NCAA Football News

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Michigan State owns six straight wins in its series with Indiana, going 5-1 against the spread over that span. Coming off their miracle victory at Michigan last week, the Spartans look to stay unbeaten when they host the Hoosiers Saturday afternoon in East Lansing.

 

Point spread: Spartans opened as 17-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (see line updates and matchup report here).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 38.1-24.2 Spartans

 

Why the Indiana Hoosiers can cover the spread

IU started this season 4-0, and while it has lost its last three games, two of those could have gone either way. Earlier this month the Hoosiers lost at home to top-ranked Ohio State 34-27, driving into the Buckeyes red zone in the final moments before succumbing. And last week Indiana led Rutgers 52-27, only to allow the Knights to score the final 28 points of the game to lose 55-52.

The Hoosiers compiled 627 yards of offense last week, as quarterback Nate Sudfeld returned after missing the previous game with an ankle injury to hit on 32 of 42 throws for 464 yards and four touchdowns. And three Indiana receivers caught 100 yards' worth of balls. The Hoosiers just couldn't close the deal.

Two weeks ago IU lost at Penn State 29-7, but the senior Sudfeld missed that game; just prior to that, though, the Hoosiers took the Buckeyes to the limit and easily covered as 21-point home dogs. With Sudfeld, Indiana has a puncher's chance.

 

Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

It took one of the craziest endings in recent college football memory, but MSU remained undefeated last week, scoring the winning touchdown on a fumble return as time ran out to beat Michigan at the Big House 27-23.

The Spartans trailed by nine points early in the fourth quarter and pulled to within two points on a short LJ Scott touchdown dive with nine minutes to go, but they looked dead when they gave the ball over on downs with just less than two minutes left. But the defense held, and there was just enough time on the clock for the Wolverines to botch a punt snap, creating a hero out of Michigan State backup safety Jalen Watts-Jackson.

The Spartans outgained Michigan 386-230 and limited the Wolverines to just 62 yards rushing on 33 carries. MSU has now outgained each of its first three Big Ten foes by at least 105 yards.

 

Smart pick

College football can be a fickle betting proposition, where the unexpected is almost the rule. Indiana is coming off a tough loss, while Michigan State is coming off an emotional victory over its hated rival. But that just might mean the tables are set to be turned. Also, the home team might be favored by a bit too much in this spot. The smart choice here is with the Hoosiers, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

Michigan State is 12-0 straight up in its last 12 games in October.

Michigan State is 1-6 against the spread in its last seven games.

Indiana is 4-0 against the spread in its last four games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Mississippi Rebels Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Texas A&M is 2-1 in three meetings with Ole Miss since joining the Big 12, but the Rebels won last year's meeting and are 3-0 against the spread in the series. In an elimination game in the SEC West, the Aggies battle the Rebels Saturday night down in Oxford.

 

Point spread: Rebels opened as six-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 29.0-22.2 Rebels

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

After opening this season 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS, Texas A&M came up short last week against Alabama, losing 41-23 in College Station and missing the cover as five-point home dogs. The Aggies fell down 28-6 with help from a pair of Crimson Tide interception returns for touchdowns, rallied to within one score at 28-20 midway through the third quarter but couldn't sustain the comeback and later allowed another Alabama defensive score.

So, in actuality, the A&M defense only gave up 20 points to the Tide.

Three weeks ago the Aggies opened SEC play with an overtime victory at Arkansas, and they followed that up with a 30-17 win over Mississippi State. They're averaging 37 points per game on the season. If it can come close to that figure this week, Texas A&M might not even need the points.

 

Why the Mississippi Rebels can cover the spread

Mississippi started 4-0 this season, including that big upset of Alabama, but has lost two of its last three games. Last week the Rebels stepped out of conference and lost to an underrated Memphis outfit 37-24. Ole Miss led 14-0 early, allowed the Tigers to score the next 31 points of the game, pulled to within 31-24 heading into the fourth quarter but came up empty from there.

The Rebels piled up 480 yards of offense on the day as quarterback Chad Kelly produced his fifth 300-yard passing effort of the season. But the Ole Miss defense just didn't have an answer for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, who threw for 384 and three scores.

At 2-1 in SEC play, the Rebels sit in a tie for third place in the West Division with Texas A&M. But Ole Miss actually controls its own destiny; win out, starting Saturday and running through the home date with LSU November 21 and the Egg Bowl after that, and the Rebels will play in the SEC Championship Game.

