Breaking down Week 8 of the 2021 college football schedule

By Amy Daughters -

With zero ranked vs. ranked matchups and six of the seven top ranked teams favored by 20-plus points, Week 8 of the 2021 college football schedule isn’t obvious in its allure.

If there is going to be a shocking upset that reshuffles the CFP picture this weekend, it’s going to have to be a big juicy one.

Overall, it’s 54 games spread out over four days including three of the 11 remaining undefeated teams playing at a venue where they have never, ever won before.

WHAT TO WATCH

Wednesday, Oct. 20

7:30pm ET – ESPN 2 – (14) Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State

Thursday, Oct. 21

7:30pm ET – ESPN Tulane at (21) SMU

Tune in to this one to watch SMU’s high-powered passing attack (No. 14 in the FBS) take on a Tulane D that’s No. 115 vs. the pass. Check out Mustang junior QB Tanner Mordecai (#8), not only is he ranked No. 9 in the FBS in passing yards per game – he’s No. 6 in passer rating.

7:30pm ET – ESPNU – Louisiana at Arkansas State

Friday, Oct. 22

7pm ET – ESPN 2Memphis at UCF

10:30pm ET – ESPN 2Washington at Arizona

Arizona hasn’t won a football game since Oct. 5, 2019, when it visited Colorado and scored a 35-30 victory. Since then, it’s been 18 straight losses. The 0-6 start is the worst since 1957 when the Wildcats tied BYU in the opener and then dropped seven-straight.   

Saturday, Oct. 23

Noon ET – FOXNorthwestern at (6) Michigan

Noon ET – ABC – Illinois at (7) Penn State

Noon ET – ESPN 2 – (2) Cincinnati at Navy

Noon ET – ESPN (3) Oklahoma at Kansas

Noon ET – FS1 – Kansas State at Texas Tech

Noon ET – CBSSN – (16) Wake Forest at Army

At 6-0 Wake Forest is off to its best start since 1944. After holding its first four opponents to an average of 119 rushing yards per game (and beating the set by an average of 25 points) it’s given up 208 and 354 ground yards respectively (and won by a total of six points) in its last two outings. Cue up Army’s option attack, ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing yards per game, and could the Demon Deacons be the next perfect team to fall from grace?

3pm ET – Big Ten Network – Wisconsin at (25) Purdue

After racking up a season-high 378 air yards in its upset win over (11) Iowa last Saturday, this week Purdue’s No. 10 nationally ranked passing attack will take on Wisconsin – home of the No. 8 ranked secondary in America.

3:30pm ET – CBS – LSU at (12) Ole Miss

3:30pm ET – ABC(10) Oregon at UCLA

3:30pm ET – ESPN – Clemson at (23) Pitt

Clemson has only faced one opponent ranked in the top half of the nation in passing offense – (18) NC State (No. 42) – which it fell to 27-21 after allowing 238 air yards and four scores. Pitt is currently No. 6 in the FBS in passing yards per game (358) and tied for No. 4 in TD passes (22). Could this add up to Clemson’s first three-loss season since 2011?

3:30pm ET – FOX – (8) Oklahoma State at Iowa State

This matchup features two of the best backs in college football taking on two of the best rushing defenses. First up it’s Iowa State junior RB Breece Hall (#28) – the No. 6 rusher in the FBS – vs. an Oklahoma State D ranked No. 16 nationally against the run. On the flip side it’s Cowboy senior RB Jaylen Warren (#7) – the No. 8 rusher in the FBS – squaring off with a Cyclone D ranked No. 15 in the FBS vs. the run. Which teams’ strength is the strongest? PS Despite its Top Ten ranking, Oklahoma State is a seven-point underdog.   

3:30pm ET – ESPN 2 – Maryland at Minnesota

3:30pm ET – FS1 – BYU at Washington State

Washington State will be led on the sidelines by defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, serving as interim head coach after the dismissal of head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistants. Dickert came to WSU after serving as the DC at Wyoming in 2019, where he led the Cowboy D to a No. 11 finish in scoring. This is his first head coaching role.

4pm ET – SEC Network – Mississippi State at Vanderbilt

Look for Mississippi State – the No. 4 passing team in the FBS – to rebound in a big way after being held to a season-low 300 passing yards and zero passing TDs in its 49-9 loss vs. (4) Alabama. Vandy’s D is currently No. 105 in the nation and dead last in the SEC vs. the pass.

