The college football landscape is now cloudier than ever after puzzling parity took over in Week 8. Like last week, there are three marquee matchups in the Top 25 (according to our GridironGrit.com rankings), which feature Heisman favorite Andrew Luck and third-ranked Stanford traveling to Pasadena to take on another first-round prospect in Matt Barkeley and 21st-ranked USC, No. 9 Michigan State combating No. 13 Nebraska in Lincoln for Big Ten Legends supremacy and 13th-ranked Kansas State, an unbeaten two-touchdown underdog hosting No. 11 Oklahoma.
Last Week: 11-7 (136-25 Overall)
Here are my Week 8 college football predictions.
Illinois (6-2) at No. 25 Penn State (7-1) (3:30pm EST)
A promising 2011 campaign with momentous high hopes with a stellar 6-0 start were dashed after back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Purdue. The Illini have scored just 21 points combined the past two weeks and were unable to strike at all in the first half. The Nittany Lions have only allowed nine third quarter points in eight games and ride a six-game winning streak. Penn State leads the series 14-4, but is the first team on upset alert. The Illini stunned the Lions on Homecoming week last year 33-13 in Beaver Stadium. Look for a bloody brawl in this Big Ten division collision for four quarters. Nathan Scheelhouse and A.J. Jenkins should put up a show and bounce back in tight-knit fashion. Prediction: Illinois 23, Penn State 20
No. 24 Southern Miss (6-1) at UTEP (4-3) (8:00pm EST)
UTEP’s 91st-ranked defense should be hoping for a miracle. While the Golden Eagles soar into Texas El-Paso with numerous advantages, the pressure’s still boiling on Southern Miss with a conference championship on the line. Prediction: Southern Miss 44, UTEP 14
Rice (2-5) at No. 23 Houston (7-0) (Thurs, 8:00pm EST)
The Cougars get ready to pounce on the Owls to avenge last year’s embarrassing 34-31 loss last year and improve to 8-0 for only the second time in school history. Houston leads the series 26-11 and has lofty, somewhat far-fetched aspirations this season. Case Keenum became the NCAA’s all-time total offense leader on October 22nd. It’s been an intensely competitive run over the years, however. Houston has won five of the last seven meetings by 275-210 combined points (39.2 to 30.0 average). Prediction: Houston 48, Rice 33
Update: Case Keenum and Houston carved the Owls up like a Christmas ham after a slow start, as Keenum threw for a mind-boggling nine touchdowns in a 73-34 rout.
Virginia (4-3) at No. 22 Miami (FL) (4-3) (Thurs, 8:00pm EST)
Miami (FL) is the second team this week placed on upset alert. The Hurricanes rank next-to-last in run defense in the ACC (allowing 179.4 YPG) and the Cavaliers feature a great tandem in the backfield with Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson. In the Cavs’ trip down to South Beach, the team also reunites with former defensive coordinator Al Golden. This also happens to be the first time “The U” gets all of its players back from suspension. Miami (FL) leads the series 5-3 and has met Virginia seven years in a row. In that span, only twice has the winning team had a more than 10 points margin of victory. Prediction: Miami (FL) 22, Virginia 15
Update: The Cavaliers took the Hurricanes and its loyal fanbase for a spin, as they got the “W” 28-21 in a thrilling ending.