 

Smart pick

Both teams are looking to bounce back from defeats last week, and it's easier to bounce back when you're at home and own the better defense. The smart money in this spot sides with Ole Miss.

 

Betting trends

Ole Miss is 3-0 ATS in its last three games against Texas A&M.

The total has gone under in Ole Miss' last seven games in October.

Texas A&M is 1-8 ATS in its last nine games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. LSU Tigers Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Western Kentucky is 5-2 against the spread in its last seven battles with Power 5 conference teams, while LSU is just 5-7 ATS in its last dozen meetings with non-Power outfits. The Tigers step out of SEC play to host the Hilltoppers Saturday night down at Death Valley.

 

Point spread: The Tigers opened as 17-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 40.2-24.2 Tigers

 

Why the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers can cover the spread

Western Kentucky opened this season with a victory over one SEC team (Vanderbilt) and now gets a shot at another—of the big-game variety. The Hilltoppers come in riding a four-game winning streak, which includes three covers, after beating North Texas last Thursday 55-28. WKU, as a 34-point favorite, had the spread covered when it bumped its lead to 55-14 early in the fourth quarter, but it allowed the Mean Green to score two touchdowns in the final five minutes to make the score slightly more respectable.

The Hilltoppers racked up 683 yards of offense last week, 283 on the ground; they're now averaging 536 yards and 44 points per game.

Western Kentucky may not pull off the upset here, but led by senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who's already thrown 24 touchdown passes this season, it could keep this one interesting.

 

Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread

LSU continued to stake its claim as the best and possibly the most entertaining team in the country last week with a 35-28 victory over Florida, squeaking out a cover as a six-point home favorite. The Tigers led the Gators at the half 28-14, allowed Florida to tie the score at 28-28, then took the lead for good when kicker Trent Domingue scampered in from 16 yards out on a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter.

LSU outgained Florida 423-326 and outrushed the Gators 221-55, as running back Leonard Fournette came up with 180 more yards and two more scores. The Tigers also got a second straight solid performance from quarterback Brandon Harris, who has thrown for 430 yards and four touchdowns, without a pick, over his last two games.

 

Smart pick

LSU is likely to win this contest, but a blowout might not necessarily be in the cards. The Tigers have been known to call off the dogs against lesser foes during the Les Miles era, and Western Kentucky can move the ball. The smart choice in this spot probably resides with the Hilltoppers, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

The total has gone over in LSU's last five games.

LSU is 5-1 ATS in its last six games in October.

Western Kentucky is 11-1 straight up in its last 12 games.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds, Football Pick

Alabama owns the recent rivalry with Tennessee with eight wins in a row, and it's 7-2 against the spread over the last nine. The Volunteers shoot to put a halt to that streak when they take on the Tide on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.

 

Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 14.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 41.4-21.5 Crimson Tide

 

Why the Tennessee Volunteers can cover the spread

The Vols bounced back from two tough losses to claim a close victory of their own two weeks ago, beating Georgia 38-31. Tennessee then had last week off.

The Volunteers trailed the Bulldogs 24-3 in the second quarter after allowing two defensive/special teams touchdowns but battled back, taking a lead on quarterback Joshua Dobbs' fifth touchdown of the day with five minutes to go and then hanging on from there. On the day, Tennessee outgained and outrushed Georgia and held the ball for over 34 minutes, all in winning straight up as a three-point home dog.

Just before that, the Vols gave up a two-score lead and lost to Arkansas 24-20, and they gave up a two-score lead and lost to Florida 28-27 prior to that. Earlier this season, they gave up a three-score lead and lost to Oklahoma in overtime 31-24. So Tennessee, while it has lost some close games, is proving that it can, once again, play with some of college football's big boys.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama won its fourth game in a row last week, beating Texas A&M in College Station 41-23, covering as a five-point road favorite. The Tide ran the ball down the Aggies' throats for 258 yards (236 by running back Derrick Henry), held the ball for over 36 minutes and scored three touchdowns on interception returns.

Just before that, Alabama used a 24-0 run to beat Arkansas 27-14, and it snuffed Georgia 38-10 prior to that. Even in the game it lost, it outgained and outrushed Ole Miss. At 3-1 in SEC play, the Tide might just be getting warmed up.

