Saturday was a head-shaking day all over college football. Iowa and
Georgia both lost to perennial conference doormats. Oklahoma lost star
running back Adrian Peterson for the season. The
bench-clearing brawl at the Orange Bowl was an ugly incident – one
we'll continue to hear about for quite some time.
This week is one that starts with more questions than answers. Who is
to blame for the debacle in Miami? How can teams reload after critical
injuries? Who are the new Heisman contenders? What do the BCS rankings
Here's a look at the questions that will shape Week 8 and the top games
to watch on Saturday:
Questions for Week 8
1. What does the first release of the BCS poll mean for the
national championship? It
means Michigan's trip to Ohio State on Nov. 18 could shape up to be
round one of a college football playoff, provided both teams remain
undefeated. The only other sure bet seems to be an automatic bid for
Boise State, currently ranked 15th. The Broncos need to reach No. 12 in
the BCS for an at-large bid, which should happen with enough teams
ahead of Boise playing each other during the remainder of the season.
Auburn (No. 4) and Florida (No. 6) remain in the top six despite one
loss apiece, but could be passed by No. 5 West Virginia or No. 7
Louisville once they enter their Big East schedule. The teams play each
other Nov. 2. If everyone wins out, it looks like the national title
will feature the winner of Ohio State-Michigan game and USC. If not, a
slew of one-loss teams - and possibly an undefeated Big East team -
will lay claim on a spot in the title game.
2. What will result from the brawl in Miami? For
Miami, it's already disastrous. On the same day that Indiana and
Vanderbilt beat ranked teams, Auburn knocked Florida out of the
national title hunt and the game's best player had a season-ending
injury, a game between Miami and its Sun Belt conference neighbor
Florida International dominated the headlines even through Monday. Any
positive press Miami accumulated in the last decade under Butch Davis
and Larry Coker has been washed away in the last 10 months.
There was a fight with LSU players after the Peach Bowl, the gun-toting
incident involving safety Brandon Meriweather in the
offseason, the suspension of wide receiver Ryan Moore, the
Hurricanes stomping on Louisville's logo before a 31-7 loss and
Saturday's fiasco. In the meantime, Miami has won four games and only
one of those was against a BCS conference opponent - North Carolina
(1-5). For now, the only action taken is a one-game suspension for 31
players on both teams and an indefinite suspension to Miami safety
Anthony Reddick. More sanctions could follow for both teams.
3. Who are the new Heisman contenders? Ohio
State quarterback Troy Smith remains the front-runner, but the
season-ending injury to Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson
and a 25-yard day from Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe mean there will be a void to fill for the Heisman Trophy
presentation in New York. West Virginia running back Steve Slaton will move up on some ballots, but his hopes will likely
hinge on the Mountaineers game against Louisville. Michigan running
back Mike Hart will get consideration, especially if the
Wolverines reach the national title game by beating Smith and Ohio
State. Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson should get
his share of votes, but receivers who have not also returned kicks
haven't fared well in the voting. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn should stay in contention at least until the USC game. Among
the dark horses who have entered the race: Cal running back
Marshawn Lynch, Rutgers running back Ray Rice and
even quarterbacks Erik Ainge of Tennessee and Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh.
4. Is Nebraska ready for another major game? Nebraska
will play host to Texas this week for what could be a preview of the
Big 12 Championship Game. Has Nebraska made enough progress since the
loss to USC on Sept. 16 to challenge the No. 5 Longhorns? Since the USC
game, the Cornhuskers have averaged 218.3 rushing yards per game and
have become the Big 12 leader in rushing offense, total offense, pass
efficiency defense and scoring defense. Still, this is a team that
allowed 22 second-half points and 574 total yards to Kansas in its
overtime win over the Jayhawks. At the same time, Texas quarterback
Colt McCoy is fresh off a school-record six touchdowns against
Baylor. The Cornhuskers at home should perform better than on the road
at USC, but it might not be enough for a Texas team that has improved
itself since the second week of the season.
5. How will injury issues shape the remainder of the season
for Washington and Boston College? Peterson
wasn't the only top player to suffer an injury last week. Several other
teams could see their fates change because of health concerns.
Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback was helped off the
field in the fourth quarter against Oregon State with a foot injury.
Although Stanback has yet to be re-examined, coaches have not been
optimistic for his return against Cal this week - or for the remainder
of the season. The Huskies could give the starting job to junior
Carl Bonnell or take the redshirt off freshman Jake Locker. The Huskies have to win two games for bowl eligibility,
but that could be too tall a task if Washington has to rebuild its
offense without the dual-threat Stanback. Boston College quarterback
Matt Ryan missed practice Sunday after injuring his left foot
and aggravating an ankle injury in Thursday's win over Virginia Tech.
The Eagles will wait until Tuesday to make any further announcement.
Ryan, 10-1 as a starter the last two years, will be sorely missed if he
is unable to play at Florida State.
Top Five Games of Week 8
1. No. 5 Texas (6-1,
3-0 Big 12) at No. 17 Nebraska (6-1,
3-0 Big 12), noon, ABC
Will this be a preview of the Big 12 Championship Game?
2. No. 13 Georgia Tech
(5-1, 3-0 ACC) at No. 12 Clemson (6-1,
3-1 ACC), 7:45 p.m., ESPN
Either team can take a commanding lead in their division of the ACC
with a win.
3. Iowa (5-2, 2-2 Big
Ten) at No. 2 Michigan (7-0,
4-0 Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., ABC
An Iowa team fresh off a loss to Indiana is Michigan's toughest test
until Nov. 18 against Ohio State.
4. No. 19 Rutgers (6-0,
1-0 Big East) at Pittsburgh (6-1,
2-0 Big East), 5:45 p.m., ESPN2
The two surprise Big East teams will try to keep the pressure on West
Virginia and Louisville.
5. Alabama (5-2, 2-2
SEC) at No. 7 Tennessee (5-1,
1-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
Tennessee, with new life in the SEC East following Florida's loss, can
pass its 2006 win total with a victory.