As we inch closer and closer to the end of the year, look for the teams that have something to play for to really ramp up the intensity.
The best games of Week 8:
#11 Kansas State Wildcats (6-0) @ Kansas Jayhawks (2-4)
12:00 pm ET – Memorial Stadium, Lawrence KS
Last year in football’s Sunflower Showdown, Kansas lost 59-7, its most lopsided defeat since falling to Texas 66-14 in 2005. The Jayhawks have lost the last two meetings after winning four out of the five previous matchups. Kansas leads the series 65-38-5 (37-16-2 at home) and pulled off a 30-24 upset in Manhattan, the last time it faced a ranked Wildcats team in 2007.
Last week, Kansas State had its highest-scoring game of the season in a 41-34 win on the road over Texas Tech, with the offense not scoring until late in the second quarter. The defense and special teams helped QB Collin Klein out as Nigel Malone had a 24 yard pick six, Tyler Lockett returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score, and Raphael Guidry blocked two field goals. Klein finished the contest 12-of-18 passing for 148 yards and a touchdown adding 110 yards and finding the end zones three times on the ground. The win kept the Wildcats tied atop the conference with third ranked Oklahoma and sixth ranked Oklahoma State. Despite the big plays on defense, KState gave up 580 total yards, 461 yards in the air.
Oklahoma handed Kansas their fourth straight loss last week, a 47-17 defeat in Lawrence, racking up 610 yards on the Jayhawks. Kansas ranks near the bottom in the FBS in every major defensive category and is last with 49.0 points and 565.0 yards allowed per game. During their four straight losses, the Jayhawks have allowed an average of 627.0 yards, and have been outscored 228-103.
The Wildcats look to move a step closer toward their first 7-0 start since winning nine in a row in 1999 to begin the season, and should easily hand Kansas their fifth straight defeat.
#19 Auburn Tigers (5-2) @ #1 LSU Tigers (7-0)
3:30 pm ET – Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA
Last year as a freshman, Michael Dyer ran for 100 yards on 15 attempts while QB Cam Newton rushed for 217 yards in then-fifth ranked Auburn’s 24-17 win over #6 LSU, snapping a three-game losing streak in the series. However, LSU has won five straight home games over Auburn since 1999 when the Tigers lost 17-24, and 14 in a row in Death Valley overall since a 13-3 loss to then-top ranked Florida on Oct. 10, 2009.
Last week, Auburn defeated Florida 17-6 in a defensive match up that saw a total of seven quarterbacks take a snap. QB Barrett Trotter went 2-of-8 passing, but threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Benton late in the first quarter and Clint Moseley went 4-of-7 for 90 yards. Wildcat QB Kiehl Frazier gained 43 yards and Dyer had 23 carries for 73 yards as the Tigers outgained the Gators 278-194 in total yards. However, Auburn received plenty of help from Florida which committed three turnovers, two on muffed punts.
LSU has reportedly handed suspensions to CBs Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and RB Spencer Ware for possibly failing team drug tests. Head coach Les Miles remained tight lipped Wednesday afternoon on this radio show, saying “It’s not information I’m going to respond to”. Mathieu is arguably the best defensive player in the country, and is said to be a candidate for several major honors this year including the Heisman, Maxwell, and Bednarik awards. He is second on the team with 42 tackles and has two interceptions and three fumble recoveries, two for touchdowns. Simon has made one start but is fourth on the team in tackles with 29 and leads the team with nine passes defended and Ware is LSU’s leading rusher with 512 yards and is tied for a team-best six touchdowns.
Even with the three players sidelined, LSU’s depth and home field advantage will have them 8-0 by dinnertime.
#20 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-1) @ Miami Hurricanes (3-3)
3:30 pm ET – Sun Life Stadium, Miami FL
Georgia Tech easily ran through their non-conference schedule, but has had a tougher challenge against their ACC foes. After escaping with a 21-16 victory over Maryland two weeks ago, the Yellow Jackets fell short Saturday in a 24-21 loss to Virginia. QB Tevin Washington carried the ball 26 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, but his passing game was off as he threw for just 2-of-8 for 24 yards and two interceptions. Over his first four games, Washington completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 821 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception, but has thrown 30.8 percent for 255 yards, two TDs and three picks in the last three. However, Georgia Tech has the second best run game in the country, averaging 347.9 yards per game. The problems haven’t been limited to just the passing game, there have been issues with the defense, which has given up 520 yards on the ground the last two games and allowed a season-worst 409 total yards against the Cavaliers. The defensive unit could get a boost as OLB Jeremiah Attaochu may return this week after missing two games with a leg injury. He has 29 tackles – five for a loss – and a team-leading four sacks.
Miami DT Micanor Regis was suspended Wednesday for punching North Carolina receiver Dwight Jones in Saturday’s 30-24 victory. With Regis sitting this one out, the Hurricanes defense that’s 94th against the run (187.0 ypg), will have an even harder time containing Washington and the Yellow Jackets ground attack. Miami will have to rely heavily on QB Jacory Harris and RB Lamar Miller this week to keep the team ahead. Harris had his third straight impressive performance in the win over the Tar Heels, completing 20-of-30 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. The quarterback hasn’t thrown an interception in three straight games, and has eight TDs and only has three picks this season compared to last year when he had 15.
