What to watch: Week 8 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will also pick those five games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the second half of the 2019 college football season, isn’t it?

It wasn’t that long ago that fanbases across the country were hopeful that this could be the year their program makes the jump into the College Football Playoff conversation. For some, those hopes still exist. But others had those hopes squashed already.

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As South Carolina’s upset of Georgia showed us last week, there is still plenty of potential for curveballs in the CFP race. Meanwhile, conference championship races are beginning to take shape — especially after some of the developments in Week 7.

What will Week 8 have in store? There are three ranked vs. ranked games on tap, but 10 ranked teams will go on the road to face unranked opponents. Could we see a few upsets?

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

(Note: All times ET, point spreads from FanDuel Sportsbook)

5. No. 18 Baylor at Oklahoma State

Time: 4 p.m. | TV: FOX | Line: Oklahoma State -4

Baylor just keeps on winning. The Bears improved to 6-0 by beating Texas Tech 33-30 in double-overtime last weekend in a game that involved a bit of controversy. Nonetheless, Baylor did what it needed to do to keep pace with Oklahoma as the lone unbeatens atop the Big 12 standings. Now, after playing four of its first six games at home, Baylor will head to Stillwater to face an Oklahoma State team coming off a bye. Among Big 12 teams, OSU ranks behind only Oklahoma in total offense (528.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (39.8 ppg), and Baylor will have to contend with the Cowboys without linebacker Clay Johnston. Johnston, BU’s leading tackler, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Texas Tech.

Oklahoma State’s time in the top 25 was short-lived. OSU started the year 3-0, put up a good fight in a 36-30 road loss to Texas and then handily beat then-No. 24 Kansas State at home, 26-13. With redshirt freshman QB Spencer Sanders looking good, sophomore RB Chuba Hubbard leading the nation in rushing and junior wideout Tylan Wallace averaging nearly 20 yards per catch, Mike Gundy’s team was feeling good. Perhaps too good. A week later, OSU laid an egg against Texas Tech, committing five turnovers in a 45-35 loss that was not as close as the final score indicates. After a bye week, the Cowboys get a chance to bounce back against a ranked Big 12 team at home. If OSU wants to keep any hope of making the conference title game alive, this is a game it needs to win.

Picks: Sam Cooper: Oklahoma State -4, Nick Bromberg: Baylor +4

4. Temple at No. 19 SMU

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: SMU -7.5

If you haven’t been paying attention to the AAC, this is the weekend to start. There are two huge games in the conference with Memphis (5-1, 1-1 AAC) hosting Tulane (5-1, 2-0) and No. 19 SMU hosting Temple. SMU is the conference’s lone unbeaten team, but five others have just one loss, including three teams behind the Mustangs in the AAC West standings: Tulane, Navy (4-1, 2-1 AAC) and Memphis. While Navy hosts USF, Tulane has a chance to stay unbeaten in AAC play against Memphis, a team that had a controversial loss to Temple in Philadelphia last weekend.

SMU had a week off following a wild comeback win over Tulsa in Week 6. The Mustangs trailed that game 30-9 entering the fourth quarter but came all the way back to force overtime. SMU eventually won in triple OT on an awesome TD catch by star wideout James Proche. Now the Mustangs, 6-0 for the first time since 1982, will host a tough Temple (5-1, 2-0 AAC) team that has won three straight. The Owls, in their first season under Rod Carey, boast one of the AAC’s top defenses but are in for a big challenge against an SMU team putting up 44.2 points per game. With a win, Temple can keep pace with No. 21 Cincinnati (5-1, 2-0) atop the AAC East. Cincy hosts Tulsa this weekend.

Picks: Sam: SMU -7.5, Nick: Temple +7.5

3. No. 17 Arizona State at No. 13 Utah

Time: 6 p.m. | TV: Pac-12 | Line: Utah -13.5

The Pac-12 is an easy target for jokes and criticism, but the conference’s depth has been underrated to this point in the season — especially in the South. Of the division’s six teams, UCLA is the only one you can rule out from playing in the Pac-12 title game. Four of the division’s teams have a 2-1 conference record; even USC cannot be discounted. Utah (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12), though, should be considered the favorite to win the division again. The Utes have rebounded nicely from its road loss to USC on Sept. 20. Since then, the Utes trounced Washington State 38-13 and Oregon State 52-7. Last week’s win over the Beavers saw the return of RB Zack Moss, who needed only five carries to put up 121 yards and two touchdowns. A win over ASU would go a long way toward a repeat in the South.

Arizona State’s decision to hire Herm Edwards last year was roundly mocked, but Edwards has brought a sense of optimism to Tempe. The Sun Devils are 5-1 (2-1 Pac-12) on the year with wins over two ranked teams — Michigan State and Cal. But we’ve learned that MSU is not a very good team, and Cal lost its starting quarterback in the second quarter against ASU, so it’s fair to be skeptical about the quality of this Sun Devils team. During Edwards’ tenure, ASU has been known as a defense-first team. The ASU offense, though, seems to be rounding into form behind freshman QB Jayden Daniels, who threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for the game-winning TD in a 38-34 win over Washington State last Saturday. Was that a product of the porous WSU defense, or has the Sun Devils’ offense turned the corner? We’ll learn a lot more on Saturday night in Salt Lake City against the mighty Utes defense.

