College Football Picks: Week 8 Predictions for Every Game
It may be Week 8 of the 2020 college football season, but this will be the first weekend of action for the Big Ten and Mountain West conferences. That means after many months of speculation and several weeks watching other contenders, we'll finally get our first glimpse of College Football Playoff hopefuls like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin.
In fact, the Big Ten is where we'll find one of the four head-to-head battles between AP Top 25 teams this weekend. That game is No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota. We'll also get an ACC showdown (No. 23 NC State at No. 14 North Carolina), a Big 12 clash (No. 17 Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma State) and—possibly the most important of all—a battle between the two remaining undefeated teams in the AAC (No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU).
Who wins those four marquee games? What of the other 44 games on the docket? Are there any major upsets in the offing? And how badly is Clemson going to destroy the next sacrificial lamb on its schedule? (I'm so sorry, Syracuse.)
B/R's predictions for each Week 8 game are broken into three sections: AP Top 25 teams, best games for unranked teams and the rest of the slate.
AP Nos. 25-21
No. 25 Coastal Carolina (4-0) vs. Georgia Southern (3-1), Noon ET
Playing in its first-ever game as a ranked team, Coastal Carolina deserves better than getting lost in the early Saturday afternoon shuffle against a Georgia Southern squad that has beaten a ranked opponent in each of the past two Octobers. (In both years, that win came over Appalachian State.) It should be a rule that any time a Sun Belt team jumps into the AP poll, its next game must be played on either a Thursday or Friday night.
But I digress.
This is a brutal matchup for Coastal Carolina. Georgia Southern's triple-option offense is averaging 281 rushing yards per game while its defense has yet to allow even 150 rushing yards in a single game. The Eagles almost won at Louisiana in late September, and they very well may win at Coastal Carolina.
I shan't pick against the Chanticleers, though. Grayson McCall has been great at quarterback, leading an offense that has been turnover-free in three of its four games played. If they can continue to avoid those back-breaking mistakes, they'll keep the undefeated quest going for at least one more week.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 27, Georgia Southern 23
No. 24 USC (0-0) IDLE
Next Game: vs. Arizona State (Nov. 7)
No. 23 North Carolina State (4-1) at No. 14 North Carolina (3-1), Noon ET
For prediction, see No. 14 North Carolina.
No. 22 Marshall (4-0) vs. Florida Atlantic (1-0), 2:30 p.m. ET
Marshall's defense is no joke. Opponents are averaging 9.5 points per game against the Thundering Herd. They have yet to allow 270 passing yards or 100 rushing yards in a single game. And that's never going to be enough offense to beat a team that gets to hand the ball off to Brenden Knox 25 times per game.
After this, Marshall's remaining games are against Florida International, Middle Tennessee and Charlotte, who boast a combined record of 2-9. Win this one and Marshall should go undefeated and would at least be somewhere in the conversation for a New Year's Six bowl. Considering Florida Atlantic had just 98 passing yards against Charlotte in its only game three weeks ago, you've got to like Marshall's chances of winning comfortably.
Prediction: Marshall 35, Florida Atlantic 17
No. 21 Minnesota (0-0) vs. No. 18 Michigan (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
For prediction, see No. 18 Michigan.
AP Nos. 20-16
No. 20 Kansas State (3-1) vs. Kansas (0-4), Noon ET
This isn't groundbreaking news, but Kansas is terrible. And I'm talking worse than we all realized in that opening loss to Coastal Carolina.
In their last two games, the Jayhawks averaged 175.0 yards of total offense while allowing 568.5. Kansas State's offense has been outgained by at least 50 yards in all four games this season, but the Wildcats should snap that streak in emphatic fashion while extending their 11-game winning streak in this rivalry.
Prediction: Kansas State 43, Kansas 10
No. 19 Virginia Tech (3-1) at Wake Forest (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech's run game was already quite good, but the switch to Hendon Hooker at quarterback midway through the Week 6 game against North Carolina has turned the Hokies into a rushing juggernaut. Hooker ran for 164 yards and three touchdowns this past Saturday against Boston College, leading VT to its fourth consecutive game with at least 260 rushing yards and at least 38 points scored.
