Going from Week 7 to Week 8 in college football this season would be like going to a double feature at a drive-in theatre where the first movie is the Godfather Part II and the second is Gigli.
But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t some betting value to be found. This week I take a look at a Group of Five team with its sights set on another New Year’s Six bowl game, a Pac-12 team hoping to keep its perfect record intact, and we’re fading a Mountain West team down to its fourth-string quarterback.
I break it all down in my best college football picks for betting Week 8.
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College football picks and predictions for Week 8
Cincinnati -3.5 (-110)
Cincinnati became the first Group of Five team to qualify for the College Football Playoff last season. But after losing several key pieces, including quarterback Desmond Ridder and cornerback Sauce Gardner, there was supposed to be a changing of the guard in the Group of Five.
Houston was getting a lot of hype heading into the season while others thought UCF could return to prominence in Year 2 with Gus Malzahn. But here we are in Week 8 and Luke Fickell’s team looks like the best of the bunch once again.
The Bearcats are 5-1 straight up this season with the lone loss coming in a one-touchdown loss at a very solid Arkansas team and are now just 3.5-point favorites against what has been a somewhat underperforming Southern Methodist team. What am I missing here?
While a bunch of the faces have changed for Cincinnati, much has stayed the same. For one, the defense is outstanding once again. The Bearcats rank fourth in the country in opponent yards per play and third in sack percentage when facing FBS opponents.
That should play well against this SMU offense. While it has a capable quarterback in Tanner Mordecai, the Mustangs offense — along with being one-dimensional — has been more inconsistent than in years past.
On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs defense still leaks like a sieve. They rank 109th in opponent yards per play but are really getting trampled by opposing running backs. Southern Methodist is getting run over for five yards per carry vs. FBS teams this season that ranks 118th in the country.
I expect a big game from Cincinnati running back Charles McClelland while the Bearcats defense forces Mordecai into a couple of turnovers, continuing their Group of Five dominance, and covering this short spread in the process.
UCLA +6.5 (-110)
Early on during his career at Auburn, I made it a rule that if I was going to bet games involving Bo Nix, I would exclusively be fading him. But then he transferred to Oregon and I broke that rule to start the season, thinking the Ducks could put up a good fight against Georgia.
And we all know how that went.
That said, he’s played much better since that loss, leading the Ducks to a 5-1 start, including a 3-0 record in conference play. But Nix and the Ducks will get their toughest test since that season-opening game against the Bulldogs when they welcome the shockingly undefeated UCLA Bruins to the Autzen Zoo.
UCLA is 6-0 thanks in large part to its backfield combo of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet, leading a Bruins offense putting up 41.5 points per game.
UCLA has also notched consecutive solid victories over Washington and Utah. The win over the Utes was particularly impressive as the Bruins were able to overpower a physical Utah team in the trenches, leading to over 500 yards of total offense in that game.
That is the type of performance that showed UCLA can compete with a team like Oregon, which is strong on both lines.
The Bruins should also have a decent opportunity to take advantage of the Ducks’ weaknesses. While Oregon has done a good job of stuffing the run this season, its pass defense is another story. The Ducks rank 126th in the country surrendering 313 passing yards per game.
DTR has completed 75% of his passes for 614 yards with seven touchdowns compared to just one pick in the Bruins' last two wins. Charbonnet is good enough to keep the Ducks defense honest, allowing DTR to attack them over the top.
Oh, did I mention we get to fade Bo Nix?
Wyoming -4.5 (-110)
It has been a difficult season for Utah State. You know, the team that is still the reigning Mountain West Champion.
The Aggies began the season 1-4 both straight up and against the spread. Quarterback Logan Bonner was struggling and the defense was getting steamrolled by opposing backs.
But then an injury to Bonner forced the Aggies to make a switch at QB. In comes Cooper Legas and he revitalized the Aggies offense, leading them to wins over Air Force and Colorado State. Unfortunately, Legas got hurt in that game against the Rams. And so, too, did backup Levi Williams.
So, that means Utah State was down to fourth-string Bishop Davenport. He did enough to help the Aggies hold onto that win against Colorado State, but now he is slated to make the first start of his career. And traveling to Wyoming to do that is no small task.
The Cowboys are 4-3, but those three losses came to solid opposition in San Jose State, BYU, and Illinois, and they should have the ability to take advantage of the Aggies’ vulnerable run defense. Utah State ranks 109th in the country giving up nearly five yards per rush. This means running back Titus Swen and dual-threat QB Andrew Peasley will be a handful for the Aggies.
The Wyoming defense should be able to do enough to limit a Utah State offense that is down to its fourth-string quarterback, is already averaging under 20 points per game, and is on the road.
Back the Cowboys to cover this small chalk at home.
Week 8 odds overview
Ohio State -29.5 vs Iowa
The fact that Ohio State is a 29.5-point favorite isn't the interesting thing here. It's that the Buckeyes are a 29.5-point favorite where the total is just 49.5. That's basically an implied score of 40-10.
While Iowa has a secondary that's good enough to slow down the Buckeyes for a bit, the Hawkeyes might be hard-pressed to score twice against a much-improved Ohio State defense.
Washington at Cal - O/U: 56.5
Washington has cashed the Over in all seven of its games this season thanks to QB Michael Penix and the fantastic Huskies offense. But if they want to make it eight straight Overs, they'll probably have to do the heavy lifting facing a Cal team that has scored 20 points or fewer four times in its last five games.
Alabama -21 vs Mississippi State
I know Alabama is going to be ticked off after last week's loss to Tennessee. And I know the Crimson Tide will be back at home. But I was honestly shocked to see this line as high as it is. Alabama could easily have three losses this season and now have to deal with Will Rogers and the Bulldogs' Air Raid offense.