College Football Week 8 Betting Guide: Odds, Picks and Value Bets

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystOctober 19, 2018

College Football Week 8 Betting Guide: Odds, Picks and Value Bets

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    North Carolina State QB Ryan Finley
    North Carolina State QB Ryan FinleyGerry Broome/Associated Press

    If you've been staring at college football lines all week in search of the best places to make a few bucks, allow this to be your guide.

    Whether your sports gambling preferences are in over/unders, spreads or moneyline multipliers, we've got you covered with tips on the best Week 8 bets. Even if you're just looking to throw down a long-term wager on the latest Heisman Trophy odds, there's savvy advice on that front as well.

    Perhaps most importantly, though, we're also recommending a few games that you don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole.

    Even if you have a good feeling about Clemson beating NC State, is the best bet in that battle of undefeateds actually the Wolfpack on the moneyline?

    Shouldn't Oklahoma—which has one of the best offenses in the nation and a mediocre defensealways be trusted to play in high-scoring games?

    Given how awful Connecticut's defense is, can the Huskies even stay within five touchdowns of South Florida? 

    We cover all that and more in this week's college football betting guide.

Moneyline Picks and Picks Against the Spread for AP Top 25 Games

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    Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
    Alabama QB Tua TagovailoaButch Dill/Associated Press

    No. 1 Alabama at Tennessee (3:30): Alabama (-28.5 and -7,500)

    No. 2 Ohio State at Purdue (7:30): Ohio State (-13 and -500)

    No. 16 North Carolina State at No. 3 Clemson (3:30): NC State (+17) and Clemson (-750)

    No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU (7): LSU (-7 and -245)

    No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State (noon): Michigan State (+7.5) and Michigan (-265)

    No. 9 Oklahoma at TCU (noon): Oklahoma (-8.5 and -315)

    No. 10 UCF at East Carolina (7): UCF (-21 and -1,400)

    No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington State (7:30): Washington State (-3 and -142)

    Vanderbilt at No. 14 Kentucky (7:30): Vanderbilt (+11.5) and Kentucky (-443)

    Colorado at No. 15 Washington (3:30): Washington (-15.5 and -700)

    No. 18 Penn State at Indiana (3:30): Penn State (-15 and -635)

    Maryland at No. 19 Iowa (noon): Iowa (-9 and -345)

    No. 20 Cincinnati at Temple (noon): Cincinnati (+3 and +148)

    Connecticut at No. 21 South Florida (7): South Florida (-33.5 and -20,000)

    Illinois at No. 23 Wisconsin (noon): Illinois (+25) and Wisconsin (-2,750)

    All times Saturday ET.


    For the moneylines, a minus means you need to bet that much in order to win $100, and a plus means a $100 bet would return that much profit. For example, if you just want to bet on Alabama to beat Tennessee, you would need to risk $7,500 to win $100. Conversely, if you want to bet on Cincinnati to beat Temple, a $100 bet would fetch $148 (plus the initial $100 wager).

Spreads to Bet

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    Jonathan Taylor
    Jonathan TaylorDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Illinois (+25) at Wisconsin

    These two programs have been polar opposites for the past decade. Since the start of the 2009 season, Wisconsin is 98-30 with three Big Ten titles while Illinois is 42-75 with just three bowl appearances. The Badgers have won at least eight games in each of the last nine years. The Fighting Illini have never done better than seven.

    And yet, when these teams square off, it's moderately competitive more often than not.

    Wisconsin has won this game in each of the last seven years, but five of those matchups were decided by 17 points or fewer. Wisconsin went undefeated during the regular season last year while Illinois finished the season on a 10-game losing streak, but the Badgers only beat the Illini by a 24-10 margin. And save for last week's ugly home loss to Purdue, Illinois (3-3) has played much better this year than last.

    Maybe No. 23 Wisconsin (4-2) comes out and plays with its hair on fire after last week's embarrassing display at Michigan, but Illinois should be able to keep this within three scores.


    Louisiana-Lafayette at Appalachian State (-25.5)

    In case you haven't been paying much mind to the Sun Belt, here's a courtesy notification that Appalachian State is destroying everyone.

    The Mountaineers have not allowed an opponent to score more than 10 points in a game since taking Penn State to overtime in the season opener. They have won four straight by a margin of at least 26 points, and their average margin of victory during that stretch is 43.0. Yes, some of that competition has been awful, but App State just blew out Arkansas State on the road, which is either the third- or fourth-best team in the Sun Belt.

    Appalachian State lost leading running back Jalin Moore to a season-ending ankle injury, but he was one of five players on the roster averaging at least 5.6 yards per carry on at least 20 touches. Darrynton Evans and Co. should do just fine against a Louisiana-Lafayette defense that has allowed 41.4 points per FBS game.