 

Smart pick

Alabama, recovered from that loss to the Rebels, now rolls toward its showdown at home with LSU November 7. But the home team might be favored by a bit too much for this contest. An upset is probably too much to ask, but with a little magic from Dobbs and a few stops on defense, Tennessee can keep this one close too.

 

Betting trends

  • Alabama is 8-0 SU in its last eight games against Tennessee.
  • Alabama is 14-5 ATS in its last 19 games in October.
  • Tennessee is 0-11 in its last 11 games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Betting Odds, Football Pick

Ohio State may own a 20-game winning streak, but it also just snapped a five-game losing streak against the spread last week, as big spreads have taken a toll on Buckeyes backers. OSU deals with another big number when it makes its first-ever visit to New Jersey to take on Rutgers Saturday evening.

 

Point spread: The Buckeyes opened as 20.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 48.9-23.7 Buckeyes

 

Why the Ohio State Buckeyes can cover the spread

OSU is coming off one of its better outings of the season so far, a 38-10 victory over Penn State last week. The Buckeyes spotted the Nittany Lions an early field goal then took over from there, leading 21-3 at the half, later scoring the game's last 17 points and covering as 18-point favorites. Ohio State racked up 429 yards of offense, 315 on the ground, while the defense held Penn State to just one conversion in 11 third-down situations.

The Buckeyes had lost five in a row ATS because they've been favored by so much so often. The 18 points of last week was the smallest spread they'd faced since beating Virginia Tech 42-24 as 14-point favorites back in Week 1.

On the season, Ohio State has outgained every opponent by at least 108 yards, and it still hasn't played up to preseason expectations.

 

Why the Rutgers Scarlet Knights can cover the spread

The Knights are 3-3 both straight up and ATS this season and 2-1 both SU and ATS over their last three games after rallying to stun Indiana last week 55-52. Rutgers trailed 52-27 late in the third quarter but proceeded to score the last 28 points of the game, winning on a short Kyle Federico field goal at the buzzer. On the day, the Knights piled up 596 yards of offense, 210 on the ground, and held the ball for over 35 minutes, all while winning outright as six-point dogs on the road.

Two weeks ago, Rutgers gave Michigan State a tough game, losing 31-24 on a late Spartans score but covering as 12-point road dogs. And just before that the Knights beat Kansas 27-14. Rutgers has also outrushed five of six opponents this season, including its last three.

 

Smart pick

Ohio State hasn't exactly set the world on fire this season, but perhaps it's just been resting up for another stretch run at another national championship. And playing on the road means the spread is a little more amenable. The smart money here backs the Buckeyes.

 

Betting trends

Ohio State is 20-0 SU in its last 20 games.

Ohio State is 14-6 ATS in its last 20 games on the road in October.

Rutgers is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four games at home in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Joshua Dobbs Is Tennessee's Key to Upsetting Alabama

When Tennessee hits the road after last week's bye to take on the eighth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, will it be the same old song and dance?

The Vols have lost eight straight to the Crimson Tide, having been outscored 283-95 in the process. 

But this year could be different.

For the first time over that streak, Tennessee has an established dual-threat-quarterback who can stress the Crimson Tide defense with his legs as well as his arm.

Dobbs has 368 rushing yards and five touchdowns this year, in addition to his 1,101 passing yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions through the air.

"Joshua Dobbs, the quarterback, is a very diverse guy playing the position with his running and passing abilities," Alabama head coach Nick Saban, said according to the school's official site. "They have created a lot of issues, a lot of problems for the opposition that allowed them to score a lot of points this year."

Alabama's defense has been a force this year. The Crimson Tide have given up just 271.9 yards per game—sixth best in the the nation—have given up touchdowns in just 46.67 percent of their opponents' red-zone trips—fifth in the SEC—and have one of the most feared front sevens in the entire country.

That group includes quick-twitch linemen like Jonathan Allen, a monster "Jack" linebacker in Denzel Devall and versatile linebackers Reuben Foster and Dillon Lee who can line up in various spots in the lineup based on matchups.

This Alabama defense is better equipped to deal with mobile quarterbacks than those of past years, but the only real running threat they've faced this year was Ole Miss' Chad Kelly—who led his Rebels to a 43-37 win over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Kelly didn't exactly light up the Crimson Tide defense that night. He had eight carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. But the threat of a running quarterback has been Saban's kryptonite over the last few years.