Colorado (1-7) at No. 20 Arizona State (5-2) (6:30pm EST)
The only real challenge for the Sun Devils in this game is to work to eliminate the number of yellow flags. Arizona State is tied for 107th in penalties (7.57 per game), which is pretty much standard for this program over recent years. Prediction: Arizona State 28, Colorado 0
No. 19 Georgia (5-2) at Florida (4-3) (3:30pm EST)
Georgia leads the all-time gung ho series 46-40-2 over Florida, but the Gators have handed it to the Bulldogs over the years with preeminence, winning 18 of the last 21 meetings. While Georgia has the edge, Bulldogs fans are all still on edge about this SEC Game of the Week. Florida’s speed and special teams will keep this affair close and makes Georgia the third team on upset alert. Georgia’s allowed just 15.75 PPG the last four games and Florida’s scored an average of 9 measly points the last three weeks. Prediction: Georgia 27, Florida 20
No. 18 Virginia Tech (6-1) at Duke (3-4) (12:30pm EST)
The Blue Devils have given the Hokies trouble in two out of the three previous meetings. Now, Virginia Tech’s defense is battered and Duke has all-important home-field advantage. In addition, this is the ACC, a haven for unsuspecting upsets. Look for Tech to play keep away. Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Duke 14
Iowa State (3-4) at No. 17 Texas Tech (5-2) (7:00pm EST)
Iowa State ranks last in scoring in the Big 12 (23.1 PPG) and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege is masterfully hitting on all cylinders. The Red Raiders are also at home and the Cyclones are starting a redshirt freshman QB in Jared Barnett following a much-needed bye week. Tech leads State 7-2 in the series and ISU head coach Paul Rhoads also spent some short time at Auburn with Tommy Tuberville. It may seem like an asinine idea on the surface, but something about this conference clash says trap game. Texas Tech has lost its last two home games and comes off an emotional momentous upset over previously 3rd-ranked Oklahoma in Norman. The Cyclones won’t repeat (won last year 52-38), but this could go down to the wire. Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Iowa State 24
No. 16 South Carolina (6-1) at Tennessee (3-4) (7:15pm EST)
Marcus Lattimore’s out of the lineup for the first time, but the Gamecocks have had some time to get used to life without him during the bye week. Untested freshman QB Justin Worley is scheduled to make his first start for the Volunteers, so you can expect a high dose of the ground game.
South Carolina’s defense is one of the best in the nation, ranking No. 1 against the pass (133.7 YPG), 3rd in passing efficiency, 7th in total defense (277.5 YPG), 15th in turnover margin (+18) and 18th in points allowed (19.1 PPG). The team is also second in the SEC in interceptions (14) and leads the conference in forced turnovers (24).
Remember this is a unit that allowed 79 points to Georgia and East Carolina in the first two weeks. Tennessee leads the series 22-5-2, but this one goes to SC. Prediction: South Carolina 24, Tennessee 13
Purdue (4-3) at No. 15 Michigan (6-1) (12:00pm EST)
Michigan’s euphoric expressway under Brady Hoke encountered a roadblock in the 28-14 loss at Sparty. The Wolverines enter this game after a bye week and host the Boilermakers, a team that’s coming in with a full head of steam.
Michigan won last year’s get-together 27-16, but Purdue won the year before in Ann Arbor 38-36. Michigan leads the lopsided series 42-14 and has won 23 of 28 meetings at home. Keeping in mind the Wolverines have played very well at home (outscored opponents 186-51 in Ann Arbor this year) and the Boilermakers are 0-2 on the road (outscored 47-40 by Penn State and Rice), I can’t go against Denard Robinson and co. Prediction: Michigan 30, Purdue 13
Missouri (3-4) at No. 12 Texas A&M (5-2) (12:00pm EST)
The Tigers possess a prolific ground attack and could give the Aggies trouble in College Station. Missouri’s record can be very misleading, considering its four losses all came against a ranked opponents. Texas A&M also has Oklahoma and Kansas State next on the schedule and on the road, so this could pose as a trap game.
James Franklin will likely be forced to try to perform an air show with A&M’s defense ranking No. 1 against the run in the Big 12 (79.9 YPG) and last against the pass (355.4 YPG). This might be fun. Prediction: Texas A&M 31, Missouri 21
No. 11 Oklahoma (6-1) at No. 13 Kansas State (7-0) (3:30pm EST)
As mentioned in the introduction, Oklahoma is—or at least was earlier in the week—a two-touchdown favorite. But as I’ve always said, I base upsets off of rankings rather than points spreads. I am under the age of 21 after all. Oklahoma leads the series by a whopping 70-17-4 advantage and won the last meeting in 2009, 42-30. Kansas State is the third team on upset alert and this test should provide similar results as ‘09.
