College Football Week 8 Picks

NC State at #7 Louisville -19.5, 11:00 ABC:

On the surface, this looks like an obvious spot to take the points, with the Wolfpack having just taken to overtime a team that beat Louisville outright. There is some strange line movement however, as despite 55% of public support for the underdog, the spread has risen from 18. The FPI/ Sagarin average spread agrees, seeing the fair line around 16. There’s an argument to be made that Clemson’s plethora of red zone turnovers kept that game closer than it should have been last week, but NC State is a tough defensive squad that ranks 5th nationally in rushing defense and should neutralize Louisville’s greatest strength, keeping this one closer than the number.

#10 Wisconsin -3.5 at Iowa, 11:00 ESPN:

This is an odd line on first glance, but not out of whack statistically, as the computers see it around 4. A whopping 87% of the public has thrown its support behind the Badger side, which is never a great proposition for bettors. This is a game that is a perennial grind-it-out slog as two solid defenses usually keep each other’s challenged offenses at bay, with points at a premium. Slight edge goes to Wisconsin’s defense.

#6 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama -18.5, 2:30 CBS:

Enough is enough with these Alabama spreads, right? With the public about evenly split on the game, it has exploded from its opening line of 16. The FPI/ Sagarin computer average fair spread is 13, making this the largest divergence on the card. Alabama lit Tennessee up on the ground last week but looked shaky in the passing game, and there’s reason to believe Myles Garrett and a tough Aggie defensive line can give the Tide a bit of a tougher test, especially rested off the bye week. Those looking for an additional angle might recall how Aggie QB Trevor Knight torched the Tide in the 2014 Sugar Bowl in a stunner while he was playing at Oklahoma.

TCU at #12 West Virginia -5.5, 2:30 ABC

The Mountaineers did an impressive job keeping the high powered Texas Tech passing attack at bay last week, but their overall defensive prowess may be a bit of a mirage, as they still rank just 90th nationally in passing defense. TCU presents another tough challenge, as Kenny Hill leads an offense that ranks 6th in passing. The FPI/Sagarin average fair spread here is 4, but with 66% of the public siding with West Virginia, this has driven it higher. The feeling here is that there is some small edge to be had siding with the dog.

Memphis -2.5 at #24 Navy, 2:30 CBSSN

This line certainly looks bizarre on first glance, with the ranked home underdog coming fresh off an upset of mid-major darling Houston. The computers actually see the spread as fair though, and with 64% of the public on Navy, the line has still risen from 1. This reverse line movement despite public support for the underdog leads us to smell a rat. Memphis has quietly put together an impressive season, and ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

#19 Utah at UCLA -6.5, 3:00 FOX

Josh Rosen returns at QB in a must win spot for the Bruins. The FPI/Sagarin computer average sees the fair spread at 7.5. UCLA has disappointed thus far, losing four games, but they’ve come by an average of 6 points (including an overtime loss to Texas A&M) and none have come by double digits, and two of them came without their star QB. Utah’s record, conversely, is inflated by narrow wins over some pretty bad opponents. Expect a big performance from Rosen in this spot and for the Bruins to roll.

#17 Arkansas at #21 Auburn -9.5, 5:00 ESPN

This is the reverse line movement play of the day and maybe the most glaring of the season to date, as despite a stunning 81% of public support for the Razorbacks (by far the trendiest dog on the board), this spread has drifted two points towards Auburn. The computers seem to agree, spotting the fair spread around 11 between FPI and Sagarin, which is actually the largest spread divergence on the card for a favorite. Follow the sharp money on an Auburn team that has put together a sneaky tough campaign so far behind improving play ay QB, with its only two losses coming against teams currently undefeated and ranked in the Top 6.

#2 Ohio State -19.5 at Penn State, 7:00 ABC

Happy Valley at night can be a tough environment, but the Nittany Lions catch a tough matchup here due to their inability to stop the run (103rd nationally in rushing defense). Ohio State ranks 4th in the nation in rushing which would seem to indicate that they will be able to dictate the pace of this game and score at will. The FPI/ Sagarin average line is 18, but 72% of the public favors a Buckeye blowout.

#16 Oklahoma -13.5 at Texas Tech, 7:00 FOX

Sure, Texas Tech got embarrassed at home last week by a West Virginia team that was finally able to stop the Red Raider passing attack. Still, that passing attack is ranked 1st nationally by a wide margin even after that subpar effort, and that’s a bad matchup for an Oklahoma secondary that continues to lack answers or show improvement (107th nationally in passing defense). Expect the Sooners (who won’t have star RB Samaje Perine available) to prevail here in a road shootout but Texas Tech should be able to score enough points to cover this spread. The computers agree, as the average line between FPI and Sagarin checks in at 11. The public seems oblivious to matchup discrepancy here, as 67% of spread bets are on the Sooner side, so bettors may receive a bit of edge as the line pushes artificially higher.

#23 Ole Miss at #25 LSU -5.5, 8:00 ESPN

The return of Leonard Fournette combined with a highly susceptible Rebel rushing defense (104th nationally) at night in Baton Rouge could spell trouble for an Ole Miss squad that comes in reeling. We see reverse line movement with 58% of public support on the underdog as the line has risen from 4.5, which is also the FPI/Sagarin average fair spread. LSU seems to be hitting its stride and has been playing much better offensively since the firing of Les Miles, and this should be a re-arrival statement with the return of Fournette.

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