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Will USC or Notre Dame Survive? — College Football Week 8 Preview

Notre Dame v USC
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USC and Notre Dame clash in prime time, and Penn State gets tested by Michigan. Here’s a preview of the most intriguing games from Week 8 of the 2017 college football season:

Saturday, October 21

The Oklahoma State–Texas Game Should Be Wild
Baylor v Oklahoma State
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(10) Oklahoma State at Texas | Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas; 12 p.m. (ET) on ABC

Of all the Power 5 conferences, the Big 12’s games are usually the most fun to watch, and no team in the conference is more exciting than 10th-ranked Oklahoma State (5–1, 2–1). The NCAA’s leaders in total offense (610.7 yards per game!) travel to Austin on Saturday to take on Texas (3–3, 2–1) in a game that could easily define the rest of the season for both teams.

If Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph, the NCAA’s second-leading passer, and his never-ending parade of speedy wide receivers can create havoc in the Longhorns secondary, Oklahoma State can stay in the Big 12 and college football playoff hunt. If Texas can contain Rudolph and turn freshman dual-threat quarterback Sam Ehlinger loose on the shaky OSU defense, the Longhorns may get a much-needed win against a top 10–ranked team.

Miami Must Contain Eric Dungey to Beat Syracuse
Middle Tennessee v Syracuse
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Syracuse at (8) Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 3;30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

Unranked Syracuse (4–3, 2–1 ACC) shocked defending national champion Clemson in the Carrier Dome last Friday. While knocking out Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant helped the Orange greatly, it was their dynamic offense — keyed by quarterback Eric Dungey — that led them to the win.

Ranking seventh in the NCAA in total offense, Dungey is the player No. 8 Miami (5–0, 3–0) must contain to stay undefeated. If Dungey has time to find potential All-American receiver Steve Ishmael, the Hurricanes might need another miracle from Malik Rosier and Darell Langham to march on toward the ACC title game. The Miami offense is still inconsistent enough that it can’t keep falling behind in the fourth quarter and hope to rally.

How Good Is Central Florida? We’ll Find Out.
Central Florida v Cincinnati
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(20) UCF at Navy | Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md.; 3:30 p.m. (ET) on CBSSN

Twentieth-ranked Central Florida (5–0, 3–0 American Athletic) can only beat the teams on their schedule, and they’ve done just that so far this season. Included in their wins: a 40–13 pasting of now No. 25 Memphis and a 38–10 rout of Maryland. That’s what the fifth-best offense in the FBS can do to Power 5 teams.

The Knights might not have convinced pollsters that they are for real, but a road victory against recently ranked Navy (5–1, 3–1) this Saturday could show that UCF has a real shot at getting to its November 24 game against (also-undefeated) No. 16 South Florida unbeaten. The Knights must defend against the Midshipmen’s top-ranked rushing offense and get the ball back to UCF QB McKenzie Milton so he can dazzle. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Central or South Florida wind up playing on New Year’s Day. The College Football Playoff? Well, that would be a shock.

Can Penn State Pass the Michigan Test?
Michigan v Penn State
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(19) Michigan at (2) Penn State | Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.; 7:30 p.m. (ET) on ABC

Just a few years removed from three consecutive seven-win seasons and serving an NCAA probation for a terrible child sex abuse scandal that nearly killed the football program, second-ranked Penn State (6–0, 3–0 Big Ten) is back in contention for a national title. As has been the case since they’ve joined the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions won’t really have a chance to stake a claim to No. 1 unless they can beat Michigan (5–1, 1–1) and Ohio State.

It’s unlikely that the Wolverines sputtering offense, led by quarterback John O’Korn, can score enough to overwhelm Penn State’s ninth-ranked defense to the tune of last season’s 49–10 laugher. However, if Michigan’s top-ranked defense can contain quarterback Trace McSorely and Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley like Iowa did for three quarters, the Wolverines have more talent than the Hawkeyes did and they could finish off the upset — and the Nittany Lions’ title hopes.

The USC–Notre Dame Loser Won’t Make the College Football Playoff
USC v Notre Dame
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(11) USC at (13) Notre Dame | Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Ind.; 7:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Time was when a battle between USC (6–1) and Notre Dame (5–1) would be the most important college football game of the year. These once-dominant college football programs aren’t as great as they have been in the past, but both teams are working toward regaining national prominence. The winner of this Saturday’s clash stays in the hunt for a college football playoff berth; the loser will not.

Despite ranking 11th in the nation in passing yards, Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold has had a disappointing season, committing 14 turnovers — including five fumbles in the past three weeks. If Darnold continues giving away the ball against the Fighting Irish this week, the Trojans may pay the price with a loss. Running back Josh Adams spearheads the Notre Dame offense, ranking 10th in the country with 776 rushing yards. A huge day against ‘SC could get him into the Heisman Trophy conversation.

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