We’re up to Week 8 of the college football season, and we are here to predict five of the weekend’s biggest games from around the country. We have Iowa vs Wisconsin in a pivotal Big Ten West game, while Memphis and Navy will battle for the lead in the AAC East. Out west, we will be looking at Colorado vs Stanford in the Pac 12. Finally, we have two ranked SEC battles–Alabama vs Texas A&M and Ole Miss vs LSU. As always, Yesh Ginsburg, Mike Loveall, John Bava III, and Steen Kirby will offer short previews and predictions of all the games.
Tailgate Pick ’em Week 8 College Football Predictions
#10 Wisconsin at Iowa (Saturday, 12 PM–all times Eastern)
Line: Wisconsin -3.5* (Lines as of Tuesday afternoon)
Honestly, Wisconsin’s offense took an incredible step forward against Ohio State and Iowa just isn’t that good. The defense that slowed down the Buckeyes for almost the entire game won’t have trouble forcing stops against Iowa’s power rushing attack. Iowa might be able to slow the game down to keep it closer, but I’m expecting a big blowout here. Wisconsin 27, Iowa 3
Iowa has looked shaky most of the season, including a loss to FCS North Dakota State (Yes, I know they’re a good FCS team). But the Hawkeyes have looked good as of late. Meanwhile, Wisconsin might be the surprise team of the year after taking Ohio State to overtime last week, losing to Michigan by a touchdown the week before, and opening with a win over LSU. Wisconsin is a proven team, while Iowa has benefitted from its normal soft schedule. Wisconsin 27, Iowa 17
Wisconsin comes into Saturday’s road tilt against Iowa having lost two in a row. But the Badgers have nothing to hang their head about considering the way they played in both games against Michigan and Ohio State respectively. Each loss came by just a touchdown with the Buckeyes being taken to overtime before prevailing last weekend.
After an upset loss to North Dakota State in week three, Iowa has rebounded. The Hawkeyes are 3-1 in Big Ten play and jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead against Purdue last weekend. The final 49-35 scoreline wasn’t indicative of how lopsided the game was.
Iowa’s two-pronged rushing attack of Akrum Wadley and Leshun Daniels, Jr. have combined 1,181 yards and 14 touchdowns. But Wisconsin’s run defense is ranked 13th nationally and allowed just four scores on the ground. In a game where the run game should figure prominently, the Badgers Corey Clement might be primed for a big-time performance.
Wisconsin 23, Iowa 17
Iowa isn’t near the team they were last year. The Hawkeyes will make a bowl, but I don’t see them winning the Big 10 West. Wisconsin suffered heartbreaking losses to Michigan and Ohio State and may struggle a bit to get over that. Both teams play similar run heavy styles though, and Wisconsin does it better, so look for the Badgers to find their way and setup a big matchup against Nebraska for the Big 10 west title. Wisconsin 24, Iowa 17
Colorado at Stanford (Saturday, 3 PM)
Line: Stanford -2
When did Colorado get this good? This is the most underrated reversal we’ve seen in a long time. The Pac 12 South is actually in play for Colorado, something unimaginable since the Buffs joined the conference. Everyone thinks that Stanford is in a world of trouble right now, following blowout losses to both Washington schools. Colorado is good this year, but it’s no Washington and doesn’t have Washington State’s explosiveness on offense. I like Stanford to get back on track here. Stanford 31, Colorado 14
Stanford was able to stop the bleeding last week with a win over a disappointing Notre Dame team. Meanwhile, Colorado has a close loss against USC and a demolition of Arizona State in the last two weeks. Things are looking up in Boulder, for the first time since the McCartney era. The Buffs offense is clicking, and look for them to continue with their surprising season. Colorado 24, Stanford 21
2016 has largely been a season to forget for Stanford. After initially being ranked in the top ten, the Cardinal dropped two straight in blowout fashion to Washington and Washington State. Christian McCaffery was expected to be in the Heisman Trophy conversation but is far from it at this point.
But Stanford turned in a gutty performance in coming back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to beat Notre Dame 17-10 last week. Oftentimes, it’s not the win itself but the way you win that can help turn around a season. And the Cardinal escaping South Bend victorious despite not having McCaffery due to injury could serve as a potential catalyst.
Of course, it would be nice to have him back for this game against a Colorado defense allowing the fewest yards per game in the Pac-12. Assuming he’s back, Stanford gets the win on The Farm.
Stanford 24, Colorado 20
Stanford is better known and has better players, but they have been getting rocked this season, their struggles only outshone by Notre Dame, who they just beat to move to 4-2. Colorado has starting QB Sefo Liufau back and I have a feeling he’ll make all the difference. Don’t sleep on the Buffs as they continue to contend for the PAC-12 South title and a possible Rose Bowl berth. Colorado 35, Stanford 28
Memphis at Navy (Saturday, 3:30 PM)
Line: Memphis -1.5
This is a fascinating battle in the AAC. Memphis is full of talent but the defense has some holes in it. I still don’t know what to make of Navy after some early troubles, but then they came back and beat Houston. This team is a talented enigma, but I’ll go with the triple option in this one. Navy 35, Memphis 32
Most people thought that the loss of Justin Fuente would set Memphis back to the duldrums of college football. Not so. The Tigers are having arguably a better season in 2016 than they had last season. They’ll have a major AAC West Division game with Navy this weekend. If Navy wins, they have the inside track to the Division championship having already beaten Houston. For Memphis, it would get them one step closer. It’ll be a high-powered passing attach going against a vaunted triple option running team. Navy 38, Memphis 34
Something has to give in Annapolis this weekend. Memphis leads the nation in turnovers forced with 18, while Navy’s six turnovers lost is tied for ninth nationally. 11 of the Tigers takeaways are interceptions, though, which might not be much of an advantage Saturday. Just 23 percent of Navy’s triple option offense has consisted of pass plays.