USC Trojans (5-1) @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-2)
7:30 pm ET – Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend IN
Often called the “Greatest Inter-Sectional Rivalry in the Country”, Southern California and Notre Dame will meet for the 82nd time Saturday. This is the 66th straight season the teams have met dating back to 1946. The Irish holds a 43-33-5 series advantage, but lost eight straight to the Trojans before last season, when Notre Dame won 20-16 in Los Angeles.
The Trojan’s only blemish entering the game came on a road loss at Arizona State, and last Thursday they defeated California 30-9, forcing five Golden Bears turnovers. In that contest, QB Matt Barkley completed 19-of-35 passes for 195 yards and two scores; he is 152-of-223 for 1,782 with 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions on the season. RB Marc Tyler injured his shoulder against Cal and it is up in the air if he plays Saturday. If he can’t go, Curtis McNeal will do all the work, as he had 86 rushing yards and a touchdown last week. Barkley did not play in the rivalry game last year due to injury, but in his start back in 2009 USC defeated Notre Dame, 34-27.
Notre Dame is coming back from on off week to host the Trojans in the first night game held in South Bend since a 1990 28-24 win over Michigan. Two weeks ago, the Irish defeated Air Force 59-33 as QB Tommy Rees went 23-of-32 for 261 yards and threw 4 TD passes to as many receivers. Head coach Brian Kelly showed off a new weapon in the Irish’s attack when sophomore Andrew Hendrix was sent in as a change-of-pace quarterback. Hendrix completed all four of his passes for 33 yards and ran for 111 yards on six carries, including a 78-yard run in the fourth quarter. The defense allowed a whopping 565 yards of total offense, 363 yards on the ground.
Notre Dame’s defense has got to do a better job of containing Barkley & Co.; the Barkley-to-Woods QB-WR tandem is one of those hottest in the country.
#4 Wisconsin Badgers (6-0) @ #15 Michigan State Spartans (5-1)
8:00 pm ET – Spartan Stadium, East Lansing MI
The Badgers travel to the spot of their last Big Ten defeat, last year’s34-24 loss at the hands of Michigan State on Oct. 2nd; the team is unbeaten in nine conference games since. Wisconsin is off to its best start since winning its first nine games in 2004 and leads the nation with an average of 50.2 points while ranking eighth in total offense with 523.2 yards per game. Russell Wilson’s Heisman and Maxwell push are gaining steam as the quarterback has the fourth best completion percentage in the country (74.2%), is third with 14 touchdowns to one interception, and his 210.94 QB rating leads the FBS. Wisconsin is seventh in the country in rushing offense averaging 257.50 ypg, but it’s not all Wilson. Montee Ball is 19th in the FBS with 108.83 ypg, and second with 16 TDs. James White has added support with 69 ypg and four scores. Wisconsin’s defense is holding teams to 267.7 ypg (seventh), is third in scoring (9.7 ppg), and passing defense (144.8 ypg).
Michigan State is coming off a big victory against then-undefeated Michigan, defeating the Wolverines 28-14 for the fourth straight year, sacking the QBs seven times and holding them to 250 total yards of offense. Unfortunately, in the contest DE Will Gholston punched UM OL Taylor Lewan at the end of the third quarter and has been suspended by the Big Ten for the Homecoming game against Wisconsin. The Spartan’s defense ranks near the top of all major defensive categories, being second in total defense (186.2 ypg), third in rushing (67 ypg), first in passing (119.2 ypg) and fourth in scoring (10.8 ppg). The offense is led by QB Kirk Cousins who has a completion percentage of 65.9 % (26th in FBS) for 1,317 yards with eight touchdowns and four INTs. RB Edwin Baker is coming off his best performance of the season, carrying the ball 26 times for 167 yards and a score. Last year against Wisconsin, Cousins went 20-of-29 for 269 yards, three touchdowns and two picks, while Baker ran for 87 yards on 18 attempts.
#22 Washington Huskies (5-1) at #7 Stanford Cardinal (6-0)
8:00 pm ET – Stanford Stadium, Stanford CA
Stanford’s Andrew Luck may be considered the Heisman front-runner, but Washington’s Keith Price is making a name for himself nationally with the fifth best quarterback rating (177.90) and tied for the second-most touchdown passes in the country (21). Price is 118-of-170 passing for 1,466 yards on the season so far. Last week against Colorado, Price had four first-half touchdown passes each to a different receiver; a total of seven different Huskies scored as Washington finished with more than 50 points for the first time in more than 10 years. The Huskies have scored more than 30 points in its first six games for the first time in history. Defensively, Washington ranks 73rd in total defense (400.7 ypg), 77th in scoring defense (28.5 ppg), 17th against the run (97 ypg), and 116th in pass defense (303.7 ypg). The Huskies held the Buffaloes to 269 total yards of offense with only 62 yards allowed on the ground.
The Cardinal racked up 475 yards of total offense last week against Washington State, with Luck passing for 336 yards. His first pass of the game resulted in his third interception of the year, but finished completing 23-of-36 passes and four touchdowns. Stanford ranks fifth in scoring offense (45.8 ppg), 16th in total offense (485.7 ypg), 14th in passing offense (304 ypg), and 40th in rushing offense (181.67 ypg). On the other side of the ball, Stanford ranks high in several categories as well: total defense (14th – 294.8 ypg), rushing defense (2nd – 59.50 ypg), and scoring defense (5th – 11.2 ppg). Against the pass however, the Cardinal has struggled, allowing 235.3 ypg (83rd).
Washington is having their best start in years, but Stanford and Luck are just too much for the Huskies to handle, and the Cardinal should come away with their 15th straight victory, the longest win-streak in the nation.
Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc