College Football's All-Week 8 First Team: Top Performers at Every Position
If Week 8 was supposed to be boring, someone forgot to tell these star players.
Out in the Pac-12, a number of playmakers broke records and rattled a facemask or two in some important conference matchups that will go a long way in determining the league's divisional races. Elsewhere, the state of Oklahoma produced two of the best individual stat lines of the entire weekend.
On the defensive side of the ball, a number of players came through with big performances in wins big and small, including a few members of the upset-minded Ramblin' Wreck. Some of the best special teams performances of the entire season happened as well, including a mind-blowing kick from the Golden State.
As we do every Sunday, let's hand out some honors with this week's first and second All-American teams. Remember, these players are chosen mostly on their incredible statistics, with bonuses handed out to ones who made clutch plays in high-profile contests.
The cut list was quite large this week, and some great performances just missed out on a place in the following slides. Tell us your favorite individual performances of Week 8 in the comments below.
Quarterback: Luke Falk (Washington State)
47-of-62 passing for 514 yards, five TDs and zero INTs
Sure, Luke Falk puts up 11 more passing attempts per game than the next quarterback on the national list, but what the sophomore quarterback has done recently has been nothing short of incredible for Washington State.
Falk set a season high for passing yards, threw for five touchdowns and completed more than 75 percent of his passes in the Cougars' third straight Pac-12 win on Saturday, a 45-42 shootout over Arizona. He was interception-free for the fourth time this season and had four of his five touchdowns in the first half.
Behind Falk's efficient passing in Mike Leach's Air Raid attack, Washington State is still very much a contender for the North Division in a topsy-turvy Pac-12 race. Now he'll face Stanford's defense in a monumental Halloween matchup.
Second Team: Dak Prescott (Mississippi State)
25-of-35 passing for 348 yards, three TDs and one INT; 13 carries for 117 yards and three TDs
There were plenty of deserving candidates for the second-team quarterback spot this week—including Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Michigan State's Connor Cook—but Dak Prescott's six all-purpose touchdowns helped ease the pain of his first interception and led to a rout of Kentucky.
Running Backs: Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) and Matt Dayes (NC State)
Perine: 23 carries for 201 yards and four TDs
Although he broke the all-time FBS record for rushing yards in a game last season, Samaje Perine has been mostly quiet this season in Oklahoma's new-look offensive scheme.
But Perine roared back to life Saturday against a hapless Texas Tech defense, rushing for more than 200 yards and finding the end zone four times in a high-scoring destruction of the Red Raiders. Perine has now broken the 200-yard mark four different times in less than two full seasons for the Sooners.
"He's been patient with it," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said, per Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman. "He knows given certain days, we want to be able to run the football as well as throw it. This was a great example of that."
Dayes: 16 carries for 205 yards and two TDs
Matt Dayes had one of the best days of the season from a big-play perspective, rattling off an 85-yard touchdown run and a 57-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of NC State's ACC victory over Wake Forest.
Dayes is quietly having a standout season for the Wolfpack, which snapped a two-game losing skid with the win over the Demon Deacons. He is tied for seventh nationally with a dozen rushing touchdowns on the season, and he gets the least amount of carries per game of anyone inside the top 11 of that category.
Half of his 16 carries against Wake Forest went for first downs, and his 12.8 yards-per-carry mark was one of the best of Week 8 for running backs with at least 10 carries.
Second Team: Tyler Ervin (San Jose State) and Robert Lowe (Texas State)
Ervin: 36 carries for 263 yards and one TD
Lowe: 30 carries for 248 yards and three TDs
This week's second team salutes the nation's top two yardage performances—both from "Group of Five" stars in winning efforts. Tyler Ervin had yet another monster day for San Jose State, while Robert Lowe's three touchdowns led the way in Texas State's first victory over an FBS opponent this season.
Wide Receivers: JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC) and Keyarris Garrett (Tulsa)
Smith-Schuster: Eight receptions for 143 yards and one TD
USC star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster may have only had one touchdown in the Trojans' huge win over No. 3 Utah, but he still made a tremendous impact on the game—and the helmet of a certain Ute cornerback.
Smith-Schuster, who had the most receiving yards of any Power Five player in Week 8, said he decided to silence the trash-talking Dominique Hatfield with a devastating stiff arm near the USC sideline. While his performance as a whole was outstanding, people will talk about this move for a long time.
