Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 8 Top Ten

1) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 8 Result: Bye
Last Week's Ranking: 1

2) Ole Miss Rebels
Week 8 Result: Beat Tennessee Volunteers 34-3 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 2

Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson
It wasn't the prettiest game offensively for Ole Miss, but the defense continues to improve and impress every single week. Tennessee played a tight game for a while, but eventually the Rebels were able to pull away thanks to their defense. As they've done all year long, they pressured the quarterback on every drop back and made plays on errant throws. They picked off Justin Worley three times, and it was the combination of a ball hawking secondary and a front four that can collapse the pocket that forced those picks. Worley was sacked eight times in this game as well. Ole Miss hasn't had a tremendous sack total in the first half of the season, but this game showed what they can do when they are clicking. Equally as impressive as their sack total is how they performed against the run. The Volunteers have a great freshman back in Jalen Hurd, but he was limited to a meager 40 yards on 13 carries. Overall, the Rebels held Tennessee to zero rushing yards on the day. As I mentioned, the offense was a bit underwhelming and was really helped out by the fact that their defense generated four turnovers. Bo Wallace played a clean game and threw for two touchdowns, but he was off with the timing of his receivers throughout most of the game. Receivers were open, but he just wasn't hitting them in stride or would often overthrow them on simple routes. Ole Miss also struggled to run the ball in this game. They averaged under four yards a carry against a team that can get bullied around. They did have a few good runs, but overall it was a struggle for them. Ole Miss will have its next big test next week against LSU in Death Valley. Their defense should have a lot of success against an LSU team that prefers the power run game, but their offense will need to play a cleaner game. Any mistakes could really sink them and their playoff hopes.

3) Florida State Seminoles
Week 8 Result: Beat No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31-27 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 3

Florida State running back Karlos Williams
Finally, Florida State was really challenged by a team of their caliber. Despite what you think about the offensive pass interference call at the end of the game (and it was the right call), Florida State met their match in this game and really should have lost. I don't know how it is possible, but their offensive line is downright terrible. Its insane considering they have so much experience, but they were pushed around like a bunch of high schoolers. Jameis had barely any time to throw and it really affected his timing with his receivers. Winston actually played pretty well despite the constant pressure in his face, but he did throw a terrible pick off of his back foot inside his own 20 that lead directly to an Irish touchdown. He really came alive in the second half however, leading three touchdown drives and making tough throws without his feet set. Receiver Rashad Greene made a lot of spectacular catches, but I was more impressed with true freshman Travis Rudolph who six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and often had big separation from his man. As you'd expect with a struggling offensive line, the Seminoles had no success on the ground. Karlos Williams and Dalvin Cook carried the ball twenty teams for a mere 45 yards. Williams did have two touchdowns from the goal line however, with the second putting the Noles ahead for good. The defense gave up a lot of yards in this game, but really didn't give up anything deep. Golson threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, but they were all on very short or intermediate routes. The secondary also picked him off twice and did manage to pressure him into rolling out a few times. Their front seven causes a lot of issues, but they are young and a bit inexperienced and were prone to over pursuits. But with this game out of the way, there really isn't a team that stands in Florida State's way to another undefeated regular season.

4) Michigan State Spartans
Week 8 Result: Beat Indiana Hoosiers 56-17 in Bloomington
Last Week's Ranking: 5

Michigan State running back
Nick Hill
The tale of two halves. That seems to be the theme for the Spartans this year as Indiana was well within this game at half time. But after that point, Indiana was held to no touchdowns and struggled to move the ball. Michigan State's defense had a few lapses in this game, but overall played very well. They allowed a 75 yard touchdown run on a double reverse which saw multiple missed tackles, but the defense tightened up a lot after that point. Michigan State allowed 213 yards on the ground, but most of them came on that 75 yard run and a 65 yard run by Tevin Coleman. While that might seem like a lot of yards, consider the fact that they only allowed 11 yards of passing. When put into that perspective, the rushing yards don't seem as bad. On offense, the Spartans absolutely rolled against Indiana. Cook played a much better game, completing 75% of his passes and three touchdowns, albeit with a single pick in the mix. He threw for over 300 yards in the game as well, consistently connecting on deep balls which have eluded him this year. Tony Lippett continues to prove himself the number one receiver on the team as he was the recipient of seven catches and 123 yards. The running game was equally as impressive, completely dismantling the front seven of Indiana who just could not keep up with the physicality of their opponent's offensive line. Jeremy Langford ran for three touchdowns, but what makes this attack dangerous is how effectively senior Nick Hill can come in and bear the brunt of the attack while Langford gets a break. Hill ran for 178 yards and a touchdown on a mere 16 carries and was a big reason for the Spartans holding onto the ball for almost forty minutes. The showdown between Michigan State and Ohio State will be a good one, but they can't overlook the Wolverines before reaching that point.

