What a week of college football it was, starting way back on Tuesday and culminating early Sunday morning for those on the East Coast. Our Week 8 College Football Team of the Week highlights the best of the best from what we saw all week long from our great sport.
Week 8 College Football Team of the Week | First Team
It’s important to note that the CFN Week 8 College Football Team of the Week awards players based on their impact in their respective games and is not necessarily based on total statistical output.
The strength of competition is accounted for, as is the situation — both time of the game and score. These individual awards are also solely based on a player’s ability on the field and does not look into any future beyond college football.
Quarterback: Jordan Travis, Florida State
In a week where the Heisman Trophy frontrunners largely struggled, Jordan Travis had his own Heisman moment. Needing a spark for his team, down three points, Travis went to work against Duke.
Pinned at his own 4-yard line, Travis orchestrated a 14-play, 96-yard drive with clutch plays all over and at every level of the field. Travis ran the rock multiple times on the drive and hit multiple receivers for big-time first downs.
In the end, Travis took the ball across the goalline himself for Florida State’s first lead of the game, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. He finished with three total touchdowns and had 330 yards of total offense against a stout Duke defense.
Running Back: Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State
What an absolutely brilliant performance it was from Ollie Gordon II on Saturday. Single-handedly taking over in the fourth quarter, Gordon finished the game against West Virginia with 29 rush attempts, 282 yards, and four touchdowns.
Gordon’s fourth-quarter takeover included three touchdowns on the ground, including two multiple back-breaking touchdown runs that kept the Cowboys up big over WVU in the waning stages.
Running Back: Bucky Irving, Oregon
The star of the Oregon offensive attack in Week 8 was Bucky Irving. Hauling in a 42-yard touchdown pass as a result of his elusiveness in the open field, it was Irving’s work on the ground that propels him to top honors here.
His biggest highlight reel moment showcased what makes Irving such a special player. On a carry to the left, Irving shook a defender right out of his shoes in the proverbial phone booth, and turned on the jets to sprint past the Washington State defense. He had 180 total yards of offense and three scores when it was all said and done.
Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State
There may be receivers with better statistical showings than Marvin Harrison Jr., but there were none with a bigger impact. Harrison Jr. was clearly the largest difference in talent on the field between Ohio State and Penn State and the Buckeyes knew it.
Harrison Jr. finished with 11 catches for 162 yards and a score, his touchdown icing the game as the go-ahead score. His full route tree, catch-point skills, and after-the-catch abilities were all on display in the noon slate’s marquee game.
Wide Receiver: Malik Washington, Virginia
It was going to take all three phases for a crazy upset to happen, but the Virginia Cavaliers did it against North Carolina. They utilized a clutch performance from Malik Washington on the offensive side of the ball as the No. 1 receiver hauled in 12 catches for 115 yards and a score.
UNC knew the Cavaliers wanted to target Washington, and they just couldn’t stop it. That’s how good of a performance it was in an upset victory.
Wide Receiver: Javon Baker, UCF
It was highlighted by a controversial celebration halfway through a touchdown, but Javon Baker’s game against Oklahoma was special. Baker hauled in five receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns, including an 86-yard score that almost took the air out of the Sooners.
The UCF WR played a little backyard street ball on a triple-option/RPO pass from John Rhys Plumlee, getting himself open behind the defenders. He sprinted up the sidelines and blew a kiss to the OU bench from nearly 25 yards out as he had plenty of time to score with how badly the Sooners’ defense got beat.
Tight End: Jake Briningstool, Clemson
Without Jake Briningstool on Saturday night, Clemson likely wouldn’t have been able to even make it to overtime against Miami. Briningstool was the offensive identity and just about the only thing that worked well for the Tigers, as he hauled in both of their offensive touchdowns.
Briningstool’s second score of the day came after he hauled in a 50-yard reception, setting up a red zone situation for the Tigers. Cade Klubnik threw to his hot receiver and Briningstool made a miraculous catch above the 6’5″ James Williams and somehow got his knee down in bounds in the end zone.
Ultimately, Briningstool hauled in five catches for 126 yards and two scores.
FLEX: Sione Vaki, Utah
The living embodiment of the term FLEX on offense, Sione Vaki is making fans worldwide with his performance for Utah. Vaki — a two-way player who also plays safety — toted the rock nine times for 68 yards, every yard of which felt like he took a bit of the soul of the USC defense with him.
Vaki’s biggest influence came in space, however, and through the air. He hauled in five receptions for a whopping 149 yards and two scores as he was just too big and too fast for the USC defense to contend with whenever he had the ball.
Tackle: Josh Conerly Jr., Oregon
What a showing it was for the Oregon Ducks on offense against Washington State. Whether it was on the ground or through the air, this Ducks team rebounded in the exact right way: Dominating on offense, starting up front in the trenches.
Josh Conerly Jr. was simply on top of his game against the Cougars. Conerly was seen multiple times pulling in front of running lanes and paving the way or locking down his defender on the left side all the same.
Guard: Clay Webb, Jacksonville State
You have to go back to Tuesday night to witness Clay Webb’s fine performance on the inside for Jacksonville State, but if you remember correctly, it was a masterclass. Webb was key in the Gamecocks defeating Western Kentucky with his all-around performance that included multiple highlight-reel run blocks, mainly for his QB Zion Webb.
Center: Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon
The big man in the middle for Oregon was terrific yet again. Jackson Powers-Johnson was dominant on the move and even better in pass protection. Powers-Johnson is playing like one of the best centers in college football, if not the best, and this was a downright dominant showing.
Guard: X’Zauvea Gadlin, Liberty
Midweek games are for midweek dominance from offensive linemen as X’Zauvea Galdin was dominant on the ground for Liberty. The Flames offense fired on all cylinders against Middle Tennessee, and they needed to, as it was Gadlin that led the way on the ground and in pass protection.
Tackle: Dalton Cooper, Oklahoma State
In true Oklahoma State fashion, the Cowboys keep on impressing at every turn in 2023. Dalton Cooper was terrific at his left tackle spot for them on Saturday against West Virginia.
Cooper was sound in pass protection but perhaps even better on the ground. Gordon’s run plays didn’t quite come to his side on his big runs, but Cooper was still seen sealing his edge and paving the lanes at both the first and second level regularly.
EDGE: Jalen Green, JMU
There wasn’t a better defensive performance all week long than Jalen Green’s night against Marshall on Thursday evening. Green ripped through the Thundering Herd offensive line to the tune of five sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.
He was a constant presence in the backfield in what was one of the finest defensive performances we’ve seen all season long. JMU’s outside linebacker has been on a tear and proving he’s well on his way to earning more than just the CFN Midseason Defensive Lineman of the Year award.
EDGE: Chris Braswell, Alabama
Finishing off Tennessee once and for all, it was Chris Braswell’s strip-sack in the fourth quarter that pushed the Crimson Tide’s lead to 14 points after ‘Bama rattled off 27 consecutive points.
Braswell ripped through the Tennessee offensive line almost at will as the game went along and he finished with two sacks, four total tackles, and a forced fumble. He was constantly in the backfield and a threat against both the run and the pass.
Defensive Interior: James Ester, Northern Illinois
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see the impact that James Ester had on the game for Northern Illinois. The big man in the middle made multiple tackles for loss and had a big sack against Eastern Michigan.
Ester was simply unblockable, though, and with how valuable interior pressure is for a defense, he set the tone for the Huskies’ third-straight victory.
Defensive Interior: Nash Hutmacher, Nebraska
In layman’s terms, Nash Hutmacher was too much to handle in Week 8. He was unblockable, and Northwestern struggled mightily to do anything on offense against the Nebraska Cornhuskers defense when Hutmacher was on the field.
Hutmacher finished the game with 2.5 sacks and seven total tackles, but that hardly shows just how many times he was in the backfield on passing plays.
Linebacker: Jailin Walker, JMU
The JMU Dukes’ defensive prowess didn’t just stop at the first level, it continued on to the second level as Jailin Walker joined Green on our Week 8 Team of the Week. Walker forced a timely fumble and was dominant at the line of scrimmage or even behind it.
He brought down 10 total tackles, including a sack and a TFL on a run play. Walker was unstoppable if the Herd could actually move it past the line of scrimmage as the defense pitched a shutout (Marshall scored nine points, two on a safety and seven on a kickoff return).
Linebacker: Nathaniel Watson, Mississippi State
Say what you will about the Arkansas Razorbacks offense in Week 8; it all lends credit to the Mississippi State defense’s showing in the end. Nathaniel Watson and Co. confounded KJ Jefferson and the Arkansas offensive unit, limiting them to just 200 yards of total offense.
Watson was the ring leader of the group, leading the way with 14 total tackles, including five solo stops and two sacks. He flew around the field and kept Jefferson in his sights all game long.
