Welcome back to The Professor, a comprehensive weekly guide to what we learned in the weekend in college football.

* * *

Ten Week 8 Numbers To Know

215. Penalty yards for Baylor (a Big 12 record), on 18 penalties, in a 41-27 loss at West Virginia to end its bid for an undefeated season.

131. Carries for Minnesota running back David Cobb over the last four games. He had 35 carries for 194 yards and a touchdown in a 39-38 win over Purdue, his fourth straight game with 30-plus carries as the Gophers moved to 6-1.

39. Consecutive games in which Marshall QB Rakeem Cato has thrown a touchdown pass, breaking Russell Wilson's NCAA record. Cato threw four TDs in a 45-13 win over FIU to keep Marshall undefeated.

33.5. Average margin of victory in six SEC games on Saturday. Five of them were conference games, with the widest margin being Alabama's 59-0 win over Texas A&M and the smallest being Georgia's 45-32 win over Arkansas. In nonconference play, South Carolina took care of Furman 41-10.

7. Games it took Duke to reach bowl eligibility at 6-1. With a win over Virginia, the Blue Devils are in position for their third straight bowl bid after an absence dating back to 1994. They still haven't won a bowl game since 1960.

7. Touchdown passes thrown by Cody Kessler in USC's 56-28 win over Colorado, breaking Matt Barkley's school record of six.

4. Non-offensive touchdowns scored by Missouri in a 42-13 win at Florida: one fumble return, one interception return, one punt return and one kick return. Running back Marcus Murphy had both the punt and kick returns, as well as a rushing touchdown, becoming the first player to do that in 15 years.

2. Total offensive touchdowns, and also number of wins, for Clemson in its last two games. After beating Louisville last week, Clemson won 17-13 at Boston College without injured QB Deshaun Watson.

1. Win for Idaho, which beat New Mexico State to leave SMU as the only winless team at the FBS level.

1. Incompletions thrown in the second half by Jameis Winston in Florida State's 31-27 win over Notre Dame.

* * *

Saturday Storyline: The Florida State-Florida Divide

It's still true. The last coach to beat Florida State is Will Muschamp. It happened on Nov. 24, 2012, in Tallahassee, as Jeff Driskel and No. 6 Florida erased a 20-13 fourth-quarter deficit to beat No. 10 Florida State -- with first-round pick E.J. Manuel at quarterback -- by a score of 37-26 and secure a Sugar Bowl bid. It happened. It really did, less than two years ago.

That season, Florida's phenomenal defense propelled it to an 11-1 regular-season record, landing it just short of the SEC and national title games, while Florida State stumbled at N.C. State earlier in the season, then lost to the Gators. How quickly things changed once the calendar turned to 2013: Florida was soundly beaten by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, Florida State beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, and the teams quickly began trending in opposite directions. The Seminoles finished 14-0 with a national championship and an all-time great team the following season, while Florida's inept offense and injury problems caused it to freefall to 4-8. What once seemed relatively even rapidly spiraled out of control, the balance of power in the state of Florida taking a drastic turn in favor of Florida State.

Never has that divide felt greater than on Saturday night. There have been low moments for Florida, of course, and much greater examples of dominance for Florida State. Perhaps we could point to Nov. 23 of last year, when Florida lost to Georgia Southern -- which didn't complete a pass -- and Florida State scored 80 on Idaho (the same Idaho that was supposed to provide a boost to Florida's 2014 bowl resume, only to see that game get cancelled). Or we could point to the next week, when Florida State demolished Florida 37-3 on the road. The divide couldn't have been more obvious then.

But flip between ABC and ESPN2 on Saturday night, and you would see polar opposites in the college football world. On one hand, there was unbeaten No. 2 Florida State in one of the games of the year against unbeaten No. 5 Notre Dame, overcoming some flaws with the help of a brilliant second-half performance from the defending Heisman Trophy winner, in an electric atmosphere, scoring its biggest win of the season to put it in prime position for a playoff spot and a chance to defend its national championship. It was drama of the highest magnitude. On the other hand, there was Florida ...