    Look for the Ragin' Cajuns to break App State's streak of holding opponents to single digits, but this won't be close. 'Eers roll 52-14.


    California (-6.5) at Oregon State

    With the exception of Rutgers, Oregon State is the worst Power Five conference team. Jermar Jefferson (144.2 rushing yards, 2.0 touchdowns per game) has been fantastic on the ground, but the Beavers defense is so horrendous that the freshman's Herculean effort is going to waste.

    Take out the win over FCS Southern Utah, and Oregon State is allowing 552.0 yards and 51.4 points per game. And the Beavers don't discriminate in how they give it up. Arizona, Arizona State and Ohio State each rushed for at least 375 yards against them, and Washington State threw for 430 yards in their most recent game.

    California has lost three straight since appearing in the AP Top 25. It may well lose every game left on the schedule after this one, given the strength of its back-loaded schedule.

    But the Golden Bears will have a field day in Corvallis. Patrick Laird breaks out of his season-long slump in a big way by destroying Oregon State's front seven like he did one year ago (214 yards). Cal wins this road game by two touchdowns.

Stay-Away Games

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    UCLA head coach Chip Kelly
    UCLA head coach Chip KellyJayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Arizona Wildcats at UCLA Bruins (-8)

    Khalil Tate has already been ruled out for this game, so it'll be up to Rhett Rodriguez to lead the Arizona offense. It was around this time last year that Tate became the breakout sensation of the season in relief of an injured Brandon Dawkins. Could the Wildcats improve again with a QB change? It's hard to have any idea what to expect from them in Rodriguez's first career start.

    Meanwhile, prior to capitalizing on five turnovers and blowing out California 37-7, the Bruins had not scored more than 24 points in a game all season and had given up at least 31 in four straight. It was their best game of the season on both offense and defense. Was it a blip on the radar or the start of Chip Kelly's revolution?

    Too many unknowns exist for both teams, and neither has a defense that can be trusted. Do not go anywhere near this game.


    Auburn Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels (+4)

    The worst-kept secret in college football is now finally public knowledge after a second straight loss: Auburn's offense is at least as bad as it has been since 2012, when it averaged 18.7 points per game in a 3-9 season.

    The Tigers don't have a reliable run game, and Jarrett Stidham has taken a major step backward. Whether the former is to blame for the latter is irrelevant, but the result is an offense averaging 344.3 yards per game against FBS opponents.

    But even weak offenses have ripped through the Ole Miss defense like a wet paper bag. The Rebels have allowed just a hair under 500 yards and more than 35 points per game. And their offensethough lethal against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Illinoiscouldn't do much of anything against Alabama or LSU.

    Should we trust the Ole Miss offense in this one? Even against this defense, is it safe to trust Auburn's offense? Keep your distance.

The Heisman Bet of the Week: Travis Etienne and/or Trevor Lawrence (+5,000)

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    Travis Etienne (9) and Trevor Lawrence (16)
    Travis Etienne (9) and Trevor Lawrence (16)Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Last week's suggestion of Jake Fromm having +10,000 odds in this space went horribly awry. Not only did Fromm have the worst game of his college career in a loss to LSU, but one of the biggest talking points of the week was whether Justin Fields should replace him as Georgia's QB for the rest of the season.

    Those odds already made for an unlikely winning bet. Now it's almost inconceivable that it could cash.

    But I stand by the logic. Fromm entered the week as the most valuable player on an undefeated team, and he could have made a big leap forward in the Heisman conversation had he fared well against his most challenging opponent of the regular season.

    It didn't work out last week, but let's put that same idea to the test with Clemson hosting NC State.

    The only question is whether Travis Etienne or Trevor Lawrence is Clemson's best candidate to win the Heismanwhich is the biggest reason why they're each listed at 50-1.

    Thus far, Etienne is the clear choice. The running back has been unstoppable the past four games, averaging 10.2 yards per carry and 163.5 yards with 10 total touchdowns. And in the come-from-behind win over Syracuse, he almost single-handedly kept Clemson's quest for a national championship alive.

    Etienne isn't anywhere near the workhorse that Derrick Henry was when he won the Heisman three years ago, but he is on pace to leave Reggie Bush's 2005 numbers in the dust. If he does that and Clemson gets to 13-0, he'll at least be one of the Heisman finalists, if not the favorite.

    But Lawrence is a fine candidate, too, and he plays the position that usually wins the stiff-armed trophy.

    Lawrence doesn't have the gaudy numbers of the guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray, who are the top candidates to win the Heisman, but he's efficient and bound to have some "put the team on his back" moments in the next seven weeks. This could be one of those weeks since the Wolfpack have a stout run D and an average secondary.

