College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 8

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2019

College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 8

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    Just when you thought it couldn't get any more bonkers than Georgia getting upset at home against South Carolina like college football dished out a week ago, cue the clown music.

    Wisconsin traveled to Illinois as more than a 30-point favorite and limped back to Camp Randall a 24-23 loser. So much for that spotlight Big Ten showdown with the Buckeyes next week, huh? 

    Alabama survived a rugged effort by Tennessee with a huge fourth quarter but lost Tua Tagovailoa to an ankle injury in the process. Georgia sputtered to a zero-point first half before beating Kentucky 21-0. And Texas had to kick a walk-off field goal to beat Kansas.

    Yeah, it was that kind of day.

    Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—ironed out where everybody should be ranked and just how far Wisconsin should fall. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.

    Here is our Week 8 poll:

    1. LSU
    2. Alabama
    3. Ohio State
    4. Clemson
    5. Oklahoma
    6. Penn State
    7. Florida
    8. Notre Dame
    9. Georgia
    10. Auburn
    11. Oregon
    12. Utah
    13. Baylor
    14. Wisconsin
    15. Minnesota
    16. SMU
    17. Texas
    18. Appalachian State
    19. Cincinnati
    20. Michigan
    21. Iowa
    22. Boise State
    23. Memphis
    24. Iowa State
    25. Wake Forest

    Others receiving votes: Arizona, San Diego State, Indiana, Navy

Who's Hot: Oregon and Its Slim Playoff Chances

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Justin Herbert got the biggest win of his Oregon career Saturday, and he led the Ducks to victory in grand fashion, completing a five-yard scoring toss to Jaylon Redd with 5:10 left to give his team the lead for good.

    Herbert came back to college, spurning the NFL to try to help coach Mario Cristobal's program take the next step toward national notoriety. They're off to a good start.

    Saturday was vital in that journey. Washington has been the class of the Pac-12 the past few years and had a 14-point lead in the second half before Herbert, who finished with 280 yards and four touchdown passes, ticked it up a notch to lead Oregon to a 35-31 win.

    Herbert now has a touchdown pass in 35 consecutive games, a remarkable streak that is the longest in FBS.

    It was as good a performance in a big game as you'll see, and it keeps Oregon relevant after a season-opening loss to Auburn. Yes, the Ducks still have road tests against USC and Arizona State, but this was a necessary victory.

    Perhaps the most important thing for the Ducks is how they won. They'd been beating teams with their dominant defense all season, but when that failed them against the Huskies, Herbert took over. He did exactly what a surefire NFL prospect should do.

    In leading Oregon to the win, he kept the Ducks looking like the best team in the Pac-12. If their offense from Saturday matches their defense from the six games, they'll be a force. 

    In other words, it's exactly why Herbert is around for his senior year.

Who's Not: Wisconsin and Its Failure to Stay in the Moment

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    How, exactly, did that happen?

    If you weren't watching college football on Saturday or got a bit of a late start, you may have scanned the scores from the early round and saw the biggest shocker of the season: a 24-23 Illinois win over No. 6 Wisconsin.

    Yes, this was the same Badgers team coming off consecutive shutouts, the same one opponents failed to score a single point against in four games and the same one that looked like it was running on a downhill collision course with Ohio State in a game everybody wanted to see next weekend.

    Talk about looking ahead and failing to take care of the task at hand.

    The Badgers traveled to Champaign and left with their tail between their legs, giving Lovie Smith by far his biggest win in an embattled tenure with the Fighting Illini.

    With Wisconsin clinging to a 23-21 lead, quarterback Jack Coan made an inexplicable mistake, getting picked off near midfield by Tony Adams with 2:33 remaining. The Illini calmly moved downfield and gave James McCourt a 39-yard field goal-attempt, which he made as time expired.

    The fans rushed the field after an improbable field, and the Illini mockingly played Wisconsin's traditional song, "Jump Around," as they celebrated. It was an epic win and then an epic troll. 

    Just how unbelievable was this win? The Illini are now just 3-4, and the Badgers had not trailed entering Saturday. They didn't trail until the last play of the game Saturday, but it was enough to put a number in the loss column.

    Now, they have to find a way to regroup against an Ohio State team that is looking like the best in the nation—while they hear noise about coach Paul Chryst's unimaginative play-calling with games on the line and just how bad of a loss this was.

