NCAA Football Predictions: Week 8 Opening Line Report and Picks
Last week, before the real rankings came out, I went on record to list Georgia, Iowa, Cincinnati, and Michigan as the top-four teams in the country. Then the standings came out, and I was nearly spot-on, with the committee choosing to place Oklahoma in the four-hole instead of Michigan. That’s fine and dandy. However, once again, the top-four is going to be shaken up as No. 2 Iowa laid an egg on their home soil and lost outright to the Purdue Boilermakers as 11.5-point favorites. I can’t tell you enough how crazy it is that once October rolls around, these ranked teams drop like flies. Who will be the next casualty this week? Will it be No. 4 Alabama, who takes on Tennessee? Or perhaps No. 5 Ohio State, who travels to Bloomington for a date with the Hoosiers?
As far as last week’s results go, we were spot on with each one of our selections and posted a much-needed 4-0 record. Pittsburgh thumped Virginia Tech, while Utah snuck by Arizona State. Baylor beat down BYU, and the Central Michigan Chippewas beat Toledo in overtime as a five-point underdog. Let’s carry that perfect record momentum into Week 8.
Doc’s Sports offers college football expert picks for every game on our college football predictions page.
Clemson Tigers @ Pittsburgh Panthers -3.5, 46.5
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. After winning two national titles in three years from 2016-2018, the Clemson Tigers now find themselves in a dog fight nearly every week against teams they were destroying during that run. Just last week, Clemson took on Syracuse as 13.5-point favorites and needed to hold on for a three-point win. Now, Clemson takes to the road to face No. 23 Pittsburgh – a team that is 5-1 on the season – and the Tigers find themselves in unfamiliar territory – underdogs. It’s been a battle all season long for Clemson to put up points. And if you think the going is going to get easier, think again. Pittsburgh has an extremely good defense and an even better offense. The Panthers ranked third in the country in points per game, racking up nearly 49 points per contest, compared to 20.5 for Clemson. Most people still can’t shake the fact that Clemson is struggling, so they’ll be quick to grab as many points as they can with the more familiar team. That’s not the right play here. Pitt is the real deal, and I expect them to win this game easily.
Pick: Pittsburgh -3
Oregon Ducks @ UCLA Bruins -2.5, 58.5
Both teams in this contest come into this game off hard-fought wins against teams they should have easily beaten. Oregon just snuck by a pesky California side but failed to cover the 14-point spread. UCLA got a solid road win at Washington as 1.5-point underdogs, which improves their record to 5-2 on the season. So, what does that mean for this contest? Well, both teams have five wins, but it is the Ducks who are nationally ranked as they sit at No. 10. Both teams have been just as good on the offensive side of the ball, with both teams averaging 33.8 points per game. They are very close in terms of total yards per game (434.7 per game for Oregon, 349.3 for UCLA), and they sit 63rd and 60th in third-down conversion percentage. With both teams essentially mirror images of each other on offense, this game is going to come down to which defense can make the more impactful plays. The UCLA Bruins are the better team in terms of defensive statistics, but I think the Ducks can be trusted a bit more than the Bruins can. I’ll grab the points in this one.
Pick: Oregon +2.5
Nevada Wolf Pack at Fresno State Bulldogs -4.5, 61
This Mountain West showdown is going to be one of the best football games of the weekend. In one corner, you have the Nevada Wolf Pack, who are 5-1 on the season and chasing down an undefeated San Diego State team. Nevada was everyone’s sexy pick to win the conference. And outside of a bad loss to Kansas State, they’ve been as advertised. They rank in the upper echelon of teams in terms of offensive statistics, but the defense has been suspect at times. In the other corner, you have a 5-2 Fresno State team that is simply a better defensive version of the Wolf Pack. The Bulldogs have a similar offensive output as the Wolf Pack, but their defense is miles better. This line opened up with the Bulldogs laying -1.5, but it has since been bet up to -4.5. I’ll trust the defense in this one and take the Bulldogs on their home soil.
Pick: Fresno State -4.5
USC Trojans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish -6.5 58
And lastly, perhaps the most “marquee” game on the docket goes at Notre Dame Stadium as the No. 13 Fighting Irish host the middling USC Trojans. Look, nobody is saying this game has CFP implication as both teams are done and dusted in that regard, but both programs are extremely well known, perhaps the most famous college brands in the game today. USC has struggled this season with injuries, and that has caused them to have a very underwhelming 3-3 record. They are on track to miss the Bowl Season as their remaining schedule has them play Arizona (win), Arizona State (loss), California (?), UCLA (loss) and BYU (loss). Can they pull off the upset against Notre Dame? It’s possible if the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, but I don’t see it happening. Are the Irish good enough to cover this seven-point spread? Given how they very rarely blow teams out, I’m skeptical, but I just think they come into this game rest and in a better state of mind. I’ll lay the points here.
Pick: Notre Dame -6.5
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