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College Football Picks: Week 8 Predictions for Every Game

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2017

College Football Picks: Week 8 Predictions for Every Game

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    Florida State and Clemson face off in South Carolina in the first meeting between Top Five teams this season.
    Florida State and Clemson face off in South Carolina in the first meeting between Top Five teams this season.Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 7 of the 2013 college football season was its wildest yet, with a pair of Top 10 teams going down and some unbeatens finally feeling the sting of defeat.

    What, pray tell, will Week 8 have in store for us?

    The slate of games technically began in earnest on Tuesday when Louisiana-Lafayette beat Western Kentucky 37-20 in a Tuesday clash of Sun Belt teams willing to play any night it will get them on ESPN.

    There are four games pitting ranked teams, highlighted by the prime-time showdown between unbeaten Top Five teams Florida State and Clemson in Death Valley.

    Here's a look at—and unscientific prediction of—the rest of the Week 8 matchups, starting with a Thursday tilt involving No. 10 Miami (Fla.) playing on the road and wrapping up with a slew of late Saturday games involving West Coast teams.

    Note: All rankings from the Week 8 AP Top 25.

Minnesota at Northwestern

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    Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Northwestern won 21-13 in Minneapolis last October.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Minnesota (4-2, 0-2) has also fallen far from its early 4-0 start, and its passing game remains one of the worst in the country. The Golden Gophers will be playing without coach Jerry Kill, who has left the team to treat his epilepsy.

    Northwestern (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) has gone from highly regarded to an afterthought in the blink of an eye. The emotions lingering from their close loss to Ohio State clouded any chance for the Wildcats to win last week at Wisconsin, and as a result they were blown out and looked bad.

    Having Kill probably wouldn't make a difference against a Northwestern team hungry to correct its season course.

    Prediction: Northwestern 30, Minnesota 14

    **Update: Minnesota 20, Northwestern 17

Purdue at Michigan State

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Michigan State edged Purdue 35-31 in East Lansing in 2010.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Purdue (1-5, 0-2) has struggled mightily in Darrell Hazell's first season in West Lafayette, and it's very likely the Boilermakers won't win another game. They've allowed more than 40 points four times and are near the bottom nationally in scoring offense.

    Michigan State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) briefly stepped away from its defense-first approach to outscore a potent Indiana team last week, a promising result because it means the Spartans don't have to be completely reliant on keeping opponents off the scoreboard.

    This one has all the makings of a lopsided romp for the home team.

    Prediction: Michigan State 37, Purdue 10

    **UPDATE: Michigan State 14, Purdue 0

Southern Mississippi at East Carolina

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    Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: East Carolina won 24-14 last September in Hattiesburg, Miss.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Southern Miss (0-5, 0-1), riding a 17-game losing streak, missed out on maybe its best chance to break that skid in its last outing, a 24-23 home loss to winless Florida International. The Golden Eagles might be a little better than last year's 0-12 team, but not enough to be considered any good.

    East Carolina (4-2, 2-1 Conference USA) got upended last week at Tulane, losing in triple overtime despite 480 passing yards from Shane Carden. The Pirates rallied from 10 points down in the final seven minutes of regulation but couldn't close the deal in the extra periods.

    ECU should have no trouble getting back in the win column.

    Prediction: East Carolina 35, Southern Miss 12

    **Update: East Carolina 55, Southern Miss 14

TCU at No. 21 Oklahoma State

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    Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oklahoma State beat TCU 36-14 in Stillwater last season, the first time the schools had played in 19 years.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) is the epitome of mediocrity, failing to win or lose consecutive games while winning everything at home and losing on the road or at neutral sites. The away games have featured the toughest opponents, so this is no surprise, but the Horned Frogs are also far worse on defense than tradition dictates, while the offense is inconsistent.

    Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1) is much improved defensively, which is helping offset a major drop in offensive production from the past few years. The Cowboys lack the leadership at quarterback they've been known to have, with coach Mike Gundy waxing rhapsodic about the passers he's had in the past.

    OSU has been off since Oct. 5, so expect whatever offensive tinkering from that break to pay dividends.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, TCU 24

    **Update: Oklahoma State 24, TCU 10

SMU at Memphis

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: SMU crushed visiting Memphis last October, when both schools were in Conference USA.

    Matchup type: Pillow fight

    What to watch for: SMU (1-4, 0-1 AAC) has been a major disappointment in June Jones' sixth season, looking like a pushover to more established programs instead of a valiant competitor. The Mustangs' best game came the last time they played, though that still resulted in a wild 55-52 overtime setback at home against Rutgers in their first league game as a BCS team.

    Memphis (1-4, 0-2), which got into the American Athletic Conference solely because of its TV market and basketball program, has been as bad as expected on offense. But the Tigers have kept some games close, nearly upsetting both UCF and unbeaten Houston the past two weeks.

    Someone has to win this one, and the edge goes to the visitors because of their better offensive weapons.

    Prediction: SMU 33, Memphis 26

    **Update: SMU 34, Memphis 29

No. 15 Georgia at Vanderbilt

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Georgia crushed Vanderbilt 48-3 in Athens last September, its sixth straight win in the series.

