2018 NCAAF Week 8 Weekend Preview

October 20, 2018
By K. Becks

Some weeks you’re up, and some weeks you’re down.

Last week, I was down.

Another full helping of upsets last weekend resulted in the pick ‘em standings being deadlocked at the season’s midpoint. Steve took me to the cleaners, posting a perfect 5-0 record to bring the guests back to even. The overall standings now look like this:

K. Becks – 23-12

Guests – 23-12

This week, my buddy Ryan returns to the blog for a second consecutive season to try and break the tie, both for the guests and personally. Ryan and I are at 4-1 all-time and I know he’s pushing to pick against the spread in the future, but to be honest I don’t know where to find the true over/under on a weekly basis. I can tell you for a fact I’d be throwing out even more “Kyle’s Wishful Thinking” picks than I already do if picked against the spread.

Anyway, here are my “Three Thoughts” after last weekend.

1. The Georgia/LSU is my “surprise result of the season” thus far. I can’t believe how badly the Bulldogs looked defensively against a team that had topped the 400 yard mark just once prior this season. The fact that Georgia is still at No. 8 in the country is appalling, but when you consider that LSU moved up to No. 5 with the victory, it has become clear that…

2. The media wants to see two SEC teams in the CFP. Why else would the AP set up the Tigers right outside the top four and two SEC East teams inside the Top 10? If this were the CFP rankings, it would be difficult to slice them any way where both an SEC West and SEC East team don’t end up in the Playoff at regular season’s end. Fortunately, the AP poll means next to nothing in a couple of weeks.

3. Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia Mountaineers are dead to me (for now). After talking with several people on Saturday evening, it felt like I was the only person outside of Morgantown, West Virginia that forgot Holgorsen’s coached teams always drop at least one game a year that is so much of a trap that it should spook them into actually playing well. We all saw what happened in Ames coming…well, everyone except me.

As we move into the second half of the season, let’s take a look at the best games to watch this weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#6 Michigan at #24 Michigan State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Wolverines exposed the Badgers for the fraud they are, while Michigan State put together its most complete defensive performance of the season en route to a victory over the formerly eighth ranked Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. As if you needed more of a reason not to put money on this game, both schools notched their best win of the season last weekend. But recent results aside, this one was always going to be close because of the intensity it brings out on both sides. According to the less educated in The Great Lakes State, this rivalry is bigger than the one between Michigan and Ohio State.

Despite Wisconsin being nothing more than a team that hadn’t faced any real competition before the Wolverines, Jim Harbaugh’s squad proved that the offense is truly starting to come together under Shea Patterson. Although Patterson didn’t throw for any touchdowns against the Badgers, he was effective in the running game in addition to completing 70 percent of his passes to eight different targets. Being able to utilize both his arm and legs will be important in this one, as the Spartans showed last weekend they aren’t a one trick pony on defense. Although Mark Dantonio has become one of the Big Ten’s best at masking mediocre seasons with a big win or two (and the conference is full of coaches who do it…ahem, Kirk Ferentz), Harbaugh’s team is finally starting to show signs of being a squad I originally thought was going to contend for a Playoff spot. With my luck, picking them on the road against an in-state rival will bring me right back to where I was after the Notre Dame game – cursing Michigan.

My Pick: 23-17 Michigan

Ryan’s Take: This game is always such a crap shoot to pick. Dantonio has won 8 of the last 10 outright and is 10-0 against the spread (which is MSU +7 aka hammer MSU to cover). On paper Harbaugh and the milk boys should go into East Lansing and roll Dantonio. HOWEVA, Dantonio exclusively recruits Ohio kids who were raised with such a contempt for TTUN that they always make this a game and somehow keep Dantonio employed. Still think Harbaugh’s khakis pull this one out and go on to win a close one. Michigan 28 – MSU 24

#16 North Carolina State at #3 Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

What comes as a major surprise to almost everyone outside of the Carolinas, this matchup is a rivalry game affectionately known as the Textile Bowl. While it hasn’t been a very competitive rivalry as of late (just one Wolfpack victory since 2004), both teams being ranked brings some national significance to the battle in 2018. North Carolina State nearly knocked off the eventual national champions at Clemson in 2016, taking the Tigers to overtime, so there is hope that Dave Doeren’s team can ride the arm of Ryan Finley to an upset victory. Finley being Finley really is the best chance the Wolfpack have at upending the Tigers, with Clemson’s monster defensive line looming and Doeren’s team not heavily utilizing the run game anyway.