In less than two years, Florida has gone from beating a top-10 Florida State team on the road with Muschamp and Driskel, to "Fire Muschamp" chants, a helpless Driskel getting toyed with by Missouri and a rapidly emptying stadium as the Gators lost 42-13 to Missouri on Homecoming, a week after the Tigers lost 34-0 to Georgia. Just like Michigan under Brady Hoke, it feels strange to keep thinking every week is a new rock bottom -- especially when that Georgia Southern game happened -- but there could be no result that better encapsulates the direction the Muschamp era has gone than Saturday night in Gainesville.

Florida lost 42-13, despite the fact that Missouri finished with only 119 total yards, only 20 passing yards and only seven first downs. It was the world's worst work of art. Missouri had four return touchdowns, including kick and punt returns by Marcus Murphy, and Florida just kept trotting Driskel out there to take a beating from Missouri's talented pass rush and turn the ball over. It seems almost impossible to not feel bad for Driskel at this point. Not only has he never developed, but he's broken well beyond repair now -- no offensive coordinator change will make a difference -- and is one of the two faces of one of the most disastrous eras in Florida football history. He went 7 of 19 for 50 yards with two interceptions and a fumble, and he was sacked three times. Two of the turnovers were returned for touchdowns on consecutive third-quarter possessions.

 Wild stat: Last 10 years, CFB teams that held opponents to 120 yards or less are 147-2. Both losses belong to a Will Muschamp Florida team.

And so it goes. For much of Saturday night, Florida State-Notre Dame and Florida-Missouri were happening simultaneously. One -- on the field, at least -- was college football at its best, a down-to-the-wire classic between big-programs with national title and Heisman implications. The other was a car wreck that was impossible to look away from. 

Fisher took over for Bobby Bowden in 2010. Muschamp took over at Florida a year later. Since 2011, Florida State has a 42-6 record, while Florida is 25-19, despite both averaging top-seven recruiting classes nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Florida would be a mess regardless of where Florida State stands, but the fact that a hated rival down the road continues to thrive on the field through all this only adds insult to injury (also see: Michigan at Michigan State this coming Saturday). 

Things can change quickly. It was less than 10 years ago when Florida was on top of the world, winners of BCS championships in 2006 and 2008, while Florida State was sputtering through the end of the Bowden era, losing 27 games from 2005-09. Things can change quickly again too: Florida State is hardly on the most stable ground, overall, while Florida remains an attractive destination job. It's possible the Gators could hit a home run with a replacement for Muschamp (Tucson, Ariz. would be a good place to look, for one, as would Starkville, Miss.), develop someone at quarterback -- both Treon Harris and Will Grier were big-time recruits -- and quickly start competing in the SEC East again.

For now, that feels so impossible. For now, 2012 in Tallahassee feels so far away, as everyone slowly waits for athletic director Jeremy Foley to end the Muschamp era, whether it's in this coming bye week, whether it's after an inevitable loss to Georgia or whether it's in late November after Florida loses to Florida State. But when rock bottom hits, at least you know it's eventually going to get better. It's hard to get worse than Saturday.

* * *

In a game marred by excessive penalties, West Virginia upset unbeaten Baylor 41-27. (USA TODAY Sports)

Lessons Learned

A Florida State-Notre Dame rematch would hardly be the worst thing. Florida State was better last year, but we knew that already. There are few teams that can be as utterly dominating as the Seminoles last year, and thus this season has taken a common turn toward a bunch of very good but flawed teams fighting for No. 1. Both Florida State and Notre Dame clearly fall into this category after the Seminoles' 31-27 win over the Fighting Irish on Saturday night, and that's not a bad thing. Florida State, obviously, is a prime playoff contender at 7-0 with a relatively easy road ahead, while Notre Dame, at 6-1, with its lone loss being a toss-up on the road at the Seminoles, should not be dismissed from the conversation either.

The game had just about everything you could ask for on a big stage. There were mistakes, sure, but two Heisman candidate quarterbacks in Everett Golson and Jameis Winston traded punches, with Winston delivering an astounding second half. Two talented defenses came up with big plays. Wide receivers made great plays. Brian Kelly coached to win, making a few mistakes along the way but ultimately driving Notre Dame behind an admirably aggressive philosophy on the road against the undefeated national champions.

