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Beyond the Fort: Week 8

Ohio State picked up a huge win over Penn State on Saturday. What does that mean for the national conversation moving forward?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State defense smothers Penn State

The biggest game of the season so far resulted in a huge win for Ryan Day and the Ohio State Buckeyes. James Franklin’s big game woes continue to haunt him, but there’s no doubt that both of these teams are among the 10 best in the country. To the casual fan, this 20-12 result may appear boring on the surface, but we were treated to a fantastic game of football. Both defenses played incredibly well on the day. Both teams averaged just 1.9 yards per carry on the afternoon, meaning the passing game was going to make the difference. And that is the one area that Ohio State had an advantage over Penn State. The Nittany Lions’ quarterback Drew Allar struggled to find his receivers, finishing 18/42 for 191 yards on the afternoon. On the other side, Kyle McCord was 22/35 for 286 yards. The true difference in this game was Marvin Harrison Jr. The standout wide receiver was targeted 16 times and ended up with 11 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Day deserves a ton of credit for continually finding ways to get his best player the ball as it ended up being the difference.

North Carolina upset by Virginia

The North Carolina Tar Heels got off to a 6-0 start this season. After last week’s big win over Miami, the Tar Heels moved up to #10 in the AP Poll and #8 in my power rankings. Their trip into the top 10 was short-lived. This was a game that North Carolina had no business losing. Virginia was 1-5 on the year coming into the game, and that single win was over FCS William & Mary. The Cavaliers had been a horrible defense, and UNC amassed 490 yards on the day. The Tar Heels even won the turnover battle! North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye didn’t have his best day, going 24/28 for 347 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. It’s a loss that doesn’t really make a lot of sense when looking at the box score. In reality, Virginia just made the most of their scoring opportunities. It seemed like every time the Cavs had the ball they made it to the red zone where they were 4/6 on the day. This is an ugly loss for North Carolina, and they have removed themselves from the playoff conversation.

Florida State shows they’re the class of the ACC.

The Florida State Seminoles are without a doubt the most complete team in the ACC this year. Duke came out with a great game plan and actually led this game at half 20-17. Duke quarterback Riley Leonard was playing on an injured ankle, and once that injury was aggravated and he had to leave the game it was over. Florida State shut Duke out in the second half while putting up 21 points of their own to cruise to a 38-20 victory. The Seminoles continue to be an incredibly difficult team to play with for 60 minutes, and Mike Norvell has done a great job of making halftime adjustments every week. They also probably don’t get enough credit for their defense. Each week that passes, holding LSU to 24 points in week 1 looks more and more impressive. If this team stays healthy, I think they’re a lock for the playoff.

Alabama may have found something against Tennessee.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have not looked like the invincible force we’ve come to know them as under Nick Saban. Cracks were showing last year as the Tide went 10-2 in the regular season with Bryce Young and Will Anderson (two of the first three picked in the NFL Draft) on the team. When Alabama lost to Texas then struggled with USF the next week many thought this season would be even worse. But here we are, in late October, and the Tide are 7-1 and in control of the SEC West. They are by no means a lock to make the SEC Championship game, but they may have figured something out on Saturday.

Alabama went into halftime down 20-7 against Tennessee. Joe Milton was playing out of his mind, and Josh Heupel seemed to have his team in a great spot. I don’t know what Nick Saban did or said at halftime, but Alabama came out as a completely different team. Alabama scored on the second play of the quarter and it was game over after that. They’d go on to score 20 more points on their way to a 34-20 victory. Tennessee ran 16 more plays than Alabama, put up 50 more yards of offense, was better on third down, had more trips to the red zone, won the turnover battle, and none of it seemed to matter. Alabama is the most talented roster in college football from top to bottom, and maybe that’s starting to show.

USC has officially been exposed as a fraud.

Some people gave USC the benefit of the doubt after the loss in South Bend last week, but there are no excuses this time around. Lincoln Riley has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and one of the best offenses in the country, but refuses to address the defensive issues. The Utah Utes have once again beaten USC, making Kyle Whittingham three for three over the past 2 seasons against the Trojans. And this time he did it with a pig farmer at quarterback (his words, not mine).