"[Hatfield is] probably the kid who talks the most trash in one game. Probably in one series," Smith-Schuster said, per Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com. "I’m like, 'Dude, I’m not even about that.' And it got to the point where I was like, 'OK, I’m about to embarrass you.'"
Garrett: 14 receptions for 268 yards and three TDs
Although it came in a losing effort to undefeated Memphis, no one else came close to the performance Tulsa wide receiver Keyarris Garrett put up on Saturday.
Garrett's 268 yards were 109 more than the next wide receiver on the Week 8 leaderboard, and he was one of only three players to record at least three touchdown receptions. He also passed Baylor star Corey Coleman in receiving yards per game with the monstrous effort against the Tigers.
With star teammate Keevan Lucas out for the rest of the season with a knee injury he suffered earlier this month, the Golden Hurricane needs production like this out of the senior Garrett. Although Tulsa was ultimately outgunned by Memphis, Garrett had the best day of his career in a big spot.
Second Team: Thomas Duarte (UCLA) and Gabe Marks (Washington State)
Duarte: 10 receptions for 141 yards and one TD
Marks: Eight receptions for 97 yards and four TDs
Thomas Duarte finished just behind crosstown rival Smith-Schuster in yards this weekend as he had a big game in UCLA's Thursday night win over Cal. Gabe Marks became the first player in Washington State history to have four touchdown receptions in a game, and he led all players in that category this weekend.
Tight End: Jonnu Smith (Florida International)
10 receptions for 183 yards and two TDs
The closest FBS player to Keyarris Garrett's mega receiving yardage in Week 8 was surprisingly not a wide receiver but a tight end.
Jonnu Smith had 183 yards on 10 receptions in Florida International's 41-12 rout of Old Dominion in Conference USA play. Smith opened and closed the scoring for the Golden Panthers, and he also broke away from the defense for a 67-yard gain late in the third quarter.
Heading into this weekend's matchup, Smith's season-high in receiving yards—62—came in the previous week against Middle Tennessee State. He almost tripled that amount and scored multiple touchdowns for the first time in 2015 to get FIU to 4-4 on the season.
Second Team: Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech)
Five receptions for 101 yards and three TDs
Virginia Tech couldn't get over the hump in its four-overtime loss to Duke on Saturday, but Bucky Hodges came through with three receiving touchdowns—including a game-tying one in the fourth quarter—against what had been a very good Blue Devil defense.
Offensive Line: Clemson
567 yards of total offense and zero sacks allowed
Clemson's utter domination of Miami in its 58-0 win could be best seen at the line of scrimmage, where the Tigers paved the way for a ridiculous day of offense away from home.
Behind a strong offensive line, Clemson ran for 416 yards and six touchdowns against Miami and its best yards-per-carry mark since 2011. Miami couldn't get to quarterback Deshaun Watson, either, as the pass protection prevented any sacks from the hopeless Hurricanes.
"At times, Miami was loading eight defenders in the box, but the Clemson offensive line was still finding a way to get a push, and Gallman was finding a way to avoid tacklers to pick up yardage," Tyler Duke of FOX Sports wrote.
Second Team: Oklahoma
617 yards of total offense and one sack allowed
Oklahoma's rushing resurgence against Texas Tech had a lot to do with the play of the Sooners offensive line, which also allowed just one sack on former Red Raider quarterback Baker Mayfield. Texas Tech has a weak defense, but Oklahoma played one of the best games of the weekend across its front five.
Defensive Ends: Dean Lowry (Northwestern) and Shawn Oakman (Baylor)
Lowry: 10 tackles (six for loss) and two sacks
Northwestern needed something big in order to snap its losing skid, and it got just that through talented defensive end Dean Lowry at Nebraska.
Lowry's incredible—and school record-breaking—six tackles for loss and two sacks helped the Wildcats hold off Nebraska and notch a 30-28 road win in Lincoln over the frustrated Cornhuskers. After being outscored 78-10 in its last two games, Northwestern picked up a vital victory behind Lowry's career day in the opposing backfield.
