It's Thursday, and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football picks.
First off, I want to apologize for the delay. It's been a crazy week, and I'm battling a little bit of a cold. This article is basically my "MJ flu game" - I'm not positive I'm going to make it through this, but I'm going to do my best to pump myself full of fluids, type with one eye open and hand out winners. It's especially important this week, as for the first time all season, I'm coming off a losing week. That's the bad news. The good news however is I'm still hitting at over 60 percent on the year, and have had five winning weeks out of six so far this season.
Take that for data!
So with that said, let's get to this week's picks, with a caveat: Over the last few weeks I think I've gotten a bit too cute, trying to pick all the big games, rather than going with my gut, and going with the games I really believe in. Therefore, this week I am largely staying away from the big games, the Alabama-Tennessee's, Nebraska-Ohio State's and Michigan-Minnesota's. If you want to go ahead and bet them, that is totally your call. I'm just going to be staying away.
I'd also add that this a week where there have been crazy line swings unlike anything I've ever seen. I loved the Notre Dame-Pitt UNDER when it opened at 50.5 - but now it's down to 43 and I'm staying away. I also loved the Ole Miss-Auburn OVER at 65.5 - but now it's up to 70.5 and is also a stay away. Point being, the lines moved wildly this week, and we've had to adjust the picks accordingly.
Anyway, enough small talk and let's get to the picks. As always, remember: If you're gambling this weekend - even if you're doing it to fade my picks - do it with our friends at MyBookie. Go to MyBookie and use the promo code "TORRES" and MyBookie will automatically double your deposit. So, you want to put down $50 on Alabama to crush Tennessee, MyBookie will give you $100 to play with.
Now, here are the Week 8 picks, and welcome back, Big Ten!
Illinois at No. 14 Wisconsin (UNDER 51): Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
It's the first game of the Big Ten season, baby!! And along with apple pie and fireworks on the fourth of July, what's more American than betting the UNDER in Big Ten games!!!
Not much, let me tell ya.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!!!
All joking aside, the UNDER seems like the play here. Never forget that last season, Wisconsin - for at least a half a season anyway - was closing in on a historic season defensively, with four shutouts in their first six games. They couldn't quite keep up the same production from there, but still managed to finish fourth nationally in total defense, and - if you take out their two games against Ohio State - gave up just 13 points per game.
Well, that same defense has nine starters back and will play with a chip on its shoulder Friday night - mainly because the Badgers lost at Illinois last year, in one of the most shocking results of the season. Not to mention that the Badgers will also probably play it close to the vest offensively, with a back-up quarterback after Jack Coan went out with injury a few weeks ago and their two best offensive weapons from a season ago (running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Quintez Cephus) are now in the NFL.
It isn't sexy, but the UNDER is the play here.
Welcome back, Big Ten.
Kansas at Kansas State (-20) (UNDER 48.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FS1
I mentioned up top that - for some reason - there was crazy line movement the likes of which I had never seen in one week, and it kept me from betting a bunch of games. That was nearly the case with this game, which opened at 53.5 and was bet all the way down to 48.5.
Maybe this means that I should get out these picks earlier in the week (or at least do an article on early, look ahead lines) but the fact remains that all the movement scared me away on most of these games - just not this one. If anything, it's the perfect storm for an UNDER to hit.
On Kansas's side, well, a bad season somehow got way worse, with the news that star running back Pooka Williams was opting out of the season and returning home to Louisiana. It's not as though the Jayhawks were exactly dynamic to begin with when they had Williams - as they rank dead last in the Big 12 in scoring at just 15 points per game. That's nearly two touchdowns worse than the next worse offense in this league (TCU).
Now normally, I'd be worried that even without Williams, the Kansas defense would do enough to give up this UNDER all by themselves - but I'm just not sure. Remember, Kansas State will be playing its first game since announcing that starting quarterback Skylar Thompson is out for the season with a collarbone injury.
My guess is that Chris Klieman wants to keep the ball on the ground, control tempo and get out with a win and not do anything crazy.
Still, this might be the last chance you get to get anyone against Kansas at under three touchdowns.
So I like Kansas State to cover the 20 points, and for the UNDER to still hit. 31-7 feels like the right final score to me.
Georgia Southern (+6) at No. 25 Coastal Carolina: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Quick show of hands: Who's got Chanticleer fever?
Can't lie, "Chanticleer Fever" sounds like something that our great grandparents died of in the 1800's, but it's a real thing after Coastal Carolina moved up into the Top 25 for the first time ever this week following their victory over Louisiana. Congrats on the school, their players and alums on the feat.
Still, you know what the absolute worst thing that could happen is when your team is riding high and coming off the biggest week in program history: Play a solid, triple option team that is going to chew up clock and make you play disciplined defense for long, drawn out, extensive drives.
Seriously, to me this is just a really bad spot for Coastal Carolina. First off, it's not as though they are great against the run to begin with, as they rank 59th out of 77 teams that have played so fun in yards per carry allowed.
Now they have to go against a solid, 3-1 Georgia Southern team, that - as mentioned above - controls the clock (they are No. 1 nationally in time of possession), chews up big yards and keeps the ball away from your offense?
And because of it, I like Georgia Southern to potentially pull off the upset here. Take them to cover, and don't be afraid to throw a little bit on the money line as well.
Florida State at Louisville (-5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3
So I can't lie, we've got a loaded Saturday, noon card, full of games that no one would otherwise care about. But again, I'm trying to pick the sexiest games of the weekend. I'm trying to pick winners, dammit!!!
And with that, I present you Florida State-Louisville.
