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The Numerical, Week 8: Don't forget about Ohio State

Good calls (in Tallahassee) and bad calls (in Berkeley), great performances (in Columbus) and horrible performances (in Gainesville), and a blowout in Tuscaloosa highlighted the numbers in Week 8 of the college football season.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports


Clemson lost starting quarterback Deshaun Watson to injury in Week 7, and in Week 8 the Tigers lost their leading rusher as well. Adam Choice injured his knee and was lost for the season, meaning both cogs in CU's exciting freshman backfield are now gone (though Watson will be back this season).

Of course, that makes the losses seem more costly they might be. Choice had a nice game against NC State a couple of weeks ago (nine carries, 56 yards), but he was Clemson's leading rusher with only 218 yards overall. Three other backs (C.J. Davidson, Wayne Gallman, and D.J. Howard) have at least 137 yards, and none, including Choice, has averaged better than 4.4 yards per carry. Clemson currently ranks 104th in Rushing S&P+. It was all sorts of shaky, with or without Choice.


Since taking over for the suspended Todd Gurley, Georgia's Nick Chubb has carried the ball 68 times in two games. He proved durable in a 34-0 win over Missouri, carrying 38 times but gaining just 143 yards in the process.

Against Arkansas in Little Rock, however, he went off. His first 10 carries featured gains of 18, 33, and 43 yards, and he finished with 202 yards in 30 rushes. And for the second straight week, Georgia went up big on the road, taking a 38-6 lead into halftime.

Unlike Missouri, the Hogs actually fought back in the second half. But between Chubb's steadiness and an actual big play or two in the passing game (Chris Conley finished with five catches for 128 yards), Georgia was never too seriously threatened in a 45-32 win. When Arkansas cut the lead to 13 with 5:05 left, the Dawgs simply handed to Chubb over and over and ran out the clock.w


Alabama's first drive against Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa was, comparatively speaking, one of its worst of the afternoon. The Tide gained 51 yards in their first four plays before stalling out and kicking a field goal. On their second drive, they went 72 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. Third drive: 10 plays, 84 yards, touchdown. Fourth drive: four plays, 64 yards, touchdown. Fifth drive: 11 plays, 80 yards ... you get the idea. Bama scored on each of its first eight drives.

A&M, meanwhile, gained 51 yards in the first half. Total.

Rarely does the Tide roll like it rolled in Saturday's 59-0 win over an A&M team that ranked sixth in the AP poll at the beginning of October. The last time they scored 59 on an SEC foe was in a 59-28 win over 1-10 Vanderbilt in 1990. The last time they WON by 59 or more against an SEC foe was in a 66-3 win over ... 1-10 Vanderbilt in 1979. That's not really the best company to keep, A&M. But hey ... it's been worse...


Jameis Winston could use a bit more humble pie in his life, but there was very little humble about the reigning Heisman winner's performance against Notre Dame. The Seminoles' defense continued to prove thin up front and shaky overall, allowing 470 yards and 27 points to an Irish team that seemed intent on picking up the tempo and wearing FSU down. But down 17-10 heading into the second half, Winston responded with what may have been his best 30 minutes as a quarterback.

In 16 second-half pass attempts, Winston completed 15 of 16 passes for 181 yards, a touchdown, and a sack. Yards per attempt, including the sack: 10.2. FSU's continued run issues popped up and prompted a couple of three-and-outs (including what could have been a costly one with fewer than five minutes remaining, one that gave Notre Dame one last scoring opportunity that it nearly capitalized on), but Winston's incredible play saved the day ... eventually.

(And yes, that was absolutely, positively offensive pass interference on Notre Dame. If you don't call it in that circumstance, you just need to strike the rule from the rulebook. It probably didn't have any impact on the play, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't call it. And for the "Refs should get out of the way and let the players decide it on the field in the final minutes" crowd ... my goodness, just get rid of rules altogether then. Then the players can really decide it for themselves! Call it in the first five minutes like you call it in the last five minutes. And yes, this is just a rehashing of something I end up saying about 17 times each basketball season.)


Ohio State currently ranks eighth in the F/+ rankings*, ahead of Georgia, Florida State, Baylor, Michigan State, et cetera.

Now, F/+ is still settling into its foundation a bit, and there are a few oddities that will likely rectify themselves over time. Stanford was, until last week, still a top-10 team. (The Cardinal almost fell all the way out of the top 30 after their loss to Arizona State on Saturday.) Oklahoma has twice lost and moved up in the ratings. Florida State is only now creeping into the top 10.