    Whether you want to pick the QB, the RB or split your investment evenly between the two, seize the day. ESPN's FPI metrics give Clemson a 47.9 percent chance of winning out, and FiveThirtyEight gives Clemson a 65 percent chance of reaching the College Football Playoff. If the Tigers win this game, those odds will increase considerably and the window to bet on their Heisman favorite will likely close.

Line Movement

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    South Florida QB Blake Barnett
    South Florida QB Blake BarnettMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Connecticut at South Florida (-29.5 to -34)

    Despite not yet defeating an FBS opponent by a margin of more than 16 points and despite narrowly avoiding disaster one week ago against Tulsa, South Florida opened as the biggest favorite of the week at 29.5 points.

    It wasn't enough.

    For starters, Connecticut is awful. The Huskies have not yet scored more than 21 points in an FBS game this year, and that's not even the real problem. They have not held an opponent below 49 points. Their five losses were by an average margin of 41.4 points, and not one of those games was decided by less than 30.

    South Florida is going to win this game and it's going to do so long before the end of the third quarter. It's just a question of how biblical the Bulls want to make this beatdown. Given the lack of style points with which they've won this season, they'll be looking to make up for lost time here and may well win by 60.


    Florida Atlantic at Marshall (-2.5 to +3)

    In addition to the line-flipping from Marshall by a field goal to Florida Atlantic by a field goal, the over/under for this Conference USA clash has climbed from 58.5 to 64.

    For most of the season, it's gone the other way with FAU. With the exception of the games against Oklahoma and UCF, the oddsmakers expect the general public to bet on Lane Kiffin to win and hit the over, so they set the numbers high and the sharps gradually bet them down.

    In Week 2 against Air Force, FAU was a 10-point favorite with a 67-point total in the middle of the week. By kickoff, it was minus-8 and 61. It was a similar story a few weeks later against Middle Tennessee as well as in the Owls' most recent game against Old Dominion.

    But they overcorrected this week and way undersold FAU's ability—well-rested off a bye week, no less—to put up points against an average Marshall defense. If you were able to parlay the Owls and the over early in the week, congratulations.


    Miami (Ohio) at Army (-13 to -8)

    This one got pounded on Sunday evening. At 5:04 p.m. ET, Army was a 13-point favorite. Less than one hour later at 6:02, the spread had matriculated all the way down to eight points.

    The recent offensive surge by Miami (Ohio) is probably the cause of that drastic shift. Since back-to-back losses to Cincinnati and Minnesota by a combined score of 47-3, the RedHawks have scored at least 31 points in four straight. However, not one of those opponents ranks top 70 in scoring defense, and Army has held five consecutive opponents—including Oklahoma, Hawaii and Buffalo—to 28 points or fewer.

    Another potential reason for bettors to have jumped on the Miami bandwagon is its run defense. The RedHawks have yet to allow more than 188 rushing yards in a game and they have limited opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry. But they also haven't faced anything close to a rushing attack like Army's.

    This felt like a stay-away game when the line first posted, but betting on Army doesn't seem like such a bad idea at this point.

Easy Over/Unders

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    Kyler Murray
    Kyler MurrayCooper Neill/Associated Press

    Easy Over: Oklahoma vs. TCU (61.5)

    From the TCU side of things, maybe this total makes sense. The Horned Frogs have played in back-to-back 17-14 games, including stifling a high-octane Texas Tech offense in a loss two Thursdays ago. They have one of the better defenses in the country, allowing just 311.8 yards per game.

    But from the Oklahoma side of things, 61.5 is too low.

    Aside from the clock-draining battle with Army, every Oklahoma game has had at least 64 total points. The last two each went over 90 points. And five consecutive games in this series have had at least 58 pointseven though TCU's defense was better last year than this year.

    The Sooners had the week off to prepare for this matchup, and they're going to come out with a vengeance after that loss to Texas. TCU's offense hasn't been great, so Oklahoma might need to score six touchdowns to hit the over. But with Kyler Murray leading the offense, that's a more-than-conceivable outcome. Oklahoma wins 42-27.


    Easy Under: Akron vs. Kent State (52.5)


    How is this line set this high?

    Akron has averaged 12.0 points over its last three games, failing to eclipse 17 points in any of them. Kent State has yet to score more than 26 points against an FBS opponent in six tries.

    Yes, these defenses are bad, particularly Kent State's. But Akron hasn't even managed 260 yards of total offense in any game in the past month. Expecting the Zips to score 30 or more points against anyone is a bit foolish. And even if Akron scored 30, could the Golden Flashes put up the necessary 23 to hit the over?

    Perhaps the only scenario in which this total gets to at least 53 is if there are some defensive touchdowns or several turnovers that set up the other team with a short field. Akron and Kent State have committed 26 combined turnovers and have forced 25, so there could certainly be some swings in that realm. But this still seems like a 21-17 type of game.

