An early glance at Week 8
Seven weeks of the 2013 college football season are in the books, and the path to the BCS national title game still remains a bit cluttered despite a slew of upsets last week. Are more favorites primed to fall this weekend?
Let's take a quick look at what could be in store for the best contests of Week 8.
Tuesday, October 15
Louisiana-Lafayette at Western Kentucky: The Ragin' Cajuns will try to remain unbeaten in the Sun Belt when they travel to Smith Stadium to face the Hilltoppers in the first Tuesday night matchup of the season. This game will feature the conference's top two rushing attacks, as the Ragin' Cajuns average 217.2 yards per game, while Antonio Andrews and WKU put up 214.3 yards per contest.
Thursday, October 17
Miami (FL) at North Carolina: The Tar Heels are 1-4 overall and 0-2 in ACC play, as they have performed about as poorly as one could imagine in Larry Fedora's second season in Chapel Hill. But UNC has a chance to make a dent in the Hurricanes' BCS hopes. And Miami (FL) has lost four of its past six games against the Heels. UNC is coming off of a bye, but it will need the 'Canes to continue to be sloppy with the football if it has any chance of an upset.
Friday, October 18
Central Florida at Louisville: The Cardinals were unable to win any style points from voters last Thursday night in their win over Rutgers. Can they do so against George O'Leary's Knights? UCF had a chance to beat South Carolina a few weeks ago but was unable to put the Gamecocks away. The Knights have offensive firepower, but the Cards have been very impressive both against the run and generating pressure.
Saturday, October 19
US PRESSWIREConnor Shaw and the Gamecocks are coming off of an impressive win at Arkansas.
South Carolina at Tennessee: The Gamecocks absolutely dismantled Arkansas on the road last weekend, as quarterback Connor Shaw continued his strong play in the win over the Hogs. Carolina's defense was also strong against Bret Bielema's squad, limiting the Razorbacks to just 37 total offensive plays. Meanwhile, the Vols will be looking to repeat their performance from a few weeks ago against Georgia. Only this time, Butch Jones and Co. will be looking to pull out the win.
Wisconsin at Illinois: The Badgers are one of the best two-loss teams in the country, but they'll face a tricky test this weekend against the Illini in Champaign. The Illini will go as far as quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase can take them, and a lot of pressure is on him to deliver the program's first conference win since October 8, 2011, against Indiana. We'll see if offensive coordinator Bill Cubit can get the unit back to its high-scoring ways.
Florida at Missouri: The Gators head to Columbia without the services of running back Matt Jones, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Junior Mack Brown, who is the team's leading rusher with 340 yards on 91 carries, will still have help in the form of freshman Kelvin Taylor, who had career highs in carries and rushing yards against LSU on Saturday. Quarterback Tyler Murphy will be tested by an aggressive Tigers front. However, counterpart Maty Mauk will be making his first career start against a fierce Gators defense.
Iowa at Ohio State: As Scott Dochterman of The Gazette points out, the Hawkeyes have defeated either an 11-win team or one that made a BCS game for six consecutive years — including the years when Iowa didn’t earn a bowl bid (2007 and 2012). But a trip to Columbus this week will be difficult, as the Buckeyes have won 18 straight games and are coming off of a bye week following their comeback win over Northwestern.
Auburn at Texas A&M: Quarterback Nick Marshall returns to the starting lineup for the Tigers after freshman Jeremy Johnson threw four touchdown passes and earned SEC freshman of the week honors. Marshall, though, has made strides each week before missing the Western Carolina game with a minor knee injury. He is much more comfortable running the read-option, and the Tigers will need his best game yet against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies in College Station. Meanwhile, Johnny Football will have to deal with a very active Tigers front led by Carl Lawson, Gabe Wright and Dee Ford.
UCLA at Stanford: With Stanford's loss to Utah, UCLA will try to show that it is the top contender to knock off Oregon. But it will be tough to take down the Cardinal in Palo Alto, although Derek Mason's defense is only ranked No. 48 nationally at 379.7 yards per game. Ty Montgomery gives the Cardinal a rare explosive weapon, though, in case this turns into a shootout with Brett Hundley and the Bruins.
Washington at Arizona State: The Sun Devils have been very inconsistent this season, so they will look for more stability with a win over a Huskies team coming off of losses to Stanford and Oregon. Keith Price didn't have a great game against the Ducks, so he will look to rebound against Alden Darby, Will Sutton and the Sun Devils defense. Meanwhile, Justin Wilcox's unit will look to slow down the Sun Devils' Marion Grice and Taylor Kelly.
LSU at Ole Miss: The Rebels were once 3-0 with road wins over Vanderbilt and Texas, but Hugh Freeze's squad is now on a three-game skid. And depth issues on defense have plagued this team. The Tigers come into this game with BCS title hopes still intact, but they'll face a squad desperate for a victory.
USC at Notre Dame: The Trojans had extra time off because they played last Thursday night, while the Fighting Irish are coming off of a bye. Ed Orgeron has his team playing loose and having fun, and expect new play-caller Clay Helton to continue to open up the offense while relying on a sound ground attack led by Tre Madden and Silas Redd. But will Marqise Lee be back this week? For the Irish, playing turnover-free is crucial to the team's success. Quarterback Tommy Rees has struggled with his accuracy and taking care of the ball in recent weeks.
Florida State at Clemson: The Seminoles have not been able to earn a win in Death Valley since 2001, but they are coming off of a bye week. Both teams have been tested by Boston College — Clemson moreso. And while the Tigers are more impressive on defense than in years past, Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston and his array of playmakers will give Tigers coordinator Brent Venables and his defense all it can handle. However, Winston will be facing a much different road test than the kind Pitt and BC provided.
Other games to monitor on Saturday
Georgia at Vanderbilt
TCU at Oklahoma State
Minnesota at Northwestern
Indiana at Michigan
BYU at Houston
Nevada at Boise State
Washington State at Oregon
Utah at Arizona
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.