All of Alabama's losses since 2010 have been to teams with quarterbacks who pose a threat with their legs. Stephen Garcia, Jordan Jefferson, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Nick Marshall, Trevor Knight, Bo Wallace and Cardale Jones didn't necessarily light up Bama's defense with their legs, but had to be accounted for because of what they could do on the ground.

"For Dobbs and Tennessee, to truly stress Bama the quarterback has to be both a threat to run and capable of pushing the ball vertically down the field," said Michael Felder, national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report.

That's important, because while Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was reluctant to unleash Dobbs through the air early this year, he was forced to when the Vols were buried in a 21-point hole against Georgia. The result was fantastic. Dobbs completed 25 of his 42 passes against the Bulldogs for 312 yards, three touchdowns and one pick, and led his team to a stunning comeback two weeks ago.

Finding a happy medium for Jones that features Dobbs on the ground and through the air is the sweet spot if Tennessee—a 15-point favorite, according to OddsShark.com—is going to spring the upset.

"Obviously Dobbs has shown an aptitude for both, the key is finding balance," Felder said. "Too many shots down the field and the team has empty drives that give the Tide back the ball. Too much focus on the quarterback run and it becomes the LSU-Alabama BCS title game. Dobbs' ability to scramble, but still push the ball down the field will have to be fully operational if Tennessee wants to pull off this upset."

Plus, Dobbs isn't going to be shocked by what he sees from Alabama. He has played against the Crimson Tide in each of the last two seasons despite not being the full-time starter until 2015, and racked up 192 passing yards and 75 rushing yards in his first action of the 2014 season against Alabama last year.

"I remember a lot," he said in quotes emailed by Tennessee. "Second half came in and played a little bit. I did some good things and needed to improve on some other things. It was a learning experience, and obviously I've matured a lot over the past two years."

It's a long shot for Tennessee to spring the upset. 

But it's not a "no shot."

As long as Jones doesn't coach scared, gives Dobbs the full playbook rather than one that's heavily skewed toward a multidimensional running game and allows him to produce that balance needed to keep Bama's defense guessing, the Vols have a puncher's chance in Tuscaloosa.

Dobbs is the key for the Vols. 

If he can move the ball with his legs—particularly in the red zone where the Crimson Tide defense has proven to play at its best—he has a shot to spring the upset.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Utah Utes vs. Southern Cal Trojans Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Southern Cal began this season as the favorite to win the Pac-12 South, while Utah was expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Instead, the Utes are 6-0 and lead the division, while the Trojans are 1-3 both straight up and against the spread over their last four games and just canned their head coach. So two teams headed in different directions at the moment meet when USC hosts Utah Saturday night at the Coliseum.

 

Point spread: The Trojans opened as three-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 26.1-20.8 Trojans

 

Why the Utah Utes can cover the spread

The Utes are undefeated so far this season, 4-2 ATS, and now part of the College Football Playoff conversation after beating Arizona State last week 34-18, covering as five-point home favorites. Utah trailed the Sun Devils through three quarters 18-14, in part because it gave up nine points on an ASU kickoff return for a score and a safety. The Utes then scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, capping things off with Devontae Booker's 62-yard scoring jaunt with just over a minute to go.

On the night, Utah held the Arizona State offense, which had racked up almost 1,000 yards in back-to-back wins over UCLA and Colorado, to 257 yards, just 15 on the ground, and zero touchdowns.

Two weeks ago, the Utes outlasted Cal 30-24, and three weeks ago, they bombed Oregon up in Eugene 62-20. So at 3-0 in conference play, Utah owns a game-and-a-half lead in the Pac-12 South, with five very winnable games after this week.

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

Southern Cal is coming off a 41-31 loss at Notre Dame last week, missing the cover as a six-point road dog playing its first game under an interim head coach. The Trojans rallied from a 24-10 deficit to take a 31-24 lead into the fourth quarter, but they allowed the Irish to score the last 17 points of the game.

On the night, USC outgained Notre Dame 590-476, as quarterback Cody Kessler topped 350 yards passing for the third time this season, but a blocked punt returned for an Irish score and two Kessler interceptions proved costly.

Two weeks ago, the Trojans lost to Washington 17-12 but outgained and outrushed the Huskies.

