Week 8 College Football best bets, predictions, and picks for the Saturday slate.
Week 8 College Football Best Bets & Predictions
My picks didn’t run quite as hot in Week 7 as they did in Week 8, but we’re stacking winning weeks together and hitting on our picks at over a 60% clip this season. As we enter an exciting Week 8 slate, remember to maintain unit consistency and discipline with so much football left this season. I’m getting this article out earlier in the week than normal, and I’ll be adding more picks to the page throughout the week. You can always follow me on Twitter to see my full card of picks for the weekend. Let’s get to work.
College Football 2022 Record: 79-52-3 (60.3%)
Syracuse Orange at Clemson Tigers
Game Info: Saturday, October 22, 12:00 PM EST
Dino Babers has completely transformed the Syracuse football program. After three straight losing seasons, the Orange sit at 6-0 atop the ACC with phenomenal results on both sides of the ball. However, this week marks their biggest test against a Clemson team that’s beaten them in four straight matchups and in eight of their last nine meetings. The sportsbooks are giving a lot of credit to the Tigers at home in this spot, but I believe the Orange can keep things interesting.
D.J. Uiagalelei’s turnaround for Clemson has been one of the best stories of the season as he has 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions after throwing more picks (10) than touchdowns (9) last year. Uiagalelei’s stats have improved across the board, but this Syracuse pass defense can limit his production. The Orange rank 19th in passing EPA allowed, making them the best pass defense Uiagalelei has faced since Georgia Tech in Week 1, a defense that held him to a 57.6% completion rate.
Syracuse’s secondary was expected to be good with future NFL corner Garrett Williams leading a talented group, but their defensive line has been a nice surprise as they rank 12th in sack rate per Football Outsiders. Mikel Jones has been a monster upfront with ten pressures in six games and an elite 22.9% pass-rush win rate per PFF. Clemson’s offensive line ranks just 71st in sack rate allowed, and I’d expect Uiagalelei to be under pressure in this game.
On the other side of the ball, Syracuse’s run game can help limit the number of possessions for Clemson. Sean Tucker torched Clemson with 157 rushing yards on 22 carries (7.1 YPC) last year, and Garrett Schrader has been a dynamic runner at quarterback this year. Clemson just allowed 6.1 YPC to Florida State and ranks just 54th in average line yards on defense. In addition, look for Oronde Gadsden, who has 100+ yards in three of his last four games, to exploit a Clemson secondary that has had some issues.
While I do expect Clemson to win this game, they aren’t the same elite outfit we’ve grown accustomed to, and they have holes on their roster that Syracuse can exploit. This is the best Syracuse team we’ve seen in a while, and they are undefeated and poised to make a real push in the ACC. I believe the line should be much closer to ten points given the strengths and weaknesses of these teams, and I’ll take the points with the dog here.
Best Bet: Syracuse +13.5 (play to +13)
Ole Miss Rebels at LSU Tigers
Game Info: Saturday, October 22, 3:30 PM EST
At first glance, it was surprising to see Ole Miss come in as just 1.5-point favorites in this game given their #7 ranking in the AP Poll and 7-0 record. However, the Rebels are overrated in the poll as they have played with their food every week. They failed to score in the second half against Tulsa’s weak defense (95th in EPA/play), were losing at halftime to Vanderbilt, and allowed Auburn’s poor offense (106th in EPA/play) to garner 441 yards of total offense.
The strength of the Ole Miss offense has been their rushing attack, and Zach Evans, Quinshon Judkins, and Jaxson Dart headline the 8th-ranked rushing offense by EPA. However, LSU has the 14th-ranked run defense by PFF. If they can force Dart into third down on a consistent basis, look out for their vaunted pass-rush that ranks eighth in sack rate on passing downs. Dart has led the offense to the highest efficiency in the FBS on third down, but it won’t be as effective this week.
Despite their home blowout loss to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, LSU is trending up, and we backed them on the Moneyline last week in their impressive road win over Florida. Jayden Daniels has been improving each week, and he completed 71.9% of his throws for 349 yards and three scores against the Gators. Now, he has a prime matchup against an Ole Miss defense that ranks just 71st against the pass by EPA.
LSU’s rushing offense has also been very effective, as they rank 25th in EPA/play on the ground, and their offensive line ranks eighth in average line yards. Against an Ole Miss defensive line that ranks 40th in average line yards despite that aforementioned easy schedule, look for the Tigers’ O-line to open up holes for their deep running back room.
When sports betting action favors an unranked team over a team that’s inside the top ten, we’d better pay attention. LSU is simply the much more battle-tested team heading into this game, and after a tough road spot against Florida, they return home. After moving from the -1.5 open in favor of Ole Miss to now -1.5 in favor of LSU, there’s no telling where this line will end up closing. We could see it move to -2 or -2.5 in favor of the Tigers, and I’d like to lock it in now to secure the value before further movement.
Best Bet: LSU -1.5 (bet to -2.5)
Marshall Thundering Herd at James Madison Dukes
Game Info: Saturday, October 22, 3:30 PM EST
James Madison is coming off an incredibly disappointing loss to Georgia Southern, their first of the season. However, they had more yards (675-590) and first downs (31-29) in that game. They got very unlucky as all three of Todd Centeio’s turnover-worthy plays turned into interceptions. Centeio is having an excellent season, and he still has the second-best PFF passing grade in the country behind only Bryce Young despite that disappointing result.
