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Saturday, 21 October 2017

College Football Week 8 Picks 2017 (October 21st)

What can you say about a wacky College Football season?

The Clemson Tigers and Washington Huskies became two more of the favoured teams to drop games which also means the door has been opened to other schools for a potential Play Off spot and the upsets continue to come at a remarkable rate.

In fact the only team you can really believe in going into Week 8 of the College Football season has to be the Alabama Crimson Tide, although they may have a big test looming if the Georgia Bulldogs can continue to pile up the wins.

Even with that in mind, I can't see a situation developing where the Crimson Tide don't make the Play Offs again, but picking the other three teams is very, very tough.

In Week 8 we do have some games which will begin to separate out the contenders from the pretenders and one of those is coming in South Bend where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the USC Trojans. Both already have one loss on the schedule and I don't think a two loss team makes the final four so the pressure on those teams is immense.

There are plenty of Conference games where teams try to play spoiler for others who may have some real Play Off ambitions and I would not be surprised if the final four teams sees either the SEC or the Big Ten providing two of the four teams. Things can change so quickly in College Football that I couldn't possibly guarantee that, but the season has developed to set that up with Alabama, Georgia, Penn State and Ohio State all looking good at the moment.

We have seen the committee are not afraid to put in a team that doesn't even play in the Conference Championship Game as they did with Ohio State last season, and the way others are falling down all around the nation suggests that may be the case again this season.

The answer will come in the weeks ahead as we move into Week 8 and I have my College Football Picks below.

Iowa State Cyclones @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: Figuring out who will be playing in the Big 12 Championship Game is no easy task when you see how many of the teams have been performing above the expectation levels. Two of those meet in Week 8 as the Texas Tech Red Raiders host the Iowa State Cyclones although the Red Raiders went down to West Virginia in Week 7 which might prevent them from really challenging for a top two spot.

I would not be surprised if a two loss team in this Conference managed to make the Championship Game with so many of the teams capable on their day, but that makes this a really important game for both the Red Raiders and Cyclones who don't have room for another setback.

The momentum does seem to be with the Cyclones who have beaten Oklahoma and followed that up with a convincing win over the Kansas Jayhawks last time out. Iowa State will feel confident off those wins although Texas Tech are playing with revenge having been embarrassed on the road against the Cyclones in the 2016 season.

The last time these two teams met here saw the Cyclones blown out so I do think there is some motivation for both teams to perform and perhaps make a surprise appearance in the Championship Game. I don't really believe either will, but Week 8 gives one of them a chance to put some momentum behind them with a victory ahead of some bigger tests.

Iowa State have a glaring weakness in that they have been unable to run the ball with any consistency on the Offense and that is likely to come back and haunt them at some point this season. They certainly are not expecting a lot of room up front in this one which means they are having to lean on Kyle Kempt at Quarter Back perhaps more than they would have liked.

Kempt is in for the injured Jacob Park, but he has not had the Iowa State Cyclones missing their starting Quarter Back. Instead this has been a very solid couple of appearances from Kempt including in the upset of Oklahoma and he could have another big game against the Red Raiders Secondary who have given up far too many big plays.

However being able to stop the run means the Red Raiders know what is coming from the Cyclones when they are pushed into third and long spots and Texas Tech have been strong at getting to the Quarter Back. They should have success against a Cyclones Offensive Line that has had its problems in pass protection and run blocking and that may stall a couple of Cyclones drives that gives Texas Tech the edge.

The Red Raiders certainly have an Offensive unit that will cause problems for Big 12 Defenses as they showed in the defeat to West Virginia when mistakes cost them. Texas Tech actually earned more yards than the Mountaineers, but this might be a big challenge for them against an under-rated Defensive unit of Iowa State.

Despite playing three Big 12 Offenses including Texas and Oklahoma, the Cyclones Defensive Line have been stout to say the least and they will feel they can get the better of the Texas Tech Offensive Line. Iowa State have held teams to just 3.3 yards per carry over their last three games and all of their success begins up front.

The Secondary have also upped their game in helping the Cyclones perform as well as they have been although that unit will be tested by Nic Shimonek at Quarter Back who has helped his team average over 375 passing yards per game. He also has 18 Touchdown passes to 4 Interceptions so is clearly a very capable Quarter Back in this system, although Iowa State's Secondary have shown they can compete with the best QBs they face.

