Top 10 clash in Pac-12 leads college football games to watch in Week 8

This week’s college football lineup will have a hard time topping last Saturday’s action. Heck, any future Saturday is going to have a hard time topping that. There are nevertheless plenty of high-stakes contests that should lead to more thrilling plays and compelling finishes in Week 8 as the season’s official second half gets underway.    

We aren’t likely to see the kind of shake-up in the rankings we had last time out, with several highly-rated teams getting the week off or facing less challenging competition. But there are a plethora of meaningful conference clashes from coast to coast.

Here are our picks for the most watchable games on the Saturday slate in Week 8.

No. 10 UCLA at No. 9 Oregon

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox

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Why watch: The day’s main event figures to be this top-10 showdown in the Pac-12. The Bruins, the league’s last unbeaten team, head up to coach Chip Kelly’s old stomping grounds in Autzen Stadium to meet the Ducks, who have yet to lose a conference game and could grab first place all by themselves. Both teams are coming off an open date, so the level of play should be quite high. The Bruins’ dynamic duo of QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and RB Zach Charbonnet were last seen leading an attack that carved up the formidable Utah defense for 502 total yards. The Ducks give up their share of yardage but LB D.J. Johnson and DE Brandon Dorlus must be accounted for. Oregon QB Bo Nix has been at his best at home but must beware of UCLA’s disruptive LB Darius Muasau.

Why it could disappoint: About the only way it could is if one team commits a slew of turnovers and digs itself a deep chasm. This seems unlikely, however, as UCLA has only given the ball away six times all year and the Ducks just five.

No. 14 Syracuse at No. 5 Clemson

Saturday, noon ET, ABC

Why watch: The Tigers will all but put the ACC Atlantic out of reach if they can dispatch their last true challengers. The Orange continued their somewhat surprising start against a short-handed North Carolina State last week but now face their biggest test to date. While it might have taken its foot off the gas a bit too early last week at Florida State, Clemson got superb offensive balance from QB D.J. Uiagalelei and RB Will Shipley. They could have their hands full against LB Mikel Jones and the Syracuse defense that leads the ACC and ranks eighth in the nation allowing just 268.8 yards a game. The Orange backfield tandem of QB Garrett Shrader and Sean Tucker can also move the ball in a variety of ways, but the Clemson defensive front featuring DE Myles Murphy has amassed 57 tackles for loss already this season, over eight a game.

Why it could disappoint: The Orange have already exceeded their win total from a season ago, but this could be where the fairytale ends against the more talented Tigers, who are riding a 37-game home winning streak and should have an edge along the lines.

No. 17 Kansas State at No. 8 TCU

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1

Why watch: You probably would have needed a crystal ball to have predicted that this contest on the Week 8 docket would be for the outright lead in the Big 12, but here we are. The Wildcats might have a rest advantage coming off an open date, but the Horned Frogs should have an enthusiastic home crowd on hand after last week’s comeback against Oklahoma State vaulted them into the top 10. TCU QB Max Duggan has accounted for 20 total touchdowns, including four by land, and he gets plenty of help from RB Kendre Miller and WR Quentin Johnston. K-State QB Adrian Martinez hasn’t been quite as prolific, but he has eliminated the mistakes that plagued his career at Nebraska and has accounted for 13 TDs himself. RB Deuce Vaughn and WR Phillip Brooks are his primary weapons.

Why it could disappoint: It won’t if it’s anything like the Horned Frogs’ last two Big 12 contests, wild shootouts that could have gone either way. The Wildcats’ most recent outing, however, was a defensive slog past Iowa State. While not as exciting, the latter scenario might be K-State’s best formula for pulling off the road win.

No. 24 Mississippi State at No. 6 Alabama

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why watch: These SEC West hopefuls enter the week in need of a bounce-back win. This is a much more unusual occurrence for Alabama, of course, but the Bulldogs will be just as motivated as they try to avoid their third conference loss. Alabama QB Bryce Young did all he could last week in defeat at Tennessee, and he’ll be happy to be in more friendly environs. Bulldogs QB Will Rogers wasn’t able to generate much in last week’s setback against Kentucky, and he’ll be up against an angry Crimson Tide defense that will be out to prove a point.

Why it could disappoint: Even the ‘Air Raid’ needs to produce rushing yardage, and Alabama could do what Kentucky did to the Bulldogs last week and shut down that part of the attack. But the penalty monster that nearly undid the Tide at Texas way back in Week 2 reared its head again in Knoxville, and Alabama will get tagged with another ‘L’ if that doesn’t get fixed.

No. 21 Texas at No. 11 Oklahoma State

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Why watch: For now this game is the Big 12 undercard as the winner will be in just a tie for second at the end of the day, but it’s a huge showdown for both contenders hoping to avoid falling two games down in the still wide-open league. Cowboys QB Spencer Sanders played through a sore shoulder but still put up plenty of points in last week’s loss to TCU. He’ll likely need another big performance against the Longhorns, who won two in a row with QB Quinn Ewers back from his own shoulder issue.

Why it could disappoint: The Longhorns rank 37th nationally in total defense, while Oklahoma State checks in at a leaky 110th. If Texas can build an early cushion, the Cowboys might have to force things in comeback mode.

No. 7 Mississippi at LSU

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Why watch: Thanks to last week’s events in Knoxville, the Rebels find themselves alone atop the SEC West. Staying there won’t be easy, however, beginning with this road test against the hot-and-cold Tigers, who for now appear to be hot coming off a big win over Florida in the Swamp. The LSU offense isn’t quite a one-man show, but QB Jayden Daniels often makes it look that way. He does have a dangerous deep threat in the person of WR Malik Nabers, who is sure to get extra attention from Rebels DB A.J. Finley. Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart has more help, most notably from RBs Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans. But Dart can also be pick prone, and LSU DB Jay Ward is always ready to pounce.

Why it could disappoint: As mentioned, the Tigers haven’t been the most consistent bunch in Brian Kelly’s first year at the helm. If the offense is slow out of the gate, the Rebels could take the crowd out of the game early.

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