Expert Predictions for Week 8 in College Football

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2017

Expert Predictions for Week 8 in College Football

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    California shocked Washington State in Week 7.
    California shocked Washington State in Week 7.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Trying to predict what will happen in college football always seems like an exercise in futility, but that's especially true after a weekend in which four AP Top 10 teams lost to unranked foes.

    We'll save you the trouble of looking up last week's predictions. No, none of us saw that coming.

    The first five weeks of the 2017 season lulled us into a false sense of security. We went from more than a month without a single Top 10 team losing to an unranked opponent to two such games in Week 6 and then last week's upset bonanza.

    Will we get a return to normalcy in Week 8, or is weekly chaos our new normal?

    Our college football experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Greg Wallace—offered up predictions on nine of the hottest burning questions of the week, including:

    • Will Michigan or Penn State be sad after the game in Happy Valley?
    • Does USC's passing game or Notre Dame rush attack prevail?
    • Will Louisville or Florida State finish the week with four losses?
    • And can anyone slow down Khalil Tate?

    Our experts are on the case to let you know.

No. 11 USC vs. No. 13 Notre Dame: Who You Got?

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    Sam Darnold
    Sam DarnoldKelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes (Follow @MattHayesCFB)

    Love the Irish here. This team has been quietly mowing down opponents after blowing the Georgia game. (How good does Georgia look now?) This is a crossroads moment for Brian Kelly, a game he must win to prove the Irish not only are moving in the right direction, but also can win rivalry games. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush returns from injury, and an Irish defense that has been stellar all season will find a way to get critical stops in the fourth quarter. 

               

    David Kenyon (Follow @Kenyon19_BR)

    This contest kicks off Notre Dame's brutal stretch that includes six teams with winning records—including four ranked programs—over the next six weeks. And the Irish won't like how it starts. Sam Darnold will probably make one head-shaking mistake, but he'll lead a clutch fourth-quarter drive to steal a win in South Bend. 

               

    Adam Kramer (Follow @KegsnEggs)

    Full disclosure: I picked USC to win the national championship before the season. Fuller disclosure: I don’t feel great about that pick halfway through the year. Take this game, for example. I like Notre Dame to win. Although we seem to overrate the Irish yearly, they feel somewhat underrated at the moment. Maybe USC will finally hit its stride and look like the team we thought we were getting, but Notre Dame has good balance and should be able to pull this one off. 

               

    Kerry Miller (Follow @kerrancejames)

    I've got the Fighting Irish improving to 6-1 in a bit of a defensive tussle. Oh, there will be offense. Each of these teams is averaging better than 470 yards per game. I'm not saying Notre Dame wins 3-0 or anything like that. But the story after the final whistle will be Notre Dame's defense holding Darnold in check, punctuated by a game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter. 

               

    Brad Shepard (Follow @Brad_Shepard)

    When is my belief in the Trojans and Sam Darnold going to burn me again? Last week's comeback against Utah saved USC from its second loss, but the Trojans are far from the powerhouse many (including yours truly) expected. Notre Dame has been solid, and the one-point loss to Georgia and 20-point win over Michigan State are aging nicely. Still, Darnold is going to put it together soon, and it may be this week against the nation's 78th-ranked pass defense. Trojans win a close one. 

                   

    Greg Wallace (Follow @gc_wallace)

    Although last week was tumultuous and fun with seven Top 25 teams losing, this feels like the closest thing to a marquee matchup we’ve had in a couple of weeksa classic rivalry under the lights in South Bend. Outside of a narrow loss to Georgia, Notre Dame has been impressive, while USC lost at Washington State and escaped against Utah last week. I think Josh Adams runs well against the Trojans and Brandon Wimbush contributes in multiple ways, as the Irish hold down Darnold and take a 35-21 win. 

Which Elite B1G Defense Prevails: No. 2 Penn State or No. 19 Michigan?

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    Saquon Barkley
    Saquon BarkleyJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    I’ll take Penn State, but only because the Penn State offense will move the ball furtherand here’s the key: for longer stretchesthan the Michigan offense. That means the Wolverines will be on the field much longer and wear out quicker. Penn State wins this game in the second half when tailback Saquon Barkley finally starts getting chunk gains against a tired Michigan defense. 

               

    David Kenyon

    Michigan's defense will outplay Penn State's defense, but that doesn't mean it's enough. Granted, I think the Wolverines will beat the 9.5-point spread and make this a one-possession game where Barkley and Co. must score late, which they will. As much as I believed in a Michigan win here all offseason, it's difficult to trust this offense in a high-pressure spot. 

