Saturday had the feel of March Madness with its share of heroes, goats, last-second wins and season-defining games.
Notre Dame, Clemson, Rutgers and Baylor all made major statements in critical games, while Michigan State needed the biggest comeback in Division I-A history to add at least one positive note in an otherwise disappointing season.
It’s no surprise that many of those last-minute heroes made this week’s top performers list, but this week’s standouts are led by three running backs who were workhorses in key conference games.
Find out who else made list for Top Performers and Top Goats for Week 8:
Rivals.com Week 8 Top Performers
1. James Davis and C.J. Spiller, Clemson running backs
The numbers: 38 plays from scrimmage, 382 yards, four TDs The result: Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 7
Davis, Spiller and Clemson emphatically took control of the ACC by rolling up more than 300 rushing yards against Georgia Tech. Davis led the day with a career-high 216 yards, including two runs for 54 yards each. Spiller broke the game open with a pair of touchdowns from midfield a 50-yard run in the second quarter and a 50-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Between the two running backs, that’s four plays for a total of 208 yards.
2. Ray Rice, Rutgers running back
The numbers: 39 carries, 225 yards, TD The result: Rutgers 20, Pittsburgh 10
With three 200-yard rushing games this year, Rice might be the Big East’s best Heisman Trophy candidate. Against Pittsburgh, Rice was unstoppable. He took all but nine of the Scarlet Knights’ handoffs and came within 11 yards of outgaining Pittsburgh’s total offensive output. None of his nearly 40 runs on the day were bigger than a 63-yard run in the fourth quarter. It followed a Pittsburgh touchdown that made the score 13-10. Rice’s run set up Rutgers’ final touchdown.
3. Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame wide receiver
The numbers: Eight receptions, 118 yards, two TDs The result: Notre Dame 20, UCLA 17
Samardzija may have single-handedly saved Notre Dame’s season. His game-winning touchdown in the final minute against UCLA kept the Irish among the one-loss teams which should keep Notre Dame in contention for a BCS bowl game. On Notre Dame’s final drive, Samardzija caught two passes for 66 yards. On the 45-yard TD catch, Samardzija was knocked off balance by Dennis Keyes but recovered to bail out a scrambling Brady Quinn and dodged a tackle on his way to the end zone.
4. Shawn Bell, Baylor quarterback
The numbers: 33 of 55 passing, 394 yards, five TDs, two INTs The result: Baylor 36, Kansas 35
Bell’s career day salvaged a Baylor win over Kansas and gave the Bears their best start in conference play since joining the Big 12. Bell set three school records in the win with 394 yards, five touchdowns in the game and 18 TDs for the season. Baylor trailed 35-17 at the half, but Bell threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to give Baylor the comeback win. The Bears have three Big 12 wins for the first time in school history.
5. Shawn Crable and LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
The numbers: five sacks, two forced fumbles The result: Michigan 20, Iowa 6
Michigan’s offense has felt the absence of star receiver Mario Manningham, but the defense continued its dominating ways against Iowa. Crable and Woodley made the game a nightmare for Iowa quarterback Drew Tate. The linebacker Crable had three sacks and a forced fumble. Woodley a defensive end - had two sacks and a forced fumble. Tate passed for 197 yards and the Hawkeyes managed only 41 rushing yards in the loss.
6. Drew Stanton, Michigan State quarterback
The numbers: 27 of 37 passing, 297 yards, two TDs, one INT; 10 carries, 35 yards, TD The result: Michigan State 41, Northwestern 38
7. Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross, Texas defensive backs
The numbers: Two forced fumbles, fumble recovery, interception, 10 tackles The result: Texas 22, Nebraska 20
8. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech quarterback
The numbers: 31 of 40 passing, 368 yards, six TDs The result: Texas Tech 42, Iowa State 26
9. Chase Daniel, Missouri quarterback
The numbers: 24 of 31 passing, 262 yards, four TDs; 13 carries, 47 yards The result: Missouri 41, Kansas State 21
10. Kolby Smith, Louisville running back
The numbers: 16 carries, 165 yards, two TDs The result: Louisville 28, Syracuse 13
Week 8 Goats
1. Northwestern Who else would be No. 1 this week? The Wildcats squandered a 38-3 lead for the biggest collapse in Division I-A history. Making matters worse it came against the Collapse Kings Michigan State.
2. Cal linebacker Desmond Bishop Instead of swatting the ball down in the end zone, three Cal DBs tipped a Hail Mary pass into the hands of Washington receiver Marlon Wood to send the game to overtime. Bishop recovered with the game-ending interception.
3. Minnesota The Gophers needed to block a field goal as time ran out to ice a 10-9 win over North Dakota State. Minnesota’s normally potent ground attack was held to 99 yards.
4. Oregon The Ducks’ offense struggled against Washington State, prompting Mike Bellotti to pull quarterback Dennis Dixon after two interceptions. Jonathan Stewart was also limited; he rushed for less than 30 yards. Despite putting up 471 yards of offense, Oregon trailed 27-3 at the half in the 34-23 loss.
5. Miami Missing 13 players due to suspension, the Hurricanes needed a last-second interception in the end zone to seal the win against Duke. The poor Blue Devils can’t get a break.