Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

College Football Picks 2018: Week Eight

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
(#6) Michigan Wolverines @ (#24) Michigan State Spartans
After slow starts to the 2018 season, both Michigan schools are playing great football, and collide with plenty on the line. The Wolverines are still undefeated in conference play, thanks in large part to a much improved offense and a typically stingy defense. Quarterback Shea Patterson has been key in the offense's growth; after struggling against Notre Dame, he has played with confidence and poise, while completing 69% of his throws and managing 11 touchdowns. Just as important has been the play of the offensive line, which has thrown around by ND, but has seemingly figured things out. They'll need to play well here, in order to open things up for Karan Higdon and the ground game. That is easier said than done against a Michigan State defensive front that is always tough and gritty, but the Wolverines should find a way. On the outside, the Spartans need to find a way to shut down Donovan Peoples-Jones, who can break open a game every time he comes in contact with the ball. He is a dangerous receiver, but may be even more lethal on special teams. This isn't Mark Dantonio's best MSU defense, but there is plenty of experience and depth. If they can get Patterson uncomfortable, which he hasn't really been since that season opener, they are going to find success. The key for the Spartans will be putting up points of their own, which has been surprisingly difficult this season, despite the experience they possess. Quarterback Brian Lewerke has been okay, and does offer playmaking potential with his feet, but this Michigan defense is probably the toughest he has seen yet this year. On the D-Line, end Chase Winovich is one of the most disruptive players in the land, and the Wolverines are hopeful his fellow linemen Rashan Gary, is 100 percent in this one. Beyond them lies All-American linebacker Devin Bush and a secondary that is suffocating. Michigan State has a number of solid receivers, namely Cody White and Felton Davis, but they lack the speed and explosiveness necessary to really break things open. With that in mind, I expect the Spartans to run a grinding, run-based offense here. Can Conner Heyward or one of these other backs make some plays against this UM defense? If not, its hard to imagine the Spartans keeping up with Patterson and the Wolverines offense. On paper, I think Michigan is the much better team but of course, football games are not played on paper. Going into East Lansing and coming out with a victory is incredibly difficult, as Jim Harbaugh very well knows. Has this Wolverines team turned the corner and is ready to win games like this? I think so, but only time will tell.
The Pick: Michigan, 31 Michigan State, 20

(#16) NC State Wolfpack @ (#3) Clemson Tigers
The lone remaining undefeated teams in the ACC clash this Saturday, as NC State must go on the road and find a way to overcome the three-time reigning conference champs. The Wolfpack might not have the insane amount of talent Clemson has, but there is a reason this time is 5-0. They have a strong, veteran quarterback in Ryan Finley, plenty of playmakers around him offensively, and an aggressive defense. Finley has never been one to put up eye-popping stats, but he has proven himself as an intelligent QB that can make some really impressive throws. Receivers Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers have had huge seasons already, and are big, physical targets to work with. The Tigers do feature some really solid defensive backs, but this NC State offense is going to be a challenge, and Clemson has to be on their A game. The good news for Clemson is that they still feature the most imposing defensive front in the sport at the moment, and the Wolfpack's O-Line is not exactly elite. Finley doesn't often get rattled, but it is a whole different ball game when you have four future NFL Draft selections racing at you, all with unbelievably high motors and a nose for the football. On the other side of the ball, NC State has been a surprise, ranking 16th in the nation in points allowed, despite missing Bradley Chubb and a whole host of contributors from 2017's defense. The most important duty for them in this game is to tackle in space. Clemson back Travis Etienne is averaging an astonishing 9.2 yards per carry despite getting a ton of usage in this offense. If he is able to get a lane, he'll burst through with some tantalizing speed, which NC State can't afford to let happen. They should stack the box and make true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence beat them, but it is a risky strategy. Despite his youth, Lawrence has looked wonderful this season and he has a lot of weapons on the perimeter, most notably Tee Higgins and the ultra-reliable Hunter Renfrow. Going into Death Valley will be awfully precarious for Finley and this Wolfpack team, but I think they will really compete in this game. They've given Clemson fits the last few seasons and they have a lot of veteran leadership on this roster that has played in these big games. I still lean Clemson here just because its so hard to beat them at home and Dabo Swinney will have them pumped up, but gear up for a close one.
The Pick: Clemson, 28 NC State, 26

(#12) Oregon Ducks @ (#25) Washington State Cougars
With their victory over Washington last week and a favorable schedule ahead of them, Oregon now appears to be the Pac-12's best hope at returning to the College Football Playoff. But first, they'll have to get through Washington State, who has been a great story en route to a 5-1 first half. The Cougars have not missed record-setting QB Luke Falk, as Mike Leach's system continues to produce big-time results. Former East Carolina transfer Gardner Minshew is on track for nearly 5,000 passing yards and despite the fact he throws so much he is pretty efficient, completing 69% of his passes and notching a 19-4 TD-INT ratio. The Cougars feature a ton of receivers that can do serious damage on the outside and stretch the field to help bring out an underrated rushing attack. Oregon's defense continues to improve under the guidance of coordinator Jim Leavitt, but they have not faced an offense quite like this in 2018. How will the secondary, which is still pretty young, react? Either way, the Ducks should be able to counter with plenty of offensive fireworks. They also feature a superb weapon under center in junior Justin Herbert, who is widely viewed by NFL scouts as the most likely first QB off the board next spring. He has a great arm that can make all the throws, and has established a potent connection with wide out Dillon Mitchell. Mitchell has nearly 1/3 of the Ducks' receptions on the season and he can really take the top off any defense. For all the progress Leach has made at Washington State, the Cougars still have some issues on defense, and none more apparent than the secondary. WSU is very prone to the big play, and Mitchell should certainly be able to take advantage of that. Oregon also has plenty of options at running back, with the top playmaker being C.J. Verdell, who has 561 yards on the season. Travis Dye and Tony Brooks-James can also be utilized as change-of-pace options as can lumbering Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who has six touchdowns on just 13 carries. If you like offense, there is no better spot to watch it than this game, which is sure to keep the scoreboard operators busy. The key will be who can make some defensive stops or force some turnovers. Right now, I have more confidence in the Ducks' defense to do that, which is why I'm picking them, even going on the road to Pullman.
The Pick: Oregon, 49 Washington State, 44

Other Picks
Colorado @ (#15) Washington: Washington, 30 Colorado, 28
(#9) Oklahoma @ TCU: Oklahoma, 52 TCU, 37
(#1) Alabama @ Tennessee: Alabama, 49 Tennessee, 13
(#22) Mississippi State @ (#5) LSU: LSU, 34 Mississippi State, 21
(#18) Penn State @ Indiana: Indiana, 28 Penn State, 27

Current Picks Record: 44-12

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.