Winners and losers of college football’s Week 8: Oregon escapes, Penn State falls out of playoff race

Take one more unbeaten off the board: Oklahoma State missed on a key fourth-down conversion against Iowa State by mere inches, likely knocking the Cowboys down a step in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and creating a logjam of teams behind Oklahoma in the Big 12.

You can take a possible College Football Playoff contender off the board. Penn State lost 20-18 to Illinois in nine overtimes — that’s not a misprint — and is out of the running for the national semifinals, though the Nittany Lions could still make things interesting in a deep Big Ten East.

One playoff contender stayed in the mix. Oregon made things very interesting late against UCLA, which is a trend under coach Mario Cristobal, before escaping with a win that moves the Ducks to 6-1 and keeps them atop the Pac-12.

And you can bump one ACC quarterback up your Heisman Trophy list. Pittsburgh senior Kenny Pickett maintained his assault on every program record in leading the Panthers past Clemson. After the game, Pickett said his plan was to “have a cold one and get ready for Miami,” which sounds like something a Heisman winner would say.

These teams and players top the list of Saturday’s biggest winners and losers:

WINNERS

Oregon

Oregon seemed at times more than happy to give the game away to UCLA, which was almost happy to oblige the favor before a late interception sealed the Ducks’ 34-31 win. Avoiding a second loss keeps Oregon very much in the mix for the playoff, especially when you remember what most seem to have already forgotten: The Ducks beat Ohio State on the road in September. Oregon is also set to head in a pretty easy home stretch of games, with the toughest by far a trip to Utah on Nov. 20.

Oregon cornerback DJ James (0) poses with teammates and The Oregon Duck after the Ducks defeated UCLA.Oregon cornerback DJ James (0) poses with teammates and The Oregon Duck after the Ducks defeated UCLA.

Oregon cornerback DJ James (0) poses with teammates and The Oregon Duck after the Ducks defeated UCLA.

Iowa State

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Iowa State started the season slow but is beginning to turn into one of the best teams in the Big 12 — if not the best, period. After two early losses, the Cyclones took a big step toward securing another trip to the conference championship game with a 24-21 win against previously unbeaten Oklahoma State. One of this year’s turning points has been the play of quarterback Brock Purdy, who has not thrown an interception in three straight games and completed 27 of 33 attempts for 307 yards and two scores against the Cowboys’ terrific defense.

Kenny Pickett

It was a good day for Pittsburgh, which beat Clemson to remain in front of the ACC Coastal, and a very good day for Pickett, who threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns to boost his case for the Heisman. This was the best opportunity he’d had all season: Clemson is clearly down but still one of the biggest names in the sport, and Pickett put together a performance that should help him close the gap on the two SEC quarterbacks leading the way in the Heisman race.

Wake Forest

The math is absolutely mindboggling. It’s not just that Wake Forest scored 70 points against Army, or that the Demon Deacons gained 638 yards, that Sam Hartman threw for 458 yards or that the offense needed only seven third-down conversions. It’s that Wake did all of this while controlling the ball for little over 17 minutes in the 70-56 win against the Black Knights. That’s over four points a minute, which is insane.

LOSERS

Penn State

The only remotely positive thing to come out of Penn State’s 20-18 loss to Illinois is that it took an NCAA record nine overtimes, though being memorialized in the Football Bowl Subdivision record books might not be the Nittany Lions’ preference after the worst loss of coach James Franklin’s tenure. Even with quarterback Sean Clifford back under center, the offense finished with just 227 yards and averaged 2.1 yards per carry. The Nittany Lions’ second straight loss serves as a playoff eliminator. Next week’s game at Ohio State might not be pretty.

Clemson

The 27-17 loss to the Panthers drops Clemson to 4-3, already the program’s most losses in a season since 2014. And there are clearly more losses coming. The well-documented issues center on the play of an offense that has been one of the worst in the Power Five and now has to deal with a possible quarterback dilemma: DJ Uiagalelei was pulled in the second half of the loss after tossing two more interceptions, though his replacement, Taisun Phommachanh, didn’t fare much better.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney reacts in the closing minute of the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh.Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney reacts in the closing minute of the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney reacts in the closing minute of the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh.

Virginia Tech

The Hokies have been getting by all season on a season-opening win against North Carolina that has since been revealed to be far from impressive. Otherwise, Tech has topped Middle Tennessee State and Richmond but dropped the rest, including the embarrassment of Saturday’s 41-36 loss to Syracuse. The Hokies gave up 550 yards of offense, a whopping 314 coming on the ground, and led 36-27 with under three minutes left before giving the game away.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 8 winners, losers: Oregon, Penn State, Clemson

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