There's credit to spread around, of course -- certainly to QB Everett Golson, who is miles ahead of his freshman season, as well as new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder -- but Kelly has done a phenomenal job this season in the wake of the suspensions of key players KeiVarae Russell, DaVaris Daniels and Ishaq Williams. So we can excuse him for complaining about the offensive pass interference, which was the correct call, that cost Notre Dame the game.

So we move forward, with Florida State as a frontrunner and Notre Dame holding on as a contender. Florida State has a problematic running game, some O-line issues and depth problems up front on defense, but an eligible Winston gives it one of the two or three best players in college football, surrounded by a lot of talent despite the holes. Notre Dame has a highly improved Golson, a solid group of receivers and an effectively aggressive defense capable of winning every game the rest of the way. The Irish will probably end up in one of the New Year's Six bowls instead of a semifinal, but would anyone complain if the Seminoles and Irish ended up meeting again in Pasadena or New Orleans on Jan. 1? I would hope not.

The Big 12 may eat itself alive. We've said this about the SEC West, and we've said this about the Pac-12. It still could be true in those places. But now it's looking especially likely in the Big 12. With hopes of an undefeated season, Oklahoma has now lost two games by mid-October. The Sooners pulled out a sloppy win over Texas last week, but on Saturday they couldn't overcome their own mistakes as they fell 31-30 to Kansas State at home. They lost the turnover battle 2-0, and typically reliable kicker Michael Hunnicutt had an extra point blocked and missed a chip-shot 19-yard field goal attempt after the Wildcats stopped the Sooners at the goal line. Throw in a bad play call and throw on a pick-six by Trevor Knight from his own end zone, and Oklahoma made too many mistakes to beat a Kansas State team that avoided mistakes, got solid play from Jake Waters (and a Gronkowski) and escaped with a one-point upset despite getting out-gained 533 to 385 and giving up 30 first downs.

So if Oklahoma is ostensibly out of the playoff race with two losses, Baylor's hopes are now on life support. After last week's miraculous comeback from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit vs. TCU, Baylor went on the road to face a much-improved West Virginia and came undone because of penalties. Instead of getting the typical offensive overload from the Bears against the Mountaineers, Bryce Petty's passing yards (223) were nearly matched by Baylor's Big 12 record penalty yards (215) in a long, ugly game littered with pass interference calls. Baylor struggled to sustain drives, while West Virginia played effective defense and got another big day from Clint Trickett throwing to Kevin White.

The only previous Big 12 favorite to survive was TCU, which rebounded from its Baylor heartbreak to steamroll Oklahoma State 42-9 in a game that was never close and may have simultaneously proved that the Horned Frogs are still playoff contenders and Oklahoma State is in fact still in a rebuilding season.

What we're left with is a mess: No. 10 TCU is 5-1. No. 11 Kansas State is 5-1. No. 12 Baylor is 6-1. No. 17 Oklahoma is 5-2. No. 22 West Virginia is 5-2. Baylor still has to play at Oklahoma. Kansas State plays at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. TCU plays at West Virginia and at Texas on Thanksgiving. Just about everyone outside of Iowa State and Kansas is probably capable of beating anyone else, meaning the Big 12 is likely to have a dramatic, down-to-the-wire finish. If someone somehow emerges 11-1 as conference champions, they'll likely get a playoff bid.

TCU -- which scored 58 in its only loss to Baylor and has a blowout nonconference win over Minnesota -- has the best shot, but the Big 12's better-than-expected depth may end up costing it in the end because there is no clearly dominant team.

Texas A&M is what we originally thought it was. It's been an eventful eight-week cycle for the Aggies. They opened the season 21st in the AP poll, although many expected a rebuilding year for a young team with no more Johnny Manziel and big progress needed on defense. They looked fantastic in beating SEC East favorite South Carolina on the road in the opener, and they immediately vaulted to No. 9, with two first-place votes. By Week 6, they were No. 6 with four first-place votes. Of course, all of this was based on beating South Carolina … which turns out to be something half the country could plausibly do. The important, obvious lesson to remember: Our judgment of a big win has to evolve over time.

