- Todd McShay, Scouts Inc.
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The opportunity is there every week. Some players seize it; others let it slide away. Here's a look at the players who shined or slipped in Week 8:
1. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell
Harrell somehow appeared unfazed heading into the biggest game in Texas Tech football history. It was business as usual, even with the No. 1 Texas Longhorns in town for a prime-time showdown, and the senior triggerman in Mike Leach's wide-open attack was dialed in from the start. His offensive line, which entered the contest with the nation's best sack-per-pass-attempt ratio, exceeded expectations with a stifling performance versus the Texas pass rush. Harrell repaid the favor by systematically dissecting the Longhorns secondary to the tune of 474 yards and two touchdowns.
Sure, Harrell had some miscues along the way. He took a bad 16-yard sack that eventually led to a blocked 42-yard field goal attempt. Texas defenders dropped what should have been two sure interceptions, including one on the game's final drive that went through the hands of safety Blake Gideon. But Harrell's confidence never wavered.
With Tech trailing by a point with eight seconds remaining, Harrell gathered the snap, looked off the deep safety with an initial glance to his left and then perfectly placed a throw to the outside shoulder of WR Michael Crabtree on a fade-to-comeback route. A determined catch and some nifty footwork by Crabtree put the finishing touches on a 28-yard touchdown that Red Raider fans will never forget. Simply put, Harrell delivered the most poised big-game performance that college football has seen thus far in 2008. It instantly legitimized Texas Tech as a national title contender and Harrell as a Heisman contender.
2. Florida QB Tim Tebow and WR Percy Harvin
A resurgence on offense makes Florida the most dangerous team in the country right now. The speed of freshmen RBs Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey has ignited the running game, which in turn is opening up a lot more room for Harvin and his fellow wideouts to operate. Rather than trying to carry the offense, Tebow is simply taking what the defense gives him, and the result is a balanced attack that is averaging 50.3 points in its past four outings.
Saturday's beatdown of then-No. 6 Georgia was the most impressive to date. Tebow completed 10 of 13 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Harvin was on the receiving end of three of those completions, including a 25-yard score, and the two also combined for 76 rushing yards and four scores on the ground in the 49-10 rout.
1. QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
What promised to be a showcase of two surging offenses proved to be nothing more than a nightmare for Stafford and the Bulldogs. Florida LB Brandon Spikes set the early tone with a bone-jarring hit on RB Knowshon Moreno. Once it became clear that Georgia would not be able to run on the Gators, all the pressure fell on Stafford's shoulders, but the hard-throwing junior simply was not up to the challenge.
In his defense, Stafford received poor pass protection in what quickly became a one-dimensional offense. However, he made too many hasty decisions, and his accuracy suffered due to inconsistent footwork. The result was a three-interception showing in a demoralizing loss at the hands of a hated SEC East rival.
2. The Texas offensive and defensive lines
The most surprising aspect of Saturday night's upset in Lubbock -- at least from my vantage point -- was Texas Tech's dominance in the trenches. The massive Longhorns offensive line was overwhelmed by the quickness and relentless nature of Tech's defensive front. Texas QB Colt McCoy was sacked three times, took several more big hits and never settled into a rhythm. The Texas defensive front was missing in action as well. The experienced Red Raiders offensive line provided Harrell with Secret Service-like protection. He was rarely hurried to get the ball out of his hands, and that was a luxury no other quarterback has had this season against the Texas pass-rushing tandem of Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN Insider. Listen to Todd McShay break down the biggest games and give you all the scores on "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. ET. He also is a frequent contributor to ESPNU.
Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Florida's Tim Tebow are rising, but things are not as good for Matt Stafford. Todd McShay has that and more in his Week 10 Stock Report.