College Football: 25 Things We Learned from Week 8
College football's 2013 season got even crazier in Week 8. Louisville, Houston and UCLA all dropped their "undefeated" tags, and many of the SEC's hopefuls are not even ranked anymore. Teams we thought were good are not, and the opposite is true as well.
Thousands of minutes of college football taught us hundreds of lessons. Here are 25 things we learned from Week 8.
25. South Carolina's Dream Season Is a Nightmare
South Carolina is sitting firmly in the back seat of the SEC title race. Of course, more than half the division is sitting two games behind the Missouri Tigers, so the Gamecocks aren't alone.
They had a relatively favorable schedule at the beginning of the season, but their performances have been lackluster and inadequate. South Carolina has to win all of its remaining games and hope that Missouri takes two losses.
Week 9 holds the key game. The Gamecocks meet Mizzou head-to-head. The season is not completely lost, yet, but it is definitely a nightmare.
24. BYU May Be the Most Overlooked Team in the Country
BYU lost to the Virginia Cavaliers on opening weekend, and that cost them a lot of respect. Since then, the Cougars have stormed through their schedule. They took a second loss to the Utah Utes, but they also took down Georgia Tech and a previously undefeated Houston.
BYU has more big-time games coming, namely against Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. If the Cougars can win even one of those games, they won't be overlooked anymore.
23. Miami (FL) Has a Lot of Work to Do
The Miami Hurricanes are undefeated with a signature win over Florida early in the season. Since then, they have not logged a single dominant performance. Well, aside from the 77-7 win over Savannah State.
Miami is beating teams like North Carolina (1-5) by just four points. Miami has one more opportunity to improve before taking on the BCS No. 2 Florida State Seminoles. The 'Noles just blasted then-No. 3 Clemson 51-14.
If Miami doesn't recover its rhythm, it is not going to beat FSU. Especially is Stephen Morris can't control his tendency to toss picks. He's got eight so far, and he threw four against North Carolina alone.
22. Georgia's Injuries Are Life-Threatening
Georgia has lost two running backs and four wide receivers (13 players in total) so far this season, and its back-to-back losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt prove that this is just the beginning for the Bulldogs. They are absolutely not going to the national championship game.
At this point, with Georgia's roster decimated, Fresno State would be a better bet for the crystal football than Georgia.
21. Oregon State Is the Nation's Biggest Sleeper
Up until the BCS standings came out, Oregon State was completely off the radar. Now that they're out, the Beavers are still just ranked 25th. As a one-loss team from a power conference, that has to sting a bit.
The remaining schedule against Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon will sort all this out, but the Beavers will have the element of surprise against more than one of those teams.
20. Surprisingly, Maryland Is Terrible...
Maryland started this season 4-0, culminating in a 37-point shutout of the West Virginia Mountaineers. West Virginia turned around and upset the Oklahoma State Cowboys the week after the Maryland game.
The Terrapins lost to Florida State 63-0, but that still didn't mean they were bad. Heck, Clemson just lost to the Seminoles by 37 points, and the Tigers were ranked No. 3 at the time.
Enter Week 8: Maryland lost big-time to Wake Forest, who has the country's 103rd-ranked offense. Can the Terrapins make it to the postseason? Yes. Will they? Well, that's entirely up to their performance.
They have Clemson, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Boston College and NC State left. Based on the Wake Forest game, it doesn't look good.
19. Houston, on the Other Hand, Is Not
Houston was undefeated coming into Week 8, but dropped a one-point decision to the BYU Cougars. Luckily for Houston, BYU is a good team. Houston's near-win in that game proved that the Cougars have what it takes to contend for the American Athletic Conference crown.
The Cougars boast the country's No. 16 offense and No. 48 defense. They aren't gunning for the national title, but they could make the Top 25 before the season is over. If the past few weeks of upsets indicate the future, that's highly probable.
18. Louisville Was Overrated
Louisville won some questionable contests leading to the Oct. 18 battle with Central Florida. Some thought the Cardinals were overrated even before the season started, but it wasn't confirmed until UCF's comeback knocked them off their pedestal.
Louisville's trip to the BCS title game is finished, but it's still the top-ranked team in the AAC. The path to the BCS party is still paved in red.
17. The American Athletic Conference Is out of the BCS Championship Race
Louisville and Houston both lost their first games of the season in Week 8, effectively removing the entire AAC from the championship discussion. It's difficult enough for a one-loss team to get into the game in the first place, but with the AAC's perceived weakness, there's no shot now.
The fact that Houston, a member of Conference USA just last season, is doing extremely well in its new home actually confirms the weakness of the AAC as a whole. (C-USA is one of the non-AQ FBS conferences.)
