The 2023 college football season moves into Week 8 with some very big games on the schedule. Television networks generally like to have the bigger conference showdowns later in the season, so that the stakes are higher and teams don’t pick up losses in the first few weeks of the year. We have arrived at that precise point in the season where these really big matchups are going to appear on the slate each week. There are a few of note in Week 8, with more to come later in the season. Let’s grab those big showdowns and look at other games involving top-25 teams:
Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes
Odds: Ohio State -5.5 at BetOnline
The Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions are both unbeaten, and they both know that later in the season, they will face the Michigan Wolverines in the battle for the Big Ten East Division championship and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, most likely against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Winning this game is a necessary step toward not only the Big Ten title, but a spot in the College Football Playoff. The loser would have to beat Michigan and possibly get help from other sources later in the season. The winner would be in position to make the playoff with a win over Michigan down the line.
The matchup here seems to favor Penn State, even though Ohio State is at home. Penn State has a very strong defensive line, while Ohio State has a weak offensive line which has struggled against relatively ordinary opponents such as Maryland and a two-loss Notre Dame team. Ohio State’s win over Notre Dame was very close. The Buckeyes won in the last 10 seconds and did not play well on offense in that game. Penn State has played a lot of weak teams so far this season, which is a valid reason to be skeptical of the Nittany Lions. However, they have not needed to play their best game over the past several weeks. This is a game they will be highly motivated to play. Ohio State has great skill position talent, but it lacks the superstar quarterback it had last year – C.J. Stroud – to maximize its offensive potential. Penn State will play great defense in this game and keep it close enough to cover. The Nittany Lions have a very good chance of winning outright on the road in Columbus.
Pick: Penn State +5.5
Air Force Falcons at Navy Midshipmen
Odds: Air Force -10.5
The big news here is that Air Force is without its starting quarterback, Zac Larrier, who is expected to miss multiple weeks with an injury suffered this past weekend against Wyoming. Meanwhile, Navy isn’t sure of its quarterback situation, with the starting role up for grabs heading into this game. It’s a noon kickoff in Annapolis, Maryland, so Air Force players might be a little sluggish at the beginning. Ultimately, it’s the kind of game which invites a lot of uncertainty to begin with.
Academy rivalries are fierce and contentious, often in years when one team appears to be a lot better than the other. The quarterback situations for both teams inject a lot more uncertainty into the mix. This is not the best game to bet on because of all the variables involved, but Air Force is an outstanding team which has not yet lost this season. As long as its backup quarterback is reasonably competent and responsible (in other words, he doesn’t commit turnovers), Air Force should be able to win the game. However, it’s more likely to be close than not, and that’s why Navy is probably the better choice against the spread.
Pick: Navy +10.5
Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide
Odds: Alabama -8.5
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers did not play well last week. Both teams made lots of mistakes and both teams failed to put away games which should have been over long before the final gun. Tennessee let Texas A&M hang around before finally fending off the Aggies, and Alabama let an 18-point lead get sliced to just three before surviving against Arkansas. Which team will improve this week? Which team will reduce mistakes and play much closer to its capabilities? It’s an open question, and it’s not as though either team merits complete and unquestioned confidence this week. However, Nick Saban has earned the benefit of the doubt more than Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. Alabama is also playing at home and should be fully motivated to avenge last year’s wrenching loss to the Vols. It’s not a great betting situation, but if you do have to lean in one direction, Alabama is the better play. Lay the points at Bovada.
Pick: Alabama -8.5
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Iowa Hawkeyes
Odds: Iowa -3.5
The total for this game is 30.5, the lowest over-under total of the whole year in college football. This is because Iowa is playing with a backup quarterback and a backup tight end against a Minnesota team which has repeatedly shown it cannot throw the football with much of any consistency. Last week, Iowa won 15-6 on the road against Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes got an 82-yard touchdown run and gained fewer than 200 yards combined on all of their other offensive plays. They also recorded a safety on defense. Iowa, if it could hold Wisconsin to just six points, can hold an even worse Minnesota offense to no more than six points. Iowa probably won’t score more than 16 or 17 points in this game.
Minnesota probably won’t score more than 10. Iowa, despite all of its offensive limitations, is still more likely than not to cover the spread.
Pick: Iowa -3.5
Washington State Cougars at Oregon Ducks
Odds: Oregon -19.5
This is a game which looks very different from a few weeks ago. In early October, Washington State looked like a good team. The Cougars had just beaten Oregon State, a very talented opponent, and were in the thick of the Pac-12 race. Abruptly, the Cougars have spiraled downward. They lost at UCLA and were then crushed by 38 points against Arizona last week. Is Washington State in a permanent state of decline, or will this be a week when the Cougars bounce back?
Oregon is coming off a physically and mentally draining game against Washington. The Ducks are a much better team than Washington State, but they might not play with maximum energy and passion in this game. This is a hangover situation for them. Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine Washington State playing a third straight horrible game. Oregon wins, but Washington State should cover the very large point spread.
Pick: Washington State +19.5
Texas Longhorns at Houston Cougars
Odds: Texas -22.5
This is a revival of an old Southwest Conference rivalry. Texas and Houston battled in the late 1970s and early 1980s to see which team would win the Southwest Conference and go to the Cotton Bowl. Now these teams are – for one year – conference members again in the Big 12 before the Longhorns leave for the SEC. This will not be a close game. Houston is having a really difficult season under coach Dana Holgorsen. Texas has far better athletes and will not be tested.
Pick: Texas -22.5
Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans
Odds: Michigan -24.5
This is a game which is often close, even if there seems to be a large gap between the two on paper. Michigan State is not a good team, not even close, but the Spartans always get up for Michigan. Take the Spartans against the enormous spread.
Pick: Michigan State +24.5
Duke Blue Devils at Florida State Seminoles
Odds: Florida State -14.5
This is a fascinating matchup. There is a chance that Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, who was injured a few weeks ago against Notre Dame, could return to the Duke lineup for this game. Duke really needs Leonard to not only play, but be effective. The Blue Devils aren’t the same team if Leonard is physically limited. Duke needs a full-strength version of Leonard. It’s hard to be optimistic that Leonard will be 100-percent fit. Therefore, take Florida State against the spread.
Pick: Florida State -14.5
Clemson Tigers at Miami Hurricanes
Odds: Clemson -3
This is a highly intriguing game. Clemson was viewed as a national championship contender before the season but has already lost two games. Miami has lost two straight and is already at a point where the season is nearly a lost cause. It’s a must-win game for both sides. Clemson has not impressed anyone, but Miami might actually be worse. Take Clemson.
Pick: Clemson -3
Arizona State Sun Devils at Washington Huskies
Odds: Washington -27.5
This is a mismatch. Washington just beat Oregon and is unbeaten and in the top five of the national rankings. The Huskies have a great chance to make the College Football Playoff. Arizona State is one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 and is dealing with lots of injuries. Washington will win very comfortably. However, will it win by at least four touchdowns? Washington was physically drained by the Oregon game. The Huskies might jog through this game without putting forth a lot of mental energy. This will enable ASU to cover. Huskies 38, Sun Devils 14.
Pick: Arizona State +27.5
Utah Utes at USC Trojans
Odds: USC -7
This is a rematch of the Pac-12 Championship Game from last year, in which Utah won and denied the Trojans a spot in the College Football Playoff. Utah, however, is without quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Thomas Yassmin, among other players. USC is not playing well at all, but Utah needs Cam Rising to be an elite team. USC will win for that reason. However, Utah always plays USC tough and close. The Utes won’t get the victory, but they will cover.