College football is seven weeks into what is shaping up to be a great season. Now that more is known about all teams involved, fans can know what to watch for in the coming weeks. This list will narrow it down to five things to watch for in week 8.
1. Can NC State upset Clemson?
Both teams were off last week and should be relatively fresh heading into this game. They are also both undefeated and will be vying to win the ACC Atlantic with this matchup playing a key part. Can NC State pull off the upset?
Clemson has been the dominant team in the ACC for the last few seasons, but NC State has kept this game, also known as the Textile Bowl, close. Two years ago Clemson won by seven in overtime, while last year the Tigers won by seven in regulation. The Wolfpack clearly know how to play Clemson tough.
With Clemson still trying to get quarterback Trevor Lawrence used to being the starter, they could be vulnerable. NC State only allows 16.8 points per game and could create some problems for the freshman, but the Wolfpack also haven’t faced a team as talented as the Tigers.
After playing Clemson close the last few years, can NC State come out on top?
2. Will Harbaugh beat a ranked rival?
A lot has been made about Jim Harbaugh’s inability to beat rivals. He has just one win over Michigan State and Ohio State in his tenure at Michigan and it came against a 3-9 Michigan State team. Harbaugh did just score a big win over Wisconsin, but now they travel to East Lansing to take on the Spartans.
Michigan State enters the game ranked 24 after upsetting Penn State. The Spartans have struggled all year with losses to Arizona State and Northwestern, but seemed to toughen up when taking on the Nittany Lions. The Spartans defense ranks 44th in the country, giving up 22.3 points per game. On offense, they have found success through the air, but have struggled on the ground.
The Wolverines are a touchdown favorite to win on the road. Their secondary will have the tough task of shutting down Brian Lewerke. Given that their pass defense has been shaky, Michigan State may be able to take advantage and take a lead. If the Spartans get the lead, the Michigan offense will need to produce big plays through quarterback Shea Patterson and running back Karan Higdon.
Michigan has a lot riding on this game, as they can stay undefeated in the Big Ten and set up a big matchup with Ohio State to end the year.
3. LSU’s running game vs. Mississippi State’s defensive front
LSU has faced two ranked teams and a row, but now will face another in Mississippi State. The Tigers have gotten through a brutal schedule with just one loss so far and will have a bye week after this to rest up for Alabama.
The Tigers will run the ball heavily in order to generate their offense, then rely on quarterback Joe Burrow to convert on third down. Their rushing attack averages 202.7 yards per game and features a few different rushers to get the job done. Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are both good runners for the offense. Brossette averages 4.8 yards per carry, while Edwards-Helaire averages 5.3 yards per carry. They have combined for over 1,100 yards rushing. Burrow has even chipped in 245 yards on the ground.
Mississippi State has the manpower to slow down the LSU rushing attack, but that is easier said than done. Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons is one of the best in the country and has 9.5 tackles for loss through six games. Montez Sweat, a defensive end, has 10.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks on the season. Those two combine to form a powerful duo and will be going up against a good LSU offensive line.
If the Bulldogs can step up and stop the run, they stand a chance to pull off an upset.
4. Quarterback play between Oregon and Washington State
One of the biggest matchups of the weekend is going on in Pullman Washington. Two one-loss teams will be going at it when Oregon and Washington State take the field. While there are many keys to this game, the quarterback play will be a sight to see.
Justin Herbert has helped bring life to the Oregon Ducks this seasons from his quarterback position. The junior has thrown for 1,613 yards and 17 touchdowns already this season. His play has him as the frontrunner to be the first quarterback selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’ll want to play particularly well in this game to keep the Ducks College Football Playoff hopes alive and to have an edge in the Pac-12 North.
Washington State has a productive quarterback of their own in Garnder Minshew. Minshew operates Mike Leach’s air raid attack well with 2,422 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. He will be slinging the ball all over the field against Oregon and will have to have a great game for Washington State to have a chance at winning.
Get ready for a long game, as the ball will be thrown around in excess of 80 or 90 times.
5. Can Cincinnati stay undefeated?
One of the best turnarounds this season has been the Cincinnati Bearcats. Head coach Luke Fickell went 4-8 with the team last year, his first season in Cincinnati. This season the Bearcats sit at 6-0 and are looking to compete in the AAC East with the likes of USF and UCF.
The Bearcats will face a stiff test while traveling to Temple. Temple will try to get their playmakers loose against a Cincinnati defense that ranks third in the country with 13.7 points per game allowed. The Owls have defeated Maryland, but have been inconsistent. Cincinnati has been consistent, but have yet to beat a real quality opponent.
Winning this game for Cincinnati will keep their New Year’s Six Bowl Game hopes alive, but will also help the public view of the AAC. If the AAC can keep the three teams who are currently ranked (Cincinnati, UCF, USF) in the undefeated until the end of the season, when they all play, there will be a lot more interest in the conference as a whole. It will also help bolster the resumes of the teams in the end, but it is a long-shot that any of them get close to
the College Football Playoff, given that last year and undefeated UCF ranked 12 after going undefeated through the AAC Conference Championship.
Make sure to check out our college football page for more updates and rankings.