The conference is slipping, and it looks like the playoff system will be the death blow. With no such thing as AQ status, there won't be an automatic bowl bid for this unit anymore.
16. UCF Is Still Underrated
Central Florida waited until the third quarter to wake up and hand Louisville its first loss of the season. The Knights overcame a 28-7 deficit to score the 38-35 monster comeback.
Three weeks before this game, they stood toe-to-toe with the SEC's South Carolina Gamecocks. They stand at 5-1 with no extremely difficult games left this season. Yes, there are possible losses to Houston, Rutgers and SMU waiting in the wings, but UCF is more than capable of winning any one of those games.
The Knights have quietly taken care of business, and there's more than a decent chance that they'll win the AAC. That would put them right into the BCS picture. Not the national picture, mind you, but the bowl party nonetheless.
15. The SEC Does Not Have 8 Great Teams
The Southeastern Conference dropped two teams from the rankings in Week 8 alone, but that doesn't tell the entire story. The first iteration of the BCS standings hold just six teams from the conference of champions.
The side story here is that the SEC lost more teams from the Top 10. In total, the SEC has just two teams within striking distance of the national title: Alabama and Missouri. (It had three in the Week 8 rankings.)
Technically, the Auburn Tigers have a shot at the national championship, and we don't want to gloss over that. However, they are still sitting at No. 11, decidedly not in striking distance of the crystal football at the moment.
Compare all that to the preseason poll. The mighty conference had 50 percent of the Top 10 teams. This conference is falling, which we will cover more in a later slide.
14. Tennessee Is on the Way Back
Tennessee lost to Florida by 14 points in Week 4 and to Georgia by three points in Week 6. All signs pointed to an imminent signature win. The Volunteers scored that win in Week 8: a 23-21 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Tennessee has been looking for a win like that since Derek Dooley took over. He couldn't get it done, so the Vols turned to Butch Jones of Cincinnati. Jones has already come through, and his squad is poised to make it to the postseason in 2013.
The games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky are likely wins, but one upset over either Alabama, Missouri or Auburn might even earn the Vols a couple of votes int he AP.
13. Hugh Freeze Is onto Something
Hugh Freeze hauled in the country's No. 5 recruiting class in 2013, and he's already got a lot of those kids on the field. You may ask, "Why?" The answer is simple, "Those kids can beat LSU."
Ole Miss has risen like a star in the SEC West, and the Rebels already have four wins. In 2011, they logged just two wins through the entire season. Freeze has his program running like a champ, and he could score a conference title by 2015.
12. The SEC Is a Zero-Sum System
The SEC has dominated the past seven years of college football, and its streak of national championships proves that. Unfortunately for the conference, Hugh Freeze and Butch Jones are now in town, and they're taking quality recruits off the trail.
Also, Texas A&M and Missouri have come in and snagged some major recruits, like Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri). They all come from the same recruiting trail, and the conference is no longer as top-heavy as it was.
So far, the SEC is having a down year. However, it's not going to get better in the future. Somebody has to win, therefore someone must lose. The seasons with more than two title contenders are a thing of the past.
Injuries to teams like Georgia have just made it more obvious sooner.
11. Stanford Cannot Go Undefeated, but Still Looks Like a Champion
Stanford lost back in Week 7, so don't think you're reading the wrong article. However, the Cardinal rebounded against the UCLA Bruins in Week 8 to return to championship contention, both conference and national.
Stanford is in a peculiar situation. It's almost as if the Cardinal don't believe they can lose until they actually do. After that initial loss, they rarely add more than one for the rest of the season.
Stanford held UCLA to 10 points on Oct. 19. Prior to this game, the Bruins were tagging defenses for at least 34 in every single match. Its defense played lights-out, and the Cardinal looked nearly unbeatable.
Fans have to be asking, "Why can't you do that for one entire season?" The Cardinal might be the biggest fans of the playoff system that's coming in 2014.
10. Oregon Can Start Slowly; It's Still Oregon
Oregon looked nothing like itself for 30 minutes of its Week 8 game against Washington State. The Ducks took just a 10-point lead into halftime. It honestly looked like the Ducks might have trouble putting the 4-3 (before this game) Cougars away.
Then the second half came. Oregon rediscovered itself in the locker room and outscored Wazzu 28-14 in the final half-hour. The Ducks may scare their fans sometimes, but they're averaging an insane 57.6 points per game.
Their lowest total so far is the 45 against Washington. These are still the Ducks.
9. Alabama's Defense Has Come a Long Way Since the Texas A&M Game
Disregard the nine points that Georgia State and Colorado State scored (total) against Alabama. Anyone can keep a good score in a money game. The Tide's defense performed terribly against Texas A&M, and it allowed 42 points that day.
