Saturday Snaps: Breaking down the best of Week 8 in college football

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No. 17 Arizona State 26, No. 23 Stanford 10

In its last game at Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State surrendered 62 points and 626 yards of total offense to UCLA. When they returned to Tempe three weeks later, the Sun Devils shut out Stanford in the first half.

No. 17 Arizona State coasted to a surprisingly easy 26-10 win over the reeling Cardinal, who will likely drop out of the AP poll for the first time since 2010. Quarterback Mike Bercovici, last seen completing a Hail Mary to beat USC, finished with 245 yards passing and one touchdown while running back D.J. Foster added 161 total yards and one score. Stanford’s offense, which has struggled all season, failed to effectively attack a young Arizona State front seven.

The game marks another shift in the Pac-12 race. Arizona State now has an inside road to the Pac-12 South title and an intriguing date with Notre Dame on Nov. 8. Stanford still has an outside shot at a conference title, but its season has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. The Cardinal's date with Oregon on Nov. 1 is a must-win for them to maintain any chance of winning the North division. -- Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 2 Florida State 31, No. 5 Notre Dame 27

While the 2014 game between Notre Dame and Florida State likely won’t qualify for Game of the Century status, like the 1993 edition, it was still a whole lot of fun. Though Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson completed a pass for a first down on fourth-and-18 with under two minutes to play, the No. 5 Fighting Irish’s comeback bid fell just short, as No. 2 Florida State hung on to win 31-27.

Golson went 31 of 52 for 313 yards with three scores, and he appeared to be the hero when he connected with Corey Robinson from two yards out in the waning seconds. However, an offensive pass interference call negated the score. Golson’s second fourth-and-goal attempt was unsuccessful.

While this victory doesn’t lock up Florida State’s College Football Playoff berth by any stretch of the imagination, it puts the Seminoles one step closer to landing a spot in the four-team field. This was the biggest remaining test by far for either team, and this should be a signature win that will play well with the committee.

Although no game is a sure thing in college football, Florida State has to feel good about its chances the rest of the way. The Fighting Irish led until midway through the fourth quarter and rallying to beat Notre Dame is a confidence builder that will go a long way toward silencing the critics looking for an excuse why the Seminoles aren’t contenders to repeat. Florida State’s next three games are at Louisville (Oct. 30), against Virginia (Nov. 8) and at Miami (Nov. 15). -- Martin Rickman

• RICKMAN: Florida State outlasts Notre Dame in prime-time thriller

LSU 41, Kentucky 3

For LSU, still recovering from its 41-7 beatdown by Auburn two weeks ago and its 34-29 loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 20, its rout of Kentucky was a needed boost of confidence, a reminder that the Tigers can still deal out some pain themselves.

For Kentucky, the defeat halts the wave of positive momentum the Wildcats had been riding after three straight wins, including two over SEC East foes.

It’s difficult to say which storyline means more. It was far easier to see that LSU was simply dominant against Kentucky on Saturday night in Death Valley.

The Tigers pummeled the Wildcats on all sides of the ball. LSU racked up 308 yards on the ground, led by running back Terrence Magee’s nine-carry, 127-yard performance. Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles never posed much of a threat to the Tigers, completing 19 of 36 passes for 146 yards. The Wildcats’ ground game found little more success, gaining 71 yards on 27 carries.

LSU even dominated on special teams as Tre’Davious White returned a punt 67 yards for a score and the Tigers pulled off an accidental onside kick when they recovered their own squib kick in the final minute of the first half.

Through eight games, it’s pretty clear this LSU team won’t live up its recent predecessors. With games against Ole Miss and Alabama remaining, the Tigers will have to take their blowouts where they can. They got one Saturday night. -- Colin Becht

No. 9 Oregon 45, Washington 20

Maybe Oregon should wear its throwback uniforms more often. The Ducks looked sharp on both sides of the ball, cruising to a 45-20 victory over Washington on Saturday night.

The Ducks have looked more comfortable ever since offensive tackle Jake Fisher got back in the lineup, and that’s probably not a coincidence. Fisher helps protect Marcus Mariota. Marcus Mariota is Oregon’s best player. Oregon’s best player is a Heisman candidate. And so on and so forth.

