Winners and Losers from Week 8 of College Football
With no games between AP Top 25 teams taking place in Week 8, there was a chance this could have been a quiet week devoid of significant upsets.
Instead, we didn't even make it to Thursday before the carnage began.
No. 14 Coastal Carolina suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night against Appalachian State.
No. 8 Oklahoma State followed suit with a Saturday loss at Iowa State.
No. 7 Penn State lost to Illinois in a game that almost had more overtimes than scoring plays.
No. 18 North Carolina State lost to still sub-.500 Miami.
And one week removed from beating then-No. 2 Iowa by 17 points, No. 25 Purdue was on the wrong end of a 17-point margin in a loss to Wisconsin.
Even several of the ranked teams that won made things very interesting, as No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oregon all surviving scares on the road.
Not Alabama or Ohio State, though. They kicked some butt.
Here's the full list of Week 8's winners and losers in college football.
Winner: Fans of Points in West Point
In the early slate of games Saturday, most of the ranked teams left us wondering if they would wake up and assert their dominance. No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 6 Michigan and No. 7 Penn State were all heavy favorites against unranked foes with a combined record of 7-18, but at halftime of those games, Cincinnati was up 13-10, Michigan and Penn State were up 10-7, and Oklahoma was shockingly down 10-0.
But No. 16 Wake Forest at Army?
All the points!
We entered the day wondering if Army was going to finally snap a 49-game losing streak against ranked opponents dating back to a Nov. 4, 1972, victory over No. 19 Air Force. But it was a different bit of "first time in nearly half a century" history for Army, which allowed at least 70 points for the first time since a 77-7 loss to Nebraska on Sept. 23, 1972.
Sam Hartman shredded the Army secondary for 458 yards and five touchdowns. Wake Forest also ran the ball at will, averaging 8.3 yards per carry if you disregard the loss of two yards on a kneel at the end of the game. Again disregarding that kneel, the Demon Deacons scored a touchdown on nine of 10 possessions, each of which lasted 190 seconds or fewer.
Army kept pace, though, with 56 points of its own, despite losing starting quarterback Christian Anderson to an injury less than 10 minutes into the game. Wake Forest had no answer for the triple option, allowing 416 yards and five touchdowns. But backup quarterback Jabari Laws was also mighty effective when Army went to the air, going 9-of-11 for 140 yards and three touchdowns.
The difference in the game came midway through the third quarter when Army drew up a trick play on 4th-and-5 from the Wake Forest 28. The Black Knights lined up for a field goal before shifting into a pooch punt formation from which Cade Ballard almost connected with a wide-open Chris Cameron. However, he passed it too late and underthrew him to boot, allowing Traveon Redd to jump the wheel route and take the ball 83 yards for a pick-six. That helped give Wake Forest a 14-point lead, and it kept Army at bay.
Loser: Fans of Happiness in Happy Valley
Illinois-Penn State was perhaps the dumbest, best, ugliest, most ridiculous football game we have ever witnessed.
Let's temporarily ignore the fact that it took nine overtimes for either team to reach 20 points and first focus on the absurdity of regulation.
Illinois entered the day with the worst defense in the Big Ten, allowing 429.1 yards per game. UTSA, Virginia, Maryland and Wisconsin each eclipsed 480 yards against the Illini, who could neither do anything to stop the Cavaliers passing game nor anything to stop the Badgers rushing attack.
Yet they limited Penn State to 227 yards with just one drive of more than 27 yards. Sean Clifford—who was forced to leave the game against Iowa two weeks ago—clearly was not at full strength. His mobility at quarterback is a big part of what the Nittany Lions do, but he was sacked four times and didn't have a single positive gain with his legs. And he had a tough time getting the ball to his favorite receiver, Jahan Dotson, who finished with just six catches for 69 yards despite being targeted probably 15 times.
When Illinois had the ball, Penn State—which had allowed 111.3 rushing yards per game—was helpless against a team was held to 26 yards by Wisconsin two weeks ago. Chase Brown and Josh McCray combined for 57 carries for 365 yards. Per Sports Reference, it was just the second time since 2000 that Penn State allowed an opponent to rush for at least 350 yards, joining a 63-14 loss to Ohio State (408 yards) in 2013.
