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CFB Round-Up, Week 8: End Of The Road At The U

With Miami on the rocks, and Florida State stumbling, Clemson seems to be the only ACC team with a prayer of making the playoffs.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I haven’t talked much about them this season, which hasn’t been by accident. The Miami Hurricanes, once the most significant brand in college football, has been incompetent, irrelevant and, worst of all for them, boring. A school like Miami can be bad -- all schools go through rough stretches -- but you can’t be boring. That’s the Cardinal Sin for a program like The U.

Remember, his is a school that once embraced their role as the bad guys in the Catholics vs. Convicts showdowns with Notre Dame. They're Michael Irvin. Ray Lewis. Jimmy Johnson. Camouflage.

Now? A 58-0 beat-down, at home, to Clemson. The figurative nail was put coach Al Golden’s coffin. The literal one cannot be far behind.

Afterwards, embattled head coach Al Golden fell on the sword, again.

"Got beat from top to bottom," Golden said. "They outplayed us. They outcoached us. I just told the team it's completely my responsibility for not getting them ready to play. They just beat us soundly in every facet of the game, period."

It’s not something you expect to hear out of Coral Gables.

And, just 24 hours later, Golden was fired.

It was supposed to be a lazy Week 8 (Gameday was at James Madison, for cryin’ out loud), but what transpired, per usual in 2015, was yet more proof that the finish to the season, however it plays out, will be something out of a Hollywood script. The four teams that stumble, battered and bruised, into the playoffs, are likely to wake up and wonder just how in the hell they got there.

In a year when #3 was an underdog to a 3-3 team that just fired its coach, no Saturday is safe. But that’s what we had, with the Utah Utes falling victim to Clay Helton, the newest coach at Interim U, and USC, sending the already wild Pac-12 South into whirlwind -- one that will likely spread through the remainder of the season.

Oh, and for good measure, Florida State -- undefeated in ACC play since October of 2012 -- pulled a Wolverines, and lost, on the final play of the game, on a special teams gaffe that is beyond words.

You just have to see it.

USC 42  (3) Utah 24

Clay Helton knows his fate. As the latest interim head coach at USC, after Steve Sarkisian’s firing three weeks ago, his time in charge is limited, and will be littered with rumors of who will take over once he is inevitably let go.

For one week, at least, none of that mattered.

"These guys want to prove to everybody what type of team they are," Helton said. "When we play together and play like we did tonight, they're a very hard football team to beat. There's a lot of talent in that room."

Some found it odd that USC, a pre-season Top-10 team who had stumbled to a 3-3 start, would be favored over a Utes squad that has already knocked off Michigan and Oregon.

But as we know, records can be deceiving, and USC is example A of that. A team that, player-for-player, can be pitted against any school in the country, they just needed inspiration -- and stability -- to show what they are capable of. Perhaps they’ve found it in Helton, who was there for the Lane Kiffin-Ed Orgeron fiasco, and knows better than anyone what makes these players tick.

It helps when you play better, too. Behind three interceptions from freshman linebacker Cameron Smith, including one for a touchdown, the Trojans breathed the tiniest bit of life into an otherwise lost season -- proving again that no amount of turmoil can completely spell boat loads of talent.

And in doing so, perhaps giving Helton a few extra bargaining chips when the season ends.

(1) Ohio State 49  Rutgers 7

If only for the significance of the quarterback play, we’ll talk about this one. Making his first start in 11 months, J.T. Barrett -- who, as a freshman, led Ohio State through the 2014 regular season before destroying his ankle against Michigan in the season finale -- finally regained the starting nod against Rutgers, and displayed all of the traits that had Buckeyes fans -- bored, and in desperate need of something to complain about -- clamoring for his return.

"He is the prototype dual-threat quarterback, and he puts a tremendous amount of stress on your defense whenever he has the football, because he can run it like a running back, and he throws it very well as a quarterback," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.

