Lock$ of Saturday: Week 8
Welcome to the party Mountain West football! Oh, the Big Ten is back too? That's cool.
This week has some really interesting matchups for us to look at and a Virginia Tech line that has rocketed up in the last few days.
But let's look at the standings after last week's action:
Really excited to get the Mountain West and the Big Ten back into action. Some great storylines in both conferences. The game this Saturday night between Jim Harbaugh's Michigan Wolverines and P.J. Fleck's Minnesota Golden Gophers might have more football guy energy in it than any game we see this season.
Michigan -3.5 @ Minnesota
Sam - Minnesota +3.5
The Golden Gophers are for real. They’ll have the better QB in Tanner Morgan, the best overall player in WR Rashod Bateman, and, dare I say it, the better coach in P.J. Fleck. Truth be told, I don’t think you see Jim Harbaugh in Maize and Blue for that much longer. Since his arrival in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines are 10-14 against AP Top 25 opponents. The Golden Gophers are an AP Top 25 opponent. Give me the Golden Gophers at home +3.5. Row the Boat!
Robert - Minnesota +3.5
Michigan seems to be the popular pick as the line has shifted from -1.5 to -3.5, but I am still going with the Gophers. To me, this game comes down to coaching, as Michigan tends to perform poorly in big games under Harbaugh while Minnesota had huge wins over Auburn and Penn State last season. Ultimately, Minnesota is a program on a much better trajectory under PJ Fleck than Michigan under Harbaugh. Another disappointing season from the Wolverines could see Harbaugh’s khakis feel a little bit warmer as his seat heats up.
Ed - Minnesota +3.5
Minnesota looks to continue its ascent in the Big 10 and college football landscape. PJ Flecks team is coming off an 11-2 season, including a win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. I like the Gophers to pick up where they left off and handle business at home against Michigan.
Brett - Minnesota +3.5
Underdogs at home with most of the team returning and an 11-2 season? Wait, I forgot it’s Michigan they are playing. Notoriously favored and lose in big games, especially away. I truly think Fleck is just a better coach than Harbaugh and will have his team ready and amped for this game. Don’t go against history. ROW THAT BOAT BABY.
Chris - Minnesota +3.5
At last, the Shea Patterson QB experience is over for Michigan, meaning let the <insert QB name> era begin! That’s right, as of late Tuesday October 20th (roughly 3 days to kickoff), John Harbaugh STILL has yet to name an official starter for the game following an extended offseason defined by cancellations, delays, and limited practice.
When you consider that Michigan has one of the lowest levels of returning production from 2019 (they rank 125 out of 130, barely ahead of LSU and we all see how that’s going) and just how valuable continuity has been for teams that are already playing, the edge in this game leans Minnesota, who nearly returns their entire 22nd ranked scoring offense. Factor in standout WR Rashod Bateman’s decision to opt back into the season and I think the Gophers are in a strong position to outscore Michigan, which if Booger McFarland has taught me anything, is how you win football games.
Ryan - Michigan -3.5
For the sake of diversity, give me the big blue. Joe Milton seems to be the guy now after a mini quarterback battle in camp. Some close to the program said it wasn’t close and Milton ran away with the job. He’s got a really talented receiver in Ronnie Ball after Peoples Jones left and Nico Collins opted out. Milton remind me a bit of Quincy Patterson at 6-4 250 running a 4.6 forty. I think they scheme this game for his skill set and get it done. Harbaugh has to get this team playing with a chip and I will be on the side of believing in that in the opener here.
Mike - Minnesota +3.5
Night game in Minnesota? Sign me up.
I think Michigan is a bit overrated, especially when considering what they’ve lost on both sides of the football. There’s more continuity, certainty, and maybe even better coaching on the Minnesota sideline, so give me the Gophers to pull off the home upset. I think the wrong team is favored here.
Iowa State +3.5 @ Oklahoma State
Sam - Oklahoma State -3.5
Is there a tougher conference to predict than the Big 12? It’s the new ACC, and I think this matchup proves it. Oklahoma State is rolling with a true freshman QB who has held his own after being thrown into the fire when starting QB Spencer Sanders went down with an injury in week 1. I think Iowa State is getting too much love from that win against Oklahoma, so I like the ‘Pokes at home.
Robert - Iowa State +3.5
This is one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend for me. OSU has quietly risen all the way to #6 in the polls, but part of me wonders how much that has to do with their being the only undefeated Big 12 team left. Chuba Hubbard is spectacular and the Cowboys average over 200 yards on the ground, but Iowa State’s rush defense has been sneaky good, giving up only 97 yards per game. The Cyclones’ weakness lies in their pass defense, but I don’t think Shane Illingworth is the QB to exploit them. Brock Purdy is clearly the superior QB in this matchup, and I think he makes enough plays as the Cyclones limit Hubbard’s influence.
