College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 8
Georgia (Last week: 1)
Ohio State (5)
Michigan State (8)
Ole Miss (10)
Wake Forest (18)
Notre Dame (15)
Oklahoma State (9)
Texas A&M (20)
San Diego State (16)
Penn State (7)
Iowa State (NR)
Coastal Carolina (11)
NC State (21)
What looked like it was supposed to be a quiet week in college football, at least on paper, Week 8 was a fun one. In the noon window, we saw Wake Forest remain undefeated, going on the road to defeat Army 70-56. We also saw No. 7 Penn State go down 20-18 at home to a 2-5 Illinois team Saturday. Astoundingly, the game went into nine overtimes, with both teams trading two-point conversion attempts starting in the second overtime.
In the later slate of games, No. 8 Oklahoma State was upset by Iowa State 24-21 on the road, giving the Pokes their first loss of the season. No. 10 Oregon survived a tough road test against UCLA, pulling out a 34-31 victory in the Rose Bowl. No. 12 Ole Miss moved to 6-1 on the season, defeating LSU 31-17 at home, and No.21 Pitt gave Clemson its third loss of the season, winning 27-17.
In the evening, we saw Alabama take care of Tennessee at home, winning 52-24, and Notre Dame defeated rival USC handily 31-16. Ohio State throttled Indiana 54-7, and NC State was upset by Miami, 31-10.
Bleacher Report's college football crew of David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard each submitted a Top 25 ballot. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
B/R's Post-Week 8 Top 25
Others receiving votes: Houston, Illinois, Virginia.
Who's Hot: Pittsburgh Panthers
Folks, the Pittsburgh Panthers look like one of the ACC's best teams, and this team has all the ingredients for a dark-horse playoff team. No, this is not a drill. The Panthers took care of business at home, knocking off Clemson 27-17. The win for Pitt marks the first time since 2016 that head coach Pat Narduzzi has defeated Dabo Swinney's Tigers.
Although Clemson took a 7-0 lead with 1:29 left in the first quarter, that would be the last time the Tigers led the rest of the game. Pitt scored two unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter to go to the locker room with a 14-7 lead. In the third quarter, Pitt scored another 10 while holding Clemson to just a field goal to enter the fourth quarter up 24-10. The Panthers kicked another field goal to take a 27-10 lead with 9:30 left in the fourth. Clemson did counter with a touchdown pass from D.J. Uiagalelei with 7:56 left, but Pitts' defense stopped Clemson's offense the rest of the quarter to secure the win. Uiagalelei struggled mightily on Saturday, completing just 48 percent of his passes for 128 yards and two interceptions.
Pitt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett has emerged as a midseason Heisman candidate, and he proved his case against the Tigers' defense on Saturday. He went 25-of-39 with 302 yards and two touchdowns. His best moment of the day came after the game when he told the sideline reporter that he was going to "have a cold one" to celebrate his victory. Pickett, who turned 23 in June, undoubtedly deserves to have a cold one after his performance against Clemson.
With the victory, Pitt extends their lead in the ACC Coastal standings since every other team has at least two losses in conference play. Their remaining schedule looks relatively favorable, too. The Panthers get Miami at home next week, followed by a road trip to Duke on Nov. 6. The Panthers then get UNC and UVA at home before finishing off their regular season on the road against Syracuse on Nov. 27. Clemson, meanwhile, looks like it will miss out on the ACC Championship for the first time since 2014.
Who's Not: Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State entered Week 8 looking like one of the Big Ten's best hopes to make it to the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Nittany Lions lost 20-18 to a below-.500 Illinois team at home on homecoming, nonetheless. The game ended in a bizarre, hilarious and fun-as-heck fashion, going to nine overtimes. Illinois scored the game-winning two points off of a pass caught by Casey Williams from Illini backup quarterback Brandon Peters.
The loss brings Penn State to 5-2 on the season and effectively eliminates them from the playoff conversation. Not to mention, Penn State has a tough stretch ahead the rest of the year. Next week, PSU goes on the road to face No. 5 Ohio State, and it also has to play No. 6 Michigan and at No. 9 Michigan State before the end of the season.
The Nittany Lions' defense gave up a whopping 395 yards to Illinois, including 357 on the ground. The Fighting Illini barely had to pass all day against Penn State's defense—starting QB Artur Sitowski, who left the game in overtime with an apparent arm injury, threw for 38 total yards all game. 38! Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford, playing for the first time since an injury he suffered on Oct. 9 against Iowa, had a lackluster outing. He finished the day going just 19-of-34 for 165 yards and one touchdown.
Penn State couldn't get anything going on the ground, either, finishing with just 62 rushing yards, their leading back Noah Cain finishing with just 43. It certainly wasn't the way Penn State fans had hoped to see their Nittany Lions play on homecoming. Now, the Nittany Lions might have to fight to finish .500 or better with the schedule they have in front of them. We'll see if they can rebound next week on the road against Ohio State.
Fun Fact: Penn State-Illinois Was College Football's First 9 Overtime Game Ever!
This game was a complete blast (in my humble opinion) at the end, with both teams trading two-point conversion attempts seven times, beginning in the third overtime. Yes, this was the NCAA's apparent "solution" to never getting another game go into seven overtimes again, thanks to LSU and Texas A&M doing so in 2018. The NCAA changed the overtime format this offseason, with teams alternating two-point attempts should the game exceed two overtime periods.
They exchanged field goals in each of their first two overtime possessions, giving both teams the opportunity to score a two-point attempt from the 3-yard line. The game remained a 16-16 tie through the eighth overtime when both offenses finally converted on their first two-point conversion. But finally, in the ninth OT, Illinois scored its conversion on a passing play, and their defense batted away Sean Clifford's throw on PSU's ensuing attempt to give Illinois the upset victory.
After a game like this, which the NCAA theoretically tried to avoid with this amendment, it'll be interesting to see if this rule gets changed again, or, at the very least, tweaked some. As for Illinois head coach Bret Bielema, who earned his 100th win as a head coach with Saturday's victory, he doesn't mind the current rule, telling reporters:
"We had practiced it a little bit but nothing's really like the actual thing. Everything's a two-point play, and it really comes on you quick. ... I've been involved in a Penn State overtime game [at Wisconsin], but it was the old way, and it just seems to drag on and on.
"This, I can see why the fans, we want to make the fans happy, right? It's a fan-generated world we're living in, and I gotta believe those two-point plays, it's a lot of fun. And it looked like fun for us. In a way, it gets the guys going, to be quite honest. Every play is another opportunity. Then when there was a stop, you knew what you had to do, then when there was a touchdown, you knew what you had to do."
We'll see what the NCAA has to say about its overtime rules following this wild game.
What to Watch For: Week 9 Features Some Huge, Season-Defining Matchups
Week 9 might as well be called Junior Rivalry Week because we have some huge rivalry games with major playoff implications. Undefeated Michigan will go on the road to face fellow unbeaten Michigan State, and Penn State goes on the road to Ohio State in another highly-anticipated Big Ten matchup. Georgia faces a struggling Florida team in Jacksonville, and Ole Miss goes on the road to face Auburn in what should be an exciting SEC West matchup on Saturday night.
While the SEC East is virtually impossible for Georgia to lose, we'll see if Florida can play well against its most bitter division rival. Penn State losing to Illinois obviously causes next week's Ohio State game to lose some of its luster. But since 2016, each of these games have been very close. In fact, they've been decided by an average of 5.8 points. Michigan-Michigan State should show us which unbeaten team in the state will take a big step forward in the Big Ten East race.
Week 9 should be another blast for sure.