The Week 8 college football schedule features two underhyped games that’ll decide the American Athletic Conference divisional pecking order, as well as a non-league tilt sure to interest every Group of Five contender with visions of a New Year’s bowl game.
There will be no battles of the unbeaten title contenders, such as the clash between Alabama and Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa. And there are no forecasts for a “white out,” like there is in Central Pennsylvania when Penn State hosts Ohio State. Still, the following under-the-radar, underhyped gems are packed with juicy storylines and intriguing subplots, and they warrant your attention in Week 8.
6. Indiana (3-3) at Northwestern (3-3)
A couple of sneaky-tough Big Ten schools duke it out, both looking to nudge above .500 and inch closer to a coveted spot in the postseason.
The Hoosiers and the Wildcats are teams no one in the league will want to face in November. Defending league champ Michigan State has already lost to both. And, yeah, the Spartans are down, but Indiana and Northwestern are not teams to be taken lightly. The Cats are especially compelling at midseason. They went on the road to beat Iowa and the Spartans in consecutive weeks, and the triplets of quarterback Clayton Thorson, running back Justin Jackson and wideout Austin Carr are sparking a resurgence in Evanston.
5. Central Michigan (5-2) at Toledo (5-1)
Who’s the next best thing to Western Michigan in the MAC? The Chippewas and the Rockets meet at the Glass Bowl to reach a verdict.
Central Michigan and Toledo are two of the league’s top programs. The Chips defeated Oklahoma State last month, while the Rockets’ only loss was by two points to BYU in Provo. The matchup will feature plenty of offensive playmakers, from Toledo running back Kareem Hunt to the quarterback battle between Rocket Logan Woodside and Chippewa Cooper Rush. This is an especially pivotal game for Toledo, which is unbeaten in the MAC and still gets a shot to face the ranked Broncos at the end of the regular season.
4. South Florida (6-1) at Temple (4-3)
The lead in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference will be on the line Friday night at the Linc. So, too, might higher-profile job opportunities.
Temple is the defending division champ, coming off a stunning last-second win over UCF in Orlando last Saturday. South Florida, though, has its eye on the Owls’ crown. The Bulls are 3-0 in the league, have handled Cincinnati, East Carolina and UConn by at least two touchdowns, and have only lost to Florida State. This will also be a game that ADs with a possible void on the sidelines will be scouting closely. USF’s Willie Taggart and Temple’s Matt Rhule are two of the top young coaches in the game, and candidates for promotions at the end of the regular season.
3. Oregon (2-4) at Cal (3-3)
It may not impact the Pac-12 North race, yet there’s no shortage of good storylines or reasons to tune in Friday night.
The Ducks last won a game on Sept. 10. The Bears have dropped two of their last three. Big whoop. Desperation means drama and entertainment, particularly when playmakers like Oregon running back Royce Freeman and the Cal pitch-and-catch combo of Davis Webb to Chad Hansen are in the same building. Webb and Hansen, assuming they’re back to full strength, ought to have a field day against Brady Hoke’s toothless D. Then there’s the state of Oregon, which has a coach, Mark Helfrich, trying to save his job and a rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert, out to prove he’s the next franchise behind center in Eugene.
2. Memphis (5-1) at Navy (4-1)
Houston was supposed to coast to an AAC West Division title this fall. Instead, it’s the winner of this game in Annapolis that’ll take over first place at the end of eight weeks.
The Midshipmen capsized the Cougs two weeks ago to move into the division lead and the Top 25 in both major polls. Still, the next month of games are tough, beginning with Saturday’s visit from Memphis. The Tigers have only lost once under first-year coach Mike Norvell, Oct. 1 at Ole Miss. And they’re getting contributions from both sides of the ball. The offense is balanced with the passing of transfer Riley Ferguson and a big-play ground game, while the D has 11 picks and the special teams harbors all-league candidates in P Spencer Smith and PK Jake Elliott.
1. BYU (4-3) at Boise State (6-0)
BYU-Boise State will have no impact on the Mountain West title chase. However, it could profoundly impact the hunt for a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Broncos are the Group of Five cover boy now that Houston has a blemish. Boise State is undefeated, ranked No. 14 and in control of its own destiny. BYU, though, could be the Broncos’ tallest hurdle until possibly seeing San Diego State in the league championship game. The Cougars are playing well for first-year coach Kalani Sitake now that they’re learning how to pull out close games. They’ve won three straight, including Toledo by a layup and Mississippi State by a touchdown. Both schools are stout against the run, yet feature dynamite ground options, Bronco Jeremy McNichols and Cougar Jamaal Williams.