Ed - Oklahoma State -3.5
Both teams have similar high powered offenses, but Oklahoma State has a better defense and has the luxury of playing at home in front of fans. Look for Chubba Hubbard to come alive in this one.
Brett - Oklahoma State -3.5
Iowa State seems to have straightened up after a shaky start to the season. I’m not quite sold on Purdue, but I am sold on Chuba Hubbard. He’s been quiet all year long, so he is due for his 200+ yard game. Big time players make big time plays, and I think the Pokes get it done at home by a touchdown.
Chris - Iowa State +3.5
Count me in as skeptical when seeing Oklahoma State ranked as the No. 2 defense in college football, especially since Mike Gundy has only fielded one top 20 defense in his entire coaching tenure and his recent defensive units ranked on average around 74th over the last four seasons. Factor in how Oklahoma State has roughly the same amount of Tackles for Loss and Sacks as Iowa State, ranks towards the bottom in INTs and Forced Fumbles, and you begin to realize that their defensive ranking may be a bit overinflated.
As for Iowa State, after stumbling out of the gate, QB Brock Purdy is looking like a Day 2 NFL draft pick and their head coach, Matt Campbell, always seems to have his team ready to play in big games when you realize the Cyclones are 7-3 record against the spread as an away underdog under his leadership. Honestly, I believe Vegas pushed this line up a half point to get more action on the Cyclones, who I would’ve bought at +3.0.
Ryan - Oklahoma State -3.5
You might see both quarterbacks in this one with an injured Sanders coming back and Illingworth being the guy who we thought would be stepping up in his stead. The Pokes havent played since October 3rd where they handled Kansas 47-7. I am gonna ride with the team who has Chubba Hubbard most of the time and I think Sanders and his running ability from the quarterback spot make the different here.
Mike - Iowa State +3.5
This is going to be a fantastic game that could go either way. Oklahoma State has the star power on the ground with Chuba Hubbard going up against a good Iowa State defense that I believe is capable of curbing his production enough to make this competitive. In a game where passing offenses could decide the outcome, I’m rolling with the better quarterback, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, to rally the Cyclones and pull off the upset.
Wyoming -4.5 @ Nevada
Sam - Wyoming -4.5
Craig Bohl cowboy strutted into Laramie, Wyoming after winning pretty mich every game of his career at North Dakota State. He’s made that program into a hard nosed, powerful football team. Want a name to watch? Xazavian Valladay, the talented junior RB for the Cowboys. He and QB Sean Chambers are phenomenal runners between the tackles. At the DE spot, Garrett Crall could very well be first team all conference and will have a shot at the NFL.
And if you ever get the chance to watch a Wyoming homie football game be sure to stay up late. Those fans pack Memorial Stadium (highest altitude college football stadium) and are loud the whole time.
Robert - Wyoming -4.5
I am useless when it comes to predicting Mountain West football, but you know who isn’t? Sam Jessee. He’s picking Wyoming here, therefore I will too.
Ed - Wyoming -4.5
Unlike Sam, I know next to nothing about the Mountain West. Based on preliminary research, both teams had similar records and seasons overall in 2019. Wyoming ended the year on a better note, so I will use that as my reasoning in this one.
Brett - Wyoming -4.5
The only person that loves MWC football more than me is Sam. We both share a love for Wyoming as well. My reasoning, they had a QB named Brett Smith a few years back who was a STUD and naturally became a fan after that. They have two fantastic QBs returning, but not a whole lot on defense returning besides the DL. The Cowboys are going to put up some serious points to cover this spread.
Chris - Wyoming -4.5
Reviewing this game was my introduction to Mountain West football, which to this day was usually referred to as the conference that Boise State wins. But after some digging, I’m all in on the Cowboys this season. Why?
Great scoring defense, best DL in the conference, solid running game, great uniforms, they play in War Memorial stadium, and their fans wear cowboy hats non-ironically. I’m all in!
Ryan - Nevada +4.5
Where are we without diversity? Give me the wolfpack. They have had 5 season opener wins in the last 6 seasons so here we are.
Mike - Wyoming -4.5
Wyoming is a better team than Nevada, and unfortunately Nevada coach Jay Norvell’s father passed away this week, leading to him being absent from some pre-game preparation for this match-up. I hate to pick a game on that premise, but it could be a factor in trying to pull the upset here.
North Carolina State +16.0 @ North Carolina
Sam - North Carolina State +16.0
-16.0 is just way too much for this heated rivalry. I know NC State will be without their QB1, but the run game should be enough to keep things close(ish).