While it would be almost impossible to shut down the 'Air Raid' Offense completely, the Cyclones certainly can get enough success to at least make the points they are receiving very competitive. Both teams have been very good against the spread this season, but this start looks a big on when you think how well the Iowa State Defensive unit have played.

The underdog is also 5-2 against the spread in the last seven in this series and I will back the road underdog to cover in this one.

Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Texas Longhorns Pick: Tom Herman and the Texas Longhorns were disappointed they could not quite get over the hump and beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game in Week 7. There is every chance the Longhorns could get another crack at the Sooners, but Herman knows they have to be fully focused in another tough game in Week 8 when they host the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

You can almost say that the losing team in Week 8 are likely to be out of contention for a spot in the Championship Game in this Conference as both the Longhorns and Cowboys have a loss on their record. However a defeat in Week 8 would mean they have two losses to teams above them in the standings and that would be a too big a mountain to overcome.

That adds pressure to what is still a rivalry game if not quite up to the scale of the Texas-Oklahoma one. The Longhorns have generally been able to pick themselves up after the Red River Rivalry game is in the books as they have gone an incredible 18-1 in their next game, although the one loss did come to Oklahoma State in 2011.

Like many games between the best teams, the stronger team at the line of scrimmage is likely to have an edge and you may just lean towards Oklahoma State on both sides of the ball when you look at the Lines. Having Sam Ehlinger at Quarter Back has given the Longhorns the chance to at least find a better running game which is an area they have struggled though, and that may just even things up for the Longhorns.

Ehlinger is more than a capable passer too and that means the Cowboys Linebackers can't just sell out to spy the Quarter Back and allow big plays to go over their head. The Cowboys have been decent up front, but they have not been able to find a consistent pass rush and there are holes in the Secondary which can be exploited which means the Longhorns have a chance for the upset.

I do have faith the Longhorns can perform in a shoot out, but they would much prefer to see the Defensive unit pick up their play against the likes of Mason Rudolph, James Washington and Justice Hill. The triplets in the three skill positions makes the Cowboys a real contender to win any game they play, but Hill might have the least success against the Longhorns Defensive Line which has played the run fairly effectively.

The bigger concern for Texas is dealing with Rudolph and Washington who must believe they can make some very big plays against this Secondary. While the Longhorns have been guilty of allowing some big passing numbers all season, they have recently begun to get more pressure up front which may at least rattle Rudolph or put the timing out of sync.

That pressure has seen the Secondary pull in some Interceptions and one of the criticisms of Rudolph has to be the recent Interceptions which has handed out. Creating turnovers and winning that battle will certainly give the Longhorns a chance of at least keeping this one competitive and this is another game where I like taking the points with the underdog.

Texas are 3-0-1 against the spread as the home underdog over the last two seasons and this team will be well aware they are being written off. Houston were also 2-0 against the spread as the home underdog under Tom Herman, while the Cowboys are no sure thing as a road favourite in recent years including failing to cover in a win over Texas Tech a few weeks ago.

I have to respect that the Cowboys have gotten the better of the Longhorns in recent games in the series, but I will back Texas with the points here and look for them to keep this one close.

Indiana Hoosiers @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: It is going to be a lot of fun working out which team is going to represent the Big Ten East in the Conference Championship Game with three teams who have won at least three Conference games and remain unbeaten. One of those return home this week as the Michigan State Spartans come off back to back road wins at Michigan and Minnesota, while the expectation is they can continue the roll against the Indiana Hoosiers who have lost all three Conference games.

The feeling for the Spartans will be that they may be picking the bones of an Indiana team who dropped their last game in Overtime against the Michigan Wolverines last week. Those body blows can be very telling in the College Football ranks as players perhaps start concentrating on matters off the football field, but you have to think there is motivation in wanting to play spoiler for the Hoosiers.

However that will be matched by the revenge Michigan State will have in mind after dropping a game to the Hoosiers in 2016 on their way to a really poor 3-9 season. The Spartans look much better this time around though, but I still have some question marks around their team and how good they actually are.

Those will likely be answered when Michigan State face Penn State and Ohio State in early November in back to back games, but I still think Indiana deserve some respect in this one. The Hoosiers have underachieved and all three Conference losses have come against the big schools in the East, but they were competitive enough last week to have been given a shot in the arm to take to East Lansing.

Indiana made the decision to move to Peyton Ramsay at Quarter Back and he made some positive moves in his opening start against the Michigan Wolverines which will give Indiana encouragement. This week the test is no easier for Ramsay who takes on the Spartans Defensive unit that have been playing at a really high level.

