'Tis the season for change, something LSU fans know plenty about. Like many athletic directors scattered across the country, I find myself doing some soul searching when it comes to my college football picks against the spread.
There will be no changes at the top. I am the athletic director, the head coach and the most impactful booster. I've picked winners on this website for some time. Of late? Not so much.
Still, the foundation is in place. And the record of 31-36-2 is not indicative of the standards I have set.
The winning begins now, and I can honestly say I love this card.
Week 8 is not the most majestic slate, although plenty of quality betting opportunities are on the board.
Before I dive into those, here is what went right and wrong from the previous week.
The Good: Auburn (+5.5) at Arkansas: Betting on Bo Nix is a rush. It really is. But the wild version of Auburn's QB was on point against Arkansas. While the game was close for a while, the Tigers cruised in the second half. Easy cover.
The Bad: Texas A&M at Missouri (+8.5): I heard it from A&M fans when this pick was made. They told me I was wrong, and they said plenty of other things that I won't repeat. Turns out, they were right. Bad pick.
I want next week's "good" to be robust. I will accept nothing less.
Here are the Week 8 picks.
Clemson at Pittsburgh (-3)
Imagine someone telling you before the season that Pittsburgh would be favored over Clemson. It would've sounded outrageous.
Now? It figures. In fact, I love Pittsburgh.
Considering the Tigers were more than a 40-point favorite over Syracuse last year and nearly lost on Friday night, it's abundantly clear that one of the sport's most dominating forces is simply not itself in 2021.
Clemson owns the nation's No. 113 scoring offense. While I have waited for this group to wake up—and I believe quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will excel at some point—I just don't see it happening now.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has become an offensive force. QB Kenny Pickett has accounted for 24 touchdowns and thrown just one interception—playing his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
I am the proud owner of a Pickett Heisman ticket with 75-1 odds. This would go a long way.
The Panthers have covered in all but one game this year, and the defense seems to be rounding into shape. While it still feels odd to bet against Clemson in a game like this, it's feeling more normal every week.
Oregon at UCLA (-2.5)
The connection both programs share with Chip Kelly is obvious, although it's hard to start anywhere else. Kelly's current and former schools will match up in a delightful Pac-12 tilt, and the Bruins head coach's current program will get the job done.
Since beating Ohio State on Sept. 11, Oregon hasn't been the same. Injuries haven't helped matters, although this team looks like a shell of the one we saw pull off the massive upset in Columbus.
The Ducks have looked shaky over the last three games—losing one and covering the spread in none. The last two performances against Stanford and Cal are particularly concerning, and UCLA is in a position to take full advantage.
Sure, the Bruins have had their own struggles. But they've still covered in five of seven games. Last week's win at Washington as a small underdog was also a nice boost.
Well, not for me. I had Washington. But it was solid nonetheless.
UCLA is by no means a perfect team, but the Bruins seem to be in much better form. Playing at home doesn't hurt the cause, either.
NC State at Miami (+3)
I've already come to terms with the fact that the comment section won't like this pick, and I respect the opinions of this group. At this point, I am in no position to argue.
However, allow me to fall down this contrarian rabbit hole.
At 2-4, Miami is having a nightmare season and is likely to be searching for a new head coach soon. And while the overall results are bad, the losses have not come without life.
Manny Diaz's squad lost to Virginia by two points, although it missed a short last-second field goal. Last week, Miami crawled back into its game against UNC despite being down 18 points in the second quarter.
It was still a loss, although the comeback was noteworthy. And it nearly took place despite QB Tyler Van Dyke's three interceptions.
North Carolina State is No. 18 in the AP Poll and likely to be a popular bet this week. The schedule has been, well, favorable. The point spread certainly reflects that, and Miami will have something to celebrate for at least one weekend.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State (-7)
The team ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll is getting seven points against a program that has failed to meet an excessive amount of offseason hype.
That, of course, is likely to generate a response at the betting window. Oklahoma State has had a tremendous start, and the Pokes' comeback against Texas last weekend was a significant resume builder.
But Iowa State is in an interesting position. While the Cyclones already have two losses—an ugly defeat against Iowa and a close loss to Baylor—the team has rallied in recent weeks.
Specifically, we're seeing running back Breece Hall catch fire at the right time. And while I both like and respect Oklahoma State's defense, which has been largely solid against the run, this is a difficult assignment.
The running game coupled with plenty of other weapons and home-field advantage make Iowa State a solid play. While many will sprint to take the points with a Top 10 team, I'm going in the other direction.
Iowa State by double digits.
San Diego State at Air Force (-3.5)
This is a superb game that deserves more attention than it will likely garner. This also feels like the week that 6-0 San Diego State loses its first contest of the year.
Graduate senior Lucas Johnson will make the start for the Aztecs at quarterback, which feels significant. It's also unusual for an unbeaten team to be flipping QBs given the record. While the Aztecs are indeed without a loss, the schedule has unquestionably played a part.
Since losing a thriller to Utah State on Sept. 18, the Falcons have won and covered the spread in their past four games. San Diego State has covered the spread in four of its past five games, although it needed double overtime to outlast San Jose State last week and failed to cover the number there.
Outside one blip, I love what I've seen from Air Force. Down goes another unbeaten.
Air Force 24, San Diego State 17.
Other Games on the Card
Wake Forest at Army (+3): On the topic of sneaky-good football games, this is a doozy. Unbeaten Wake Forest (6-0) will have its hands full in this one.
Nevada (+3) at Fresno State: The more I see of Nevada, the more I like it. I missed out on the over in last week's game against Hawai'i, but I liked what I saw. The Wolf Pack win outright.
Liberty at North Texas (Over 60.5): After losing outright as more than a 30-point favorite, Liberty is likely to make an impression this week. North Texas' defense should be certain of that.
Memphis at Central Florida (-1): Well, last weekend was bad for UCF. Playing Cincinnati will do that. Look for a much better effort this time around.
San Jose State at UNLV (+5): Although UNLV has yet to win a game, the Rebels have played Arizona State, Iowa State, Fresno State, UTSA and Utah State. Yikes. The first win of the year could come this week.
UTSA at Louisiana Tech (+6.5): We're taking a cracks at some unbeaten teams this week, and UTSA is in our sights. Fun team and a great story, although I still like the underdog at home.
Odds via DraftKings and accurate as of Wednesday.
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