"[Breaking the school record is] pretty cool," Lowry said, per Bobby Pillote of the Daily Northwestern. "But I think it’s more of a team effort. The offensive line was more focused on guys like (junior linebacker) Jaylen Prater, and that allowed me to be open and make some plays."
Oakman: Seven tackles (3.5 for loss), one sack and one forced fumble
While Baylor's offense wasn't at it's usual best Saturday against Iowa State, its defense got the best performance of the season from household name defensive end Shawn Oakman.
From David Smoak: "Shawn Oakman just blew up that Iowa State drive, completely dominated LT, sack, fumble, Iowa State recovers."
The monstrous Bear defender had a season-high seven tackles against the Cyclones and tied his best mark of the year in tackles for loss with 3.5. Baylor forced four timely turnovers in the victory, and Oakman almost created a fifth by forcing a fumble on a long third-down sack near midfield.
Second Team: Mike Rose (NC State) and Marquis Haynes (Ole Miss)
Rose: Three tackles (three for loss) and three sacks
Haynes: Three tackles (two for loss), two sacks, one forced fumble and one pass breakup
Mike Rose was efficient in his work against Wake Forest, as all three of his tackles on the Demon Deacons were sacks in NC State's ACC victory. Marquis Haynes led the way for a dominant Ole Miss defense by contributing in both pass-rushing and pass-defending.
Defensive Tackles: Austin Johnson (Penn State) and A'Shawn Robinson (Alabama)
Johnson: Nine tackles (1.5 for loss) and one pass breakup
Penn State's Austin Johnson is becoming a fixture in these All-Week teams, and it's easy to see why after his performance in the Nittany Lions' win over Maryland.
Johnson was second on the team in tackles with nine on Saturday, and he made a few plays in the backfield in addition to breaking up a pass. Penn State struggled at times defensively, but it stood strong against quick Maryland quarterback Perry Hills at the end of the game with three straight stops.
"As you can see, I'm still sweating," Johnson said, per David Jones of PennLive.com. "Yeah, that's very fun trying to catch a fast quarterback."
Robinson: Three tackles (one for loss), 0.5 sacks and one fumble recovery
A'Shawn Robinson didn't have an eye-popping stat line in Alabama's victory over Tennessee, but the big man pulled off one of the best plays of the day to seal a big rivalry win.
Robinson, who had a tackle for loss for the Tide's strong front seven, somehow managed to snag a fumble forced by teammate Ryan Anderson with just one hand. The effort was quite the impressive feat of athleticism for the 312-pound defensive tackle.
Second Team: Adam Gotsis (Georgia Tech) and B.J. Hill (NC State)
Gotsis: Four tackles (one for loss) and one sack
Hill: Six tackles (one for loss) and one pass breakup
Adam Gotsis was one of the most impressive players on the field for a resurgent Georgia Tech defense Saturday night against Florida State. B.J. Hill also had a great performance on the defensive line for NC State, making several key plays for the Wolfpack.
Outside Linebackers: Reuben Foster (Alabama) and Tyler Matakevich (Temple)
Foster: 11 tackles (two for loss), one sack and one pass breakup
Reuben Foster didn't have the biggest play of the day for a nasty Alabama front seven, but he still had a tremendous day for the Crimson Tide in their tight rivalry win over Tennessee.
The hard-hitting junior had 11 tackles against the Volunteers, with two coming for a loss. He also had a sack of Joshua Dobbs early in the fourth quarter that pushed Tennessee back just two plays prior to a missed field goal that would've tied the game.
"The times when I was feeling down tonight, Reuben picked me up and he made the play," Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland said, per Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle. "I told him after the game he’s growing each week. He’s becoming that linebacker that everybody knew he could be. I’m very proud of him."
Matakevich: 13 tackles (one for loss), one sack and one INT
Tyler Matakevich continued his All-American campaign Thursday night for Temple in a narrow victory over East Carolina. Matakevich tied his season high in tackles, added a sack and came through with a clutch interception in the third quarter against ECU's two-quarterback system.
"It was tough, but the coaches did an excellent job preparing us," Matakevich said, per Marc Narducci of Philly.com. "We knew what one [of the quarterbacks] might do more than the other... We knew what sort of plays they would run."
Now Matakevich and the still-unbeaten Owls turn their attention to a monster home game against Notre Dame, which returned to the Top 10 of the AP poll on Sunday. Don't be surprised if he has another huge stat line as the national spotlight shines on him.