Best Moneyline Value Bets

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    Darrell Henderson (8)
    Darrell Henderson (8)Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    There are almost always a couple of double-digit underdogs who win outright. Just last week, we saw Tennessee (+15) upset Auburn, Liberty (+11) topple Troy, and Michigan State (+13.5) shock Penn State.

    Generally speaking, a 10-point dog that wins outright pays 3-1 on the moneyline and a 17.5-point dog will pay around 6-1, so there's a lot of value in this zone.

    (If you prefer to throw your money away on roulette-type odds, an outright Tennessee win over Alabama is sitting at +3,250 in some books, and Connecticut's moneyline payout at South Florida is +8,000. We're not in the business of chasing miracles, though.)

    Here are three significant underdogs who could pull off the upset and put a nice chunk of change in your pocket.


    Memphis (+310) at Missouri

    Missouri has given up at least 37 points in four consecutive games, and Memphis has one of the highest-scoring offenses this season. The AAC Tigers should score enough to at least keep things interesting on the road against the SEC Tigers.

    Whether Memphis can win will depend on its ability to contain quarterback Drew Lock. He's had a ton of trouble the past three games against Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama (48.2%, 1 TD, 5 INT), but those defenses are way better than Memphis'.

    Lock should bounce back to his early-season, nonconference form, but Memphis running back Darrell Henderson and Co. could still pull off the upset in a game when both teams may eclipse 40 points.


    Texas State (+330) at Louisiana-Monroe

    Texas State is winless against FBS opponents, including a blowout loss to Rutgers. There aren't many scenarios in which it's a good idea to bet on the Bobcats to win a road game.

    But this is a bet against Louisiana-Monroe rather than a vote of confidence in Texas State. The Warhawks have one of the nation's worst defenses, allowing more than 200 rushing yards and more than 300 passing yards per game. Three of their losses came by at least 32 points, and one of those was to a Georgia State team thatlike Texas Stateis otherwise winless against FBS competition.

    Getting better than 3-1 odds on a Warhawks loss seems like a good investment.


    North Carolina State (+650) at Clemson

    Clemson should win this game and in convincing fashion.

    Travis Etienne has more rushing yards (761) in six games than NC State has as a team (724) in five games. Trevor Lawrence gives the Tigers a passing attack at least as good as the Wolfpack's. Factor in Clemson's superior defense and the fact that it's being played in Death Valley, and it's no surprise the Tigers are favored to win by more than two touchdowns.

    But one could say similar things heading into the last two meetings in this series, each of which came down to the wire and was decided by one touchdown. Even though the Wolfpack have not yet played an opponent anywhere near this talented, they'll find a way to get up for this undefeated showdown. The +650 number is just too juicy to pass up.

Lock of the Week: Utah State (-15.5) at Wyoming

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    Utah State QB Jordan Love
    Utah State QB Jordan LoveAl Goldis/Associated Press

    Utah State (-15.5) at Wyoming

    In recent years, betting against the Wyoming Cowboys at home was about as profitable as setting your money on fire.

    Last season, their defense nearly led an upset of a good Fresno State team. The year before that, their offense guided wins over San Diego State and ranked Boise State. And the altitude in Laramiemore than 7,000 feet above sea levelis always an X-factor.

    But this year is different.

    Wyoming is a train wreck on offense, ranking 128th in yards per game and 129th in points per game. Take out the wins over FCS school Wofford and an equally woeful New Mexico State, and the Cowboys are averaging just 242.8 yards and 12.4 points in five losses to competent opponents.

    In those same five games, their defense has allowed 439.2 yards and 31.8 points. (Those numbers would be even higher if Hawaii QB Cole McDonald had played against them.) Drawing Boise State and Washington State at home didn't keep the Cowboys from losing each of those contests by at least 20 points.

    And from both a yardage and points perspective, Utah State will be the best offense Wyoming has faced.

    The Aggies have scored at least 31 points in each game and have put up at least 42 in five straight contests. After a rocky pair of outings, sophomore QB Jordan Love has been brilliant in his last four, completing 71.3 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns without an interception. Utah State has been as dangerous with its ground game overall.

    USU has also scored at least one touchdown on defense or special teams in five of six games, making every play a scoring threat.

    And the Laramie factor shouldn't bother the Aggies. Logan, Utah, is more than 4,500 feet above sea level, so they are no strangers to playing in thinner oxygen.

    Add it up and this should be a 45-13 type of blowout. Utah State was a 27-point favorite against UNLV one week ago (and covered that spread), and Wyoming is, at best, marginally better than UNLV. The only reason this spread isn't at least 24 points is the game's in Wyoming, but don't let that frighten you. Utah State will continue its quest for the Mountain West Conference title with another comfortable win.


    All moneylines, spreads and over/under totals are via OddsShark and are current through 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. 

    Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.