By Brad Carroll
The big games just keep on coming, as college football's Week 8 has another huge slate of important matchups as teams jockey for position to make the postseason tournament at year's end. There are five games featuring ranked teams playing each other this Saturday, including the big one in primetime, No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Florida State.
That blockbuster will likely be an elimination game for the loser, as neither Notre Dame nor Florida State has the strength of schedule remaining to make up ground after losing. The winner could very well punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff for that very reason as well. The Irish have two games against ranked teams left, at both Arizona State and USC, while Florida State doesn't face a ranked team again. So, this game is huge in the race for one of the four playoff spots.
There are plenty of other important games with playoff implications as well, including No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia, No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 7 Alabama, No. 8 Michigan State at Indiana, Rutgers at No. 13 Ohio State, No. 10 Georgia at Arkansas, Tennessee at No. 3 Ole Miss and Washington at No. 9 Oregon. We preview all of those games, plus No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU and No. 23 Stanford at No. 17 Arizona State, and our college football experts pick each game against the spread right here.
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No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia, 12 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Baylor -8.5; West Virginia +8.5
Brad's Breakdown: Both teams are coming off improbable comeback victories, with Baylor scoring the final 24 points of the fourth quarter to beat TCU at home and West Virginia erasing a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and winning on a 55-yard field goal as time expired against Texas Tech. Both teams can put up a ton of points, with the Bears having the No. 1 scoring offense in the country and sixth best in passing, while the Mountaineers are 28th in scoring and seventh in passing. Two years ago in Morgantown, West Virginia beat Baylor 70-63. Last year, the Bears won at home, 73-42, over the Mountaineers. This game is made for offense. West Virginia set a school record last week by reaching 500 yards of total offense for the fifth straight game. Baylor scored 61 points and had 782 yards of total offense against TCU. The better offense will win this game, and that's Baylor.
Brad's Score: Baylor 63, West Virginia 49
Craig's Score: Baylor 63, West Virginia 45
Glenn's Score: Baylor 48, West Virginia 28
Matt's Score: Baylor 49, West Virginia 30
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma, 12 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Kansas State +7.5; Oklahoma -7.5
Brad's Breakdown: After winning its first four games convincingly, Oklahoma ran into a roadblock in the form of TCU two weeks ago, losing 37-33 to drop them out of College Football Playoff contention for now. The Sooners didn't look much better the following week, barely surviving against Texas, winning 31-26. Kansas State's only loss of the season came in mid-September at home against Auburn. Since then, the Wildcats have beaten UTEP and Texas Tech handily. Oklahoma has owned Kansas State in this Big 12 series, winning eight of the last 10 meetings. The Wildcats did win the last time they played in Norman, however, beating then-No. 6 Oklahoma 24-19. The Sooners need quarterback Trevor Knight to play better than he has this season to make a move into playoff consideration again. Look for Knight and Oklahoma to begin that quest against Kansas State.
Brad's Score: Oklahoma 42, Kansas State 31
Craig's Score: Oklahoma 31, Kansas State 21
Glenn's Score: Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 20
Matt's Score: Oklahoma 28, Kansas State 27
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 7 Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Texas A&M +11.5; Alabama -11.5
Brad's Breakdown: The disappearance of Alabama's offense could be pegged for an episode of the old Unsolved Mysteries show. The Crimson Tide looked like a completely different team in the first four games of the season than in year's past, passing the ball all over the field and averaging 42 points per game. But that offense has gone completely away in the last two games, as the Tide scored just one offensive touchdown in a loss to Ole Miss, then was held to 14 points in a one-point win over Arkansas last week. Texas A&M became a quick, trendy pick to win the national championship after winning its first five games of the year, but all of that hype has gone away after two straight losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The Aggies can still put points on the board, however, scoring 51 total in those two losses. A&M may not be good enough to beat Alabama on the road, but it definitely has the offense to stick with the Tide enough to keep it close.