4pm ET – ACC NetworkBoston College at Louisville

7pm ET – ESPN – Tennessee at (4) Alabama

7pm ET – CBSSN – (22) San Diego State at Air Force

Tune into this hidden gem to watch the best strength vs. strength matchup of the season: Air Force’s option offense – ranked No. 1 in the nation – against a San Diego State D ranked, wait for it…No. 1 in the nation vs. the run. Where the Falcons are averaging 336 rushing yards per game (the only team over the 300-yard plateau) the Aztecs are giving up 61. This is the under-the-radar Battle Royale of Week 8.

7:30pm ET – ABC – (5) Ohio State at Indiana

7:30pm ET – NBC – USC at (13) Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s defense is currently ranked No. 86 nationally vs. the pass. Though certainly not worthy of a Greek (or, in this case Irish) tragedy, it could prove interesting against a USC offense ranked No. 11 in the nation in passing yards per game (318). Though the Irish held Purdue – averaging 334 air yards per game (No. 10 in the FBS) to 291 – they coughed up a season high 297 in the loss to Cincinnati, a team averaging 244 (No. 58).

7:30pm ET – SEC Network – South Carolina at (17) Texas A&M

7:30pm ET – ESPN 2 – (18) NC State at Miami Fla.

7:30pm ET – ACC Network – Georgia Tech at Virginia

7:30pm ET – ESPNU – West Virginia at TCU

OFF THIS WEEK (23)

  • ACC: Duke, North Carolina
  • American: Tulsa
  • Big Ten: (11) Iowa, (9) Michigan State, Nebraska, Rutgers
  • Big 12: (20) Baylor, Texas
  • C-USA: Marshall, Old Dominion, Southern Miss, UTEP
  • MWC: Boise State
  • Pac-12: Arizona State, Stanford
  • SEC: (19) Auburn, Florida, (1) Georgia, (15) Kentucky, Missouri
  • Sun Belt: Georgia Southern, Troy

FIRST-EVER MEETINGS (1)

  • UMass at Florida State

REUNITED…And it feels so good   

  • Middle Tennessee at UConn (last played in 2001)

STREAKERS

8: (22) San Diego State has won 8-straight over Air Force (last loss in 2009)

14: (4) Alabama has won 14-straight over Tennessee (last loss in 2006)

14: Wisconsin has won 14-straight over (25) Purdue (last loss in 2003)

16: (3) Oklahoma has won 16-straight over Kansas (last loss in 1997)

25: (5) Ohio State has won 25-straight over Indiana (last loss in 1988)

NEVER-LAND

  • Charlotte has NEVER beaten FAU at home (0-3)
  • (2) Cincinnati has NEVER won at Navy (0-2)
  • (14) Coastal Carolina has NEVER won at Appalachian State (0-2)
  • Colorado has NEVER won at Cal (0-4)
  • Memphis has NEVER won at UCF (0-7)
  • New Mexico State has NEVER beaten Hawaii (0-9)
  • South Alabama has NEVER won at ULM (0-3)
  • South Carolina has NEVER beaten (17) Texas A&M (0-7)
  • (24) UTSA has NEVER won at Louisiana Tech (0-5)

PERFECT STORMS

Northwestern at (6) Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

The best rushing team of the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan was the 2016 squad that averaged 212 ground yards per game (No. 33 nationally). Those Wolverines went 10-3 and finished No. 10 in the final AP. Over the last two years the yard per game average has slipped to 150 in 2019 to a dismal 131 last season. Speed forward to this year and suddenly undefeated Michigan is averaging 247 ground yards through its first six outings – the seventh best mark in the entire nation. Cue up Northwestern, ranked No. 118 in the FBS and dead last in the Big Ten vs. the run (the Wildcats gave up 427 ground yards and seven rushing TDs in a Week 5 loss at Nebraska), and this one could result in domination.

Western Kentucky at FIU (Saturday, 7pm ET, ESPN+)

The bigger of the two mismatches in this one, at least on paper, is Western Kentucky’s potent passing attack – currently ranked No. 1 in the nation – taking on a FIU defense ranked No. 123 vs. the pass. Where the Hilltoppers hung up 488 air yards on (9) Michigan State in Week 5, the Golden Panthers coughed up 408 to FAU the same Saturday. The lesser of the two evils is FIU’s air attack – ranked No. 12 in all of the land – taking on a WKU defense ranked No. 111 vs. the pass. Holy yardage! Offensive standouts for the Hilltoppers include senior QB Bailey Zappe (#4) (No. 1 in the FBS in passing yards per game) and junior WR Jerreth Sterns (#8) (No. 1 in the FBS in receiving yards per game). For the Golden Panthers it’s senior QB Max Bortenschlager (#12) (No. 11 in the FBS in passing yards per game) and sophomore WR Tyrese Chambers (#0) (No. 8 in the FBS in receiving yards per game).

