Week 8 College Football Picks - thoughts on Oregon-UCLA, LSU-Ole Miss and Clemson as an underdog?
It's Wednesday and you know what that means, it's time to make some college football picks.
And with that, I've got some good and some bad news.
The bad news is, last week I hated the board, and it showed in our final results - as I went 1-4 on a truncated card. Mark Stoops calling a timeout with four seconds left to get the cover was probably a good sign of the day to come, and it never really got better from there.
The good news is however this: As much as I hated last week's board, I love this week's. I feel like I just got Lasik and have never seen more clearly, and so with that, let's get into the Week 8 picks.
Quick reminder that today's picks are presented by our partners at DraftKings Sportsbook. Check below for an incredible offer from DraftKings on the start of the NBA season.
Also, a reminder, the College Football Betting show continues to roll. New episodes go out every Monday and Thursday, and the numbers have gone up each week. And I cannot thank you all enough for the support, and if you've never listened, now is a great time. The goal is to never hand out picks - but instead to simply make you the smartest gambler out there.
Now, it's time for the Week 8 picks:
Illinois at No. 7 Penn State (UNDER 46.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
It's almost November, the leaves are turning, and what better way to say, "Fall, is in the air!" then with a slow, boring, low-scoring Big Ten game at noon eastern time.
Nothing, I say, nothing!
And that's exactly what we'll get Saturday in Happy Valley.
For Penn State, James Franklin is being awfully coy on who will play quarterback for Saturday, but right now it doesn't sound like starter Sean Clifford - who got hurt in the Iowa game - will play. And even if Clifford does play, you'd think he'd be limited in what Penn State lets him do. You'd also think they get him out early with Ohio State next week.
As a matter of fact, that feels like Penn State's entire game-plan this week: Get up, pull the starters, put nothing valuable on tape and get ready for Ohio State next week.
Then there is Illinois, and while we all remember the Illini taking care of Nebraska in Week 0, here is what they have done since: They have gone 1-5, with their sole win coming against Charlotte. Against Power 5 competition, they have scored 14 points (Virginia), 17 (Maryland), nine (Purdue) and zero (Wisconsin).
Don't expect that to change going up against a Penn State defense which ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense this season.
Again, Penn State will keep things close to the vest and Illinois will struggle to move the ball.
This game screams "24-3 Penn State win that literally puts you to sleep on the couch" all over it.
Wisconsin at No. 24 Purdue (+3): Saturday, 3:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
I'm just going to throw it out there: When I saw this line, I was absolutely stunned. I know Wisconsin is the bigger "brand" name, and I'm sure there's some weird advanced metric that explains why they're favored.
Sometimes you've got to stop looking some number to justify your line, and stick with what your eyes tell you. And our eyes tell us this: Wisconsin is just not very good. And Purdue is getting better every week.
At this point we know who Wisconsin is - an elite run defense, that struggles against the pass, struggles to pass the ball themselves and turns the ball over way too much. As a matter of fact, did you know that Wisconsin is actually dead last in turnover margin in college football coming into this game?
Yes, it's that bad in Madison.
So yes, I can see where some might say "Yeah, but Purdue will come in overhyped off the win at Iowa last week" and that may be true. But remember, this team has been damn good all year, dating back to when they nearly beat Notre Dame in Week 2. More importantly, their strength on offense (passing the ball) goes against Wisconsin's weakness (pass defense), while Purdue is actually playing pretty good against the run on defense. Which is obviously the Badgers' strength.
In the end, it just feels like the wrong team is favored here. I'm rolling with the Boilermakers.
Clemson at No. 24 Pitt (-3): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
I bet when a lot of you guys saw this point spread, you thought to yourself, "Darn it, Vegas has finally caught up with Clemson." The Tigers stink, we all know that. And now they enter their first regular season game as an underdog since they played Lamar Jackson and Louisville back in 2016. Yeah, it's been a while.
Here's the thing though: I actually don't think that Vegas has caught up with Clemson. I think this number is too low. And I love Pitt.
Look, I know that there is this belief that at some point Dabo will be able to rally the troops. But the bottom line remains that they're just not that good this year. DJ Uiagalelei has struggled under center, the offensive line can't block, wide receivers can't get separation and the defense is banged up.
So no, I don't think Vegas caught up with Clemson. I actually think if their uniforms said anything *other* than Clemson, this spread would be much bigger.
Then there's Pitt, and I don't think people realize how good this team has been this year. I know when we think Pitt, we think "slow, boring, run between the tackles football." Except here's the thing: This offense is flat out explosive, as they rank No. 5 nationally in total offense and No. 3 in scoring offense. Only Ohio State and Coastal Carolina score more points.
