NCAA Football

From the Betting Window: College Football Week 8 Picks

Last Week: While Iowa State upset West Virginia as a 5-point underdog and Arkansas nearly pulled off a win as a 6.5-point pup, I finished Week 7 with a 2-2 week because Cal never showed up versus UCLA and Colorado was thoroughly beaten by USC. Given my poor season record, I’ll take a 2-2 finish but .500 is still a loser in Vegas because of the juice.

Following a successful MLB season (54-31-2), my college football picks haven’t been profitable (13-17). While there’s still plenty of season left, I’m in desperate need of a winning week. Here’s hoping that tonight is the night things turn around. As always, whether you fade or follow, good luck today.

One note: If you heard me on air Friday, you know I liked Michigan State +7 and Auburn -3.5 (the Tigers were -5.5 by time they kicked off at Ole Miss). That said, I didn’t get this piece up in time for kickoff of either game, so I won’t count those plays towards my season record. I felt compelled to note that in case anyone heard me hyping MSU or Auburn and were wondering why I didn’t include those teams in my Week 8 picks.

403 Mississippi State at 404 LSU, 6:00 p.m. CT

I’m going to stop suggesting that LSU isn’t as good as its current record because any program that knocks off three ranked teams before November deserves respect. The Tigers have made me look silly for hopping off their bandwagon following their 33-17 upset of Miami in Week 1. They’ve been much better than people expected they’d be before the season, myself included.

That said, how long can they keep this up? They’ve ridden one emotional wave after another since that small upset against the Hurricanes to open the season. Their latest victory, a 36-16 whopping of Georgia last Saturday, was their biggest to date. (The school even got fined after the student section rushed the field to celebrate.)

Tonight offers a natural letdown for this LSU team. Surely the Tigers aren’t overlooking Mississippi State with so much on the line, but they also head into Week 9 with a bye before hosting Alabama in two weeks. If ever there was a time for LSU to take a collective breath, it’s a home game against a Bulldogs team that already has two losses on the season.

Pardon the pun, but the Bulldogs are a live dog regardless of what state of mind the Tigers are in tonight. Mississippi State has a dominant defensive front, one that could disrupt LSU’s rushing attack. Nick Fitzgerald is also an inexperienced quarterback, one that shouldn’t shrink playing in Death Valley. I hate that I posted this pick after the spread dropped from 6.5 down to 5.5 but hopefully that won’t matter.

Prediction: Mississippi State +5.5

333 Ohio State at 334 Purdue, 6:30 p.m. CT

It’s unlikely that Ohio State gets tripped up tonight in West Lafayette, especially if Michigan winds up beating Michigan State to keep the heat on the Buckeyes. That said, there’s a lot to like about this Purdue team. For starters, they’re coming off a 46-7 rout of Illinois a week ago and while beating the Illini isn’t anything to beat your chest over, that win was a continuation of what we’ve seen out of Jeff Brohm’s team the last three weeks: They keep improving.

The Boilermakers have held two of their last three opponents to a season-low in yards and won their last three games by a total of 70 points. Go back to their 0-3 start: They lost those three games by a combined 8 points. While 3-3 is still 3-3, this might be the best 3-3 team in the country.

Meanwhile, there’s no question that Ohio State has suffered since Nick Bosa was injured in the TCU game. The Buckeyes have allowed 457 yards per game over their last three contests, which is problematic when you consider this Boilermaker team averages 510.2 yards per game offensively (that ranks 10th in the nation). Purdue has had issues running the ball this year but its passing attack is seventh in the country, averaging 330.8 yards per game.

Again, Purdue will have a difficult time pulling off an outright upset but this is a lot of points to give to a dangerous team playing under the lights at home against a vulnerable defense.

Prediction: Purdue +13

367 Oregon at 368 Washington State, 6:30 p.m. CT

Initially, I crossed this game off because I figured public bettors would pile on Oregon following the Ducks’ upset win over Washington last week. But the betting ticket count for this game is split 50-50 and all week I heard pundits discuss how Mike Leach and this Cougars team has owned the Ducks. Since 2010, Washington State is 8-0 against the spread versus Oregon, covering the spread by 17.4 points per game.

That said, the Cougars haven’t been favored in this series since 2001-02. This is a completely different role that Washington State finds itself in and this is a different Oregon team than what college football fans are used to. Under coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon is more smashmouth than finesse, although it’s not as if the Ducks have transformed into Stanford either. They still play at one of the quickest tempos in the nation, one that ranks ninth in the country. With future NFL prospect Justin Herbert under center, Oregon is 18th in total yards per game, 31st in passing, 31st in rushing and 11th in points scored.

Granted, there’s a reason why Oregon is an underdog in this matchup. Graduate transfer Gardner Minshew leads an offense that ranks No. 1 in the nation in passing yards, averaging 413.7 per game. The Cougars are 15th in the nation in scoring at 41.8 and also boast a top-50 defense. (Both of these teams can play defense.) But where I see the edge for Oregon is turnover margin. While the Ducks are a +0.4 on the season, Washington State -0.8. This game could be decided on a crucial turnover.

Prediction: Oregon +3

409 Nevada at 410 Hawaii, 10:59 p.m. CT

Let’s be honest, unless you’re a football junkie you won’t be staying up to watch the completion of this game. In fact, you may have stopped reading as soon as you saw that I listed this game among my picks. Still, I see plenty of value in the road dog.

Hawaii came out of the gates hot. The Rainbow Warriors pulled off an outright upset of Colorado State as a 17-point road underdog in Week 0 and a week later pulled off another upset as a double-digit dog in a 59-41 win over Navy in Week 1. On the year, Hawaii is 6-2, averages 36.5 points per game and is a lot of fun to watch. Laying only a field goal with an explosive team is tempting.

That said, while neither of these teams plays good defense, the Wolf Pack actually held two of their three previous opponents to season lows. Plus, even though Hawaii won six of its first eight games, redshirt sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald has yet to find his early-season form and missed a game two weeks ago against Wyoming due to an undisclosed injury.

Finally, the Rainbow Warriors are just 5-20-1 against the spread in their last 26 home games. They’re also 14-37-1 ATS in their last 52 conference games and are 1-5 against the number in their last six games against the Wolf Pack. Nevada is the better team here.

Prediction: Nevada +3

Season ATS Records

College Football: 13-17 (43%)

MLB: 54-31-2 (63%)