College Football Week 8 Picks: Forecasting Saturday's Biggest Games
For teams vying for a national championship, no longer is it good enough just to defeat unranked opponents.
Now it is about eviscerating them, establishing your dominance and sticking in the voters' minds as mere percentage points can be the difference between a BCS title game appearance and simply watching the game from home.
When facing off against a fellow ranked squad, the formula is not all that different. A close victory may move you up one or two notches in the rankings, but a big victory can be season-defining for some squads.
With so many possible defining games on the slate Saturday, any good college football fan will be on the edge of his seat waiting to see whether these teams rise to the moment or flounder.
For that reason, here is a look at all of Saturday's biggest games along with predictions.
No. 7 South Carolina at No. 2 Florida
A week after losing a heartbreaker (and their No. 3 ranking) against LSU, the Gamecocks will come into Saturday's contest looking to play spoiler against a red-hot Gators squad.
Defying all reasonable expectations from the preseason, head coach Will Muschamp's squad has relied heavily on a top-tier rushing attack this season. Led by speedy running back Mike Gillislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel, who has become a solid dual-threat option, Florida ranks 14th in the FBS in rushing yards, gaining 233.3 yards per game on the ground.
Unfortunately for the Gators, they will come up against a Gamecocks defense that, last week exempted, has fared fantastically against the run. Before allowing LSU to run for 258 yards, the South Carolina defense had given up just 83.8 rushing yards per game.
Considering the Gamecocks' strong balance on offense and their ability to stop what Florida does best, I'm taking Steve Spurrier's squad to get a form of redemption in The Swamp.
Score Prediction: South Carolina 17, Florida 14
No. 6 LSU at No. 18 Texas A&M
Speaking of teams that run the ball with force, LSU will face a mighty test against scintillating quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies on Saturday.
The freshman dual-threat has been absolutely brilliant this season, combining for 2,356 yards (passing and rushing) and 24 touchdowns. What's more, he's only thrown three interceptions and has almost single handedly led Texas A&M to its 5-1 record.
That breakout has led to the star signal-caller getting Heisman buzz, but will ultimately lead to the Aggies' demise on Saturday.
When a team is so completely dependent on one player and comes up against a defense talented enough to stop said player, well, that's simply not a good combination.
We saw Texas A&M lose to Florida earlier this season due to Manziel's limited effectiveness in the second half, and LSU should be able to follow that blueprint to victory.
Score Prediction: LSU 20, Texas A&M 14
No. 4 Kansas State at No. 13 West Virginia
Just like how the facade faded for the Mountaineers' hopes of a national championship last week, look for Geno Smith and company to return the favor against the Wildcats on Saturday.
After weeks of looking unstoppable, Smith floundered (relatively) against Texas Tech, completing 29 of 55 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. Smith looked frustrated and even at times lost in the pocket at times as receivers failed to get open and he continually missed them when they were open.
I believe the performance against the Red Raiders was more of an anomaly than something we can expect for the rest of the season.
While Kansas State's schedule hasn't been filled with cupcakes, let's just say it hasn't been the most daunting slate either besides the Oklahoma game. Smith and the Mountaineers' offense presents a far bigger challenge than any other team Kansas State has played thus far.
Look for the Wildcats to get down early and fall just short of making a comeback.
Score Prediction: West Virginia 35, Kansas State 31
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