NCAA Football Predictions: Week 8 Opening Line Report and Picks
Welcome to the Doc's Sports NCAA Opening Line Report, where we give you an early look at the upcoming week's essential games. I will also analyze the opening line of select games that caught my attention and briefly explain my initial lean. We had a decent week, going 2-1 on our actual plays, but the "lean-to" pick with Louisville dropped the ball. Michigan covered the over themselves, and the Kansas State-Texas Tech game was the shootout I envisioned. I was very bullish on Wisconsin prior to the season, but they need more time to acclimate themselves to the new offensive philosophy.
Being part of the generation that grew up with the "Madden/NCAA" football games for consoles, it's interesting to see the change these video games have brought to coaching. For better or worse, you see coaches electing to go for it on 4th down rather than the safer and more traditional punting. Watching the Oregon-Washington game this past weekend was equal parts hilarious and mortifying. The three drives that resulted in an Oregon loss-of-downs could have netted the Ducks six points and outstanding field position. They lost by just 3 points, so those two field goals could have won the game for them. That's the mortifying part of the story.
The hilarious portion comes from the fact that this was the second consecutive year that Oregon head coach Dan Lanning elected to go for it on 4th down rather than punt. Last year, Oregon turned the ball over on their 33-yard line with a little over a minute remaining in a 34-34 tie ballgame.
There are four Top 25 matchups, with the highlight being when No. 7 Penn State travels to the Horseshoe to take on No. 3 Ohio State in a Big Ten East showdown. The second big showdown features No. 17 Tennessee taking on No. 11 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The ACC picture will come slightly into focus after No. 16 Duke visits No. Florida State. Finally, No. 18 USC hosts No. 14 Utah in the Trojans 2nd-consecutive game against a Top 25 foe.
Doc’s Sports offers college football picks for every game on our college football predictions page.
Western Kentucky at Jacksonville State (+7/61) Tue. Oct. 17th, 7:30 PM
We waste no time this week getting into the action on Tuesday night. First-year program Jacksonville State, under the leadership of head coach Rich Rodriguez, has surprised many pundits in its inaugural season at the FBS level. The Gamecocks, located in Jacksonville, Alabama, had their preseason win total set at 4.5 by BetMGM. Unable to qualify for bowl games because of an asinine NCAA rule regarding first-year FBS programs, all they can do is play "bowl spoilers" for other programs. This is a battle of force vs. force, as Jacksonville State is 29th in the nation in scoring defense, and Western Kentucky's offense is averaging 32.2 ppg. I'm focusing on the under 61, as eight of the last 11 games for the Gamecocks have gone below the total. PICK: Jacksonville St-W. Kentucky UNDER 61
No. 7 Penn State at No. 3 Ohio State (-5/48) Sat Noon FOX
This is familiar territory for the Nittany Lions. They beat up on soft nonconference opponents, swat away some weaker Big Ten foes, and have their season come down to two games: Ohio State and Michigan. The Buckeyes have had only one test and struggled to get past a Notre Dame squad that fielded only 10 players in the last two plays in their game-winning drive a few weeks ago. Penn State has struggled offensively on the road this season, averaging 88 fewer yards of total offense and 9 points per game less. Notre Dame's defense held the Buckeyes to 17 points, and Penn State's defensive unit is much tougher. Points will be at a premium in this game. PICK: Penn State-Ohio State UNDER 48
Wisconsin at Illinois (+4.5/43.5) Sat. 3:30 PM FS1
This game will need to be monitored throughout the week, as the Badgers' starting QB Tanner Mordecai was injured in the first half of Saturday's loss to Iowa and did not return. Not that they were doing great with him, as Wisconsin had 106 yards passing and zero points. They'll take on an Illinois team fresh off a road win at Maryland. If Mordecai is out, I'd look to take the Illini on the money line. Even if he plays, Illinois is a live dog and another low-scoring Big Ten affair. PICK: Illinois +4.5/ UNDER 43.5
TCU at Kansas State (-7.5/56) Sat. 7:00 PM ESPN
We wrap up our early looks with a rematch of last year's Big 12 Championship. This should be a typical Big 12 contest with lots of offense, and defense is optional. TCU is 39th in the country in scoring offense (33.1 ppg), and Kansas State is 19th at 36.2 ppg. The Wildcats have had four of their last five go above the total. Our model has this total slightly under 60.5, so 56 or even 57 points is a steal. PICK: TCU-Kansas St. OVER 56
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