Take out the game against Campbell and Wake Forest's defense is allowing 224.3 rushing yards and 3.0 rushing touchdowns per game. The Demon Deacons can score, but not well enough to keep pace in this one.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 45, Wake Forest 28
No. 18 Michigan (0-0) at No. 21 Minnesota (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
This is easily the most intriguing game of Week 8 because of the sheer amount of unknowns surrounding both of these fringe contenders. Michigan lost its starting quarterback, two of its best receivers, most of its offensive line and three key linebackers. But Minnesota lost its top receiver, its top rusher and seven starters on defense.
What the Wolverines do have returning is an excellent defensive line, which will immediately challenge a Golden Gophers offensive line with basically the same two-deep as last year. Whichever side wins that battle in the trenches will win the game, and I suspect Minnesota's big men will keep quarterback Tanner Morgan clean enough to get the victory.
Prediction: Minnesota 27, Michigan 24
No. 17 Iowa State (3-1) at No. 6 Oklahoma State (3-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
For prediction, see No. 6 Oklahoma State.
No. 16 SMU (5-0) vs. No. 9 Cincinnati (3-0), 9 p.m. ET
For prediction, see No. 9 Cincinnati.
AP Nos. 15-11
No. 14 (tie) Wisconsin (0-0) vs. Illinois (0-0), 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
Wisconsin already needed to replace one of the greatest running backs in college football history (Jonathan Taylor), its leading receiver (Quintez Cephus) and two excellent pass-rushing linebackers (Chris Orr and Zack Baun). The Badgers now must also adjust to life with a new quarterback following a foot injury suffered by Jack Coan in early October.
There are two bits of good news, though. The first is that backup quarterback Graham Mertz was a highly touted recruit in the 2019 class, one many thought could come in and win the job as a true freshman. The Badgers aren't exactly handing the reins to a no-name walk-on here. And the other good news is they open the season at home against Illinois, which will probably finish in last place in the Big Ten West.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Illinois 14
No. 14 (tie) North Carolina (3-1) vs. No. 23 North Carolina State (4-1), Noon ET
NC State quarterback Devin Leary suffered a broken left fibula in the third quarter of the Wolfpack's win over Duke on Saturday. With Leary unavailable, it's unlikely the Wolfpack will have the offensive firepower to hang with a North Carolina squad averaging north of 35 points and 500 yards per game. The Tar Heels looked terrible in the first half of their loss to Florida State, but the valiant comeback effort in the final 20 minutes was a vivid reminder of how potent they can be when things are clicking.
Prediction: North Carolina 37, NC State 17
No. 13 Oregon (0-0) IDLE
Next Game: vs. Stanford (Nov. 7)
No. 12 BYU (5-0) vs. Texas State (1-5), 10:15 p.m. ET
Texas State has put up some good fights this season, but the Bobcats are allowing nearly 300 passing yards and more than 30 points per game—against opponents that are, for the most part, nowhere near as talented on offense as BYU. Early Heisman candidate Zach Wilson set a new career high with 400 passing yards in last Friday's victory over Houston. Don't be surprised if he re-breaks his personal record this week.
Prediction: BYU 52, Texas State 13
No. 11 Miami (4-1) vs. Virginia (1-3), 8 p.m. ET
Miami got back on the winning track with a 31-19 victory over Pittsburgh this past Saturday, but it wasn't pretty. Granted, the Hurricanes were without star tight end Brevin Jordan (shoulder injury), but the Panthers were at an even bigger disadvantage sans starting quarterback Kenny Pickett. The 'Canes did just enough on defense to force four red-zone field goals.
That said, things should go better this week against a Virginia team that has been held to 23 points or fewer while allowing at least 38 points in each of its last three games. The turnover chain should make multiple appearances against a Cavaliers offense coughing the ball up 3.0 times per game.
