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Saturday rundown: Takeaways from Week 8's top games

theScore logo theScore 10/25/2020 Dane Belbeck
a football player wearing a helmet © David Berding / Getty Images Sport / Getty

theScore runs down the top storylines and developments from Saturday's college football games, and what it all might mean moving forward.

Michigan's ground game rolls Minnesota

A return to bruising, ground-and-pound football appears to be in the cards for Michigan in 2020. A year after fielding the Big Ten's eighth-ranked rushing attack, Jim Harbaugh's outfit exploded for 258 yards on a gaudy 8.6 yards-per-carry average in a 49-24 blowout win over No. 21 Minnesota on Saturday.

It was a running attack by committee, with Hassan Haskins, Zach Charbonnet, and Chris Evans all finding the end zone. Quarterback Joe Milton also added a rushing touchdown to a very efficient passing performance and proved the Wolverines can grab chunk yards through the air as well.

Don Brown's defense looks as strong as ever, and if Michigan's offense keeps rolling at the same level as Saturday, the Wolverines can certainly threaten Ohio State in the Big Ten East.

Alabama's win comes with high cost

Alabama once again blew an opponent off the field Saturday, but it came at a massive cost. Star receiver Jaylen Waddle was lost for the season due to an ankle injury suffered on the opening kickoff of the 48-17 win over Tennessee. Not only is Waddle's injury a major loss, but it's tough to find a more entertaining player in the country.

While Waddle's absence will certainly affect the offense, Steve Sarkisian's outfit remains stacked with weapons to continue assaulting scoreboards across the SEC. The offense has now scored 35 or more points in 18 straight games, the longest streak in the history of the AP poll.

Najee Harris is more than ready to shoulder the load, as the star running back added three more touchdowns to his tally on the year. DeVonta Smith and John Metchie have been borderline unstoppable all season, and the pair combined with Slade Bolden to catch 20 passes for 318 yards on Saturday.

It might be tougher sledding without Waddle, but Alabama showed no signs of slowing down without its star receiver.

Oklahoma State makes Big 12 statement

Oklahoma State's schedule hasn't exactly been a murderers' row thus far, but the team showed it's the class of the Big 12 on Saturday versus Iowa State. The Cowboys' stifling defense - highlighted by Kolby Harvell-Peel's remarkable interception - absolutely shut down the Cyclones' high-powered offense.

Spencer Sanders' return to the starting lineup provided a spark, as the star quarterback threw for 235 yards and a score while also adding 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His addition to the dynamic duo of Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard makes it clear that the Big 12 will go through Stillwater this season.

Notre Dame no longer a quiet No. 3

Has there ever been a quieter No. 3 team in the country than Notre Dame? After a less-than-convincing 12-7 win over Louisville last week cast some doubt over the Fighting Irish, Brian Kelly's outfit made a statement on Saturday versus Pitt. Notre Dame absolutely thumped the Panthers 45-3 to improve to 5-0 on the season.

The Fighting Irish defense continued its incredibly strong play this season, holding the Panthers to just 162 total yards on the day, including just 118 yards passing. The offense finally showed some life after a tough outing last week, with Ian Book throwing for 312 yards and three scores.

While Georgia Tech might not be a blockbuster matchup, a home date with No. 1 Clemson looms on Nov. 7. Saturday's outing at least gave us signs we should expect a close one in that contest.

Justin Fields somehow got better

a football player wearing a helmet: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Jamie Sabau / Getty Images Sport / Getty

With a number of significant contributors departing for the NFL, Ohio State is likely in for some early growing pains. But one spot the Buckeyes absolutely don't have to worry about is at quarterback.

Justin Fields picked up where he left off last season in the Big Ten opener, completing an absurd 20-of-21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in a 52-17 beatdown of Nebraska. He also added 54 yards and score on the ground. Other than their 103 yards rushing, Fields had a hand in all of the Buckeyes' total yards on offense when he left the game with a healthy lead in the fourth quarter.

The Big Ten started its season well after the Big 12, SEC, and ACC, so Fields has ground to make up in the Heisman race. Saturday's effort showed he's more than up for the challenge. As a team, the Buckeyes served notice that the Big Ten will continue to run through Columbus this season.

Schiano snaps Rutgers' streak

It took Greg Schiano exactly one game to make a significant impact in his return to Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights head coach saw his team force a whopping six turnovers in a 38-27 shocker over Michigan State. The win is Rutgers' first in Big Ten play since Nov. 4, 2017, a stretch in which the program compiled 21 straight conference losses.

After scoring a total of 51 points in Big Ten play last season, the Scarlet Knights used their swarming defense to generate offense against the Spartans.

Schiano left Rutgers in 2011 after orchestrating one of the most impressive runs in school history, and the Scarlet Knights won a total of 13 games in five campaigns before rehiring the veteran coach this offseason. If Saturday was any indication, Rutgers' return to relevance is already in full swing.

Oklahoma rises

Rumors of Oklahoma's demise may have been greatly exaggerated. The Sooners opened Big 12 play with two straight losses, but they rebounded with a rivalry win over Texas before easily handling TCU on Saturday.

Lincoln Riley instituted the big-play offense against the Horned Frogs, with Spencer Rattler averaging an incredible 15.1 yards per pass. The redshirt freshman quarterback only completed 13 passes, yet he piled up 332 yards through the air with two scores.

While the offensive production was impressive, it was the performance of the struggling defense that stood out. The Sooners stifled the TCU attack, holding their opponents to just 14 points and 351 yards of total offense. If Alex Grinch can get this type of showing from the previously embattled unit on a regular basis, the Sooners will almost certainly hold a 5-2 conference record entering the Bedlam Game against Oklahoma State on Nov. 21.

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