Six ranked teams square off against each other in Week 8 with conference championship hopes on the line.
In the Big-10, our Index says #6 Penn State (6-0) is a 28-20 favorite over #11 Michigan (5-1). Although the Wolverines have played tougher competition, the Nittany Lions have performed better and with greater consistency. Michigan will be in this as long as it plays clean, but the difference-maker is likely to be a Wolverine mistake at a critical time. This game will probably not surpass 55 total points.
The PAC-12 Conference also has duels among its elites, but let’s stay in the east for a minute.
Second-ranked Clemson (6-0) will have its hands full at Louisville (5-2) where new coach Scott Satterfield (App St.) has the Cardinals playing extraordinarily well, enough to put this game into low-level upset potential. Both teams have moved the ball well in 2019 but the differences here will be Clemson’s third-ranked defense and some doubt about the availability of Louisville starting quarterback Jawon Pass.
Twelfth-ranked Florida (6-1) is headed to Columbia, South Carolina to play the giant-killing Gamecocks (3-3). While the South Carolina story feels like a movie ready to happen, Florida is coming to town with business on its mind—like averting a near loss last year to the Gamecocks as well as a disappointing loss last week to #6 LSU (6-0). Our system favors Florida, 27-21.
How long will Vanderbilt (1-5) stick with coach Derek Mason?
That is a question circulating the SEC since the Commodores haven’t had a winning season in Mason’s five years. Vanderbilt was 9-3 the year before he took over. With #20 Missouri (5-1) coming to town as a 43-10 favorite on our Index, Vanderbilt will be 1-6 and miss a winning season for the sixth straight time. Compounding the issue is the loss to UNLV last Saturday as well as the Commodore defense which will have yielded 30 or more points in six of its seven games.
In the PAC-12 . . .
The tenth-ranked Oregon Ducks (5-1) can nearly lock up the PAC-12 North with a win at #19 Washington (5-2). The Duck offense has been mediocre and frustrating while the Huskies defense has been mediocre and inconsistent. Oregon will win 30-24 based on its significant advantage on defense where the Ducks yield the fourth-fewest yards per play in the FBS.
Also in the North, Oregon State (2-4) will recover from a hard loss last week to give California (4-2) all it can handle in a 32-24 loss and the Washington State Cougars (3-3) will need to remind themselves that their own worst enemies this week are not from within but rather the visiting Colorado Buffaloes (3-3). Our system points to a 33-28 Cougar win but with one of the highest upset alerts of Week 8.
As an addendum to the PAC-12 North, it’s interesting to see that last year’s patsies, Oregon State and San Jose State, excel as number one in the nation for stats that are mirror images of each other. Oregon State is #1 in fewest turnovers per game while San Jose State is #1 in the most turnovers forced. Not a bad showing for two emerging programs whose coaches both stem from the Oregon State tree.
Arizona State (5-1) entered our rankings this week after a determined win over free-falling Washington State (3-3). Now, the Sun Devils travel to play 15th ranked Utah (5-1). Both teams have one loss in the PAC-12 South so the loser of this game will fall too far behind USC (3-3 and 1-0) to be a contender. Momentum will decide this one as the Utes have been one of the hottest teams in America the past two weeks while ASU has played close to the margins all season. Utah also has a top 20 rushing program and a top 30 defense (ypp) while the Sun Devils rank 102nd and 42nd.
USC is an easy 37-24 choice to defeat visiting Arizona (4-2) and keep the Trojans in control of the PAC-12 South. USC has played the toughest schedule in the nation and has performed consistently better in nearly all phases than the Wildcats.
Unranked Stanford (3-3) is favored 35-21 over UCLA (1-5) in a win that should surpass both Vegas lines for margin (-9.5 as of Monday) and points (over 54.5).
We are 345-95 (78%) in predicting games in 2019.
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