This weekend’s matchup marks Memphis’ first-ever visit to Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium and just the second meeting all-time with Navy. In last year’s first-ever meeting, the Middies pulled off a 45-20 upset win ending Memphis’ hopes at crashing the CFP party as a non-Power Five member. With Navy in the top 25 this year, can the Tigers enact some revenge?
Ultimately, Navy’s 13-game home winning streak, the longest in program history, continues as the option takes away Memphis ability at forcing mistakes.
Navy 34, Memphis 27
Memphis is underappreciated, as this AAC team only has a loss to a quality Ole Miss team on their resume. Navy upset AAC favorites Houston after losing to Air Force to vaunt themselves into the Group of 5 bowl discussion. This should be a close game, but I feel the Midshipmen will control the football with their run option and earn a narrow win. Navy 27, Memphis 21
Texas A&M at Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 PM)
Line: Alabama -19.5
I’ve been burned twice in a row by picking against Alabama. I don’t expect them to lose, but they can’t keep covering the spread against good teams. 20 points is just a huge margin when playing a team with an offense like Texas A&M’s, which matches up relatively well against Alabama (as well as any offense can match up against Alabama, at least). Trevor Knight lit this defense up once before. Alabama’s D is better this year than in 2014, but A&M will be able to put up some points. Alabama 41, Texas A&M 24
How good does Vegas think Alabama is? Just three touchdowns over the sixth-ranked team in the nation, coming off a bye week. That’s an incredible statement. The Tide crushed Tennessee in Knoxville last week, and bruised Arkansas the week before. A&M should play Alabama tougher, as they dominated Arkansas and are much healthier than their Volunteer counter-parts. Hard to go against a Top 10 team with that many points. Alabama 41, Texas A&M 28
Alabama faces their third consecutive top-25 opponent and second straight in the top ten when Texas A&M comes to Tuscaloosa Saturday. Despite the Aggies being ranked sixth in the AP poll, they’re nearly a three touchdown underdog. It’s a true testament to the juggernaut that the top-ranked Tide has become.
This will be a battle of two teams that are highly effective at running the football. It’s evidenced by the fact the Aggies and Tide are 1-2 respectively in rushing offense. Both quarterbacks aren’t afraid to contribute to the run game, with Bama’s Jalen Hurts and A&M’s Trevor Knight’s having scored a combined 17 rushing touchdowns.
The Aggies have forced 17 turnovers which is tied for second best in the nation. In order to have a chance at the upset, they’ll need to continue this trend while figuring out a way to move the ball against Bama’s top five defense. Easier said than done.
Alabama 42, Texas A&M 21
The Aggies have four quality wins this season and haven’t lost, thus the line for this game in favor of Bama is absurd if you ask me. The Tide might win by three scores, as they have shown the ability to blow teams over if they start making mistakes (see USC and Tennessee), but I think TAMU will keep this game tight and make it matter well into the second half. The Aggies can score, and with their experienced leadership on both sides of the ball, they will give it all to try and win the SEC West title. Alabama’s offense keeps improving though, and with a stifling defense, they are the team to beat in the SEC this year, and perhaps the nation. Alabama 35, Texas A&M 24
Ole Miss at LSU (Saturday, 9 PM)
Line: LSU -5.5
I don’t know what to make of Ole Miss. This team showed great potential against Alabama, but the loss to Florida State doesn’t look nearly so great now. LSU, meanwhile, is also an enigma. The offense seemed to move forward under Danny Etling, but it’s a bit stagnant now anyway. This game will hinge on whether the LSU defense can stop Chad Kelly and co.
LSU 24, Ole Miss 17
Probably the toughest game of the week to predict. Everyone knows the Ole Miss storyline: coughing up big leads in the big games and then getting punched in the face by Arkansas last week. Can Ole Miss fight back for the third time this season, or are the rails going to come off? For LSU, most people are talking about the improved offense, but the defense is also playing much better over the last two games. If LSU can continue its forward momentum, they will get a desperately needed win down in the Bayou. LSU 24, Ole Miss 21
This appears to be a matchup of teams heading in opposite directions. After firing Les Miles, the Tigers have reeled off two blowout wins. Meanwhile, Ole Miss suffered a disappointing loss to Arkansas that dropped them to 1-2 in the SEC.
LSU’s ability to defend home turf might be directly tied into their ability to put pressure on Rebel quarterback Chad Kelly. But the Tigers pass rush should be up to the task. They’ve forced 18 sacks so far this season, including seven (best in the SEC) from sophomore defensive lineman Arden Key.
Leonard Fournette may have missed the last two games due to an ankle injury. But don’t sleep on Derrius Guice. The sophomore running back is averaging 9.1 yards per carry which is tied for fifth best in FBS. If LSU can get the run game going against a suspect Ole Miss run defense, the Tigers can quietly reassert themselves as an SEC West contender.
LSU 31, Ole Miss 24
Both teams are full of talent but have underachieved in their own way this year. Hugh Freeze is secure in his job, but can’t be happy at how the Rebels have lost games from an advantageous position this year. They still have great QB play though and will score. LSU has new coaching, and with it a new spirit as they are playing for this pride this season and still have a shot at the SEC west title, although that’s improbable. With LSU’s clear improvement on offense in recent weeks, and a still quality defense, I’m going with the Bayou Bengals in this one. LSU 38, Ole Miss 31