HARDWARE UP FOR GRABS

THE GEORGE JEWETT TROPHY – Northwestern at (6) Michigan – Saturday, Noon ET, FOX – series started in 1892, Michigan leads 58-15-2 and has won six-straight.

The newest traveling award in the FBS, the George Jewett Trophy honors the first Black player in Big Ten history. Jewett played at Michigan in 1890 and 1892 and earned a varsity letter as the team’s leading scorer, rusher, and kicker. From there he attended medical school at Northwestern during which he played two additional seasons for the Wildcats. Dr. Jewett practiced medicine in Chicago, was a businessman in Ann Arbor and dabbled in coaching before passing away suddenly in 1908 at only 38 years old.

THE JAMES BONHAM TROPHY – South Carolina at (17) Texas A&M – Saturday, 7:30pm ET, SEC Network – series started in 2014, Texas A&M has won all seven games in the series.

James Bonham was a South Carolina native who attended South Carolina college, the predecessor of the University of South Carolina. He came to Texas in 1835, setting up a law practice in Brazoria and striking up a friendship with Sam Houston. He was commissioned into the Texas Cavalry and eventually traveled to the Alamo. After riding out through Mexican lines to find aid for the garrison, he returned and died manning a cannon in the interior chapel of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. Rather than being awarded to the winning football team, the trophy honoring Bonham goes to the winning governor of either Texas or South Carolina.

THE JEWELED SHILLELAGH – USC at (13) Notre DameSaturday, 7:30pm ET, NBC – series started in 1926 – Notre Dame leads 47-36-5 and has won three-straight.

Not to be confused with the Shillelagh Trophy (presented to the winner of Notre Dame-Purdue), the Jeweled Shillelagh is a foot-long Gaelic war club made from a blackthorn tree from Ireland. Legend has it that it’s the only wood tougher than an Irish skull. The jewels are either ruby Trojan heads or emerald shamrocks, depending on the winner, each inscribed with the year and final score. Though the original Shillelagh was introduced in 1952 (and replaced in 1989 after it ran out of room), the medallions go back to the start of the series in 1926.

While we’re on the subject of celebratory Irish sticks, there was also a Shillelagh associated with the Notre Dame-Northwestern rivalry but it’s now the property of an Omaha, Nebraska businessman.

THE MAGNOLIA BOWL TROPHY – LSU at (12) Ole MissSaturday, 3:30pm ET, CBS – series started in 1894 – LSU leads 62-40-4 and has won five-straight.

The Magnolia Bowl and its trophy didn’t debut until 2008, after both student bodies participated in a “Name that Rivalry” contest. The original trophy, damaged during the Rebels’ celebration after their upset victory over the then No. 6 Tigers in 2013, was replaced in 2014 with a redesigned edition aimed at being a “better representation” of the rivalry. LSU has won the Magnolia nine times vs. Ole Miss’ four.

MIND-BLOWER

If you’re up into the wee hours of Sunday morning and flip on the tube and see New Mexico State playing at Hawaii (scheduled to kick off at precisely 11:59pm ET) you may do a double take.

Hold on. Didn’t these two already meet this season?

Yep. Just last month – on Sept. 25 – the Warriors made the trek to Las Cruces and beat the Aggies 41-21.

It amounts to two regular-season games featuring the same two teams in 28 days. And it’s not as unusual as you might think. New Mexico State played Liberty twice in the regular season in both 2019 and 2020, the Flames winning three of the four meetings.

Welcome to the era of the Déjà vu Bowl.

The Aggies have never beaten the Warriors, the series began in 1978 and – prior to their Week 5 clash – the two last played in 2011. Of the eight total meetings, seven occurred when the pair shared membership in the WAC. They currently have plans to meet again consecutively from 2022-24.

Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference-College Football. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds courtesy of Oddshark.com.

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Comment (1)

@AmyDaughters,

Dan-ke for your comprehensive review of All 1A Conference Games this Week with your researched attention to detail.

We don’t know what the Covid Fear effects of the Virus on WSU’s play are, if any, this Week. If BYU plays without mistakes as they did last Week VS Baylor U. BYU might have it’s 1st Four wins in the regular Season VS the PAC12 ever.