Week 8 NCAA football, the whole nine yards

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By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network

Oh how the mighty have fallen (Part Two)

Remember when Florida State was the No. 1 team in the country?

Remember when that was a thing?

'Cause it isn't anymore.

The Seminoles didn't even lose in Week 7, but now find themselves the second-ranked team in the country to the ever-rising Mississippi State Bulldogs.

As I'll detail later on in this week's column, FSU's match-up with Notre Dame is its to lose. It'll be the Seminoles time to either prove that they were unfairly dropped in the rankings or that, yeah, that's right: they're just another ACC team.

Holistically, was it fair to drop the Seminoles? If you consider their 98th-ranked rushing offense and, that's right, that they do not play in the SEC West (or the SEC for that matter), then yes, Mississippi State deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

Speaking of which... the West just got wilder

And that goes for the Pac-12 as well as that notorious SEC West, where the Bulldogs knocked off previous No. 2 Auburn while their Mississippi brothers in Oxford defeated Texas A&M.

Look, it's only going to get wilder in the SEC West, where Mississippi State and Ole Miss still have to play (as do Alabama and Auburn). But how about USC bouncing back from a loss to Arizona State to beat undefeated Arizona? How about UCLA with two losses on the year but is still hanging onto a ranking?

Regardless of who you root for, rest assured: there's a good chance all four teams to get playoff bids come from the Pac-12 and the SEC...and more specifically the SEC West.

The guys who nobody's talking about (but should be)

Shocking to think not much attention has been paid to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish up until their upcoming bout with the Seminoles this weekend. Especially considering Notre Dame is now the sixth-ranked team in the country, in part due to the SEC West teams knocking each other off.

Have their last two games been closer than some would have liked? Perhaps, especially when one of those was a 50-43 shootout with North Carolina (2-3). But one must remember that the man under center for Notre Dame is trying to get back to where he was two years ago after sitting out all of last season. Look for Everett Golson to either make -- or not make -- a statement this weekend. That will tell the tale of the Fighting Irish's season.

Also, as much as they may not be squaring off with the likes of Auburn and Alabama, or Oregon and Arizona (or even D III powerhouses Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater, for that matter), kudos must also be given to No. 8 Michigan State. Playing in the oft-forgotten (and often appropriately so) Big Ten, the Spartans still have a pretty impressive resume, including a win over Nebraska and a loss to Oregon which they led at the half. They'll take the conference title easily, but it remains to be seen if a playoff spot is in their future.

How will the West be won?

Last week, I said Oregon's matchup with UCLA in Week 7 was perhaps the most important game of its season -- including upcoming matchups with Stanford and Utah. Following the loss to the Wildcats for a second-straight season, if the Ducks didn't make a statement against the Bruins, all hopes for a Pac-12 title -- and a shot at the playoffs -- would have been lost. Fortunately for their fans, Oregon pulled out the win -- in a big way -- and is back in the AP Top 10.

Now, the Ducks must stay the course if they want to keep pace with Arizona, who suffered its first loss of the year to USC last weekend. Both teams' records now sit at 5-1; it's a "blank slate," it's a "tie game," if you will.

Arizona still has to face the Bruins, Utah, and No. 17 Arizona State, and although its high-powered offense will show on the scoreboard, so, too, will having the 73rd best points against average in the FBS. I'm picking the Ducks in this one, but not even because of that statistic. Oregon will win the Pac-12 because it has the "intangibles:" leadership, experience... and Marcus Mariota.

What to watch for

A bit of a quiet week for the AP's Top 25 teams, thus, the obvious answer here is Notre Dame down in Tallahassee.

Is this the week the Seminoles finally tumble? Is this the week Notre Dame proves it's once again a legitimate contender? Heck, is this the last time we may see Jameis Winston on the gridiron?

If I had to guess, the answer would be a solid "no" to that last one and "yes" to the first two -- and even if the Fighting Irish lose, a close game would still keep them in the conversation towards the end of the season. This is Florida State's game to lose -- or win and prove why it deserves the No. 1 ranking ahead of idle Miss. State.

Aside from this Top Ten matchup, this week features games between teams looking to crash the party in the conference standings. Most notably, two Big 12 matchups that could decide who is still playing for a title in the second half of the season.

Oklahoma was able to defeat rival Texas last week, but must squash the hopes and dreams of Kansas State if it's to climb back into the conference title conversation. The Wildcats, meanwhile, must focus on the task at hand, but also know they have the Longhorns, Oklahoma State, and TCU in consecutive weeks. Those two latter teams will also be squaring off this weekend, as the Horned Frogs try to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to the current No. 5 Baylor Bears last week. Speaking of whom...

Who to watch for

Remember awhile back when I said to watch out for the Cougars and the Bears on the prowl?

Apologies to the BYU fans out there.

Applause to the Baylor Bears, who've most certainly exceeded the little-to-no hype they had coming into this year.

They may have only faced one "major" test in TCU (a 61-58 shootout), and yes, Baylor was down 21 points in the fourth quarter of that game. But the Bears came back. Or should I say, our player to watch, quarterback Bryce Petty, came back.

After completing seven of 22 passes against Texas the week prior, Petty was "on" against the Horned Frogs, according to Baylor coach Art Briles. Personally, I thought throwing for over 500 yards and six touchdowns was defined as being a "demi-god," but everybody's entitled to their opinion.

The senior quarterback has a bit of an easier task in West Virginia this week, but it's all in preparation for a tough, four-week stretch to end the season that includes the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State. These next two weeks, though, will be important in determining if Petty's progression is real or if he reverts back to what we saw against Texas.

One good read...

I would say it's for your pleasure, but it may bring as many tears as it does smiles. It's a shame more college teams aren't picking up on this excellent cause.

Why rankings rank the way they do

As a student and journalist at Ithaca College, I try to steer clear from discussing the previously Top 15-ranked Ithaca College football team.

However, the negative feedback D3Football.com received after its latest poll did not feature Buffalo State, who shocked the Bombers in a 38-27 route, was uncalled for.

Are the Bengals 5-1? Yes. Did they defeat two-time Empire 8 champion Salisbury, who then beat the previously No. 7 team in the nation, St. John Fisher? Yes.

But did they defeat win-less Cortland State in overtime and only because of a clock mismanagement by the Red Dragons? Did they also fall in their own Homecoming game to Alfred -- who Ithaca beat handily?

Much like the SEC West (and the Pac-12, for that matter), and as surprising as it may come to Northeast NCAA Division III football fans, the Empire 8 is one of the most "dog-eat-dog" conferences in the country.

For the record: the No. 22 USC Trojans, like Buffalo State, are 3-1 in conference play and just got back into the Top 25 -- even after defeating the No. 10 team in the country, the Arizona Wildcats, who had previously beat the No. 2 team in the nation.

Do you hear them complaining?

Rankings are holistic, not based on one week's performance.

The last laugh

I don't know about you... but these Oregon throwback jerseys being worn this season could very well make a comeback on the market this fall ...


Mia O'Brien is a senior at Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, where basically everyone calls her "Mobrien." She's a fan of country music, a good debate, and French dressing -- in no particular order. For sports updates, random musings, and many a creative hashtag, follow her on Twitter: @OBSportsLive16
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