Week 8 X-Factors
Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State kicked off Week 8 action back on Tuesday night, as #FunBelt took center stage. Utah continued its strong season with a double-overtime win over Oregon State on Thursday, while Boise State and Houston logged wins on Friday night.
What else could be in store for Week 8? Let's take a look at some players that will be vital to the success of their teams on Saturday.
Stanford WR/KR Ty Montgomery: The Cardinal travel to Tempe to battle Arizona State in a key Pac-12 battle. Stanford has won four straight in the series, including its 38-14 win in last year's Pac-12 title game, and could have a chance to extend that streak if its All-American receiver/return man has a big game. Montgomery is a threat any time he has the football, and his best chance to produce a big play this weekend could come on special teams, an area that has been a bit shaky for the Sun Devils this year. Montgomery leads the nation in kickoff average at nearly 30 yards per return.
Georgia RB Nick Chubb: With Todd Gurley remaining suspended and not making the trip to Arkansas for the Bulldogs' game with the Razorbacks, the true freshman running back is in the spotlight once again. Chubb was Georgia's workhorse last week at Missouri, as he racked up 42 touches and 174 yards after entering the contest with 31 rushing attempts for the entire season. Only Herschel Walker (43 against South Carolina) had more carries in a game as a freshman in program history. This week, Chubb will face an Arkansas run defense that held Alabama to just 2.1 yards per carry and 66 rushing yards last week. The Tide also had seven 3-and-out drives. Will Chubb find success on the ground, and will he continue to be the Bulldogs' workhorse?
Notre Dame QB Everett Golson: As I wrote earlier in the week, Golson is one of the keys for the Fighting Irish if they have any shot at beating Florida State in Tallahassee. He needs to play a clean game, as protecting the football has been a major issue for the dual-threat signal-caller as of late. Golson has nine turnovers in his last three contests after committing none in his first three games. His three giveaways last week turned into touchdowns for North Carolina in ND's home win. Golson, who has improved as a passer after missing the 2013 season due to suspension, must play error-free against a Seminoles squad that had two red-zone interceptions last week against Syracuse. FSU struggled a bit against dual-threat QBs Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett this fall, and Golson has rushed for 209 yards. His play will determine if ND can hang with the 'Noles for four quarters.
Washington OLB Shaq Thompson: The junior is arguably the best defensive playmaker not just in the Pac-12 but in the entire country. He has four defensive touchdowns already and one rushing score this fall, and he's emerging as a serious dark horse to at least gain an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony as long as he keeps up his All American play. His size-speed combo will be needed against Oregon at Autzen Stadium this week. The Ducks' high-octane, up-tempo offense will be a real test for a Huskies defense that has some athletes, none moreso that Thompson.
Kansas State WR/PR Tyler Lockett: The Tulsa native is one of the most exciting players in the country, and he must be a major factor for the Wildcats if they want to upset Oklahoma in Norman. He is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches a football, and he has 29 catches for 399 yards and three touchdowns this season. Quarterback Jake Waters leads all Big 12 quarterbacks in rushing at 64 yards per game and is throwing for over 240 yards per contest. He will look for Lockett early and often against a Sooners secondary that has struggled the last two weeks. Lockett could also turn the game around as a punt returner, so OU's special teams play must be strong.
USC RB Javorius "Buck" Allen: The compact junior leads the Pac-12 in rushing at 130.2 yards per game and has proven to be an effective pass-catcher, as he already has 23 receptions this season. The Florida native, who ran for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final six games of last season, has 781 yards and seven scores on the ground through the first six games this fall, including a career-high 205-yard performance in the win last week over Arizona. He has gained a ton of attention from NFL scouts with his strong play, and he should be the centerpiece of the Trojans' offensive attack this week when they host Colorado.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.