Just about the only way I could see Clemson winning is if they force multiple turnovers, and it seems unlikely. You know, since Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has a staggering 21-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio this spring.
Again, I believe in Dabo. But you can't rally the troops when your team simply isn't good enough.
Ride the Tigers here.
LSU (+9) at No. 13 Ole Miss: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
My first inclination was to simply stay away from this one. Last week kind of felt like LSU's "blow your load" game, meaning in other words, their backs were against the wall, at home, against their rivals - and they found a way to win. Naturally, they're due for a letdown, right?
Yet the more I dug into this game, the more I like LSU's chances to keep it close.
First off, the biggest story is the health of Matt Corral. Lane Kiffin is always coy, but the fact that he talked pretty openly about him being questionable for this game makes me think that he really is beat up. Even if he plays, what many people probably don't know, is that Corral is not only Ole Miss's quarterback, but also their leading rusher. Corral not playing, or being limited, completely alters the Ole Miss offensive game-plan. And with a couple big games still left on the schedule (Auburn next week, A&M down the stretch) I don't think Kiffin wants him getting even more banged up.
Then there's LSU, and again, I wondered if what they did last week was replicable again. Especially on the road. It might not be. But it's worth noting, the Tigers did have success running the ball dating back to the Kentucky game two weeks ago, and Ole Miss's run defense is terrible.
How bad? Well, they rank 111th nationally in that category, but if you focus on only SEC games, they're giving up an unspeakable 260 yards per game on the ground to SEC opponents. That would rank 129th out of 130 teams, if you took out wins over Louisville, Tulane and Austin Peay.
I'm not sold LSU wins here. But I do believe they'll run the ball effectively enough to get the cover.
No. 10 Oregon at UCLA (-2.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Since they lost to Stanford, I have defended Oregon. Mostly, I never understood why people eliminated them from playoff contention. Remember, they still have that win over Ohio State, that will essentially serve as a trump card over anyone who wins the Big Ten. It's impossible to know how the season will play out. But it's hard to imagine a 12-1 Oregon team not making the playoff.
At the same time, I just don't seem them getting to 12-1. And it all ends this weekend.
Put simply, this is just a bad matchup for Oregon, and here's why: By this point we know, there is a very clear path to beating UCLA. You need to be able to throw the ball on offense. And stop the run game on defense. Fresno State threw for over 400 yards in a victory at the Rose Bowl a few weeks ago, and Arizona State held them to 3.5 yards per carry, while throwing for almost 300 yards on offense.
That's the good news: There is a blueprint to beat UCLA. The bad news, I'm not sold Oregon can execute it.
First off, they are just terribly beat up at the linebacker spot, with three marquee guys out for the foreseeable future, including Justin Flowe, who has been out since the Ohio State game. Even with a guy or two coming back, it might not be enough. Especially for an Oregon defense that gave up almost six yards per carry to Cal last week.
Then on offense, UCLA can't stop the pass. They just can't. But Oregon can't throw the ball, and has heavily relied on their run game in recent weeks. Well, UCLA has the 17th ranked run defense in college football. So good luck with stopping them there.
We all know the old saying, "styles make fights."
And unfortunately, the style edge goes to UCLA in this one.
USC (+7) at No. 13 Notre Dame: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
I don't generally like betting on bad teams, and USC is not good. But you know how I said styles make fights? Well the style here benefits the Trojans.
Most specifically, the Trojans do not run the ball very well. Call that "California cool" or "being soft" or whatever you want to. But the one thing they do is throw the ball insanely well - they rank No. 11 nationally in that category. and Notre Dame has the 86th ranked pass defense in all of college football.
On defense, USC has struggled to stop the run. But as bad as they've been, Notre Dame has been just as bad actually running the ball, ranking 118th nationally in that category.
Add in the fact that USC has actually played better on the road since Clay Helton got fired than they have at home, the fact this series has been close of late (the last two decided by seven and six points) and Notre Dame's general QB confusion (three QB's played in the last three games) and this one feels like closer than what the experts project.
Tennessee at No. 4 Alabama (-25): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: The "stay aways" column is brief this week with a lack of marquee games, but let's talk about this one quickly. All the money has come in on Tennessee this week. and to be blunt, I just don't know how anyone can comfortably back them with the status of Hendon Hooker heading into this game. We all saw Joe Milton last week, or really, at any point in his career, right. STAY. AWAY.
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