NCAA Football Predictions: Week 8 Opening Line Report and Picks
A few years ago, no Power 5 conference football program was in worse shape, arguably, than Baylor with all the off-the-field issues that occurred under former coach Art Briles - a fantastic coach, no doubt, but one who clearly let the inmates run the asylum in Waco.
That job was toxic when Briles was forced out, but it appears as if the school hit a grand slam in hiring former Temple coach Matt Rhule to replace Briles. Rhule is working a near-miracle at Baylor just like he did at Temple - Oregon also was in hot pursuit of him before Baylor won out with a seven-year deal.
With a barren roster at Baylor, Rhule was 1-11 in his first season but improved the Bears to 7-6 last year and a bowl win. Now they are 6-0 and tied atop the Big 12 - also up to No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25. Believe me, NFL teams are noticing what Rhule is doing.
While the coach deserves a ton of credit, Baylor always plays one of the worst nonconference schedules of any team, and that was no different this year. It also hasn't played anyone all that great in the Big 12 with wins vs. Iowa State, at Kansas State and home to Texas Tech this past weekend. We should find out a little more about the Bears this Saturday at Oklahoma State. The Pokes aren't title contenders or anything but have some offensive talent, nearly won at ranked Texas and can beat anyone in Stillwater. OSU, off a bye week, will look for some payback as it lost 35-31 in Waco last year on a Charlie Brewer 6-yard TD pass with seven seconds left. Oklahoma State opened as a 3-point favorite at Mybookie for this one.
Here are a few other Week 8 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
No. 4 Ohio State at Northwestern (+28), Friday: When the Big Ten announced it was going to schedule a handful of games on Fridays a few years ago simply for TV reasons, pretty much no one in the conference was happy about it because Friday is for high school football. A couple of schools have flat-out refused to host a game on the night. This is a rematch of last season's Big Ten title game, with Ohio State not surprisingly crushing the Wildcats 45-24 but still left out of the College Football Playoff. Neither starting QB from that is still around. The Buckeyes sure look like they will get back there as they have won every game this season by at least 24 points. Northwestern has regressed in a big way at 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten. This is a horrible offensive team that has topped 15 points just once and is averaging 14.4. The only way the Cats stay close here is if they can score a couple of times on defense/special teams. Or if Ohio State is looking ahead to next week's huge game with Wisconsin. Pick: Northwestern.
No. 16 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State (-9): I guess we can call the winner of this game the only team with a chance to beat out the Buckeyes in the Big Ten East. Ohio State hosts Penn State on Nov. 23 (so probably a win) and visits Michigan the following Saturday (in theory the Nuts could lose in Ann Arbor). It has been well-established that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh can't beat ranked teams on the road, but at least this is the Wolverines' final such game this season. Last year, UM trashed the visiting Lions 42-7 behind three TDs from Shea Patterson and a dominant defense. Penn State had 186 yards, three turnovers and didn't score until two minutes were left. ESPN GameDay will be in Happy Valley. Pick: Michigan.
No. 2 LSU at Mississippi State (+19) & No. 9 Florida at South Carolina (+6): Grouping these two games together because they feel like HUGE letdown games for the Tigers and Gators after LSU's 42-28 home win over Florida on Saturday in Baton Rouge. UF also can't be caught looking ahead to an upcoming bye week and then the annual Cocktail Party showdown with Georgia on Nov. 2. The rest of the schedule is pretty easy after that. LSU has two huge ones after this, hosting Auburn on Oct. 26 and then visiting Alabama on Nov. 9. Picks: Both dogs.
No. 17 Arizona State at No. 13 Utah (-13.5): Massive game in the Pac-12 South as these two are tied atop the division with USC and Arizona. Utah trashed Oregon State on Saturday, 52-7. Zack Moss returned from a missed game due to injury and had 121 yards and two scores. He should become the school's all-time leading rusher in this one. Arizona State beat visiting Washington State, 38-34. Freshman QB Jayden Daniels scored on a 17-yard scramble with 34 seconds left. Last year, the Utes won the division but lost handily at ASU, 38-20. Manny Wilkins threw three touchdown passes to N'Keal Harry to lead the Sun Devils, but both those guys are gone now. Utes starting QB Tyler Huntley was knocked out with a broken collarbone that would end his season. Pick: Utes will win but not cover.
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