Linebacker: Nickolas Martin, Oklahoma State
In a 17-tackle outing, Nickolas Martin was truly all over the field. Martin recorded 17 total tackles, 10 solo stops, and 1.5 tackles for loss. Impressive enough in the open field, Martin’s physical game kept catching the Mountaineers off guard.
Martin was dominant in space and perhaps even better in coverage of the short area of the field.
Cornerback: Elijah Jones, Boston College
While his teammate Amari Jackson ripped off perhaps the interception of the week, it was Elijah Jones who had the more dominant showing against Georgia Tech. The Boston College cornerback intercepted two passes against the Yellow Jackets, locking down his side of the field all game long.
Jones’ most impressive play came when his vision in the backfield on Haynes King was evident, allowing him to step in front of a route at the exact right moment, flashing his instincts and athleticism all at the same time.
Cornerback: Eddie Heckard, BYU
There was a bit of boom-or-bust in Eddie Heckard on Saturday night against Texas Tech, but his boom plays were truly special. Heckard scooped up the BYU Cougars‘ first fumble recovery for a touchdown since 2018, a play that pushed the lead to 14-0, and they didn’t look back.
Heckard also grabbed an interception and was — for the most part — locked down in coverage against the Red Raiders.
Cornerback: Mike Sainristil, Michigan
It’s amazing to watch the growth of Mike Sainristil every week for Michigan and Week 8 was no different. The talented — former wide receiver — cornerback gave up very little all game and proved to be too much if he was targeted.
Sainristil nabbed a pick and scooted up the field for a 72-yard pick six for a touchdown, showcasing his instincts, reaction ability, and ultimately his athleticism and speed on the return.
Safety: Shawn Preston Jr., Mississippi State
Playing safety about as good as you can, Shawn Preston Jr. was integral in the Bulldogs’ ability to limit Arkansas to under 100 yards through the air. Preston picked off KJ Jefferson, covering a ton of ground on the interception as well as all game long.
In the end, Preston finished the showing with three total tackles, his interception, and an impressive tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Safety: Jaylon Carlies, Missouri
The Missouri offense dominated on Saturday against South Carolina, but they were almost all but outdone on the field by their own safety, Jaylon Carlies. JC came up huge on multiple drives, including a drive-ending interception that all but put it away for the Tigers.
Carlies skied high for the pick and was solid all game long at patrolling the middle of the field. He pulled down a team-high seven total tackles to go with his pick and multiple forced incompletions.
Flex: Dallas Gant, Toledo
You name it, Dallas Gant did it. Need a big-time sack in a huge situation? Gant made it against Miami. Want a takeaway? Gant grabbed a pick. Have to have a stop? Gant most likely made the play.
In the end, it was Gant’s world on defense, and the RedHawks lived in it. He pulled down five solo tackles, a sack, and an interception as he flew all over the field for Toledo with accuracy and precision in a pivotal MAC win.
Kicker: Jose Pizano, UNLV
On a perfect night from the field, Jose Pizano got some nominations for president from the UNLV Rebel faithful. Pizano knocked home all seven of his kick attempts in a dramatic victory over Colorado State, including a game-winner.
With an extra point in hand, Pizano hit field goals of 25, 28, 34, 42, 43, and 46 yards. The 28-yarder was the game-winner, and he scored 19 points by himself on the night.
Punter: Ryan Hanson, JMU
Perhaps the finest punting performance we’ve seen all season long, Ryan Hanson put on a clinic on Thursday. James Madison’s punter booted the ball seven times, consistently putting Marshall on their heels.
All seven of his punts landed inside the Marshall 20-yard line, including two that were downed at the one. It was the kind of performance that legends are made of.
Kick Returner: Deuce Spann, Florida State
It was imperative for the Florida State Seminoles to get a boost at some point after falling down 10 points to Duke, and they didn’t have to wait long. Just seconds after falling down 10 to Duke, it was Deuce Spann who took the ensuing kickoff at his one 1-yard line and made a couple of moves before he took it the distance by outrunning the Blue Devils’ coverage unit.
Spann needed one touch to swing momentum, and Duke didn’t score again.
Punt Returner: Zachariah Branch, USC
Nearly icing the game for USC (had their defense not been the biggest letdown), Zachariah Branch flashed his elite ability with the ball in his hands on a couple of occasions against Utah. His 61-yard punt return with under two minutes to play set up USC for the go-ahead score as he nearly took it the distance himself.