A lot will depend on the young Quarter Back because it is going to very difficult for the Hoosiers to find any running room to keep the Offensive unit in third and manageable spots. The Offensive Line is also going to be challenged in pass protection as well as run blocking and that could make it a tough day for them to score a lot of points.

Scoring a lot of points would not really be the game plan anyway, but Ramsay has to play smart football and prevent the turnovers which can be back breaking for any team. He did throw 2 Interceptions before rallying against the Wolverines last week, but Ramsay has to show he has learned from that, while it does have to be said that the Spartans Secondary have a few more holes than the Michigan one which could see the young Quarter Back have a little more success.

The key to this game may actually come on the other side of the ball as the Indiana Defensive unit have been playing pretty well themselves. Brian Lewerke has not been asked to throw the ball as much as he would have liked in poor conditions the last couple of weeks, but the Spartans may need him more as Indiana have been stout up front and also been making big plays in the Secondary.

It won't be easy for LJ Scott to follow up his big effort on the ground against Minnesota against a Defensive Line who have allowed just 3.6 yards per carry over their last three games. That Line has played well all season and the numbers from the Hoosiers across the board look strong when considering they have played Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State already.

Indiana's Defensive unit can keep them in this game and anticipating a low scoring game means the points given to the Hoosiers look more appealing. The public are all over the Spartans because this is under a converted Touchdown in terms of the line, but I think the home team may be a touch overrated on a couple of their wins and I am expecting a regression to the mean from them.

You can't hide from the fact that Indiana are 0-6 against the spread in their last six visits to Michigan State, but I am not looking for a high scoring game and that should mean Indiana can make enough plays to keep this one close to the end.

Illinois Fighting Illini @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Pick: While neither the Minnesota Golden Gophers nor the Illinois Fighting Illini are going to be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game, this could be a very important game when it comes to determine Bowl eligibility going forward. Minnesota have three wins and Illinois have two wins, but both have lost at least three games in a row as the Conference games have proved much tougher than the non-Conference slate.

Out of the two teams it may be the Fighting Illini who feel a little hard done by having earned more yards than their last two opponents, but Lovie Smith also has to be feeling the pressure in his second year as Head Coach. I doubt Smith is moved on at the end of this season, but Illinois will be expecting much improved performances in 2018 and the Head Coach will want to show some of those off this season.

Getting into a Bowl Game can be important for teams with new Head Coaches with the extra practices they will earn and that is the motivation for both Smith and PJ Fleck the rest of the way.

There are some similarities with the way the two teams are going to approach this one and they may be looking at the other with a sense of confidence about having enough to win and snap their own losing runs. Both teams have struggled to run the ball, but are now facing Defensive Lines that have given up at least 210 yards per game on the ground over their last three games and both at 5.1 yards per carry.

The Secondary play has been stronger partly because teams have been able to run the ball on them up front, but neither Minnesota nor Illinois will point to consistent play from their Quarter Backs who have needed to make up for a limited running game.

Where the difference in this one can be made is that the Minnesota Secondary have been able to create a few more turnovers while Jeff George has been guilty of too many mistakes from the Quarter Back position for Illinois. The Golden Gophers also seen to have the more consistent pass rush and that may see them land with extra possessions which can help them pull away in this one.

Conor Rhoda has also made his mistakes for the Golden Gophers from the Quarter Back position, but he has been a little more secure with his play than George and the Illinois Offensive unit. There will also be a little more time for him to make his plays downfield and I think that adds up the Golden Gophers being the team to snap their run and also win by a wide enough margin to cover this spread.

Minnesota are 5-1 against the spread in the last six in this series and they are 5-2 against the spread in the last seven at home. This is Homecoming for Minnesota which adds motivation, while the Illinois players might be looking ahead to their Homecoming game with the Wisconsin Badgers in Week 9.

It can add up at the College Football level and I will back PJ Fleck to get his men 'rowing the boat' again by snapping their run with a cover.

Oregon Ducks @ UCLA Bruins Pick: The Oregon Ducks had their worst year in what seems like forever in 2016 as they finished 4-8 so the positive for this season is they have already matched that number of wins. The negative is they are 1-3 in the Pac-12 which has ended any small hopes of reaching the Conference Championship Game and the Ducks have not looked the same Offensively since Justin Herbert went down with an injury at Quarter Back.

