NCAA Football Predictions: Week 8 Opening Line Report and Picks
There are a few things you need to know about Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
First, he's a brilliant offensive mind, maybe the best in the FBS.
Second, the Sooner faithful already like him more than predecessor Bob Stoops because they felt Stoops' teams generally underachieved. Plus, Riley's teams are so much more entertaining.
Third, the NFL is lusting after the guy as the next Sean McVay, so Riley will be able to just about write his own ticket when/if he's ready to go to the next level.
This is all mentioned because Riley can pretty much do what he wants at Oklahoma now, and he showed that by firing defensive coordinator Mike Stoops (who was reviled by Sooners fans) following OU's shootout loss in the Red River Showdown Oct. 6. The Horns gashed Stoops' unit for 501 yards and held the ball for nearly 34 minutes. Texas should not be hanging 48 points on anyone, not yet anyways.
When Riley took over when Mike Stoops' brother Bob surprisingly stepped down in June 2017, it was a "wink-wink" thing that Riley would keep Mike on. He had been defensive coordinator since 2012, when his brother hired him. This firing was overdue. Two years ago, OU finished 80th in the country in yards per play allowed and then 82nd last year. Look at what Riley's offense did to a magnificent Georgia defense in last year's College Football Playoff semifinal game, scoring 48 points. Stoops' unit allowed 54, including 317 yards rushing.
Ruffin McNeill, the assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach, has been promoted to replace Stoops and will be the defensive coordinator for at least the rest of the season. When McNeill was head coach at East Carolina, Riley was his offensive coordinator before leaving for the same role at OU. McNeill came on as assistant head coach before the 2017 season.
Oklahoma is not out of the College Football Playoff picture and probably still makes it should it win out, including in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners are -7.5 this Saturday at TCU , which is on a few days extra rest after being upset 17-14 at home by Texas Tech on Thursday. Oklahoma should be heavily favored in every other regular-season game before what should be a really fun one Nov. 23 at West Virginia. Those two could end up turning around and playing each other again in the conference championship game - although WVU's loss Saturday at Iowa State was a killer for the Big 12.
Here are a few other Week 8 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
Cincinnati at Temple (-3.5): There are tons of coaches around college football who come from the Nick Saban tree. You don't yet hear about a ton of them from the Urban Meyer tree, but one such doing a fantastic job is former Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell at Cincinnati. He was also OSU's head coach during the 2011 season following the Memorial Day resignation of Jim Tressel amid an NCAA investigation. Fickell had coached at OSU in some form since 2002, so maybe he's only a twig instead of branch from Meyer's tree, but I digress. Cincinnati was a mess in 2016 when Tommy Tuberville was dumped following a 4-8 season. The Bearcats had the same record in Fickell's first season last year but already are bowl eligible at 6-0. Unfortunately, it plays in the same loaded AAC East Division as Central Florida and South Florida (and Temple). Shame only one of those three can play in the conference title game. Cincinnati was off last week. Temple won at Navy 24-17 on Saturday to stay unbeaten in AAC play. The Owls won 35-24 at Cincinnati last year, their third straight victory in the series. The pick: Temple.
No. 2 Ohio State at Purdue (+13.5): I'm not saying it's a rather weak Saturday around the country, but this matchup is your ABC prime-time game. Really!? In earlier years, you might call this a potential trap game for the Buckeyes with Nebraska up next, but the Cornhuskers are absolutely terrible. OSU wasn't all that sharp Saturday in a 30-14 home win over Minnesota. Heisman candidate Dwayne Haskins threw for 412 yards and three scores. OSU racked up 504 yards of offense. Purdue won its third in a row Saturday, 46-7 at Illinois. The Boilermakers, who actually trailed 7-0, had 611 yards of offense. Isaac Zico and Rondale Moore combined to catch nine passes for 228 yards. It's the first meeting between these schools since 2013. OSU is 20-5 all-time in the series when ranked and when Purdue isn't (and it rarely is). The pick: OSU.
No. 16 N.C. State at No. 3 Clemson: (-17): The winner of this one probably takes the ACC Atlantic and then beats up on some average champion of the Coastal Division in the conference title game. The Wolfpack were off this past weekend. They probably have the better QB in this one in Ryan Finley, whom NFL scouts have their eyes on. Finley has thrown for 1,621 yards with 10 touchdowns and three scores. Clemson also comes off a bye. QB Trevor Lawrence was one of the nation's top recruits but still looks like a freshman at times. The Tigers have won six straight in the series, but the Wolfpack gave them all they could handle the past two years in losing by a touchdown each. You may remember the 2016 game in Clemson when N.C. State should have won but a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation was wide right. Deshaun Watson would win it in OT for Clemson. The pick: NC State.
Doc's Sports is offering a great deal for new clients - you can get $60 worth of free college football picks with no obligation. No credit card is needed, and you will never have to deal with a salesman. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . Also, get three handicappers for the price of one when you sign up for a full-season football package! Click Here for details . Get free weekly free college football picks at Doc's Sports free football picks page.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of this Weeks College Football Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Football Picks