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Week 8 Football: What to Watch

A look at games that might pique your interest

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Clemson at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve always been of the mindset that any Saturday is a good Saturday for some NC State football, but... this is a well-timed bye week. Well, last week would have been better timing, but this sets up State with extra time to prepare for each of the next two games. The offense needs it.

So with rooting interests aside, here’s what to watch this week and weekend along the college football landscape.

First off, I realize I’m a day late so that Georgia State vs App State game already happened (App won 42-17 after being behind 14-0 for almost the entire first half... it was a win the Mountaineers desperately needed to keep their hopes of another Sun Belt conference championship alive).

Thursday night features two games that aren’t likely to move the needle on a national scale, but one of them is an ACC matchup. That’s not the game you should be watching, though. Virginia vs Georgia Tech is bound to be a boring affair, but that Troy vs South Alabama game features the two leaders of the Sun Belt West Division. South Alabama is the one of those two with a fully functioning offense, but both teams have solid defenses.

That UAB-WKU game is the best of the two Friday games. I think WKU is the better team, but UAB is always a feel-good rooting interest given that program’s history. The other game features a Temple program that has dropped like a rock the last three seasons against a Tulsa team with a head coach (Philip Montgomery) most likely on his way out after the season.

Saturday’s a good day of games! Immediately at noon, it’s an undefeated ACC Atlantic battle as Syracuse travels to take on Clemson. I didn’t have to include “Atlantic” because as soon as you read “undefeated ACC” and know that it’s past mid-September, you already knew those teams weren’t coming from the Coastal Division. I digress... That game, which will violently assault your eyes with orange, will put the winner in the driver’s seat. If the Tigers win, it all but locks up an Atlantic Division title, but even Cuse win won’t put the Tigers in too bad of a situation with Syracuse still having four additional conference games on the slate.

By the way, how has Wake Forest is technically still right there with just one conference loss (to Clemson), but they’re the only Atlantic Division team that hasn’t played at least three conference games so far.

Also at noon, the Cincinnati-SMU game should feature a lot of points (Cincy’s defense has looked good but has only played one team that’s not horrendous on offense). Kansas and Baylor would be a great game if Jalon Daniels were able to play for the Jayhawks, but it looks like he’ll miss this week.

Duke and Miami play. Cool beans.

Buffalo-Toledo isn’t going to move the needle for most, but those are the only two teams still undefeated in MAC play, and sitting on opposite divisions, it could be a preview of the MAC Championship Game in December (the MAC East Division is pretty awful).

As we get into the mid-day slate of games, there are three that should demand your focus.

This is looking like the best Ole Miss team of 50 or 60 years, but the back half of the schedule is pretty brutal (@ LSU, @ Texas A&M, Alabama, @ Arkansas, Mississippi State), so it wouldn’t be shocking to see them drop a couple. Maybe this team is for real, though. LSU, on the other hand, is getting back to LSU standards in Brian Kelly’s first year. They got leveled by Tennessee and have two true tests left, both at home and both over the next two weeks (Ole Miss, Alabama). This team would be lost without Jayden Daniels, though.

Good NC State friend, Chip Kelly, and his unbeaten UCLA squad come fresh off their bye week to take on his old employer, Oregon, a Top 10 team who has been generally impressive since their season opening dismantling by Georgia. The Ducks are an absurdly balanced team with Auburn transfer QB Bo Nix leading the charge, while the Bruins captured their most impressive victory to date in their last game, a triumph over Utah. That’s their only good win, though, as the victory of Washington has quickly lost merit.

The advanced metrics love Texas, and I suppose that has merit. The Longhorns are undefeated if Quinn Ewers hadn’t been knocked out of the Alabama game and subsequently missed the Texas Tech game. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has (as you’d expect) one of the best offenses in the country, but is sporting a typical Big XII defense. This should be a really fun game.

There are three big games in the evening slate, as well. The first of those is Mississippi State at Alabama. Bama is a 21-point favorite which feels waaaay too high, but there’s just so much talent for the Tide. Still crazy to think they’re 2 plays away from being 4-3. By the way, the Egg Bowl is going to be crazy this year.

Game #2 of the primetime slot will be Minnesota vs Penn State. The Nittany Lions badly need a win here or they’re more than likely going to be on a 3-game losing streak (lost to Michigan last week, face Ohio State next week) after starting 5-0. The Gophers have probably the nation’s best running back in Mohamed Ibrahim, but they’re on a two-game slide. The loss to Purdue they were without Ibrahim, while last week QB Tanner Morgan was so unbelievably bad (4-of-12, 21 yards, 1 INT) that even Ibrahim averaging 8.5 yards/carry couldn’t save them.

Kansas State at TCU continues the Big XII’s unreal year. The Horned Frogs have won three straight games against ranked opponents, although two of those are no longer rated (Oklahoma, Kansas). Like Oklahoma State, TCU has a great offense and a typical Big XII defense. Makes for fun games for viewers, though! K-State is kicking off their own run of three straight games against ranked teams (OK State up next, then Texas). I love the Big XII this year.

In the nightcap, San Diego State and Nevada are two of the worst teams in FBS, so that’s probably going to be a fun game, even if it won’t make an instructional video.

Enjoy the bye week, folks!

Rankings for SP+ Ratings and Sagarin Ratings listed, respectively, ahead of each team’s name.


77/101 Georgia State @ 55/61 Appalachian State - 7:30pm - ESPN2


83/94 Virginia @ 86/81 Georgia Tech - 7:30pm - ESPN

57/71 Troy @ 50/75 South Alabama - 7:30pm - ESPNU


78/84 Tulsa @ 109/156 Temple - 7:30pm - ESPN2

59/70 UAB @ 68/68 Western Kentucky - 8:00pm - CBSSN


38/37 Syracuse @ 15/8 Clemson - 12:00pm - ABC

16/31 Cincinnati @ 46/62 SMU - 12:00pm - ESPN

51/47 Kansas @ 21/26 Baylor - 12:00pm - ESPN2

75/66 Duke @ 49/59 Miami - 12:30pm - ESPN3

71/54 Toledo @ 101/85 Buffalo - 1:00pm - ESPN+

45/41 West Virginia @ 54/43 Texas Tech - 3:00pm - FS1

7/12 Ole Miss @ 26/15 LSU - 3:30pm - CBS

8/19 UCLA @ 9/10 Oregon - 3:30pm - FOX

6/6 Texas @ 12/11 Oklahoma State - 3:30pm - ABC

94/105 Boston College @ 29/21 Wake Forest - 3:30pm - ACCN

64/65 Memphis @ 52/51 Tulane - 3:30pm - ESPN2

70/57 BYU @ 82/88 Liberty - 3:30pm - ESPNU

20/14 Mississippi State @ 3/3 Alabama - 7:00pm - ESPN

81/50 Boise State @ 76/53 Air Force - 7:00pm - CBSSN

25/17 UCF @ 66/72 East Carolina - 7:30pm - ESPNU

10/28 Minnesota @ 18/20 Penn State - 7:30pm - ABC

17/16 Kansas State @ 13/13 TCU - 8:00pm - FS1

39/48 Pittsburgh @ 58/46 Louisville - 8:00pm - ACCN

32/32 Washington @ 80/67 California - 10:30pm - ESPN

117/112 San Diego State @ 123/149 Nevada - 10:30pm - CBSSN