Herbert won't be around this week either, but the Ducks are facing a UCLA Bruins team who have already been one of the big underachievers in College Football. So many thought the Pac-12 South would come down to a straight battle between UCLA and USC, but the Bruins are 1-2 in Conference play and only 3-3 after a 4-8 season of their own.

Last season was considered a lost one as Josh Rosen went down with an injury, but the Quarter Back has not lived up to the 'Chosen Rosen' moniker as much as Jim Mora would have hoped. Mora has to be feeling his seat getting warmer all the time now and a defeat to Oregon ahead of back to back trips to Washington and Utah could see the Bruins take a nosedive.

On paper you may wonder how the UCLA Bruins are only favoured by 6.5 points when facing an Oregon team without their starting Quarter Back and off back to back blow outs. The simple reason is that the Bruins have not been able to stop the run for love nor money this season and I like the Ducks chances of keeping this close by simply not throwing the ball.

Braxton Burmeister struggled in his start last week as the young Quarter Back continues to get used to the College Football standards, but this week it would be foolish to throw the ball. The Ducks have enough creases to their running game to at least keep UCLA guessing, while Burmeister has some nice wheels and the read option is likely to be devastating to the Bruins if Oregon can get Burmeister to run effectively.

Even when UCLA know a run is coming they have struggled and the numbers make ugly reading. They have allowed 313 yards per game on the ground this season, but that number becomes 351 yards per game over their last three, while the per carry number moves from 6.6 yards on the season to 7.3 yards over the last three games.

Ugly numbers is the only thing you can say and I expect Oregon to have plenty of success in this one with their Offensive unit geared to run the ball.

It will mean keeping the UCLA Offensive unit on the sidelines and possibly sustaining drives to at least give the Oregon Defense a chance to rest. However I can't ignore the fact that the Ducks Defensive unit has not played that well and Rosen should be able to guide the UCLA Bruins to plenty of points of their own.

Oregon do have the edge on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball though and that could see them stall UCLA at least for long enough to keep this game close. There is no doubt that Rosen will have his big numbers like he has for much of the season, but being unable to run the ball effectively means the Quarter Back has faced plenty of pressure up front and that is likely to be the case in Week 8 too.

That pressure has seen Rosen throw 8 Interceptions along with his 17 Touchdown passes and this Ducks Secondary are capable of picking up a turnover or two. In a shoot out there might be more pressure on Rosen than the Oregon Offensive unit which is going to looking to run the ball and I think the Ducks can keep this close.

Oregon are 5-1 against the spread in their last six visits to UCLA and the Bruins are just 6-12 against the spread in their last eighteen as the home favourite. I will take the points with the banged up Ducks to at least keep this one within this number even in a losing effort.

SMU Mustangs @ Cincinnati Bearcats Pick: The American Athletic Conference has to be wondering if one of their leading teams could potentially force their way into the College Football Play Off reckoning. There have been so many upsets across the nation that it is becoming a more realistic proposition going forward, but neither the SMU Mustangs or Cincinnati Bearcats are going to be one of those considered.

Even getting to the Championship Game would be a remarkable achievement for either of these schools, but that does not mean both SMU and Cincinnati come into Week 8 in a disappointed frame of mind. The Mustangs in particularly have been a surprisingly good team and are looking to become Bowl eligible for the first time since 2012 while a win here would mean they have matched their total from the 2016 season.

On the other hand the Bearcats could not have made a much more disappointing start to the 2017 season and even moving into Conference play hasn't helped as they have dropped three consecutive Conference games. The Bearcats only won four games last season but were expecting an improvement, although they haven't been able to make up for the inconsistent play they are receiving from Hayden Moore at Quarter Back.

This game is likely to be all about Moore's play at Quarter Back as far as Cincinnati are concerned, although he was banged up last week. They still expect Moore to start but that elbow injury has to be an problem that will have to be kept an eye on, especially as Cincinnati's best chances of moving the chains are likely to come through the air.

Cincinnati have struggled to run the ball and they won't find a lot of room up front in this one which means having to lean on their Quarter Back more than they would perhaps want to. While the SMU Secondary is one that will give up some significant numbers to Moore, the pressure the Mustangs get up front has seen the Secondary pick up turnovers when teams throw against them and that could be a problem in Week 8 for Moore who has 10 Touchdown passes and 6 Interceptions.

Unlike the Bearcats, the SMU Mustangs can lean on a much more balanced Offensive unit which has shown capabilities to run the ball as well as they can pass it. It should be more of the same in Week 8 as the Bearcats have had problems across the Defensive unit and that balance makes it much more difficult to have any real success in stopping a team from moving the chains consistently.