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) ran into a buzz saw last week when it lost at home to red-hot Missouri, an outcome that was more about the opponent than the Bulldogs' injury issues. Georgia has had time to learn how to play with what it has and must make peace with knowing it's going to need senior quarterback Aaron Murray carry the team.

    Vandy (3-3, 0-3) has no quality wins and looked terrible in its last outing, getting beat by 23 at home by Missouri. The Commodores have an uphill battle to do any better than 6-6 on the year and after this one play the next two on the road against ranked opponents. 

    Visiting Georgia gets back on track, but it'll be another tight and high-scoring nail-biter.

    Prediction: Georgia 40, Vanderbilt 37

    **Update: Vanderbilt 31, Georgia 27

No. 16 Texas Tech at West Virginia

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    Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tech was an inhospitable host to the Big 12 newcomer last October, whupping West Virginia 49-14.

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) is off to a fantastic start under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, blending the program's traditional pass-heavy offense with a vastly improved defense, last week's 42-35 home win over Iowa State notwithstanding. The Red Raiders haven't really been tested, though, especially not in a hostile environment like Morgantown.

    West Virginia (3-3, 1-2) is probably still having nightmares from its last outing, a 73-42 pounding at Baylor that wasn't nearly that close. The Mountaineers have had some moments of quality play, particularly in a home upset of Oklahoma State and a respectable 16-7 loss at Oklahoma, but they've also looked really bad against Baylor and in a shutout loss to Maryland.

    West Virginia will probably lead for a good part of this one but won't be able to hold on.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 34, West Virginia 28

    **Update: Texas Tech 37, West Virginia 27

Connecticut at Cincinnati

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cincinnati won 34-17 in Storrs, Conn., last December.

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    What to watch for: Connecticut (0-5, 0-1 AAC) lost 13-10 at home to South Florida last week, finding new ways to look bad even against a very beatable opponent. Aside from playing at-the-time-unbeatens Maryland and Michigan at home in successive weeks, there's been little to be happy about with the Huskies.

    Cincinnati (4-2, 1-1) is having an enigmatic season in Tommy Tuberville's first year, playing down to the level of its competitor in most games, which has led to a bad loss at South Florida an unimpressive victories over winless Miami (Ohio) and Temple.

    Cincy's run of uninspired play will continue, albeit in a victorious manner.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Connecticut 13

    **Update: Cincinnati 41, Connecticut 16

No. 11 South Carolina at Tennessee

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    Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: South Carolina won a 38-35 shootout at home last October

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 SEC) is coming off its most complete game of the season, looking solid on offense and defense and, most importantly, not letting Arkansas get back into what ended up being a 52-7 road win. The Gamecocks have struggled with closing out opponents, with the three wins prior to last week's all getting too close for comfort in the late stages.

    Tennessee (3-3, 0-2) was a freak goal-line fumble away from giving first-year coach Butch Jones a statement victory two weeks ago, instead losing, 34-31, in overtime to Georgia. The game showed the Volunteers are close to competing again with the league's upper tier, and they've got a tradition of taking out South Carolina at home. 

    The 2009 meeting was won by host Tennessee and sent Carolina on a season-souring three-game slide. Might the same happen in 2013?

    Prediction: Tennessee 28, South Carolina 26

    **Update: Tennessee 23, South Carolina 21

Navy at Toledo

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Toledo earned a 21-20 victory back in 2001.

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    What to watch for: Outside of its season-opening loss at Florida, Toledo (3-3) has been scoring enough points to overcome its subpar defense this season. The Rockets haven't been able to beat any good opponents because of this, but they also don't struggle with inferior foes.

    Navy (3-2) has been surprisingly easy to stifle at times this year, despite its normally reliable option run game. The Midshipmen have been held to just a touchdown in each of their losses, but against lesser foes they've been able to run the ball more effectively.

    Both teams will score, but the difference will be Toledo running back David Fluellen (846 yards, nine TDs).

    Prediction: Toledo 40, Navy 34

    **Update: Toledo 45, Navy 44 (2 OT)

No. 22 Florida at No. 14 Missouri

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 12:21 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: The teams met last November for the second time ever and the first time since the 1966 Sugar Bowl, with host Florida winning 14-7.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC) has the most anemic offense of any top-tier club, and it was pretty bad even before injuries started to pile up. And now with starting tailback Matt Jones done for the year, the Gators don't know where to turn for production. Another solid defense is all that's keeping them from imploding, but even that unit has shown signs of wear.

    Missouri (6-0, 2-0) made a huge leap in the polls (and in record legitimacy) when it went into Georgia and convincingly beat the Bulldogs last week. But the Tigers are going to have to go the next few games without dangerous dual-threat quarterback James Franklin while he recovers from a shoulder injury. The ball has been handed to freshman Maty Mauk, who will probably be asked to manage more than lead.

    Mizzou should win this one without much incident, if only because Florida is so sluggish.