And then the overtimes.
After exchanging field goals in each of the first and second extra periods, it was time for the (terrible) new two-point shootout rule. Only instead of going back and forth with fun offense, they went 0-for-10 before Illinois finally gained two yards. And it took a ninth overtime before the Illini mercifully ended the game with a massive upset.
Most maddening of all in overtime was how long it took Illinois to try to run the ball. The Illini had 32 passing yards in regulation, but they tried to throw it into the end zone on each of their first four two-point attempts.
Winner: Heisman Long Shot Tanner Mordecai
According to pretty much everyone, the pursuit of the 2021 Heisman Trophy has been a two-horse race between Alabama's Bryce Young and Ole Miss' Matt Corral for the better part of a month.
But why in the world is Tanner Mordecai not at least somewhere on the fringe of that conversation?
The quarterback of the still-undefeated SMU Mustangs entered Week 8 averaging 315.5 passing yards and 4.3 passing touchdowns per game. He proceeded to throw for a career-high 427 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in a 55-26 win over Tulane on Thursday.
Mordecai has now accounted for 31 touchdowns, which puts him on pace for 53.1 or 57.6, depending on whether the Mustangs play for the AAC championship.
2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow entered bowl season with 51 touchdowns. So did Kyler Murray in 2018. As did Lamar Jackson in 2016. Baker Mayfield had 46 in 2017.
If Mordecai keeps this going, he is bound to work his way into the mix for the stiff-armed trophy.
And that's at least partially because SMU's schedule is about to intensify.
The Mustangs have road games against Houston and Memphis in the next two weeks. Then, after a home game against UCF on Nov. 13, they'll travel to Cincinnati to face one of the best defenses in the country.
Throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a late-season upset of a College Football Playoff hopeful, and Heisman voters are sure to notice—particularly in a year wherein it doesn't feel like anyone is making a great case for that trophy. If Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams can vault into the top 10 of the Heisman odds after not winning the job until midway through his team's sixth game, surely there's still time for Mordecai to make a move.
Loser: Coastal Carolina for the 1st Time in 19 Regular-Season Games
Prior to its Wednesday night trip to Boone, North Carolina, Coastal Carolina was a runaway freight train.
The Chanticleers rushed for at least 215 yards, passed for at least 232 yards and scored at least four touchdowns in each of their first six games. They were leading the nation in scoring at a clip of 48.8 points per game.
Facing an Appalachian State defense that had just allowed 41 points and 246 rushing yards against Louisiana, it seemed likely that trend would continue. And early on, it did. The Chants scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions and carried a 20-14 lead into halftime despite a successful onside kick by the Mountaineers that resulted in two App State touchdowns in under a minute.
After the intermission, though, the freight train derailed.
Coastal Carolina did have one touchdown drive in the third quarter, but it punted on four of five second-half possessions as the usually elusive Grayson McCall was under constant duress in the pocket.
Coming into the game, the Chanticleers had punted just 10 times. Four punts in the span of 30 minutes was just unheard of. But they had an unusually difficult time establishing the run, gaining 55 yards on 29 carries. Factor in a few drops from the receiving corps in the second half, and drives stalled in a hurry.
While the main story was Coastal Carolina's first regular-season loss since Nov. 23, 2019, we would be remiss if we didn't also praise Appalachian State for a job well done.
Not only did the Mountaineers bottle up a usually unstoppable offense, but Chase Brice and Co. also moved the ball at will. Brice threw for a career-high 347 yards, almost entirely to Malik Williams and Corey Sutton. And the rushing attack had the type of day we're used to seeing from Coastal, gaining 228 yards, 5.6 at a time.
Winner: Utah State, Thanks to Some No Good, Very Bad Clock Management
With 44 seconds remaining in regulation Friday, Colorado State was out of timeouts, trailing by two with the ball on its own 15.
Things weren't looking great for the Rams.