Robert - North Carolina -16.0
Boy, do I wish I could pick the Wolfpack here. Sadly, I can not. I don’t think enough people are taking into account how devastating Devin Leary’s injury is to NC State. The difference between State’s offense with Leary vs. Bailey Hockman is night and day. We all saw how bad the Wolfpack looked with Hockman against the Hokies, and it wasn’t much better when he came in against Duke. Yes, he threw a touchdown, but the pass also hit a Duke defender right in the hands. That pass should have been an interception, which Hockman tends to throw a lot of. Meanwhile, I can imagine UNC is feeling pretty embarrassed after the Florida State loss last weekend, and who better to take that out on than your biggest in-state rival. 16 points is a lot, but I think the Tar Heels cover that and much more.
Ed - North Carolina State + 16.0
Is Sam Howell as good as people think? So far in 2020 he hasn't been. NC State has been playing some good football recently, And I look for them to stay within 16 in this one.
Brett - North Carolina State +16.0
What in the world happened to UNC last week? That’s what most college football fans are thinking. I’ll tell you what happened, they are not as good as everyone thinks.
The Heels looked like a deer in headlights last week as they were continuously exposed on the ground. Sam Howell also is not to keen on QB pressure.
State is trending considerably upward after playing the Hokies, but without Leary it makes this game tough. However, if they stick to what’s working and run the ball they will be just fine. If Hockman can make just a few throws to catch the lacking UNC secondary I think it spells disaster for them.
Chris - North Carolina State + 16.0
Most would see this game and think two things: UNC at home due for a rebound after humiliating loss to FSU and NC State QB Devin Leary is out after suffering a targeting injury last week. Factor in QB Bailey Hockman being thrust back into the starting QB role for the Wolfpack, who is guaranteed to throw for 200 yards along with at least 1-2 INTs, and this game has all the makings of a UNC blowout.
However, I think the Seminoles exposed UNC on how to game plan against the Tarheels, which is get in front early through the ground game, make Sam Howell throw, and lean on the secondary and DL, all of which are strengths of NC State.
Ryan - North Carolina State +16.0
Two teams now have showed you how to gash the UNC offense. There’s tape to do it and I don’t think UNC has shown the ability to stop anything this year. I think UNC wins the game but they have been exposed the past two weeks. We learn a lot about the UNC team this week in how they respond to a devastating loss but I am riding here with the pack to keep it close.
Mike - North Carolina -16.0
It’s a rivalry game, North Carolina is coming off of a surprising loss to Florida State, and the ‘Heels are going to want to prove that it’s an aberration. Plus, I don’t think I can trust NC State quarterback Bailey Hockman enough through the air as he replaces the injured Devin Leary. The offense just hasn’t looked as good with Hockman in the game, and I think that ends up being a factor here.
Dave Doeren’s done a nice job at NC State this year, but I think this is a bad spot for the Wolfpack. Give me the Tar Heels in a blowout.
Virginia Tech -9.5 @ Wake Forest
Sam - Virginia Tech -9.5
The Demon Deacons have the 12th ranked rush defense in the ACC, and they’ve played Campbell and a UVA team that has been pass-first this season. That’s not a great sign for them. I think you could really see Herbert, Hooker, Blacksheer, and maybe Tre Turner on a jet sweep shine in this game. 350+ yards on the ground is a possibility.
Defensively, the Hokies will have Jermaine Waller back at corner as well as a healthy Deshawn Crawford at DT. I think that will give the defense the boost they needed. Wake Forest, however, touts a really good RPO game which I think could hurt the Hokies if Dax and Ashby don’t come ready to play. In the end, I think the Hokies will just put too many points on the board, Wake Forest will start pushing and make mistakes, and the Hokies use that to just milk the clock and get out of Winston Salem with a comfortable win.
Robert - Virginia Tech -9.5
This is going to be a fun one to watch. These are two of the ACC’s best offenses, as the Hokies are second in the conference in scoring while the Deacons are third. Wake has a solid duo at RB in Kenneth Walker III and Christian Beal-Smith, while QB Sam Hartman has not thrown an interception this season. This will certainly be a test for the Hokie defense, who should (hopefully) have their healthiest lineup yet. On defense, Boogie Basham and the Wake defensive line is solid, but their back seven is pretty subpar. I see a very high-scoring game with the Hokies getting a few more stops than Wake en route to a double-digit victory to go 3-1 against North Carolina teams.
Ed - Virginia Tech -9.5
Look for the Hokies defense to continue to improve and find its footing as the regulars get back into the fold. I love this offense Virginia Tech has shown with Hendon Hooker under center, and I think the passing attack will continue to improve and provide balance.
Brett - Virginia Tech -9.5
As I’ve said almost every week, Dave Clawson knows how to coach a football team. He will no doubt have Wake prepared for the Hokies when they come to Blacksburg. They have shockingly become a top offense in the ACC after losing almost every skill position and have a top 15 pick on the DL. If the Hokies keep their game plan as they have in the last two and a half games with Hooker under center, I think they can cover by two or so TDs.
Cornelsen I beg, please give Herbert the ball on the first drive.
Chris - Wake Forest +9.5
Anecdotally, taking Virginia Tech here may seem like a no brainer when you consider Tech’s explosiveness in the run game, Hendon Hooker’s return as the full time starter, and the return to normalcy across the depth chart to include the coaching staff. However, football is all about weekly matchups and the issue with this game against Wake Forest is their balanced offensive attack and ability to sustain drives, which presents a lot of issues against a team like Virginia Tech that relies heavily on creating havoc instead of stuffing the other team at the line of scrimmage. With VT’s Sack Rate falling off a cliff (13 total in games 1 and 2, but just 2 total in games 3 and 4) combined with Wake Forest’s +8 Turnover Margin, there may not be enough havoc to create against the better disciplined Demon Deacons.
Ryan - Virginia Tech -9.5
I can’t do it here. The Hokies continue to put out odd lines. Last week I thought it was way too skewed in the Hokies favor and this week I think the opposite. I think we see a Wake team giving up a sack every 7.8ish drop backs and a defense full of smaller guys that are prone to get waxed. This Hokies O Line and running game is going to bruise this weaker Wake Forest D. I don’t see this being close. If the Hokies get any semblance of pressure and key in on the run they can stop this Wake offensive attack as well.
Mike - Virginia Tech -9.5
Virginia Tech isn’t going to be stopped on the ground here and that’s bad news for Wake Forest. Wake is giving up over five yards per play on the ground in ACC play, and Tech has the second-best rushing offense in the nation. I’m still not sold on Tech’s defense, and Wake has a good enough offense to approach back-door cover territory, but I think the Hokies make enough stops to win convincingly and cover.
Over/Unders of the Week with Ryan Hartman
UVa Miami Over 58
UVa’s quarterback situation looks like a carousel right now with guys going in and out and it truly is a bit of a mess but they are scoring the ball. Relying on some recent stats the over is 4-0 in UVa’s games thus far this season. I think we continue to see that undefeated streak roll. 58 doesn’t feel like enough for D’Eriq King here either. Granted, he has not been the guy he was originally touted to be but they are gonna win this game and in order to do that they are going to need to score. They have showed that capability against everyone but Clemson this year so I am big on this being a point fest and if you can get it at 58, do so NOW.
Alabama Tennessee Over 66
Keep an eye on the weather in this one. The rain may drop the line but I think rightly so if it ends up dumping at Neyland on Saturday I am not as bullish on this one. I mentioned UVa being 4-0 on the over trend and so is Bama. That is not hard to imagine given the skill players we talked about last week. I have to include SEC overs every week as they are treating me so kindly and this is the one I will point out this week as the one I like the most. Tennessee has something to prove after last week and they need to write the turnover ship. I think being at home gives them a boost and they keep this one close until the 4th quarter.
Wisconsin and Illinois Under 51
This is a historical pick as I want to spread the love and get a Big Ten game on my board. We know what Wisconsin is and they are going to pound the rock and they are going to look to control this game from the jump. I think they do that with ease here against an Illinois team that has actually added some talent in the transfer portal in former Miami DB Derrick Smith and talented tackle Roderick Perry from SC State. However they lost their four starting D-linemen last year and look for Wisco to exploit that by running early and often. I don’t think Illinois puts up many tallies in this one and Wisconsin looks to make a showing on the ground here.
Props of the Week by Mike McDaniel
Clemson -28.5 vs. Syracuse (First Half Line)
Clemson led Georgia Tech 52-7 at halftime last Saturday. I’m not sure it will be that bad this Saturday against Syracuse, but it’ll be similar. Clemson will try to knock this one out quick and hangout in the second half up six or seven scores.
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh UNDER 23 (First Half Total)
There’s nothing to suggest that Notre Dame can throw the football at this point. If they can, they roll in this game, because Pitt’s secondary is bad. However, I don’t trust Notre Dame’s passing attack neither should you.
Notre Dame runs the ball well, but Pitt’s got one of the best rushing defenses in the country. I think the Pitt defense holds up well against the Notre Dame rushing attack, I think ND’s passing game stinks, and I don’t trust Pitt to do much of anything offensively at all. Take the under.
Iowa at Purdue UNDER 27 (First Half Total)
Is there anything to suggest that either one of these offenses will be any good? Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore is the best player in this game, so maybe he makes some plays against Iowa’s defense to push this first half total over, but I don’t think there’s enough outside of Moore to give anybody full confidence that there will be a ton of first half points.