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Weekly college football viewing guide: Week 8 edition

You might want to have multiple TVs for the weekend.

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College football viewing guide
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

College football enters Week 8 with some intriguing matchups from the early games to primetime. What should you be watching?

The college football season has reached the hearty middle where rivalries are heating up and contenders are identified.

Don’t look now, but most teams are over the halfway point in their season as we roll on through October. This is another solid weekend of football. Savor it before it’s gone.

Here’s your viewing guide.

Saturday, Oct. 21

Noon window

  • Penn State at Ohio State – 12 p.m. ET on FOX
  • UCF at Oklahoma – 12 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Air Force at Navy – 12 p.m. ET on CBS

In a world that hates FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff”, I’ve tried to be a contrarian. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Once the game starts, nobody cares. This game between Ohio State and Penn State is the exception. This has to be a night game. At the very earliest, 3:30. With that said, if there’s one game that you’re able to watch on Saturday, this is it. It’s essentially an elimination game in the Big Ten East. Ohio State’s offense has looked shockingly pedestrian at times this year. Penn State’s defense – while untested – might be the best in the country. I expect a low-scoring game that comes down to the quarterback play. Who makes the big play? Or who makes the big mistake? James Franklin has been horrid in this spot on the road against top 10 opponents. If there is a year to get Ohio State, this is it.

After a bye, Oklahoma is back in action at home against UCF. With John Rhys Plumlee expected to be back for UCF, the Knights could be feisty here. Oklahoma is still a big favorite, but with their light schedule the rest of the way, they can’t afford a loss and expect to get into the playoffs.

Who is the best Group of Five team? Is it Air Force? The Falcons find themselves ranked for the first time since 2010. They hit the road for the first leg in the Commander in Chief trophy against Navy. These games that feature two service academies tend to be low-scoring, defensive battles. This is the first matchup with the accelerated clock rules. We could set a record for fewest offensive possessions in a single game.

3:30 window

  • Tennessee at Alabama – 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
  • Minnesota at Iowa – 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Washington State at Oregon – 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Toledo at Miami (OH) – 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU

It’s the third Saturday in October, which means cigars will be on standby in Tuscaloosa. After last year’s offensive thriller, this game projects to be the polar opposite. Both of these teams want to run the ball and feature their quarterbacks as little as possible. For as iffy as things have looked for Alabama at times this year, they are still undefeated in the SEC with a clear path to the College Football Playoff. I’m worried for Tennessee here after the way they celebrated last year. This spread (Alabama -9) is higher than it feels like it should be. Tread lightly if you like the Volunteers.

Regardless of what happens in Iowa City, we will be witnessing history. The point total (31) is currently the lowest of any game in modern college football history. It would not be outlandish to say that it still feels high. Forget the Big Ten, Iowa may have the worst offense in college football. Without their starting quarterback and two best tight ends, it will be a struggle to get to 14 without a non-offensive touchdown. For Minnesota, the formula is simple. They want to run the ball, work the clock, and make the game as short as possible. This is a must-see game in a bad sort of way.

Oregon returns home to play a Washington State team that is reeling. The Ducks shouldn’t be eliminated from the national conversation, and this is a chance to prove that by putting it on the Cougars. In this column, we have our eyes everywhere.

You’re sorely mistaken if you thought we’d look past the MAC. Major conference title implications are at stake in Oxford, Ohio, on Saturday. Toledo and Miami come in at 6-1 with undefeated records in the conference. This is a much bigger game for Miami because they have a strong contender in Ohio in the MAC East. Regardless, these have been the two most impressive teams in the conference to date. The winner figures to be in the driver seat heading into midweek #MACtion.

Primetime

  • Ole Miss at Auburn – 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Duke at Florida State – 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Michigan at Michigan State – 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Utah at USC – 8 p.m. ET on FOX

Ole Miss is one of those teams that we still have to keep an eye on in terms of the SEC and college football playoff picture. This is a tricky, tricky spot on the road against Auburn. This game has gotten lost a little bit this weekend, which could be bad news for the Rebels. Auburn put a scare into Georgia at home earlier this season. Ole Miss could be in for the full 60 on Saturday.

Will Riley Leonard give it a go for Duke in Tallahassee? Duke’s chances probably hinge on his health. Even if he’s able to play, he won’t be 100 percent. This game is more about Florida State. The further we get away from their win against LSU, the less impressive it looks. The Seminoles still control their destiny to the College Football Playoff, but they need to start playing like a top four team.

The annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy had almost no juice until Thursday at lunch. The game got slightly more interesting when a sign stealing investigation was launched into Michigan’s program. All eyes will be in East Lansing to see if Michigan can keep it rolling with this distraction. For as bad as things have been for Michigan State this year, they almost always find a way to get up at home. You have to go all the way back to 1985 to find the last time Michigan beat Michigan State by more than 17 at Spartan Stadium.

The primetime slate finishes with a pair of Pac-12 teams that are likely on the outside looking into the big picture. Technically, USC is still alive in the conference because they have zero losses. With all that said, this is still a fun matchup between a team that plays no defense and a team that plays no offense. What gives?

Late night

  • Arizona State at Washington – 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1

The late-night window gives us a look at the Heisman frontrunner on the “one for fun”. This is a classic letdown spot for Washington. Unfortunately for us, I’m not sure if Arizona State is a team that can capitalize on a substandard effort from Washington. The Sun Devils are four touchdown underdogs on the road. But they are getting healthy and have nothing to lose here. At the very least, we’ll get an idea of how Washington handles success. It’s also another excuse to watch Michael Penix Jr. and this fabulous offense.

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