Can Notre Dame Dethrone Champs? Big Questions for Week 8 in College Football
The more things change (Mississippi State is the No. 1 team in the country?!), the more they stay the same (Florida State and Notre Dame in a Top 5 showdown, Jameis Winston being investigated). Here are the big questions for this week in college football:
Will Florida State or Notre Dame Stay in the Playoff Hunt?
There was a time when Notre Dame and Florida State were the two biggest names on the college football landscape. And while they’ve both had their share of ups and downs since then, it’s good to see them back to being relevant again regardless of whether you love them or hate them. (There doesn’t seem to be much in between with these two.)
Despite their past success, this will be just the second time the two schools have met when both were ranked in the Top 5. In 1993, then-No. 2 Notre Dame beat top-ranked Florida State, 31-24. But the Seminoles ran the table from there and went on to win a controversial national championship.
Unfortunately, the game is being overshadowed by yet another investigation of Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston, this time amid allegations that he profited from selling autographs, a la Johnny Manziel and Todd Gurley. But by kickoff Saturday night, barring something dramatic happening to keep him out of the game, the showdown between Winston and Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson should be a fun one to watch.
Who Survives This Round of the Big 12 Bloodletting?
The last couple of weeks have been brutal in the Big 12. First TCU knocks off previously unbeaten Oklahoma. Then the Sooners survive a scare from archrival Texas while TCU gives up 24 unanswered points to fall to Baylor in a wild 61-58 thriller. So what does the conference do for an encore this week?
No. 4 Baylor, which is now the only unbeaten left in the conference, goes on the road to a suddenly-competitive West Virginia. The No. 11 Sooners must host Coach Stoops’ mentor, Bill Snyder, and the No. 14 Kansas State Wildcats. And No. 12 TCU will look to rebound from its disappointing loss hosting No. 15 Oklahoma State.
With Baylor now a game up on the field, the stakes in the Big 12 just got a lot higher for everybody else. I’m not sure what and I’m not sure where but, as crazy and unpredictable as the Big 12 has been this year, I’ll go out on a limb and predict something wild will happen again this weekend.
How Bad Will Things Get for the Alabama/A&M Loser?
Just a few weeks ago, we had this week’s matchup between Texas A&M and Alabama penciled in as possible playoff elimination game. But now it’s looking like a desperation game, with the winner just barely holding on to hope in the SEC and the loser already out of contention before November.
Following a hot start, the Aggies are reeling after back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Alabama, meanwhile, also fell to Ole Miss and barely held on against Arkansas. Both teams still have LSU and Auburn on their remaining schedule, plus the Tide have yet to play top-ranked Mississippi State. So the loser this week could realistically be looking at a four- or five-loss season. Phyllis will not be happy.
Who Is the Halfway Heisman?
We’re at the halfway point in the season (depressing, I know), and I can’t remember a season that has seen more change at the top in the Heisman mix. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott has gone from off the radar screen to the current favorite after leading the Bulldogs from unranked to No. 1 faster than any team in history. If the vote was held today, it would be a two-horse race between Prescott and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who continues to tear up stat sheets. For the second straight year, Mariota has made it through six games without throwing an interception (while throwing for 17 touchdowns and rushing for five more).
After those two, things get a little muddier. Georgia’s Todd Gurley is suspended and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska was shut down by Michigan State, leaving Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (1,046 yards and 13 touchdowns) is the running back most likely to get an invite. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty continues to put up monster yards and Everett Golson has to receive most of the credit for Notre Dame’s resurgence.
It’s obviously too early to call the race over and, as crazy as this season has been, this list is likely to see a lot of changes between now and December.
Could the Best Game of the Week Be Between Unranked Teams?
Although it might not be the most hyped game, Saturday night's Nebraska/Northwestern game could be the most exciting on this week's slate. The last three matchups between these two have come down to the final minutes and have been decided by a combined total of seven points. Nebraska has escaped with comeback victories the last two years, thanks to the help of plays like this.
The two teams are pretty evenly matched and both know that a loss here likely dooms their chances of making the Big Ten title game. So if you don’t have a rooting interest in any of the Saturday night games and are just looking for an exciting game to watch, this might be the one for you.