Week 8 of the College Football season brings only three ranked matchups after a thrilling day of football last Saturday. However, several games this Saturday will help round out the first College Football Playoff rankings on November 1st. Here’s a list of the best matchups, with players to watch. All times are Eastern.
1 Alabama hosts (6) Texas A&M at 3:30 PM on CBS. In the biggest matchup of the weekend, the Aggies look to topple the nation’s top ranked program and claim a top-5 ranking. The Aggies, however, have lost their last three games against Alabama and are a 17.5 underdog coming into Tuscaloosa. Coach Kevin Sumlin will rely on his stellar rushing attack, which ranks seventh in the nation with 274 yards per game. While QB Trevor Knight is a solid passing QB, he does the most damage on rush attempts, leading the team with nine rushing touchdowns. The Crimson Tide enter Week 8 as the most confident team in the nation. Nick Saban’s squad absolutely dismantled ninth-ranked Tennessee, 49-10, and haven't lost a game since September of last year. Freshman QB Jalen Hurts and RB Bo Scarbrough ran for a combined 241 yards as Alabama out rushed Tennessee 438-32. The Crimson Tide just need to protect the football, especially in the passing game, and they will continue their torrid streak. The player to watch for this game is Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. Rated by Todd McShay as the second best NFL prospect, Garrett’s biggest strength is setting the edge in the running game, which will be the key to stopping Alabama’s superb rush attack.
(21) Auburn hosts (17) Arkansas at 6:00 PM on ESPN. Both teams come into Week 8 with two losses and hope to claim a top-15 ranking after a win on Saturday. Auburn is almost an 11 point favorite even after Arkansas had a huge bounce back win against (12) Ole Miss last week. Arkansas QB Austin Allen had a big game last week, passing for three TDs in a season-saving win. RB Rawleigh Williams II suffered a broken neck in last year’s matchup against Auburn, but has overcome tremendous odds and returned to become the SEC’s leading rusher. The Razorbacks need to rely on their rushing attack and trust junior QB Austin Allen. The Tigers are coming off a bye week and lost their first two ranked matchups earlier in the season. Auburn’s defense has quietly been one of the best in the country, only allowing 96 points all season, which ranks ninth in the FBS. The Tigers’ defense will need to rattle QB Austin Allen and contain RB Rawleigh Williams in order to leave Auburn with a win. The player to watch in this game is Auburn QB Sean White. White is already an accurate passer, but recently stepped up his game and is starting to command the Tigers’ offense. The key for him is to not become too confident, but instead rely on his running backs to open up opportunities on passing plays.
(25) LSU hosts (23) Ole Miss at 9:00 PM on ESPN. Both teams are fighting to preserve their respective seasons and one more loss will virtually exclude them from a future AP top-25 ranking. LSU has had a very rocky season to say the least, with the termination of their beloved head coach Les Miles. While he certainly lost a lot of confidence from fans following a poor start to the season, Miles always produced competitive teams and led the Tigers to a National Championship game in 2007. Following the firing of Miles’, the Tigers have surprisingly bounced back and won their last two games with former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron filling in. With blowout wins against Missouri and Southern Mississippi, Ole Miss will be LSU’s first real test since Orgeron stepped in. The Rebels were ranked 11th in the preseason CBS rankings, but are now sitting at .500 after have high hopes for a championship season. Ole Miss’ biggest weakness is their defense. Ranked 98th in the country with 1277 yards allowed, the Rebels are lucky to even have a top-25 ranking. However, if their defense is able to step up and force three-and-outs, they should come out of Week 8 with a win. The player to watch in this game is RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette returns this week following an ankle injury that forced him to miss the last two games. With LSU’s rushing attack already ranked fourth in the SEC, Fournette will help create a 1-2 punch with sophomore RB Derrius Guice to go up against Ole Miss’ pitiful defense.