Fortunately, last week's loss didn't hurt USC's chances to win the Pac-12 South. At 1-2 in conference play, they'll need some help, but a victory this week would drop the Utes a peg while giving the Trojans the head-to-head tiebreaker.

 

Smart pick

Utah has outrushed every opponent so far this season, while USC has been outrushed in four of six games. And winning the ground battle is a good way to win games and cover spreads, especially on the road. The smart choice here is with the Utes, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

USC is 0-3 SU and ATS in its last three games in October.

USC is 13-4 SU in its last 17 games at home.

Utah is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games on the road.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

California Golden Bears vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds, College Football Pick

California's resurgent Golden Bears are only 1-3 straight up over their last four meetings with UCLA, but they're also 5-2 against the spread over their last seven clashes with the Bruins. The Pac-12's ursine rivals meet again Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.

 

Point spread: Bruins opened as 6.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.5-24.6 Bruins

 

Why the California Golden Bears can cover the spread

Cal won its first five games this season before falling 30-24 in a tough game at undefeated Utah two weeks ago. The Bears then had last week off.

Cal trailed the Utes 24-10 late in the first half and pulled to within a field goal late in the third quarter, but could get no closer. The Bears outgained Utah 467-435 on the night, but ultimately couldn't overcome six turnovers, five on Jared Goff interceptions.

Cal is tied for second place in the Pac-12 North at 2-1 in conference play and has outgained every conference foe so far. As long as Goff cuts down on the picks and the defense makes some stops, the Bears have a shot in every game left on their schedule.

 

Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread

UCLA opened this season 4-0 with wins over BYU and Arizona, but has encountered some turbulence since then with back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford. Last Thursday the Bruins fell down early on a Cardinal pick-six and never recovered, eventually losing 56-35.

The injury bug has taken a big bite out of UCLA, especially on defense, where three starters are down and out for the season. But offensively, the Bruins are averaging 463 yards and 35 points per game, led by freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes, and running back Paul Perkins, who has scored eight times. So they can score with just about anybody in the conference.

If UCLA can move the chains on an iffy Cal defense, work some clock and minimize the minutes its own defense has to play, it can put a halt to that two-game skid.

 

Smart pick

UCLA needed a late field goal to beat Cal last year 36-34, but the Bruins aren't quite the same team now that they were then, while the Bears are on the improve. The smart choice here is Cal.

 

Betting trends

California is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against UCLA.

California is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games on the road.

UCLA is 0-8 ATS in its last eight games in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch High School QB Scramble All over the Field for 99-Yard TD

Greene County High School (Iowa) quarterback Daric Whipple literally took it from end zone to end zone. Once Whipple saw the opening, there wasn't a defender who was going to keep him from that touchdown.

Watch the video and let us know what you think!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Week 8 Conference Standings and Top 25 Polls

With another week in the books that proved once again how unpredictable the college football season truly is, voters still tried to take their best stab at the impossible task of ranking the Top 25 entering Week 8 action.

Put Michigan's last-second gaffe that cost the Wolverines a huge win over Michigan State aside, and the weekend that was produced telling results for teams in the College Football Playoff conversation. LSU distanced itself as the lone remaining SEC unbeaten by dispatching Florida, while Alabama showed its championship grit by stomping Texas A&M.

It's anyone's guess as to who the nation's best team is at this point, and the votes reflect that—a whopping six teams in the Associated Press poll received a first-place vote. More answers are on the way this weekend, so let's take a look at the polls before targeting a marquee game of the weekend.

 

Week 8 Top 25 Game to Watch

No. 3 Utah at USC

It's role reversal in the most obvious of ways in Saturday's top game. Utah will head to Los Angeles to face the USC Trojans in a battle that is sure to shape the CFP conversation in the Pac-12, but not in the way many thought some two months ago.

No, it's safe to say nobody could have envisioned this program sitting at 3-3 without a head coach. Even the most pessimistic Trojan supporter couldn't see this coming, a team with true championship aspirations falling apart so quickly.

USC hung in there against Notre Dame last weekend, but the slate doesn't get any easier, as Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com noted:

Turmoil at USC is nothing new, but the real shock comes with the team they welcome to Southern California. The Utah Utes have transformed from a team on the outside of the Top 25 outlook into the Pac-12's lone unbeaten and one of the nation's marquee teams.

Stiff tests have continued to come the Utes' way as they are asked to prove their championship qualifications, and they've passed them all. Amid tough slugfests against California and Arizona State, Utah came out on top.

