Michigan not only has to deal with a tough Penn State team, but also 108,000 people clad in all white. Photo courtesy of Penn State Athletics.
All eyes will be on State College, Pennsylvania on Saturday night as the #9 Nittany Lions get ready to host #16 Michigan. The Wolverines will be greeted by over 108,000 screaming Penn State fans all dressed in white, as if they team they were playing wasn’t a challenge enough. Both teams feature championship level defenses that have no issues shutting down their opposition. The problem so far for Michigan has been the play of their offense, who have really struggled at times, especially against good defenses. Just go back a few weeks to the Wisconsin game when the Wolverines turned the ball over four times and only had 299 yards of total offense. That game was on the road, in Wisconsin, at a very tough environment. Michigan will face a similarly daunting challenge tomorrow night. Penn State has also had their bad moments offensively. Last week against Iowa, the Nittany Lions had the darnedest time moving the ball. Luckily for them, they have a defense that is giving up less than 260 yards of total offense per game and holding opponents to an average of 8 points. This game on Saturday night might not light up the scoreboard, but we are definitely in for a dogfight defensively. A game very reminiscent of the glory days of Big 10 football.
Another good match-up this Saturday takes place out west along the Pacific Coast of Washington. The Huskies find themselves back in the Top 25 again this week after dropping out a few weeks ago when they lost to Stanford, who just lost last night to a really bad UCLA team. The Huskies will host Pac-12 North rival Oregon in Seattle. These two Pac-12 teams are known for their explosive offenses, but a big surprise is how good the Ducks have looked on defense this year. Since losing the opener to Auburn, the Ducks defense has not allowed anyone to score more than 7 points in a game. That streak will probably be broken by this Washington offense that has been putting up over 36 points per game on offense. The thing I’m interested in seeing is which Jacob Eason is going to show up for Washington. Will it be the one we saw the first week of the season and against teams like Hawaii and Arizona, or the one that fell flat against Cal and Stanford? How does he handle this Ducks defense that is really fast and really good at getting pressure? That will be the match-up to watch in this one.
Outside of those two games, the schedule in Week 8 seems a little boring. Most of the Top 25 teams will face much lesser and weaker competion. Alabama vs Tennessee, a once fierce rivalry has turned to Crimson Tide domination. Clemson at Louisville. Last year the Tigers beat the Cardinals 77-16 at home. I mean take a look at some of these other games featuring a Top 25 team playing a inferior opponent.
#4 Ohio State @ Northwestern (1-4) – The Wildcats are a 28 point underdog at home to the Buckeyes.
West Virginia (3-3) @ #5 Oklahoma – The Sooners are 33.5 point favorite and just might be able to cover that. West Virginia nearly lost to Kansas and James Madison for goodness sake!
#11 Auburn @ Arkansas (2-4) – The Razorbacks lost to San Jose State earlier this season and just lost to Kentucky who used their best wide receiver as the quarterback!
#2 LSU @ Mississippi State (3-3) – MSU somehow has three wins this year. All I really need to say about them is that they lost to Tennessee. And I’m really shocked they are only a 17.5 point underdog in this game. LSU might just drop 60 on the Bulldogs.
However, there still is one game that won’t get a lot of national attention, but is a game that should definitely be fun to watch. #17 Arizona State travels to Salt Lake City to take on #13 Utah. A huge PAC-12 South showdown and an underrated Top 25 match-up. Arizona State has been a surprise team this year. Herm Edwards has done a terrific job as the Sun Devils head coach and he has his team in prime position to possibly win a division championship. Arizona State already has two Top 25 wins, both on the road. I would say that this sets up nicely for ASU, but Rice-Eccles Stadium is one of the toughest (and most underrated) places to play in all of college football. The Utes don’t lose a whole lot there at home. Couple that with the fact that Utah has a very good team, both offensively and defensively, you get a very tough scenario for Arizona State. This might not be the marquee match-up everyone will point to tomorrow, but this might just be the best game on TV all day.
The SoCon slate for this week is pretty good. We already had a really good game played last night in Chattanooga as the Mocs were able to hold off ETSU in a 16-13 defensive struggle. The Mocs remain unbeaten in Southern Conference play and look to be one of the best teams in the league. They travel to Wofford next week.
Speaking of Wofford, they host Western Carolina this week in a game that you would think should be an easy win for the Terriers. The Catamounts rank next to last in scoring offense and scoring defense and are one of the worst at stopping the run. That gives Wofford a very strong advantage as the Terriers lead the SoCon in yards rushing per game with 357.2.
VMI looks to keep its hot streak going this week. They head down to Macon to take on a Mercer team that has completely lost its way. Since winning their first two games, its been four straight losses for the Bears. On the other side, VMI has won two straight and sits in third place in the SoCon race with a 3-1 conference record. VMI’s offense is really good, but their defense has been really bad and has been the achilles heel for the Keydets. Fortunately their offense is as good as it is and has been good enough to win them some close games. Mercer, as a whole, has been struggling the last few weeks. They had the week off last week, so maybe they were able to fix some things and gather themselves. We might just get another shootout featuring VMI this week.