Still, by mid- to late-October, F/+ has figured out a good portion of college football's landscape, and it seems to be identifying something my eyes have also been telling me for a few weeks now: that the Buckeyes have been pretty damn awesome since their loss to Virginia Tech.

"Yeah, but who have they played?" That's a fair point, albeit one we use more out of denial than constructive argumentation. Ohio State went to College Park and thoroughly demolished a Maryland team that has otherwise gone 5-1 and currently ranks 35th overall. The Terps are far from amazing, but they're generally better than Ohio State made them look.

Meanwhile, Rutgers had quietly put together a top-30 profile until Saturday, when the Buckeyes nearly knocked them out of the top 50. The Scarlet Knights' resurgent offense went Punt-Punt-TD-Punt-Fumble-Punt-INT-Punt in their first eight possessions in Columbus, while Ohio State went TD-TD-TD-Punt-TD-TD-TD and returned a fumble for a score as well. The final score (56-17) and yardage (585-345) were kind to Rutgers.

We're a little bit more than two weeks away from the Big Ten's biggest game of the year, Ohio State's trip to East Lansing. The Buckeyes could find themselves slowed down by Penn State's top-10 defense this weekend in State College, and they could even lose and prove they were a bit overrated. Or they could do what they have done over the last month: destroy decent teams and show up in East Lansing 7-1.

(Michigan State, by the way, is now the No. 3 Big Ten team in the F/+ rankings. Thanks to Nebraska's handy thumping of Northwestern, the Huskers are now up to 17th overall ... just ahead of the No. 18 Spartans.)

* There's no truth to the rumor that Ohio State's simply being propped up by a new Marching Band portion of the F/+ ratings. The Buckeyes are far and away No. 1 in MB F/+.


It's still a bit early, but seven of 11 teams in the American Athletic Conference are either 2-1, 1-1, or 1-2 in conference play. East Carolina and UCF have nudged ahead in the race with 2-0 records, but the overall slog potential here is high. That's also the case for the MAC West and MWC West, each of which has five of six teams within the same range.

Of course, this is burying the lede. Following Duke's win over Virginia, Pitt's win over Virginia Tech, and North Carolina's insane 48-43 win over Georgia Tech (a game that featured 1,190 yards of offense and six lead changes despite three different double-digit UNC leads), the ACC Coastal also has seven teams within this range ... and only has seven teams, period. Duke (currently No. 24 in the F/+ ratings), Virginia (No. 30), and Pitt (No. 33) are all 2-1. Georgia Tech (No. 25) is 2-2, and Miami (No. 26), Virginia Tech (No. 20), and UNC (No. 68) are 1-2. All seven are within a game of the division lead, and six of seven are ranked within nine spots of each other.

We'll explore this more later in the week, but this might be the slog to end all slogs.


Purdue still only has three wins in 2014, but the Boilers are getting close.

After a respectable 16-point loss to Notre Dame, a trouncing of Illinois, and a respectable 14-point loss to Michigan State, the Boilermakers almost scored a statement win of sorts. Minnesota isn't a top-10 team or anything, but the Gophers might be the Big Ten West favorites at the moment, and in Minneapolis, Purdue had them down 31-20 at halftime and 38-29 late in the third quarter.

Minnesota climbed back. Mitch Leidner hit KJ Maye for a 37-yard score with 1:13 left in the third quarter, then Ryan Santoso bombed in a 52-yard field goal with five minutes left to take the lead. Purdue's Austin Appleby was picked off at midfield with 2:28 remaining, and that was that.

Purdue gained 451 yards (7.4 per play) on Saturday and has averaged at least 5.4 yards per play in four of its last five games. The 3-5 Boilermakers probably aren't going to rally to bowl eligibility this year, but after last season's putrid debut for head coach Darrell Hazell (1-11, 114th in F/+, 113th in Off. F/+, 107th in Def. F/+), they have a pulse, and they're young at basically every position but running back and defensive end.

Another team with an unexpected pulse: Air Force. The Falcons didn't dominate New Mexico in moving to 5-2 with a 35-31 win, but they're up to 54th in the F/+ rankings and are one win from bowl eligibility after plummeting to 2-10 in 2013. Many expected head coach Troy Calhoun to lose his job after last season; he did not, and now he's pulling his own version of a Dan Mullen.


