Surprise performances and unexpected results are expected every weekend in the wild world of college football. Even though everyone knows they are coming, it’s hard to guess when and where they will happen.
USA TODAY Sports College football staff – Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Brent Schrotenboer, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken – weigh in with bold predictions for Week 8 of the season:
Few schools have made more noise about the prospect of not playing football in 2020 than Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers finally have their chance to hit the pitch. They don’t need to go all the way to Uzbekistan, as coach Scott Frost has said his team are prepared to do so. They have to make it to the Ohio stadium, which won’t be particularly fun. Indeed, the state of Ohio was perhaps the other Big Ten program that most wanted to play, although the Buckeyes’ desire to enter the field this fall is easily explained: with Justin Fields, this team is talented enough to win the national title. I said last year in this space that the state of Ohio would score 50 points over Nebraska; this prediction failed by two points. That won’t be the case this year, as the Buckeyes – who are looking to make a statement – will turn 50 and beat the Huskers by at least 40.
EXPECTED IMPACT:Five games with implications for college football qualifiers
THE BACK OF BIG TEN:Ranking of the seven games of week 1 of the Big Ten season
After three straight losses, Pittsburgh shocks Notre-Dame in one of the biggest upheavals of the season. It’s the watershed moment for the Panthers, who started 3-0 but have since lost to NC State (30-29), Boston College (31-30) and Miami (31-19). With a chance to save his season, which started with hopes of breaking into the Top 25, Pitt clinches the biggest win in coach Pat Narduzzi’s tenure.
Michigan fans are used to disappointments. After waiting ages for the start of this season, they will soon be reminded again of the difference between high expectations and reality in the battle for the Little Brown Jug in Minnesota. Veteran Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan and star receiver Rashod Bateman will test Michigan cornerback Vincent Gray, who has a game of starting experience. Minnesota have only won two games in this series since 1986, but this year is one of their best chances yet and they are grabbing it.
There will be upheavals. Like death and taxes, the surprises of college football are another constant in life. So where is it going this week?
The No.7 Penn State faces a tough visit to Indiana for its opening. The Hoosiers, who went 8-5 last season, are sacking most of their major contributors and are going to surprise some better-known teams. The Nittany Lions could be one of them, especially if they prepare for next week’s showdown with Ohio State. It’s a major shock for sure and possible to kick off the Big Ten season with fireworks.
The arrival of the Big Ten on the college football scene will receive the most attention this weekend. But the other “big” conference also includes important competitions.
There is only one undefeated team left in the Big 12 entering Saturday. At the end of the day, there won’t be any.
Yes, Oklahoma State is home, and the Cowboys could also get starting quarterback Spencer Sanders back.
But Iowa State is entering Stillwater on a roll after rocking that first loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, much of which was due to special team breakdowns. The Cyclones are still good enough to win the Big 12, and they will prove it with a big road victory.
There’s a lot of hope around Michigan that Joe Milton will finally be the long-term answer to the quarterback, who has essentially been a lifeguard station for the Wolverines since Jim Harbaugh took the job. Maybe it will. But Minnesota’s identity, style of play, and spirit are now firmly established, and the Gophers are going to be well positioned to open the season with a big win because of their experience and consistency. Without a warm-up game to get his feet under him a bit, I would expect Milton to struggle while Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan was prepared for a huge season before the pandemic struck. Minnesota convincingly win here and bring a new wave of angst as to whether Harbuagh will ever win a Big Ten title.