And so the Aggies lost to Mississippi State, and they lost to Ole Miss, and now a downtrodden team fresh off back-to-back losses to surprise national contenders suffered the ultimate embarrassment: a 59-0 evisceration at the hands of Nick Saban and Alabama, which rebounded nicely from an ugly missed-extra-point-aided one-point win over Arkansas by destroying the Aggies in every facet of the game. Texas A&M was wholly unprepared, and the numbers are every bit as bad as you'd think in a 59-0 game: Alabama had 30 first downs to Texas A&M's eight. Alabama out-gained Texas A&M 602 to 172. Texas A&M averaged 3.8 yards per pass attempt. Alabama averaged 6.6 yards per carry, getting a stellar day from RB T.J. Yeldon. Alabama had six sacks. Alabama didn't even commit a penalty. Everyone played well, from Blake Sims to Yeldon to Amari Cooper on offense, to a brilliant effort from Reggie Ragland and the defense. Ragland's interception aptly summarizes the day, in fact:

We went from Texas A&M as a fifth- or sixth-place team in the SEC West potentially, to Texas A&M as playoff contender, to Texas A&M happy that it still has Louisiana-Monroe left on the schedule to ensure bowl eligibility. All this by mid-October. College football!

Don't forget about Oregon. This was essentially a lesson last week too, but it's worth repeating. As much as the wheels appeared to be falling off after the loss to Arizona, an Oregon team with decent offensive line play is a threat to beat anyone. Marcus Mariota is that good. With Jake Fisher back at tackle, Oregon gave up a few plays in the backfield to Washington -- few teams are better at that than Washington -- but ultimately the Huskies were no match for the combination of Mariota and freshman RB Royce Freeman in a 45-20 win that extended the Ducks' winning streak over the Huskies to 11. By no mean is Oregon a lock, of course: The Ducks still have issues on defense with leaky pass coverage -- they're 118th in third-down defense -- and they still have to deal with back-to-back games against Stanford and Utah, both of which boast physical defenses that could be problematic for the Oregon offense, as we've seen before. But both of those teams have significant offensive problems, and if Oregon can stay healthy, running the table is hardly impossible. If that happens, a 12-1 Pac-12 champion would be close to a playoff lock.

Ohio State-Michigan State is back to being one of the biggest games of the year. A decisive home win over Rutgers certainly doesn't punch a team's ticket to the playoff, but it's hard not to be impressed with how Ohio State has rebounded from the loss of Braxton Miller in August and the subsequent Virginia Tech debacle in Week 2. J.T. Barrett has feasted on a handful of weak defenses (Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland and now Rutgers in a 56-17 win), and a trip to Penn State this Saturday provides a decent tune-up against a good defense with the Nov. 8 trip to Michigan State waiting.

While that Virginia Tech loss seems baffling, it isn't that strange: Virginia Tech's aggressive defensive front was the wrong matchup at the wrong time (Week 2) for a freshman quarterback and four new offensive line starters. That loss could still really hurt them, because a 12-1 Big Ten champion could get left out in a battle of one-loss teams for playoff bids, but the Buckeyes undoubtedly have new life in their bid to out-duel Michigan State.

After some early trouble with Tevin Coleman and Indiana's ground game, Michigan State matched Ohio State with a 56-17 win over the Hoosiers, which really didn't stand a chance after starting QB Nate Sudfeld went down with a season-ending injury last week. They completed 5 of 16 passes behind freshman Zander Diamont, while Connor Cook threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns and both Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford rushed for over 100 yards. Michigan State has two advantages over Ohio State: It gets a bye week before the Buckeyes come to down (although perhaps Ohio State's home date with Illinois' defense is partially a bye), and it gets the Buckeyes at home. But this is a well-coached, talented and increasingly confident Ohio State team that could turn into a force down the stretch.

* * *

LSU finally looked like the LSU we're accustomed to in a 41-3 win over Kentucky. (USA TODAY Sports)

Grading the Nation: Best and Worst of the Rest

A+: LSU. It's been a lousy year for LSU thus far, but then again its only losses are to Mississippi State and Auburn, it's very young and it's already to six wins, so life could be a lot worse. The Tigers finally put together their first complete SEC performance on Saturday at home, quickly slamming the brakes on any possibility of Kentucky rising as a sleeper SEC East contender. LSU won 41-3, holding the Wildcats to 3.4 yards per play and getting 303 rushing yards behind Terrence Magee (nine carries, 127 yards, two TDs), who also had 44 receiving yards. The quarterback problems continue to loom, with Anthony Jennings completing only 7 of 14 attempts, but it's hard to complain about a 41-3 win before home games against Ole Miss and Alabama, sandwiched around a bye week.