But Todd Centeio found Dante Wright for a 22-yard gain. Then he threw to Trey McBride for another first down. After that, back to Wright for a 14-yard gain. And then he hit Ty McCullouch over the middle for a 15-yard pickup on 3rd-and-10.
Just like that, they were in business at the Utah State 24 with 11 seconds remaining. All they had to do was spike the ball and trot out the field-goal unit for a game-winning 41-yard attempt.
However, the Rams forgot about the first part of that plan.
Instead of spiking it, they frantically tried to rush the field-goal unit onto the field, racing the clock to attempt the kick.
Not only was it a poor decision, but they also doubled down on the mistake by snapping the ball with seven seconds left on the clock. They could've given Cayden Camper a little more time to prepare to kick the ball. The referees actually could've flagged him for a false start if they felt so inclined, as he took a little stutter step before the snap.
Not surprisingly, the attempt never had a prayer, missing to the left to seal Utah State's 26-24 victory.
Well, actually, the Aggies had to kneel once to seal the deal, since, again, Colorado State snapped the ball with seven seconds left on the clock.
Maybe Camper would have missed the kick either way, but the Rams certainly didn't put him in a position to succeed. And as a result of that debacle, they fell to 3-4 and are in serious danger of failing to qualify for a bowl game.
Loser: Arizona for the 19th Consecutive Time
When Coastal Carolina's 18-game regular-season winning streak was snapped Wednesday night, there was suddenly a bit of hope for Arizona to end its own 18-game streak Friday night.
And when the Wildcats were up 13-0 on Washington at halftime, that little bit of hope blossomed into a much bigger "Whoa, this might actually happen" feeling.
In the first half, Washington took only one snap in Arizona territory. That lone play resulted in a seven-yard sack and was immediately followed by a blocked punt. Given the considerable difficulty the Huskies have had moving the ball this season, keeping that defensive momentum going for another 30 minutes was a feasible dream.
Instead, Washington began marching the ball down Arizona's throat, going at least 71 yards for a touchdown on three of its first four possessions of the second half. Meanwhile, the Wildcats lost what little mojo they had, putting together three three-and-outs, two interceptions and a field goal after the intermission in a 21-16 loss.
It was Arizona's 19th consecutive L—a streak that began Oct. 12, 2019, at the hands of Washington. Down to third-string quarterback Will Plummer with Jordan McCloud and Gunner Cruz likely out for the rest of the season, Arizona may not find a victory.
If the Wildcats do lose out, it would bring their streak to 24 games and put Northwestern's all-time record of 34 consecutive losses on the table for next year.
Winner: Oklahoma's Caleb Williams in the Second Half at Kansas
The "Caleb Williams 4 Heisman" campaign likely met its unexpected demise in the first half against the Jayhawks. At the intermission, the Sooners trailed 10-0. Their freshman quarterback was 6-of-9 for 71 yards with an interception and had been sacked twice for negative-21 rushing yards.
But the "Oklahoma for CFP" campaign is still very much alive and well thanks to Williams leading them to 35 second-half points for yet another come-from-behind victory.
Oklahoma scored touchdowns on each of its five second-half possessions, but they needed quite a bit of heroics to pull that off.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Williams dropped back to pass four times on third down and found a different receiver to convert each of them.
They made it look easy on the second and third drives, but on the fourth drive, Williams had to break a few arm tackles to run 40 yards to pay dirt on a 4th and 3 with Kansas only down by four.
After another Kansas touchdown, Oklahoma was facing 4th and 1 near midfield with less than four minutes remaining. Kennedy Brooks ran it up the gut for a loss of two yards, but by some "could only happen to Kansas" miracle, Williams took the ball away from Brooks before the referees ruled his forward progress had been stopped, and he picked up five yards for the first down. From there, the Sooners marched down the field for a game-clinching touchdown.
Thanks to all of those clutch moments, Williams was 9-of-11 for 107 yards and two touchdowns plus six carries for 91 yards and another touchdown after the intermission.
