It's Thursday and you know what that means: It's time to make our Week 8 College Football Picks! And while I say it every week, I cannot believe we're already in Week 8 of the season.
Seriously it really didn't strike me how fast this season was going by until I went ahead and looked at the schedule: No. Georgia. No Michigan. No. USC. No. Florida. No. Utah. No Kentucky. No Arkansas. No Auburn. Basically, everyone has either taken their bye, or will take it next week, meaning that we really are about to hit the homestretch of the season.
Still, even if many of the best teams are off and we condescended slate of games, the show must go on.
Before we get started, as I've told you before, make sure to check out the College Football Betting Podcast, which you can subscribe to and listen to below. I truly believe that it's the best college football betting information out there.
Also, as always, the picks are presented by Betfred Sportsbook. New users can bet $50 on any game this weekend and automatically be entered to win $250 in free bets courtesy of Betfred.
Now, to the picks.
No. 14 Syracuse (+13.5) at No. 5 Clemson: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Quick question: When I say "Syracuse football" what do you think of?
To a certain generation, I'm sure many of you think of Donovan McNabb, Dwight Freeney (who is from the next town over from where I grew up, no big deal) and Marvin Harrison (senior, not junior) lighting up the Carrier Dome.
To the rest of you, you think of... well...
Yeah, my point exactly.
It's been a long time since Syracuse has been this good, this late in the season, and this Orange team has done it in kind of a surprise way: Dino Babers came to Syracuse years ago as one of the bright offensive minds in the game, but this Syracuse team has done with balance on offense and a defense that is, dare I say, really good?
Did you know that Syracuse currently ranks in the Top 15 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass defense?
Like, wait... WHAT?!
And while there clearly is a talent disparity between the two programs, I do like the Orange to keep things close on Saturday. While Clemson is playing great ball right now, it's worth noting that this will be the best defense they've seen all season, and their offense hasn't exactly been lighting teams up. They were actually outgained by Florida State last Saturday, even in a win.
Add in that this is a noon ET kick-off, and Clemson heads into a bye after this game, and this feels like the perfect spot for the Orange to keep things close.
No. 9 UCLA (+6 and UNDER 69.5) at No. 10 Oregon: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
I know there's a big population of the college football viewing public who truly believes that no good football is played West of the SEC footprint.
Some years I'd agree with you. This is not one, and I truly believe both of these teams have earned their Top 10 rankings coming into this one. UCLA is of course coming off beating back-to-back ranked teams at home (Washington and Utah) while Oregon is 5-0 since getting walloped by Georgia to open the season. To their credit (or maybe the credit of the Georgia defense), the Ducks have averaged 49.8 points per game since that Georgia loss.
Add it all up, and it should be the Game of the Weekend, and I'm going to go with Chip Kelly's UCLA Bruins here.
Look, I know UCLA has no national presence nationally, based on the fact that they:
Play second fiddle in their own city
Play in a stadium an hour from campus that is only filled when the opposing team brings a lot of fans
Has a coach that is allergic to any type of media responsibility or trying to create interest in his team outside of the mandatory stuff
At the same time, UCLA is legitimately good, and what I think a lot of people ignore is that they do it on both sides of the ball. Yes, the offense is awesome (they are currently putting up 500+ yards a game), but what I think a lot of people fail to realize is that they also have one of the top run defenses in college football as well.
Again, they're tough and physical on both sides of the ball.
So is Oregon, as again, despite the loss to Georgia still rank in the Top 15 nationally in both run offense and run defense.
Here's my thing though, is the offense that good? Or have they just played bad defenses.
For fun, I decided to look it up, and so far the Ducks - who lead the Pac-12 in rush offense per game - have played six games. Taking out the Georgia game and an FCS opponent, the Ducks have faced the 114th ranked run defense (BYU), the 119th ranked run defense (Stanford) and the 121st ranked run defense (Arizona) nationally.
Now, did Oregon's run offense have something to do with those numbers? Maybe.
But outside of Georgia, this is the best run defense they'll see all year.
I expect a low-scoring (relative to expectations) slugfest, with the UNDER of 69.5 being my second best of the week (best bet coming).
In terms of a final score, let's say something like UCLA 31, Oregon 21
BEST BET: No. 7 Ole Miss at LSU (-1.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
I hate to brag, it's really not my style.
