College Football Week 8: Previews and Predictions for the Top 10 Games

Josh Sachnoff@@JSachnov17Contributor IIIOctober 18, 2013

College Football Week 8: Previews and Predictions for the Top 10 Games

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    Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    Week 8 could prove to be one the best weeks of the 2013 college football season.

    There are six matchups that could go either way. The first one starting with the big showdown in Death Valley on Saturday night between No. 5 Florida State and No. 3 Clemson. Both teams are undefeated and are looking to keep themselves in the BCS National Championship picture. 

    UCLA at Stanford will be another game with national implications, along with Florida and Missouri, where the Tigers are looking to keep themselves in position to contend for an SEC East Division title. 

    Washington will head to Tempe after losing back-to-back games to Stanford and Oregon. The Huskies should be in for a shootout type game with Arizona State.

    Lastly, USC and Notre Dame will clash in South Bend in what continues to be one of the best rivalries in college football. 

    With an intriguing lineup of games just one day away, here are the top games to watch.

No. 22 Florida at No. 14 Missouri

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    Starting Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy.
    Starting Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    No. 22 Florida @ No. 14 Missouri, 12:21 p.m. ET, ESPN3

    After an upset win at Georgia last Saturday, Missouri is undefeated and ready to make a run at the SEC East Division title. 

    They are without starting quarterback James Franklin, who suffered a shoulder sprain and is expected to be out for three to five weeks. For the time being, though, it will be up to redshirt freshman Maty Mauk to lead the Tigers under center. His main target will be L’Damian Washington, who had a big game at Georgia by recording 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns. 

    Missouri’s defense forced four turnovers against Georgia, including a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive end Michael Sam. Sam is currently leading the SEC with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. 

    The Florida offense continues to struggle against good teams and the defense has no choice but to play lockdown defense against its opponents. A physical Gator defense is holding opponents to 13.0 points per game (fourth in the country) and 235.3 yard per game (second in the country).

    Florida's offense must grind it out on the ground and be able to battle their way into the end zone. They are currently only scoring 21.8 points per game (104th in the country).

    The Gator defense will have the challenge of keeping the eighth-highest scoring offense in the country off the scoreboard. If they don't, their hopes of winning the SEC East Division will likely be over. 

    Prediction: Florida 23, Missouri 17

No. 24 Auburn at No. 7 Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel against Ole Miss on Oct. 12.
    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel against Ole Miss on Oct. 12.Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 24 Auburn @ No. 7 Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

    This is a huge opportunity for Auburn to make a statement against a highly talented Texas A&M team, but winning at Kyle Field is never an easy task. 

    Quarterback Nick Marshall will return after sitting out last week against Western Carolina due to a minor knee injury. Marshall, along with running back Tre Mason, will need to make big plays on the ground because the passing game has not been as strong.

    The Tigers have been successful running the ball this season, as they've averaged 287.0 yards per game, which is the seventh-best in the country.  

    The Auburn defense gave up 671 yards and 63 points to the Aggies last season, but they've improved since then. The question is, though, whether or not they've improved enough. 

    Johnny Manziel is putting up Heisman-like numbers (1,835 passing yards, 438 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns) and will be in charge of giving the Auburn defense headaches for a second year in a row. With one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the country and a solid rushing attack, the Aggies shouldn't be worried about putting points up. 

    The Texas A&M defense has been subpar at best this season, but they will do enough to contain the Auburn offense.

    The Aggies will be much too strong offensively, and after a close call last week at Ole Miss, Texas A&M will win handily on Saturday.  

    Prediction: Texas A&M 48, Auburn 24

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

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    Wide receiver Ty Montgomery against Washington on Oct. 5.
    Wide receiver Ty Montgomery against Washington on Oct. 5.Stephen Lam/Getty Images

    No. 9 UCLA @ No. 13 Stanford, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

    UCLA lost to Stanford twice in one week last season, one of which was for the Pac-12 Championship with a trip to the Rose Bowl. Will the Bruins (5-0), led by quarterback Brett Hundley, be able to ruin the Cardinal's 12-game home winning streak and give them their second loss in two weeks? 