Loser: Justin Fuente's Attempt to Get off the Hot Seat
Since opening the season with a stunning win over then AP No. 10 North Carolina, it has been all downhill for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies lost to West Virginia, they didn't look great in a win over Richmond and now they have lost three consecutive home games to Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
The first two of that three-game streak? Well, I guess it's all right. They were in a great position to beat the Fighting Irish until the final few minutes, and they at least became the first team this season to keep the Panthers from scoring at least 41 points.
Losing at home to Syracuse, though?
That might be unforgivable.
As was the case against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech seemed to be in control until the final few minutes. The Hokies were up by six heading into the fourth quarter and took a nine-point lead with less than six minutes remaining. But Garrett Shrader and Co. didn't quit. Syracuse's quarterback tossed a TD pass with a little over two minutes to go, the defense got the ball back and then Shrader—after keeping the drive alive by rushing for a first down on 4th and 4—connected with Damien Alford for a 45-yard, game-winning touchdown.
Shrader was more like Shredder in this one, throwing for 236 yards, rushing for 174 yards and accounting for five touchdowns against a Virginia Tech team that at least thought it had a decent defense before today.
Justin Fuente has been a staple in hot-seat rankings for quite a while, as the Hokies are now 22-22 overall dating back to the start of the 2018 season. Per USA Today, VT would owe Fuente a $10 million buyout if he is fired before Dec. 1. Sounds like a lot, but it's merely the 38th-highest buyout amount among the 100 that are known. At this point, the Hokies could probably raise that money on a GoFundMe in about an hour.
Winner: Iowa State in Another Nail-Biter Against Oklahoma State
The annual rivalry between Iowa State and Oklahoma State doesn't have a fun nickname like Bedlam, Cy-Hawk or Red River, but it sure has delivered some gems in recent years.
Each of the previous six games was decided by seven points or fewer, with the Cowboys winning five of those six games. Thus, it was the furthest thing from a surprise when this year's iteration featured three lead changes in the final 18 minutes and came down to about six inches on a ball placement with a little over 60 seconds left on the clock.
Oklahoma State's Jaylen Warren and Iowa State's Breece Hall both entered the day as top 10 rushers in the country and were both held in check by the opposing defense.
Brock Purdy (27-of-33 for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns) was a little bit crisper than Spencer Sanders (15-of-24 for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns), but the quarterbacks essentially played to a draw, as well.
The difference ended up being the kicking game. Oklahoma State's Tanner Brown was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals in wins over Baylor and Texas, but he missed attempts from 50 and 32 yards out in this one. Meanwhile, Iowa State's Andrew Mevis made his only try from 29 yards away as the Cyclones won 24-21.
Oklahoma State was 6-0 and had climbed all the way to No. 8 in the AP poll. The Cowboys shouldn't fall too far for this result, considering it will very likely put 5-2 Iowa State back into the Top 25. But this was a big one for the Big 12 standings, where Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor are all now tied at 3-1, each with a game remaining against 5-0 Oklahoma.
It was also big for CFP purposes, as Oklahoma State would've had a nice path to an 11-0 record if it had survived this road test. The next four for the Cowboys are against Kansas, West Virginia, TCU and Texas Tech, who have a combined 4-13 record in league play. That season finale at home against Oklahoma still looms large for the playoff selection committee, though.
Loser: Clemson Yet Again
From 2015-20, Clemson was one of the most unbeatable teams in college football. The Tigers had an overall record of 71-3 during the regular season, and those three losses were:
- 47-40 at No. 4 Notre Dame in double overtime in 2020
- 27-24 at Syracuse in a weird Friday night game in 2017
- 43-42 at home against Pittsburgh on a last-second Chris Blewitt field goal in 2016
All three of those games came right down to the wire, as did both of their previous losses this season—10-3 against Georgia and 27-21 in double overtime against NC State.
But on Saturday, the Tigers were beaten by double digits in a regular-season game for the first time since Nov. 15, 2014, falling 27-17 at the hands of Pittsburgh.
As has become the norm for Clemson, the offense struggled. The Tigers ran the ball reasonably well, but they completed fewer than 50 percent of their pass attempts, didn't have any huge gains on the ground and committed two turnovers.