With the run established, the Cincinnati Secondary could be vulnerable to Ben Hicks at Quarter Back who has thrown 15 Touchdown passes and just 5 Interceptions this season. With a limited pass rush, Hicks should have time to make his plays from third and manageable spots before seeing the pass-action and bootleg plays really open up things downfield.

Cincinnati have blown out SMU in 2013 and 2014, but the roles of the two teams have reversed since then and I do like the Mustangs even as a big road favourite this week. My concern would be that the Mustangs are not a team who have been used to being favoured on the road and whether that brings up some complacency, but all factors considered I do think they will have much more success Offensively than the Bearcats and that can see them pull away in a road win.

The Bearcats are also 1-11 against the spread in their last twelve home games and they have been blown out by Marshall and UCF here this season. While the Mustangs may not be up to that level, SMU are coming out of a bye and should be well prepared for this one as they look to make up for the defeat to the Houston Cougars.

It is a big number for SMU, but I like their chances to cover.

LSU Tigers @ Mississippi Rebels Pick: The LSU Tigers have gotten the better of me for two weeks in a row, but I am going to go back to the well and oppose them again.

I like the Tigers as a programme, but this LSU team is not a vintage one and I can't shake the loss to the Troy Trojans. They have been a little fortunate to beat Florida and Auburn the last two weeks and I could easily have won both of those picks, so I am not sure the LSU Tigers have done enough to be favoured on the road in Week 8.

People who want to oppose that statement can point to the fact that the Mississippi Rebels are just 3-3 this season and 1-2 in the SEC games they have played. However the Rebels have not exactly been blessed with the best of schedules and I can see things being much better for them down the stretch.

They are also catching the LSU Tigers at what looks to be an opportune time after seeing the Tigers come back from a huge deficit to upset the Auburn Tigers in Week 7. LSU also have Alabama next up on deck, although the schedule spot for the upset would have been a lot stronger if there wasn't a bye game for LSU before that game.

Another factor outside of the emotional win in Week 7 has to be that LSU are not a great Offensive team and automatically it makes it much harder to trust them to cover what is a decent amount of points for the home underdog here.

This could be a stronger week for the Tigers considering Darrius Guice is getting healthier and now the Tigers Offensive Line has the chance to blow open some holes against a struggling Rebels Defensive Line. It should definitely be a chance for LSU to make some solid gains on the ground and that has to be a concern for Mississippi although the banged up nature of the premier Running Back could see the Rebels have slightly more success than anticipated.

If that is the case the pass rush should be able to rush Danny Etling into struggling to connect his passes and that at least should be able to stall drives. It is impossible to expect LSU to be shut down completely, but all it will take is a couple of drives not to go as they would like and the Rebels will have a chance to keep this close.

While the anticipation is that the Tigers are running the ball effectively, the LSU Tigers Defensive Line has had some issues against the run of their own. That could be the key to the entire game for the Mississippi Rebels and determining how this game develops for them.

Being able to run the ball will take some of the pressure off of Shea Patterson at Quarter Back who has a tough match up against the Tigers Secondary. You couldn't see him winning a lot of those battles in third and long spots or obvious passing downs, but being able to run the ball will give him a chance to complete shorter routes and keep the chains moving.

It also opens up play-action for the Rebels as they try and keep LSU off balance and I think there is a real chance they can do that.

I simply don't think the Tigers are as good as their wins over Florida and Auburn suggest and so they feel over-rated here. The underdog is 13-4 against the spread in the last seventeen in this series while five of the last eight have been decided by seven points or less.

Mississippi have beaten the LSU Tigers the last two times they have hosted them and I think all of the emotions that the Tigers had in knocking off Auburn last week could see them perhaps a little unfocused here. With Alabama next to come it is easy for the Tigers to overlook the struggling Rebels, but I think Mississippi are better than their results indicate and they can keep this close with the points.

Michigan Wolverines @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: The Michigan Wolverines needed Overtime to beat the Indiana Hoosiers but that has kept them in contention in the Big Ten East. If they run the table you have to think the Wolverines would have every chance of still reaching the Big Ten Championship Game, but this is a big test for them against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

It is the Nittany Lions who are the current Big Ten Champions and they have been unbeaten since losing to the Michigan Wolverines in the 2016 season. Penn State have thus got plenty of motivation with revenge on their minds, while they are coming out of a bye week which should mean they are well prepared for this one.