    Prediction: Missouri 29, Florida 15

    **Update: Missouri 36, Florida 17

Syracuse at Georgia Tech

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Georgia Tech rolled to a 51-14 win over Syracuse in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Syracuse (3-3, 1-1 ACC) falls firmly in the mediocre category, usually winning when it should and losing when it's outmatched. But the Orange had quite a positive result last week when they handily beat North Carolina State on the road, the start of a 4-of-5 stretch away from the Carrier Dome.

    Georgia Tech (3-3, 2-2) appears to have peaked with its season-opening 70-0 win over Elon, winning the next two by less and less and then dropping three straight to Va Tech, Miami (FL) and BYU in increasingly disappointing fashion. The Yellowjackets' normally sound option run game has sputtered, and quarterback Vad Lee has turned into a passing dud.

    But Tech probably has enough offensive options (pun intended) to pull this one out.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 26, Syracuse 20

    **Update: Georgia Tech 56, Syracuse 0

Akron at Miami (Ohio)

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    Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Miami won a 56-49 bad-team shootout last September.

    Matchup type: Pillow fight

    What to watch for: Akron (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American) hasn't beaten an FBS opponent in three years, a span of 29 games. The Zips' epic near-upset at Michigan was more a matter of the home team sleepwalking that game than anything else. While Akron has looked better than in Terry Bowden's first season, it's still not ready to to move out of the scrap heap.

    Miami (0-6, 0-2) has actually looked worse than Akron, with last week's 17-10 loss at fellow doormat Massachusetts a low point for a program that won 10 games in 2010. The RedHawks have already fired their coach and that didn't do anything, and their first winless season since 1988 is very possible.

    But maybe getting an equally poor opponent at home is just what Miami needs to get off the schneid.

    Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 36, Akron 29

    **Update: Akron 24, Miami (Ohio) 17

Army at Temple

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    Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Temple won 63-32 last November, its fifth win in as many seasons over Army.

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    What to watch for: Army (3-4) got a school-record rushing performance from Terry Baggett and probably needed every one of his 304 yards and four touchdowns to beat lowly Eastern Michigan last week. The Black Knights have made huge strides from last year's 2-10 team and currently lead FBS in rushing at 352 yards per game.

    Temple (0-6) has played a hellish schedule that's included losses to Notre Dame, Houston and Louisville, not to mention an odd trip to Idaho. The Owls have struggled to score all year, but did look somewhat competitive last week in an 18-point loss at Cincinnati.

    This one will probably be high scoring, since neither team is very good defensively. Advantage: home team.

    Prediction: Temple 31, Army 25

    **Update: Temple 33, Army 14

Ohio at Eastern Michigan

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ohio rolled to a 45-14 win last November.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Ohio (4-2, 1-1 Mid-American) laid an egg last week at home, falling 26-23 to a Central Michigan team it should have rolled. The Bobcats had won four in a row, some of them convincingly, but strangely played flat the last time out.

    Eastern Michigan (1-5, 0-2) is well on its way to a 17th losing season in 18 years, and last week allowed 304 rushing yards. To one player. The Eagles are the kind of team that opponents often set records against.

    Ohio won't do that, but they should win easily.

    Prediction: Ohio 40, Eastern Michigan 24

    **Update: Ohio 56, Eastern Michigan 28

Charleston Southern at Colorado

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None.

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think

    What to watch for: Charleston Southern (7-0) is one of five unbeaten teams left in the FCS ranks, but it is not ranked because of a schedule full of mostly also-ran lower-tier opponents. The Buccaneers get a golden opportunity to put an FBS skin on their mantle in a game that wasn't even on the schedule a month ago.

    Colorado (2-3) has dropped its last three games in increasingly pathetic fashion, having lost all momentum after getting two straight byes when its Sept. 14 game against Fresno State was washed out by statewide flooding. The Buffaloes added this game to improve their chances of making a bowl game, and had to get a waiver that would allow them to be bowl-eligible with six wins if two (they beat Central Arkansas last month) came against FCS competition.

    The win will go to Colorado, but not easily.

    Prediction: Colorado 43, Charleston Southern 24

    **Update: Colorado 43, Charleston Southern 10

Ball State at Western Michigan

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ball State squeaked out a 30-24 win at home last October.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Ball State (6-1, 3-0 Mid-American) convincingly won at Virginia two weeks ago, then sleepwalked through a three-point home victory over Kent State last Saturday. The Cardinals feature one of the country's most underrated passers in senior Keith Wenning (2,301 yards, 15 touchdowns) and have scored at least 27 points each game.

    Western Michigan (0-7, 0-3) is off to its worst start since opening 0-9 in 1996. The Broncos are losing by an average of 24.5 points and were crushed 33-0 at home by Buffalo last week.

    Don't expect Ball State to have a second straight lazy Saturday.

    Prediction: Ball State 41, Western Michigan 17

    **Update: Ball State 38, Western Michigan 17

Colorado State at Wyoming

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    Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Wyoming beat its bitter rival 45-31 last November, taking home the Bronze Boot for the fourth straight season.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Colorado State (2-4, 0-1 Mountain West) has beaten a so-so FCS team (Cal Poly) and a really bad FBS squad (UTEP), but otherwise has struggled in Jim McElwain's first season. The Rams have been middle of the road offensively but have yet to stop anyone from scoring.