Prediction: Miami 41, Virginia 24
AP Nos. 10-6
No. 10 Florida Gators (2-1) IDLE
Next Game: vs. Missouri (Oct. 31)
No. 9 Cincinnati (3-0) at No. 15 SMU (5-0), 9 p.m. ET
Cincinnati did not release numbers—let alone names—of COVID-19 positive tests that resulted in the postponement of the Week 7 game against Tulsa, so who knows what the Bearcats will be bringing to the table against SMU if they're even able to play this game. However, we're going to assume that everyone is good to go until we hear otherwise.
Even with that asterisk, this looks like it could be the best game of the weekend.
It's not quite Alabama's offense vs. Georgia's defense, but SMU's passing game (359.2 yards, 2.4 touchdowns, 0.4 interceptions per game) against Cincinnati's secondary (171.7 yards, 0.0 touchdowns, 2.3 interceptions per game) should be quite the showdown.
Is Cincinnati's defense actually that good, or has it merely benefited from opening the season against Austin Peay, Army and South Florida? Similar question for SMU's offense, which has yet to face a defense allowing fewer than 285 passing yards per game.
Both units will be facing their first true test of the year, though I suspect this matchup boils down to whether SMU is able to stifle Cincinnati's rushing attack. In all four games against FBS opponents, SMU has allowed at least 189 rushing yards and 24 points. If Cincinnati can manage that, this defense, which has held 29 of its last 31 opponents below 300 passing yards, should be enough for a huge road win.
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, SMU 27
No. 8 Penn State (0-0) at Indiana (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Go ahead and forward this to Freezing Cold Takes for safekeeping, but I am thoroughly unconvinced that Penn State is a Top 10 team. The Nittany Lions lost seven of their 12 leading tacklers from last season, and as many SEC teams have shown in the past four weeks, this is a particularly challenging year to replace multiple key defenders.
I do trust Penn State's offense enough to get the job done this week as Indiana also lost a handful of noteworthy contributors from a defense that was nowhere near as good as Penn State's. But this is going to be a relatively high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Indiana 31
No. 7 Texas A&M IDLE
Next Game: vs. Arkansas (Oct. 31)
No. 6 Oklahoma State (3-0) vs. No. 17 Iowa State (3-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma State was idle in Week 6 and had an unexpected bye this past weekend when Baylor had to postpone that game, but that just means more time for Spencer Sanders' high ankle sprain to heal. The Cowboys quarterback hasn't played since the first quarter against Tulsa on Sept. 19, but we expect him to be a full participant in this critical game against the Cyclones.
Iowa State's defense did a fine job of shutting down Texas Tech in Week 6, but Oklahoma State has had the much better defense thus far this season. The Cyclones' Breece Hall is an excellent running back, but so is Cowboys star Chuba Hubbard. If Sanders looks good throwing deep balls to Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State could run away with this one and change the negative narrative about the Big 12's College Football Playoff outlook.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Iowa State 23
AP Nos. 5-1
No. 5 Ohio State (0-0) vs. Nebraska (0-0), Noon ET
Nebraska was the loudest team in its opposition to the Big Ten's original plan to postpone this season. The Cornhuskers were threatening to leave the conference altogether in order to play football this fall. And while the Big Ten would never admit this is a punishment for that defiance, opening the season on the road against the favorite to win the conference is a heavy dose of: "Here you go! This is what you wanted! Eat up!"
The Cornhuskers did give the Buckeyes one heck of a run for their money in the Horseshoe two years ago in a game that ended 36-31. But that was also the year Ohio State had its worst defense in decades. These Buckeyes lost three first-round draft picks on defense—Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette—but they should be plenty good enough to thrive in that realm again this season.
Also, this OSU offense will be lethal.
Prediction: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 17
No. 4 Georgia (3-1) IDLE
Next Game: at Kentucky (Oct. 31)
No. 3 Notre Dame (4-0) at Pittsburgh (3-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are holding opponents below 300 total yards per game, and both offenses have been fairly average. Translation: Don't expect many fireworks here.