The next two weeks will determine how this season is going to go for the Nittany Lions who have to face Michigan and Ohio State in back to back games. James Franklin has to be given a lot of credit for the way he has turned Penn State back into a National Title contender and this is a fascinating game between these teams.

As much as some may want to knock Michigan for not being an unbeaten team, they have yet to lose the yardage battle this season and were unfortunate to go down to the Spartans in their loss. The problem for the Wolverines is on the Offensive side of the ball with the loss of Wilton Speight at Quarter Back a big blow to their chances of reaching the Big Ten Championship Game.

John O'Korn just has not looked as comfortable running things and he has not been given much backing from a running game as teams have loaded the box and dared the Quarter Back to beat them through the air. Michigan are not going to have much room to run the ball in this one either and so the pressure will be on O'Korn to make the plays through the air.

That won't be easy for the Quarter Back with the pass rush pressure the Nittany Lions will be able to get on O'Korn, while there have been too many Interceptions thrown which is going to hurt the Wolverines. It makes it difficult to see the Wolverines moving the chains with consistency, while they are also likely to see a few drives stall where they have to settle for Field Goals rather than Touchdowns.

The reason Michigan have only lost one game is simply down to the Defensive unit being able to keep them in games. It is a dominant unit and they will feel they can help Michigan earn the upset by restricting what Penn State are able to do Offensively.

Like the Nittany Lions, the Michigan Defensive Line will feel confident they can win their battle up front and shut down any rushing game Penn State try to bring onto the field. That won't be easy when going up against Saquon Barkley who was considered one of the leading Heisman Trophy contenders, but the Penn State Offensive Line have had some difficulties opening holes for him throughout the season and now face their toughest challenge so far.

The Michigan Secondary have also played well so it isn't as if Penn State can lean on Trace McSorley and expect the Quarter Back to make big plays all evening. One of the big issues he will have is getting the time to throw the ball downfield as Michigan are able to get to the Quarter Back, but the Penn State Offensive Line have not played well in pass protection.

However I do like the Nittany Lions to cover a big spread because I think Penn State will win the turnover battle in this one. McSorley also should be confident in making one or two big plays with the extra possessions he is likely to have and I will look for the Nittany Lions to earn revenge for their embarrassing loss in the Big House last season.

The home team is 4-1 against the spread in the last five games in the series and I will look for Penn State to shut down John O'Korn and find their way to cover a big number in this one.

USC Trojans @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: With one loss already on the schedule for each of these teams, the losing team in this Week 8 game might feel they have already missed out on a potential place in the final four of the College Football Play Off. The USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a rivalry too and so there is plenty of the line on South Bend on Saturday evening.

There will be revenge on the mind for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who were blown out in South California last season, but being back at home should give them the edge. The one loss to the Georgia Bulldogs does not look a bad one for the Fighting Irish who have also blown out the Michigan State Spartans to show they are capable of making the final four.

The Notre Dame loss does look better than the USC one to the Washington State Cougars but falling to a second loss will put pay to the hopes of both teams and that includes if the Trojans were to still go on and win the Pac-12 Championship Game.

These teams do mesh well with one another and both have Quarter Backs who believe they can guide their team to success. Sam Darnold is facing a Secondary that has struggled and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are missing a couple of key Linebackers which could see them have some real success when the Quarter Back drops back to throw.

However the Fighting Irish may feel they can can dominate the line of scrimmage which prevents the Trojans from gaining too much on the ground and then unleashing a pass rush to get after Darnold. Notre Dame also look the stronger at the line of scrimmage on the other side of the ball and I think that can be a key to their success in this one.

It does feel like the Fighting Irish will be able to run the ball effectively which will keep Darnold and the Trojans Offense on the sidelines while also slowing down the USC pass rush. Doing that should keep the chains moving too and I think the Fighting Irish can get the better of the Trojans in this one.

That won't be easy, but having home field advantage could be important with the home team now 4-0 against the spread in the last four games in the series. I also think the Trojans have a better record than they may have done if a couple of teams had a bit more luck at key moments and I am looking for Notre Dame to be too strong.

USC are also just 1-5 against the spread as the road underdog in the last three seasons and this Notre Dame team are much improved and can cover the spread in a home win.

MY PICKS: Iowa State Cyclones + 7 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns + 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Indiana Hoosiers + 6.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Minnesota Golden Gophers - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
SMU Mustangs - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Mississippi Rebels + 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

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