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College football week 8 guide: USF needs a win, Clemson on upset watch

Here’s why the Bulls need a huge first quarter against Temple, plus more on Saturday’s most interesting games.
Jaren Mangham and the rest of the USF Bulls face a must-win game against Temple.
Jaren Mangham and the rest of the USF Bulls face a must-win game against Temple. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Oct. 22

Viewing guide

Lamest time window: Everything but the mid-afternoon slot. It’s a good day to enjoy the almost-autumnal weather.

Noon: No. 2 Cincinnati at Navy is the best of a weak window.

3: Fresh off an Iowa upset, No. 25 Purdue could be in for a letdown at home against Wisconsin.

3:30: The biggest game is No. 8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State. The most interesting is on-his-way-out Ed Orgeron at No. 12 Mississippi.

7: Keep an eye on Tennessee’s visit to No. 4 Alabama, just in case Josh Heupel’s Volunteers can keep it close early.

7:30: Miami’s Manny Diaz desperately needs to upset No. 18 North Carolina State.

USF’s key to victory

Jeff Scott is still looking for his first Division I-A win as USF's head coach.
Jeff Scott is still looking for his first Division I-A win as USF's head coach. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

The Bulls are still looking for their first Division I-A win under second-year coach Jeff Scott. Playing Temple at home is their best chance to get one. The most important quarter could be the first. Temple has been outscored 60-7 in the first 15 minutes so far. If the Bulls can get out to an early lead, maybe they can hang on for that long-awaited victory.

Related: Why Temple is a must-win game for USF

AAC scouting

UTSA will try to stay unbeaten against former USF coach Skip Holtz and his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
UTSA will try to stay unbeaten against former USF coach Skip Holtz and his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. [ CHARLES REX ARBOGAST | AP ]

Quick thoughts on the four incoming AAC members in action Saturday:

North Texas is 1-5, putting coach Seth Littrell in trouble. Knocking off Hugh Freeze’s Liberty team would be a positive step.

No. 24 Texas San Antonio is ranked for the first time in program history and visiting Skip Holtz and Louisiana Tech. The former USF coach hasn’t beaten a ranked team since the Bulls’ 23-20 triumph at Notre Dame to start the 2011 season.

Alabama Birmingham has a top-40 defense that’s allowed less than 400 combined yards over the last two weeks. That doesn’t bode well for a Rice offense ranked No. 109 nationally in yards per play (5.0).

Related: What USF fans should know about AAC’s six new members

Walt Bell Bowl

Massachusetts coach Walt Bell is a former Florida State assistant.
Massachusetts coach Walt Bell is a former Florida State assistant. [ MICHAEL DWYER | AP ]

The awful Jacksonville State loss should remind Florida State not to look past any opponent. Even UMass. But the only interesting thing about this matchup is the fact that the Minutemen are coached by Walt Bell, who was Willie Taggart’s first Seminoles offensive coordinator. If Bell hadn’t left — or been nudged out — FSU probably would have signed standout quarterback Sam Howell, who instead went to North Carolina.

Eye on the NFL draft

Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton is a superstar safety and likely first-round pick.
Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton is a superstar safety and likely first-round pick. [ GARY MCCULLOUGH | AP ]

Scouts will be watching USC’s trip to No. 13 Notre Dame. The Irish’s Kyle Hamilton is the rare versatile safety deserving of being a top-10 pick. He’s part of a secondary that will have to slow down USC receiver Drake London, an All-American candidate who’s also gaining first-round buzz.

Related: What USF football can learn from this round of AAC expansion

Local of the week

Everett Smalley was a lineman at Plant High and now starts at Air Force.
Everett Smalley was a lineman at Plant High and now starts at Air Force. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times (2018) ]

Air Force offensive tackle Everett Smalley (Plant High)

You probably know that Georgia has the top defense in the nation (3.6 yards per play allowed). The second-best defense? That’s San Diego State (4.0 yards per play allowed). That means the pressure will be on Smalley and the rest of the Falcons’ line to find a way to get something going offensively against the undefeated No. 22 Aztecs.