               

    Adam Kramer

    Both should play well. The issue for Michigan is that its offense will not be able to support the defense—at least that has been the theme thus far. In terms of fun schematics, however, watching Rashan Gary chase around Barkley for a few hours is going to be a blast. I feel like this will be a low-scoring game, although I believe Penn State, at home, wins a close one. 

               

    Kerry Miller

    Penn State wins this game, and it's not really that close. Each of these teams is outstanding on defense, but the Nittany Lions are significantly better on offense than the Wolverines. It will be far from the most dominant performances in the collegiate careers of Barkley and Trace McSorley, but they'll do enough to win the game and cover the spread. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    Penn State is going to win the game because it's at home and because the Wolverines have no offense to speak of. I believe Michigan has the better defense, but is it good enough to hang with all the weapons coach James Franklin can throw out there? If Barkley posts a big game against this team, he deserves to be the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Look for Big Blue to key on him. But, when that happens, Trace McSorley and Co. will take over. PSU will win by at least two touchdowns in Happy Valley.

                   

    Greg Wallace

    This evening clash in Happy Valley could leave points at a premium; the teams combine to allow 23.7 points per game. However, Penn State has looked far superior on offense with do-everything back and Heisman Trophy candidate Barkley, while Michigan has sputtered in the Big Ten, scoring just 10 points against Michigan State and going to OT at Indiana before winning 27-20. The Wolverines have issues at quarterback with backup John O’Korn starting, and I don’t see them putting up enough points to hang with the Nittany Lions, who average 39.7 points per game.

Does No. 20 UCF Remain Undefeated This Week at Navy?

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    McKenzie Milton
    McKenzie MiltonJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    How many times have we seen AAC wannabes find themselves dealing with the Navy triple option and coming out on the short end? It’s truly remarkable what Scott Frost has done with the UCF offense in less than two years, and if that means the Knights have to outscore the Mids, so be it. Won’t be the first time that has happened in a key AAC game.

               

    David Kenyon

    While I'm all over the McKenzie Milton bandwagon and he's the main reason I say yes, Adrian Killins is a critical player this week. He doesn't receive many touches but usually breaks off a couple of big gains. As long as Navy has to respect the running game, Milton will continue his hot streak opposite a vulnerable secondary. 

               

    Adam Kramer

    The option is a cruel, unpredictable beast, but I do believe UCF comes away victorious. Frost will likely be getting paid many more millions of dollars in the next four months to coach a football team different than the one he does right now—hi, Nebraska—and I can’t argue with that one bit. The Knights have been the best non-Power Five team to date, and it hasn't been that close. While Navy is talented, well-coached and a matchup nightmare, I like UCF by double digits on the road. 

               

    Kerry Miller

    This is sort of the inverse of Michigan vs. Penn State. UCF and Navy are both prolific on offense, but this one is determined by the fact that the Midshipmen can't seem to stop anyone on defense. It'll be interesting to see whether Navy's run game (397.5 YPG) or UCF's rush defense (110.2 YPG) wins the battle, but the Knights will win the war by scoring on about 90 percent of their offensive possessions. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    This UCF offense is the truth, and there's a reason Frost's name is popping up in Tennessee and Nebraska coaching rumors. The Knights lead the nation in scoring, and that's why they're undefeated. Navy is going to get its share of yardage, too, but we saw what happened last week when the Midshipmen went against a prolific offense in a loss at Memphis. The Tigers aren't as good or as efficient as UCF on that side of the ball. Look for Frost's team to stay hot.

                   

    Greg Wallace

    Frost has turned a winless Central Florida team around lightning-fast. In his second year, the Knights average 50.6 points per game with an average victory margin of 33.8 points per game. McKenzie Milton is the best QB you haven’t heard of (yet) with 1,489 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. Navy is dangerous, but the Midshipmen are leaky defensively, allowing 479.3 yards per game. The Knights should easily improve to 6-0.

Will Tennessee Do Enough at No. 1 Alabama to Save Butch Jones' Job?

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    Butch Jones
    Butch JonesWade Payne/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    No. That’s about as plain and simple as it gets. The Vols are a mess now, and not just on the field. When you’ve had multiple fights among players during practiceand the coach excuses it publicly each timeit gives you an idea of the inner workings of the program. A new quarterback didn’t help last week, won’t help again this week, and a motivated Alabama (Nick Saban has been working all week to keep the Tide juiced for this rivalry game) will translate to a big bowl of ugly for the Vols and Jones. 

               

    David Kenyon

    Serious question: Would a win save it? Because at this point, Tennessee could beat Alabama, follow it up with losses against Kentucky and Southern Miss, and nobody would be surprised with the latter results. It seems everyone involved is just waiting for the inevitable. Also, Alabama rolls by 35, so no. 