It’s that dual-threat ability that had been lacking from the Buckeyes, as they sleep-walked through the first seven games, narrowly escaping games against Northern Illinois and Indiana. With Cardale Jones under center -- his spot earned from three victories last season against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon -- Ohio State was out-of-sync. They sputtered offensively, looked lifeless on defense, and seemed, as a whole squad, to be lacking the us-against-the-world bravado that carried them to the title last season.

It would be unfair to blame it all on Jones. An enigmatic conundrum of a leader, it seemed as he was given the starting job from head coach Urban Meyer as more of a favor for coming back, after he flirted heavily with the NFL in the offseason.

That thought will never be proven, and doesn’t need to be. After Saturday’s performance, Barrett is back in charge, as he should have been from day one, and the Buckeyes once again seem whole.

(24) Ole Miss 23  (15) Texas A&M 3

If it’s at all possible to have the wheels come completely off your season in just two weeks, the Aggies of Texas A&M have found a way to do it.

Riding high of a 5-0 start, ranked in the Top-10, and hosting a somewhat vulnerable Alabama squad, all seemed right in Aggie-ville. Their new defensive coordinator, a $1.4 million hire, was, mercifully, panning out. Their quarterback, Kyle Allen, was efficient. Their renovated stadium, now one of the largest in the country, was swaying side-to-side, just as they palnned.

Two weeks, and two blowout, uncompetitive losses later, the shine has completely come off a program, and a coach, once poised to take over the SEC.

On the other side, Ole Miss, a week after a humbling loss to AAC upstarts Memphis, bounced back and cemented themselves as a contender in the top-heavy SEC West.

The Rebels -- who still lay claim to the season’s most impressive victory (at Alabama) -- shut down the vaunted Aggie attack without their best player, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who is out with a concussion. One thing that helped -- the return of preseason All-American Laremy Tunsil, a projected Top-5 pick in the NFL Draft, who has missed the entire season due to receiving improper benefits, which helped solidify an offensive line that had struggled with consistency all season.

With the win, Ole Miss (3-1 SEC), joined Alabama (4-1 SEC) and LSU (5-0 SEC) in the race for the division crown. With a win over ‘Bama already, and a showdown with LSU still to come, Ole Miss, embarrassed a week ago, still controls its own destiny in the most competitive conference in the country.

Georgia Tech 22  (9) Florida State 16

It wasn’t the Pick Six, or the Gift Six, since Georgia Tech is in the middle of a dreadful season, but the Yellow Jackets will take it, catchy nickname or not.

With :06 remaining, and the best field goal kicker in the country, Roberto Aguayo, lining up for a 56-yard game-winner, it appeared that, once again, Florida State would find a way to escape.

Instead, Lance Austin, and the 78-yards he ran to paydirt, provided a different outcome.

"When I picked it up and started running up the field, I saw a lot of green," Austin said. "So I was like, `OK, I can return it."

After winning seven games last season in which they trailed, the Seminoles had looked more stable this season, under the guidance of senior transfer Everett Golson at quarterback. They seemed poised to sail into their November 7 showdown with Clemson, a de facto winner-take-all battle for the ACC crown, and an inside-track to a playoff spot.

Instead, one blocked kick, and inconceivable return later, the Seminoles fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.

The magic of 2014? Gone. And with the reputation of the ACC forever in the dumps, no team from the conference can make the playoffs with a loss.

In a season of unfathomable plays, and you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it finishes, that Florida State would fall from contention in this manner seems only appropriate.

Next Week

Week 8, as per usual, provided moments that didn’t line-up with expectations. Can Week 9 do the same? For the second straight week, there doesn’t appear to be a marquee matchup on the docket. The sneaky good game will come from The Palouse, where Washington State -- winners of three straight conference games for the first time since 2003 -- welcome in Stanford, equally hot, and on a collision course with a playoff spot.

Martin Stadium is a tricky place to place, and Halloween night could prove to be the night all hell breaks loose.