Oklahoma is still in the national title picture, but the odds are certainly against OU. Look for K-State, a team that’s won five of its seven games by seven points or less and still has visions of playing on the big stage, to give the Sooners all they can handle, but Boomer Sooner pulls it out at the end in dramatic fashion and in one heck of an entertaining fourth quarter. Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Kansas State 32
No. 10 Wisconsin (6-1) at Ohio State (4-3) (8:00pm EST)
Wisconsin heads to Columbus hoping to avoid an emotional hangover after enduring a last-second loss in East Lansing. On the other side, Ohio State is coming off a bye week and its best performance of the year before that in the 17-7 victory over Illinois.
Wisconsin is the fourth team on upset alert this week. Ohio State leads the lopsided series 53-17-5 and will have a screaming crowd on its side. Dan Herron is second to only Denard Robinson among active Big Ten players in career rushing yards (2,308). Nevertheless, I expect Russell Wilson and the Badgers to bounce back in a tough road test. Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 20
No. 9 Michigan State (6-1) at No. 14 Nebraska (6-1) (12:00pm EST)
Nebraska is 5-0 against the Spartans and Michigan State is the fifth team on upset alert. The winner of this high-stakes affair will become the clear frontrunner in the Big Ten Legends division.
Sparty’s 7th in points allowed (13.7 PPG) and 2nd in total defense (22.9 YPG). The Cornhuskers are 7th in the nation against the run. Michigan State has seen its fair share of dual-threat quarterbacks, but the Huskers offense has started to catch fire as of late. In a mild upset, I like Nebraska with the home-field edge. Prediction: Nebraska 26, Michigan State 23
Washington State (3-4) at No. 8 Oregon (6-1) (3:00pm EST)
The Ducks have a 43-38-7 advantage over the Cougars. Oregon has dominated the series over the last four years of course, outscoring Washington State 211-50. What an upset this would…oh, nevermind. Prediction: Oregon 50, Washington State 21
No. 7 Arkansas (6-1) at Vanderbilt (4-3) (12:20pm EST)
Unless Jordan Rodgers has learned more of his older brother’s traits (Aaron Rodgers) as of late, the Razorbacks will advance comfortably over Vandy. The Commodores are much-improved this season, nonetheless. Prediction: Arkansas 38, Vanderbilt 17
No. 5 Clemson (8-0) at Georgia Tech (6-2) (8:00pm EST)
Everyone in Death Valley is on their hands and knees hoping Clemson doesn’t pull, well, a Clemson. While the Yellow Jackets’ once boisterously buzzing offense has halted to just 49 points the past three games, the Tigers’ up-tempo offense, which is laden with weapons, has hit its stride the last three weeks, averaging nearly 81 plays per game.
This formula has led to second-half scoring sprees and Clemson has outscored its opponents 175-77 in the final 30 minutes this season. The Tigers are the sixth team on upset alert, probably just for the heck of it, but they claw out another win and maintain their BCS National Championship hopes alive. Prediction: Clemson 42, Georgia Tech 31
Baylor (4-2) at No. 4 Oklahoma State (7-0) (3:30pm EST)
Fans from around the country point to this game as a potential shocker, which may have a little something to do with Oklahoma’s faux pas against the Red Raiders last week. This can turn into a track meet.
OK-State has a clear edge in the turnover department, but Robert Griffin III and the Bears are well-rested coming off a bye and neither team plays much defense. The Cowboys lead the Bears in the series 17-12. In ground-breaking, unsuspecting upset fashion, I’m taking the leap and picking Baylor. Prediction: Baylor 48, Oklahoma State 45
No. 3 Stanford (7-0) at No. 21 USC (6-1) (8:00pm EST)
Andrew Luck and the physical Cardinal vs. Matt Barkeley and the resurgent Trojans on Saturday night with ESPN College GameDay on hand. Albeit Stanford’s strength is its ground game and USC’s forte’s its run defense, this could shape into an aerial assault by the two first-round quarterback prospects. Stanford has won three out of the four last get-togethers, including last year’s thrilling 37-35 victory that ended on a last-second game-winning field goal. The Cardinal find its 28th win in the 90th meeting in a great game. Prediction: Stanford 34, USC 24
Verse of This Piece: “A gentle answer will calm a person’s anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger.”—Proverbs 15:1