You're slipping, Pac-12. This week, only two of your five games went down to the wire, and frankly, we expect better. Oregon handled Washington rather easily, USC bolted to a 28-0 first-quarter lead against Colorado and cruised, and Arizona State had a surprisingly easy time with Stanford.

Still, we did have two more close games to add to the growing list. First, in a Friday night field goal fest in Corvallis, Oregon State's Trevor Romaine nailed a 49-yarder at the buzzer to take Utah to overtime at 16-16. But he missed a 37-yarder in the second OT, and Devontae Booker scored his third touchdown and gained the last 19 of his 229 rushing yards to put the Beavers away, 29-23.

Then, in an honest-to-goodness classic in front of 49,257 in Berkeley, UCLA survived Cal when the Golden Bears got impatient. In a game that featured seven lead changes, UCLA took a 24-14 advantage into halftime, but Cal went up 28-27 late in the third quarter. It was 33-28 UCLA, then 34-33 Cal, then 36-34 UCLA. Cal took the ball with 3:34 left and slowly worked into Bruin territory. The Bears converted a fourth-and-6 to UCLA's 39 and still had about a minute to work with, but on second-and-7, Jared Goff went for the touchdown with a lob down the right sideline, and it was picked off by Marcus Rios at the UCLA 2.

Well, it was "picked off," anyway. Somehow, Pac-12 replay officials decided to let the call stand even though Rios pretty clearly didn't have control of the ball before stepping out of bounds.

Regardless, this was yet another classic in a Cal season full of them. Four of six Cal games have come down to the wire, including a 31-24 win over Northwestern, a 49-45 Hail Mary loss to Arizona, a 59-56 OT win over Colorado, and a 60-59 win over Washington State.

Oregon visits this Friday night; the Ducks putting their lingering national title hopes in the gears of Cal's crazy fate machine.


A .333 average is pretty good in baseball, but you typically want to be batting a little closer to .500 if you're an athletic director hiring coaches.

Jeremy Foley is one-for-three in hiring Florida head football coaches. He is generally regarded as one of the nation's better, more successful ADs, but one could say this has been a weak spot. If you're being particularly critical, you could point out that his one strong hire (Urban Meyer) was a no-brainer that any athletic director would have made. Still, he did keep Meyer from going to Notre Dame instead, and that's worth quite a bit.

The problem is, he preceded Meyer with Ron Zook and followed him up with Will Muschamp, who will almost certainly be coaching his final game(s) in the coming weeks.

Florida's 42-13 Homecoming loss to Missouri was as hapless and listless as you'll see. The Gators' defense showed up -- it usually does -- and held the Tigers' similarly listless offense to a touchdown (from a short field), two field goals (one from a short field), five three-and-outs, and only one sustained drive of more than 24 yards. But that only matters if your offense and special teams units don't completely implode. Mizzou's Marcus Murphy returned both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns (he also scored the Tigers' lone offensive touchdown), the Mizzou defense scored twice (on a Markus Golden fumble return and a Darvin Ruise interception return), and the Tigers went up 42-0, holding Florida to 89 yards in 48 plays in the process.

This was exactly the kind of game you tend to see before a coach is shown the door. In 2004, Zook's Florida lost to what was eventually a 3-8 Mississippi State team, turning the ball over three times and allowing a punt return touchdown. Saturday was the signal that the end is officially near for Muschamp. It's just a matter of when the end comes ... and whether Foley can make a better hire this time around.

Actually, two other things from this remarkably ridiculous game:

1. Starting quarterbacks Jeff Driskel (Florida) and Maty Mauk (Missouri) combined to go 13-for-37 for 70 yards with three interceptions, five sacks, and a fumble. Driskel had no time to find an open receiver, and Mauk simply had no open receivers. Average yards per attempt, including sacks: 0.7. Florida's Treon Harris was able to move the ball a bit in garbage time, but everybody had already changed the channel by then.

2. Driskel gave the greatest "son of a b----" smirk you'll ever see when Harris threw a jump-ball touchdown late in the third quarter. Harris was getting dragged down and threw a terribly ill-advised pass into triple coverage, but somehow Tevin Westbrook came down with the ball, doing Harris one more favor in this game than Driskel has gotten all year.

Via SEC Network