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Beyond the Empire: Week 8 National College Football Recap

All quiet on top of each conference.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten front-runner has fallen and another has taken their place. So what’s going on in the rest of the country?

SEC: Bama Still Great. Yawn.

TL;DR: Bama in the West, Florida in the East

The biggest SEC matchup of the week was a contest for more than half of the game, with then-#6 Texas A&M taking a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter. However, the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide responded with a touchdown drive of their own and then a fumble return for a touchdown, adding another one on in the fourth for good measure as their defense stifled Trevor Knight. Jalen Hurts is the latest in a line of Alabama quarterbacks who probably aren’t going anywhere but play well enough not to lose. Alabama is once again inevitable and it is incredibly annoying.

A fringe top-25 matchup between Ole Miss and LSU ended with the Tigers’ Leonard Fournette rushing for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 16 carries to propel his team to a 38-21 victory. At 3-4, the Rebels finally dropped out of the AP Top 25, which is disappointing because I wanted to see if they could end up 5-7 and ranked 24th.

Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks came in ranked #17th and came out having received the beating of a lifetime from the Auburn Tigers, giving up 543 yards of rushing. Gus Malzahn and Bielema have made no secret of their disdain for each other, and it looks like Gus was right this time.

Kentucky hit a game-winning field goal as time expired to down Mississippi State, who dropped to 2-5 and maybe made Dan Mullen regret staying in Starkville after Dak Prescott’s graduation. Though they started off embattled, Kentucky is now 3-2 in SEC play and second place in the East division.

Vanderbilt had a strangely difficult time putting away FCS Tennessee State, while South Carolina held off a late rally from 1-7 UMass to win 34-28.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that the SEC Dicktrip of the Week was committed by the Missouri Tigers, who gave up nearly 600 yards of offense to Middle Tennessee State in a 51-45 loss. Former Ole Miss Rebel I’Tavius Mathers gashed the Tigers for 215 yards, dropping them to 2-5. Remember those couple of years when the Illinois vs Missouri Arch Rivalry games were meaningful? That was an odd time.

ACC: Lamar Jackson Ridiculous

TL;DR: Clemson and UNC control the divisions

The surprising NC State Wolfpack came off a heartbreaking overtime loss to Clemson thinking their defense could stop Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson of the Louisville Cardinals. The extent to which they were wrong is staggering, as Jackson carved them up for 355 yards through the air and 76 on the ground to the tune of a 44-0 halftime lead. They never let up and finished 54-13. Louisville trails only Clemson, their only loss, in the Atlantic division.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is on top of the Coastal division largely due to having played more games than other teams, though their 6-2 record (4-1 ACC) is nothing to sneeze at. They pulled away from Virginia 35-14 to gain a half-game lead over the team that crushed them 34-3 a couple weeks ago: the Virginia Tech Hokies. Miami came into their game against VT with close losses to Florida State and Clemson. Tech shut them down 37-16 and the Hokies are truly a force on defense.

Syracuse outlasted a struggling Boston College team 28-20 to improve to 4-4. As the ACC only played four games this week and the favorites won, there wasn’t really a particularly compelling dicktrip this week. But since I missed this article last year and Notre Dame is friends with benefits with the ACC, I’ll award the ACC Dicktrip of the Week to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who sit at 2-5 after losing a game to Stanford in which they led 10-0 and yet lost by throwing a pick-six, giving up a safety and failing to recover the Stanford offense’s goal-line fumble, which the Cardinal recovered for the game-winning touchdown. The Irish are a trainwreck and it’s everyone’s fault except Brian Kelly’s.

PAC-12: Oregon Is Actually Really Bad, Washington Is Not

TL;DR: Washington and Utah control the divisions.

#5 Washington cruised to a 31-0 halftime lead in a 41-17 win against Gary Andersen’s Oregon State Beavers. Their defense is frightening and their offense is at once methodical and explosive. They are on a collision course with PAC-12 South division leader Utah, who outgunned UCLA 52-45 in an odd shootout between formerly-retired Utes runningback Joe Williams (332 yards on 29 carries) and backup Bruins quarterback Mike Fafaul (464 yards on 70 attempts). Washington and Utah will play on Saturday in what could be a conference championship game preview.

Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars are competing with Northwestern to be the best team with an FCS loss, and with an unblemished conference record they just may take the cake. The Cougs defense shut down the Arizona State Sun Devils offense but made it close by allowing a punt and an interception to be returned for scores. Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks still haven’t won since September 10th, when they beat Virginia for their only FBS win of the year. They own a five-game losing streak and a winless conference record. Remember when Michigan State and Oregon played meaningful games in early 2014 and 2015? They’re now a combined 4-10.

The PAC-12 Dicktrip of the Week was undoubtedly the fünf posted by the Stanford Cardinal against Colorado. Wow, the Shawffense finally sputtered to a screeching halt. Colorado appears to be a pretty good team this year, but for a team that we once had as a CFP contender, Stanford putting up 5 points in a loss is worthy of this award. David Shaw continues to show how much he wants to be in the Big Ten by participating in a fünf game. You’re supposed to win those, though. Better luck next time.