Inconsistency Everywhere

One of the most notable observations I have from this college football season is just how hard it is to find consistent teams this year. The Michigan Wolverines have beaten the brakes off of everyone they’ve played this year. They’ve allowed no more than 10 points in a game, and they’ve scored at least 30 in every game. And they are the only team in the country doing anything remotely close to that.

Georgia struggled to a 10-point win against South Carolina and was almost upset at Auburn. Ohio State is undefeated, but their offense has been pretty bad so far. Florida State almost let Boston College complete a comeback when after racing to a 31-10 lead. Washington beat Arizona by 7 a few weeks ago and needed a defensive touchdown to beat Arizona State on Saturday. Oklahoma and Texas both almost lost coming off their bye week to first-year Power Five programs!

I’ve made this comment a few times, but I think we’re headed for a season similar to 2007. There are about 15 teams in the country that could beat anyone they play on any given Saturday, and with the consistency issues we’re seeing across the board all it takes is one off night to lose a game you shouldn’t. Just ask North Carolina.

Coach Perry’s Power Rankings - Week 8

In my opinion, we are down to 10 teams that have a realistic shot at making the College Football Playoff this season, and even that might be a stretch.

  1. Michigan - As noted previously, the Wolverines have been the only team in the country that has been consistent every single week. You know exactly what you’re going to get when this team lines up to play on a Saturday. Absolute domination.
  2. Ohio State - The Buckeyes probably have the best resume in the country with their wins over Notre Dame and Penn State, but the Buckeyes offense has really struggled to find success this year. Personally, I don’t think they stand a chance against Michigan.
  3. Florida State - Outside of the Boston College mishap this team has looked good in every game. They’ve done a great job of making halftime adjustments and pulling away in the second half. There’s a lot of talent on the defense, and the offense knows its identity.
  4. Georgia - The close games with South Carolina and Auburn ding the Bulldogs, and the uncertainty of Brock Bowers injury status makes this team more vulnerable. The run game hasn’t been there all year, but Carson Beck is throwing the ball at a high level. The talent on the roster means they can beat anyone in the country if they play well.
  5. Oklahoma - The Sooners got the big win over Texas and needed to stop a 2-point conversion to avoid overtime against UCF this weekend. They are one of the top offenses in the country, and they’ve gotten better on defense. In my opinion, the Sooners need to run the table and win the Big 12 Championship to make the playoffs. At this point, I don’t think they will.
  6. Washington - After the win over Oregon people started comparing this team to 2019 LSU. Apparently, the Huskies didn’t like that, so they went out and nearly lost to Arizona State in an ugly 15-7 game. We asked if Michael Penix had his Heisman moment last week. His Saturday stat line: 27/42 for 266 yards and 2 interceptions. I don’t see this team finishing the season undefeated.
  7. Texas - The Longhorns still have a shot to make the playoff, but that will require them to run the table and win the Big 12 Championship game. They shot out to a 21-0 lead over Houston on Saturday and needed the help of the refs to find a 31-24 victory. Quinn Ewers was knocked out of the game with what has been confirmed as a “grade 2 AC joint sprain” in his right shoulder. Texas has BYU next week and then hosts Kansas State.
  8. Oregon - The Ducks probably shouldn’t have lost to Washington last week, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Oregon will need to run the table and win the Pac-12 Championship to make the playoffs, and I’m not sure they’ll be able to do it.
  9. Alabama - The Tide have looked vulnerable all season, but Texas is the only team that has been able to take advantage so far. The matchup with LSU in 2 weeks determines the fate of the season. Both teams have a bye this week. I’m not sure the Alabama offense can score enough to keep up with LSU. We’ll see.
  10. Penn State - The loss to Ohio State was crushing for the Nittany Lions, but the manner in which it occurred might be even more important. Penn State has serious problems in the passing game. I thought Drew Allar was going to burst onto the scene and help this program finally take the next step to being elite, but I was wrong. I don’t see a world where this team beats Michigan. It’s looking like 10-2 again in Happy Valley.