Mariota completed 24 of 33 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Royce Freeman added 169 yards on the ground and four scores.

Oregon may have lost to Arizona on Oct. 2, but when the Ducks are at their best, they can beat anybody in the country, as evidenced by Oregon’s win over Michigan State earlier in the season. With all the playoff contenders in leagues not called the SEC dropping games left and right, Oregon still has a shot at making the playoff. But it starts and ends with Mariota. -- MR

No. 3 Ole Miss 34, Tennessee 3

The Ole Miss defense is scary. What’s scarier still is it has the potential to be even better. The Rebels have so much team speed, it’s oozing out on the field like the pink slime in “Ghostbusters II.” Sometimes you don’t know where it’s going. Sometimes you don’t know what it will do. (But it probably enjoys Jackie Wilson, as one does.)

Ole Miss hits hard, brings pressure, ball hawks and largely is in the right spots at the right times, making it extremely difficult for even experienced offenses to operate effectively. Tennessee’s young unit was in for a long night as the Rebels raced past the Volunteers for a 34-3 win

The Volunteers turned it over four times and only picked up 191 total yards, and the Rebels defense masked a sleepy effort from Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense. Wallace completed just 13 of 28 passes for 199 yards but tossed two touchdown passes. It was more than enough to steamroll Tennessee and improve to 7-0. -- MR

No. 12 TCU 42, No. 15 Oklahoma State 9

TCU receiver Josh Doctson entered Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State with a season-high of 76 receiving yards against Oklahoma. By the end of the first quarter, he eclipsed that number -- twice.

Doctson finished the afternoon with seven catches for 225 yards -- highlighted by 77- and 84-yard touchdown grabs in the first quarter -- as TCU routed Oklahoma State 42-9 in Fort Worth. Trevone Boykin threw for a career-high 410 yards and running back B.J. Catalon racked up 100 yards rushing on a mere nine carries.

One week after its gut-wrenching loss to Baylor, TCU throttled the Cowboys while its primary competition in the Big 12 -- Oklahoma and Baylor -- each lost. Now, the Horned Frogs’ Nov. 8 matchup against Kansas State could have Big 12 title implications.

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, appears to be in freefall. One week after barely beating Kansas (it might not have if not for Tyreek Hill’s return skills), the Cowboys looked disjointed and flat. Daxx Garman played most of the game under duress, and Oklahoma State’s typically high-powered offense picked up only 12 first downs and finished a pitiful 3 of 15 on third down.

The loss was Oklahoma State’s first in conference play this season, so it can still remain in the hunt if it can quickly reverse this midseason slump. Kansas State remains unbeaten in Big 12 competition, but there’s a whole host of teams -- the Horned Frogs and Cowboys included -- hot on its tail. -- GB

No. 7 Alabama 59, No. 21 Texas A&M 0

Alabama wanted to show that it hasn’t lost its luster. That message came through loud and clear in a 59-0 rout of the Aggies.

The Crimson Tide looked like the only team that truly belonged at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In fact, it’s possible Texas A&M’s players were replaced by a Pop Warner roster before kickoff. Either way, the contest in Tuscaloosa was a laugher, and only one team left having silenced its doubters.

The beatdown started early, with Alabama scoring on all seven first-half drives, including six touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Aggies punted on every first-half possession except their final series, which was cut short due to halftime. At the break Bama had compiled 449 yards of offense, with an average of 8.8 per play. A&M had 51 yards at an average of 2.2. The Tide had 22 first downs to the Aggies’ two.

The second half was nothing more than a formality. The final box score will forever haunt College Station, with another disturbing statistic around every corner: Blake Sims accounted for 322 total yards (268 passing, 54 rushing) with four touchdowns. Amari Cooper made eight catches for 114 yards with two scores. The Crimson Tide’s stable of runners combined for 298 rushing yards. Alabama finished with 602 total yards; A&M had 172.