               

    Adam Kramer

    No. I honestly have no idea what else to type here. I really have nothing more to say, though. Let’s instead talk about something else—cake, perhaps? I really enjoy cake, especially vanilla cake. Pie is also delicious. In fact, apple and peach pies are something you should keep in your home at most times. 

               

    Kerry Miller

    There aren't enough leadership reps in the world for the Volunteers to beat Alabama, which is what it would take to save Jones' job. Quality losses and moral victories aren't worth a darn when you open the season in the AP Top 25 before falling to 3-4. Neither will be in play here, though, as Alabama wins this game by at least a 31-point margin—as it has done in five of the past seven years—and Jones gets fired within 24 hours of returning to Knoxville. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    Ultimately, there's nothing Jones can do to save his job short of upsetting the Crimson Tide and winning out. That isn't happening. The fans are restless on Rocky Top, and it's going to start showing up at Neyland Stadium when the Vols return. As for this week? It's going to be a bloodbath. The Vols haven't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters, and that may not end against the mighty Tide. If the Vols get boat-raced, the Jones ax could come down Sunday. But it's just a matter of when, not if. 

                   

    Greg Wallace

    Jones appears to be done at Tennessee. The Vols missed their window to be successful in a down SEC East, and with another year of also-ran status ahead, it feels like it’s time. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see UT pull the curtains two weeks ago following the 41-0 loss to Georgia and a bye week ahead, but sending an interim coach into Alabama might have looked bad. Tennessee will be rolled by the Tide, and next week, someone new (or at least different) will be coaching the Vols to a “life championship." 

How Many Rushing Yards for Arizona QB Khalil Tate Against California?

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    Khalil Tate
    Khalil TateRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    I’m going less than 90. Tate has been ridiculous in his two starts, and looks like a smaller version of Pat White, who led West Virginia and Rich Rodriguez to big things a decade ago. Rodriguez found a quarterback that he can win with and save his job. But the Cal defense took a big step last week in an ambush of Washington State, and it's only giving up 87.2 yards per game rushing at home. The Bears will build on that this week against Arizona.  

               

    David Kenyon

    Pencil me in for 140. I wouldn't go that high if Cal had Devante Downs, but he's lost for the season because of a lower-body injury. Downs had been outstanding in the middle of the defense. Tate will take off scrambling enough to atone for a handful of sacks, and Downs won't be there to contain him. 

               

    Adam Kramer

    In a matter of weeks, Tate has become one of the greatest shows in the sport. (I also have no idea why he didn’t begin the season as the starter given his video-game traits, but that is another conversation for another day.) Cal, however, has been a much better defensive team this year. Justin Wilcox has done a fabulous job thus far, although this is a step up in class. I believe Tate will still have a ridiculous game, although not as ridiculous. Let’s say 173 rushing yards and two scores.

               

    Kerry Miller

    Cal hasn't faced any true dual-threat QBs this season, but against teams with at least a bit of mobility at QB, the Golden Bears were gashed in the run game by North Carolina and Oregon. And Tate is hotter than the sun right now, guiding the Wildcats to back-to-back 400-plus-yard rushing performances. He takes a bit of a step backward this week, but he still breaks free for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a win. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    It's not often you see a player single-handedly turn around a team's fortunes, but that's what Tate has done. I mean, 327 and 230 rushing yards in consecutive games? Seriously? That's sick. This kid is a monster, and he's playing with a ton of confidence. So are the Bears after Friday's dominant win over Washington State. This is a decent Bears defense, and head coach Justin Wilcox will devise a scheme to at least slow down Tate. That will happen, but he'll still finish with 150 yards on the ground. 

                   

    Greg Wallace

    At the beginning of 2017, Rich Rodriguez looked to be in trouble at Arizona. But he seems to have stumbled into a star in a (former) backup QB. Tate has been a terror on the ground, piling up 557 yards and six scores in wins over Colorado and UCLA. Up next? A Cal team that showed its claws in a surprising 37-3 upset of then-No. 8 Washington State. However, Cal harassed Luke Falk through the air. Tate should scramble through a defense that was porous until shutting down the Cougars, piling up 185 rushing yards in a 27-20 Arizona win. 

Who Picks Up Loss No. 4 in Week 8: Louisville or Florida State?

