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#Nuggets: Eight thoughts on the biggest games of Week 8

1. As awesome as Alabama is, this week won't -- or shouldn't -- be the walk-over that Tennessee was. Last week's 49-10 blowout was a combination of timing and momentum. Texas A&M enters fresh off a bye week and (mostly) healthy. The Aggies, as Nick Saban has admitted, will test the Tide in ways Alabama hasn't seen this season. Texas A&M ranks seventh nationally in rushing and second in yards per carry as a team. Trayveon Williams is the nation's 13th-leading rusher, and Trevor Knight has shown a knack for making the plays that need to be made when he needs to make them -- specifically on the ground.

And A&M needs to make headway on the ground, because they can't beat Alabama playing one dimensional. Ironic as it is, considering Knight beat Alabama in the 2013 Sugar Bowl by throwing for 350 yards and rushing for seven, but any scenario where the nation's 84th most efficient passer has to lock and load against a defense with an FBS-leading four pick-sixes won't end well for the Aggies.

On the other side of the ball, Texas A&M has the best personnel Alabama's offense has seen since the last time the Tide faced its own No. 1 defense. The Aggies' 20 sacks (No. 16 nationally), 58 TFLs (No. 4) and 10 fumbles recovered (No. 2) are enough evidence to show they can force Jalen Hurts into the one situation where he actually looks like a true freshman -- under heavy pressure.

To me, the one question here is whether the A&M offense can keep the Alabama defense out of the end zone.

And, yes, I'm fully aware how backwards that sentence reads.

2. While the SEC West heavyweights battle in the afternoon, two undercards will sort out a lot of things in the SEC West. Texas A&M and Alabama share the top spot at 4-0 in conference play. Mississippi State is 2-4 overall. Spots three through six are as tangled as a set of iPhone headphones after three weeks in your junk drawer.


Arkansas visits Auburn (6 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a game pitting two teams that seem to have figured it out -- Auburn has won three straight and allowed one opponent to top 20 points this season, while Arkansas has been held under 30 just once since Week 1. Immediately after that, Ole Miss visits an LSU (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) team that's still undefeated under Ed Orgeron. The Rebels have shown they can put it together as well as anyone this season, but also that they can fall apart quickly.

Predicting either of these games seems like ultimate folly, but it'll be a fascinating day of viewing.

3. Should Ohio State be on upset alert this week? I mean, probably not. The Buckeyes are 20-0 on the road under Urban Meyer for a reason. But going on the road in conference play over two straight weeks is a minefield that has exploded on many teams before, and Penn State has played better of late, specifically on offense. The Lions are No. 19 nationally in yards per play this month after ranking No. 94 in September, and this team did push the eventual national champions to overtime in their 2014 visit to Beaver Stadium.

Penn State AD Sandy Barbour has stated repeatedly James Franklin is not on the hot seat, but it'd be nice to back up that faith with a statement stunner on Saturday night.

4. The cattiest conference in college football will play its cattiest game of the season in Lubbock. Baker Mayfield used to play for Texas Tech. Now he plays for Oklahoma. The process of getting from Point A to Point B wasn't pretty for either side. Now they'll meet in Lubbock for the first and only time in a game where anything can happen -- but "anything" most likely includes lots of points.

Mayfield is at his worst when he tries to do too much and, considering the emotional stakes in this game and that he wears his feelings on both sleeves, with Samaje Perine sidelined to injury, the task for Oklahoma will be to keep its quarterback playing within himself and the offense.

The Red Raiders have won three of the last five meetings in Lubbock, but OU has claimed the last two.

5. West Virginia's status as a Big 12 challenger will be tested by TCU. The opponents each week are different, but the challenge is (almost) always the same: stay in front of an opposing offense that could easily pop off for 50 if just enough things go wrong for Tony Gibson's stout defense. WVU passed last week's test with flying colors. They now have -- gulp -- five more.

As for TCU, a sheik pre-season College Football Playoff pick will find itself plausibly out of the Big 12 race without a win here.

6. The race for the Group of 5's Cotton Bowl berth will make a lot more sense after Saturday. Though the Playoff committee won't meet for another couple weeks, we can safely ascertain Boise State, ranked 20th in this week's AP poll, holds on to the lead -- as long as they beat BYU at home tonight. BYU won last year's meeting 35-24 after converting a 4th-and-long Hail Mary that would have sealed a Broncos win had it fallen incomplete.

Meanwhile, Navy and Memphis currently share first place ahead of Houston in the American's West Division and figure to sit first in line to benefit from a Boise State loss. The Tigers visit Annapolis on Saturday afternoon... and Houston will root hard for Memphis. A victory by Mike Norvell's bunch would create a three-way tie atop the division assuming Navy, Memphis and Houston win out, but a Navy win means the Middies would need to win only four of their final five games to reach the AAC championship game.

7. Miami and Virginia Tech arrive to tonight's meeting in very familiar positions. Both ACC Coastal squads played their first five games under brand new coaching staffs in very impressive fashion. Sure, they each lost a game (VT to Tennessee, Miami to Florida State), but they competed well and no one expected either to win those games in the off-season anyway.

Then last week happened.

Miami lost to North Carolina 20-13 at home, which was actually a better look than their 20-3 halftime deficit. Virginia Tech outdid that with a 31-17 loss at Syracuse.

Now they meet tonight in Lane Stadium. The winner will be 5-2, in the thick of the ACC title race and feeling very good about its first season under Mark Richt or Justin Fuente. The loser will be 4-3, riding a two- or three-game losing streak and wondering where this promising season went.

8. That missed field goal may hurt worse as the season wears on than it did on Saturday. There was a moment where everything was pointed straight up for Dave Doeren and NC State. The Pack were 4-1, fresh off the second win over Notre Dame in program history, and needed to just chip in a short field goal to stun undefeated Clemson at Clemson.

As we know, the field goal sailed wide and NC State lost in overtime. Now Doeren's bunch heads to Louisville. After that they get a short put at home against Boston College, then four straight toss-up games: Florida State at home, at Syracuse, Miami at home and North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The Clemson kick is over and gone, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn it visits Doeren, his coaches, teams and fans in their sleep.