"Everybody came out and played as one unit," linebacker Ryan Anderson said. -- Zac Ellis

• ​ELLIS: Alabama reasserts dominance with blowout of reeling Texas A&M

No. 10 Georgia 45, Arkansas 32

The common refrain about Arkansas this season has been, “One of these days the Razorbacks are going to beat somebody.” It almost happened against Texas A&M when Bret Bieliema’s crew fell in overtime  and again versus Alabama when Arkansas lost by one. It was nowhere close to fruition against Georgia, as the Bulldogs built a 38-6 halftime lead behind three Razorbacks turnovers and a 31-point second quarter. Georgia cruised from there as Arkansas added on some late points for a 45-32 final.

Nick Chubb, once again filling in for the suspended Todd Gurley, racked up 202 yards and two touchdowns. “Baby Gurley” certainly looks like he’s got starter material, and he’ll only be better when Georgia has more depth to help him, whether that’s in the form of a healthy Sony Michel or Keith Marshall, or a reinstated Gurley.

Expected to drop off when Gurley was suspended amid an investigation into whether he accepted money for autographs, Georgia has instead rattled off two resounding victories. The Bulldogs pummeled Missouri 34-0 last week before crushing Arkansas on Saturday.

Georgia could really make things interesting in not just the SEC East, but the college football picture as a whole if it keeps making a run. The Bulldogs have a pretty manageable schedule to finish off the regular season and should be favored in every game except a Nov. 15 date with Auburn. -- MR

No. 24 Clemson 17, Boston College 13

Clemson fans won’t be brimming with confidence after this one, but the Tigers pulled out an ugly 17-13 win over Boston College on Saturday evening. It was Clemson’s first game after losing freshman sensation Deshaun Watson last week to a broken finger.

Quarterback Cole Stoudt, who returned to starting duties with Watson out, was unremarkable but not costly. He kept his passes short and simple, completing 29 of 45 attempts for 285 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

When Boston College took a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Stoudt responded nicely, leading the Tigers on a six-play, 82-yard drive to the end zone, including a 32-yard completion on third-and-10. Stoudt’s offense didn’t burn up the field for most of the game, and punter Bradley Pinion was one of the most active players for the Tigers, but the senior quarterback avoided mistakes that would put his defense in bad spots.

The Clemson defense rewarded him with a shutdown effort as the Eagles gained just 263 yards. The Tigers halted Boston College’s last chance for a winning score at the 31-yard line when quarterback Tyler Murphy’s pass fell harmlessly to the turf. Murphy completed 8 of 19 passes for 108 yards with two scores and added 55 yards on the ground.

Though unlikely to catch Florida State in the ACC Atlantic Division, at 4-1 in conference play and 5-2 overall, Clemson still has a chance to make some noise this season. Surviving Watson’s absence this month and gutting out wins like Saturday’s will be key to the Tigers’ bowl placement. -- CB

No. 13 Ohio State 56, Rutgers 17

Ohio State’s offense is rolling, and with the defense starting to catch up, the Buckeyes have a real shot at winning the Big Ten and potentially playing their way into the playoff conversation. After the team’s loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6, that statement may have seemed inconceivable. But try telling that to Rutgers, which got bullrushed to the tune of 56-17.

J.T. Barrett completed 19 of 31 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 107 yards and two scores on the ground. The redshirt freshman has taken kindly to Urban Meyer’s offense, and the questions about how Ohio State would cope without Braxton Miller seem to have gone away.

The Buckeyes travel to Penn State next week and should be favored in every game leading up to their Nov. 8 showdown in East Lansing that will likely decide the Big Ten East. -- MR

West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27

West Virginia ensured a game many predicted would be a shootout stayed in check, stuffing Baylor’s offense to pull off a 41-27 upset of the No. 4 Bears in Morgantown, W.Va.

West Virginia had the kind of shaky start that normally derails an upset bid before it can begin, particularly against a high-powered offense like Baylor’s. Yet despite three Mountaineers’ turnovers in the first 15:08, Baylor built only a 13-7 lead.

