Week 8 College football best bets, odds and game picks including Penn State vs Ohio State
Week 7 was another terrific week of college football, headlined by an instant classic in Seattle as Oregon vs Washington somehow exceeded my expectations last weekend. Once again, we suffered a brutal beat in the column as South Carolina blew a double-digit lead with 4 minutes remaining to kill our chances of a winning week. We also got unlucky in Corvallis, as a pick-6 thwarted our under in UCLA-Oregon State.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes. Now, with last weekend in the rearview mirror it’s time to get into this Week 8 slate with my weekly best bets column. Despite having a great Week 7 on my personal betting card, we went 1-2 in the column last week — bringing us to 10-9 over the past 6 weeks. However, as I said at the beginning of the season, regression was to be expected after we cashed at an unsustainable 63% rate a season ago. There’s plenty of time to turn things around in 2024, so let’s start with this week!
We have a very compelling slate ahead of us, including a massive game in Columbus as serious Big Ten and College Football Playoff implications are on the line in what is the biggest game of the week. I love the card as a whole, which is why I’m going with 4 best bets this week to get us back on track. With Saturday rapidly approaching, here is a look at my best bets for Week 8 of the college football season and remember you can check out all of our CFB predictions for the Week 8 games.
Penn State Nittany Lions +5.5 vs Ohio State Buckeyes (-110)
Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to Penn State +4.5.
This is a game where my handicap is very simple; I have these teams power rated at about dead even on a neutral field, so I’ll gladly take the free points we’re getting with Penn State at over a field goal. This has quietly been one of the more competitive rivalries between powerhouse programs in college football in recent years, with Penn State having covered in 6 of the last 7 meetings against Ohio State. James Franklin has long had trouble winning “the big one” in his Penn State tenure, but so has Ryan Day on the other side of the field, so I don’t think we’re getting any kind of coaching mismatch on the field either. This will be the biggest game of Drew Allar’s young career as the starting quarterback, but I have little reason to worry given that he’s been nothing but effective and efficient thus far. To this point, Allar has 15 total touchdowns and zero interceptions over the first 6 games of the campaign, so his decision making and game managing skills can be trusted.
The real deciding factor in this game will be the defenses. This Nittany Lions defensive unit has been outstanding all season long, ranking inside the top 5 in most metrics you can find. Put on any game film from this season and the speed and ferocity that this defense plays with is immediately noticeable, and it shows up in the numbers. Manny Diaz’s group is 1st in the nation in EPA per pass defense, 1st in passing success rate, tops in early downs EPA and 4th in net points per drive (CFB-Graphs). On the other side, I still have major concerns about Kyle McCord’s ability to produce in a big game, especially against a defense of this caliber. Ohio State has also been banged up at the skill positions, so it’s no guarantee that some key tertiary pieces in the offense will be playing at full strength on Saturday. Given that McCord and this offense was ineffective for large stretches of Ohio State’s games against Notre Dame and Maryland, why would I expect that to change here? This should be a close, low-scoring affair, so let’s back Penn State to keep this close.
Read our full Penn State vs Ohio State predictions
South Carolina Gamecocks vs Missouri Tigers over 57.5 (-110)
Odds taken from game preview published on October 17. Playable to Over 60.5.
Last week I backed South Carolina in what was a great spot to bet the Gamecocks at home. And one thing that certainly held serve was the Gamecocks’ offense. Spencer Rattler is leading a group that continues to put up numbers in conference play, having just tallied nearly 500 yards of total offense last week in the loss to Florida. That was a game where the Gamecocks defense let Rattler and company down, but I’m still expecting another strong effort from Rattler and the offense against a Missouri defense that is outside the top 100 in finishing drives, and 88th in EPA per dropback per College Football Data. South Carolina has shown that it can put up points in a hurry, and I don’t expect Shane Beamer’s side to take its foot off the gas — even if it ends up up trailing by a decent margin late in the game.
Missouri’s electric offense is also used to being let down by its defense in conference play, as the Tigers were in prime position to win against LSU just 2 weeks ago before allowing 32 second-half points, including 22 in the 4th quarter to blow the lead and the cover for good measure. That shouldn’t take away from the Tigers’ outstanding offense, which has scored 30+ points in each of its last 5 contests, including games against Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis and LSU. Additionally, the Gamecocks’ defense is bottom 10 in the nation in success rate allowed and are very poor defending the pass (107th in EPA per dropback). This should be a game that produces plenty of explosive plays on both sides and I don’t see how either team strings together stops consistently.
Be sure to check out our full South Carolina vs Missouri predictions
UCF Knights +19 vs Oklahoma Sooners (-110)
Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to +17.5.
For my third best bet on the card, I’ll be backing UCF catching nearly 3 touchdowns against an Oklahoma team that is being priced like a true juggernaut after its win over Texas 2 weeks ago. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong about laying the points with Texas in that game, but the Sooners still needed 3 turnovers, a missed field and all-around terrible coaching decisions to get past the Longhorns. It’s fair to suggest that Oklahoma was fortunate to win that game, and yet Dillon Gabriel and company are still being priced like an unquestioned top 10 team. So while I still see the Sooners winning on Saturday, I believe UCF can keep this scoreline within 3 possessions.
Yes, the Knights were embarrassed in Kansas last time out, but that was without starting QB John Rhys Plumlee — who is a massive part of what UCF does on offense. As it turns out, a bye week might’ve been exactly what this team needed to get back on track after 3 straight losses. The return of the dual-threat QB should provide a spark for a UCF offense that already ranks 18th nationally in net points per drive, 8th in rush success rate, 7th in EPA per rush and 23rd in early downs EPA (CFB-Graphs). Even if Rhys Plumlee isn’t at his best, the Knights can rely on their strong ground game to slow the pace of the game and limit the amount of possessions for Oklahoma. The Sooners are much improved and should be a CFP contender this season, but I just can’t get there with his number. Let’s back UCF to keep things respectable in Norman.
Money line parlay: Memphis over UAB & Kansas State over TCU (+100)
Odds available at Caesars Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -110.
For a special fourth and final best bet, I’m going with a very rare money line parlay to help get us back on track. I show value in both of these teams against the spread on Saturday, so instead of laying a full touchdown with each, I’ll be looking to just play Memphis and Kansas State on the money line for a payout of +100. For starters, Memphis has massive advantages over UAB, especially when taking the Tigers passing offense into account against this horrid Blazers defense. UAB is outside the top 100 in every conceivable metric, including points per drive, EPA per pass/rush and success rate, while Seth Henigan and Memphis are top 25 in finishing drives and points per quality possession per College Football Data. The Tigers defense is also 20th in passing success rate, which is all that Trent Dilfer and company really do in Birmingham. I’ll take Memphis to get the job done on the road.
Both of Kansas State’s losses this season could have easily gone the other way, and I bet that Chris Klieman will have his team extremely prepared for a matchup at home this weekend against TCU. The Wildcats are a dominant rushing team once again, led by Cooper Bibee and their experienced offensive line. Furthermore, the combination of Will Howard and freshman standout Avery Johnson at quarterback caused nightmares for Texas Tech’s defense last weekend, en route to 5 rushing touchdowns from the Wildcats. I’d expect Collin Klien to go back to the well against a TCU defense that allowed over 200 rushing yards to a similar West Virginia ground game earlier this season. It also helps that Kansas State’s defense is one of the best in the nation against the run, as it should force new TCU quarterback Josh Hoover to beat them through the air on crucial downs.
Be sure to check out all of our NCAAF Week 8 picks for the biggest games on Saturday