Week 8 preview: A&M vs. 'Bama; Helfrich under pressure

As the college football season makes the turn into the back half of the season, we're due for a startling upset.

The first week of the season, two teams ranked in the top 10 lost to unranked teams.

No. 5 LSU fell to Wisconsin and No. 10 Notre Dame lost to Texas . Since then we have learned Notre Dame is not all that good and Wisconsin really is.

Only one top 10 team has lost to an unranked team since that first week. That was Navy upsetting then-No. 6 Houston .

It almost happened last week, when North Carolina State nearly upset Clemson.

Maybe Penn State can do it this week against No. 2 Ohio State. N.C. State gets another shot Saturday at No. 7 Louisville.

Five things to know for college football's Week 8:

BEST GAME

No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama.

Recommended with caution because the Crimson Tide can often turn these marquee matchups into opportunities to watch third-teamers play in the fourth quarter. By the way, many of Alabama's third-teamers are future NFL players.

The odds makers don't have much hope for the Aggies, who are 18-point underdogs. Still, it is a huge opportunity for a season-shifting victory. A victory by Texas A&M has the potential to lock Alabama out of the Southeastern Conference championship game and the College Football Playoff.

HEISMAN WATCH

Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight could get the beat-Bama bump with a big game in Tuscaloosa, but let's look a little deeper.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield came into the season as one of the big-name returning stars getting Heisman hype. Losing two September games pretty much ended that talk, but Mayfield might still have a chance to get the invitation to New York he probably deserved last season.

The oh-so accommodating Texas Tech defense awaits the No. 16 Sooners in Lubbock on Saturday.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

0-7 - Penn State coach James Franklin's record against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

20-6 - Alabama coach Nick Saban's record in games matching top 10 teams.

11 for 12 - No. 20 Western Michigan leads the nation in fourth-down conversion rate (91.67) heading into its game against Eastern Michigan.

OFF THE RADAR

UCF (3-3) visits Connecticut (3-4) in a game between two American Athletic Conference teams hoping to stay in the league title race and inch closer to bowl eligibility. That's pretty far off the radar.

But what you need to know is that last year UConn coach Bob Diaco named this ''rivalry'' the Civil ConFLiCT (FL, CT. Get it?) and had a trophy made . Diaco's enthusiasm for the rivalry seems to have waned and new UCF coach Scott Frost was not about to get lured in this week .

But beyond the comic relief, Frost's Knights are worth watching. The former Oregon offensive coordinator took over a team that was a winless wreck last season. It's already a noteworthy turnaround, but if Frost can get UCF to a bowl his own stock will soar.

COACH IN NEED OF A WIN

Speaking of Oregon, Frost's former boss is having a tough time. Mark Helfrich's Ducks (2-4) have lost four straight games.

If the season is to be salvaged a victory at California on Friday night is almost a must. This is another series the Ducks have dominated in recent years, winning seven straight. But Oregon has already had its five-game Pac-12 winning streak against Colorado snapped, a 12-game streak against rival Washington broken and lost consecutive years to Washington State for the first time in 13 seasons.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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