Second Team: Jamie Byrd (USF) and Okezie Alozie (Buffalo)
Byrd: 10 tackles (three for loss), two sacks and two forced fumbles
Alozie: Three tackles (1.5 for loss), one sack, two INTs and one TD
Jamie Byrd did it all for USF on Saturday in the Bulls' big win over SMU, coming up with several stops behind the line of scrimmage and forcing a pair of fumbles. Okezie Alozie was a big-time playmaker in Buffalo's surprising rout of Ohio, and he took one of his two interceptions all the way back for a touchdown.
Middle Linebacker: Cameron Smith (USC)
Nine tackles, three INTs and one TD
Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith has been an extremely bright spot for the USC defense all season, and he had by far the best game of his young career when the Trojans seemed to need it the most.
Smith led USC in tackles once again in the win over No. 3 Utah, but what made him stand out above all others Saturday was his three interceptions of quarterback Travis Wilson. According to Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, Smith became the first Trojan since 1991 to pick off three passes in a game, and he ran one of them back 54 yards for a touchdown.
"Unbelievable," USC interim head coach Clay Helton said, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. "He won the game for us."
Second Team: Matt Galambos (Pittsburgh)
Five tackles (three for loss) and one INT; one reception for 12 yards
Matt Galambos completely stuffed the stat sheet for Pittsburgh on Saturday, recording three tackles for loss and a crucial interception before catching a fake-punt pass for a first down on the Panthers' game-winning drive against Syracuse.
Cornerbacks: Malik Simmons (UNC) and Taveze Calhoun (Mississippi State)
Simmons: Three tackles, two INTs and one pass breakup
The North Carolina defense continued its marvelous turnaround under new coordinator Gene Chizik on Saturday against Virginia, and Malik Simmons walked away as one of the top stars of the contest.
Playing in place of the suspended M.J. Stewart, Simmons picked off the first two passes of his career against the Cavaliers, with both coming in the fourth quarter. Virginia only trailed by three points heading into the final frame, but Simmons helped shut down any hopes of a comeback as the offense pulled away late in the 26-13 win.
"He played his butt off last week and you saw what he did tonight," North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora said, per Sean Cavanaugh of 247Sports. "He played really well despite his couple of pass interferences. He has really stepped into that role."
Calhoun: Three tackles and two interceptions
Taveze Calhoun's first two interceptions of the season were things of beauty for the Mississippi State defense, which stifled Kentucky in a 42-16 home victory.
Calhoun had a one-handed pick near the sideline during the second quarter of the game—when Kentucky was still hanging in there away from home. The second one was an instant highlight early in the third quarter, as he somehow tipped the ball away from a Wildcat receiver before making a lunging catch.
Mississippi State needed big plays out of Calhoun with fellow star cornerback Will Redmond out for the rest of the season. If he can carry that momentum into the rest of the Bulldogs' season, the SEC's quarterbacks better watch out.
Second Team: Nick VanHoose (Northwestern) and Bryson Abraham (Louisiana Tech)
VanHoose: Six tackles, one INT, one TD and two pass breakups
Abraham: Three tackles, one INT, one TD and two pass breakups
Nick VanHoose had quite an important pick-six against Nebraska on Saturday to go along with his six tackles in Northwestern's tight win over Northwestern. Speaking of pick-sixes, Bryson Abraham became the first player in the FBS to have three this season, as the senior scored his third in four games for Louisiana Tech.
Safeties: Jamal Golden (Georgia Tech) and Armani Watts (Texas A&M)
Golden: Nine tackles (one for loss) and one INT
Not only did Jamal Golden lead Georgia Tech in tackles Saturday night, he's the first player to say he has picked off Florida State quarterback Everett Golson this season.
Golden's fourth-quarter circus interception of Golson stopped Florida State from taking a two-score lead in Atlanta, and the safety played a huge role in keeping the game close ahead of the Jackets' unbelievable game-winning return. He was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week on Sunday for his performance in Tech's first win in six games.
"We were due," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said, per Jon Cooper of RamblinWreck.com. "It was our turn. We’ve seen so many of these close ones like this go the other way. It’s good to finally be on the right end of one for a change."