In one especially ugly moment, a D.J. Uiagalelei shovel pass was picked off and taken back 50 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter. Once one of the top candidates to win the Heisman, Uiagalelei was benched for a few series after that one.
At that point, Clemson was down by 14 and never even threatened to make things interesting again.
Pitt's Kenny Pickett added to his Heisman resume with 302 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against an excellent Clemson defense. He now has a 23-1 TD-INT ratio on the season for a Panthers team that currently has a two-game lead in the loss column on the rest of the ACC's Coastal Division.
Winner: Travis Dye and Kayvon Thibodeaux Keeping Oregon in the CFP Hunt
With No. 7 Penn State and No. 8 Oklahoma State both suffering losses on Saturday, No. 10 Oregon was given a massive opportunity to improve its lot in the College Football Playoff race in the form of a road game against 5-2 UCLA.
And thanks to one touchdown vulture and one pass-rushing phenom, the Ducks were able to get it done by a score of 34-31.
The vulture was Travis Dye, who had four consecutive carries for Oregon's first four touchdowns. At that point, he had eight carries for 17 yards and four scores. Quite the Mike Alstott / Jerome Bettis stat line right there. He would finish the afternoon with 14 carries for 35 yards, the longest of which was a gain of six. Oregon's leading rusher for the season ended up with more receiving yards (four catches for 36 yards) than rushing yards.
Ironically, Dye is usually the one doing the heavy lifting before someone else gets the glory. Prior to Week 8, Dye had rushed 389 times for 2,367 yards and nine touchdowns, and the only time he had multiple touchdowns in the same game was on Nov. 23, 2018 in a rout of Oregon State. But he was huge for the Ducks in this one.
Even huger was Kayvon Thibodeaux, who had 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and countless pressures on the quarterback.
Late in the fourth quarter with UCLA trying to mount a comeback, it was Thibodeaux's pressure on Dorian Thompson-Robinson that forced the Bruins quarterback out of the game with an injury. Backup QB Ethan Garbers made a couple of nice passes to keep the drive alive, but he eventually threw the game-ending interception. Even on that pick, Thibodeaux was coming hard from Garbers' left, forcing him to make a quick read and a bad pass to his right.
Oregon's Week 9 game is at home against 2-5 Colorado, which will almost certainly result in a win. And a few days after that, we'll get the first CFP Top 25 rankings of the season. As the leader of a league that otherwise has no AP Top 25 teams, it will be very interesting to see where Oregon lands, since there's not a whole lot it can do to impress the selection committee from this point forward. (Although that road game against Utah on Nov. 20 is no joke.)
Loser: Georgia Tech Trying to Contain Brennan Armstrong
It's astounding how minimally we have talked about Virginia's Brennan Armstrong this season.
You would think a quarterback in the ACC averaging more than 400 passing yards per game for what is now a 6-2 team would be more of a national sensation, but Armstrong's big numbers have kind of flown beneath the radar.
Perhaps that will change after he lit up Georgia Tech for 396 passing yards, 99 rushing yards and six total touchdowns in a 48-40 victory.
After going three-and-out on the opening drive, Armstrong led the Cavaliers to points on eight of their next 10 possessions, staking them to a 48-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Things got mighty interesting when Georgia Tech recovered not one but two onside-kick attempts in the final two minutes, but the Yellow Jackets weren't quite able to dig their way out of the hole that Armstrong put them in.
Armstrong became the first player this season with at least 395 passing yards and 95 rushing yards in a single game. Miami's D'Eriq King was the only player to do that last season. Only Jalen Hurts pulled it off in 2019.
Armstrong is now averaging 402.5 passing yards and has accounted for 28 total touchdowns through eight games. He'll take on BYU next weekend before mid-November games against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. If he can put up numbers like these against those ranked defenses, people might finally pay attention.
Winner: SDSU and UTSA Keep Zeroes in the Loss Column
We entered the week with 11 remaining undefeated teams.
One of them (Coastal Carolina) lost on Wednesday.
Another (Oklahoma State) lost on Saturday afternoon.
That left nine by the time the two often-forgotten unbeatens kicked off their road games.