Brad's Score: Alabama 28, Texas A&M 24
Craig's Score: Alabama 27, Texas A&M 20
Glenn's Score: Texas A&M 24, Alabama 20 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Alabama 30, Texas A&M 14
No. 8 Michigan State at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Michigan State -16.5; Indiana +16.5
Brad's Breakdown: Michigan State has become an enigma over the last two weeks, jumping out to big leads only to let the opposition slip back into the game and force itself to come up with a defensive stand to win. The Spartans went up 27-3 in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, but had to make a stop late to win by five. Michigan State led Purdue 38-17 last week with under nine minutes to play, but the Boilermakers scored two straight touchdowns and had the ball with a chance to tie in the final 90 seconds. Michigan State returned an interception for a touchdown to end that comeback bid. The Spartans are back as big favorites against Indiana, but this might be the game where MSU gets its fourth quarter defense back on track. Indiana will be starting true freshman Chris Covington at quarterback after starter Nate Sudfield was lost for the year with an injury. Covington should have a rough go of it against the talented Spartans defensive backs.
Brad's Score: Michigan State 34, Indiana 17
Craig's Score: Michigan State 48, Indiana 28
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 28, Indiana 10
Matt's Score: Michigan State 34, Indiana 20
Rutgers at No. 13 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Rutgers +19.5; Ohio State -19.5
Brad's Breakdown: Rutgers has raced out to a 5-1 record in its first season in the Big Ten, with its only loss coming to Penn State in Week 3, one the Scarlet Knights would love to have another chance at. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova threw five interceptions against the Nittany Lions in a 13-10 loss. The Knights have since beaten Navy, Tulane and Michigan. Ohio State lost in Week 2 to Virginia Tech at home, 35-21, which dropped it out of playoff contention early on. The Buckeyes, however, have bounced back strong, routing Kent State, Cincinnati and Maryland. Ohio State beat Maryland two weeks ago, 52-24, for its 17th straight win against conference opponents. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett had a breakout performance against the Terps, throwing for four touchdowns and running in another. Ohio State is averaging a little more than 15 points per game better than Rutgers this season, and is allowing less on defense. The Buckeyes will make it 18 straight Big Ten wins.
Brad's Score: Ohio State 42, Rutgers 20
Craig's Score: Ohio State 35, Rutgers 24
Glenn's Score: Ohio State 38, Rutgers 20
Matt's Score: Ohio State 45, Rutgers 20
No. 10 Georgia at Arkansas, 4 p.m., SEC
The Spread: Georgia -3.5; Arkansas +3.5
Brad's Breakdown: Georgia still won't have star running back Todd Gurley on the field Saturday, but it didn't seem to bother the team at all last week. The Bulldogs routed host Missouri 34-0 just days after finding out Gurley was suspended indefinitely for allegedly taking money for signing autographs. Freshman Nick Chubb rushed for 143 yards in place of Gurley last week. Arkansas hasn't won an SEC game in its last 15 tries, including two devastating losses in a row, to Texas A&M and Alabama. The Razorbacks blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter in an overtime loss to the Aggies, and lost by a point to the Crimson Tide last week after again leading in the fourth quarter. The Razorbacks are getting closer to that first SEC victory in a long time, and there is a chance for the upset at home Saturday afternoon. But the Bulldogs will have just enough to survive.
Brad's Score: Georgia 27, Arkansas 24
Craig's Score: Georgia 27, Arkansas 20
Glenn's Score: Georgia 38, Arkansas 28
Matt's Score: Georgia 27, Arkansas 21
No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU, 4 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Oklahoma State +8; TCU -8
Brad's Breakdown: TCU was not only on its way to one of the biggest victories in program history last week, but taking a major step toward College Football Playoff contention after leading Baylor by 21 points with 11 minutes to play. But the Bears scored 24 straight points and ended those high hopes for the Horned Frogs, winning 61-58 on a game-winning field goal. TCU's defense has taken a huge hit the past two weeks, allowing a total of 94 points against Oklahoma and Baylor. Oklahoma State is 5-1 this season with its only loss coming in Week 1 to Florida State. The Cowboys are unbeaten in the Big 12, but have a hellish schedule remaining, with TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma remaining as ranked teams. The Cowboys beat Kansas last week, but needed a late kick return for a touchdown to win 27-20. Last year, Oklahoma State beat TCU 24-10. The Horned Frogs bounce back with a close victory at home.