But do expect a close game and maybe a substantial upset. Pitt's run defense (with help from 29 sacks) has been particularly dominant, leading the nation at just 1.85 yards allowed per carry. And Notre Dame's pass game has been pretty much nonexistent this season, averaging 180.0 yards and 0.75 touchdowns per game.
It wouldn't be a surprise if the Panthers hold the Fighting Irish to fewer than three touchdowns. The problem is it also wouldn't be a surprise if Notre Dame all but shuts out Pittsburgh's offense. The Panthers could pull this off, but they're probably going to need a defensive/special teams touchdown to do it.
Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Pittsburgh 16
No. 2 Alabama (4-0) at Tennessee (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Tennessee is on the fritz. The Volunteers didn't commit a single turnover in their first 2.5 games, and then they coughed it up seven times between the second half against Georgia and the first half against Kentucky. They have been outscored 61-7 since that sloppiness began.
And now they have to try to right their ship against the runaway freight train known as Alabama's offense. Yikes.
The Crimson Tide have won each of their first four games by at least 15 points, and that trend will continue in Knoxville.
Prediction: Alabama 48, Tennessee 21
No. 1 Clemson (5-0) vs. Syracuse (1-4), Noon ET
Fresh off a 73-7 shellacking of Georgia Tech, Clemson now gets to blow out one of the most anemic offenses in the country.
Syracuse barely mustered 300 yards of total offense in a home loss to Liberty and is averaging 265 yards per game. Maybe the Orange defense will be able to keep the Tigers from scoring 10 touchdowns, but let's not pretend Syracuse is going to put up much more of a fight than GT did.
Prediction: Clemson 56, Syracuse 6
Best Unranked Clashes
Louisiana (3-1) at UAB (4-1), 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
UAB was unable to get anything going on offense back in early September against Miami, but the Blazers have had an excellent rushing attack when not facing ranked opponents and a solid passing defense regardless of opponent. And good news for UAB: Louisiana is no longer ranked following its loss to Coastal Carolina. More good news: Louisiana has allowed nearly 200 rushing yards per game this season.
If you don't already know the name Spencer Brown, prepare to get acquainted with the UAB running back who has more than 3,500 yards and 35 touchdowns since the start of the 2017 season.
Prediction: UAB 31, Louisiana 27
Auburn (2-2) at Ole Miss (1-3), Noon ET
Leave it to Lane Kiffin to come in and destroy three of the SEC's best 2019 defenses (Florida, Kentucky and Alabama) before a seven-turnover nightmare in a loss to Arkansas. The Rebels need Matt Corral to revert to throwing like he did for the first three weeks (76.1 percent completion, 360.0 yards, 3.0 touchdowns, 0.3 interceptions).
When Auburn has the ball, it'll be mediocre offense against terrible defense. Bo Nix has not looked good at all thus far, but at least the Tigers have found something in freshman running back Tank Bigsby. He has eclipsed the century mark in two consecutive games, and Auburn would be wise to ride that tank to victory in this one.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Ole Miss 31
Oklahoma (2-2) at TCU (1-2), Noon ET
We'll say this much for these teams: At least their games are entertaining. Both the Sooners and the Horned Frogs have played Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas, and all six of those games came right down to the wire, typically with both teams scoring at least 30 points.
Though they have been a disappointment thus far, the Sooners should get the road victory. The defense was solid against Texas until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter, and all those overtimes were like a pressure cooker for Spencer Rattler's experience clock. Max Duggan and Co. will put up a fight, but Oklahoma will eventually overwhelm the Horned Frogs for a seventh consecutive win in this series.
Prediction: Oklahoma 35, TCU 28
Baylor (1-1) at Texas (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Texas is leading the nation in scoring at 49.5 points per game, but some good that has done the Longhorns with a defense allowing 47.3 points per contest in league play.
Does Baylor have enough offense to take advantage, though? The last time we saw the Bears (Oct. 3), they rushed 33 times for 27 yards in a loss to West Virginia. This could be a bounce-back type of game for Texas.
