coach, but Alabama is a whole different beast.

“It’s a huge opponent,” Heupel said of Alabama. “They’re a really good football team and it’s a rivalry game — one that our guys and staff will be extremely excited about being ready for and going down to Tuscaloosa and competing against a really good football team.”

No. 13 Notre Dame vs USC — 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC

You didn’t think I’d skip over one of the premiere rivalries in all of college football, did you?

After skipping a year due to the COVID pandemic, the two historic programs meet in South Bend for the 92nd time. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is tasked with getting his team to rebound after a loss to Cincinnati in week five, while USC is 2-2 under interim head coach Donte Williams.

“We’re going to play our rival, and they’ve had a number of different head coaches at their university,” Kelly said after beating Purdue. “I’m talking about our rival on the West Coast, and this is not to smear them at all. It requires consistency to get to these marks.”

Kelly is 7-3 all-time against USC.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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