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    Lamar Jackson
    Lamar JacksonTimothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    Louisville. The Cardinals look lost defensively, so much so that even the uber-talented arm and legs of Lamar Jackson can’t save them. Meanwhile, FSU freshman QB James Blackman has been getting better and more confident with each game, and the Noles are beginning to protect better (OK, slightly). Blackman completed 18 of 21 passes in last week’s win at Duke (two of the incompletions were interceptions), and he’s seeing the field now instead of guessing. 

               

    David Kenyon

    While I'm saying Florida State falls, that disaster of a day from Louisville's defense against Boston College in Week 7 is hugely concerning. Eagles running back AJ Dillon is a promising player—Jim Harbaugh wanted him at Michigan for a very obvious reason—but Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers are even better. Freshman mistakes are still plaguing Blackman, though. Jackson gets it done in Tallahassee.

               

    Adam Kramer

    Man, this game lost some steam, no? Both teams have not had the kind of seasons we expected for a myriad of reasons, although Louisville’s loss to Boston College was a shocker. That’s the kind of a result that is hard to rally from, and I could see Florida State winning a close, ugly game. Also, if you are trying to teach your son how to play an offensive line position, I would probably watch something else. 

               

    Kerry Miller

    Florida State wins, because it's starting to show signs of life on offense while Louisville's defense looks worse than ever. (If Boston College ran for 364 yards against the Cardinals, what could Akers and Patrick do?) Moreover, this is a pride game for the 'Noles. They need to pay back Louisville for last year's 63-20 shellacking. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    This is one of the most intriguing matchups of the week between mediocre teams. We'll see if Florida State can stop Jackson and if the Seminoles can continue the trend of teams trouncing the Cardinals defense. This looks like a U of L team that has quit on Bobby Petrino, though, and FSU is trending in the right direction with Blackman running the show. I think the Seminoles get it done at home and get the offense on track against a bad Cardinals unit. 

                   

    Greg Wallace

    Who would’ve thought Louisville and Florida State would have six combined losses in Week 8? Not me, that’s for sure. The Cardinals have been awful defensively, and FSU has been slow and boring offensively. However, if Florida State can shut down Jackson better than it did a year ago (i.e., not at all), the Seminoles should have just enough offensive firepower, with an emerging run game, to get a home win and get back to .500 while furthering Louisville’s struggles. 

Of the Seven Undefeated Teams in Action, How Many Suffer a Loss?

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    Travis Homer
    Travis HomerMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    Normally I would say none, as historically in this wickedly unpredictable sport, a wild weekend of upsets (see: last weekend) usually is followed by zero drama. Again, usually. Still, there are spots on the schedule where upsets can easily happen: Syracuse at Miami, UCF at Navy, Michigan at Penn State. I’m going with none, knowing full well how last week’s madness got everyone’s attention in Coral Gables, Orlando and State College. 

               

    David Kenyon

    Zero is a very dangerous way to live right now, but here we go. Although I'm surprised Syracuse is a two-touchdown-plus underdog at Miami, the 'Canes will avoid a repeat of Clemson. I've waffled on Michigan/Penn State for a couple of weeks because Michigan's defense is sensational, but quarterback play is simply too much of an issue for the Wolverines. 

               

    Adam Kramer

    I’ll take one. While many of these games could be blowouts, I’ll take Tulane over South Florida in a somewhat substantial upset. The Green Wave have been a mess on the road, but at home they are a different team. And while I love South Florida, this is the beginning of an interesting stretch of games and one I’ll say they lose. This has the look and feel of a quiet weekend in college football, although I hope I am wrong. 

               

    Kerry Miller

    I don't think any of these seven teams is in danger of going down, which probably means three of them take an L. Penn State and UCF are the most obvious candidates against 5-1 opponents, but they should both cruise to victory. The only one I'm even a little worried about is Miami hosting Syracuse, since the Hurricanes have needed miracles in each of the past two weeks and the Orange just beat Clemson. Even at that, the 'Canes should win by multiple scores. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    It's hard saying none after last week, isn't it? On paper, it doesn't look like any of the teams will get beat this week. But if Syracuse can somehow recapture the magic that took place last weekend in the Carrier Dome, the Hurricanes aren't unstoppable. Even without Kelly Bryant, I think Clemson is a better team than Miami without Mark Walton. If the Orange can go on the road and play with the same defensive intensity they did against the Tigers, they will pull off one of the weekend's biggest upsets. 

                   

    Greg Wallace

    I might be overthinking it a little, but few of the unbeatens have tough matchups, at least on paper. The most interesting matchup is Syracuse fresh off an upset of Clemson going to Miami. Miami is unbeaten but has pulled off last-second wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech. The Orange are an improving group, and I say Eric Dungey and Co. pull a big surprise against Miami.