As good as Finley is, the Tigers are strong on the back end of the defense as well and so it will take a major effort on the offensive end to beat Clemson. However, the blueprint was already laid out by Syracuse three weeks ago, which nearly took down the Tigers for a second consecutive season by setting its season high in passing attempts for 250 yards. The bottom line is, the Wolfpack play a style of offense capable of beating Clemson and in the weak ACC, will be the best at it that the Tigers will see in-league this season. Expect a high scoring affair that will see the visiting team compete against Dabo’s squad. Unless Trevor Lawrence leaves before halftime, though, there will be just a bit too much from Clemson by the fourth quarter.

My Pick: 42-33 Clemson

Ryan’s Take: The ACC stinks out loud this year. This is Clemson’s only ranked opponent this year and honestly, there isn’t much to say here except that you have to feel bad for the NCST football team. They are going to come into Death Valley thinking they can contend with Dabo and the Tigers. Unfortunately for them, they can’t, especially with that Tigers front seven on defense. Clemson covers 49 – NCST 14

#22 Mississippi State at #5 LSU (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Stop playing with my heart, Joe Burrow! It has been no secret to blog readers that I’ve been quietly rooting for the former Ohio State backup to succeed in the SEC, but last week I became a traitor and looked stupid doing it when I chose Georgia to put the nail in the Tigers’ proverbial Playoff bid coffin. In reality, Burrow was just a footnote in the story, as the real reason behind LSU’s thumping of the Bulldogs was the bottling up of a run game that had previously averaged 245 yards per contest. But it was also a foreshadowing of this game as well.

After Georgia’s lackluster performance against the Tigers last weekend, Mississippi State claimed the top spot in the SEC in terms of rushing yards per game. This is in large part due to the fact that Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads the team in rushing yards and attempts. While Fitzgerald is talented, he hasn’t proven himself to be enough of a threat in the passing game to prevent the LSU defense from coming after him aggressively in this one. Georgia is far from one dimensional offensively and the Tigers shut the Bulldogs down last weekend. There aren’t really any glaring warning signs to suggest that they can’t do it again this weekend against these Bulldogs.

My Pick: 27-14 LSU

Ryan’s Take: I BELIEVE IN COACH O. Big Ed has turned this program around, making one great decision after another. The biggest being Athens High School alum and Ohio State transfer Joey Burreaux – the kid is a winner and he knows how to manage a team. LSU’s defense is stacked and its offense is good enough to get this one done against a Miss St team that has a great defense in its own right. Going to be a low scoring SEC battle (bet the under 44.5). LSU 17 – Miss St 14

#2 Ohio State at Purdue (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The announcement of Nick Bosa’s decision to forgo the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes’ consistent issues in the defensive secondary and relative success i the last decade against Ohio by Purdue have many calling this one a trap game for the nation’s No. 2 team. I have to agree with the crowd on this one. The Big Ten’s top two offenses square off in primetime, something that isn’t said often about a game being played at Ross-Ade Stadium. When looking at Purdue’s roster, there are reasons for concern in Columbus. Senior David Blough is calm, cool and collected in the pocket, and why wouldn’t you be with a guy like Rondale Moore on the outside? The freshman Moore is lighting up the Big Ten this season despite his small stature (5’7″, 165 pounds) and is the kind of player that Ohio State’s defense has struggled against this season.

If the Buckeyes want to avoid a massive upset, the defensive line needs to step up in the wake of the Bosa news. Getting to Blough and affecting what has been a surprisingly deadly offense this season will be paramount in preventing Purdue from turning this game into a shootout. In games this season in which Blough has completed at least 20 passes, the Boilermakers are 3-1. I see him able to do that on Saturday night, but luckily for the Buckeyes this isn’t the type of game where Urban Meyer will condense the playbook, so Ohio State should be able to score a lot of points as well. Expect an exciting one, but the Buckeyes prevail.