A big reason why is the impact rushing of Devontae Booker, who is averaging 130 yards per game and also leads the Utes in receptions. Even with a trip to USC proving to be a tough one, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports wondered if Booker would dominate:

An ability to establish the run should be paramount in this showdown. USC's run defense hasn't been terrible, ranking seventh in the Pac-12 while allowing 170.7 yards per game, but the Trojans let up around the 200-yard mark against both Stanford and Notre Dame this year.

USC's offense runs through quarterback Cody Kessler much more than its run game, but his aerial attack shouldn't scare off Utah's defense too much. The secondary is fresh off facing some of the most potent passing attacks in the Pac-12.

With that being said, Utah is in the midst of a Pac-12 murderer's row, and for the first time teams are coming at them like they're a national powerhouse. Don't think the Trojans haven't heard about Utah's ascent, and that should have them fired up to have a shot at dethroning the Utes.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 8 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

It's a down week on the national schedule—hence why College GameDay is at James Madison instead of an FBS location—but therein lies the beauty of handicapping.

Even with just a handful of ranked matchups and expected close margins, each game against the spread is a mystery.

The new Associated Press Top 25 features four non-power conference schools (Memphis, Toledo, Houston and Temple), along with teams such as Pittsburgh and Duke that rarely land on national television. The degree of difficulty for researching and picking these games is going up, but if you do the work, there's value all over the board.

As always, feel free to chime in below with your opinions or questions about the picks. I'll explain my rationale beneath each game, but of course we can always dive deeper. Just remember to keep it civil and that no one here hates your team.

The line is our only enemy.

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College Football Playoff Notebook: Dark-Horse Teams Inching Us Closer to Chaos

I have a confession to make: I love chaos. 

I want there to be so much chaos that the average fan taps out due to stress. There is never enough madness in college football; there can only be more. With my love of bedlam out in the open, I present the following statement.

Two months into the season, undefeated Iowa—yes, that Iowa, the one with a schedule more favorable than any other Top 25 team—is very much in the College Football Playoff mix. But let’s not stop there.

Let’s throw in Oklahoma State for some added spice. While we’re at it, toss in some Memphis. And sure, sprinkle in a little Toledo. Now, mix it all together, and what do we have? A delicious, potent dark-horse cocktail.

While it’s unlikely that any of these teams will still be standing at the very end, the possibility exists. And possibility, for those who abide by this theory, is all we need.

For Iowa, with regular-season games against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska, the formula is there despite sustaining massive injuries.

Oklahoma State, the most puzzling of the undefeated teams, will play TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all at home. It is unlikely all three of those games will be wins, but what about just two of the three?

And Memphis and Toledo present the most chaotic doomsday scenario of them all. The Tigers’ win over Ole Miss validates the resume a great deal, but things will have to break their way in order to push a Power Five team aside. And Toledo, with a win over Arkansas, will have to hope for this house of cards to collapse and deliver unprecedented style points along the way.

ESPN wants no part of this theory. Ratings and underdog brands do not mix well with New Year’s Eve semifinal games. 

But more than halfway through the season, at a time when the underdog usually lies down after an ambitious run, a handful of unfamiliar logos are trudging right along. The chaos theory is still intact for a select few.

How long they sustain this role is to be determined. Hopefully, it's a while longer. 

As for other College Football Playoff observations—including a Q&A with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, here’s where we stand heading into Week 8.

 

Arrow Pointing Up: LSU 

It’s time to seriously consider Les Miles’ team as a playoff threat if you haven’t already. No longer just a bulldozing, cheat-code running back, the Tigers suddenly have weapons well beyond Leonard Fournette.

They showed that against Florida on Saturday, beating a feisty team with its backup quarterback, doing so with a familiar running game but also through the air and with defense. If quarterback Brandon Harris can continue to develop, the Tigers have a wonderful shot at making the playoff.

And there is also that Fournette character. Did we mention him? 

The issue with LSU, if one exists, is the schedule. The Tigers draw Western Kentucky this week, an underrated opponent. After a bye, LSU will travel to Alabama and Ole Miss. It will also play Arkansas and Texas A&M at home.

While many of these teams might seem down at the moment, not many have a more difficult closing gauntlet. Still, they are more than capable to handle it all.

