The Big Ten is back, and Locks of the Week is primed for the occasion. Business is booming. If it sounds like I'm chockfull of optimism and peacocking heading into Week 8, well, that's by design.
Last week, my spotlight picks against the spread in college football finished 3-1. And my favorite selection of the week, Tulsa over Cincinnati, was postponed and eliminated from the selections. We still dabbled with perfection.
Overall, picks last week finished a cool 5-3. On the year, we're now 9-8 overall. Locks are 6-3, and I have a feeling we're just getting started.
Before we turn to this week's picks, let's look back on the good and the bad that was.
The Good, Alabama: I have options, but the Alabama cover was deeply satisfying. Given the fallout from Nick Saban's initial positive COVID test, it was encouraging to see Alabama play as well as it did. That offense. My goodness. What a show.
The Bad, Mississippi State: I tried to get cute. I failed miserably. The small spread against Texas A&M felt like a red flag. I played the hangover angle and tried to be a contrarian. Then Mike Leach things happened (again). I have no one to blame but myself. And Mike Leach.
Here are the Week 8 selections, using point spreads provided by DraftKings. Let's stay hot.
Week 8 Locks of the Week
Indiana (+6.5) vs. Penn State
The Big Ten pool is open, and we're diving in headfirst without checking for lifeguards. While the focus this week will largely be on Michigan vs. Minnesota, this is a delightful, sneaky-good opener.
The Nittany Lions lost defensive starters Yetur Gross-Matos (NFL draft) and Micah Parsons (opt-out) this offseason, and I think that looms large heading into a tricky road game.
Michael Penix Jr., Indiana's starting quarterback, could have a breakout season. Injuries have not been kind to him leading up to the year, but he does have the ability, and Indiana's experience should be pivotal in this game.
Plus, the Hoosiers bringing a Big Ten team to the brink at home is not a new concept. In fact, it's become almost an annual tradition.
As for Penn State, it was nearly upended at home against Indiana last season. That same type of game will unfold yet again, and an upset victory wouldn't be shocking in the least. The Big Ten wastes little time getting weird.
(Bonus tip: the moneyline is looking tasty here.)
Nebraska at Ohio State (Over 66.5)
Let's get comfy in the Big Ten and introduce a total. Even with the possibility of rust and some early jitters, this game has a chance to produce some spectacular fireworks.
Quarterback Justin Fields should be improved, and he has a stocked cupboard full of weapons at his disposal. Ohio State will score points in bunches against a Nebraska defense that has gotten used to the tradition.
The part where this play is intriguing, however, is the other matchup. Nebraska should have success on offense, especially considering the defensive losses on Ohio State. And while I don't think this will be an upset, it doesn't have to be. If Ohio State is going to score 40—and the Buckeyes should do that comfortably—Nebraska just has to be somewhat productive.
Cornhuskers signal-caller Adrian Martinez will get another crack at blossoming into the player many still believe he can become. The results have been a mixed bag through his first few seasons, although I'm not in search of a perfect game. I need points any way he wants to deliver them—touchdowns, interceptions for touchdowns, etc. This game could deliver plenty of both.
Tulane (+19.5) vs. Central Florida
Normally, this is not a game featured in Locks. But if you're going to give me nearly three touchdowns with a good team, I'm going to happily accept.
Tulane has had a bizarre year. And not necessarily a good bizarre. The Green Wave just lost their third game of the season—a strong showing against unbeaten SMU. Regardless of the 2-3 record, I'm a believer. And I'm curious to see the mindset of Central Florida following a turbulent, gripping loss to Memphis.
In that game, we saw UCF players get into it on the sideline—albeit mildly at an emotional moment. We also witnessed the UCF defense allow 50 points and more than 700 yards of offense.
It's worth noting that the Knights also eclipsed 700 yards of offense. This unit can fly. But I think Tulane has both the talent and coaching—seriously, Willie Fritz is great—to make this competitive.
This isn't so much playing the hangover angle as much as it is an assessment of both squads. I think Tulane is better than the record indicates, and I think that will show here.
Houston (-13.5) vs. Navy
I'm doubling down. After my Houston pick last week fell short to BYU, I'm getting right back on the horse.
Disclaimer: this is not an emotional selection. Promise. You might disagree if you heard the words that came out of my mouth on Friday night, but it's not.
It's an honest assessment of where these teams are. And although Houston fell short against BYU, I love what I saw for an offense still getting accustomed to football in 2020 after a slew of postponements. (I also really liked what I saw from quarterback Clayton Tune.)
Houston was bad in coverage. Navy, obviously, won't be able to expose that while running the option. The Cougars will have an advantage on the line of scrimmage, which is how you handle Navy.
Frankly, I don't think the game will be close. Maybe that's the confidence and optimism talking. Maybe it's the scar I'm still wearing from last week.
Either way, I like Houston big.
LSU (-6.5) vs. South Carolina
If you would've told me before the season that South Carolina would enter this game with more wins than LSU, well, it's 2020, and I suppose nothing should surprise us anymore.
LSU has struggled mightily on defense. There's no sugarcoating it. The postponement against Florida last weekend might have actually helped a banged-up team get healthy and a defense with massive holes get better.
South Carolina spent its weekend upsetting Auburn. What that means exactly this year is hard to know, but it's a notable win regardless. Given LSU's struggles, I feel like many will side with the Gamecocks as a live dog.
I, however, am going the other way. I think the LSU offense is finding itself, and I'm not sure South Carolina will be able to keep up if that continues. I feel this way even with questions at quarterback and concerns regarding the health of Myles Brennan.
Yes, LSU's defense has been bad. Really, really bad. I just feel like a roster still ripe with talent will continue to improve as the season progresses. And this point spread says that time is coming.
In Bo Pelini we trust. Hopefully. Maybe.
Other Plays That Will Be on the Card
Michigan (-3.5) at Minnesota: The narratives that will emerge from this game will be fascinating. Specifically, it's a game Jim Harbaugh could really, really benefit from. I loved what Minnesota did last season, but I actually think we might be sleeping on Michigan entering the year. We'll find out soon enough.
Fresno State (-4.5) vs. Hawaii: It's not just the Big Ten returning to football. The Mountain West is also back, and we get a doozy out of the gate. The only negative to this matchup is that it's not being played at Hawaii, and therefore we'll have to wait for our first late-night, degenerate betting special. After a down 2019, I think a Bulldogs bounce-back starts here.
Iowa State at Oklahoma State (Under 52.5): This is not the Big 12 game we've seen over the past 10 years. This will not be a basketball score. This probably will be a bit ugly at times. And, to give each team some credit, both can play some defense. I'm not particularly fond of playing unders, but this feels like a good spot. Oklahoma State 24, Iowa State 20. Yep. About right.
Georgia Southern (+6.5) vs. Coastal Carolina: Coastal Carolina is finally ranked in the AP Poll, which is certainly deserved after a 4-0 start. But Georgia Southern is an admirable foe with a potent rushing attack. Coastal is giving up 4.78 yards per rush. Live dog alert. Also, you should really watch this. One of the best games of the weekend.
Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs. Lines accurate as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
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