Contenders look to tighten the reigns in conference play

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Matchups to Watch in College Football Week 8

Brad Curnow | Sports Writer | @jojocornrow

Last weekend gave us a once-in-a-lifetime type of ending in Ann Arbor as Michigan punter Blake O’Neill bobbled a snap with 10 seconds to play. O’Neill only needed to get the kick away for the Wolverines to seal a two-point victory over the rival Spartans. Michigan State defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped the fumble and ran it 38 yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. ESPN Stats and Information put Michigan State’s win probability at just 0.2 percent at the time of the snap, yet the Spartans scooped and scored to take home the Paul Bunyan Trophy. It’s moments like these that make the college football season a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation. There’s no telling what will happen with an oblong ball that doesn’t bounce predictably.

This weekend we see games all over the country that have conference and playoff implications. Clemson travels to Miami to defend their spot atop the ACC standings. Texas Tech looks to spoil Oklahoma’s chance at Big 12 redemption. In a top-25 matchup, Texas A&M and Ole Miss battle to stay in the SEC conversation. Richmond travels to James Madison in an FCS contest to take control of the Colonial Athletic Association. USC hosts Utah looking to play spoiler in the Pac-12 South. In an all-Mountain West contest Utah State visits San Diego State.

Clemson Tigers at Miami Hurricanes

Clemson will take their talents to South Beach to take on Miami. The Tigers gutted out a tough defensive performance against the Fighting Irish in Week 4. Clemson has held all opponents to an average of 16.7 points per game.

Miami has two tough losses to their name to Cincinnati and conference foe Florida State. The Hurricanes are looking to get back in the conference race with a big win against Clemson.

Texas Tech Red Raiders at Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma is home to Texas Tech in a Big 12 contest. The Sooners are looking to continue on the road to conference redemption after dropping the Red River Rivalry to the Longhorns two weeks ago.

Texas Tech has been reduced to the role of conference spoiler after dropping contests to both TCU and Baylor. The Red Raiders’ high-powered offense, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, will give the Sooners all they can handle.

Texas A&M Aggies at Ole Miss Rebels

Texas A&M visits Oxford, MS to challenge Ole Miss. Both teams are in need of a win to stay relevant in the competitive SEC. The Aggies are looking to rebound after a tough loss to Alabama in Week 7. Texas A&M will need to find a way to stop the Ole Miss running attack to stay in the game.

Ole Miss has underwhelmed since a huge win against Alabama a month ago. The Rebels have not been able to put together a complete performance on the season.

Richmond Spiders at James Madison Dukes

Richmond travels to Harrisburg, Virginia to take on James Madison. The Spiders attack opponents with platoon running backs Jacobi Green and Seth Fisher. Even with a blowout loss to Maryland, Richmond has managed at least three touchdowns every game.

The Dukes boast a high-powered offense averaging 48.7 points per game, including posting 48 against FBS opponent SMU. James Madison is looking for their first conference title since 2008.

Utah Utes at USC Trojans

USC looks to spoil Utah’s run at a Pac-12 title at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. The Utes were able to grind out a win against Arizona State at home last week with the defense coming up with timely fourth quarter stops and turnovers. Utah may have the chance to bury a mentally worn USC team with a couple of early touchdowns.

The Trojans, currently 3-3, have not played up to expectations this season and have fallen out of the AP top-25 from a preseason 8th spot. USC comes into the contest at 1-3 against power 5 opponents with a point differential of plus-three in those games.

Utah State Aggies at San Diego State Aztecs

Utah State and San Diego State battle for the driver seat in the Mountain West Conference Saturday night. The Aggies reached “also receiving votes” status in the AP Poll last Sunday and could crack the top-25 with a decisive win against the Aztecs.

San Diego State comes in on a three-game winning streak since opening conference play. Running back Donnel Pumphrey has led the Aztecs’ offensive attack by averaging 141.3 yards per game against conference opponents.

Down weeks in the middle of the season will test the heart of teams and show what they’re really made of. This week we will see which teams have the guts to play at a high level deep into the schedule and which teams will fade as the season continues.