 

Arrow Pointing Down: Michigan

There’s not much to say, really. In 10 seconds, Michigan went from a trendy College Football Playoff pick to a team in need of a great deal of help. The margin for error—even with this more inclusive system—is still so marginally thin. One play can change an entire season, and it did just that for the Wolverines.

The reality of this final botched punt still hasn’t set in. (It will never set in.)

While it’s an enormous setback, Michigan isn’t dead. Not with so much time left. A lot will need to happen for the Wolverines to get back into the hunt, but a Big Ten championship can be had. They will need help, but it's still there, hovering in the distance.

Perhaps four undefeated teams will waltz into the playoff and eliminate teams like this; something tells me it will be slightly more complicated than that. Still, this was a major setback. There's no other way to shape it.

 

Is Stanford Suddenly Ohio State 2.0? 

The formula is familiar. Come in with high expectations, lose a really ugly football game early in the year, lose the interest of the football world and follow it up by playing dominant football for the foreseeable future.

Last year, this was the blueprint Ohio State followed after its loss to Virginia Tech. The result was an appearance in the College Football Playoff and a national championship.

This year, at least early on, Stanford seems to have grabbed the baton.

Since falling helplessly to Northwestern in Week 1—a game that prompted many to dig Stanford its grave—the team has rebounded. Last Thursday’s 56-35 win over UCLA followed a 55-17 win over Arizona. Suddenly, behind do-everything back Christian McCaffrey, this offense has life.

This catch was pretty decent, too.

The team is rolling. The defense should get better. The whole machine can still improve.

At No. 10 in the AP poll, climbing back up, the schedule sets up remarkably well. Stanford’s remaining road games are Washington State and Colorado. David Shaw’s team also plays Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon and Washington. It will likely be a favorite from here on out. 

Add in a potential matchup in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Utah—a matchup that is looking more and more feasible—and Stanford has newfound life. Win out, and it's almost assured.

There is a long way to go for a College Football Playoff bid to be realized, but an early loss will certainly help. That feels like ages ago for the team now ranked No. 10, and the selection committee will share a similar sentiment. After all, it did last year.

 

Talking College Football Playoff With ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit

Each Saturday night, after a long, exhausting, 18-hour day, ESPN analyst and College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit unveils his updated College Football Playoff top four, and the football world usually loses its mind.

His Twitter mentions at these hours are some of the Internet’s darkest back alleys. But he always takes it in stride, and the man loves his job. (He’s also fabulous at it.)

Although Herbstreit does not have any say in how the final field will ultimately look, the man knows plenty about the playoff. So late last week, before the Week 7 games were completed, I asked Herbstreit a few playoff-related questions regarding this season, the chaos and potential changes ahead.

 

Bleacher Report: Does it feel like the chaotic nature of this season could make life difficult on the selection committee?

Kirk Herbstreit: It does remind me a little bit of where we were heading in 2007, when we had such chaos toward the end. For me, however, it’s still too early.

Eventually, a lot of these teams will have to play each other, so there will be some separation. But I think it will go all the way down to that final week, and the committee will likely have a much tougher time this year than it did last year. There are a lot of good teams, but there don’t seem to be a lot of great teams. Maybe that will change, but that’s what I see right now.

If this thing finishes the way it potentially could, where you have, say, seven teams with one loss, that argument for the No. 4 spot is going to be as nasty as it has ever been. Again, it reminds me a lot of ’07.

I had coaches calling me that night telling me why his team deserved to be in over whoever else. I think it’s going to be a lot like that. And you’re going to have five, six or seven teams thinking this is a corrupt system wondering if there’s a conspiracy.

Twitter may implode when that committee comes out with its final decision in December. It could get nasty. And guys like us, who have to have our own Final Four, will just be pinatas. They’re going to hate us if they don’t already.

 

BR: You post your own playoff rankings each week. What is the typical response?

KH: Oh, I get a bit of everything.

“I love your rankings, that was spot on!”

“You’re such a moron, I can’t stand you!”

People think you’re a genius if you include their teams. If you leave someone’s team out, then you haven’t watched them or you’re not giving them the credit they deserve. It comes with the territory.

To me, honestly, that’s what makes this great. As crazy as it can get, I love that people care so much about the sport. I don’t think you get this with college basketball, the NFL or the NBA. But man, you release your top four in college football in August, and it is game on. That’s very unique, and it says a lot about the passion that we have these fans.