Which Team Pulls Off the Most Surprising Upset of the Week?

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    John Wolford
    John WolfordChuck Burton/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    I like Texas over Oklahoma State, and that’s about it. Even though they lost last week in the Red River Rivalry, the Longhorns found their quarterback (Sam Ehlinger) and a leader. A QB who sells out on a play-by-play basis like he does raises the level of play and expectations on the rest of the roster. Texas is starting to find it defensively, too.

               

    David Kenyon

    Fresh off a painful loss at Miami, Georgia Tech will host Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons, who are 5.5-point underdogs, didn't play last Saturday. Two weeks to prepare for the triple-option will help them leave Atlanta with a victory. Wake has only surrendered 3.5 yards per carry, and quarterback John Wolford is healthy after missing the loss to Clemson.

               

    Adam Kramer

    Tulane over South Florida would be a mighty fine selection for this category, but because I already have that one in this article, let’s go somewhere else. I’ll say that Iowa State recreates its magic against Oklahoma and parlays that into a really nice win against Texas Tech. (Tulane is still a much cooler and bolder answer, but we’re going for extra credit.) 

               

    Kerry Miller

    Normally, I hem and haw at this one before picking a game that barely even qualifies as an upset. However, even though I like all of the undefeated teams to win, I see a lot of upsets on this slate. I've got Wake Forest, Fresno State, Connecticut and Oregon all winning outright as underdogs by roughly a touchdown. But the biggest one will be Idaho knocking off Missouri as a 14.5-point dog. I'm putting a lot of faith in a Vandals team that frankly hasn't done anything to deserve it, but Missouri has been so dreadful on defense that it's ludicrous to make the Tigers a two-touchdown favorite against anyone. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    Can the Orange do it in back-to-back weeks? I'm riding the hot hand here. Syracuse is going to Coral Gables as 17-point underdogs, and they have the weaponry to beat Miami. Yes, this could be a hangover game after last week's win over Clemson, but Dino Babers is a good coach, and he'll have them focused for a road trip. If they can pull off the win, it'll be the biggest one of the week.

                   

    Greg Wallace

    Michigan State looks like a different team this fall, going from three wins in 2016 to 5-1. However, the Spartans have lived on the edge, defeating Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota by a combined 14 points. Indiana showed some fight in taking Michigan to overtime before falling 27-20. I think the Hoosiers play some excellent defense and show the Spartans aren’t all the way back to Big Ten elite status with an eye-opening win in East Lansing. 

Outside the Two Ranked vs. Ranked Games, How Many Top 25 Teams Lose on Saturday?

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    Sam Ehlinger
    Sam EhlingerTim Warner/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    Not as many as last week. How easy is that? But there are dicey spots all over the landscape, including Syracuse at Miami, LSU at Ole Miss and Colorado at Washington State, to name a few. I like Texas against Oklahoma State, so that’s one. Anywhere else after last week’s madness is gravy.

               

    David Kenyon

    Dare I say this will be a quiet Saturday? Is that allowed? Beyond the pair of matchups between ranked teams, this is a pretty favorable weekend and six teams are off. Indiana's trip to Michigan State won't garner much attention since the Spartans' main rivals have key matchups, but watch out for the Hoosiers in East Lansing. That gives us one. There's your #disrespekt, MSU. 

               

    Adam Kramer

    Quiet week. I’ll say one. Give me Tulane over USF. I also feel like Baylor could give West Virginia a scare and that Texas might go down to the wire with Oklahoma State. Many close calls this week, but only one loss in the group playing on Saturday.

               

    Kerry Miller

    We're headed for a much quieter week in the AP poll than last week. Maybe No. 10 Oklahoma State loses at Texas. But if you set the over/under at 3.5 ranked teams losing Saturday (including the Michigan vs. Penn State and USC vs. Notre Dame games), I'd lean toward the under. 

               

    Brad Shepard

    I feel like Texas is close under Tom Herman, and I'm going to go with it upsetting Oklahoma State in Austin on Saturday morning. I've already talked about Syracuse upsetting Miami. Another stunner will come in Oxford as Ole Miss beats LSU. So, that's three.

                   

    Greg Wallace

    I already mentioned Miami and Michigan State. I also don’t trust Ed Orgeron and LSU, which beat Florida and Auburn by a combined five points the past two weeks after laying an egg at home against Troy. Ole Miss is capable of scoring points in bunches, and Shea Patterson will excel in a rivalry game against the Bayou Bengals and pull off an upset in Oxford. So that will give us three ranked teams going down outside of U-M vs. PSU and USC vs. Notre Dame.

    Betting spreads via OddsShark.