A: Georgia. Let's not get carried away: Todd Gurley is still arguably the most talented player in the country, and Georgia is not somehow better off without him. Fortunately, the Bulldogs have a more than capable freshman running back in Nick Chubb, and they also blew out Missouri and Arkansas in part because neither team had a quarterback capable of testing their weak secondary. In Little Rock on Saturday, they rolled to a 38-6 halftime lead thanks to a 31-point second quarter, then coasted to a decisive 45-32 win over the Razorbacks -- the first win for the SEC East over the West this season. The loss to South Carolina may haunt the Bulldogs, who are 6-1, but with only Florida and Kentucky left before their SEC finale against Auburn, they're in control of the East and still have playoff hopes.

A-: Ole Miss. The first quarter was ugly; after that, Ole Miss looked every bit like the top-three team it is. It's amazing how much things have changed: The Rebels beat Tennessee 34-3, and nobody bats an eye (the Vols had won 13 of the previous 14 meetings, dating back to 1984). It appeared to be a terrible matchup on paper for Tennessee, and that's exactly how things played out. Tennessee's young, rebuilt offensive line never stood a chance against Robert Nkemdiche and the Rebels defense. Ole Miss recorded seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss, which meant Tennessee finished with a total of zero yards rushing. The offense didn't need to do much, but it didn't need to, again. After initial problems they eventually came around, with receiver Vince Sanders leading the way with 108 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Ole Miss is 7-0 (4-0 in the SEC), heading into two more huge games at LSU and at home vs. Auburn.

B+: Duke. The bowl-eligible Blue Devils just keep rolling along. They are now atop the ACC Coastal standings again at 2-1 after beating Virginia 20-13 in a performance that wasn't necessarily impressive but still got the job done. Against a good Cavaliers defense, Anthony Boone averaged only 4.7 yards per pass attempt, but the running game did enough and Duke capitalized on Virginia mistakes. It turned an early Virginia fumble into a seven-play touchdown drive, and it held Virginia to two short field goals thanks to strong defense in the red zone. With cross-division games against Syracuse and Wake Forest coming up, the Coastal may be Duke's to lose.

B: Nebraska. Minnesota may have sole possession of the Big Ten West lead at 3-0, but it feels like Nebraska's division to lose. The Cornhuskers got over one key hurdle on Saturday in a pseudo-road game at Northwestern that mostly featured Cornhuskers fans overrunning Ryan Field in Evanston. After a tight first half Northwestern held a three-point halftime lead, but Nebraska pitched a second-half shutout to win 38-17 behind 146 yards and four touchdowns from star running back Ameer Abdullah, plus a touchdown catch for QB Tommy Armstrong. Best of all, the Nebraska defense held Northwestern to four three-and-outs, another punt and a turnover on downs on six second-half possessions.

B-: Clemson. The Tigers are mostly in survive-and-advance mode until freshman QB Deshaun Watson comes back from a broken bone in his hand, hopefully sometime in November. Fortunately, the schedule is favorable: The Tigers get Syracuse at home, a bye and a trip to Wake Forest before going to Georgia Tech on Nov. 15. After beating Boston College 17-13, they still have a good chance of getting the ACC's Orange Bowl bid, should Florida State go to the playoff. The offense got a couple touchdown runs from C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman, plus 128 receiving yards for Mike Williams from Cole Stoudt, but again Clemson rode its defense, which held Tyler Murphy and the Eagles to 3.3 yards per rush and just 2 of 14 on third-down conversions.