Big 12: West Virginia Might Be For Real; Baylor Probably Not

TL;DR: Baylor and West Virginia still undefeated, but watch out for Oklahoma’s offense.

The top of the Big 12 is a bit of a mess, but it’ll clear up in the coming weeks. Three teams sit undefeated in conference play. In my mind, the most impressive of these teams is the 6-0 West Virginia Mountaineers, who laid waste to TCU 34-10 and appear to be the only team in the conference interested in playing defense. They’ve only allowed more than 21 points once this year, and Texas Tech’s 17 points are the most they’ve conceded to a Big 12 opponent. Their schedule doesn’t heat up until mid-November, when they play Texas and Oklahoma, followed by Iowa State (should we call them Byeowa State?) and then Baylor to end the year.

Speaking of Baylor, the 6-0 Bears were on a bye and are somehow ranked #8 in the AP poll. This is higher than West Virginia. I don’t understand why. They beat a wildly inconsistent but mostly middling Oklahoma State team, kicked a game-winner after allowing 42 points to Iowa State and then beat a hapless 1-win Kansas team. This after the non-conference gauntlet of Northwestern State, Rice and SMU. Don’t worry. They’ll get theirs. Maybe not this week at Texas, but the Oklahoma Sooners still lurk.

“Lurk” is an odd word to use considering the offensive fireworks on display in Oklahoma’s games. Unfortunately for the Sooners, it’s not just been their own offense. They outgunned Texas Tech 66-59 in a game that set the record for total offensive yardage (over 1700 yards). Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 734 yards on 88 attempts in the loss, tying the record set by Washington State’s Connor Halladay two years ago. Two quarterbacks have thrown for 734 yards in FBS games...and both games were losses. Though they are the only Big 12 team that’s 4-0 in conference play, their hilarious defense may eventually catch up with them. The only teams not to hang 40 on the Sooners this year are Louisiana-Monroe and the plodding Kansas State Wildcats old-school rushing attack. I’ll be interested to see if Kansas and Iowa State continue this trend.

Oklahoma State improved to 5-2 (3-1 conference) by beating Kansas 44-20, but the Big 12 Dicktrip of the Week was perpetrated by the Texas Longhorns, who dropped to 3-4 (1-3 in conference play) after losing 24-21 to Kansas State despite winning the turnover battle 3-0. They only had the ball for 21 minutes. Remember Week 1? Joe Tessitore made the proclamation that “TEXAS. IS. BACK.” Notre Dame is now 2-5.

wew lad.

Elsewhere:

TL;DR: Houston suddenly bad; Boise State and Western Michigan very good.

Last week Houston fell from the ranks of the unbeaten by allowing 46 points to the legendary Navy triple-option attack. This derailed their hopes for an outsider berth in the College Football Playoff, and apparently they took that derailment to heart as they were crushed 38-16 by the previously 2-4 SMU Mustangs. The Cougars had no key injuries to explain it. Greg Ward Jr. simply couldn’t create an iota of offense and thus they couldn’t keep their defense on the field. Houston was a 24-point favorite and lost by 22. This is almost certainly the most important win for SMU since their resurrection from the NCAA death penalty imposed nearly 30 years ago. In the span of two weeks, Houston has gone from “outside shot at the playoffs” to “fourth in the West division of the American.”

#14 Boise State stayed unbeaten despite spotting BYU two defensive touchdowns early in the game, holding on for a 28-27 victory over what appears to be a good Cougars squad with a tough schedule. They sit just above the surprising Wyoming Cowboys, 5-2 (3-0 MW) in Craig Bohl’s third season, in the Mountain West Mountain. In the Mountain West West (these are the actual division names; come next expansion, the Big division and the Ten division are in play), San Diego State improved to 6-1 (3-0 MW) as they continue to feed star back Donnell Pumphrey with reckless abandon. He’s on pace for over 320 carries in a 12-game regular season.

#20 Western Michigan continues to claim MAC superiority, outpacing Eastern Michigan 45-31. Only 6-1 Toledo joins them in being undefeated in conference play.

#22 Navy beat Memphis 42-28 with 447 rushing yards to maintain control of the American West division at 4-0 in conference play. Air Force dropped a close one to Hawaii for their 3rd straight loss to drop to 4-3, while Army was inexplicably thrashed by North Texas and moves to 4-3 as well.

Finally, the last horse crossed the finish line as Rice improved to 1-6 with a 65-44 win over FCS Prairie View A&M. There are no longer any winless teams in FBS football, though Rice, Florida Atlantic, Fresno State, Bowling Green and Kansas still have yet to defeat an FBS opponent on the year.

Boston College, Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, Michigan State, Rutgers, Oregon, Arizona and Missouri are the nine Power 5 conference teams that have yet to win a conference game. East Carolina, Tulane, FAU, Rice, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Fresno State, Texas State and South Alabama also have yet to win a conference game. Three of these are strange cases. Buffalo’s only FBS win was a baffling upset of Army. East Carolina has lost 5 straight since upsetting North Carolina State to start 2-0. South Alabama is on this list, yet has wins over Mississippi State and Mountain West powerhouse San Diego State.

Football is weird, man.