Spread Options: College football Week 8 picks against the spread

I feel like I'm getting back into a groove.

Through Week 4, I was 20-10 with my picks before enduring a few losing weeks. Last week was a better effort as I nailed Iowa State, Old Dominion and Nebraska and eked out a win with USC.

One loss — Utah State being down to its fourth-string QB — I'll chalk up as bad luck. The other two were just bad picks, though I wasn't the only one fooled by Bret Bielema's injury shenanigans.

Now it's on to Week 8.

Last week: 4-3

Overall: 29-24

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

Indiana at Rutgers

Time: Noon | TV: BTN | Line: RU -3 | Total: 48

If there’s one unit I trust in this game, it’s the Rutgers defense. Yes, really. The Scarlet Knights have been surprisingly stingy this year and that defense is the only reason they have been competitive to this point in the season. This week, Rutgers hosts Indiana and is a three-point favorite. Rutgers has lost 21 consecutive Big Ten home games, so I would never back RU to cover the spread. But I do like the under.

Indiana is not a good team, but it has managed to play a bunch of close games this season. The Hoosiers can’t run the ball at all, so they rely on Connor Bazelak to make plays in the passing game. It hasn't been a good recipe. In IU's only two road games of the season, it averaged 3.3 yards per play vs. Cincinnati and 4.3 yards vs. Nebraska. Rutgers' defense ranks No. 12 nationally in yards per play (4.70).

At the same time, the Rutgers offense is putrid but is getting healthier at quarterback. Noah Vedral is the best option, but he’s not a great thrower and has been dealing with a hand injury. Gavin Wimsatt is the most talented on the QB depth chart, and is expected to be available after missing time with a leg injury. Rutgers likes to rotate its quarterbacks. If Vedral and Wimsatt are getting the majority of the snaps over Evan Simon, RU should be able to limit its turnover issues (Simon has six INTs in RU's last three games). That actually bodes well for the under because the Scarlet Knights can play more of a field position game instead of giving the IU offense short fields.

Pick: Under 48

No. 9 UCLA at No. 10 Oregon

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: Oregon -6 | Total: 69.5

I played UCLA as an underdog against Washington and Utah, so why stop now?

I understand why Oregon is the favorite here. The Ducks have been playing very well ever since that season-opening debacle vs. Georgia and Autzen Stadium is a really tough place to play. But this is still too many points.

Oregon has been consistently winning games, but look at the teams it has played. Do any of them stand out? BYU was banged up when it visited Eugene, Washington State dropped 41 on the Ducks and Pac-12 bottom feeders Stanford and Arizona both moved the ball without much issue when they played Oregon.

Arizona’s running backs averaged more than seven yards per carry in Oregon’s most recent outing. If Arizona could gash the Ducks like that, what do you think Zach Charbonnet and Dorian Thompson-Robinson will do? At the same time, this UCLA defense is still underrated and is the best unit Oregon has faced since the Georgia game.

The concerns about this being UCLA’s first true road test are valid, but the Bruins are a veteran team that has experienced this kind of environment before. I’m very comfortable backing the Bruins getting six points here.

Pick: UCLA +6

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet (24) runs the ball during an NCAA college football game against Utah in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet (24) runs the ball during an NCAA college football game against Utah in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Purdue at Wisconsin

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Wisconsin -2.5 | Total: 52

Purdue’s defense got gashed by Nebraska through the air last week but was able to escape with a 43-37 win. Wisconsin won’t be able to exploit the Purdue defense in the same way. The Badgers have made some tweaks to the offense since Paul Chryst was fired but are still very reliant on running back Braelon Allen. Beyond Allen, Wisconsin’s offense doesn’t give you much to worry about. The receivers are pedestrian and Graham Mertz is still turnover-prone. The Badgers present a much better matchup for Purdue’s defense, which has been excellent at defending the run this season.

At the same time, I don’t expect Purdue to walk into Camp Randall — a place it hasn’t won since 2003 — and light up the scoreboard. Wisconsin is a mediocre team, but there’s still talent on defense to step up and limit Purdue’s suddenly competent running game and bait Aidan O’Connell into a few mistakes.

With that said, I’m looking at the under. I was surprised to see the number up in the 50s. Last week’s Wisconsin-Michigan State was a dead under game until it went into overtime. If this spread was over a field goal, I’d take Purdue but the Boilermakers are fairly beat up and haven’t had an off week yet this year.

Pick: Under 52

Marshall at James Madison

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN+ | Line: JMU -12.5 | Total: 51.5

The thing most people remember about Marshall from this season is its upset over Notre Dame. Other than that, it's been a brutal year for the Thundering Herd. Marshall is 3-3, but its other two wins came over FCS opponents. Other than that, Marshall lost to a bad Bowling Green team and looked terrible on offense vs. both Troy and Louisiana.

