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2020 College Football Thoughts & Reactions: Week 8

Michael Penix Jr., Indiana


Indiana Is The Real Deal

Penn State going on the road and squaring off against Indiana was one of the most fascinating matchups of the Big Ten's return, and it did not disappoint. The Hoosiers and Nittany Lions went back-and-forth until the final play of the game, which featured a controversial touchdown by Indiana's Michael Penix Jr. The upset wasn't completely shocking, because this Indiana program has risen to the level where they should be able to compete with the elites of this conference. They have a true rising star in Penix Jr., and while the defense let up a lot points, they still did a good job creating turnovers and making plays. The most impressive thing about Indiana's rise under head coach Tom Allen is the cultural shift; this team has bought fully into their head coach, and they don't fear anyone in this league. That isn't too say the Hoosiers are going to overtake Ohio State in the East, but I wouldn't be shocked if they hover around seven-eight wins, which would equate to roughly 9-10 in a regular 12-game schedule.

Is Michigan Really That Good? Or Is Minnesota That Bad?

It's hard to know what to make of Michigan's resounding 49-24 win over Minnesota in primetime Saturday night. I foolishly picked the Gophers, but the Wolverines looked crisp on both sides of the ball, and the game was never really in jeopardy past the first quarter. So does this mean UM is a legitimate favorite in the East? Or is Minnesota going to fall back to Earth following their magical 2019? My opinion is a little bit of both. Michigan played excellent and QB Joe Milton played exactly the way the Wolverines wanted him to. He really seems like the ideal fit for OC Josh Gattis' offense, and he played really well despite Michigan replacing three of their top four receivers from '19. On the Gopher side, they had a number of players out due to COVID, including key places on special teams and linebacker. However, the defense has got to be better if they have any hopes of competing out West. Coordinator Joe Rossi did a tremendous job in his first full season at the position last fall, but this year will be where he really earns his money. The good news is that the offense did still play pretty well, and has a favorable matchup with Maryland this upcoming Friday.

Cincinnati Is One Step Closer To a New Year's Six Bowl

Although it got lost in the shuffle with both the Big Ten and Mountain West returning, Cincinnati's victory over SMU was quite the impressive one. The Bearcats dominated from start to finish, and held the explosive SMU offense to just 290 yards. The victory improves Cincy to 4-0 on the season and while there is still a lot of football to be played, they are pretty clearly the AAC favorite. Considering this conference has sent four of the six Group of Five NY6 representatives, it's a good bet that the Bearcats have a good chance to reach one of the major bowls. With that being said, they'll have to stave off a few other contenders, namely Memphis and Tulsa inside their own conference, and Coastal Carolina, Marshall and Boise State elsewhere.

Yes, BYU Really Is Going To Go Undefeated

One of the really great stories of this wacky 2020 college football season has been the success of the BYU Cougars. BYU entered the year with reserved expectations, but they have jumped out to a 6-0 start and are beating opponents by an average of 31 points. They have four games left on their schedule that are definitely scheduled, and are also expected to make-up their previously postponed matchup with 6-1 Army. Those four remaining games? Western Kentucky, at Boise State, North Alabama, and San Diego State. Certainly that road trek to Boise could be awfully tricky, as would a showdown with the triple-option attack of Army, but this Cougars team has the second-best odds to finish the year undefeated according to ESPN's Football Power Index. It's going to be hard for the Cougs to convince the CFB Playoff Committee that they're worthy of a Playoff spot even if they are undefeated, but it's still a fairly incredible story. Don't be shocked if QB Zach Wilson is a regular at the award show at the end of the season, as the junior has been an absolute revelation in 2020.

How Does Jaylen Waddle's Injury Affect Alabama?

Injuries are an unfortunate reality of college football, and the biggest one of the day Saturday was the injury to Alabama's lightning fast receiver, Jaylen Waddle. Waddle might be the fastest player in college football and he was the type of talent that could take the top off opposing defenses, giving the Tide yet another weapon to have fun with. He was leading the Tide in receiving yardage and had four touchdowns on the season, a major contributor to the nation's third best scoring offense. At a place like 'Bama, you expect others on the depth chart to be able to step up, but this loss could still make an impact. Expect even more usage for DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III, but the biggest impact will be on special teams. As their primary returner, Waddle struck fear into opposing team's hearts, and they rarely chose to kick to him. Alabama will have somebody ready to step into his role, but it's going to be hard to replace that type of speed. With all that being said, the Tide are still the heavy favorite in the SEC West. Their biggest threat is Texas A&M, a team they already dominated 52-24. The bigger question is the effect it could have down the line. Will it make an impact against a Clemson or an Ohio State in the Playoff? It certainly could.

The Mountain West Is Back Too

While all the headlines over the weekend focused on the Big Ten's return, the Mountain West also returned for the first time in the 2020 campaign. The league's favorite, Boise State, opened up their season with a comfortable victory over Utah State while possibly their biggest threat, Air Force, lost 17-6 to San Jose State. Another team to watch is the reigning West Division champion Hawai'i, who beat Fresno State by two touchdowns. New quarterback Chevan Cordeiro not only threw for 229 yards, but he also added 116 yards and two scores with his legs. Sure, maybe the Mountain West won't make a massive difference on the national scene, but what college football fan doesn't love some late night football? At least until the Pac-12 returns, the Mountain West should dominate the late-night market.

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