January 17, 2021

Week 8 College Football news, schedule, live blog and more

15 min read
The college football schedule expands significantly in Week 8 as the Big Ten and Mountain...

The college football schedule expands significantly in Week 8 as the Big Ten and Mountain West finally kick off their 2020 seasons. There are a lot of outstanding games both from a conference and a scouting perspective. We’ll be here all day with analysis, opinions, and news. Information on how and where to watch the Week 8 college football action, including kickoff times and TV schedule, can be found below.

All of the live Week 8 college football news and live analysis will get underway at noon and wrap up after midnight ET in our College Football Live Game Day Blog, which is below the college football TV schedule. Be sure to also keep up with NFL Draft stories and analysis from the PFN NFL Draft Crew.

Week 8 College Football Live Blog with Tony Pauline, Ian Cummings, and Nick Farabaugh

Updates for the Week 8 college football action through midnight ET will be timestamped once we kick off at noon, and each update will be followed by the initials of the analyst. “IC” is Ian Cummings, “NF” is Nick Farabaugh, and if there are no initials, it’s me (Tony Pauline).

Carson Strong improving by leaps and bounds (8:30 PM)

Over the summer, I mentioned that Carson Strong could be the next quarterback from the Mountain West to be selected in the first round during my Nevada preview.  The strong-armed passer has already shown a lot of improvement during the first game of the season for the Wolfpack.  His timing, poise, and accuracy are all markedly improved.  Strong’s arm strength and pass velocity are outstanding, as is his resiliency.

With three minutes left in the first half, Carson is 20 of 26 passing for 206 yards with one score.  He must stop staring down primary targets, but I love the potential and upside Strong brings and stand by my belief he could be the next quarterback from the conference to end up in the first round. TP

Lots of love in the scouting community for Cam McGrone (8:10 PM)

Cam McGrone, who had a terrific season last year as a redshirt freshman, is getting a lot of love in the scouting community as next-level decision-makers have high expectations for the linebacker.  McGrone is a shorter but intense and explosive defender, exceptional at making plays in the box or up the field.  While he needs to complete his game, I am already hearing McGrone as a potential day two selection. TP

Tylan Wallace production doesn’t always show up on the stats sheet (7:55 PM)

During the OSU victory over Iowa State, Tylan Wallace came away with solid numbers, five receptions for 76 yards.  His attention to detail and the little things Wallace did, production that doesn’t show up on the stats sheet, was impressive.  His blocking was outstanding as Wallace gave effort and got results.  I like his route discipline and how Wallace stays with assignments rather than freelance around the field. TP

Shaka Toney Comes up big for PSU (7:35 PM)

Universally graded as a day three pick, Penn State edge rusher Shaka Toney is off to an explosive start to the delayed season.

During the Lions contest against Indiana, Toney produced two huge sacks on back to back snaps to stymie the Hoosier offense late in the game.  Besides those two sacks, Toney finished the day with six tackles and one QBH.  Toney is basically a linebacker who comes out of a three-point stance on the college level. Measuring 6-feet-2-inches and 240 pounds, along with 4.7 speed, expect a lot of projections for Toney to OLB in a 3-4 as we move closer to the draft. TP

Najee Harris is a legitimate NFL running back, despite lacking top-end speed (5:55 PM)

There are certain traits that are more important for running backs in the modern NFL, among them short-range explosiveness, contact balance, and natural receiving ability. Najee Harris may not have a maxed-out second gear, but he has the most essential components for production at the NFL level, and he’s proven that once again today.

So far, Harris has 90 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and he also has 51 receiving yards on five catches. Harris is a fun player to evaluate, and he could end up being more proof that running backs don’t necessarily need top-end speed, so long as they have the traits to fight through congested spaces and make the most out of the space they have.

That’s it from us for now. Check back at 7:30 PM, as Tony Pauline will be back with more analysis of Week 7 college football! IC

Spencer Sanders’ volatility points to exciting upside and concerning pitfalls (5:45 PM)

The Oklahoma State offense clearly has a different edge to it with Spencer Sanders at quarterback. He’s an electric playmaker who has the athleticism and arm talent to create proactively. But Sanders also brings a startling degree of volatility, as he’s shown today against the Iowa State Cyclones.

In a recent sequence, Sanders threw his second interception of the day, but then came back to rally his team to a touchdown on the ground. At 6-foot-1, 205, Sanders is an impressive athlete for the quarterback position, and his versatility makes him a very intriguing sleeper at quarterback. His low points will have some teams skeptical of his ability to maintain consistency at the NFL level, but the developmental traits are undoubtedly there. IC

Alabama dealt a massive blow on offense, as Jaylen Waddle suffers a broken ankle  (5:30 PM)

The entire college football world is now in mourning, as it was recently revealed that electric Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle suffered a broken ankle in the first half of the team’s contest against the Tennessee Volunteers. Coming into this game, Waddle had 25 catches for 557 yards and four touchdowns in four games.

