Week 8 of the college football season does not have a matchup between ranked teams.
That does not mean there aren’t intriguing matchups. Four ranked teams are underdogs against unranked opponents, including No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 10 Oregon. LSU, which agreed to part ways with Ed Orgeron at the end of the season, travels to No. 12 Ole Miss. No. 13 Notre Dame resumes its rivalry with USC, which fired coach Clay Helton after Week 2.
No. 1 Alabama and Tennessee renew their rivalry in the SEC, and No. 23 Pitt has a chance to knock Clemson out of the ACC race for good this season.
BENDER: Winners and losers from Week 7 | Playoff picture takes shape | Who’s next at LSU?
Each week, Sporting News picks every AP Top 25 game by the spread. Here is a look at our track record this season:
With that in mind, a look at this week’s picks:
Week 8 Picks ATS
Wednesday, Oct. 20
No. 14 Coastal Carolina (-3.5) at Appalachian State (7:30 p.m., ESPN2)
The Chanticleers are 5-1 ATS, and this is a huge Sun Belt showdown on the road. Coastal Carolina has the top-scoring offense in the FBS at 48.8 points per game, and the Mountaineers are coming off a blowout loss to Louisiana. The low spread is a little worrisome, but you take the better offensive team.
Pick: Coastal Carolina wins 38-31 and COVERS the spread.
Thursday, Oct. 21
Tulane at No. 21 SMU (-14.5) (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Tulane has lost four straight games in blowout fashion, but the Green Wave had a bye week to recalibrate. The Mustangs are 2-2 ATS when favored by double digits against FBS schools. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by four points or less.
Pick: SMU wins 37-27 and FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Saturday, Oct. 23
No. 2 Cincinnati (-27.5) at Navy (12 p.m. ESPN2)
The Bearcats have scored 50-plus points in their last two games in easy covers, and they beat Navy 42-0 last season. The Midshipmen are at home, where they’ve covered the last two games. Cincinnati will run it up given the opportunity, but we think Navy holds on for a cover here.
Pick: Cincinnati wins 40-14 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
No. 3 Oklahoma (-38.5) at Kansas (12 p.m., ESPN)
Kansas is bad, and they have lost by an average of 32.5 points in Big 12 home games against Baylor and Texas. Oklahoma has found its hyper-drive with Caleb Williams at quarterback, too. Look for the Sooners to keep the big-play offense rolling in the first half.
Pick: Oklahoma wins 51-10 and COVERS the spread.
Illinois at No. 6 Penn State (-23.5) (12 p.m., ABC)
Will quarterback Sean Clifford play? That makes this game tough to pick, especially knowing Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten with 17.7 points per game. Still, the Illini are 3-1 ATS as underdogs this season, and that is a big line knowing there is a quarterback issue.
Pick: Penn State wins 38-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Northwestern at No. 7 Michigan (-21.5)
This line has jumped two points from its open, and the Wolverines will be refreshed coming off a bye week. Northwestern has played awful on the road this season. Michigan has won four of the last six meetings, but four of those have been one-score games. We think that opening line was closer to the truth.
Pick: Michigan wins 37-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
No. 16 Wake Forest (-3.5) at Army (12 p.m., CBSSN)
The Demon Deacons did have a bye week to prepare for Army’s option attack. Wake Forest allows 173.8 yards rushing per game, so they better not let the Black Knights control the tempo. Army hasn’t lost at home this season either.
Pick: Army wins 34-31 in an UPSET.
No. 8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State (-6.5)
What do the Cowboys have to do to get a little respect? Iowa State is a near-TD favorite at home despite the fact Oklahoma State has won eight of the last 10 meetings. The Cyclones have bounced back from a tough early start, but the Cowboys are a good team. We respect that.
Pick: Oklahoma State wins 34-31 in an UPSET.
No. 10 Oregon at UCLA (-1.5) (3:30 p.m., ABC)
The Ducks are another top team — a legitimate playoff contender — that are an underdog heading into a matchup with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Oregon has failed to cover the last four weeks as a favorite. Maybe another shot as an underdog is exactly what they need.