    Wyoming (4-2, 2-0) has one of the better all-around offenses, and, save for a bad loss at Texas State, is playing as well as could be expected. The Cowboys are led by one of the game's most dynamic quarterbacks, junior Brett Smith, who can throw or run with the best of them.

    Wyoming is clearly better, but rivalry games can be tricky. Expect lots of hatred and vitriol.

    Prediction: Wyoming 50, Colorado State 27

    **Update: Colorado State 52, Wyoming 22

Kent State at South Alabama

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    Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    What to watch for: Kent State (2-5) won 11 games last year, but this season's results (and those from the years before) show 2012 was an anomaly. The Golden Flashes' only two wins are over an FCS team and a winless league foe, but last week did take 6-1 Ball State to the wire on the road.

    South Alabama (2-3) has had a stress-filled first season of bowl eligibility—winning games over Tulane and Western Kentucky by a total of nine points and losing three (including at Tennessee) by a combined nine points. The Jaguars have been in every game, but haven't showed the maturity and experience to distance themselves from anyone.

    If South Alabama wants to make a bowl this year, it will need to win games this one.

    Prediction: South Alabama 24, Kent State 21

    **Update: South Alabama 38, Kent State 21

No. 23 Northern Illinois at Central Michigan

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Northern Illinois opened league play last September with a 55-24 home win.

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: Northern Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Mid-American) was a BCS-buster last season, making the Orange Bowl (and looking unready for it). The Huskies will probably need to go unbeaten to repeat that achievement, though wins already at Iowa and Purdue will help their cause. Senior quarterback Jordan Lynch (1,947 offensive yards, 17 total touchdowns) is the team's driving force.

    Central Michigan (3-4, 2-1) have been terribly inconsistent this season. The Chippewas had a nice victory over Ohio last week, but also got beat at UNLV and struggled to beat winless Miami (Ohio).

    NIU will get everyone's best game in the MAC, but should have enough to prevail.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 35, Central Michigan 33

    **Update: Northern Illinois 38, Central Michigan 17

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Stanford beat UCLA 27-24 to win the Pac-12 title game last December, a week after winning their matchup in the regular-season finale, 35-17.

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    What to watch for: UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has been mostly solid in running off five straight to open the season, though it looked disinterested in last week's 27-point win over California. The Bruins have a talented, albeit mistake-prone quarterback in sophomore Brett Hundley, while its defense sports one of the nation's best linebackers in senior Anthony Barr.

    Stanford (5-1, 3-1) became the first Top 10 team this season to lose to an unranked foe when it fell 27-21 at Utah last week, a game that suddenly put into doubt the Cardinal's unflashy, pro-style approach to the game. But they still have some dangerous weapons, most notably wideout Ty Montgomery and his FBS-leading 37.3 yards per kickoff return.

    Stanford's loss took some of the shine off this one, but it should still be one of the weekend's best games.

    Prediction: UCLA 27, Stanford 24

    **Update: Stanford 24, UCLA 10

Indiana at Michigan

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Michigan won 42-35 in October 2010, its 17th straight win over Indiana.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Indiana (3-3, 1-1 Big Ten) sports one of the more explosive offenses in the country, led by talenetd sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld. But the Hoosiers can't stop anyone, having allowed 35 or more points on four different occasions. Even when they scored 28 against Michigan State's stingy defense last week, they gave up 42 and weren't in the game in the second half.

    Michigan (5-1, 1-1) lost a four-overtime thriller at Penn State last week, a result that seemed inevitable considering how much it had struggled to beat doormats like Akron and Connecticut in earlier weeks. The Wolverines get a lot of production from quarterback Devin Gardner, but overall haven't looked that great.

    Michigan wasn't going to go unbeaten, and now that it's got that loss over with it can focus on winning these kind of games more convincingly.

    Prediction: Michigan 37, Indiana 24

    **Update: Michigan 63, Indiana 47

Maryland at Wake Forest

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    Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Maryland eeked out a 19-14 home win last September. 

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: Maryland (5-1, 1-1 ACC) had to go last week without speedy sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown, but still managed to pull out a one-point win over Virginia. Per the Baltimore Sun, the Terrapins will have Brown back Saturday. And it's a good thing, as he's the main reason the third season under Randy Edsall is going so well.

    Wake Forest (3-3, 2-2) is one of the worst offensive teams in the nation, but has a good enough defense that it can occasionally win a game against a bad team. The Demon Deacons have lost at home to a Sun Belt team, though, in Louisiana-Monroe and have no ball-carriers with more than 171 yards.

    With Brown reportedly back, Maryland takes this.

