Week 8 of the college football season is here, including the another week of terrific matchups.
Our handicappers Brian Edwards, Tim Murray and Wes Reynolds are here to give you their best bets for eight games on the weekend's card.
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Thursday afternoon.
Boston College Eagles (-3.5, 54.5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Edwards: Boston College (3-2 straight up, 3-2 against the spread) is in bounce-back mode after losing 40-14 at Virginia Tech. However, this was an extremely misleading final score, as the Eagles only trailed 17-14 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.
Jeff Hafley’s team produced 98 yards on its first two drives spanning 11 plays, only for both possessions to end in fumbles at Virginia Tech’s 41 and 15, respectively. Boston College had another drive end early in the fourth quarter inside the red zone when it ran out of downs.
Although Hafley’s team had a 24-23 edge in first downs and the Hokies had just a slight advantage in total offense (461-435), the Eagles were -5 in turnover margin and failed to cover the number as double-digit underdogs.
Nevertheless, Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurcovek gives us a big advantage at the position compared to Georgia Tech’s Jeff Sims, who has a 6-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Sims has had his moments and I think he has a bright future, but he’s playing like a true freshman that is too turnover prone.
Jurcovek has ignited Boston College’s aerial attack, completing 62.6 percent of his throws for 1,526 yards with a 10-to-4 TD-INT ratio. He also has three rushing TDs.
Zay Flowers is one of the ACC’s premier WRs, catching 28 balls for 462 yards and four TDs, and Hunter Long is one of the nation’s top TEs, hauling in 35 receptions for 416 yards and three TDs.
BC owns a 14-6-1 ATS record in its last 21 home contests. On the flip side, the Yellow Jackets are 10-15-1 ATS in their past 26 road assignments.
Pick: Boston College -3.5
South Carolina Gamecocks at LSU Tigers (-6, 55.5)
Edwards: I was able to get South Carolina at 7, so I recommend buying the half-point to the key number. The Gamecocks are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games as road underdogs.
During a Wednesday media scrum on Zoom, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said, “We don’t think [starting QB] Myles Brennan is going to be able to play.” Therefore, it appears as if Max Johnson or TJ Finley, both of whom are true freshmen, will be starting under center for the Tigers.
Will Muschamp’s team comes to Baton Rouge with the momentum of back-to-back wins at Vanderbilt (41-7) and vs. Auburn (30-22). South Carolina knocked off Gus Malzahn’s bunch without its best player, junior cornerback Israel Mukuamu, who was out with a groin injury.
Mukuamu, who famously intercepted Jake Fromm three times, including one pick-six, in last year’s 20-17 double-overtime win at Georgia (when the Gamecocks were 21.5-point road underdogs), practiced Tuesday and should be ready to play by Saturday.
South Carolina RB Kevin Harris, who throws stiff arms with bad intentions, has emerged in recent weeks. For the season, Harris has 409 rushing yards and six TDs with a 5.0 yards-per-carry average.
The Gamecocks will add yet another weapon to their offense this week. Jalen Brooks, an FCS transfer from Wingate University who was poised to start in the opener vs. Tennessee, couldn’t play after the NCAA denied his waiver. However, that decision was overturned on appeal earlier this week, clearing Brooks to play at LSU.
Brennan isn’t the only Tiger that’s banged up. Although All-American cornerback Derek Stingley is expected to play, he’s dealing with a lingering ankle injury and starting offensive guard Ed Ingram is listed as questionable.
Pick: South Carolina + 6
No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (-21, 66) at Tennessee Volunteers
Edwards: I prefer Alabama -12 in the first half to -21 for the full game in Saturday’s showdown against the Volunteers, who are off back-to-back blowout losses at Georgia (44-21) and vs. Kentucky (34-7).
Nick Saban hit the breaks in Alabama’s season opener at Missouri late in the third quarter. With the Crimson Tide ahead 35-3 as a 28.5-point road chalk, Saban took out star players like Mac Jones, Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle.
With Alabama stumbling on offense in the final stanza, Missouri was able to post a backdoor cover. If the Crimson Tide leads big again Saturday, don’t be shocked if Saban takes it easy on his former assistant Jeremy Pruitt, who has been hearing it loudly from restless natives on Rocky Top in the last two weeks.
In the first half, though, Alabama is going to pour it on a Tennessee squad that’s been outscored 61-7 in the last six quarters. The lines for first-quarter bets aren’t out yet but, if Alabama is favored by seven points or fewer in the opening stanza, I’m endorsing that wager, too. Furthermore, if the Crimson Tide’s first-half team total is 28 points or fewer, don’t hesitate to jump on that Over.
Alabama’s offense is second in the nation in scoring at 48.5 PPG. This unit will feast on the Vols’ defense until Saban pulls the plug on those efforts -- at some point in the second half, when it won’t matter to us anymore.
Pick: Alabama -12 1H
Georgia Southern Eagles at No. 25 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (-5.5, 52)
Murray: The Chanticleers are nationally ranked for the first time since the program jumped to the FBS in 2017. Last Thursday on a national stage, Coastal Carolina defeated Louisiana to notch the program's first-ever win over an FBS top 25 nationally-ranked team. That is a lot of firsts for the Chants program. Now, Coastal Carolina must turn its attention to the option attack of Georgia Southern. The Eagles smashed UMass 41-0 last week, and Georgia Southern leads the nation in time of possession (35:12). Coastal Carolina is sixth in the nation in time of possession at 33:54 per game. The Eagles (281.3) and Chants (201.8) both average over 200 rushing yards per game. Defensively, Coastal Carolina has struggled to stop the run, allowing 163.8 rushing yards per game this season. With similar styles of play and newly formed target on the Chanticleer’s back, I expect a close game on the “Surf Turf” this Saturday and possibly an outright win for Georgia Southern.
