This article is part of our College Football Picks series.
College Capper: College Football Week 8 Best Bets
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Back into the win column last week after the first losing week of the year previously, and it could have been better. Miami jumped out to a 20-0 lead before nearly blowing it and failing to cover. I hit another total which is very unlike me, and Clemson held on for another positive week. Lines are getting sharper and we've got a plethora of bye weeks, so there aren't as many options to choose from. No bueno when I've already struggled to find five picks for each of the last two weeks. Let's see where we land in Week 8. I won't allow myself to go the opposite direction and take Duke to cover against Miami. That's not sound picking. But guess what, Miami won't cover! Duke is better coached because the 'Canes current roster is used to being coddled.
Northern Illinois (-3) at Ohio
I didn't trust myself last week with regards to the Huskies. They'd struggled previously but were preseason conference favorites and dogs against Eastern Michigan. They shouldn't have been, winning 39-10, and this line feels like we aren't trusting their turnaround. Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi is back under center after missing time with injury, and the Huskies have their run game going, ranking 32nd with 193.0 ypg and 4.8 ypc. That should play well against a Bobcat defense that allows 4.6 ypc and 161.1 ypg on the ground with 14 TDs in seven games.
Missouri (-13.5) vs. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has scored 31 points in conference in three games, 28 of which came against a disinterested Ole Miss side that had their matchup sandwiched between two tough games. This is also a classic spot where last week's opponent can beat the Commodores twice, as they're surely beaten physically and emotionally by Georgia. Meanwhile, Missouri is fresh, having not played last week. They took Georgia to the brink and then didn't suffer a letdown the following outing when traveling to Florida. They seem to be improving on both sides and are earning my trust. With only two wins, this is one they have to take seriously. Shop around and find this under two touchdowns, though it's unlikely to matter.
UCLA (+6.5) at Oregon
Taking a road dog in Autzen Stadium isn't usually the preference. It's even less so for a team that's played just one road game to date, at lowly Colorado. But Bruins' coach Chip Kelly is returning to his old stomping grounds, and has had an extra week to prepare. It's a veteran group that shouldn't be overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Dorian Thompson-Robinson will at worst match points in what should be a high-scoring, back-and-forth, one-possession game.
Liberty (+7) vs. BYU
The line has danced here all week, falling then rising above its opening (-6.5), and with any luck, it will keep climbing. Liberty has already had some big wins in its rise to relevancy, but this is a different beast. Getting BYU on their campus is a huge deal for non-football reasons. The school is trying to build itself into the East Coast's version of BYU. Lynchburg is going to be a zoo; both inside and outside the stadium. BYU is traveling east, and could be a bit beaten physically and mentally after games against Notre Dame and Arkansas. Liberty could also get former Baylor and Utah QB Charlie Brewer back, further boosting their chances. BYU just doesn't strike me as a team that goes on the road and wins emphatically. BYU is also 2-5 ATS, dropping five straight.
Over 63.5 Charlotte vs. Florida International
These teams are both woeful defensively. Charlotte has the worst-scoring defense in the nation, allowing 44.6 points per game. FIU ranks 122nd by allowing 36.8 ppg. My math says if they are both average here, that's 81.4 points, which gives us three scores as a cushion. Charlotte is a known commodity offensively. QB Chris Reynolds has a trio of good receivers that will exploit FIU's young secondary, I like them to safely flirt with 40 points here. So we really just need the Panthers to get into the 20s. The number has unfortunately moved up steadily during the week, opening at 59.5, so don't wait if you're interested. The over is 5-2 in Charlotte's contests, but only 2-4 in FIU's. We need Charlotte's defense to continue being porous.
Last week: 3-2; season 24-16
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I mentioned this past week how nice it was to sit down and write this article after posting a 4-1 week, well consecutive 4-1 weeks is even better! Seriously though, I'm always hesitant to get too high in this business as no matter how hot you're running a bad week is never far away. Independent of that thought, I'm not as pumped about the card this week as I've been the past two weeks, so keep that in mind.
Before we get to this week's games, a quick look back. The lone loss came on Kansas, which just had no defense. The offense kept them close enough for a back door cover, but the defense just could not stop the Sooners. The wins started with Illinois which won, and quite easily I might add, as an outright dog. Iowa State was another easy win as the Cyclones were within one score pretty much the entire way. Tennessee with the points was fairly stress-free as well as even though the Volunteers trailed by seven late in the game, they didn't take long to even it up and eventually win the game outright. The final win was on the TCU over and that wasn't easy at all, in fact, I probably shouldn't have won that game, but with the help of OT, the number went over the total.
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Clemson (-13.5) vs Syracuse
I don't want to dismiss the 6-0 record that the Orange have posted, but they have been very fortunate with the way the schedule has fallen to this point. They faced an out of sorts Louisville team (at home) in week 1, beat a Purdue in a fluky manner when Aidan O'Connell was getting his legs back (at home), and topped a good N.C. State team that was missing its starting QB (also at home). They've handled their business, credit to them, but this week is an entirely different beast. This Clemson team is nowhere near the teams that won national championships in the past decade, but it's getting better each week and the Tigers should have enough to get separation here.
Over (58.5) Kansas at Baylor
This line opened at 63.5 and took a nosedive with the assumption that Baylor stud QB Blake Shapen would not be available after suffering a concussion this past week against West Virginia. A couple things to note here though, first although it might seem to go against conventional wisdom, I believe the college game is more lenient when it comes to pushing players through concussion protocol, especially after the recent events in the NFL. Second, as of Wednesday, Shapen was back at practice. Now, this could be a smokescreen as Baylor may try to sneak in its backup, but it looks like Shapen has a good chance to play. If he does, this is an easy play as Baylor has been an over machine in conference play and as I mentioned earlier, Kansas has no defense.
Over (50.5) Purdue at Wisconsin
Purdue is rolling on offense right now having scored 74 points in the past two weeks. Wisconsin isn't quite the same team that would historically grind every game out, the Badgers will engage if needed and I think that's what happens here. The Badger defense is not what it has been in years past and quite honestly, even if it were, I'm not sure it would be able to stop the Purdue offense. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers have opened up their offense a bit as Graham Mertz has shown the ability to move the team at certain points. Set just above 50, it shouldn't be too hard to get on top of this total.
Penn State (-4) vs Minnesota
Which team bounces back after a bad loss? Well you know what I think the answer is and that's Penn State. I mentioned this past week that I was a bit lost on Minnesota this year, but after nailing the pick this past week, I think I know what the Gophers are and that's a team that can wallop bad teams but will struggle against middle-tier teams. Penn State was playing even with Michigan for a half this past week and then all hell broke loose. The Nittany Lions were run all over and while that looks like a bad sign for this week since the Gophers rely heavily on their ground game, my guess is that the 'Lions have been working on their run defense all week and since Minnesota has no air attack, I think this works out in Penn State's favor.
California (+7.5) vs Washington
We all know that California lost this past week to the worst team in college football (Colorado) and while it's going to be hard to back a team that could only muster 13 points against Colorado, I think it's the right play for one major reason – pride. This week had to be miserable for the Bears and I'm sure they can't wait to get back on the field and try to make everyone forget what just happened. Washington meanwhile just hasn't been the same since it lost at UCLA three weeks ago. The problem has been the defense as the Huskies have allowed an average of 36 ppg in their past three. It'll be hard to cover more than a TD on the road with a defense playing like that.
Last Week: 4-1-0, Last Season: 20-18-0
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