After a near-perfect week of upset picks in Week 7, we’re back with a trio of games prime for potential upsets. Most teams are now into the latter half of their schedules, and conference title races are heating up.
All three of our games this week have implications at the top of their conference standings, so let’s dive into the Week 8 version of the college football upset picks.
College football upset picks for Week 8
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Syracuse (+425) at Clemson
Syracuse will have an opportunity to prove that it’s for real when it travels to Death Valley for a noon kickoff. The Orange rank in the Top 15 nationally in points allowed per game, yards allowed per game, and yards per pass allowed on defense, while posting solid numbers in the passing game on the other side of the ball.
Naysayers will point to Syracuse’s schedule and the fact that its only big win was over an NC State team missing its quarterback, or its narrow wins over Purdue and Virginia. But Clemson has also narrowly beaten Wake Forest, needing a comeback and two overtimes to prevail, and nearly blew a 20-point lead to Florida State last weekend. The Tigers missed numerous tackles, and allowed more than 200 yards on the ground.
Similar to the Seminoles, Syracuse has a big, physical receiver on the outside who can make plays and cause the Clemson secondary some issues. Oronde Gadsden’s 6’5” frame will give quarterback Garrett Shrader a target to go up and get the ball — much like 6’7” Johnny Wilson was able to do a week ago. Clemson is allowing more than 250 yards through the air per game, and Syracuse’s 8.7 yards per pass attempt ranks 18th in college football.
While it’s unlikely the Orange will have enough to get a win in such a hostile environment, I like them to keep this one close. Uiagalelei has not faced a defense like this all season long, and he had just 181 yards passing against the Orange a season ago. They’ve covered the spread in four of the last five outings against Clemson, and they’ll do so again this time as they get pressure on Uiagalelei and cause him problems inside the red zone.
PICK: Syracuse +13.5 (+107)
Purdue (+115) at Wisconsin
Don’t look now, but the Boilermakers have a real shot to win the Big Ten West. Currently tied with Illinois atop the standings, Jeff Brohm’s team has lost just twice — to the aforementioned Orange and to Penn State in their opener — by a combined seven points. They’ve won three straight in the conference, including a pair of one-score wins the past two weeks at Maryland and against Nebraska.
Wisconsin has not lost to Purdue in nearly 20 years, when they lost at home 26-23 back in 2003. But this isn’t the Wisconsin team of old. Sitting a game below .500, the Badgers have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season and are turning the ball over far too often. A fumble was their undoing in a 34-28 double overtime loss to Michigan State a week ago, their third defeat in four conference games this season.
While Camp Randall is always a difficult place to play, Purdue will not be fearful of this trip. Wisconsin has already tasted defeat to Illinois at home in a game that wasn’t close, and the Boilermakers are 8-3 on the road over the past season and a half. Their passing attack is clicking on all cylinders, and while Wisconsin has intercepted 11 passes this season, Ohio State showed how vulnerable it can be if it doesn’t get pressure.
Wisconsin’s strength lies in its ability to run the ball, and the Badgers will find that tough sledding against a Purdue defense that ranks 28th in yards allowed per carry and is among the Top 25 teams in Havoc rating. The college football odds favor the wrong team in this game. Purdue not only covers, they win the game outright and take control of the division.
PICK: Purdue moneyline (+115)
Georgia Southern (+120) vs Old Dominion
One week after upsetting a ranked James Madison side, the Eagles are looking to spring another surprise as they travel to Old Dominion. Clay Helton has his boys flying high after Kyle Vantrease threw for 578 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner with just over a minute remaining. More importantly, the senior had his cleanest game of the season, throwing just one interception on a season-high 64 attempts after throwing four picks the week before.
Their offense needed every bit of those yards, after their defense allowed 675 yards to the Dukes. That number was nearly 200 yards more than their per-game average on the season, but it wasn’t surprising, given the Dukes rank fourth in college football in yards per game and 14th in points per contest.
But Old Dominion ranks just 87th in total yards per game, and its 26.2 points per game is just 87th in the country. More importantly, the Monarchs are allowing 452.8 yards per contest, and rank among the worst teams in college football in yards allowed per pass, passing yards per game, and opponent completion percentage.
Georgia Southern has done a terrific job of extending drives this season, with only six programs converting at a higher rate on third down. The Eagles should be able to do enough on defense to be in the game from start to finish, and they’ll put up plenty of yards in this game.
Whether or not the Eagles win will come down to their ability to finish off drives once they get inside the 20, where Old Dominion is fourth in the nation in preventing opponents from scoring. Unfortunately for the Monarchs, this is another area where Georgia Southern has done quite well, and they’ll do well enough here to win the game outright.
PICK: Georgia Southern moneyline (+120)