Picks: Sam: ASU +13.5, Nick: ASU +13.5

2. No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Oregon -2.5

Is Oregon the only Pac-12 team with a realistic shot to make the College Football Playoff? Like Utah and ASU, the Ducks are 5-1, but are also 3-0 in conference play with just a loss coming in Week 1 to Auburn (Utah lost to USC and ASU lost to Colorado, both .500 teams). Since then, Oregon has reeled off five straight dominant wins. The Oregon defense has allowed a combined 25 points and just one touchdown during that winning streak. Last Friday, the Ducks trounced Colorado 45-3, but lost tight end Jacob Breeland — the team’s leading receiver — to a season-ending injury in the process. That’s a tough loss, especially heading into Seattle to face rival Washington. Oregon has fared well at Husky Stadium in recent years, but Washington’s 38-3 win in 2017 broke a five-game winning streak for the Ducks in Seattle. A win for Oregon this time around would give it a commanding lead in the Pac-12 North.

Washington (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) is a team that’s difficult to understand. The Huskies lost 20-19 to Cal in Week 2, won three straight by an average of 24 points, were embarrassed by an injury-plagued Stanford team in Week 6 and then went on the road and blew out an Arizona team that had won four straight. An offense that looked horrific against Stanford hung 51 points and 450 yards on the Wildcats last weekend, including an efficient 15-of-22 for 243 yards and two scores from Jacob Eason. Eason, the Georgia transfer, has shown flashes of brilliance during his first season starting for UW, but has also really underwhelmed at times. As it does with all QBs, it helps when Eason has a running game to rely on. He did against Arizona as Sean McGrew and Salvon Ahmed combined for 201 yards and three touchdowns in the 51-27 win.

Picks: Sam: Oregon -2.5, Nick: Oregon -2.5

1. No. 16 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Penn State -9

For all of the doom and gloom surrounding this Michigan season, all of the UM’s goals are still there to be accomplished. Sure, Jim Harbaugh’s team was embarrassed at Wisconsin on Sept. 21, but now the Wolverines have two critical games ahead: No. 7 Penn State and No. 8 Notre Dame. Michigan has won three straight since the Wisconsin debacle, but those victories haven’t exactly been impressive. The offense scuffled yet again against Iowa on Oct. 5, but the defense held on for a 10-3 victory. Last week, Michigan jumped out to a 28-0 lead over a lowly Illinois team playing with its backup QB, only to allow the Illini to claw back and cut the lead to 28-25. The Wolverines ended up winning 42-25, but it wasn’t a performance that inspired a whole lot of confidence heading into a night game at Beaver Stadium against an undefeated Penn State team.

Penn State improved to 6-0 last week with a hard-fought 17-12 road win over No. 17 Iowa. Now up to No. 7 in the AP poll, PSU has kept itself in the College Football Playoff conversation even while divisional rival Ohio State posts blowout after blowout. Penn State has some exciting players on its offense, notably receiver KJ Hamler and freshman running back Noah Cain, but it has been led by its defense to this point in the season. Against Iowa, the Nittany Lions forced two crucial turnovers, giving the offense a short field to put points on the board. But an interesting variable in this one is Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Gattis has not impressed thus far in Ann Arbor, but perhaps his five seasons coaching under James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Penn State will give the Wolverines a unique advantage.

Picks: Sam: Penn State -9, Nick: Michigan +9

Records ATS to date: Sam: 20-18, Nick: 15-23

(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Week 8’s best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 10-11)

No. 22 Missouri at Vanderbilt (+21): It’s been a terrible season for the Commodores and got worse with a home blowout loss to UNLV in Week 7. But I’ve got a feeling that Vanderbilt may keep it relatively close against the Tigers. Mizzou always Mizzous at some point during a season and it already did so in Week 1. But a 10-point win over Vanderbilt feels very MU. Pick: Vanderbilt +21

Pitt at Syracuse (+3.5): After escaping Delaware, Pitt beat Duke 33-30 in Week 6. Syracuse, meanwhile, looked awful on the road against NC State in Week 7. But I think the Orange finally figure out how to play offense against a Power Five opponent this weekend and not only cover the 3.5 but also win outright. Pick: Syracuse +3.5

Army at Georgia State (+5.5): I’m pegging this as a bounceback game for the Black Knights after back-to-back losses to Tulane and Western Kentucky. That Western Kentucky team lost to FCS Central Arkansas in Week 1. Georgia State looks tempting after wins over Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina — and that Tennessee win — but this is also the same team that barely beat Furman and got blown out by Western Michigan. Pick: Army -5.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 3-0, Overall: 11-9-1)

No. 9 Florida at South Carolina (+5): Sure, I’ll take the bait here. South Carolina is coming off a huge win over Georgia while Florida lost a slugfest to LSU. But Florida is still a much better team. Even if this one gets off to a slow start, UF can cover the five points over the course of 60 minutes. Gators by a TD. Pick: Florida -5

Colorado at Washington State (-12.5): I’d be very surprised if Washington State did not win this game, but I still think 12.5 is too many points. Sure, Colorado only put up three points against Oregon, but nobody scores on Oregon. With Laviska Shenault now healthy and Steven Montez anxious to put a four-interception performance behind him, I like the Buffs to put up some points and cover. Pick: Colorado +12.5

No. 14 Boise State at BYU (+6.5): I know Hank Bachmeier is banged up for Boise State and Provo can be a tough place to play, but BYU could be down to its third-string QB if Jaren Hall can’t come back from a concussion. I think BYU is going to have a tough time scoring against the Boise defense and Chase Cord, Boise’s backup QB, has enough experience to go get his team a comfortable road win. Pick: Boise State -6.5

For Week 8 picks from Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel, subscribe to the Yahoo Sports College Podcast.

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