Related: Let’s talk about Dan Mullen’s long-term future at Florida

Upset watch?

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has become a Heisman Trophy contender.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has become a Heisman Trophy contender. [ MATT GENTRY, THE ROANOKE TIMES | AP ]

Here’s something I didn’t expect to write in August: Clemson has a chance to upset No. 23 Pitt. Led by quarterback Kenny Pickett, the Panthers have the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense (43.8 points per game) and will face Clemson’s No. 2 scoring defense (12.5 points allowed per game). The Tigers have won 31 in a row at home since getting knocked off by Pitt in 2016. If Clemson is going to turn things around, this would be a good time to start.

Diaz trouble

Miami coach Manny Diaz didn’t get a ringing endorsement from his athletic director; Blake James declined to tell the Miami Herald whether Diaz will be the coach through the end of the season. Here’s how Diaz stacks up against the Hurricanes’ other recent coaches:

Manny Diaz

Miami coach Manny Diaz has lost back-to-back heartbreakers.
Miami coach Manny Diaz has lost back-to-back heartbreakers. [ MICHAEL REAVES | Getty Images North America ]

Record: 16-14 (.533 winning percentage)

Record against ranked teams: 2-4

Highest finish in AP poll: No. 22

Mark Richt

Mark Richt took Miami to its only ACC championship game appearance in 2017.
Mark Richt took Miami to its only ACC championship game appearance in 2017. [ Times (2017) ]

Record: 26-13 (.650)

Record against ranked teams: 4-4

Highest finish in AP poll: No. 13

Al Golden

Al Golden never had a top-25 finish at Miami.
Al Golden never had a top-25 finish at Miami.

Record: 32-25 (.561)

Record against ranked teams: 3-11

Highest finish in AP poll: N/A

Randy Shannon

Randy Shannon went 28-22 in his time as Miami's head coach.
Randy Shannon went 28-22 in his time as Miami's head coach. [ Times (2007) ]

Record: 28-22 (.560)

Record against ranked teams: 5-14

Highest finish in AP poll: No. 19

GameDay breakdown

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is a player to watch when the Ducks play UCLA.
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is a player to watch when the Ducks play UCLA. [ ANDY NELSON | AP ]

I’m still not sure why ESPN is highlighting No. 10 Oregon’s trip to UCLA, but there’s always intrigue with the coaches. Bruins coach Chip Kelly is 0-2 against his former team, while the Ducks’ Mario Cristobal has the potential to be a big name on the coaching carousel, if he’s interested (especially if the Hurricanes job opens). The most interesting matchup is Kelly’s solid offense facing an Oregon defense led by potential No. 1 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. A Ducks defeat would almost certainly knock the Pac-12 out of the College Football Playoff but be welcome news for No. 5 Ohio State (which lost to Oregon earlier this season).

By the numbers: Week 8

USF's Jaren Mangham is having one of the best rushing seasons in program history.
USF's Jaren Mangham is having one of the best rushing seasons in program history. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

10 — Touchdown rushes by USF’s Jaren Mangham. That’s second nationally and already tied for the ninth-best single-season total in program history.

0 — Interceptions thrown by North Carolina State’s Devin Leary over the past four games.

2017 — The last time FSU won three consecutive games, winning four in a row (Delaware State, Florida, Louisiana Monroe and Southern Miss) to close that season.

10 — Jersey number for Eli Manning. Mississippi is retiring it Saturday.

14 — Consecutive wins for No. 4 Alabama over supposed rival Tennessee.

3-0 — Purdue’s all-time record while ranked 25th.

0 — Previous experience for Washington State’s Jake Dickert as a head coach at any level before Saturday’s game against BYU. The Cougars elevated him from defensive coordinator to acting head coach after Nick Rolovich lost his job for not taking the coronavirus vaccine.

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