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Why a quiet Week 8 could mean big surprises
1:07 | College Football
Why a quiet Week 8 could mean big surprises
Friday October 23rd, 2015

Can USC bounce back against Utah? Will Georgia Tech suffer a sixth straight loss? Ranking Saturday’s best games in each time slot (all kickoff times listed for Eastern time zone):

Early games

1. No. 6 Clemson at Miami, Noon, ABC

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t about to overlook Miami, mostly because of Brad Kaaya. “They have the best quarterback we’ve seen,” Swinney said this week. The Hurricanes’ stellar sophomore has thrown 10 touchdown passes against just one interception during his team’s 4–2 start, which included a tight 29–24 loss at Florida State. If coach Al Golden wants to prove he’s the man to lead Miami, a win over unbeaten Clemson would go a long way. But history suggests Golden faces an uphill battle: The road team has won the last four games in this series.

2. Kansas State at Texas, Noon, FS1

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Kansas State’s 55–0 loss to Oklahoma last week was so bad Bill Snyder felt it necessary to pen an apology letter to Wildcats fans. Snyder hopes his team bounces back this week in Austin. The problem is, Texas might not be the cakewalk opponent many expected after the Longhorns started the season 1–4. They stunned Oklahoma 24–17 in the Red River Shootout two weeks ago by running the ball a whopping 58 times for 313 yards. Can Kansas State, which ranks fourth in the Big 12 in rushing defense, get back on track?

3. Auburn at Arkansas, Noon, SEC Network

During the preseason, this game was expected to impact the SEC West race. Instead it’s a matchup of underachieving programs. The Tigers, in particular, are 4–2 only after surviving close contests with Louisville, Kentucky and—wait for it—Jacksonville State. That’s mostly because Will Muschamp’s defense ranks 11th in the SEC in yards allowed per play (5.75) and quarterback Jeremy Johnson proved ineffective as a starter. Despite Arkansas’s own struggles, it should pose a challenge to Auburn; the Razorbacks beat Tennessee and pushed Alabama in their last two games.

Mid-day games

1. Texas Tech at No. 17 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t concern himself with balance on offense. The Red Raiders throw the ball more (49.4 attempts per game) and run the ball less (32.3 carries per game) than any other Big 12 team. Unfortunately for Texas Tech that gameplan could prove disastrous against Oklahoma on Saturday. Cornerback Zack Sanchez and the Sooners rank first in the conference in pass efficiency defense and yards allowed per attempt (5.2).

2. Indiana at No. 7 Michigan State 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

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Michigan State can’t allow for much time to celebrate after last week’s miraculous victory over rival Michigan. That’s because Indiana comes to East Lansing on Saturday. The Hoosiers are just 4–3, but they forced three turnovers against Ohio State in a close 34–27 loss on Oct. 3. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld could give Sparty a test on defense after throwing for 464 yards and four touchdowns against Rutgers last week. But Sudfeld also tossed two fourth-quarter picks that helped the Scarlet Knights rally for a 55–52 win. If the senior plays smart against Michigan State, Indiana could shake things up in the Big Ten.

3. Tennessee at No. 8 Alabama 3:30 p.m., CBS

Alabama seems to have put its Sept. 19 loss to Ole Miss in the past. Since that setback, the Crimson Tide have won four straight games, including two against previously unbeaten SEC teams (Georgia and Texas A&M). Last week Alabama notched three pick-sixes in its 41–23 win over the Aggies. Now Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa having lost three games by a combined 12 points. The problem? The Vols haven’t beaten a top 10 team since 2006.

Primetime games

1. No. 3 Utah at USC, 7:30 p.m., FOX

Last week USC players watched the school fire their head coach, Steve Sarkisian, just days before taking a road trip to face Notre Dame. The Irish scored 17 unanswered in the fourth quarter in a 41–31 win, dropping the Trojans, the preseason Pac-12 favorites, to 3–3 on the year. That underachievement contrasts starkly with Utah, which is 6–0 for the first time since 2010. Expect USC quarterback Cody Kessler, who has thrown five picks in his last three games, to struggle against a Utes defense that has nabbed 13 interceptions this year.

2. No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 24 Ole Miss, 7 p.m., ESPN

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Texas A&M’s defense was proud to hold Alabama’s offense to 20 points last week. The bad news? The Crimson Tide turned three Kyle Allen interceptions into touchdowns in the Aggies’ loss at Kyle Field. Allen and his offense hope to be sharper in Oxford. Last week the Rebels’ once-potent offense fell 37–24 at previously unranked Memphis. The matchup to watch will take place in the trenches, where Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil returns from a seven-game suspension to face Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.

3. No. 9 Florida State at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Paul Johnson says Georgia Tech’s difficult schedule is no excuse for its 2–5 start. “We knew it was going to be a tough schedule,” the Yellow Jackets’ coach said this week, “and we haven't won any of the close games.” Indeed, four of Tech’s five losses have come by eight points or fewer. Can the Jackets (12th in ACC in total defense) keep things close against dynamic back Dalvin Cook and Florida State? The Seminoles are shooting for an ACC record-tying 29th straight win over a conference foe.

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