The good news for Alabama fans is its performance in the other games. Alabama allowed a total of seven points to Ole Miss, Kentucky and Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored 33 on Texas A&M recently, so that proves that the 'Bama defense has vastly improved since the A&M game.
It doesn't prove exactly how much, of course, but Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have clearly made successful adjustments. Let's see if they hold up against arch-rival Tennessee in Week 9.
8. Maty Mauk Can Handle the Pressure
Injury thrust Maty Mauk into the staring role as Missouri's quarterback late in the Georgia game. The next match was against the Florida Gators, and Mauk was in charge of an undefeated SEC program.
How did he handle the pressure? Brilliantly. He led the Tigers to a 36-17 win over the vaunted Gators. He went 18-of-36 for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Sure, he needs a little work, but he's a redshirt freshman. They all need a little work.
If he continues at this rate, James Franklin won't have a job opening to come back to.
7. Missouri Is a Legitimate Threat
In spite of a redshirt freshman leading the way, Missouri took down an SEC power program in Week 8. The Tigers shot from unranked to No. 5 in the BCS in a matter of two short, albeit impressive, weeks.
Missouri is ranked respectably on both offense (No. 8) and defense (No. 33), and the Tigers have taken down two ranked teams in a row: Georgia on the road and Florida at home. Missouri has earned its stripes, and it is a legitimate threat to play in the national title game.
6. So Is Auburn
Auburn is less of a threat than Missouri is, but the Tigers stole a signature victory from the Texas A&M Aggies in Week 8. The Tigers rocketed to No. 11 in the first BCS rankings, and they are poised to ruin another team's season.
If said team (say, Alabama) doesn't recognize the threat, the Tigers could be out to an insurmountable lead before anybody wakes up. Even if they don't grab a huge lead, they might just repeat the Texas A&M feat and come from behind to smack down a potential national champion.
Auburn is not the SEC's baby this season, by any means, but that doesn't mean Gus Malzahn can't make that happen. After all, is has just one loss.
5. Florida State Might Be Better Than Oregon
The BCS confirmed the theory that Florida State might be better than Oregon, though it's by just 0.0028 points at the moment. Oregon's strength of schedule could help it stay ahead of the Seminoles, but there's no denying what happened in Week 8.
Florida State went to Clemson, demolished the Tigers 51-14 and earned every bit of its current No. 2 ranking. The Seminoles exposed Clemson's secondary to the tune of 444 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception.
Clemson was ranked No. 3 before this game. The smack-down pushed them to ninth.
4. Clemson's BCS Championship Hopes Are Dashed
Clemson holds a promising No. 9 rank according to the BCS. The Tigers did beat a completely healthy Georgia team on opening weekend, so that's a major point in their favor.
The bad news is that they just lost a game by 37 points, and it was 51-7 with 30 seconds left in the game. A one-loss team can absolutely make the BCS title game. However, that performance has Clemson near the bottom of that barrel.
The only hope the Tigers have is that South Carolina completely redeems itself before the end of the season. (Good luck!) If the Tigers then managed to take down a second SEC power in a season, they'd also have to hope that Oregon, Alabama, Florida State and probably even Ohio State lost one or more games.
With odds this horrible, it's hard to understand the No. 9 ranking at all.
3. Non-AQ MVP: The Process of Elimination
However, after all the Week 8 upsets in the FBS, those two are squatting at 17-18 in the BCS with nothing but clear skies in front of them. Fresno's toughest remaining opponent is San Jose State, and NIU's is Ball State.
Neither game is a guaranteed win, but the schedules are definitely easier than the rest of the Top 25's slates.
2. Michigan Has an Offense
Michigan scored 63 points in Week 8. Let that sink in for a minute. It almost doesn't matter who they tagged for that score, because Michigan hadn't scored points like that since the season opener against Central Michigan. (It was against Indiana, by the way.)
The road to the conference title game still lies through Michigan State and Nebraska, but the Spartans have a terrible time scoring points. With the Wolverines' offense clicking like it is, this could still be a title-winning season for them.
1. Baylor Is the Big 12's Only Hope
In a world filled with Oregons, Alabamas and Florida States, the Big 12 is a lost puppy. It's favorites have actively fallen by the wayside as the season has progressed (more like jumped into a ditch).
All that remain are Texas Tech and Baylor. Admittedly, Baylor hasn't played tough competition yet, but the Bears did take down Iowa State 71-7 on Oct. 19. Before Baylor, Iowa State hadn't lost a game by more than eight points.
FYI: The Cyclones played Texas Tech the week before the Bears and lost 42-35. Baylor hasn't proven itself, but that moment is coming quickly. November holds back-to-back games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Statistically, Baylor should be the favorite in each of those games.
The Bears are the class of the Big 12. If they can't do it, nobody else can.