The final college football weekend of October is here and there are several interesting games on the slate. Through eight weeks, we’ve seen the best and worst from just about every team in the country. We went into last week with 25 teams that had one or zero losses and 22 teams that were unblemished in conference play. This week, 21 teams have one or zero losses and we’re down to 13 teams without a conference loss.
Rivalries, letdowns, lookaheads and other situational spots of note are present once again this week, so let’s see if we can find some puzzle pieces in hopes of putting it all together for Week 9.
Virginia Tech Hokies at NC State Wolfpack (-13.5, 40)
What is the mindset for NC State at this point? The Wolfpack need only one more win to achieve bowl eligibility, but the goals they set at the start of the season are no longer attainable. Star QB Devin Leary is out for the season. NC State has lost to both Clemson and Syracuse and has no chance of winning the ACC Atlantic Division. Dave Doeren is an excellent head coach, but you wonder how the bye week went in Raleigh and if NC State is motivated and mobilized to cover a two-touchdown spread on Thursday night against a Virginia Tech team with a first-year head coach looking to form an identity. I’d lean with the Hokies here, as bad as they’ve played.
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Southern Miss Golden Eagles (-1, 43.5)
Nothing has come easy in Hattiesburg for Southern Miss the last few seasons. This year has to feel like déjà vu, as injuries at quarterback have sent the offense into a state of flux yet again. Despite that, the Golden Eagles have won back-to-back games with fourth-quarter comebacks against Arkansas State and Texas State, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 32 seconds on Saturday. Now they’re on a short week against a Louisiana team that seems to be figuring it out under first-year head coach Michael Desormeaux. It’s a tough spot for both teams with a short week, but Louisiana, even with travel, seems to be in a better one.
East Carolina Pirates at BYU Cougars (-3, 62)
This is a fascinating game both ways. Let’s start with the obvious — East Carolina is heading to Provo, Utah, to play at elevation, which is certainly an interesting scheduling spot in the middle of AAC play. ECU also just knocked off a very solid UCF team at home for the program’s biggest conference win in some time. That is suboptimal scheduling, to say the least.
On the BYU side, however, we saw this team completely run out of gas and get left on the side of the road in Lynchburg, Va., against Liberty. BYU was manhandled for the second straight week, and this one was far uglier than the Arkansas game, as the Cougars were outgained 547-258 by a Liberty team down to its third-string quarterback. For good measure, BYU also allowed 300 rushing yards on 48 carries. Maybe this is a get-right spot, but with rival Boise State on deck, BYU is in a bad way here.
New Mexico State Aggies (-2.5, 39) at UMass Minutemen
You have to go back to Week 4 of the 2018 season to find the last time New Mexico State was a road favorite, and that was against UTEP, a mere 48-minute drive. This week, the Aggies are laying a road number in the state of Massachusetts. This is a team that has been a road favorite only six times in the last 15 seasons.
The tragic death of San Jose State running back Camdan McWright postponed last week’s game for New Mexico State, so the Aggies are on equal footing from a rest standpoint with a UMass team off of a bye. This is still a strange spot and rare air for the Aggies on a long trek.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (-8.5, 47.5) at Akron Zips
The Zips are showing improvement under first-year head coach Joe Moorhead, but this week’s game against Miami is a tough spot for Akron. The Zips had chances to beat rival Kent State last week. Akron outgained the Golden Flashes but threw two plus-territory interceptions and had another red-zone giveaway on downs in the six-point loss. With four games left and a record of 1-7, Akron cannot reach bowl eligibility. The Zips are trending up, while Miami seems to be stuck in neutral, but this is a tough spot for Akron coming off of a heartbreaking loss.
TCU Horned Frogs (-7, 69) at West Virginia Mountaineers
The crème de la crème of situational spots this week is in Morgantown, W.Va. TCU heads to Appalachia having played five straight grueling and emotionally draining games, with wins over SMU, Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Last week, the Horned Frogs erased a 28-10 deficit by pitching a second-half shutout to beat the Wildcats.
This week, the Horned Frogs trek to Morgantown for a noon ET kickoff in one of the tougher road venues in the Big 12. With TCU now controlling its own destiny in the conference (and maybe for a College Football Playoff berth?!), each game carries more and more pressure, and this spot is as bad as it gets.