The game of the week in the SoCon, however, pits bitter Palmetto State rivals. Its The Citadel and Furman. This rivalry dates all the way back to 1913. Furman has dominated the rivalry for most of the series’ history, but the Bulldogs have starting having a lot more success and more frequent success. The Citadel won 4 of 5 games from 2012-2016, but its been the Paladins winning the last two. The Paladins, arguably, have the best team in the league. They have a terrific offense coupled with a fiery defense. Furman doesn’t give up a lot of points, which is bad news for The Citadel, because their scoring offense is middle of the road. Both defenses are good and the difference in the game is going to be which offense can move the ball, especially on the ground.
So without any further ado, here are my picks for Week 8.
Temple @ #19 SMU (-7.5) – 3:30 – ESPN 2
A game that I didn’t talk about above, SMU and Temple face-off in what looks to be a fantastic game. The “Pony Express” is back in Dallas as SMU has been running roughshod over opponents this season. Temple is also coming into this game on fire after they knocked off Memphis a week ago. The Owls have struggled some on offense this season, but they are going up against a SMU defense that has problems stopping people. The Mustangs eked out a win last week at home winning 43-37 in triple overtime. I expect a high scoring affair at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, but I have enough faith in the SMU offense to get the job done.
SMU – 38, Temple – 34
#17 Arizona State @ #13 Utah (-13.5) – 6:00 – PAC12
As I said up above, this one might just be the game of the day in the FBS. Las Vegas thinks Utah is a two touchdown favorite, and they might just be, but I honestly think they are taking this Arizona State team too lightly. The Sun Devils already have two Top 25 wins on the road and Herm Edwards will have those boys fired up to play the Utes on Saturday night. I really want to pick Arizona State for that reason, but I think I’m going to have to go with Utah simply because they are at home. I do think Utah is the more complete team, but they aren’t two touchdowns better, even if they are at home.
Utah – 31, Arizona State – 24
#12 Oregon (-3) @ #25 Washington – 3:30 – ABC
Again, I’ll say, the match-up to watch is Jacob Eason vs this Ducks defense. Oregon has been completely dominating people since losing to Auburn in Week 1. Washington has spit and sputtered their way to a 5-2 record, but are lucky enough to get the Ducks at home. Husky Stadium is a tough environment, but I believe enough in the maturity and experience of QB Justin Herbert for the Ducks that I don’t think the crowd will be much of a factor. Washington’s defense will have to play better than they did a few weeks ago when they let Stanford run all over them. If they defense shows up, as well as Jacob Eason, this one could get interesting. However, I think the Ducks are the much better team and win easily on the road.
Oregon – 31, Washington – 14
#16 Michigan @ #7 Penn State (-9) – 7:30 – ABC
This should be a really good football game. Both defenses are really good and can really make life tough on opposing offenses. The offenses have been shaky at times, especially for Michigan. Penn State has been more consistent on that side of the ball, but have had their share of struggles against smothering defenses. I think this will be a semi low scoring game. I don’t think it will be as low scoring as the Penn St/Iowa game or even the Michigan/Iowa game. However, it would not surprise me in the least to see the Nittany Lions completely steam roll Michigan either. There offense is good enough to do that, I just don’t think that will happen. Michigan will keep it fairly close, but because of their defense and the massive crowd at Beaver Stadium, I think Penn State ends up winning by at least two scores.
Penn State – 24, Michigan – 14
And my SoCon picks for this week:
VMI @ Mercer – 3:00 – ESPN+
What Mercer team will we see on Saturday? Were the Bears able to fix some of the issues on offense and defense during their bye week last week? These are some of the big questions leading into this game. I’m exactly sure what the answer is, but we will find out tomorrow. We know for a fact that Reece Udinski, Alex Ramsey and the VMI offense are going to show up. Will Mercer’s offense be able to keep up with VMI? Can Mercer’s defense show up and make a couple of stops. I just don’t have a lot of trust in the Bears right now and VMI is playing too well to stray away from them. I think Mercer’s offense does play well and keeps it close, but in a shoot-out, I’m going to take the Keydets.
VMI – 45, Mercer – 42
The Citadel @ Furman – 1:00 – ESPN 3
I briefly mentioned this rivalries history earlier. These two teams have gone at it for a long time and their is a lot of bad blood and hatred. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very good match-up and a game that can go either way, but I’ll be honest in saying that three weeks ago this looked like a lot sexier match-up. The Citadel unbelievably lost back to back games in weeks 5 and 6 to Samford and VMI. The Bulldogs triple option attack has had to rely a little more on the passing game of late as QB Brandon Rainey has been a little banged up. Furman has been dominating their SoCon opposition to this point and had a week off to prepare for their bitter rivals. The defense is arguably the best in the league and the offense is no joke either. While I really wouldn’t surprised if Furman did runaway with this one, I do believe that The Citadel is good enough to compete and possibly win this one. I don’t think they do, but I like The Citadel to at least keep it a one score game.
Furman – 35, The Citadel – 28
Looking forward to another great weekend of college football. Let me know what you are excited about this weekend. Also, let me know what your thoughts are on these match-ups this week. Go on Facebook and Twitter and like and follow us at The Spread Football. SoCon John and I will be recording our weekend preview show tonight which will be up on Soundcloud, so stay tuned for that.