 

BR: There are a lot of parallels being made between Ohio State this year and Florida State last year. Do you think the committee will view the Buckeyes—and teams with a lot of talent and perhaps a lack of style points—differently following the Seminoles’ playoff struggles?

KH: Florida State last year just sort of flirted with disaster all of last year—maybe seven or eight times. They showed the heart of a champion and found a way to win.

Personally, if you have a team coming out of the Big Ten—regardless of whether or not they’re defending national champions—and they run the table, it’s hard for me to see the committee looking at a school like Ohio State and leaving them out of the Final Four.

I don’t want to say anything is impossible, but if there’s anything close to being impossible, it would be that.

 

BR: Is there anything with the selection process that you would like to see changed?

KH: Not yet. I think some metrics to help the committee with strength of schedule to help verify their rankings is something worth discussing, but I kind of like it right now. I like the way the committee votes.

But I would lean to eventually getting this to eight. I still think we would maintain the regular season mattering, which is something I am very big on. I think if you go to eight, you still get these same arguments and have everything at stake week-to-week. If it got there, I would still be cool with it.

That’s the one thing I would probably bring up; the possibility of it expanding. 

 

Herbstreit has teamed up with college football sponsor Allstate for the “It’s Good Sweepstakes,” which will award one lucky winner and three friends with a trip to New Orleans for the 2016 Allstate® Sugar Bowl® before traveling to Phoenix for the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Allstate and Herbstreit have been handing out #StreitCred on Twitter each week, spotlighting the strongest team performances and standout moments as they unfold on the gridiron. For more information, visit www.AllstateCFB.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 8

The college football landscape has become more defined after this past weekend of action, with several high-profile matchups giving us definitive winners (as well as those who came out on top thanks to miraculous plays). And as we move into the second half of the 2015 season, a clear pecking order is taking shape at the top and trickling downward.

You'll see the same in the latest version of the Bleacher Report power rankings.

Bleacher Report's power rankings are comprised of an average of five sources: B/R's weekly Top 25, the Associated Press Top 25, the Amway Coaches Poll, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings and the author's personal rankings for every FBS school. The top 50 teams are broken down individually, while the rest of the 128 FBS teams are summarized in a few easy-to-digest chunks.

Check out where everyone ranks after six weeks, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section. 

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Kansas State vs. Texas Complete Game Preview

Texas and Kansas State meet in Austin on Saturday, trying to get the second half of their seasons off to a good start.

Fresh off meetings with Oklahoma, the Longhorns and Wildcats are trending in opposite directions. The former pulled off one of the season's biggest surprises in the Red River Rivalry, knocking off the then-No. 10 Sooners 24-17.

The win sent Charlie Strong's team into its bye week on a high note and with a reason for optimism. The young Longhorns are finally clicking, and the schedule gets much easier over the year's final six games.

Things didn't go so well for Bill Snyder's team the following week. The Wildcats got the full brunt of the Sooners' frustrations, getting housed 55-0 at home.

At home, Texas should hold at slight edge as the more talented team, but we all know better than to count out Snyder.

 

Date: Saturday, October 24

Time: Noon ET

Location: Royal Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas

TV: Fox Sports 1

Line: Texas -3.5, according to Odds Shark

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Duke vs. Virginia Tech: Complete Game Preview

The Virginia Tech Hokies head back to Lane Stadium on Saturday in dire need of a win. It's a situation the Hokies faced two weeks ago when N.C. State came to town after back-to-back losses.

Last week, Tech dropped to 3-4 (1-2) on the season with a disappointing, turnover-filled performance at Miami.

Brenden Motley started the game for the Hokies and turned the ball over three times before a returning Michael Brewer replaced him. Brewer made things interesting, but he also turned the ball over late and Tech's defense couldn't stop Miami when it mattered the most.

Next up for the Hokies: the Duke Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0).

Duke is coming to Blacksburg as a winner of three straight. The Blue Devils defeated Army by a score of 44-3 last weekend.

The Hokies lead the all-time series 14-8 and have dominated Duke since entering the ACC back in 2004. VT is 10-1 since becoming ACC rivals with the Blue Devils. Duke's lone win came two years ago in Blacksburg.

  • When: Saturday, October 24, 2015
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPNU
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: The Hokies are currently 2.5-point favorites, per Odds Shark.

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