Watts: 20 tackles (two for loss), one INT, one forced fumble and one pass breakup
It came in a 20-point loss, but Armani Watts' play in Texas A&M's trip to Ole Miss kept the game from being a complete rout at the hands of the Rebels.
The Texas A&M safety had an insane 20 tackles, including two for loss, against Ole Miss on Saturday night. He also forced two turnovers himself, picking off a pass inside Texas A&M territory to prevent a third-quarter score from Ole Miss. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee writes, Watts did all he could to keep the game close as A&M sputtered on offense.
"Texas A&M's defense has been the punch line to a depressing joke over the last three years but has kept the Aggies in each of the last two games while the offense was busy spinning its wheels," Sallee wrote. "Even though his team lost, Watts produced the best game of his young career Saturday night in Oxford."
Second Team: Jamal Adams (LSU) and Van Smith (Clemson)
Adams: Ten tackles, one INT and one forced fumble
Smith: Six tackles (one tackle for loss) and one INT
Jamal Adams did a little bit of everything for LSU against a high-powered Western Kentucky offense, recording double-digit tackles and forcing a pair of turnovers. Freshman safety Van Smith led Clemson in tackles during its demolition of Miami, and he also had one of several interceptions on the day for the Tigers.
Kicker: Ka'imi Fairbairn (UCLA)
4-for-4 on field goals (long of 60) and 4-of-4 on extra points
The easiest way to get on these All-Week teams as a kicker is to boot an extremely long field goal in a victory.
Ka'imi Fairbairn of UCLA did that and then some, hitting a season-best 60-yarder for the Bruins in a 40-24 win over then-No. 20 Cal. Fairbairn also led all kickers in scoring this weekend with 16 points and nailed every kick he attempted.
But, let's be honest, the real reason he ran away with the first-team honors for Week 8 is because he hit an outrageous field goal that is somehow longer than his full name—John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn.
Second Team: Harrison Butker (Georgia Tech)
3-of-3 on field goals (long of 53) and 1-of-1 on extra points
Harrison Butker wasn't the most famous special teams player for Georgia Tech against Florida State, but he played a huge role in the upset by drilling all of his field goals—including a 53-yarder—in the Jackets' 22-16 win.
Punter: Gary Wunderlich (Ole Miss)
Three punts for 169 yards (56.3 average) and long of 73
After not recording a single punt all season for Ole Miss, Gary Wunderlich took over those duties for the Rebels in the second half of a win over Texas A&M.
Wunderlich's first punt of 2015 went an incredible 73 yards—the second longest in Week 8—and was downed at the Texas A&M 2-yard line. The first-team kicker would boot two more punts in the game, and both were downed inside the 20-yard line of the Aggies.
The Rebel specialist had the second-best punting average of the weekend behind Oklahoma's Austin Seibert, who only had one kick for 57 yards against Texas Tech. That's not bad at all for a player who previously hadn't punted yet in 2015.
Second Team: JK Scott (Alabama)
Four punts for 199 yards (49.8 average) and long of 56
JK Scott flipped the field position against Tennessee with his long, booming punts that Alabama head coach Nick Saban made it a point to single him out his postgame press conference—even though Saban got his initials switched.
Returner: Lance Austin (Georgia Tech)
One blocked field goal return for 78 yards and one TD
Week 8 was a rather quiet one for kick and punt returners, so why not give this week's top spot to a player who made the most famous play of Saturday?
After Georgia Tech blocked Roberto Aguayo's potential game-winning field goal, Lance Austin picked up the ball at his own 22-yard line and raced down the sideline for an unbelievable touchdown as time expired. Although some on the sidelines motioned for Austin not to try to return it, he still got on the ball and ran his way into school history.
"When I came around (the corner), it was a wall," Austin said, per Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "My teammates did a great job of blocking, so when I came around and I kind of got by Aguayo, I got in the end zone. It was kind of surreal."
Second Team: Brandon McDowell (Texas State)
One missed field goal return for 100 yards and one TD
While Austin pulled off his stunning return on a blocked kick, Texas State's Brandon McDowell ran back a field-goal attempt that South Alabama missed short for 100 yards and a kick-six touchdown. Yes, it was a banner Saturday for bizarre special-teams scoring.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com.
Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.