This week, Marshall heads to Virginia to face James Madison, a team coming off its first loss of the year. JMU, in its first year as an FBS program, squeaked into the Top 25 entering last week but was upset, 45-38, on the road by Georgia Southern. But when you take a closer look at that game, you see that JMU had 675 yards of offense but was doomed by four turnovers.

Coming off a loss, this is a very favorable matchup for JMU. Marshall relies on its running attack. JMU is excellent at defending the run. Georgia Southern didn't even try to run on the Dukes — 578 of the Eagles' 590 yards came through the air.

Anything under two touchdowns feels like a solid play for me.

Pick: James Madison -12.5

Arizona State at Stanford

Time: 4 p.m. | TV: P12 | Line: Stanford -3 | Total: 54.5

This is the ultimate letdown spot for Stanford.

Stanford dropped a heartbreaker to Oregon State and then was able to get off the mat and upset Notre Dame in South Bend. That win snapped an 11-game losing streak vs. FBS competition and now Stanford is a three-point favorite over an Arizona State team coming off a bye?

I like this opportunity for the Sun Devils. ASU has quietly looked much more competent under interim coach Shaun Aguano. ASU hung tough on the road vs. USC and then knocked off Washington at home. ASU managed to win that game even after starting QB Emory Jones was injured in the second quarter.

Jones is expected back for this game and can have a lot of success against a porous Stanford defense. Xazavian Valladay, who has four 100-yard rushing games and eight total touchdowns this season, could be in for a big game as well. I’ll take the short road underdog.

Pick: Arizona State +3

Boise State at Air Force

Time: 7 p.m. | TV: CBSSN | Line: AFA -3.5 | Total: 47.5

After an ugly 2-2 start to the season, the vibes around Boise State are much more positive now. The offensive coordinator was fired and longtime starting QB Hank Bachmeier decided to transfer after an ugly loss to UTEP. Dirk Koetter is now running the offense with talented freshman Taylen Green at quarterback.

At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Green is an impressive talent who has been very effective as a runner. Coming off a bye week, the Broncos should be able to find success against an Air Force team that has not been as good as many projected in the preseason.

The Falcons are 5-2 but they have played a very mediocre schedule and have losses to Wyoming and Utah State. Both of those teams were able to run on the Falcons, with Utah State in particular giving AFA trouble with dual-threat QB Cooper Legas running the offense. Last week, Air Force trounced UNLV, but the Rebels were without their starting QB and looked lost on offense compared to how well they were playing early in the year.

Air Force hasn’t faced a team as good as Boise State, so I’ll take the points.

Pick: Boise State +3.5

Boise State quarterback Taylen Green (10) runs down the sideline on a 39 yard touchdown scramble against San Diego State in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 35-13. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)
Boise State quarterback Taylen Green (10) runs down the sideline on a 39 yard touchdown scramble against San Diego State in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 35-13. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

No. 17 Kansas State at No. 8 TCU

Time: 8 p.m. | TV: FS1 | Line: TCU -3.5 | Total: 54.5

TCU is on an unbelievable run to start the season, but can the Horned Frogs keep playing at such a high level? They've played back-to-back four-quarter battles against Kansas and Oklahoma State and managed to pull out a win in both games, including a comeback effort that was capped off in double-overtime vs. OSU.

Oklahoma State’s defense looked absolutely gassed in the second half. In the previous week, OSU was on the field for over 100 plays against Texas Tech and just had no answers for the TCU attack down the stretch. Kansas State, on the other hand, will be fresh and ready to roll after a bye.

Kansas State’s defense hasn’t fared great against the two above-average passing attacks it has faced (Oklahoma and Texas Tech), but the Wildcats’ run-heavy offensive approach is an excellent tool to counteract that. Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn make up one of the best QB-RB running duos in the country, and I think they’ll be able to wear the Horned Frogs down over the course of 60 minutes.

I still have some skepticism that TCU is a top 10-level team. I think TCU is due for a letdown and this feels like the spot even though it’s a night game at home.

Pick: Kansas State +3.5

Utah State at Wyoming

Time: 9:45 p.m. | TV: FS2 | Line: Wyoming -4.5 | Total: 42

I was on Utah State last week against Colorado State but the Aggies were unable to cover the spread after losing two more quarterbacks to injury. Logan Bonner, USU’s starter dating back to last season, was already out with a season-ending injury. In the CSU game, Cooper Legas exited the game with a concussion in the first quarter and then Levi Williams, the third-stringer, injured his ankle in the second quarter. That left fourth-string quarterback Bishop Davenport to salvage the game for the Aggies. They won, 17-13, but did not cover the spread.

Now it looks like Davenport will get the nod on the road against Wyoming. Laramie is a tough place to play and Wyoming is a disciplined, tough team that doesn’t turn the ball over or commit penalties. Wyoming wants to run the ball and that’s the biggest weakness for the USU defense. There’s also the Andrew Peasley factor. Peasley is the starter for Wyoming and is a transfer from USU. Peasley and running back Titus Swen should have some success on the ground to lead the Cowboys to victory.

Pick: Wyoming -4.5