    The Bruins are off to their best start since 2005 under second-year head coach Jim Mora. They are currently averaging 45.8 points per game (seventh in the country) and racking up 547.0 yards per game (fifth in the country).

    Hundley has passed for 1,469 yards, rushed for 260 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. Running the ball will be key to opening up the offense, even without Jordon James, who is doubtful because of an ankle injury. UCLA only had 78 total rushing yards last week against California.   

    UCLA found a way to get out of Salt Lake City on Oct. 3 with a 34-27 win over Utah, but Stanford was not as fortunate this past Saturday, as they were upset 27-21. Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan needs to be able to get the ball to talented wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who has also been dangerous on special teams by returning kickoffs of 99 and 100 yards for touchdowns in Stanford’s past two games.  

    The stout Cardinal defense, led by its talented linebacking corps, continues to be solid against the run. Defending the pass, though, has been more of a problem, as the Cardinal have given up 256.3 yards per game. 

    Stanford is currently 11th in the Pac-12 in total offense (404.2 yards per game) and if UCLA’s defense, led by its linebacking corps, can force pressure on Hogan, it could make things rather difficult for Stanford to put points up.  

    One thing, though, UCLA hasn't played an opponent of this caliber yet, and David Shaw will have his team ready to go at home after a tough loss. Stanford hasn't lost two consecutive games since 2009 when Andrew Luck was just a redshirt freshman. 

    It will be a close game, but the Cardinal will find a way to get the job done and hand UCLA its first loss of the season.  

    Prediction: Stanford 30, UCLA 27

USC at Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame starting quarterback Tommy Rees.
    Notre Dame starting quarterback Tommy Rees.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    USC @ Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC

    It's one of the most historic rivalries in all of college football, and there is always something on the line.

    USC heads into South Bend under interim head coach Ed Orgeron after getting a much-needed 38-31 win over Arizona. Notre Dame comes in off a bye week after surprising Arizona State 37-34 on Oct. 5.  

    The Trojans finally made strides on offense in their win over Arizona. Cody Kessler was finally throwing the ball downfield and wide receiver Nelson Agholor benefited by racking up 161 receiving yards and scoring one touchdown. Silas Redd also made his season debut after recovering from a knee injury and led the Trojans on the ground with 80 rushing yards. 

    The defense played well, until the fourth quarter when they gave up 14 points in the last 6:48 of the game, which put pressure on the offense to get three first downs to run the clock out. 

    The Irish struggled offensively against Oklahoma, but then they put on a solid performance against Arizona State.

    Tommy Rees needs to pass the ball the way he did against Arizona State, otherwise Notre Dame will be in danger of being eliminated from any BCS bowl game opportunity they may have had. Wide receiver TJ Jones must also be a game-changer in the receiving game because USC has been holding its opponents to just 107.2 rushing yards per game. 

    The Irish defense led by its defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III must cause Kessler to make bad decisions with the football and be able to contain the Trojans through the air. Star wide receiver Marqise Lee is planning to play on Saturday, which could be another problem for the Notre Dame secondary.

    It's going to be a close game, and it will come down to who wins the turnover battle. A loss wouldn't affect USC in the Pac-12 race, but a win would provide confidence for them heading forward. 

    Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 21

No. 5 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson

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    Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
    Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    No. 5 Florida State @ No. 3 Clemson, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

    It's the game that will decide who wins the ACC Atlantic Division title for a third straight year and likely who will win the ACC Conference. Both come in undefeated with Heisman Trophy caliber quarterbacks leading the way. 

    Jameis Winston has been the most impressive newcomer of the year thus far by passing for 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Florida State offense is averaging 53.6 points per game and are no worse than 18th in the country in passing and rushing yards per game.

    Wide receiver Kenny Shaw has played a major role in the Seminole offense and is averaging 93.2 yards per game.

    The ‘Nole defense has continued to pick up where they left off last year by being one of the best in the country. They are holding opponents to an impressive 12.0 points per game and have shut teams down through the air (149.0 yards per game). 