5) Auburn Tigers
Week 8 Result: Bye
Last Week's Ranking: 6

6) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 8 Result: Beat No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies 59-0 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 9

Alabama receiver Amari Cooper
Alabama just took all of their offensive frustration from the last few weeks out on an imploding A&M team. I'm not ready to put them in the top five like the AP did because they've been so underwhelming and enigmatic in some games, but this was a great way to get back on track. Their defense just completely annihilated A&M's offense in every conceivable way. They were held to 172 yards and at one point had as many yards as Alabama did points. The defensive front harassed Kenny Hill all day and allowed only 31 yards of rushing on 24 carries. The secondary finally played up to their potential, blanketing the athletic receivers of the Aggies and never allowing them to get clean releases or much separation. Kenny Hill was forced into an interception but could have easily had a few more with his errant throws. The offense for Alabama really needed this game though. The Aggies have one of the worst defenses in college football and the Crimson Tide was able to take advantage of that from the first snap. The most impressive player on the day was TJ Yeldon who combined for 159 total yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line blasted the Aggies front seven off of the line all game long and allowed Yeldon to run for 8.8 yards per carry. Yeldon also caught three passes for some big first downs. Blake Sims had a great day as he had a clean pocket to throw pretty much every time he dropped back. He connected on three touchdowns with two of them going to Amari Cooper. After a two game slump, Cooper had his best game since Florida. He caught eight passes for 145 yards and those two mentioned touchdowns. His ability to do pretty much anything you can ask out of a receiver at a high level, he does. Alabama needed this game to rebuild their confidence going forward into a tough SEC schedule.

7) Georgia Bulldogs
Week 8 Result: Beat Arkansas Razorbacks 45-32 in Fayetteville
Last Week's Ranking: 8

Georgia defensive back
Damian Swann
I have no idea how this team continues to just pluck along after losing Todd Gurley. It just doesn't make sense. The biggest factor is the seamless transition freshman running back Nick Chubb has made from the high school ranks to college. After being a workhorse in Georgia's win over Mizzou, Chubb carried the ball thirty times for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to gash Arkansas's front seven both inside and out and had several impressive long runs. He isn't quite as explosive as Gurley is, but he has shown the ability and willingness to take on a punishing amount of carries and makes the most out of them. Chubb was responsible for more than half of all their yards, but Hutson Mason actually made a few good throws to keep the Razorbacks from putting eight or nine guys in the box. Chris Conley caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, and had two receptions for more than 35 yards. Mason still doesn't seem terribly comfortable throwing the deep ball, but this showed that he does have the ability to. The defense played a terrific game, but they let their foot off the gas too early and allowed Arkansas to sneak back into this game. They had only given up six points at half time, but then gave up four touchdowns over the second half that would have cut the lead even further if Arkansas would have been able to convert some of the two point plays. But as was the winning formula last week against Mizzou, Georgia was able to pressure Brandon Allen all day long and never allow him to get into a rhythm or set his feet for a comfortable throw. The secondary still gave up almost three hundred yards, but also picked off Allen twice which helped them build that large lead. The more impressive part was holding their dangerous rush attack to under four yards a carry. Georgia should not have that difficult of a schedule remaining with how terrible the Gators are this year.