Waddle is out for the year, and now, the most pressing question is what comes next for the junior standout. At this point, Waddle has enough tape out there to prove just how transcendent his explosiveness can be. But with his long-term health now in question, his draft decision becomes a bit more complicated. First and foremost, Waddle’s quick and speedy recovery is most important. With any luck, he can get back to one-hundred percent. IC

Indiana defensive back Jamar Johnson making waves against No. 8 Penn State (5:20 PM)

If you like sleeper prospects from non-trendy Power Five schools, then you’ll love Indiana defensive back, Jamar Johnson. The man is having a day against the No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions. He intercepted an overthrown pass from quarterback Sean Clifford, and just a couple of minutes ago, he stripped the ball from backup quarterback Will Levis, forcing another turnover.

The Hoosiers, up 17-7 at the half, are in the process of engineering a massive season-opening upset, and Johnson is a big reason why. Johnson, who stands at 6-foot-1, 192, had a sneakily solid season in 2019, and early on in 2020, he’s making plays in multiple phases and putting himself on the map for scouts. IC

Patrick Surtain II makes definitive pass deflection with ball skills (5:05 PM)

Players make plays. Sometimes it’s as simple as that, and Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II just proved it. Lined up on the boundary on a crucial defensive down, Surtain stayed with his man down the field and used his hand-eye coordination to break up a deep pass.

Disruption is one of the foundational objectives of any defensive back, and Surtain has shown this week that he can bring that to the table. He’s not as versatile as other defensive backs to come from the Crimson Tide ranks. Still, his utility as a physical, disruptive coverage defender will keep him firmly in the first-round conversation. IC

Underrated edge-tackle matchup on display in Virginia Tech-Wake Forest battle (4:40 PM)

It’s been a pretty quiet matchup so far. Still, one edge rusher-tackle battle that can’t be overlooked today is the clash between Hokies blindside blocker Christian Darrisaw and Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham.

Basham is an established day two prospect with the leverage and hand speed necessary to be an impact player. Darrisaw, a junior, is a breakout candidate who offers an enticing mix of athleticism, fluidity, and size at 6-foot-5, 313. With Wake Forest and Virginia Tech currently tied at 10 a piece, this competition is sure to take on more and more importance, and the winner will get some much-needed credits on the draft circuit. IC

Tyler Goodson making plays for the Hawkeyes with versatility (4:25 PM)

He’s only a true sophomore, but Iowa running back Tyler Goodson is legit and needs to be recognized. The young playmaker is making an immediate and distinct impact in the Hawkeyes’ season opener against the Purdue Boilermakers. At the end of the first quarter, he already has 76 total yards from scrimmage on seven touches, including one catch for 40 yards downfield.

Goodson has a ton of talent, and he’s not one-dimensional either. On his catch, Goodson found space downfield and earned yards after the catch, and on his carries, he’s shown an eye-catching combination of explosiveness and steely physicality. On one of the last plays in the first quarter, Goodson got caught up at the line, then hit the Purdue defense with a nasty cutback, earning ten yards and a first down before lowering his shoulder into a play-ending hit. Goodson is a weapon, and he should only get more touches as this game goes on. IC

Mac Jones off to a fast start in Alabama’s showdown with Tennessee (4:15 PM)

Ranking the top five quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft is an incredibly subjective exercise, and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is doing everything he can to stay in that conversation. Jones was written off by some heading into 2020, but the Crimson Tide offense hasn’t skipped a beat with him under center, and early against the Volunteers, he’s upholding that standard.

Jones is nine for nine, for 145 yards, and he’s already led two scoring drives with almost three minutes left in the first quarter. Opinions are still reasonably widespread on Jones, even with his strong start. Jones is stiff as an athlete, and his arm strength, while solid, has a perceivable cap. But in a reliable system — like Alabama’s — he has the necessary mechanical consistency and the field-reading ability to produce. How scouts evaluate him, and his potential next spring will be of great interest. IC

Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth finds the end zone early in debut (4:00 PM)

It didn’t take long at all for Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth to find the end zone for the first time in the 2020 season. Freiermuth did so on the Nittany Lions’ first scoring drive, hauling in a wide-open pass from quarterback Sean Clifford.