C+: Texas. The Longhorns escaped Iowa State, again, with a 21-yard field goal by Nick Rose with three seconds left giving them a 48-45 win on a game relegated to the obscurity of the Longhorn Network. It was a strange outing for Texas, which got another promising performance from QB Tyrone Swoopes, who threw for 326 yards, including two long passes to Jaxon Shipley and John Harris to set up the winning field goal after Iowa State had tied the game with 28 seconds left (after Texas had gone back ahead with 1:19 left). While Charlie Strong's defense has played well all season, the Longhorns gave up 524 total yards and 30 first downs to the Cyclones, who scored 45 points despite committing three turnovers. Still, Texas closed out a win, and it moves to 3-4 with back-to-back strong outings from Swoopes, who had previously looked uncomfortable as starter.

C: North Carolina. Any win is a good win at this point for North Carolina, which has shuffled through another frustrating start to the season. After scoring 43 points and losing at Notre Dame, the Tar Heels gave up 43 to Georgia Tech but won 48-43, ending a four-game losing streak. Still, this is half a football team. The Tar Heels have talented skill players, and they took advantage of a weak Yellow Jackets defense, with Marquise Williams throwing for 390 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 73 yards and a score, with Ryan Switzer's 136-yard receiving day featuring a 68-yard touchdown. Defensively, though, North Carolina gave up 611 total yards, coughing up a 11-point lead late thanks to a go-ahead 75-yard DeAndre Smelter touchdown on a reverse with three minutes left. Georgia Tech scored too soon, though, and Williams responded by leading a 12-play, 75-yard winning drive capped by T.J. Logan's two-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left. North Carolina's bowl hopes got some life again, but now it has consecutive road games at Virginia and Miami, with a defense that ranks 116th in yards per play allowed -- last among Power Five teams.

C-: UCLA. The Bruins were fortunate to escape Berkeley with a 36-34 win, otherwise their Pac-12 South hopes might have been completely killed. Instead, they move to 2-2 in the conference, thanks in part to a favorable call on an interception on Cal's final drive in which Marcus Rios appeared to be out of bounds. The Golden Bears needed only a field goal to win and were at the UCLA 36-yard line, but Jared Goff was made to pay for an ill-advised pass, even if the call was questionable, at best. UCLA finished with 567 total yards behind Brett Hundley's 330 passing yards and 94 rushing yards, but it also converted only 2 of 13 third downs and committed three turnovers, all of which led to Cal touchdowns.

D+: Iowa. Somewhat strange fact: Both Maryland and Iowa are now 5-2, which doesn't sound too bad at all. Maryland has to be somewhat thrilled with where it's at, one win away from bowl eligibility in its first Big Ten season with a somewhat tricky schedule remaining (at Wisconsin, at Penn State, Michigan State, at Michigan, Rutgers). Iowa, meanwhile, lost its first Big Ten game 38-31 with sloppy play that caused it to fall into a 38-21 hole in the fourth quarter before getting 10 points late. The Hawkeyes committed three turnovers, including a pick-six by William Likely that put Iowa into a double-digit hole early in the fourth. Jake Rudock attempted 56 passes, the second-most for an Iowa team under Kirk Ferentz. He threw for 317 yards, sure, but he averaged a mediocre 5.7 yards per attempt, and Iowa lost to a Maryland team that played five series with third-string QB Perry Hills in the second half after C.J. Brown left for a time with an injury.

D: Virginia Tech. The offensive rut just isn't ending. For the season, Michael Brewer is now 94th nationally in yards per attempt at 6.3, after completing 26 of 45 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown in an ugly 21-16 loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday. Aside from a 41-yard pass to Bucky Hodges, the Hokies had nothing going downfield, and to be fair to Brewer, he's getting zero help from his running game, which had 26 yards (including three sacks). This is a very limited offense, and the difference in the game was that Pitt was able to run the ball, using a combination of James Conner (16 carries, 85 yards, two TDs) and designed runs by QB Chad Voytik (19 carries, 118 yards) to grind out a win in a game that featured 14 punts.

D-: Stanford. At this point the only thing that can salvage Stanford's season would be ruining Oregon's in a couple weeks. The Cardinal were destined to have little margin for error thanks to a brutal road schedule, and they made things more difficult by struggling to score at home in the loss to USC early. It seemed like playing Arizona State would be a good opportunity to fix the problems on offense, but that wasn't to be. The Sun Devils, who lost twice to Stanford last year, played with backup QB Mike Bercovici again and pulled off a satisfying 26-10 win to move to 5-1. Remember when UCLA hit big play after big play against a rebuilding Arizona State defense? Stanford managed just 288 total yards, failing to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter as they could get nothing consistent going in the ground game. QB Kevin Hogan can't win games by himself, and the running game just isn't there this year. Stanford slips to 4-3.

