What To Watch For: Week 8

Each week, our bloggers will take a closer look at the storylines you should be watching. What's on tap for Week 8?


Georgia Tech on third downs. The Yellow Jackets have the best third-down conversion percentage in the ACC (52.6), but Virginia has the best defense on third downs in the ACC, holding opponents to 29.3 percent. The Cavaliers' defense hasn't been the problem this year, but it will face a different challenge in the triple-option offense (ESPN360.com, Saturday, noon ET).

Big 12

Will Texas' run defense continue its tormenting ways against Big 12 teams? The Longhorns have allowed opponents only 29 rushing yards in their last four games (7.3 yards per game) and a 0.3 yards-per-carry average. How will the Longhorns fare against Missouri, whose running game has been an early disappointment and has produced only 79 yards per game in its last three games? It will be important for the Tigers to try to establish at least a little bit of continuity to keep Blaine Gabbert from having to rely too much on passing. Against Texas, that's going to be tough.

Big East

Honoring Howard. The rest of the country will watch to see how Connecticut reacts to the stabbing death of starting cornerback Jasper Howard. There will be a moment of silence before the West Virginia game (ESPNU, Saturday, noon ET), and both teams will be wearing decals to honor Howard's legacy. Perhaps the best tribute the Huskies could pay to their fallen teammate is to play with passion and pull off a victory.

Big Ten

Iowa's quest for perfection continues. The Hawkeyes are halfway through one of the nation's toughest road schedules, and it doesn't get much easier Saturday night at Michigan State (Big Ten Network, 7 p.m. ET). Spartan Stadium recently has posed problems for the Hawkeyes, who have dropped four consecutive games there, including a 16-13 decision last year. A win Saturday will convince any nonbelievers left that Iowa is for real and move the Hawkeyes to at least No. 5 in the BCS standings. Iowa has shown no fear of tough situations so far, but the Hawkeyes are now the team to beat in the Big Ten.


It's going to be nasty fun in Husky Stadium. Oregon has beaten Washington five consecutive times. And by at least 20 points each time. What was once the most bitter rivalry in the Pac-10 has become a mismatch, which has been galling for the Huskies because, historically, they've dominated the Ducks and still lead the series 58-38-5. Yet this one figures to be more competitive than any of the recent games (ABC, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). Washington has rejuvenated itself under Steve Sarkisian, and that rejuvenation has include renewed energy in Husky Stadium. It should be pretty intense.


Staying unbeaten. As Alabama and Florida attempt to keep their unblemished seasons going, it's worth noting that the SEC has never had two teams finish a regular season unbeaten and untied in the same year. There have been a couple of years when two teams were unbeaten in the regular season, but one of them had a tie. The last time that happened was 1958, when eventual national champion LSU was 10-0 and Auburn 9-0-1. In 1951, eventual national champion Tennessee was 10-0 and Georgia Tech 10-0-1. In 1940, Tennessee was 10-0 and Mississippi State 9-0-1. So, obviously, Alabama and Florida are chasing history. The last time the SEC produced an unbeaten national champion was 1998, when Tennessee won it with a 13-0 record.


BCS busting on the line. Boise State had a tough test against Tulsa last week, and now it's time for TCU to face one of its fiercest foes on this year's schedule. The Horned Frogs trounced BYU last year, and the Cougars haven't forgotten about that defeat and what it did to their season. It should be a tough battle in Provo, Utah, where the Cougars haven't lost a conference game since 2005.

Notre Dame

Stopping the run. Montel Harris broke Boston College's single-game records by rushing for 264 yards and five touchdowns last week against NC State. The Eagles used him to great effect in two Wildcat packages. You can bet that will be a big part of their game plan again this week in South Bend. Notre Dame's defense, while still giving up too many points and yards, has been worse against the pass than the run recently, which is good, considering future opponents like Pitt, UConn and Stanford all rely heavily on the handoff.