Week 8 of the college football season opened with a bang thanks to No. 10 Oklahoma State’s close 13-10 overtime victory over Texas. The day continued with several defensive wars, dominant performances by Penn State and Notre Dame, and close calls in the country’s top conferences.
Here is a look at the highs and lows of the weekend:
1. Notre Dame for real?
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish entered their rivalry game with No. 11 USC sitting at a quiet No. 13 in the country. That’s going to change in the coming weeks after the Irish served notice that they are a contender in their demolition of the Trojans.
USC played like they didn’t belong on the same field with Notre Dame. They made several mistakes while the Irish took advantage of every opportunity. The Irish also kept now former Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Darnold under wraps or running for his life. Offensively, Notre Dame did whatever they wanted to the Trojans defense. In short, it was ugly for the Trojans. Notre Dame took center stage with the 49-14 win.
2. Penn State dominates
No. 2 Penn State faced their first ranked opponent on Saturday night. Or should I say they dominated their first ranked opponent of the season? The Nittany Lions hammered No. 19 Michigan from the opening kickoff, delivering vengeance for last year’s stunning defeat in Ann Arbor.
Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley opened up the scoring with a 69-yard touchdown run just 43 seconds into the game. He then added a second touchdown run four minutes later.
However, it was quarterback Trace McSorley that stole the show. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 282 yards with a touchdown and an interception. McSorley also rushed for 76 yards on 11 carries for three touchdowns in the 42-13 victory.
The Nittany Lions’ win proved that Penn State is more than just Barkley. McSorley continues to grow into a budding star, and the defense already controls games. Ohio State is in for a dogfight next weekend in Columbus.
3. Washington State recovers
Washington State entered their game against the tough Colorado Buffaloes with last week’s devastating loss to California on their shoulders. The defeat exposed the Cougars as more of a paper tiger in the mix for the national title, but that doesn’t mean their relevance ended with it. Washington State still has a shot at winning the Pac-12.
The Cougars responded with a 28-0 victory over the Buffaloes. The score doesn’t even do the game justice. Washington State outgained Colorado 406-174, forced three turnovers and registered three sacks. The Cougars returned to form in the rain against the Buffaloes.
1. Texas falters late
Tom Herman’s first year at the helm of the Texas Longhorns continues to be a struggle. His team stays in football games, but it gives away games in the most frustrating ways. The Longhorns shut down the Oklahoma State offense for much of the day and forced the game into overtime. The Cowboys scored a field goal on their first possession of overtime to take a 13-10 lead. That is when it all fell apart for Texas.
The Longhorns moved the ball to the Oklahoma State six-yard line on the next possession. Freshman quarterback Sam Ehrlinger faced 3rd-and-6 and rolled left out of the pocket. With the game in the balance, he threw a softball off the back of his foot into the end zone, resulting in one of the easiest interceptions of the year.
The Longhorns deserve credit for taking Oklahoma State to the wire. However, in today’s NCAA that’s not good enough for one of the proudest programs in the country.
2. Jimbo Fisher’s tough day in the office
My how the mighty have fallen. Florida State won their most recent national title in the 2013 season. Four years later, the Seminoles sit at 2-4 following a heartbreaking 31-28 loss at home to Louisville.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher’s struggles began during his team’s opening defeat at the hands of top-ranked Alabama. His young quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending shoulder enjury, leaving the Seminoles with little leadership under center. Florida State’s problems continued with stunning defeats to N.C. State and Miami.
Seminoles fans are used to winning football, and many of them expressed their desire to see Fisher fired after the game. One fan heckled Fisher as he left the field after the game. Fisher’s frustration boiled to the surface as he told the fan to come down and tell him that to his face.
Fisher remains 80-21 with a national championship on his record. Most fanbases would be satisfied with that. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at Florida State. The pressure is mounting in Tallahassee.
3. The underdogs remain underdogs
Syracuse and Indiana own two programs that have spent much of the past 20 or more years struggling to be relevant. The Orange appeared to emerge in last week’s stunning upset of defending national champion Clemson. However, No. 8 Miami stood ready for the Orange and held on for the 27-19 victory.
Meanwhile, long-time Big 10 doormat Indiana traveled to No. 18 Michigan State looking for their second straight victory over the Spartans. The Hoosiers controlled much of the game, but they proved once again that they weren’t ready to step into the limelight. Michigan State took advantage of 10 Indiana penalties for 115 yards to stay alive. Eventually, the Spartans toughed out the 17-9 victory.
It’s difficult to rebuild a program from the bottom up. Syracuse and Indiana proved that again today. The underdogs always seem to suffer setbacks right when they are on the cusp of making their move. A win for either program would have meant the world. Instead, they must head back to the drawing board.