No. 22 San Diego State was facing a huge test against 6-1 Air Force, but the Aztecs benefitted nicely from several first-half miscues by the Falcons.
An interception on the third snap of the game set SDSU up with the ball in the red zone. A little while later, Air Force went for it on 4th and short from its own 44 and was driven backwards for a turnover on downs. It took 12 plays and a 4th-down conversion of their own to capitalize on it, but the Aztecs turned that short field into a touchdown. And an Air Force fumble on the subsequent possession gave San Diego State the ball in opponent territory for a third time.
Early in the third quarter, the Aztecs were up 20-0. Air Force made things interesting with a pair of long touchdown drives, but SDSU ultimately held on for a 20-14 victory. The Aztecs entered the game with one of the stingiest run defenses in the country, and they did a fine job to hold Air Force to 192 yards on the ground, compared to its season average of 336.4.
No. 24 UTSA had a much less difficult time maintaining its undefeated record.
Louisiana Tech scored a touchdown on its opening drive, but it was all Roadrunners from there, scoring 42 of the game's next 45 points. Sincere McCormick rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, eclipsing the century mark for the sixth time this season.
UTSA is idle next week, so it will be 8-0 when November begins. San Diego State has an intriguing home game against Fresno State, though there's a good chance its defense will be enough to improve to 8-0, as well.
Loser: South Carolina's "Offense" Against Texas A&M
I thought Georgia destroying Vanderbilt back in late September would be the most lopsided Power Five conference game we saw all season, but the first three quarters of Texas A&M's 44-14 victory over South Carolina might have been even more merciless.
When the Aggies kicked the field goal to take a 44-0 lead early in the fourth quarter, they had 463 yards of total offense, not to mention a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown by Devon Achane early in the first quarter. Against what had been a respectable defense for most of the season, Texas A&M scored just about every time it touched the ball.
Meanwhile, South Carolina's offense was completely helpless.
Through 45 minutes, the Gamecocks had 15 yards of total offense. Their only non-penalty first down came on an 18-yard completion midway through the first quarter. But after that play, they punted from the Texas A&M 39 and proceeded to lose 19 yards over the course of the next 37 minutes.
Even in the fourth quarter after the Aggies took their foot off the Gamecocks' throats for a pair of garbage-time touchdowns, South Carolina still threw a pair of interceptions.
Given all the injuries and shortcomings they've had at quarterback it shouldn't be a surprise, but South Carolina still has not scored more than 23 points in a game against an FBS opponent this season. That was also true of their final three games in 2020.
On the other side, Texas A&M's Devon Achane and Isaiah Spiller each rushed for at least 100 yards and a score for the second consecutive game. This once seemingly broken beyond repair offense has turned one heck of a corner with 120 points scored in its last three contests.
Winner: Bryce Young's Heisman Campaign
Tennessee put up one heck of a fight on the road against No. 4 Alabama. The Volunteers were up by a touchdown after the first quarter and they were only down by one score heading into the fourth. Alabama did end up covering the 25.5-point spread, but this was nowhere near the blowout the final score would have you believe.
As good as Tennessee was, though, Heisman favorite Bryce Young was better.
Just from a statistics standpoint, Young was awesome, finishing with 371 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.
What was particularly impressive, however, was how unflappable and clutch he was in third-down situations.
Just on Alabama's opening drive of the game, Young passed for a first down on 3rd and 7 as well as in a pair of 3rd and 5 situations. And he was just getting started.
Alabama went 15-of-20 on third downs, nine of which came from Young's arm and four of which came from his legs. Of those 13 conversions orchestrated by Young, 11 came on 3rd and 5 or longer, perhaps most notably the 65-yard bomb to Jameson Williams on 3rd and 15 early in the fourth quarter which was the play that started the blowout.
On the season, Young now has 26 passing touchdowns against just three interceptions.
The two rushing touchdowns were his first of the season, as this was the first time he showed what he can do on the ground. The 10 carries and 42 yards were both career highs for Young, and it's scary to think he might be adding a new wrinkle to what has already been a dominant game.