Look, I'll be honest: I think we can all agree, Florida State is an awesome story after they upset North Carolina last week.
The thing is though, if you dig deeper, you realize that the win - as great as it was - was really, kind of fluky. Remember, in that game Florida State didn't score a single second half point and gave up a staggering 558 yards to North Carolina, and still somehow managed to win the game.
Like what? How does that even happen?
Then on the flip side, there is Louisville.
Look, of all my bad bets last weekend, taking the Cards OVER versus Notre Dame was the worst. At the same time, it allowed me to watch that game closely and realize that Louisville really isn't as bad as you think. The defense has come along nicely in the last few weeks, and you'd have to think the offense will bounce back after a subpar performance against Notre Dame. They have been able to move the ball against everyone other than Notre Dame, so in theory the Cards should be able to do it against an FSU team that's given up 550+ yards in back-to-back weeks.
Add in the fact that Louisville is back at home for the first time in over a month, and I think they have some added juice. I like the Cards here.
Florida Atlantic at No. 22 Marshall (-17): Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Like Coastal Carolina, Marshall is ranked for the first time in a long time (by technically they've been in the polls for two weeks). Unlike Coastal Carolina, I don't expect them to falter here.
First off, even if Marshall were to have a let down, they - like Louisville - are returning home for the first time in a month. The juice of playing in front of their own fans should give them a little boost. Secondly, I just love this matchup against Florida Atlantic.
On the one hand, you have a Marshall club that's just playing some really balanced football right now. They rank No. 3 nationally in total defense (really No. 2, since Air Force is ahead of them but has only played one game) and No. 24 nationally in total offense. They also take care of the ball, as they sit tied nationally for ninth in the country in turnover margin.
Then there is Florida Atlantic, which unfortunately is on the wrong side of this Covid-19 pandemic. In total, the Owls have played just one game all season because of positive tests, and that came three weeks ago. They had to postpone last week because of positives and you'd have to think because of it, there is a possibility that some of their players won't be available Saturday. Even in the game they played - a win over Charlotte - the Owls were actually outgained, and still found a way to win.
There is really nothing more to say other than that I love Marshall here.
No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU (-2.5): Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Listen, I could spend a ton of time fake breaking down the X's and O's here and trying to explain a bunch of different random things, but let me put it to you in the simplest way I can: To me, this game has the feel of a small school, Group of 5 Georgia-Bama game.
What do I mean by that? It's that simply, Cincinnati is an excellent team. They are phenomenal defensively, and currently rank in the Top 12 nationally in both scoring defense and total defense. They really are superb, and will probably be able to hold SMU in check for most of the game.
The problem to me however is their offense - and the fact that it simply isn't all that explosive. Here is what they have done in their games against FBS opponents this season: They put up 24 points against Army, and one of their touchdowns came on a scoop and score by their defense. And they put up 28 against a USF team that has given up at least 39 points against all three FBS opponents they played this season.
Yes, I believe that Cincinnati can keep SMU in check for a half, or maybe even three quarters. But at some point, SMU is going to break one or two big plays, and I'm not sure that the Bearcats will be able to keep up.
I'm rolling with the Ponies in this one.
Syracuse at No. 1 Clemson (-46), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network: You can sweat out a Syracuse drive, late in the fourth quarter, against Clemson's back-ups with the Tigers up 51-3, but I'm not going to do it. Nope, not this weekend. No thank you.
Nebraska at No. 5 Ohio State (-26.5), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX: Look, Ohio State is going to win this game. That's not the debate. The debate is, is Adrian Martinez good enough to put up at least 1-2 scores against a revamped Ohio State defense (which brings back just three starters), to cover the nearly four-touchdown spread? Put simply, I don't want to put my money on Martinez. There will be better spots to play Ohio State than right here.
Auburn (-3.5) at Ole Miss, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: I loved the over/under in this game when it opened at 65.5 but now that it's passed 70 I just can't talk myself into taking it. My lean would be Ole Miss plus the points at home, but am I really going to bet it? No thank you.
No. 2 Alabama (-21.5) at Tennessee, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: One of the things I try to do when evaluating games is to not get too overwhelmed by what happened most recently and look at the big picture of a team for the entire season. Well, as easy as it is to forget after the debacle against Kentucky, Tennessee actually had a lead at halftime against Georgia just two weeks ago. With Alabama wanting to get its back-ups some reps, could I see a scenario where Alabama still wins, but Tennessee covers the points, say with like a 38-20 final score. Yes, I could.
Kentucky (-5.5) at Missouri, Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Missouri wants to throw the ball all over the park, but can't play defense. Kentucky wants to run the ball all day and can play defense. Good luck trying to handicap this game. I could see Kentucky winning 24-7, or Missouri scoring a late touchdown to make it something like 24-20. Again, there are better spots than this one.
South Carolina at LSU (-6), Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: I actually liked LSU here until we found out that starting quarterback Myles Brennan would be out with an injury. Considering I can't even tell you who LSU's backup is, and considering well, have you seen LSU's defense... I'll just stay away.
No. 18 Michigan (-3) at No. 21 Minnesota, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Betting Michigan, as a road favorite in primetime just feels like you're asking for trouble. Then again, even PJ Fleck admitted this week that the talent gap between the two programs was massive. Part of it might be gamesmanship, but at the end of the day, he's still right. Since I know many of you will want to bet this, I'd lean Minnesota. But I'll just sit this one out and enjoy it on Saturday night.
Remember, if you're going to wager on these games or any others, make sure to use MyBookie. Put in the promo code "TORRES" at checkout, and you automatically receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.