The Bears turned quarterback Clint Trickett’s fumble on West Virginia’s opening drive into a seven-yard score, on a pass from Bryce Petty to Corey Coleman. But Trickett’s pick that gave Baylor the ball at the Mountaineers’ 37-yard line led to only a field goal, and Daryl Worley’s muffed punt resulted in no points when Petty missed a wide-open Antwan Goodley on a crucial fourth down.

Even after those wasted opportunities, the Bears seemed ready to seize control midway through the second quarter, when Petty hit Goodley for a 63-yard score to take a 20-14 lead. It had all the makings of the play that would wake the Bears up and spark a 60-point outburst. Instead, it was Baylor’s final score for 22 minutes.

The Mountaineers’ defense suffocated the Bears’ ground game, holding Baylor to 95 yards on 42 carries. The Bears converted just 3 of 16 third downs, and Petty went 16 of 36 for 223 passing yards with two scores. He missed on several deep balls, and his receivers did him few favors with several drops.

West Virginia's offense also stepped up. After those two early turnovers, Trickett settled in to go 23 of 35 for 322 yards with three touchdowns. Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White continued to show excellent chemistry as White surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday with his eight-catch, 132-yard effort, his seventh straight 100-plus-yard performance. White showed off his skills on a masterful one-handed touchdown grab in the fourth that proved to be the winning score.

After Baylor scored 136 points in its past two meetings with West Virginia, the Mountaineers showed significant improvement. The result was Baylor’s lowest point total of the year. -- CB

• ​BECHT: Baylor's playoff dreams are likely over after West Virginia upset

Duke 20, Virginia 13

Duke’s quest to win its second straight ACC Coastal Division title took a big step forward on Saturday. Entering the weekend, Virginia sat all alone atop the division with a 2-0 ACC record. But the Blue Devils survived a slow day on offense to top the Cavaliers 20-13, knotting the two programs at 2-1 in conference play.

Duke jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter before Virginia tied things up on a Matt Johns touchdown pass and an Ian Frye field goal. The game went into halftime knotted at 10-10, but the Blue Devils weren’t having much luck on offense. Duke had just 132 yards, or 3.6 yards per play, at the break. Meanwhile, Johns looked to be building up to a strong second half, completing 15 of his 25 passes for 212 yards in the first two quarters.

But Duke kept Virginia out of the end zone in the second half. In the final period the Blue Devils finally dealt the winning blow with 7:23 to play. Backup quarterback Thomas Sirk hit David Reeves with a three-yard jump pass to push Duke ahead 20-13. It was Sirk’s only pass of the game, but it made the difference.

Virginia has thrived on takeaways all season long, and Duke managed to limit mistakes against the Cavaliers. Coach Mike London’s squad ranked third in the country with 19 turnovers gained prior to this week. Anthony Boone (22-of-37 passing for 176 yards and one touchdown) and the Blue Devils’ offense stayed efficient and did not turn the ball over once on Saturday.

At the midway point of the season, Duke is again bowl eligible and in the ACC race, which remains a testament to coach David Cutcliffe’s work in Durham. The ACC Coastal remains a toss-up, but Duke is right in the thick of that race. With no ranked teams left on their schedule, the Blue Devils should be able to reach double-digit wins in 2014. -- ZE

No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30

Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt’s missed 19-yard field goal attempt with 3:53 remaining against Kansas State is one the senior will probably never forget. He hooked the try wide left, and the No. 14 Wildcats escaped with a dramatic 31-30 win over the No. 11 Sooners to improve to 3-0 in Big 12 play.

Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters threw for 225 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 51 yards with a score. 

Saturday provided an opportunity to see two of the Big 12’s -- and the nation’s -- best receivers square off in a critical conference game. Lockett burned Oklahoma to the tune of 12 catches for 278 yards with three touchdowns in last November’s showdown, and he picked up six catches for 86 yards with a score in this one.

Shepard did more than his part for Oklahoma, corralling a career-high 15 catches for 197 yards, including a 47-yard score in the second quarter and a leaping grab early in the third. It seems like every ball thrown Lockett's and Shepard’s way has a chance to be caught, and it was a lot of fun watching the two receivers match each other play for play. -- MR

• RICKMAN: Missed field goals doom Oklahoma against Kansas State