Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Spread Offense, College Football Week 8: The Long October Stretch

The Long October Stretch
By Pat Luhta, @PLuhta

Think of the college football season as a long family road trip for a vacation.
September is the excitement that you have just left home and are on the road. It's a long trip but the fact that there's 2,000 miles of road between you and the destination doesn't matter right now, the anticipation of what's to come makes it so exciting.

October doesn't necessarily have that "are we there yet?" feel, but not quite a "100 miles to destination" feel either. It's still fun seeing things outside of the window and stopping at places that you don't see back home, but it's also that long stretch of knowing how far you still are to being close to arriving at your destination.

November is that "we are within reach" feeling, you are so close you can almost see it. The name of your place is popping up on road signs on how many miles to get there and you continuously countdown the miles to making your final stop.

December and early January are arriving at your vacation. Time to have fun, time to enjoy everything, time to not think about the ending and just let loose and try to not think about driving back home as it'll be over before you know it.

Don't get me wrong, October has some great games. But we're also waiting on November just as much as we are paying attention to the games in this month. This week becomes that segue though, as we really start to ramp it up going forward. That said, here are the big games to watch in week 8.


Fast forwarding through the noon games to get to the 3:30 SEC on CBS game here, with the #6 Texas A&M Aggies at the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. In a battle of unbeaten, The Aggies look to crack the code here against a team that looks near unstoppable. The Aggies will need a big game from QB Trevor Knight, dual-threat QB's are the ones that seem to give Alabama issues and if he is on his game then they can move the ball and try to pull off the upset. The Aggies also need to not turn the ball over though and help the Tide out, Alabama has a tough defense that leads the country in defensive touchdowns.
Texas A&M must make Alabama's offense earn all of the points and cannot allow them to score defensively or on special teams. For Alabama, it's business as usual. Their defense has been stellar as we've all come to expect, but their offense has really ramped up this season and they have been putting some ranked teams away with ease. Shutting down A&M's one man wrecking crew on defense, Myles Garrett, will help the Tide's offense continue their output as they look to gain control of the SEC West with this win here.

At 6pm, we have another SEC showdown. #17 Arkansas will be on the road to face the #21 Auburn Tigers. Arkansas is coming off a big win against Ole Miss while Auburn has strung together 3 straight wins after starting the season at 1-2. Arkansas will look to QB Austin Allen and their 2 RB's(Williams, Whaley) in order to find success against an Auburn defense that is only giving up 16 points a game. Auburn's offense has put up big numbers against much weaker opponents but has struggled against ranked teams this season. They put up 13 against Clemson, 16 against Texas A&M and 18 against LSU (in a win) so far, so they will need to perform better against Arkansas in order to get this win. Arkansas' defense though has been getting gashed this season, averaging nearly 28 points given up per game so this is definitely an opportunity for Auburn to break through here and score some points.

Then in the 8pm nightcap, the Penn State Nittany Lions welcome the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes to Happy Valley. In order for PSU to win this, they must get some kind of offense going and will need a big boost from the home crowd. Their defense will also need to play exceptionally better than they have and force some turnovers, currently giving up 28.5 points per game. Ball control may be the key, Wisconsin was able to bleed out a lot of the 1st half and maintain a lead through halftime against Ohio State by using time of possession to their advantage. For Ohio State, it may be time to get the ball spread around so QB J.T. Barrett doesn't have to run the ball 21 times like he did last week (and 26 times the week before that.) RB Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel should provide some relief to Barrett in the running game as PSU is giving up over 200 yards rushing a game. On paper, this looks like Ohio State coasting to a victory, but the "white out" at Beaver Stadium will provide an edge to Penn State and that would have to be the big difference maker in order for the Nittany Lions to pull off this upset.

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