Centeio should have plenty of success against a Marshall defense that allowed Ben Wooldridge, Louisiana’s backup quarterback, to throw for 230 yards and two touchdowns last week. Marshall ranks 24th in pass defense EPA, but they haven’t come close to facing a quarterback the caliber of Centeio, and that will show this week.
On the other side, Marshall’s offense has been stuck in the mud lately. They rank just 116th in offensive EPA per play and just 127th in passing specifically behind an offensive line that ranks 128th in sack rate allowed per Football Outsiders. The Herd are operating a two-quarterback system with Henry Colombi and Cam Fancher, and neither has been able to get into a rhythm.
As a result, Marshall has been heavily reliant on its run game with transfer running back Khalan Laborn, who has run for 869 yards at a 5.5 YPC clip. However, James Madison has the best run defense in the country by EPA and ranks first in average line yards allowed. I expect the Dukes to limit the Herd’s run game and force them into more of a one-dimensional offense with their putrid passing game.
Marshall has the extra rest coming into this game, but James Madison is the far better team and is coming off a minor bump in the road in what has been an incredibly successful first season in the FBS. I’ll be looking to play some James Madison Sun Belt futures next season, and I’m happy to back them up to 13.5 points here against an overmatched Marshall team.
Best Bet: James Madison -12.5 (play to -13.5)
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Penn State Nittany Lions
Game Info: Saturday, October 22, 7:30 PM EST
All week, we heard about how Penn State’s run defense would shut down the Michigan rushing offense and force them into a one-dimensional offensive approach. That couldn’t have been further from the truth as Michigan registered 418 rushing yards at a 7.6 YPC clip and dominated time of possession at just under 42 minutes. It was apparent that the players Penn State lost from its front seven heading into the year were sorely missed.
Minnesota obviously doesn’t have the same dominant rushing attack as Michigan, but they will be able to run the ball this week. The Golden Gophers rank seventh in average line yards and they have the fifth-ranked rushing offense by EPA. They also have the second-ranked run-blocking offensive line per PFF. Center John Michael Schmitz is at the forefront of that dominance with the second-best run-blocking grade in the country of all qualified offensive linemen.
Behind that dominant offensive line is Mohamed Ibrahim, a running back that is averaging 6.7 yards per attempt this year on his way to 694 yards and nine touchdowns in just five games. While Tanner Morgan’s status is unclear for this game, he’s reportedly progressing well after taking a hit to the head last week. Regardless of whether or not he plays, the Minnesota offense will revolve around Ibrahim and that elite O-line.
Penn State is dealing with a quarterback injury of their own as Sean Clifford left last week’s game. However, Clifford’s mediocre play has continued this year as he’s completed just 17 of 39 passes (43.6%) for 260 yards over his last two games against Michigan and Northwestern. He’s just 2-7 as a starter against ranked opponents, and Minnesota has the quality of a top-25 team.
Regardless of whether it’s a banged up Clifford or true freshman Drew Allar making his first career start, I don’t have a ton of faith in the offense finding success against a Minnesota defense that ranks 26th in passing EPA allowed. While Penn State has an awesome home-field advantage, this line is set too high given what we know about these teams, and Minnesota is in great shape to cover on the road and possibly pull off the upset.
Best Bet: Minnesota +4.5 (bet to +3.5)
Kansas State Wildcats at TCU Horned Frogs
Similar to Ole Miss, TCU has been one the verge of disaster in recent weeks. After letting Kansas make things uncomfortably close with their backup quarterback, the Horned Frogs required a massive second-half comeback against Oklahoma State to eke out the win after trailing 30-16 after the first three quarters. The Cowboys forced the Horned Frogs to answer the question I had quietly been wondering – what happens when a team finds a way to take away these explosive plays TCU had been so reliant on?
Enter Kansas State. The Wildcats aren’t your typical Big 12 team as they have combined their dynamic offense with a defense that is ranked 19th in EPA per play allowed. They’ve been particularly effective against the pass, ranking 8th in EPA, on the back of a coverage unit ranked 21st by PFF. The Wildcats’ pass rush led by potential NFL first-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah ranks 34th in sack rate, and will make an impact in not letting Max Duggan sit in the pocket while downfield routes develop.
The Kansas State rushing offense has been excellent behind an offensive line ranked 37th in average line yards. Deuce Vaughn (120-661-3) and Adrian Martinez (91-546-9) are arguably the most potent one-two rushing punch of running back and quarterback in the country right now, and they consistently put defenses in a bind. TCU’s defensive line was already set to be overmatched as they rank 66th in average line yards and 58th in rushing defense EPA, but that’s even more so the case after their recent run of games.
TCU has fought through a brutal stretch including the Sonny Dykes bowl against SMU, their big upset of Oklahoma, the College Game Day outing against Kansas, and last week’s last-gasp effort against Oklahoma State. They’re due for a letdown after a stretch like that. Meanwhile, Kansas State is coming off a nicely timed bye week after their close road win over Iowa State. As the fresher team, they have a huge advantage.
Chris Klieman is 12-8 ATS as an underdog, and eight of those twelve covers have been outright upsets. We’ve already seen this line drop from the open at -5 down to the current number of 3.5, but I still see value at anything over a field goal. I’d jump on this line early and take that number, and while you’re at it, feel free to sprinkle a quarter unit on the Kansas State Moneyline if you’re feeling the upset like I am.
Best Bet: Kansas State +3.5 (consider ML sprinkle as well)