Branch had a total of 152 total return yards against Utah.
Week 8 College Football Team of the Week | Second Team
- QB: J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
- RB: Carson Steele, UCLA
- RB: Terion Stewart, Bowling Green
- WR: Brian Thomas Jr., LSU
- WR: Malik Nabers, LSU
- WR: Nic Anderson, Oklahoma
- TE: Alex Bauman, Tulane
- FLEX: Sam Wigslusz, Ohio
- OT: Hyrin White, SMU
- G: Marcus Harper II, Oregon
- C: Sincere Haynesworth, Tulane
- G: Preston Wilson, Oklahoma State
- OT: Ajani Cornelius, Oregon
- EDGE: Rueben Bain Jr., Miami (FL)
- DT: Jaylon Bass, Buffalo
- DT: Jamree Kromah, JMU
- EDGE: Matayo Uiagalelei, Oregon
- LB: Aiden Fisher, JMU
- LB: Bo Richter, Air Force
- LB: Marques Watson-Trent, Georgia Southern
- DB: Malik Feaster, Memphis
- DB: Jermarius Lewis, New Mexico
- DB: André Sam, LSU
- DB: Mishael Powell, Washington
- DB: Calen Bullock, USC
- FLEX: Amari Jackson, Boston College
- K: Isaiah Hankins, Baylor
- P: John McConnell, Marshall
- KR: Mikey Matthews, Utah
- PR: Cooper DeJean, Iowa
Week 8 College Football Team of the Week | Third Team
- QB: Bryson Barnes, Utah
- RB: Cody Schrader, Missouri
- RB: Nay’Quan Wright, USF
- WR: Devontez Walker, North Carolina
- WR: Squirrel White, Tennessee
- WR: Tez Johnson, Oregon
- TE: Anthony Torres, Toledo
- FLEX: Kye Robichaux, Boston College
- OT: Ethan Onianwa, Rice
- G: Xavier Delgado, Missouri
- C: Canaan Yarro, New Mexico State
- G: Keylan Rutledge, Middle Tennessee
- OT: Cameron Wire, Tulane
- EDGE: Trey Moore, UTSA
- DT: Elijah Chatman, SMU
- DT: Leonard Taylor III, Miami (FL)
- EDGE: J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State
- LB: Darren Anders, Bowling Green
- LB: Desmond Purnell, Kansas State
- LB: Jason Henderson, ODU
- DB: D’Angelo Ponds, JMU
- DB: Tyrell Raby, Middle Tennessee
- DB: Jalen Huskey, Bowling Green
- DB: Zamari Walton, Ole Miss
- DB: John Saunders Jr., Ole Miss
- DB: Cole Bishop, Utah
- FLEX: Jordan Pollard, San Jose State
- K: Will Reichard, Alabama
- P: Carson Bay, Air Force
- KR: Christian Leary, Georgia Tech
- PR: Myles Price, Texas Tech
Week 8 College Football Team of the Week | Honorable Mention
- QB: Will Howard/Avery Johnson, Kansas State
- RB: Quinton Cooley, Liberty
- RB: Jalen White, Georgia Southern
- WR: Lincoln Victor, Washington State
- WR: Kenneth Womack, Western Michigan
- WR: Darius Lassiter, BYU
- TE: Dallin Holker, Colorado State
- FLEX: Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss
- OT: Cole Birmingham, Oklahoma State
- G: Cam’Ron Johnson, Missouir
- C: Branson Hickman, SMU
- G: Carter Miller, JMU
- OT: Javon Foster, Missouri
- EDGE: Cedric Johnson, Ole Miss
- DT: Fabien Lovett, Florida State
- DT: Braden Fiske, Florida State
- EDGE: Byron Vaughns, Baylor
- LB: Buddha Peleti, New Mexico State
- LB: Cashius Howell, Bowling Green
- LB: Nate Johnson, App State
- DB: A.J. Woods, Pittsburgh
- DB: Chandler Rivers, Duke
- DB: Gabriel Taylor, Rice
- DB: Tyler Nubin, Minnesota
- DB: Tyrell Davis, Georgia Southern
- FLEX: Sidney Houston Jr., Ball State
- K: Ethan Sanchez, ODU
- P: Jesse Mirco, Ohio State
- KR: Xzavier Henderson, Cincinnati
- PR: Zahir Abdus-Salaam, Western Michigan