    Prediction: Maryland 33, Wake Forest 23

    **Update: Wake Forest 34, Maryland 10

Iowa at No. 4 Ohio State

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ohio State won 20-17 in November 2010.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Iowa (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) has lost twice at home but is 2-0 on the road, winning at rival Iowa State and in its conference opener at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes are playing with their usual blend of vanilla offense and better-than-average defense, the same formula that's kept Kirk Ferentz handsomely compensated since 1999.

    Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) has been off since it escaped with a win at Northwestern and set Vegas on its side with its last-second spread-covering touchdown. The Buckeyes played an incredibly weak nonconference schedule, but has looked good in tough games against Wisconsin and Northwestern to open Big Ten play.

    With much less stress involved with this one, expect OSU to win comfortably.

    Prediction: Ohio State 39, Iowa 20

    **Update: Ohio State 34, Iowa 24

No. 24 Auburn at No. 7 Texas A&M

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    John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Texas A&M crushed host Auburn 63-21 last October. 

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    What to watch for: Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC) has been a pleasant surprise in Gus Malzahn's first year, already surpassing the three wins Gene Chizik managed in his final season. The Tigers have gotten a big boost from JUCO transfer quarterback Nick Marshall, who missed last week's 62-3 thumping of FCS Western Carolina with a knee injury but is expected back this weekend.

    Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) has given Johnny Manziel the keys to the car and has just sat back to enjoy the ride. The Aggies have allowed 30-plus points four times, but with a 47.8 scoring average of their own there's been no urgency to actually worry about playing defense.

    This should be a highlight-filled game, and could easily be the one Manziel finally lays an egg in. Probably not, though.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 45, Auburn 31

    **Update: Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41

BYU at Houston

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: BYU (4-2) has seen its offense improve its efficiency each and every game this season, culminating in a three-game win streak that's featured solid wins over Georgia Tech and rival Utah State. The Cougars have a do-everything player in quarterback Taysom Hill, who after being dreadful with his passing accuracy early on is now throwing on target.

    Houston (5-0) is probably the quietest unbeaten team in the FBS, partly because it hasn't played anybody—its best win is 31-26 over Rice—and because it isn't lighting up the scoreboard like they did in the Kevin Sumlin era and with Case Keenum slinging the ball all over. Instead, the Cougars are actually playing defense, allowing just 19 points per game.

    This one could go either way, without it being a surprise, but BYU has just a little more going for it.

    Prediction: BYU 27, Houston 23

    **Update: BYU 47, Houston 46

Duke at Virginia

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Duke won 42-17 at home last October.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Duke (4-2, 0-2 ACC) went unbeaten in nonconference play for the first time in 19 years, but lost two straight home games in league play to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. Nothing about the Blue Devils' play this season has stood out, other than maybe being able to score 55 points and lose, as they did against Pitt.

    Virginia (2-4, 0-2) impressed by beating BYU at home to open the season, but it's been mostly downhill since. The Cavaliers lost by 49 at home to Oregon, then scored three points against Pitt a week after the Panthers won 58-55 over Duke. This could be their last winnable game on the schedule.

    Someone has to win this one, and the edge goes to the less uninspiring of the two.

    Prediction: Duke 23, Virginia 17

    **Update: Duke 35, Virginia 22

Massachusetts at Buffalo

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Buffalo won 29-19 at Massachusetts last November.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Massachusetts (1-5, 1-1 Mid-American) won a battle of the bottom last week against Miami (Ohio), scoring a season-high (!!!!) 17 in the process. Otherwise, the Minutemen have been absolutely atrocious, averaging 5.3 points against their other FBS opponents.

    Buffalo (4-2, 2-0) is having its best year since Turner Gill jumped ship and then was made to walk the plank at Kansas two years later. The Bulls have preyed on stinkers during their four-game win streak and have the luxury of being on the weaker side of the MAC and don't face main challenger Bowling Green until the season finale.

    UMass got its one win out of the way and can now go back to getting spanked.

    Prediction: Buffalo 41, Massachusetts 13

    **Update: Buffalo 32, Massachusetts 3

No. 18 Oklahoma at Kansas

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oklahoma romped to a 52-7 home win last October.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) looked vulnerable in its Red River Shootout loss to Texas, struggling on offense and giving up big plays on defense. The Sooners don't often look that bad, and because of that it's caused panic in Norman.

    Kansas (2-3, 0-2) might have a robust—for this program—two wins already, but it hasn't scored more than 17 points against an FBS opponent. The Jayhawks haven't been getting pounded as badly as last year, but they've only played one team likely to have done so. And Texas Tech crushed them by 38.

    Though it's on the road, this is the perfect bounce back game for Oklahoma.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 40, Kansas 21

    **Update: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 19

North Texas at Louisiana Tech

31 of 49

    Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sp

    When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Louisiana Tech won 34-31 in 2006.

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    What to watch for: North Texas (3-3, 1-1 Conference USA) is one of those teams that rarely gets much attention beyond having an awesome nickname, but it's had some decent results this year. The Mean Green are the only team to beat Ball State, and thanks to some special teams magic put a scare into Georgia for three quarters last month.