Buuuuuuuuuut, did you see how I basically nailed that LSU-Florida game last week. Despite Florida coming in as a slight home favorite, I told you to back the Tigers. They are a far from perfect football team (nor should they be perfect in Year 1 of a rebuild for Brian Kelly) but they were the better team, and the right side last Saturday.
And I'm telling you to take them again here.
One, the betting markets are telling you too; Ole Miss actually opened as a 1.5 point favorite here, only for all the money to come in on LSU.
But beyond that, what do we really know about Ole Miss? The Rebels under Lane Kiffin are a great team and a great story at 7-0. What's also worth noting is two things:
They have played five of their seven games at home this season. Their only road games were at Vanderbilt and at Georgia Tech, not exactly the most overwhelming road venues, especially compared to what Tiger Stadium will be Saturday
In their two biggest games of the season to date, they probably should've lost to Kentucky (the Wildcats missed two extra points and a 39-yard field goal, with two bad fumbles late) and gave up over 300 yards on the ground last week to Auburn.
Point being, I'm not quite sure how good Ole Miss is at this point, and whatever you think of LSU, you can't deny they're battle-tested. They've already played two Top 25 teams at home (Tennessee and Mississippi State), played at Auburn and Florida, with a game against Florida State on a neutral.
LSU wins here to improve to 6-2, after going 6-6 a season ago.
No. 20 Texas (-6.5) at No. 11 Oklahoma State: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
One, it kinda sucks that arguably the three best games of the week - Ole Miss-LSU, UCLA-Oregon and this one - are all on at the same time. After a week where we got Penn State-Michigan, Alabama-Tennessee and USC-Utah in three distinct windows, this is a little bit of a buzz kill.
Two, like Ole Miss-LSU above, all the money has come pouring in on Texas this week - and honestly it's with good reason.
Now I know, the natural inclination is to stay away from Texas here. It's Texas. They're on the road. As heavy favorites against an always underrated Oklahoma State team. I get what you're thinking.
I also know this: I'm not sure this is the year Oklahoma State is actually underrated.
Did you know that they currently rank 126th nationally in pass defense, which is by far the worst in the Big 12. This, one year after ranking second in the league in the same category? Or, sitting at 5-1 overall coming into this game, they've actually been outgained by their last three opponents?
They were able to go 2-1 in those games, but I'm not sure they have the same luck against Texas here.
I like the Longhorns to win comfortably on the road.
Texas A&M (-3) at South Carolina: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
On the one hand, we don't know who's starting at quarterback for Texas A&M in this game, which concerns me. On the other hand, there's the likelihood that Haynes King is the starter, which concerns me even more.
If you've listened to the Aaron Torres Pod at all, you know that yeah, umm, your boy isn't much of a fan.
But putting aside the fact that I despise A&M's likely starter, who will go into a hostile road environment at night, I do still like A&M here.
One, the Aggies have owned South Carolina in this series, winning the last three games 44-14, 48-3 and 30-16.
Secondly, outside of quarterback play, I think we'd all agree that A&M's second biggest problem the last few years has been pretty straight-forward: They play up and down to the level of their competition. This is a team that was absolutely attrocious against Appalachian State only to bounce back and beat Miami and Arkansas in back-to-back weeks. Then got destroyed by Mississippi State, yet played Alabama down to the wire.
Well, I'd think, that off of a bye, motivation shouldn't be a concern.
Finally, umm, what do we know about South Carolina? Think about their schedule: They got destroyed by Georgia (understandable) and destroyed by Arkansas. Their best win was at Kentucky when the Wildcats didn't have Will Levis, and their other wins are against Georgia State, South Carolina State and Charlotte.
By the way, if I gave you a quick pop quiz and said "Take a wild guess what Spencer Rattler's touchdown-to-interception rate is this year" what would be your guess?
Go ahead, guess...
No seriously, I dare you...
In other words, he's thrown five touchdowns, compared to eight interceptions.
Maybe Jimbo Fisher pulls a classic Jimbo Fisher.
But I think the Aggies pick up the win here.
Iowa at No. 2 Ohio State (-29): Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FOX: Ohio State is probably the right side, but I could see Iowa yucking it up just enough, forcing a pick six and winning something like 31-7 and blowing the cover.
No. 24 Mississippi State at No. 8 Alabama: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: I truly believe Alabama is on the brink, as a team, of collapse this season. Something just isn't right. I also know that I backed Mississippi State at home last year immediately after Alabama lost to Texas A&M - and the Tide won 47-7. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...
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