Pick: Oregon wins 33-28 in an UPSET.
LSU at No. 12 Ole Miss (-10.5) (3:30 p.m., CBS)
Let the Ed Orgeron farewell tour commence. The Tigers are an underdog for the third straight week, and the secondary’s health is worth monitoring against Ole Miss’ high-powered offense. LSU has won the last five meetings in the series, and the running game perked up against Florida. It still won’t be enough.
Pick: Ole Miss wins 42-34 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Clemson at No. 23 Pitt (-3.5) (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Can the Panthers knock the Tigers out once and for all? Clemson’s offense continues to struggle this season, but the defense remains tough. Pitt has a chance to flex with quarterback Kenny Pickett. The Tigers make their statement on the road.
Pick: Clemson wins 28-25 in an UPSET.
Wisconsin (-2.5) at No. 25 Purdue (3:30 p.m., BTN)
The Boilermakers are riding high after an upset against Iowa, and now they face another struggling offense in Wisconsin. The Badgers, however, have a tough run defense and this seems like a spot for a potential letdown. The Badgers have won 14 in a row in this series.
Pick: Wisconsin wins 28-24 and COVERS the spread.
Tennessee at No. 4 Alabama (-27.5) (7 p.m., ESPN)
Get this line before it clears 28 points. The Vols are 1-3 ATS as an underdog, and Alabama appears to be in scorched-earth mode after the loss to Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide have covered three of the last four weeks.
Pick: Alabama wins 49-20 and COVERS the spread.
No. 22 San Diego State at Air Force (-3.5) (7 p.m., CBSSN)
The Aztecs are yet another ranked underdog on the road against the Falcons. San Diego State has won the last eight meetings, and they allow 61.2 rushing yards per game. The Aztecs improve to 7-0, and this line could shift as the week continues.
Pick: San Diego State wins 27-24 in an UPSET.
No. 24 UTSA (-6.5) at Louisiana Tech (7 p.m., TBD)
UTSA bolted into the Top 25, and the Roadrunners are 6-1 ATS this season. Louisiana Tech is tough at home, and they have one-score losses against NC State and SMU. That said, we’re trusting the hot team, even on the road.
Pick: UTSA wins 31-24 and COVERS the spread.
USC at No. 13 Notre Dame (-6.5) (7:30 p.m, NBC)
Notre Dame and USC resume their traditional rivalry, and both teams had an extra week to prepare. The Trojans have played better on the road this season, but the Irish are 1-2 ATS as a favorite. Still, Notre Dame is the more-consistent team. The Irish win their fourth straight in the series.
Pick: Notre Dame wins 29-21 and COVERS the spread.
South Carolina at No. 17 Texas A&M (-21.5) (7:30 p.m., SECN)
Texas A&M has found its rhythm with Zach Calzada at quarterback, and the Aggies are 3-1 ATS when favored by double digits. South Carolina has suffered a few embarrassing blowouts, but that half-point hook could be a saver.
Pick: Texas A&M wins 38-19 and FAILS TO COVER the spread.
No. 5 Ohio State (-18.5) at Indiana (7:30 p.m., ABC)
The Hoosiers and Buckeyes played a one-score classic last season, but a lot has changed for Indiana since last year. Indiana has the same defense, but they don’t have the offensive firepower necessary to keep up with the Buckeyes. The line has dropped a point.
Pick: Ohio State wins 42-20 and COVERS the spread.
No. 19 NC State (-3.5) at Miami (7:30 p.m., ABC)
N.C. State is starting to emerge as an ACC championship favorite, and they hit the road for another crossover test. Tyler Van Dyke has filled in well at quarterback for Miami, which has lost its last two ACC games by a combined total of five points. There is an upset risk here, but we’ll stick with NC State this time.
Pick: NC State wins 34-28 and COVERS the spread.
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