    Louisiana Tech (2-4, 1-1) snapped a six-game skid (following a 9-1 start to 2012) to FBS opponents when it won at UTEP last week, but otherwise have been pitiful in its first season since Sonny Dykes bolted for California. The Bulldogs led the nation with a 51.5 scoring average in 2012, but this year is averaging just 20.

    Flip a coin 10 times and you'll likely get five heads and five tails. That would be more entertaining than to watch this one.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 21, North Texas 20

    **Update: North Texas 28, Louisiana Tech 13

No. 20 Washington at Arizona State

32 of 49

    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Arizona State won 24-14 in 2010, its seventh straight victory over Washington.

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    What to watch for: Washington (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) just finished up the West Coast version of playing Alabama and LSU back-to-back, losing by three at Stanford before wearing down late in a 21-point home loss to Oregon. The Huskies are still one of the most dangerous teams around, both offensively and defensively, and need to move past the last two weeks to avoid sabotaging their season.

    Arizona State (4-2, 2-1) has annihilated its last two league foes, outscoring USC and Colorado 116-54, and sports the nation's top scorer in pass-catching tailback Marion Grice. But the Sun Devils have also struggled in the spotlight, losing away from home (at Stanford and vs. Notre Dame in Texas) both times as a ranked team.

    The game is a must-win for both teams, so someone is going to come away disappointed. It'll be the visitors.

    Prediction: Arizona State 43, Washington 38

    **Update: Arizona State 53, Washington 24

No. 6 LSU at Ole Miss

33 of 49

    Crystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: LSU won a 41-35 barnburner at home last November.

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) seems to be willing to play whatever style its opponent wants. That's meant winning (or, in the case of at Georgia, losing) shootouts most of the time in the new-look SEC, but last week it meant grinding out a 17-6 defensive struggle over Florida. The Tigers have playmakers all over the field and a coach willing to let them loose.

    Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3) opened with impressive wins at Vanderbilt and Texas, but the rigors of four out of five on the road caught up. Then the Rebels couldn't hold off Texas A&M at home last week, they're third straight loss. Still, Ole Miss is an exciting team that looks capable of competing with anyone.

    The Rebels look like they're going to pull off another upset this season, why can't it be this one?

    Prediction: Ole Miss 37, LSU 35

    **Update: Ole Miss 27, LSU 24

Old Dominion at Pittsburgh

34 of 49

    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    What to watch for: Old Dominion (4-2) is treating its year transitioning from FCS to FBS like it might not get to play next season, trying to put up as many points as humanly possible in hopes that will earn it another year of football. The Monarchs have scored 59, 66 and 76 points this season, though all against FCS teams. They're 0-2 against FBS schools, losing 52-38 at East Carolina and 47-10 at Maryland.

    Pittsburgh (3-2) has been an offensive enigma, scoring 49 and 58 in back-to-back weeks but then notching just 36 points in the other three games. The Panthers have a great pass-and-catch combo in Tom Savage and Tyler Boyd, but they disappear as often as they show up.

    This is one of those "throw out the game plan and just go nuts" games, which are often the best to watch.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 47, Old Dominion 34

    **Update: Pittsburgh 34, Old Dominion 24

Iowa State at No. 12 Baylor

35 of 49

    Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Iowa State won 35-21 at home last October.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Iowa State (1-4, 0-2 Big 12) is college football's hard luck team this year, with losses by one, six, seven and eight points. The Cyclones could have won all of those—and probably should have beat Texas, based on the TV replays)—but instead are staring at a lost season.

    Baylor (5-0, 2-0) passed its first real test after four laughers to open the season, winning by 10 at Kansas State last week. The Bears still lead the world in scoring and total offense, and probably have a couple more lopsided results on their schedule.

    This is going to be one of them.

    Prediction: Baylor 59, Iowa State 21

    **Update: Baylor 71, Iowa State 7

Georgia State at Texas State

36 of 49

    Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    What to watch for: Georgia State (0-6, 0-1 Sun Belt) has had the kind of season you'd expect from a transitioning FBS program: lots of hurdles. The Panthers have lost three games to FCS opponents and scored only a combined 10 points against their first two FBS foes before almost beating Troy at home last week.

    Texas State (3-3, 1-1) went 4-8 as a transitional program last season, and this year it's shown improvement with some notable wins, including by 21 points over Wyoming. The Bobcats are one of maybe six teams in the eight-member Sun Belt that could win the title, even in spite of them having one of the nation's 10 worst offenses.

    Texas State wins an otherwise uninteresting matchup.

    Prediction: Texas State 35, Georgia State 20

    **Update: Texas State 24, Georgia State 17

Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama

37 of 49

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Alabama rolled 52-0 on the road last September.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 SEC) has struggled mightily in Bret Bielema's first season, averaging only 18.5 points per game while allowing 38.8 during its four-game losing streak. The Razorbacks have the nation's top freshman running back in Alex Collins (720 yards, four touchdowns), but he's not enough all by himself.

    Alabama (6-0, 3-0) has done everything that has been expected of it as defending champs: crushing weak opponents, of which there have been many, and handling its lone challenge by winning at Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide have given no reason for anyone to think they won't three-peat, though there are still a few challenges left before that can happen.

