It’s already Week 8, and I’m crying. Not because of my Week 7 ATS picks (those went great), but because football is leaving me. All I can do is pick former playoff favorites on the road and hope we can travel back in time that way.
ATS Record (2017): 26-19
Louisville at Florida State (-7), Noon ET
Louisville let Boston College score 45 points, something they haven’t done since they had Matt Ryan at quarterback. While Florida State have looked utterly disposable since losing Deondre Francois in the season opener, Louisville’s defense won’t be able to allow that kind of performance again. Florida State still has one of the most talented defenses in the country, and Derwin James is looking to boost his draft stock.
It’s easy to get down on Louisville and, certainly, letting Boston College score 45 whole points in a single football game should be some sort of a crime, but they still have the ability to score and (hopefully) a defense capable of pressuring a freshman quarterback who is getting all kinds of pats on the back after beating Duke 17-10.
My Pick: Louisville (+7) to cover.
Oklahoma State (-7.5) at Texas, Noon ET
Say what you want about Texas, but they’ll hold you to a tight game. They took USC to overtime, only lost by five in the Red River Showdown, and have looked better and better with each passing week. That said, this Oklahoma State team has done some bad things this year (in a good way), including wiping Baylor off the map last week (59-16).
Beating Oklahoma State will be a huge ask for Texas, but holding them down and forcing a tight game at home is kind of their bread and butter. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Texas defense since I had the part of my brain that remembers the Maryland game surgically removed. Malik Jefferson is a genuine delight, and while I don’t like betting on Big 12 scores to be grounded in reality, a tight game here seems likely.
My Pick: Texas (+7.5)
Arizona State at Utah (-7.5), 3:30 PM ET
This is a weird one to pick, because Arizona State is coming off a huge win against a top team. However, I’d put that win down to Washington’s incompetence more than Arizona State’s surging talents, the game was genuinely unwatchable. Neither team did anything worth remembering.
Utah, however, was mighty impressive last week. There’s a couple teams in the country that build themselves around a dominant defensive front, and they’re having something of a moment right now. NC State is 6-1 and leading its division. Utah came uncomfortably close to beating Stanford and USC, and was confident enough to gamble the game on a two-point conversion that didn’t work out against USC, and could wreak havoc on Arizona State.
Note: this is not the Arizona team that blew out UCLA 47-30 last week. They’re listed at -3 against Cal.
My pick: Utah (-7.5) to cover.
USC at Notre Dame (-3.5), 7:30 PM ET
I understand that USC has been disappointing this year, but that’s against the unrealistically high expectations everyone west of the Mississippi always has for USC. Otherwise, they’ve played really well, beating a remarkably good Texas team, surviving a tough game against the physical and challenging Utah, and wiping out a Stanford team that’s since proved its mettle. Notre Dame’s best win is either UNC or Michigan State. (I guess that was more of an indictment before Sparty beat Michigan, but let’s all remember that John O’Korn was at QB for the Wolverines.)
USC will be the best offense Notre Dame has faced since we were doing the “Fire Brian Kelly” dance after the Georgia game. However much Sam Darnold may have disappointed you by losing to Washington State on the road, we know that he’s still very good, we’re coming to appreciate some of the running backs coming out of Tailback U for the first time in a long time, and I’ll pick them as underdogs against pretty much anybody.
My pick: USC (+3.5) to cover.
Michigan at Penn State (-12.5), 7:30 PM ET
I love Penn State’s offense, but they have struggled to put up huge scores against upper-tier defenses. The Iowa game came a finger away from being a loss (21-19). For all of its struggles on offense, Michigan fields one of the top five defenses in the country by almost any metric. The unit is no. 1 in total defense (better stats become available soon, I promise) and has been visibly suffocating against some talented opponents. I don’t think they’ll be able to stop Saquon Barkley — you need something inhuman to pull that off — but forcing Penn State into another tight game seems likely. Defensive end Rashan Gary, who left the Indiana game with a wrist injury but returned later on, will be key in both slowing Barkley and pressuring Nittanies QB Trace McSorley.
My Pick: Michigan (+12.5) to cover.
Arizona (-3) at California, 8:00 PM ET
Cal just got done feeding Washington State into a meat grinder, holding what we all called one of the best offenses in football to three points while using the Wazzu end zone as a trampoline park foam pit. Cal’s been a pleasant surprise all year, giving USC a lot of trouble, beating Ole Miss handily, and improving game-to-game. Cal hosting Arizona as three-point road dogs is a great bet, and not one that will last long.
My Pick: Cal (+3) to cover.