F: Florida. We already wrote about them, but, well, there's no other choice.

* * *

Josh Doctson's big plays helped push TCU to a runaway win over Oklahoma State. (USA TODAY Sports)

Honor Roll: Week 8's Best Performances

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. You couldn't ask for a better half of football, even if Jimbo Fisher foolishly took the ball out of Winston's hands when Florida State was trying to pick up a couple first downs and kill the clock late. Winston went 15 of 16 for 181 yards and a touchdown in the second half of Florida State's 31-27 win over Notre Dame, to finish 23 of 31 for 273 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He did it without any sort of consistent running game, and he did it despite an aggressive Notre Dame defense successfully attacking an underperforming offensive line (as well as freshman center Ryan Hoefed, an injury replacement). Aside from the bad interception in the first half, Winston looked every bit like the Heisman winner he was last season.

Special mention has to go to Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, though. He played a tremendous game on the road, hitting 31 of 52 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns and two picks. The winning touchdown may have been taken off the board, but he also kept that drive alive on fourth down on this, via SBNation:

2. Trevone Boykin, QB, and Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. Despite dealing with an injury to his left wrist, Boykin again had one of the best games of his career. TCU rebounded from the blown lead at Baylor to dismantle Oklahoma State 42-9. The blowout was fueled by the big-play connection between Boykin and Doctson, as, of Boykin's 410 yards and three touchdowns, 225 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches went to Doctson, who scored from 77 and 84 yards in the first quarter to give the Horned Frogs a big lead early. The development of Boykin and the TCU offense under new co-coordinators Doug Meachem and Sonny Cumbie remains one of the biggest stories of the season.

3. Marcus Mariota, QB, and Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon. It seems to be almost taken for granted just how good Mariota is. Don't let that loss to Arizona cloud your view of where Mariota stands. With Jake Fisher back in the lineup at tackle, Mariota is better protected now, and while he was sacked three times in a 45-20 win over Washington, he played brilliantly against a defense with several standout players. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns, and for the season he's completed 70.2 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns, no interceptions and an average of 10.4 yards per attempt. He's still a clear Heisman frontrunner. Mariota didn't run much against the Huskies. Instead, the freshman Freeman had another big game, running 29 times for 169 yards and four touchdowns -- his second big game in a row after posting 121 yards and two scores at UCLA.

4. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia. After grinding out yards with a heavy workload at Missouri, Chubb added big-play ability to the mix in a 45-32 win over Arkansas that was not as close as the final score would indicate. Chubb ran 30 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns, with a long of 43, in a game in which Georgia again didn't force QB Hutson Mason to do too much -- he attempted only 17 passes.

5. Shaquille Riddick, DE, West Virginia. Much of the credit for West Virginia's 41-27 upset of Baylor goes to the passing game. QB Clint Trickett (322 yards, three TDs) and WR Kevin White (eight catches, 132 yards, two TDs) had yet another huge day in a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense that is back to being as prolific as usual after last year's disaster. But when you hold Baylor to 318 total yards and 27 points, much of the credit also has to go to the defense, which is clearly much improved. Riddick had the biggest day for the Mountaineers, finishing with three sacks, four tackles for loss and five tackles in a breakout game for the fifth-year senior transfer who formerly starred in the FCS level at Gardner-Webb.

6. Cody Kessler, QB, USC. The Trojans are in decent position at 4-1 in the Pac-12 South, although things would be much better had they not allowed Arizona State's Hail Mary victory a couple weeks ago. They've rebounded nicely since that and the Boston College debacle, edging previously unbeaten Arizona, then doing what they should and blowing out Colorado 56-28 on Saturday behind Kessler. He threw for 319 yards and seven touchdowns on just 13 completions, with 128 yards and three scores going to Nelson Agholor. The Trojans have been very erratic thus far under Steve Sarkisian, but this team is still loaded with talent and capable of competing with anyone.

7. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah. In an unusually ugly late-night Pac-12 game on Thursday, Booker sparked Utah to a 29-23 double-overtime win at Oregon State. He had his second straight big game after carrying the Utes past UCLA, running 32 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns to bail out a messy passing game that saw Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson ineffectively split duties. If Booker can keep rolling to support a strong defense, the Utes can contend in the wide-open Pac-12 South.

8. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. The freshman keeps embarrassing inferior defenses. He'll get a tougher test against a good Penn State defense on the road this Saturday night, but since the loss to Virginia Tech, Barrett and the Buckeyes offense has been on a tear, doing what they're expected to do and more against a handful of beatable defenses. In a 56-17 win over Rutgers, Barrett went 19 of 31 for 261 yards and three touchdowns and ran seven times for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

9. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. The struggling Louisville offense finally got its best player back, and it beat N.C. State 30-18 in its final game before Florida State comes to town next Thursday, Oct. 30. While Auburn transfer Michael Dyer had his biggest day in a Louisville uniform in rushing for 173 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, the biggest news was Parker making his 2014 debut after missing the first seven games with a broken foot. With Will Gardner back as the full-time QB, Parker caught nine passes for 132 yards, showing that he's still one of the nation's best receivers. Getting him back is a big boost to the upset hopes against the Seminoles.

10. Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss. Golson has played as well as anyone so far this season on a Rebels defense filled with standouts. In a 34-3 win over Tennessee in which Ole Miss had 12 tackles for loss, just about anyone from the defense seemingly could be included here. The nod goes to Golson this time, who had two interceptions, including one in the second quarter to set up the Rebels' second touchdown after they initially struggled on offense. Tennessee QB Justin Worley averaged only 5.6 yards per attempt and threw three picks in all.

* * *

Playoff Projection

Predicting how the playoff bracket will eventually play out (not slotting teams as they stand now based on current resumes).


The race is starting to take a clearer shape, but it'll most likely blow up over the next several weeks, because that's what usually happens. Florida State is in the best shape, past its biggest hurdle with a beatable path ahead. Ole Miss has a tricky trip to LSU this week, but it gets Auburn and Mississippi State at home. Then we move into one-loss territory. For now, the calls go for Oregon and Ohio State to run the table and get bids as the champions of the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively. (Michigan State could easily be swapped in for Ohio State).

Alabama remains a scary team capable of winning out and getting a second SEC bid (or winning the SEC, depending on what happens with Ole Miss and Mississippi State). Auburn has a brutal schedule that will make winning out really difficult. The Big 12 may have the same problem, between TCU, Kansas State and Baylor. Notre Dame is certainly in the mix too, although it has to go to Arizona State and USC. Other one-loss teams include: Georgia, Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Utah, Duke, Minnesota, East Carolina and Colorado State, with Marshall quietly undefeated against the world's worst schedule.

* * *

Week 9 Syllabus

1. No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU. The Tigers finally have some life after escaping Florida with a win and blowing out Kentucky at home, and now they move on to try to play spoiler against the unbeaten Rebels in another Death Valley night game.

2. No. 4 Alabama at Tennessee. Five years after bolting Tennessee for USC in a one-and-done coaching move, Lane Kiffin returns to Knoxville as Alabama's offensive coordinator. Alabama has won seven in a row against its SEC East rival, dating back to Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa.

3. No. 20 USC at No. 19 Utah. Two of the five contenders in the Pac-12 South meet as Utah's defensive front will be a huge test for USC RB Javorius Allen.

4. No. 1 Mississippi State at Kentucky. The unlikeliest of 3:30 p.m. SEC on CBS games lost a lot of its intrigue when Kentucky got blown out by LSU. Still, no road game is necessarily easy. The Bulldogs look to stay unbeaten.

5. Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State. Brady Hoke's farewell tour continues in East Lansing against the rival Spartans, who held Michigan to -48 rushing yards last season.

6. No. 13 Ohio State at Penn State. It's the first legitimately good defense J.T. Barrett has seen since the loss to Virginia Tech, but he might not have to do much given the matchup of Joey Bosa and the Ohio State defensive line against Penn State's struggling patchwork offensive line.

* * *
Contact Matt at matt.brown5082@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @MattBrownCFB.