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Mike Lopresti | | October 20, 2022

The college football teams with something to prove in Week 8 — and why

College football rankings: Tennessee vaults to No. 3 after beating Alabama

Frankly, it’s tricky deciding on the college Moments of Truth for any given week if the sport insists on going a little bananas every Saturday. Look at all the events from the past weekend that kept the Who-Saw-This-Coming Department busy.

Alabama gave up 52 points in a game for the first time since 1907, back when the Tide could not slow down the juggernaut from Sewanee.

Utah beat USC in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1916, and one tight end caught 16 passes.

Illinois went 6-1 to match its best start since 1953.

Ole Miss rushed for 448 yards against Auburn and the Rebels hadn’t done that against an SEC defense since 1951.

Notre Dame was beaten by a Stanford team that is 0-4 in the Pac-12. Since Marshall is 0-2 in the Sun Belt that means the Irish have now lost to two teams currently winless and in last place in their conference. Both in Notre Dame Stadium.

You get the idea. So what now? This week’s MOTs.

WEEK 7 RECAP: Breaking down an insane Saturday in college football

No. 24 Mississippi State at No. 6 Alabama | 7 p.m. ET Saturday | ESPN

Woe be the poor opponent having to face Nick Saban after an Alabama loss. It’s like getting hurled into a pit with a ticked-off rottweiler. Since 2008, the Tide have never lost consecutive regular-season games, and it has often not been pretty. Last season, Alabama was upset by Texas A&M and won the next week 49-9. That was against Mississippi State. In 2019, a defeat by LSU was followed by a 38-7 rout. Mississippi State again.

And now, one week after goal posts were floating in the Tennessee River to celebrate the Vols stunning the Tide, look who’s coming to Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs have dropped 14 in a row to Alabama, the past four by the ugly combined score of 152-16 and this one looks dire, too. It’s Homecoming and the Tide have won 18 in a row of those and gone 86-13-1.

Yet this is much more complicated than just Alabama’s habit of atonement. The Tide just gave up five touchdown passes to one Tennessee receiver. Maybe that was more a testament to the Vols’ vast offensive abilities, but if the secondary gets toasted like a bagel again by Mike Leach’s Mississippi State passing attack — it rolls up 334 yards a game — then the narrative will be that Alabama has a problem on defense. Will Lewis’ next touchdown pass will make him the career leader for the Bulldogs, easing by a guy who now works on Sundays, Dak Prescott.

Also, is there any cure for the Yellow Flu at Alabama? The Tide are 129th in the nation — third spot from the bottom — in penalties, after a maddening 17 at Tennessee. Highly penalized teams are often considered undisciplined. Not many Saban teams have heard that word, but this one has.

No. 9 UCLA at No. 10 Oregon | 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday | FOX

Remember how Oregon opened the season by being road kill at Georgia, getting taken apart by the Bulldogs 49-3? Call it a mulligan. The Ducks are 5-0 since then, averaging 49.8 points a game. They have also won 22 consecutive home games. They have also beaten UCLA nine of their past 10 meetings and not lost to the Bruins in Eugene in 18 years. They have also thrown 206 passes this season and been sacked once. None of this suggests an easy trip up the coast for UCLA. Then again, the Bruins are 6-0 and have been held under 40 points once, while quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s 74.8 completion percentage is the second finest in the land, so it likely won’t be a pleasure cruise for the home team, either. Plus, this is Chip Kelly taking his UCLA team back to the place he made his name.

Having just beaten No. 15 Washington and No. 11 Utah, the Bruins could make it three wins over ranked opponents in three games and the Bruins haven’t done that in 21 years. These are the last two Pac-12 teams unbeaten in league play, so the winner gets the frontrunner spot.

All of the above are why ESPN GameDay will be in town, even if it will be 90 minutes before dawn when the show begins. Early wake-up alarms for the Oregon fans on Saturday.

LATEST AP POLL: Tennessee leapfrogs to No. 3 after taking down Alabama

No. 14 Syracuse at No. 5 Clemson |Noon ET, Saturday | ABC

Something unusual is in the air. This is the first time in the 81-year history of Memorial Stadium two unbeaten teams at least 6-0 will meet. Also, a victory gives Syracuse a 7-0 record for the first time in 35 years and the third since 1931. Lots of skeptics wonder if the Orange are that good, but nobody will be wondering anymore if they’re still unbeaten Saturday night. Clemson has won 37 consecutive home games and 13 in a row overall, and both are the longest streaks anywhere. This time last year the Tigers were 4-3 and facing the unsettling specter of missing the playoffs, but the world is back in its proper orbit in Clemson. It will be interesting to see how the Syracuse defense — sixth in the nation in scoring and eighth overall — holds up in such a charged atmosphere.