    Camp Randall is not going to be a fun place to be.

Fun Fact: Jalen Hurts Is Good

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    This is exactly what Oklahoma had in mind when Jalen Hurts decided to finish his career in Norman. This is exactly what Hurts expected, too.

    He's the perfect maestro for coach Lincoln Riley's prolific offense, and he continued to dominate on Saturday in a lopsided win over West Virginia. While everybody in the nation is talking about Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State, it's easy to forget about the Sooners.

    Why, though? All they do is produce Heisman Trophy winners and prolific offenses.

    Hurts may be next. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Saturday marked the fifth time this season the senior transfer from Alabama had multiple passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in a single half, the most such occurrences in the FBS this season.

    It's also Hurts' fifth consecutive game with multiple passing and rushing touchdowns, the second-longest streak by a Big 12 quarterback in the last 15 seasons.

    Those are some gaudy numbers in a league that has been filled with elite offenses year after year.

    Riley has the Sooners playing exceptionally well, and Hurts is a major reason. With the defense playing better than in recent seasons—thanks to new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch—there's hope Oklahoma can do more this year than just make it to the College Football Playoff.

    Hurts is going to have a whole lot of opportunities to torch opponents like he did against West Virginia on Saturday.

What to Watch For: Clashes of Styles and a Big Ten Banner Day

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    Michael Chang/Getty Images

    If you have plans next Saturday, cancel them. It's time to sit in front of the television and watch an exceptional day of rivalries, crucial battles and marquee showdowns.

    It may be a week early to gorge on Halloween candy, but it's going to be an early fall feast, nevertheless. Let's take a look at the big games.


    Wisconsin at Ohio State (Noon ET)

    Yes, the Badgers' shocking setback to Illinois took away some of the luster, but if you think they can't at least slow down Ohio State's vaunted attack, you're underestimating the Wisconsin defense.

    Nobody has shown the ability to stop Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields yet, and he is looking like a college clone of Patrick Mahomes. But the Badgers were looking ahead to this one, and they'll be ready. Still, it would be stunning to see Ohio State lose.


    Oklahoma at Kansas State (Noon ET)

    After a solid start to the season, first-year coach Chris Klieman is finding reality a little frustrating as he looks to build K-State into the powerhouse he fielded at North Dakota State. Playing the Sooners isn't going to help.

    But weird things happen every year in Manhattan. Can the Cats make things tough on Jalen Hurts, or are there too many weapons? An early start could lead to some OU rust.


    Auburn at LSU (3:30 p.m. ET)

    Thanks to the Badgers clunker, Auburn vs. LSU perhaps became the sport's biggest game of the day. 

    Despite a slow start against Arkansas on Saturday, Gus Malzahn's Tigers found their way in plenty of time to embarrass the Razorbacks, and they field the best defense in the SEC. How much fun is it going to be to watch them square off against Joe Burrow and LSU's weapons?

    The only thing missing is this game being under the lights. It's a massive battle in the SEC West.


    Penn State at Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET)

    The good thing about the Nittany Lions this year is they've shown they can beat you with their offense or defense. Are they sneakily the second-best team in the Big Ten? It looks like they may be.

    They'll travel to East Lansing on Saturday to take on a defensive-minded Spartans team that is going to have to ugly it up to win. PSU should handle its business. This looks like another first-one-to-20-wins game.


    Oklahoma State at Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET)

    Two of the most fun teams to watch that aren't quite in the Top 25 thanks to some missteps. Still, these teams can make quite a bit of noise in the Big 12 before the season is over.  

    With redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders and star running back Chuba Hubbard, coach Mike Gundy's team has some firepower. While Brock Purdy and Iowa State aren't known for torching opponents, they got back on track with 34 points in a 34-24 win over Texas Tech on Saturday.

    This could be one of the most fun games to watch of the day.


    Notre Dame at Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET)

    Say what you want to about this game and how it lost some of the pizzazz with the Wolverines' laid-egg against Wisconsin earlier this year. Notre Dame lost at Georgia, but the Irish continue to look impressive despite all the youth.

    But you'll not find any other game with more pageantry than this one. When the Irish and Wolverines are playing and you're a college football fan, you're at least paying attention, even if you aren't outright hanging on every play.

    It's going to be fun to watch this rivalry again.