Three games to watch: Week 8

Jack Fader

After an exciting Week 7 in college football, here are three games that could alter the national landscape in Week 8 as teams prepare for the home stretch.

No. 17 Arkansas at No. 21 Auburn

This game could have major implications on the outcome of the SEC West and will provide a good test for an Auburn team that has yet to prove itself. Arkansas comes off of a thrilling 34-30 win over conference rival Ole Miss this past weekend. Razorback quarterback Austin Allen completed 19 of his 32 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels, raising his SEC-leading touchdown total to 18 on the season. Arkansas moved the ball through the air and on the ground, and the win over Ole Miss should give it more confidence as it travels to Auburn.

Auburn comes off of a bye week at 4-2, but the Tigers only have one loss in the SEC, to Texas A&M in Week 3. Depending on the outcome of the Texas A&M and Alabama contest, the Tigers still have an outside shot at winning the SEC West if they can win out in the SEC. Of course, this would take road wins over Georgia and Alabama, as well as a win over Ole Miss, but as 2013 showed, the Tigers are a team that can get it going down the stretch. A win over Arkansas would be a nice springboard toward the homestretch for Auburn and could give them confidence heading into the teeth of their schedule.  

No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama

This is without a doubt the most hyped game of the week, pitting two undefeated SEC powers against each other. Alabama is coming off an absolutely dominant 49-10 win at previously No. 9 Tennessee in Knoxville. The Tide scored a non-offensive touchdown for the ninth straight game and added 438 yards of offense on the ground. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was efficient in the passing game and ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns. With no glaring weakness other than at kicker, this might be Nick Saban’s most complete team at Alabama, and so far it has been clearly the best team in the country. How they respond to a big game for a second straight week could be foreshadowing for a potential College Football Playoff berth.

The Aggies will be rested, coming off of a bye week after defeating Tennessee in a double-overtime thriller the week before, 45-38. They jumped out to two 14 point leads before the Vols came back in the fourth, but a touchdown run by Trevor Knight in the second overtime was followed by an interception of Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, the Aggies seventh forced turnover, on the next play. Texas A&M might have been a bit lucky to survive Tennessee at home, and after watching what Alabama was able to accomplish on the road against the same team, it has to feel as if it’s a big underdog. Expect a big effort from the Aggies, but whether it will be enough to topple Alabama remains to be seen.

No. 10 Wisconsin at Iowa

Wisconsin travels to Iowa after a heartbreaking overtime loss to No. 2 Ohio State in Madison. The Badgers controlled the game in the first half, taking a 16-6 lead into the half and massively outgaining the Buckeyes. It unraveled a bit for Wisconsin in the second half, but the Badgers were able to do enough to force overtime. Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Hornibrook showed flashes of brilliance for the Badgers, going 16-28 with a touchdown and an interception, but just didn’t have enough in the tank once overtime came around. Wisconsin will have another tough test this weekend in Kinnick Stadium against an Iowa squad that went to the Big 10 championship game last year and currently sits at 5-2. If the Badgers come out slow against the Hawkeyes and have a bit of a big-game hangover, this could be a classic trap game.

Iowa is coming off of a dominant win over a woeful Purdue team on the road, where it has played its best football this season. The Hawkeyes return home looking for a signature win, and Wisconsin provides a perfect opportunity. Iowa had two running backs, LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley, rush for over 100 yards against Purdue, and they need that kind of production again against a tough Wisconsin defense. Iowa will be looking to prove something at home after dropping home games to both North Dakota State (an FCS team) and Northwestern this season. Expect the Hawkeyes to come out and challenge Wisconsin on both sides of the ball in a game that could be a trap for the Badgers.