    This won't be one of those challenges.

    Prediction: Alabama 40, Arkansas 13

    **Update: Alabama 52, Arkansas 0

USC at Notre Dame

38 of 49

    When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Notre Dame completed a perfect regular season with a 22-13 road win last November.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: USC (4-2) looked like a new team in last week's 38-31 win over Arizona, playing far different than how it had before Lane Kiffin was fired as coach. The Trojans appeared more loose, as well as more confident, but that could have just been a temporary high in the wake of Ed Orgeron's appointment as interim coach.

    Notre Dame (4-2) has undergone the expected dropoff after last year's run to the BCS title game, losing to two of the better teams on its schedule instead of finding a way to triumph like in 2012. The Fighting Irish are still searching for an offensive identity, while their defense has looked plain.

    USC has won its last five trips to South Bend, but this time the Trojans don't come in as the far superior team.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 21

    **Update: Notre Dame 14, USC 10

Nevada at Boise State

39 of 49

    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Boise State won 27-21 in Reno last December.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: Nevada (3-3, 2-1 Mountain West) is the typical good-at-home, bad-on-the-road team, going 3-0 in Reno and 0-3 in other teams' stadiums. The Wolfpack are middle-of-the-road offensively, without many playmakers, while their defense is just good enough to get you beat.

    Boise State (4-2, 2-1) has righted the ship after an uncharacteristic 2-2 start, handily winning its last two and starting to show the swagger that's made it the top mid-major program for more than a decade. The Broncos defense has improved leaps and bounds, while quarterback Joe Southwick and tailback Jay Ajayi have been efficient.

    The game is on the blue turf, which is as close to a guarantee as anything.

    Prediction: Boise State 44, Nevada 27

    **Update: Boise State 34, Nevada 17

Rice at New Mexico State

40 of 49

    Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    What to watch for: Rice (4-2) is off to its best start in over a decade, and might be 5-1 if Johnny Manziel had been forced to sit out the entire season opener instead of just the first half. The Owls don't do anything exceptionally well on either side of the ball, but they've hung with their better opponents and put away the weaker foes.

    New Mexico State (0-6) is the worst team in FBS, even worse than the ones that aren't full-fledged members. The Aggies have lost 17 straight and haven't beaten a non-FCS team in almost two years. 'Nuff said.

    Rice only loses this game if it gets thrown off by the pink uniforms NMSU will be wearing to raise breast cancer awareness.

    Prediction: Rice 34, New Mexico State 22

    **Update: Rice 45, New Mexico State 19

No. 5 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson

41 of 49

    When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Florida State held on for a 49-37 home win last September.

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    What to watch for: Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) has been among the country's most dominant, efficient and balanced teams this year, with almost no hiccups (other than the first half at Boston College) to speak of. The Seminoles sport the Freshman Flavor of the Month, quarterback Jameis Winston, and a defense that is second to few.

    Clemson (6-0, 4-0) has been almost as impressive as its opponent this week, having already won a high-profile matchup with a ranked foe when it beat Georgia 38-35 to start the season. The Tigers also inexplicably struggled against Boston College, but beyond that have cruised behind quarterback Tajh Boyd and an opportunistic defense. 

    Prediction: Florida State 41, Clemson 38

    **Update: Florida State 51, Clemson 14

No. 25 Wisconsin at Illinois

42 of 49

    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Wisconsin won 31-14 at home last October.

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) was nearly flawless in its 35-6 win over Northwestern last week, completing shaking off any lingering hangover from a loss at Ohio State the game before. The Badgers once again have a dominant rushing attack led by Melvin Gordon (870 yards, eight touchdowns) and James White (574 yards, five TDs), and their defense is giving up 13.2 points per game.

    Illinois (3-2, 0-1) has looked much better than last year's 2-10 team, and the offense has some good weapons to work with. But the Illini haven't beaten anyone of significance, instead falling in matchups with Washington and Nebraska.

    But this scenario—a night game at home, against an overconfident foe—just screams for an upset.

    Prediction: Illinois 27, Wisconsin 23

    **Update: Wisconsin 56, Illinois 32

Utah State at New Mexico

43 of 49

    Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: New Mexico won 34-7 in 2003, back when Utah State was in the midst of 20 straight losing seasons.

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    What to watch for: Utah State (3-4, 2-1 Mountain West) is not the same team it was in the first month of the season, when it had narrow losses to Utah and USC and featured a fast-paced offense led by one of the nation's top quarterbacks. But since Chuckie Keeton was lost to a season-ending injury the Aggies have struggled mightily, losing back-to-back home games they could have won with Keeton under center.

    New Mexico (2-4, 0-2) is running an offense that goes completely against the grain of modern-day football, averaging nearly 350 rushing yards per game while throwing less than option teams. The Lobos had a 497-yard rush performance against UNLV, but still lost 56-42 because they don't know how to play defense.

    Bet the over, and take the home team, by default.