    Clemson continues to be dangerous offensively with senior quarterback Tajh Boyd already accounting for 1,783 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Not to mention, Boyd has one of the most lethal wide receivers in the country with Sammy Watkins. Watkins has put up 582 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season.

    The Tiger defense, like Florida State’s, has been keeping opponents off the scoreboard by allowing only 16.2 points per game. The defense, led by defensive end Vic Beasley, is also second in the country in sacks with 24.0.  

    It will be a shootout once again between these two teams, and it’s going to come down to which defense can make the big stop in the fourth quarter. 

    Prediction: Clemson 45, Florida State 38

The Other Five

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    Washington running back Bishop Sankey against Oregon on Oct. 12.
    Washington running back Bishop Sankey against Oregon on Oct. 12.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    No. 16 Texas Tech @ West Virginia, 12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

    West Virginia was off to an impressive 5-0 start in 2012 until they traveled down to Lubbock and were dismantled by Texas Tech 49-14. 

    Now it's the Red Raiders, who are undefeated at 6-0 for the first time since 2008, that will head to Morgantown to keep their Big 12 title hopes alive.

    This week, backup quarterback Davis Webb was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. Webb, who filled in for an injured Baker Mayfield, passed for 415 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-35 win over Iowa State.

    There is no word on who will start on Saturday, but the West Virginia defense better have done some soul searching in their bye week after giving up 864 yards and eight rushing touchdowns to Baylor. Otherwise, it could get ugly again. 

    Prediction: Texas Tech 48, West Virginia 28

    TCU @ No. 21 Oklahoma State, 12 p.m. ET, FOX

    Oklahoma State comes in off a bye week after nearly escaping a pesky Kansas State team, 33-29. TCU has surprisingly already lost three games this season and would like nothing better than to come out of Stillwater with a win.

    The Horned Frogs defense, though, must be able to contain quarterback J.W. Walsh, who is the heart and soul of the offense by leading his team in passing and rushing yards. TCU must avoid turning the ball over on offense, which they have done 11 times this season, if they want any chance of knocking off the Pokes.

    TCU will keep themselves in the game but fall in the end.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, TCU 24

    BYU @ Houston, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS

    The quietest undefeated team is without a doubt Houston. The Cougars are 5-0 and have already matched their win total from 2012. This will be their toughest opponent yet this season and will be a clear indication if Houston is an improved team or not.

    The Houston offense has quarterback John O’Korn and wide receiver Deontay Greenberry, who has accounted for 606 receiving yards and three touchdowns, but BYU comes in with a talented rushing attack led by quarterback Taysom Hill and a defense surrendering just 17.3 points per game.

    Prediction: BYU 35, Houston 21


    No. 20 Washington @ Arizona State, 6 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

    This will be the second-best Pac-12 matchup of Week 8. Washington is on a two-game losing streak heading into the desert, and Arizona State comes in after a blowout 54-13 win over Colorado.

    Both teams are good defensively, but it will be on the offenses to win this game. The Sun Devils will put up a good fight, but the Huskies, with quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey, will come away with the victory.

    Prediction: Washington 41, Arizona State 32

    No. 6 LSU @ Ole Miss,  7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

    LSU was able to fend off Florida last Saturday 17-6 and Ole Miss couldn't hold off Texas A&M in the fourth quarter. It was the Rebels third-straight loss this season, and now they may be hitting their fourth loss.

    The Tigers have weapons on offense with quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who has passed for 1,890 yards and 15 touchdowns, and wide receiver Odell Beckham, who is fourth in the country with 733 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Jeremy Hill has also been dangerous, as he's rushed for an impressive 715 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

    Between LSU's offense and the defense led by tackle Ego Ferguson continuing to improve, Ole Miss is going to have its hands full. It doesn't help that the Rebels will be without potentially eight starters on defense and be possibly without starting running back Jeff Scott.

    Prediction: LSU 38, Ole Miss 26