There were 15 outright upsets last week in college football. Some were obviously bigger — both in magnitude and by point spread — than others, but there are some teams in some difficult situational spots this week. Like I’ve mentioned before, these spots are not the sole justifications for making a bet. They are just a part of the handicap to consider, especially if you are on the fence about a side.
We’re also getting to the point of the season when you really have to think about how things are going for a team. Take NC State for example. The Wolfpack were expected to contend for the ACC title and maybe be a dark-horse College Football Playoff team behind a Heisman Trophy candidate in Devin Leary. Leary is now out for the season, NC State is 3.5 games behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division and won’t meet any preseason goals. Are we sure they’re still fully invested?
Start thinking about those mindsets as we look ahead to Week 8:
Virginia Cavaliers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-3, 45.5)
Georgia Tech is moving in a positive direction and Virginia is not. Sometimes it’s just about gauging the feelings of a program, and this Thursday night game feels like one of those spots. The Yellow Jackets made a very splashy athletic director hire late last week with J Batt, who was second in command of the athletic department at Alabama. While that may not necessarily matter to the players, it likely means a big investment and some new donor money into the program, which will lead to better facilities and probably more NIL money.
It’s a good move for the health of the program, which could also be said about the firing of Geoff Collins. Georgia Tech is 2-0 since that happened, while the Cavaliers have dropped three in a row and all of their Power Five games this season. With the chances of a bowl game dwindling and a first-year coach in Tony Elliott who didn’t recruit the roster, I’d expect Virginia to be a good fade team the rest of the way.
Kansas State Wildcats at TCU Horned Frogs (-3.5, 58.5)
There are a lot of situations converging in this game. TCU just needed double overtime for a thrilling win over Oklahoma State and now faces Kansas State and a really, really good underdog head coach in Chris Klieman. As a whole, Kansas State has been a great team to take in an underdog capacity. Klieman is 12-8 ATS as an underdog and eight of those 12 covers have been outright upsets. The Wildcats are also off of a bye, whereas TCU has spent a ton of energy the last four weeks in the rivalry win over SMU, the blowout of Oklahoma and the close wins against Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Iowa Hawkeyes at Ohio State Buckeyes (-29, 49)
Ohio State is in the Big Noon Saturday slot against Penn State next week but has to deal with Iowa first. Penn State just got waxed 41-17 by Michigan, but the Nittany Lions always seem to give the Buckeyes fits. The Buckeyes should be in no danger of losing this game against the awful offense of the Hawkeyes, but covering 29 in something of a look-ahead spot with a low total is a fairly big ask. Ohio State hasn’t been tested since Week 1 and the players have to be eagerly anticipating a challenge. Because it looks more likely to come next week, you have to wonder if they’ll just look right past Iowa, opening the door for an ugly cover for Kirk Ferentz’s club.
BYU Cougars (-6.5, 57.5) at Liberty Flames
BYU looked completely gassed in its 52-35 loss to Arkansas. The Cougars had played Notre Dame in a huge neutral-site game in Las Vegas before that, a close geographic rival in Utah State and two Top 25 teams. Now they take the long and inconvenient trip to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty. The Flames have had a carousel of quarterbacks this season because of injury, but this is a pretty awful spot for BYU to go cross-country and lay almost a touchdown on the heels of two big games.
Syracuse Orange at Clemson Tigers (-13.5, 51.5)
Clemson gave up some garbage-time scoring to Florida State to make the 34-28 win look a lot closer than it was, but things could have gone differently if the Seminoles weren’t stopped on downs trailing 34-14 with a first-and-goal at the 2. Florida State scored touchdowns on successive possessions after that but ran out of time. Did Clemson just go into soft prevent or was that a commentary on what the Tigers have faced in recent weeks?
In a four-week span, the Tigers survived against Wake Forest and beat NC State, Boston College and Florida State, so they played three of their biggest competitors within the division in a short window. Syracuse is overrated and over-ranked at No. 15, but the Orange have played well and are getting nearly two touchdowns against a Clemson defense that has not looked on par with past versions. It’s a tough spot for the home favorite.
Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Cardinal (-3, 55.5)
While Arizona State was enjoying a bye, Stanford picked up a huge win in South Bend against Notre Dame. The Sun Devils have looked like a different team since Herm Edwards was fired and the cloud over the program dissipated enough to let some sunshine peek through. Arizona State still doesn’t seem to be a very good team but just beat Washington before the bye and hung with USC for the better part of the game before ultimately falling apart. Stanford, meanwhile, is in the ultimate letdown spot coming back to Palo Alto.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Penn State Nittany Lions (-5, 44.5)
This game seems to have the most situational spots going for it. Minnesota is off of consecutive losses that likely cost the Gophers the Big Ten West title. They’re also 0-2 playing real teams after a very soft opening schedule. They’re also likely to head to Happy Valley without Tanner Morgan, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Illinois. On the other hand, Penn State’s season is defined by what happens against Michigan and Ohio State. Well, what happened against the Wolverines was a complete second-half collapse that led to an embarrassing loss.
As mentioned above, Penn State faces Ohio State next week. Are the Nittany Lions going to be properly focused on this one? I’m not so sure.