Brad's Score: TCU 35, Oklahoma State 28
Craig's Score: TCU 42, Oklahoma State 31
Glenn's Score: TCU 42, Oklahoma State 31
Matt's Score: TCU 42, Oklahoma State 30
Tennessee at No. 3 Ole Miss, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Tennessee +16.5; Ole Miss -16.5
Brad's Breakdown: Ole Miss, the sudden national championship contender after beating Alabama and Texas A&M, have the second best scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 11.8 points per game. The Running Rebels have 12 interceptions and have returned three of them for touchdowns. Tennessee scores just 28 points per game, second worst in the SEC. Put that together and the Vols are in big trouble Saturday. While Ole Miss has beaten Alabama and Texas A&M as underdogs, it will be a big favorite against Tennessee, a different position for the Rebels to be in this season. That could benefit the Vols to at least keep the game within striking distance late, which they did in losing close games to Georgia and Florida this season before beating overmatched Chattanooga last week. But Ole Miss should have no problem rolling to victory in front of what should be a raucous crowd under the lights.
Brad's Score: Ole Miss 38, Tennessee 21
Craig's Score: Ole Miss 34, Tennessee 17
Glenn's Score: Ole Miss 42, Tennessee 20
Matt's Score: Ole Miss 40, Tennessee 10
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Florida State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Notre Dame +8; Florida State -8
Brad's Breakdown: It looks like quarterback Jameis Winston will play Saturday night against Notre Dame, and that's good news for the Seminoles, as they could go from favorites to underdogs if that decision doesn't go their way. Even with Winston, Florida State hasn't been overly impressive this season in its six wins, and dropped this week to No. 2 in the rankings after getting jumped by Mississippi State. But if the Seminoles can beat Notre Dame at home Saturday night they could punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff. The Irish are 6-0 as well but had to pull out a three-point win over Stanford two weeks ago on a fourth down touchdown pass in the final minute and then hold off North Carolina last week in a 50-43 victory. The Irish can put up points on bad teams, but struggle against good defenses. Florida State has been winning games because of its defense, and this mega-matchup won't be any different. The Seminoles survive and Notre Dame's title hopes will end.
Brad's Score: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 21
Craig's Score: Florida State 35, Notre Dame 28
Glenn's Score: Notre Dame 35, Florida State 24
Matt's Score: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 10
Washington at No. 9 Oregon, 8 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Washington +20.5; Oregon -20.5
Brad's Breakdown: Oregon bounced back from a shocking loss to Arizona at home two weeks ago to rout UCLA last week, 42-20. The Ducks this week host a Washington team they have owned, winning the last 10 games all by at least 17 points. Oregon is averaging 43.3 points per game, so it should have more than enough offense to add another big win over the Huskies Saturday night. Washington is 5-1, with its one loss coming to Stanford, 20-13. The Huskies are built to win with defense, but they haven't faced an offense like Oregon's yet.
Brad's Score: Oregon 44, Washington 20
Matt's Score: Oregon 48, Washington 24
Glenn's Score: Oregon 45, Washington 24
Matt's Score: Oregon 50, Washington 20
No. 23 Stanford at No. 17 Arizona State, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Stanford -3.5; Arizona State +3.5
Brad's Breakdown: Stanford has lost twice this season, both as favorites, to USC and Notre Dame. Arizona State has lost just once, but it was a blowout by UCLA, 62-27. The Sun Devils defeated USC in a wild finish two weeks ago, completing a Hail Mary with no time left to win. Stanford has the best defense in the country, allowing just 10 points per game. That's bad news for Arizona State, which has struggled against good defenses, even with its offensive outburst late against the Trojans. There won't be much scoring on either side, but Stanford will do more of it.
Brad's Score: Stanford 27, Arizona State 14
Craig's Score: Stanford 24, Arizona State 20
Glenn's Score: Stanford 24, Arizona State 17
Matt's Score: Stanford 28, Arizona State 24
Brad Last Week: 7-4 (spread), 9-2 (straight-up), 2-2 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 43-40 (spread), 61-22 (straight-up), 5-5 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 2-9 (spread), 7-4 (straight-up), 1-3 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 37-46 (spread), 58-25 (straight-up), 5-8 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 3-8 (spread), 8-3 (straight-up), 0-1 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 46-37 (spread), 64-19 (straight-up), 6-3 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 4-7 (spread), 9-2 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 41-42 (spread), 61-22 (straight-up), 3-4 (upsets)