My Pick: 40-35 Ohio State

Ryan’s Take: Back in 2004 when I was but a wee lad, I was in attendance for the 24-17 loss the Buckeyes endured in West Lafayette. It was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever seen in person. While some of that frustration came from Troy Smith’s three picks, most of it came from the worst chant in the history of football. You see, whenever the Boilermakers get a first down they chant “1,2,3,4, first down”, which makes me question how they are regarded as one of the top academic schools in the country. On that fateful November day Purdue had 24 first downs…24 times they chanted that dumbass chant, 24 times 12-year-old me truly experienced hatred for an entire fan base and 24 times I questioned humanity – it’s safe to say I lost the first 24 brain cells of my life that day. Unfortunately for Purdue, I get the last laugh as they are more like a MAC team than a B1G team and that is the best revenge a guy can ask for. Ohio State and Heisman winner Dwyane Haskins 45 – Purdue and their stupid chant 17. Suck it, Drew Brees.

#12 Oregon at #25 Washington State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

For the first time in College GameDay history, the bus travels to Pullman, Washington to host on the campus of Washington State. While this is somewhat surprising considering a Cougars flag has flown at every single College GameDay stop since 2003, it’s also a testament to the overall quality of games being played this weekend. Oh well – who watches College GameDay these days anyway? You’ve got Around The Corn Sports Blog to provide you with a short breakdown of the best games and actual sports on TV Saturday mornings with Premier League soccer.

Jokes aside, this game has the potential to be a very good one. Mike “The Pirate” Leach is a swashbuckler, to be sure, and will likely have some tricks up his sleeve to try and detain a more talented Oregon squad. The Ducks are looking more and more like the class of the Pac-12 Conference as the weeks go by, but there is absolutely no room for error for Mario Cristobal’s team. Already hampered with the disadvantage of playing in what is arguably the weakest Power 5 conference, Oregon will have its work cut out for it trying to climb back into the CFP conversation. A big win on Saturday night could do the trick, however. Both teams average 40+ points per game and if the Ducks can go into Pullman and beat the Cougars at their own game, it says a lot about where this team is mentally. Considering Oregon should be undefeated if not for a mental breakdown against Stanford a month ago, that is huge.

My Pick: 45-40 Oregon

Ryan’s Take: This game is going to be fun to watch. Then again, anything that involves Mike Leach is fun to watch. The mad professor is the most electric part of the PAC-12 and you can’t tell me otherwise. Two high flying offenses that both average almost 500 total yards a game means this is going to be a high scoring, defense-less game that the East Coast will completely ignore.  The o/u is only 66.5 this game which is mind boggling since both teams average 40+ points per game and allow almost 30 points per game each week. Oregon’s offense is more balanced than WSU but the Cougars are going to torch a below average Oregon secondary. WSU 48 – Oregon 45

5 Games to Flip To

Maryland at #19 Iowa (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Someone better stop the Hawkeyes before Kirk Ferentz gets to renegotiate his contract, making him the highest paid coach in all of football.

Buffalo at Toledo (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Bulls look to be the class of the MAC this season, but to keep the perfect conference mark intact, Buffalo must beat a Toledo squad that is always tough at the Glass Bowl.

Virginia at Duke (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)

Neither team is ranked this season, but both are playing well enough to be in the Top 25 conversation. It isn’t often that you’ll hear that being said, so enjoy it, Cavaliers and Blue Devils fans.

Colorado at #15 Washington (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Colorado’s bubble was burst in a big way by Southern Cal last Saturday, leaving the Pac-12 with no remaining undefeated teams. Washington is also coming off of a loss, which dropped this game from “must watch” to “flip to as desired” status.

Southern Cal at Utah (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Utes have shown the ability to score a lot of points in enough games this season that I feel confident saying this one will be a shootout.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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