8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Week 8 Result: Lost to No. 2 Florida State Seminoles 27-31 in Tallahassee
Last Week's Ranking: 7

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson
I'm only knocking the Irish down a spot because they played incredibly well and were one mental mistake from pulling off the upset. As I mentioned in the Florida State section, as painful as it was for people begging for an upset, it was the right call. I was really impressed by how Notre Dame played in this game despite being double digit underdogs. But as has been a theme for them this year, Everett Golson's mistakes would come back to bite them. The first pick he threw wasn't his fault as he was hit on the release for the easy interception. But the second was into traffic and was a bit reckless. What was surprising about this game was the Notre Dame barely challenged Florida State deep which is another reason why I think they weren't able to put this game away. Instead, Brian Kelly elected to throw a lot of short to intermediate passes and set up screens. It worked out for the most part as Notre Dame moved the ball extremely well, especially in the first half and continued to just gain solid yards on first down to make second and third downs manageable. But as I mentioned, they really didn't try that hard to stretch the field vertically even when Florida State was vulnerable with their coverage. The most impressive performance from this team came from the front seven and the defensive line in particular. They completely overmatched Florida State's offensive line and made life hell. They stuffed the run except for when Karlos Williams punched it in from a yard out, and they were in the face of Jameis all day. Winston was clearly frustrated in the first half as he was pressured almost immediately after taking the snap. They still got to him in the second half, but Jameis was laser-focused and made clutch throws. Notre Dame still has a few games remaining on their schedule in which they can make their case for a playoff slot, but this game won't hurt them that much as they played much better than what was expected out of them.

9) Oregon Ducks
Week 8 Result: Beat Washington Huskies 45-20 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 10

Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown
This has been the theme with Oregon in recent memory, but as they typically do they just completely overwhelmed a conference foe who did not have the talent to keep up with them. Washington actually has some really good players on their defense, but the offense couldn't sustain drives to give the defense a break. The result was 554 yards by the Ducks. Mariota had another strong showing this week, pasing for 336 yards and two touchdowns while completing 73% of his passes on the day to eight different players. The most impressive wide out that they have is tight end Pharaoh Brown, who isn't spectacular as a blocker but has shown a lot of ability in the passing game. He caught three passes for 99 yards in this game and helped move the ball up and down the field all night. Still the most impressive player on the night was undoubtedly freshman running back Royce Freeman. Oregon has two other good running backs, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, but Freeman has really separated himself from the others and is getting the bulk of the carries. Against Washington, Freeman carried the ball 29 times for 169 yards and four touchdowns. The defense played a complete game against Washington as well. Washington didn't even pass for 200 yards in this game and found minimal success on the ground. Oregon has typically struggled against Stanford, but with how bad Stanford has dropped off there shouldn't be much of a challenge in the PAC-12 for the Ducks.

10) Kansas State Wildcats
Week 8 Result: Beat No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners 31-30 in Norman
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters

Kansas State got a bit lucky that Oklahoma's kicker can miss from 20 yards out, but they still played a great game, have only lost to Auburn, and are currently undefeated in conference play. That is why I have them ranked above both TCU and Baylor who could make a case for being ranked 10th. It really is incredible how Bill Snyder continues to recruit unheralded high school players and make the most out of them. The offense continues to run through the quarterback, Jake Waters. Waters isn't the most polished passer, but most of Snyder's quarterbacks don't need to be. Waters completed 65% of his passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on ten carries. Waters has great patience to let his blocks develop ahead of him and has some good speed once he gets to the second level. He is also confident in his throws and likes to head towards the line of scrimmage before firing off a pass, a lot like Tebow used to do at Florida. Only three players caught a pass in this game, but Tyler Lockett is a true all purpose player who comes through with big catches when his team needs him the most. Defensively, this wasn't the most impressive game for the Wildcats as they surrendered well over 500 yards of offense. Trevor Knight, who has been woefully inconsistent, threw for three touchdowns while the running backs combined for almost 200 yards. While they did allow a lot of yards, they managed to come up with some crucial stops to keep Oklahoma from grabbing the lead. Should Kansas be able to slow down Baylor, they could win out the rest of their games and provide the BIG 12 a chance to secure a spot in the playoffs.

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