    Prediction: New Mexico 37, Utah State 33

    **Update: Utah State 45, New Mexico 10

Utah at Arizona

44 of 49

    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Arizona scored a 34-24 win at Utah last November.

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think

    What to watch for: Utah (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) is still riding high off its 27-21 upset of Stanford, finally coming through in the clutch against a strong opponent. But the Utes also lost their previous two league games, also at home, because they made too many mistakes down the stretch, so they're not mistake-proof.

    Arizona (3-2, 0-2) is questioning its strengths and trying to address its weaknesses after back-to-back road losses to open conference play. The Wildcats have been consistent on the ground, while slowly improving in the passing game, but the defense that looked so improved early on is starting to regress.

    Did someone say letdown? The combination of coming off a program-defining win and having to play on the road makes Utah ripe for a loss.

    Prediction: Arizona 34, Utah 23

    **Update: Arizona 35, Utah 24

UNLV at No. 17 Fresno State

45 of 49

    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Fresno State beat UNLV 46-28 in 1997, the last of nine straight victories in the series.

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: UNLV (4-2, 2-0 Mountain West) has already doubled its win total from a year ago, taking some heat off coach Bobby Hauck, especially after opening league play with two wins. But the Runnin' Rebels are giving up points, lots of points. The average is 36 per game, a number that rises to 41.8 against FBS opponents.

    Fresno State (5-0, 2-0) has the best shot of all of the unbeaten teams still out there to stay undefeated because it doesn't face a team that is currently ranked the rest of the season. But the Bulldogs are also a really good team, especially when it comes to their pass game, led by senior slinger Derek Carr (1,864 passing yards, 19 touchdowns) and a slew of reliable receivers.

    Bad defense plus big-play offense equals major blowout potential.

    Prediction: Fresno State 47, UNLV 24

    **Update: Fresno State 38, UNLV 14

Washington State at No. 2 Oregon

46 of 49

    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oregon won 51-26 last September, their sixth straight win over Washington State

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    What to watch for: Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) aced its first test of the season last week, slowing down and running over host Washington for a 21-point victory. The game answered a lot of questions about the Ducks, mostly positive, and firmly flung quarterback Marcus Mariota into the Heisman race.

    Washington State (4-3, 2-2) is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was in Mike Leach's first season in 2012, and regardless of how down USC is, that win in Los Angeles in September was epic. But the Cougars are still too one-dimensional, and quarterback Connor Halliday's propensity for throwing interceptions is keeping them from really turning the corner toward mediocrity.

    Most Oregon starters are going to be watching their backups early in the second half.

    Prediction: Oregon 58, Washington State 20

    **Update: Oregon 62, Washington State 38

Oregon State at California

47 of 49

    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oregon State crushed California 62-14 at home last November.

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    What to watch for: Oregon State (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) doesn't have the nation's best overall offense, but its got the two most prolific individual players. Quarterback Sean Mannion (2,511 yards, 25 touchdowns) and receiver Brandin Cooks (63 catches, 944 yards, 11 TDs), both juniors, have made the fact the Beavers have absolutely no run game a non-issue.

    California (1-5, 0-3) was expected to have a tough first year under Sonny Dykes, but the results have been worse than projections, especially on defense. The Golden Bears are allowing almost 44 points per game, never allowing less than 30. It hasn't been a complete loss, though, as freshman Jared Goff should thrive in this offense.

    Should be closer than expected, but still a win for the visitors.

    Prediction: Oregon State 49, California 38

    **Update: Oregon State 49, California 17

No. 10 Miami (Fla.) at North Carolina

48 of 49

    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    **UPDATE: Miami 27, North Carolina 23**

     

    When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: North Carolina pulled out an 18-14 win at Miami last October.

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    What to watch for: Despite moving into the Top 10, Miami (5-0, 1-0 ACC) has gotten to this point rather quietly. The Hurricanes' best wins, last week over Georgia Tech and in Week 2 against Florida, have both been tarnished by those opponents' overall struggles.

    Carolina (1-4, 0-2) hasn't had anything go its way this season, losing three straight, but the Tar Heels always seem to play the Hurricanes tough.

    Add in the national audience and the atmosphere of a Thursday night home game in an on-campus stadium, and this one should be close.

    Prediction: Miami 27, North Carolina 16

     

UCF at No. 8 Louisville

49 of 49

    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    **UPDATE: UCF 38, Louisville 35** 

     

    When: Friday, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: They've met only once before, with Louisville beating UCF 42-21 in 1985.

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    What to watch for: UCF (4-1, 1-0) was off last week and likely used the break to re-focus after a near-upset of South Carolina, followed by the Golden Knights nearly being upset themselves by a weak Memphis squad.

    Louisville (6-0, 2-0) gets a second chance in as many weeks to improve its—and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's—resume in front of a national audience against a decent opponent. The Cardinals were somewhat disappointing last week in their 24-10 win over Rutgers, with Bridgewater being uncharacteristically sloppy. The defense was strong as ever, though.

    Louisville should win going away, but UCF is good enough to keep it from getting out of hand.

    Prediction: Louisville 31, UCF 14

     

     

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