NCAA Football News

College Football Rankings 2015: Updated NCAA Week 8 Standings, Final Poll Review

The 2015 college football season has reached its midway point with no fewer than 15 teams still in the playoff mix. 

Week 8 is a transition time for many of the top-ranked teams, as they are coming off critical matchups last week and/or looking ahead to bigger things still to come. Yet that's also dangerous because upsets happen when teams let their guard down. 

Going over the Top 25 before the meat of this week's schedule happens on Saturday, there are many teams that need to make a statement 10 days before the College Football Playoff committee releases its initial standings. 

 

Week 8 Top 25 Rankings

 

Team on Upset Alert: Utah (at USC)

Things are not good at USC right now. Steve Sarkisian was fired as head coach less than two weeks ago, with Nathan Fenno and Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times reporting Sarkisian allegedly had problems with alcohol as a coach dating back to his time at Washington. 

On the field, the Trojans are just 3-3 with two losses in Pac-12 play against Stanford and Washington. Taking on an undefeated Utah team ranked third in the Associated Press Top 25 poll would seem to be a bad omen for USC. 

Yet it's not unfair to ask if the Utes are overrated. Their win over Michigan in the season opener looks better now than it did at the time, but they were pumped up thanks in large part to a 62-20 victory over Oregon. 

In most seasons, that kind of win against the Ducks would be impressive, but this is a 4-3 team right now. 

ESPN's Football Power Index is giving USC a 72 percent chance to beat Utah on Saturday, with Sharon Katz of ESPN.com explaining the rationale behind that number:

USC has a number of close losses, and Utah has a few close wins. Scoring margin is generally a better predictor of future performance than a team's win-loss record itself, and USC and Utah have the exact same scoring margin (plus-17 points per game) through six games. The Trojans may be playing with an interim head coach, but they have arguably more talent, particularly on offense, than any team in the Pac-12.

Talent doesn't always win out, but there are going to be games when it all clicks to remind the world why it was so highly regarded. USC started the season as a Top 10 team before losing two of its last three games by a combined 25 points. 

Utah is playing better football right now, but USC has faced a schedule that already includes Notre Dame and Stanford. Those two teams are better than anyone the Utes have defeated, preparing the Trojans for this kind of spotlight at home in a game that could salvage their season. 

 

Playoff Hopes Crushed: Texas A&M (at Ole Miss)

Texas A&M has a knack for teasing everyone. The Aggies start strong, climb up high in the polls and start generating national title buzz. Remember last year's season-opening 52-28 win over South Carolina?

That pattern continued in 2015, as head coach Kevin Sumlin got his team off to a 5-0 start. The Aggies looked like they found a defense that could play during that stretch, allowing 21 points per game. 

Last week, hosting Alabama at Kyle Field, Texas A&M proceeded to give up a season-high 41 points as Derrick Henry ran over the Aggies to the tune of 236 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Allen had three interceptions, and the midseason swoons continued. 

Mississippi isn't exactly coming into this game on a high note after getting dominated in a 37-24 defeat at Memphis. That makes both teams desperate to right the ship, though the Aggies have more at stake with an outside shot at still climbing back into the playoff mix. 

According to Odds Shark, Texas A&M is a six-point favorite on the road. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports did note the Aggies have been successful against the spread this season.

"Why am I taking Texas A&M?" Fornelli wrote. "Well, the Aggies have been 6-2 against the spread on the road since last season, while Ole Miss is currently 1-3 ATS against SEC teams this season, and has failed to cover the spread in three of four games since the Alabama win."

There's also the question about how effective Ole Miss star defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche will be after suffering a concussion last week, if he's even able to play. 

Yet even with that potentially huge hole on defense, as noted by Daniel Paulling of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly has been terrific so far this season:

The junior has completed 154 of 235 passes (65.5 percent) for 2,234 yards and 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Kelly leads the SEC in passing yards per game (319.1), pass efficiency (161.9) and yards per completion (14.5) and is no worse than 12th in the country in seven categories.

Paulling did note that Texas A&M's pass defense ranks 25th in yards allowed per game (183.2), but it's also played games against teams like Ball State and Nevada. Even Alabama ran the ball so effectively that it only asked Jake Coker to throw 25 times. 

Putting the Aggies secondary against Kelly and big-play receivers like Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo will be its biggest test of the season. 

 

Most Necessary Change: J.T. Barrett Starting for Ohio State

After weeks of it seeming obvious, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer finally made the choice to bench quarterback Cardale Jones in favor of J.T. Barrett to start this week against Rutgers. 

Barrett is being given a fairly soft game for his return, which is likely by design. Rutgers has three wins this season, two of which have come against Norfolk State and Kansas. 

One reason Ohio State hasn't been as dominant this season as everyone expected is because Jones struggled in key spots, with Austin Ward of ESPN.com noting the red zone was a particularly problematic area:

Barrett was remarkably efficient inside the 20-yard line during the last two weeks, leading Ohio State to points on all 11 attempts with touchdowns on 10 of them. The move almost instantly solved a problem that had been clearly bothering Meyer. During first five games with Jones as the primary option, the Buckeyes were generating points, but they settled for field goals six times, missed one kick, twice had a half come to an end without getting points and Jones threw one interception.

One can understand why Meyer wanted to go with Jones before the season started. The strong-armed quarterback provided a downfield element with big-play threats like Devin Smith, preventing defenses from loading the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott as the Buckeyes won a national title. 

However, as Jones got more exposure, his lack of overall experience began to show, and he didn't make adjustments. Barrett isn't the same kind of quarterback, as he lacks the arm strength, but his ability to create in and out of the pocket is perfect for Meyer's offense. 

The change at quarterback was a long time coming. Meyer finally made it, and now Barrett will have a chance to lead the Buckeyes into the playoff like he was supposed to last season. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kansas State vs. Texas: Live Score and Highlights

The Kansas State Wildcats and the Texas Longhorns are getting ready to do battle at Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. The game will kickoff at noon EDT and it will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

The Wildcats are looking to bounce back after an embarrassing 55-0 loss to Oklahoma. In order for that to happen, quarterback Joe Hubener will have to play lights out, which has been an issue for him as he has only completed 45 percent of his passes and has thrown only four touchdowns.

Last week the Longhorns were off, but they do have momentum as they are coming off a big win against Oklahoma two weeks ago. The player to watch is freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard who rushed for 115 yards and threw one touchdown in the 24-17 win over their rivals.

Be sure to come back to this live blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 8: Get Hyped for Saturday

College Football Saturday Week 8 is about to kick off, and there are tons of intense matchups and storylines to follow and get excited for. Continuing to watch the greatness of Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette is just one of the many things to get hyped about for Week 8.

Will the Michigan State Spartans stay perfect after their miracle win last week? Will Utah survive a trip to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to face USC?

Watch the video above as we preview all the action for this week of college football. 

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