It wasn’t anything flashy; the Indiana defense sold out against the run on the goal line, freeing up Freiermuth to run all alone in the middle of the end zone. Even so, this first touchdown is just a precursor of what may be to come for the prestigious tight end. Freiermuth dominates in the red zone with his combination of size and athleticism, and he’ll have plenty of chances to show off those traits to evaluators. IC

Justin Fields reaffirms early first-round status in Ohio State win (3:50 PM)

Justin Fields has commonly been referred to as a first-round prospect in early 2021 mock drafts, but his season-opening performance against the Nebraska Cornhuskers solidified his status. Fields was immaculate in his 2020 debut, completing 20 of 21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 54 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Fields is just another high-upside passer who fits the modern NFL quarterback mold; he’s athletic, well-built, and he also brings impressive utility as a passer. In his first game back from the offseason, Fields showed precisely what he needed to show to earn enduring confidence from scouts: Poise, playmaking ability, arm talent, and natural accuracy to all levels of the field. IC

Marlon Williams off to another fast start (3:20 PM)

With nine minutes remaining in the first half, UCF receiver Marlon Williams is tearing it up against Tulane.  The senior has four receptions for 99 yards with one TD.  Williams has been mentioned several times this season in the game day blog as coming into this game, he had already accumulated 45 receptions, 579 yards, and three TD’s in four games.

Scouts graded him as a fringe PFA before the season as speed is a big concern for Williams.  If he runs well before the draft, with a time in the low 4.5’s being the definition of well, I think Williams could jump into the last round based on the pass-catching skill he’s shown this season. TP

Big play Atwell piling up the yardage today (3:00 PM)

Despite being slight of size (5-feet-9-inches, 170 pounds), Tutu Atwell continues to show why scouts grade him as a second-day prospect.

The big play wideout has caught three passes for 129 yards with one TD, a 66-yard jaunt.  Atwell is doing it against a Florida State secondary that has talent; on paper anyway.  He’ll be a terrific selection for an Andy Reid/Doug Pederson type of offense that will use him in the slot, and Atwell also comes with potential as a return specialist. TP

Another center impressing today (2:50 PM)

If you play offensive line in Lane Kiffin’s system, you better be versatile and on your toes.  That’s exactly what Ben Brown has been all season.

The junior established himself as a terrific pass protector during the first month of the season and has shown impressive run blocking skills today against Auburn.  Mississippi has rushed for 258 yards and has a one-point lead with five minutes left in the game.  Brown just threw a devastating block on the second level to pave the way for Jerrion Ealy‘s five-yard TD run to put the Rebels ahead.

I gave Brown a fifth-round grade before the season began but have since moved him to the fourth frame.  I’m told there is a very good chance he enters the draft after the season. TP

Schiano’s defense keeps choppin’ (2:40 PM)

“Keep chopping” and “the chop” were mantras of Greg Schiano’s motivational talk to players his first time around as Rutgers head coach and something he’s brought back with him.  Two RU linebackers heard the call and have turned in outstanding performances today.

Both Olakunle Fatukasi and Tyshon Fogg have come up big today, totaling eight and 10 tackles, respectively, as we move towards the close of the third quarter.  Fogg just made a huge fourth-down stop as Michigan State could not convert a turnover.  Scouts like Fatukasi slightly better as he’s more athletic and faster, but Fogg is stouter at the point and more instinctive.  Both players are likely UDFA’s yet have played very well today. TP

Yeboah continues to display big-play ability (2:25 PM)

Mississippi tight end Kenny Yeboah, who had a month’s worth of production against Alabama a few weeks ago, continues to impress with his big-play ability. Yeboah has just two receptions today, but they’ve gone for 67 yards, an average of 33.5 yards per catch.

Yeboah is moving up draft boards as he’s becoming one of the better big-play threats at the tight end position.  He needs to polish his game and improve his blocking, but Yeboah’s potential is off the charts. TP

OSU continues to churn out offensive linemen (2:00 PM)

Earlier I was extolling the virtues of Buckeye blocker Wyatt Davis but also keep a close eye on center Josh Myers, number 71. Myers is having a terrific game, giving Justin Fields plenty of time and allowing his quarterback to patiently make decisions.

I graded Myers as a fourth-round prospect entering the season, but there are some scouts who presently rate him as a top 60 pick. TP

End the season! Rutgers is back!! (1:30 PM)

Well, maybe. The program that’s been unwatchable the past five years has looked outstanding during the first half of the game against Michigan State. During the game day blog preview, I mentioned tight end Jovani Haskins, a transfer from West Virginia.

Haskins has just a single reception for six yards in the first half, but his blocking has been outstanding. His blocks at the line of scrimmage and on the second level have been responsible for several of the RU long runs. As the first half comes to a close, Rutgers is at 100 yards rushing. TP

Justin Fields: Sharp as a tack in game No. 1 (1:05 PM)

It’s been a delight watching Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence the first two months of the season, but credit where credit is due: Justin Fields looks in mid-season form during the first half of the Nebraska game.

Fields’ timing, accuracy, and pass placement has been spot on, and he looks better than a year ago. It’s still early, but with six minutes left in the first half, Fields is 9 for 9 passing with 134 yards and one touchdown. Fields was a vocal supporter for the Big Ten getting back on the field sooner rather than later, and it looks like he’s definitely put his money where his mouth is on the field. TP

Carter keeps finding ways to produce (12:55 PM)

North Carolina running back, Michael Carter was graded as an early Day 3 pick entering the season, and the senior is exceeding expectations. He’s a quick, elusive ball carrier who continually finds ways to create yards and produce. Early in the interstate rivalry against North Carolina State, Carter has 25 yards on five carries with one touchdown.

At 5-feet-9-inches and under 200 pounds with average speed, Carter’s final draft grade really won’t move much higher, but he should be a solid third-down back/situational runner for the next level. TP

Another solid play by Moehrig (12:35 PM)

Trevon Moehrig is highly considered in some areas of the scouting community, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a physical safety with terrific ball skills between the numbers. Moehrig just made another PBU on third down against Oklahoma, forcing the Sooners to kick a field goal. Moehrig lacks speed as well as range, which I believe limits him to a strong safety/zone scheme, but if properly used, he will be effective at the next level. TP

Wyatt Davis displaying impressive power (12:25 PM)

Buckeyes guard Wyatt Davis decided to play this season after initially opting out.  The highly-rated junior looks much improved in the early goings against Nebraska.

Davis is known for his quickness, agility, and ability to block in motion. In the early goings against Nebraska, Davis has displayed much more strength at the point — an element I felt was missing from his game. He’s opened up holes on the offensive line with power and engulfed opponents, helping to lead the way for Ohio State’s first touchdown of the year. TP

BAM! POW! Huskers run game pounds it downfield (12:15 PM)

While Ohio State is a big favorite in today’s game, one question looms large for me: Can the Buckeyes defensive line contain the Nebraska offensive line, which lines up at least three NFL prospects?

I presently grade left tackle Brenden Jaimes, who just made a great block on that long run, as a fifth-round prospect.  Junior center Cameron Jurgens and senior guard Matt Farniok are just a round behind, earning sixth-round grades on my board. TP

Tight end Jovani Haskins to make Rutgers debut today

Rutgers hopes they are starting a new era by reaching back to their past with Greg Schiano as head coach. RU has been a disaster the past five years — literally unwatchable.

Related | Pauline’s 2020 Big Ten Summer Scouting Preview

On my board, they have a single draftable prospect — tight end Jovani Haskins, who is a transfer from West Virginia. The junior is listed as a starter for Rutgers and he’s a player to watch against Michigan State, who’ll match up the likes of safety Xavier Henderson and linebacker Antjuan Simmons to stop the tight end.

Pitt rushers Patrick Jones & Rashad Weaver to test Notre Dame OL Liam Eichenberg & Aaron Banks

Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh for a Week 8 college football game that scouts will keep a very close eye on. There are several match-ups to watch, but the most important pits the Irish offensive line against the Panthers pass rushers.

Patrick Jones — who has already been boosting his draft stock — and Rashad Weaver of Pitt are both off to fast starts and they rank as the best tandem of pass rushers in the nation. On the other side of the line, Notre Dame left tackle Liam Eichenberg and left guard Aaron Banks have both played well this season. This is a statement game for Eichenberg, who must show he can stop the speed and athleticism Jones and Weaver bring.

Wide receiver/cornerback matchups highlight the primetime slate in Week 8

The Week 8 college football primetime games feature some great battles between receivers and cornerbacks.

Week 7 riser Jaycee Horn of South Carolina hopes to capitalize on his spectacular performance against Auburn, but the competition is a bit tougher today. LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. picked up the slack after teammate Ja’Marr Chase chose to opt-out of the season. Horn has all the makings of a Day 2 choice but could boost his stock with a strong performance against LSU.

Rashod Bateman of Minnesota is universally hailed as a first-round receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a great combination of size, speed, and pass-catching ability. In the Big Ten opener against Michigan, he faces cornerback Ambry Thomas, a second-day prospect who has a size disadvantage but comes with terrific ball skills and next-level speed.

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