Top BCS Impact Games of Week 8 in College Football
Week 8 is the last chance for teams to make an impression before the first batch of BCS rankings, and some teams are in a prime spot to affect where they stand.
Whether it be out on the east coast, where ACC rivals Clemson and Florida State play the week's marquee game, or out on the Pacific, where a rematch of last year's Pac-12 championship looms, what happens in Week 8 will have a major affect on the first BCS standings.
Bleacher Report's resident BCS guru, Sam Chi, compiled the five biggest impact games on the Week 8 schedule. Here's a quick preview of each one.
5. Central Florida at Louisville
This is the hardest game on Louisville's schedule, and looking ahead at the Cardinals' next five games, it could well be their most realistic shot of losing.
UCF has exceeded expectations this year, riding the arm of Blake Bortles and the legs of Storm Johnson to a 4-1 record. It beat Penn State in Happy Valley—a task that proved too big for Michigan—and gave South Carolina a scare before losing by three.
The Cardinals defense, which has allowed an FBS-best 7.3 points per game this year, will be in for its biggest test of the season and needs a complete team effort.
"These [defensive] guys were young when they started and now they're grown up," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said to the Lexington Herald-Leader. "All the guys play off one another and they don't care who gets the glory."
Louisville knew that this back-to-back with Rutgers and UCF would be the hardest of its season, so theoretically, it should have been prepared to play its best football. But the Cardinals offense looked sloppy in a 14-point home win over Rutgers, showing some potential cracks in its armour.
The BCS ramifications here are obvious: If Louisville loses, the end of the season will be far less controversial. We wouldn't have to deal with the Cardinals' undefeated record and claim for inclusion in the BCS National Championship Game.
Should they lose, Teddy Bridgewater and Co. would still have a (good) shot at making a BCS bowl from the AAC. But their already slim national title hopes would be lost.
4. Florida at Missouri
Missouri proved its worth at Georgia last week, beating a hobbled Bulldogs team by two touchdowns and jumping from No. 25 to No. 14 in the AP poll.
But the victory might have been a Pyrrhic one. Senior quarterback James Franklin, who was playing the best football of his career, hurt his shoulder and will be sidelined for at least three to five weeks.
In his stead, athletic redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will take the reins. He looked good running a limited playbook in the fourth quarter against Georgia, but starting a game and having to earn (rather than nurse) a lead is a much harder task—especially against Florida's swarming defense.
"Quarterbacks have success for certain reasons," said head coach Gary Pinkel, according to Missouri's official website. "[It] is important to them to have poise...under pressure. He is going to be nervous but he will do fine."
Playing at home should help with Mauk's butterflies, as should an opposing offense that's also being run by a backup quarterback. Tyler Murphy has had a few weeks of reps since Jeff Driskel went down with a broken leg, but the Gators offense could still struggle to score points in a hostile environment.
As far as BCS impact, this game is another chance to see what Missouri is made of. It's undefeated and has a fairly kind schedule—if Mauk proves capable under center, the Tigers could be a sleeper to win the SEC East and crash a BCS bowl.
3. Auburn at Texas A&M
Despite often being the smallest man in the huddle, Johnny Manziel has carried Texas A&M on his back these first seven weeks, posting Heisman-type numbers en route to a 5-1 start.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn had high praise for Mr. Football, comparing him to former Tiger Cam Newton, whom Malzahn coached as offensive coordinator during the team's national title run in 2011.
"I would say probably those two are probably two of the best that ever played the game in college football," Malzahn said, via Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "They're different but they're still some of the best to ever play."
Still, Auburn is a team capable of exploiting the Aggies' soft defensive front. The Tigers are especially good on the ground, averaging a robust 287 yards per game (seventh in the FBS) behind the legs of Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant.
By contrast, Texas A&M ranks 105th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game, ceding over 200 yards per game and getting bullied on the ground by teams like Rice and Sam Houston State.
Will Auburn be able to control the clock and keep Manziel of the field? Will Johnny Football be able to keep up his streak of outscoring SEC opponents?
The answers could decide A&M's BCS fate.
2. UCLA at Stanford
Stanford's season is at a crossroads after losing at Utah last Saturday, and a home loss to UCLA would all but bury its hopes of heading back to the Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal did beat UCLA in consecutive weeks last season—once in Week 13, once in the Pac-12 Championship Game—but this year's Bruins team looks stronger on both sides of the ball. In some ways, they've modeled themselves in Stanford's blue-collar light.
"I wanted to create a program that would not break," said Mora of his rebuilding project, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. "Not just knock-them-down tough, but mentally tough."
In Stanford Stadium, that toughness will be tested like it hasn't been all year. The Cardinal might be tired from a tough back-to-back, but with their season on the line, they will come out with fire and try to push UCLA around.
If Brett Hundley can take his team on the road and emerge with a victory, folks will have to start taking UCLA seriously as a BCS contender.
If not, this might be a year where the Pac-12's depth is its undoing.
1. Florida State at Clemson
According to B/R's Sam Chi, this is "easily the biggest ACC game in the BCS era," and it's not hard to see why. Not only would the winner take control of the conference, it would also stay undefeated and score a huge win in the eyes of the computers.
The stakes have never been higher in this modern rivalry, and by many accounts, the teams have never been better. FSU and Clemson are firing on all cylinders, and even an ugly effort from the Tigers last week can't change that.
Because of the two elite quarterbacks, Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston, and the amount of playmakers surrounding them, many people are expecting a shootout. But Florida State wants to keep the tempo more restrained.
"We definitely don't want to be in a shootout with them, where we're going back-to-back [scoring]," said FSU running back James Wilder, via Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel. "We have to be realistic."
The Seminoles already saw one great offense, Georgia, go into Memorial Stadium, cater to a shootout tempo and lose by three points. They know the key to this game will be keeping Clemson's offense off the field with smart, efficient drives.
If they can do that, their defense is good enough to make a few stops and win this game on the road.