Prediction: Texas 45, Baylor 27
Kentucky (2-2) at Missouri (1-2), 4 p.m. ET
Over the past two weeks, Kentucky has forced 10 turnovers and scored three times on pick-sixes while only once allowing points (touchdowns or field goals) on defense. This Wildcats offense has serious question marks, but what a luxury to have the defense outscore the opposing team in back-to-back weeks while it figures things out.
Can they keep that going against Missouri, or will the Tigers continue to build on what was a remarkable offensive showing against LSU two weeks ago? My guess is that both teams will struggle to score in this one, but that Kentucky's run game will pace it to victory.
Prediction: Kentucky 23, Missouri 17
South Carolina (2-2) at LSU (1-2), 7 p.m. ET
Everyone has been busy loving on Arkansas as the SEC's unexpected success story, but how about South Carolina?
When the Gamecocks lost star freshman running back MarShawn Lloyd to a torn ACL in August, I thought this season could be an unmitigated disaster. But they put up respectable fights in their first two losses to Tennessee and Florida before rallying with wins over Vanderbilt and Auburn.
I never would have thought a month ago that I'd be saying this, but South Carolina legitimately might win this road game against LSU. However, I suspect Derek Stingley Jr. will be all over Shi Smith and that the Tigers offense will be too much for the Gamecocks to bottle up.
Prediction: LSU 34, South Carolina 25
The Rest of the Slate
Arkansas State (3-2) at Appalachian State (2-1), 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Prediction: Appalachian State 45, Arkansas State 34
Jacksonville State (2-1) at Florida International (0-2), 7 p.m. ET (Friday)
Prediction: Jacksonville State 27, Florida International 26
Tulsa (1-1) at South Florida (1-4), 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday)
Prediction: Tulsa 27, South Florida 14
Mercer (0-1) at Army (5-1), Noon ET
Prediction: Army 35, Mercer 7
UTEP (3-2) at Charlotte (1-2), Noon ET
Prediction: Charlotte 31, UTEP 23
Florida State (2-3) at Louisville (1-4), Noon ET
Prediction: Louisville 29, Florida State 23
Temple (1-1) at Memphis (2-1), Noon ET
Prediction: Memphis 41, Temple 20
Rutgers (0-0) at Michigan State (0-0), Noon ET
Prediction: Michigan State 39, Rutgers 13
Southern Miss (1-3) at Liberty (5-0), 1 p.m. ET
Prediction: Liberty 35, Southern Miss 20
Tulane (2-3) at UCF (2-2), 2 p.m. ET
Prediction: UCF 45, Tulane 27
Houston (1-1) at Navy (3-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Houston 33, Navy 22
Iowa (0-0) at Purdue (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Iowa 24, Purdue 20
Middle Tennessee (1-5) at Rice (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: MTSU 21, Rice 17
Georgia Tech (2-3) at Boston College (3-2), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Boston College 23, Georgia Tech 21
Georgia State (1-2) at Troy (3-1), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Troy 38, Georgia State 31
Chattanooga (0-0) at Western Kentucky (1-4), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Western Kentucky 26, Chattanooga 10
West Virginia (3-1) at Texas Tech (1-3), 5:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: West Virginia 38, Texas Tech 24
Utah State (0-0) at Boise State (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: Boise State 35, Utah State 14
Wyoming (0-0) at Nevada (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: Nevada 23, Wyoming 20
Louisiana-Monroe (0-5) at South Alabama (2-2), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: South Alabama 32, Louisiana-Monroe 10
Maryland (0-0) at Northwestern (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Northwestern 27, Maryland 20
Hawaii (0-0) at Fresno State (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Hawaii 41, Fresno State 35
Louisiana Tech (3-2) at UTSA (3-3), 8 p.m. ET
Prediction: UTSA 27, Louisiana Tech 24
UNLV (0-0) at San Diego State (0-0), 10:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: San Diego State 42, UNLV 13
Air Force (1-0) at San Jose State (0-0), 10:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Air Force 38, San Jose State 19