The first squads to hit the halfway mark to an undefeated regular season were exactly the squads you might’ve guessed in the preseason. Florida State and Marshall, by virtue of noon kickoffs that netted handy wins over Syracuse and Middle Tennessee State, respectively, last Saturday were chronologically the first bowl-eligible programs of 2014, to the surprise of absolutely no one. That’s about the only thing that’s gone the way we drew it up this season, isn’t it? Four more teams joined them in later Week 7 action, and 19 five-win teams are in play in Week 8. One of them is Kentucky. We live in amazing times.
All times Eastern.
On Your Marquee
The game: No. 5 Notre Dame at no. 2 Florida State.
How to watch: Rejoin the GameDay crowd in Tallahassee for a dawn-to-dusk pregame party, then stagger to a television for an 8 p.m. ABC/WatchESPN kickoff.
Story line: This is our last guaranteed regular-season matchup between two undefeated teams; the only remaining game possible is the Egg Bowl, and both Mississippi teams have to hack through a lot more of the SEC between now and then. Last season’s Florida State team was joined at the hip with destiny, stringing together a series of unlikelihoods (largely in the form of injury luck) en route to blowout after blowout, and an eventual title. This year’s squad seems more susceptible to likelihoods. And was Notre Dame looking ahead during last week’s game with North Carolina, or seriously wavering? Keep an eye on the turnover margins here; the Irish have committed 11 and forced 14, while the Noles have committed 12 and forced 11.
The game: No. 21 Texas A&M at no. 7 Alabama
How to watch: In Tuscaloosa or at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.
Story line: The sixth-ranked scoring offense meets the sixth-ranked scoring defense in one of the most anticipated position battles of the week: the Aggies’ receivers versus the Tide’s defensive backs.
The game: No. 14 Kansas State at no. 11 Oklahoma
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How to watch: In Norman at noon, or on ESPN/WatchESPN.
Story line: We were thoroughly entertained by the Sooners’ novel first-half approach to scoring points while playing a defense like the Longhorns’ last week: Just score against their offense and special teams instead! More offensive touchdowns may be needed this week to keep pace; K-State is right with OU in terms of scoring, averaging 40.8 points per game to the Sooners’ 40.5.
The game: No. 15 Oklahoma State at no. 12 TCU.
How to watch: 4 p.m., in Fort Worth or on FS1.
Story line: Keeping Daxx Garman vertical for the Pokes will tilt this one way or the other; TCU has 19 sacks through just five games, while OSU has surrendered 16.
But First …
Weeknight college football of varying degrees of nutritional value, to be consumed at user’s own risk.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: We’re writing the viewing guide while highlights from that week already exist:
Louisiana beat Texas State, 34-10, on Tuesday night. After a Wednesday reprieve to do things like run errands and acknowledge the existence of your spouses and pets, we pick back up with:
Virginia Tech at Pitt, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN/WatchESPN
No. 20 Utah at Oregon State, 10 p.m. Thursday, P12N
Fresno State at Boise State, 8 p.m. Friday, ESPN/WatchESPN
Temple at Houston, 9 p.m. Friday, ESPNU/WatchESPN
Best of the Rest
Highlights from an overflowing Week 8 undercard.
UCLA at Cal, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. We could swap this game with Arkansas-Georgia in the “might get weird” section without too much trouble. Each team bore one close Pac-12 loss going into last week, before sustaining Week 7 wallopings against Oregon and Washington, respectively. Who shakes it off, shakes it off first?
Rutgers at no. 13 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. With an early loss to Virginia Tech and two byes, the Buckeyes have hit the season’s midpoint in fairly quiet fashion. No more going unnoticed: This Saturday kicks off a streak of four consecutive ABC games, the final three of which (at Penn State, vs. Illinois, at Michigan State) will air in prime time.
Washington at no. 9 Oregon, 8 p.m., FS1. This is a rivalry game that has existed pretty much in perpetuity for as long as just about anyone reading this has been alive. Why doesn’t it have a trophy?
No. 8 Michigan State at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., ESPN/WatchESPN. THIS IS MORE LIKE IT. For your weekly reassurance that this is the greatest sport on earth, Spartans-Hoosiers is the second game to be played this season with a spittoon at stake, following the Battle of I-10.
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images
Where are the rest of the undefeateds? No. 1 Mississippi State (STILL FUN TO TYPE) takes a much-deserved bye this week; no. 3 Ole Miss hosts Tennessee in Oxford; and Marshall, finally in the polls with a courtesy no. 25 nod, travels to FIU.
Who’s winless and striving still? There are three chances for a program’s first win on Saturday, all home games versus two-win opponents: Kent State vs. Army, SMU vs. Cincinnati, and Idaho vs. New Mexico State.
Where might things get real weird? We were there the last time Baylor traveled to West Virginia, and given several factors in play (that history, the hurt the Bears put on the Mountaineers last year in Waco, and what looks like an improved Baylor defense), we’re figuring on having both eyeballs glued to FS1 and Morgantown and the no. 4 Bears for the entirety of that noon slot. (On commercial breaks: Iowa at Maryland, noon, ESPN2/WatchESPN.)
Further north, no. 24 Clemson travels to Boston College (3:30 p.m., ESPNU/WatchESPN), where it will operate without Deshaun Watson, and this seems like a good time to remind that Cole Stoudt is far from an untalented quarterback, but still mope at the thought of missing fireworks like those Watson staged in his first start. At 4 p.m. on SECN/WatchESPN, no. 10 Georgia kicks off against Arkansas, and with or without Todd Gurley, look forward to a rollicking ground game battle. Finally, it is technically possible for Kentucky to attain bowl eligibility in a night game at LSU (7:30 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN). Like it says up top: amazing times.
Where’s my late game? Of the three post–10 p.m. kicks, the one you definitely want is no. 23 Stanford at no. 17 Arizona State, at 10:30 on ESPN/WatchESPN.
It’s a cold and barren landscape in East Lansing, and we all know who’s the king: