Week 8 college football picks, games, odds: Clemson, Michigan on upset alert
Three top-10 teams, including the Wolverines and Tigers, should be on alert in Week 8
It's hard to take ownership of something when there's an abundance of it.
Week 7 of the college football season, for example, was ripe with upset potential. Four top-10 teams lost while another three nearly did. It was just one of those Saturdays. They happen at least once a year. .
Week 8 doesn't quite have the same feel to it, but there are still plenty of big games where ranked opponents should be on the lookout. About a half-dozen ranked teams go on the road as favorites, and with conference play heating up, there's a lot at stake.
Each week, I'll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. Disclaimer: "upset" is defined first and foremost by the point spread, not perception or rankings, though they are both taken into consideration. I generally avoid games whose lines are within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them. I'm also going on the record with the picks and keeping tabs. The scoring system is exactly the same as it is for our weekly expert picks with season-long tallies against the spread (ATS) and straight-up (SU).
Week 7 results
Upset alert picks: 4-1
Picks to date: 21-14
ATS to date: 17-18
SU to date: 16-19
On to this week's picks ...
No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State
When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: East Lansing, Michigan | Line: Michigan -7.5
Why it's listed: Because Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has never let go of the "little brother" jab. Because Michigan has not been a good road team under Jim Harbaugh. Because after running all over Wisconsin in Week 7, the balance of the Wolverines offense will be tested against the best rushing defense in the country.
Michigan State's key to the game: Stopping the run is about the only thing the Spartans do consistently well, but Penn State running back Miles Sanders gashed them for 162 yards at nearly a first down per touch in Week 7. Michigan thrives on mashing the hell out of defenses, too.
Michigan's key to the game: Quarterback Shea Patterson has come into his own and is playing well. His ability to make plays outside the pocket can be an especially bad matchup for Michigan State's defense. Even after the big win vs. Wisconsin, this can be Patterson's arrival game for the Wolverines.
Pick: Michigan State has owned this rivalry as of late, winning eight of the last 10. Though the Wolverines tend to struggle on the road, they're playing as well as they have all season. Defense travels, so I'll take Michigan in a tight one. ATS: Michigan State, SU: Michigan
No. 16 NC State at No. 3 Clemson
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Clemson, South Carolina | Line: Clemson -16.5
Why it's listed: NC State is undefeated and ranked. Yet, we know little about this team at the midway point in the season because the Wolfpack have played only five games and its biggest test, vs. West Virginia, was canceled. However, we do know they have a terrific passing offense -- the best in the ACC -- and tend to play up against the Tigers.
NC State's key to the game: The Wolfpack lost a ton of NFL talent off its defense a year ago, but they're actually statistically better this year on that side of the ball (h/t Bill Connelly). They're practically shut down in the red zone, too, with one of the best percentages in the country in touchdowns allowed (33.33).
Clemson's key to the game: Running back Travis Etienne is the unsung hero of this offense with six touchdowns in the past two games. If NC State can limit his production, it puts way more stress on freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Pick: A win here would give the Wolfpack a leg up in the ACC Atlantic race and would reshape what we think we know about that division. However, Clemson has so many weapons that it's tough to limit each of them. ATS: NC State, SU: Clemson
Houston at Navy
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Annapolis, Maryland | Line: Houston -12.5
Why it's listed: Houston is on the back end of consecutive east coast road games and there's a big cross-divisional showdown vs. South Florida to look ahead to in Week 8. USF had a near scheduling loss to Tulsa in Week 7 and Houston is in a similar spot this time around.
Navy's key to the game: The Midshipmen have to grind this thing down. Houston has the AAC's top scoring offense and the Cougars put up touchdowns with the quickness. Navy's not necessarily equipped to stop them, either. Playing keep away is the best bet.
Houston's key to the game: Ed Oliver is a monster in the middle of Houston's defensive line and, by himself, should take away Navy's first dive option. The key then becomes for the Cougars' defense to have the discipline to make stops on the perimeter against this triple option offense.
Pick: The Midshipmen have made an unexpected, and the next month (vs. Notre Dame, at Cincinnati and at UCF) is almost unfairly difficult. However, two recent losses vs. SMU and Temple were by one point and one touchdown, respectively. There's trap game potential here for the Cougars. ATS: Navy, SU: Navy
Memphis at Missouri
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET | Where: Columbia, Missouri | Line: Missouri -9.5
Why it's listed: Even though Memphis dropped an absolute heartbreaker to UCF in Week 7, that game should inspire confidence that it can play against just about anyone. Memphis is two points away from being 6-1 instead of 4-3.
Memphis' key to the game: The Tigers can't go lifeless in the second half again. Ill-timed penalties and turnovers really did them in against the Knights. This game should be a shootout, so it's going to important for Memphis to stay on the gas pedal.
Missouri's key to the game: Slowing Darrell Henderson, a midseason All America selection who, with a 10.3 yards per rush average, is a literal human first down. He's the big-play threat every time he touches the ball.
Pick: Fun fact: teams that have lost to Alabama are 5-1 the following week (and Arkansas nearly beat Ole Miss in Week 7). However, a lot of those follow-up games have been against lesser opponents. Memphis has the speed to keep Mizzou on its heels, but can it finish this time around? This one should be a lot of fun. ATS: Memphis, SU: Memphis
No. 2 Ohio State at Purdue
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET | Where: West Lafayette, Indiana | Line: Ohio State -13.5
Why it's listed: Ohio State's defense statistically hasn't been bad, but anyone who's watched the Buckeyes this season knows they have plenty of lapses in the second and third levels. Pair that against an aggressive and creative Purdue offense and there could be problems.
Purdue's key to the game: His name is Rondale Moore and if you somehow don't know who he is yet, get acquainted. The freshman phenom has 558 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver, but he's a terrific all-purpose player that coach Jeff Brohm loves. Ohio State legitimately needs to find an answer for him.
Ohio State's key to the game: Even without Nick Bosa, defensive line play isn't an issue. However, things get a little hairy in the middle of the defense. Minnesota ran approximately 1,000 slants against the Buckeyes in Week 7. Linebackers were out of position and the Buckeyes have been burned on multiple occasions. A lot of this falls on defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who will need to have one heck of a week game planning for this one.
Pick: Purdue is probably closer to a pain in the butt than a threat to win outright, but if Ohio State doesn't show up, Purdue is certainly good enough to win. If nothing else, the Boilermakers should have the offense to keep this volley going to uncomfortable lengths for the Buckeyes. ATS: Purdue, SU: Ohio State
So which teams should you back in Week 8 of the college football season? And what national title contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected score for every single FBS matchup, all from the model that has returned over $4,000 in profit to $100 bettors over the last three seasons and nailed Iowa State's upset of No. 6 West Virginia last week.
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