Iowa at No. 2 Ohio State |Noon ET, Saturday | FOX

Odd scheduling fact of the week: Big Ten comrades Iowa and Ohio State have not seen one another in five years, and the Hawkeyes rolled in the last meeting 55-24, the fifth most points ever slapped on the Buckeyes. Since this Iowa team has scored only 88 points in six games, a repeat is doubtful. Especially since Ohio State hasn't lost a home conference game since 2015, seven years and 27 consecutive wins ago.

What will be compelling is the clash of strength vs. strength. The Buckeyes' offense is putting up 48.8 points a game to lead the nation, has produced 27 touchdowns in 29 red zone trips, and in 404 runs or passes from scrimmage has been tackled for a loss or sacked only 23 times. Meanwhile, Iowa’s defense has allowed five touchdowns all season and has held five of its first six opponents to 10 or fewer points. The last time the Hawkeyes did that was 1933.

If Ohio State hangs a big scoring number on Iowa, it could do wonders for quarterback C.J. Stroud’s Heisman case.

UNDEFEATED TRACKER: Click or tap here to view the remaining undefeated FBS teams

No. 7 Ole Miss at LSU | 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday | CBS

One more victory and Ole Miss would be 8-0 for its best start since 1962, back when the Rebels were national champions. New faces are responsible for this surge, with either transfers or freshman Quinshon Judkins responsible for 94.8 percent of the total offense so far. Only 182 yards have been gained all season by a holdover from 2021. But keeping the record clean will take some effort in a place Ole Miss has not won 14 years. It’s also Homecoming — it’s Homecoming in gobs of places this weekend — and the Tigers have won 20 of their last 21 of those. The Rebels are a lot less worried about Homecoming than they are LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. He comes off the 45-35 win over Florida having passed for three touchdowns and run for three more.

No. 20 Texas at No. 11 Oklahoma State | 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday | ABC

The Cowboys have the two-overtime setback at TCU to forget, and hope the offense that has scored 44.3 points a game keeps purring. For a program once chasing a playoff spot, losing two Big 12 games in a row would be a loud thud. A win gives Mike Gundy his 38th victory over a ranked opponent, and only Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are active coaches with more at their current school.

Memphis at No. 25 Tulane |  3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday | ESPN2

The past fortnight has been hard for Memphis. First, a blown 19-point fourth quarter lead in a 33-32 loss to Houston. Then, a 47-45 four overtime defeat at East Carolina. How to feel better quickly? Rain on Tulane’s renaissance. The Green Wave have gone from 2-10 last season to 6-1 and their first ranking in 24 years.

SCHEDULE: Click or tap here for game times, TV channels and scores from every game

Purdue at Wisconsin | 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday | ESPN

The Boilermakers play their home games 69 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, annual site of the Big Ten championship game, and have never made it there. But here they are, tied for the West division lead and with a massive break in their conference schedule — no Ohio State, no Michigan. But their Wisconsin Curse must be dealt with. Purdue has dropped 15 in a row to the Badgers. While the Boilers think big picture, Wisconsin has its own brats to fry. The Badgers have 20 consecutive bowl seasons, but they’re 3-4 with an interim coach and need a fast finish. It’s yet another Homecoming, and Wisconsin has won its last eight by an average margin of 31 points.

No. 17 Kansas State at No. 8 TCU | 8 p.m. ET, Saturday | FS1

The Wildcats were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs seventh.  So much for the reliability of pre-season thinking. This game matches the only 3-0 teams in league play, with the prize sole ownership of first place. It’s a rare opportunity for Kansas State, which has defeated only five top-10 teams on the road in its history. One was last month when the Wildcats rolled into Norman, and the world still thought of the Sooners as a top-10 team. It’s a rare chance for TCU, too. The Horned Frogs — whose 45.8-point-a-game-offense is behind only bright lighters Ohio State and Tennessee — have beaten three ranked opponents in three weeks, a run never accomplished before in school history.

Care to make it a fourpeat?

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