Games to Watch: Week 8

Steve Helwick

Iowa State at Texas Tech

Saturday, 11 a.m., FS1

Before the season, this game looked like a matchup between two programs in the basement of the Big 12. But Iowa State and Texas Tech have surprised folks this season, both boasting 4–2 records at the season’s halfway point. Sitting on the fringe of the rankings, the Cyclones and Red Raiders field explosive offenses that have scored 40 points a combined seven times in 2017. Iowa State shocked the world with a 38-31 victory at Oklahoma in Week 6 and the Cyclones are on track for bowl season for the first time since 2012. Texas Tech squandered an 18-point lead against West Virginia and let a game against Oklahoma State slip out of its hands, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s program has proven it can compete with anyone in the conference.

No. 20 UCF at Navy

Saturday, 2:30 p.m., CBS SN

The Navy Midshipmen contracted their first defeat of the season last week, a 30-27 heartbreaker against Memphis. But the triple option is always bound to take teams’ defenses off guard, and that’s why Navy continues to be a force year after year. The Midshipmen can return to the polls with a victory in Annapolis, but it won’t be easy when arguably the best offense in college football comes to town. Head coach Scott Frost has revamped the UCF Knights into an offensive juggernaut — the only program in the nation that averages 50 points per game. UCF’s average victory margin is 33.8 points and the undefeated Knights have not allowed a team within 27 points this season.

No. 19 Michigan at No. 2 Penn State

Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ABC

Every year against a marquee opponent, Penn State creates one of the most intense environments in college football. The “White Out” crowd of nearly 110,000 will be united and decked in white in support of the No. 2 Nittany Lions, who sit in their highest ranking since 1999. The reigning Big Ten champions are led by Heisman frontrunner running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley averages an FBS-best 217 all-purpose yards per game and he has scored on runs, catches, passes and returns this season. But Michigan’s defense, led by defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, is unforgiving. The Wolverines’ unit is the best in the nation, giving up just 224 yards per game. Penn State has not won this rivalry game since 2013 — a four-overtime thriller.

No. 11 USC at No. 13 Notre Dame

Saturday, 6:30 p.m., NBC

The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh will separate these two closely-ranked teams in the polls. USC and Notre Dame both have one loss on their impressive résumés, but cannot afford another setback if they want to participate in their first College Football Playoff. The Trojans have escaped several close games all season long, including thrillers against Texas and Utah. But quarterback Sam Darnold must return to his 2016 form and assert his dominance over the Irish as he did in last year’s 45-27 victory. However, Notre Dame is not the 4–8 program from a year ago. The Fighting Irish are 5–1 and display a rejuvenated offense led by running back Josh Adams — 10th in the nation in rushing yards.