Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

A massive Big Ten showdown between Penn State and Ohio State headlines Week 8, but other games have sizzle, too. Here’s a look at Saturday’s most compelling matchups: 

The five-star game: No. 7 Penn State (6-0) at No. 3 Ohio State (6-0) | 12 p.m. ET

The Nittany Lions have been paper tigers against the Buckeyes since James Franklin took over in 2014, going 1-8 against OSU. Penn State’s lone win was a 24-21 win in State College in 2016. 

What should make this year any different? Penn State’s defense, for starters. Per CFB-Graphs, it ranks first in dropback expected points added — an advanced statistic that measures the efficiency of a QB — and is the top overall defense in EPA. Its ability to contain a Buckeyes passing game that includes the best receiver in the country, Marvin Harrison Jr., will be a significant subplot, as will the matchup pitting quarterbacks Kyle McCord of Ohio State and Drew Allar of Penn State. McCord ranks sixth in ESPN’s QBR. Among QBs with at least 150 pass attempts, Allar is the only one without an interception.

The Heisman game: No. 2 Michigan (7-0) at Michigan State (2-4) | 7:30 p.m. ET

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy has taken running back Blake Corum’s place as Michigan’s top Heisman candidate. The junior quarterback is ESPN’s top-ranked QB in its QBR metric and has completed 78.2 percent of his attempts for 1,512 yards (10.6 yards per attempt) and 14 TD passes. McCarthy has only three interceptions. The Spartans aren’t a threat Saturday — except when they’re in the tunnel — but a prime-time game is a golden opportunity for McCarthy to improve his Heisman candidacy.

Upset special: No. 16 Duke (5-1) at No. 4 Florida State (6-0) | 7:30 p.m. ET

Blue Devils head coach Mike Elko gave a positive update Wednesday on quarterback Riley Leonard, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in a Week 5 loss to Notre Dame. Duke will be the best conference opponent Florida State has played so far, which could be trouble for a team that squeaked past Boston College, 31-29, and followed that with a 31-24 overtime win at Clemson.

The Seminoles are much better at home, outscoring three opponents 146-33, but Duke isn’t Virginia Tech or Syracuse. It has a strong defense that ranks fourth in scoring (9.8 points allowed per game). That unit can’t afford a letdown against a team that should welcome back leading receiver Johnny Wilson, who missed Week 7 due to an injury.

Under-the-radar game: No. 22 Air Force (6-0) at Navy (3-3) | 12 p.m. ET

Air Force is the top-ranked Group of Five program, giving it the inside track to a New Year’s Six bowl. It leads the series against Navy, 33-22, including three straight wins, but is 3-8 at Navy since 2000. Before Air Force’s 2021 win in Annapolis, Md., it had lost four consecutive games on the road, so head Fighting Falcons coach Troy Calhoun — who’s been in his position since 2007 — knows nothing is a given. Games between service academy teams are always worth watching.

Wild-card game: Toledo (6-1) at Miami (Ohio) (6-1) | 4 p.m. ET

Here’s a strange but true stat for Week 8: Mid-American Conference members Toledo and Miami (Ohio) will meet for the first time in 12 years Saturday. Schedule-makers picked an excellent year to rekindle the in-state rivalry. Toledo and Miami — the top teams in the MAC — are led by exciting quarterbacks. Toledo quarterback DeQuan Finn is absurdly fast, a skill he showed off against UMass in Week 6 on this 56-yard touchdown run. He reached a max speed of 21.9 mph.

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The post Five CFB games to watch: Will Penn State remain a ‘paper tiger’? appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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