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College Football 2013: 5 Big Questions for Week 8

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It’s a little sad to think that we’ve already reached the halfway point of this college football season. Still, there are a lot of important games still to come. Here are the big questions as we go into Week 8:

How Will This ACC Showdown Impact the BCS and Heisman Races?

While it may not garner the hype of last month’s Alabama-Texas A&M game, the stakes in this week’s Florida State-Clemson matchup are just as big. The winner of this game will be in good position for a national title shot should Alabama or Oregon falter. And quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston could punch their ticket to the Heisman ceremony with a big performance this week. The first ACC matchup between Top 5 teams since 2005, this should be an exciting game to watch. Both teams feature explosive offenses, with the No. 5 Seminoles and No. 3 Tigers averaging 53.6 and 40.8 points per game, respectively.

But those high-powered offenses will also be facing their toughest tests of the season. Florida State ranks third nationally in scoring defense, while Clemson is tenth and leads the nation with 24 sacks. The Seminoles have not won in Death Valley since 2001, but they should have no shortage of confidence: FSU comes into this game off of a 63-0 drubbing of then-No. 25 Maryland and a bye week. The Tigers stumble in after needing a fourth-quarter comeback to get past Boston College.

Can Stanford Rebound?

Stanford’s national-title hopes took a big hit in last week’s loss at Utah, but the Cardinal know that dreams of another Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl bid are still very much within its reach. To do so, however, they’ll first have to get a big win over No. 9 UCLA, which is ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 2005. Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley is coming off a career-high 410-yard passing day and has helped UCLA average nearly 46 points per game (seventh best nationally). For Stanford to get back on the winning track, they’re going to have to regain some offensive swagger—the Cardinal has fallen to 11th in the Pac-12 in total offense and rushed for a season-low 143 yards last week. Stanford has not lost two in a row since 2009, Andrew Luck’s freshman season.

Can Missouri Keep Rolling Without James Franklin?

Missouri has been one of the season’s biggest surprises, jumping out to a 6-0 start and upsetting then-No. 7 Georgia on the road last week. However, the clock could be nearing midnight for this SEC Cinderella. Senior quarterback James Franklin, who has guided the nation’s eighth-highest-scoring offense and led the Tigers to their best start in 53 years, will miss at least three weeks with a separated shoulder. So the Tigers will go with freshman Maty Mauk, who has thrown just six passes this season, in their next two games against No. 22 Florida and No. 11 South Carolina. Missouri has been very balanced on offense and gets both of those games at home, so they are still very much in the thick of the SEC-title race. If the Tigers can get through these next two games, there is a good chance Franklin would be back for Mizzou’s only other game against a ranked opponent, a season-ending tilt against No. 7 Texas A&M.

Will A&M Need More Manziel Magic?

Last week, Johnny Manziel worked some more of his “Johnny Football” magic, coming back from an injury scare and leading two scoring drives in the game’s final four minutes to pull out a win at Ole Miss. If the Aggies defense, which has given up an average of 32 points per game this season (96th nationally), can’t improve this week he may have to take his team on his shoulders once again. The Tigers rank seventh nationally in rushing and should be able to have success on the ground against an Aggie defense that ranks 105th against the run. Look for this to be another high-scoring affair.

Who Should Be on Upset Alert?

Last week gave us the biggest upsets of the college football season so far. This week, in addition to Texas A&M and Missouri (for the reasons mentioned above), there are several other teams that could fall victim to the upset bug. No. 4 Ohio State will put its 18-game winning streak on the line against the surprising Iowa Hawkeyes, who rank 12th nationally in scoring defense. No. 6 LSU visits an Ole Miss squad that is struggling through a three-game losing streak but that gave Texas A&M all they could handle. No. 11 South Carolina is also on the road against a decent Tennessee team that took Georgia to overtime. No. 21 Oklahoma State will need to regain its offensive spark against a TCU defense that has forced 15 turnovers this year and has given up an average of less than 296 yards in its last four games. And the injuries continue to pile up for No. 15 Georgia as they go on the road against a dangerous Vanderbilt team looking for a signature win.

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