Pick: Georgia Southern + 5.5
Kansas Jayhawks at No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats (-20, 48.5)
Murray: I don’t like laying this many points, but it’s hard not to when teams face Kansas. The Jayhawks have lost each of its three Big 12 games by 21 or more points: Baylor by 33, Oklahoma State by 40, West Virginia by 21. Kansas also opened the season with a 38-23 loss at home to Coastal Carolina. Additionally, the Jayhawks most talented player, RB Pooka Williams, opted out of the remainder of the season this week.
Kansas State is coming off a bye week, which is beneficial for the Wildcats because it allowed true freshman quarterback Will Howard more time to grasp the offense. Howard stepped in for Skylar Thompson when he went down with an injury against Texas Tech on Oct. 3. While Howard struggled throwing the ball in a 21-14 win over TCU two weeks ago (8-of-19, 117 yards, INT), he led the Wildcats with 86 rushing yards. Defensively, Kansas State should have no issues shutting down a Jayhawks offense that is averaging just 261.3 total yards per game. Yes, it’s a rivalry but the Wildcats have won 11 straight in the “Sunflower Showdown.” Within that winning streak, in the four times Kansas State was ranked, the Wildcats won by an average margin over victory of 36 points, including a 38-10 triumph last season in Lawrence.
Pick: Kansas State -20
No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions (-6, 59) at Indiana Hoosiers
Reynolds: Penn State begins the Big Ten season with a tricky spot at Indiana before next week's showdown in Happy Valley against Ohio State. Indiana has lost the last two years to Penn State by 5 and 7 points, respectively. The Hoosiers outgained Penn State 462-371 last year at Beaver Stadium, but came up short due to questionable officiating when leading receiver Whop Philyor was knocked out of the game with a head shot and an obvious targeting penalty wasn’t called. Indiana also had some questionable coaching decisions, including a badly executed fake punt that halted its momentum.
Both teams return eight starters each on offense but will have new offensive coordinators. Minnesota knocked off a Penn State team that was 8-0 at the time last season, so James Franklin basically went with the "if you can't beat them, then get them to join you" philosophy as Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca takes over the same role for the Nittany Lions. Indiana lost their coordinator as Kalen DeBoer took the head coaching job at Fresno State so quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan, at the ripe old age of 32, has been promoted to offensive coordinator.
Penn State has suffered a couple major blows, though, as junior linebacker Micah Parsons, its leading tackler last year, elected to opt out and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Junior running back Journey Brown (890 yards, 12 TD) may also be out for the season due to an undisclosed, non-COVID related medical issue. Nevertheless, Penn State still has arguably the best backfield unit in the Big Ten and should be able to make up for the loss of Brown.
Indiana has been waiting for a year for another crack at Penn State and early bettors have noticed as the line sits at 6. The Hoosiers are worth a take at 7 should it show before game time on Saturday, but the Under could also be the way to go with some potential early rust and nerves for both offenses now working under new coordinators.
Pick: Under 59
Iowa Hawkeyes (-3, 53) at Purdue Boilermakers
Reynolds: The Hawkeyes travel to West Lafayette to face the Boilermakers in the Big Ten opener as a small road chalk, which has been a highly profitable role for Kirk Ferentz (16-4-1 ATS in the spot since 2012). Purdue has also been a solid home underdog (6-3 ATS) in Jeff Brohm's three years as head coach, including four outright wins. However, it will not be Jeff Brohm on the sidelines this Saturday as he has tested positive for COVID-19 and his brother Brian Brohm, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, will serve as acting head coach. Circa Sports opened Purdue as a two-point favorite on Sunday, but Iowa was flipped to a 3.5-point favorite before seeing some resistance.
Iowa was one of the overachievers in the Big Ten in 2019 and Purdue was just the opposite. The Hawkeyes went 10-3 last season, but now must begin life without three-year starting quarterback Nate Stanley. New quarterback sophomore Spencer Petras will have help, with all of his skill position talent plus three offensive line starters and Indiana graduate transfer Coy Cronk (40 starts). However, the Hawkeyes must replace seven starters on a defense that has had its issues stopping Purdue's passing attack giving up 333 yards in 2018 and 327 yards in 2019. Purdue has not made public who will be leading said passing attack as both sophomore Jack Plummer and junior former walk-on Aidan O'Connell started games last season for the top passing offense in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have also had to deal with the allegations of player mistreatment based on race, which led to a parting of the ways with strength coach Chris Doyle.
Purdue returns 17 starters (nine on offense, eight on defense) including what may be the most dynamic receiving duo in the conference in sophomores Rondale Moore and David Bell. The Boilermakers do need more balance on offense, though, as their 83 YPG on the ground was dead last in the Big Ten by a country mile. However, Purdue had to throw the ball more frequently due to being behind so often with all units being ravaged by injuries. A whopping 32.3% of Purdue's total starts were made by freshmen last season, which led the nation. Injuries plus having to play so many young players led to a disappointing 4-8 season, but the added experience gives this team some value, as expectations are lower but the talent is substantially better.
Pick: Purdue + 3