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

2020 College Football Picks: Week Eight

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

Current Picks Record: 12-4 (1-1 Upset)

 (#18) Michigan Wolverines @ (#21) Minnesota Golden Gophers

Line: Michigan -3

Over/Under: 56.5

The Big Ten returns this weekend with a number of big games, capped off by this duel between Michigan and Minnesota. College GameDay is in town for the second time in as many years for Minnesota, adding an extra layer of pressure for P.J. Fleck's team. The Gophers are expected to have an explosive offense, even as they break in two new co-coordinators. Veteran QB Tanner Morgan was terrific throughout 2019 and his top target, Rashod Bateman, is also back after a brief opt-out. Bateman will be a stiff challenge for this Michigan secondary, which relies on physical, man-to-man defense. Don't be surprised if Chris Autman-Bell also gets in on the action as he'll have his opportunities on underneath routes. The primary concern for this Gopher offense entering this one is on the offensive line. While five starters returned to this group this fall, right guard Curtis Dunlap and right tackle Daniel Faalele are both expected to be out. Against a Wolverine defense that loves to blitz, it will be interesting to see how Minnesota handles this. They'll also need it to get their ground attack going; this offense finds its rhythm on the ground before Bateman takes the top off a defense.

On the Michigan side, they're breaking in a new signal-caller in Joe Milton. Michigan fans are excited about the youngster, who has a huge arm and a huge athlete. While it will be his first start, the fact that there will not be fans in the stands will be a major plus. Milton is surrounded by back Zach Charbonnet and a decent receivers corps, although losing Nico Collins is a major blow. Ronnie Bell is now the "veteran" of this group, and he'll have to get things going. The Wolverines are going to want to throw the ball, but I expect their ground game will also be a priority. Minnesota's rush defense loses a number of key pieces, namely Kamal Martin and Carter Coughlin. It wouldn't be shocking to see the Gopher defense have an off-day, even against an inexperienced offense. I'm interested to see what Joe Rossi draws up on the defensive side to try and address these losses. 

I'I'm conflicted about how to feel about this matchup. Admittedly, I'm a lifelong Gopher fan, and I don't think it's crazy to think this is the best Minnesota team in my lifetime. But, I have a lot of respect for Jim Harbaugh, and the defensive concerns for Minnesota are significant. Even though both offenses may start out a little bit slow considering the timing of this start, it could end up being a shootout. With that being said, I trust the Gopher offense more at this point. Morgan, Bateman, and running back Mo Ibrahim are proven offensive weapons, and the O-Line should hold up. I'm never very confident in Minnesota sports, but this Gopher team should be able to prove me right. 

Minnesota, 34 Michigan, 30

(#9) Cincinnati Bearcats @ (#16) SMU Mustangs

Line: Cincinnati -1

Over/Under: 57.5

Perhaps the most underrated of this weekend's slate is this action between Cincinnati and SMU, which will be crucial in the American Athletic Conference race. Both teams sit undefeated, with Cincinnati jumping out to a 3-0 start. However, the Bearcats have yet to see any AAC action in 2020 with last weekend's matchup with Tulsa cancelled. The strength of this team is unquestionably their defense, allowing just 12.3 points per game. Linebacker Jarrell White is the team tackle leader, but its safety James Wiggins that really gets them going. He's one of the best coverage players on this team, and can still get after opposing quarterbacks. Cincy will use him creatively against an explosive SMU offense. The bigger question for the Bearcats is whether their own offense will be able to keep up. QB Desmond Ridder has had a solid year, but turnovers have become a problem. He'll need plenty of help from backs Gerrid Doaks and Charles McClelland, who both can catch out of the backfield. SMU's defense is far from great, but they do some creative stuff to mask their deficiencies.

SMU is led by Heisman contender Shane Buechele, a former Texas transfer. Buechele has already racked up 1,710 yards on the year and he's also playing more efficient, posting a higher completion percentage than in years past. Unfortunately, he won't have his favorite receiver with him heading into this one. Reggie Roberson Jr. is out for the reason due to a knee injury, leaving the Mustangs without one of their chief playmakers. Running back Ulysses Bentley IV will also have to pick up more weight, with starter T.J. McDaniel joining Roberson on the injury list. Bentley has been a pleasant surprise, as the freshman is averaging nearly seven yards per carry. He's the type of playmaker teams need to open things up against this stout Bearcats' defense. We'll also see how this SMU offensive line holds up; it has played decent so far this year, but Cincy is probably the toughest defensive front they've seen all season long.

This is the classic battle between an elite offense and terrific defense and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out. SMU has surprised me this season; while they were a fringe Top 25 team to begin the year, I've been surprised at their ability to finish close games this season. However, I still believe that Cincinnati is the more well-rounded team. They have a deep, experienced defense that should be able to contain a Roberson-less Mustang offense. The big question is on Ridder; can he make the plays necessary to put them over the top? If not, it wouldn't be surprising to see continued expansion of backup Ben Bryant's role.

Cincinnati, 35 SMU, 27

(#17) Iowa State Cyclones @ (#6) Oklahoma State Cowboys

Line: Oklahoma State -4

Over/Under: 61.5

We didn't expect Iowa State and Oklahoma State to be potentially the biggest game of the regular season in the Big 12, but here we are. Iowa State has recovered from a season-opening loss to Louisiana-Lafayette to win their last three games. The offense has been rolling behind the leadership of quarterback Brock Purdy and tailback Breece Hall. Hall in particular has been a touchdown machine since that ULL game, rushing for seven in those last three. He faces an Oklahoma State defense that struggles to defend the pass, but actually has a pretty good rush defense. Purdy should take to the air early and often, but the Cyclones really need new faces to emerge on the perimeter. Senior Landen Akers has shown big-play ability, but this offense could still use an extra spark considering the offense on the other side.

Oklahoma State has traditionally been an explosive offense but they've dealt with the injury bug early on in 2020. Starting quarterback Spencer Sanders has been injured since the opener, forcing freshman Shane Illingworth into the starting role. Sanders is expected to be ready to go for this one and he should start. Sanders still can struggle with turnovers, but he's also shown the arm strength necessary to run this offense. Star back Chuba Hubbard also has not been 100 percent, but he should also be ready to roll in this one. He was a little bit quieter in this matchup than normal a year ago, primarily because Iowa State's rush defense has been so strong. We'll see if he can really get going after a fairly quiet start to this season. Expect the Cowboys to still utilize backup L.D. Brown extensively, as he's thrived during Hubbard's issues. On the outside, wide out Tylan Wallace will be excited that his main quarterback is back in action. Wallace has still been effective, totaling 325 yards, but he should be even more dangerous with Sanders running the show. Oklahoma State does need somebody else to step up as well beyond Wallace if they want to move the ball against a skilled Cyclone defense. Look at senior Dillon Stoner as a real possibility; he's been surprisingly contained.

Despite not being 100 percent, Oklahoma State has asserted themselves as the early favorite in the Big 12 Title chase. Yet, they still haven't beaten a ranked team and their best win is a fairly mediocre West Virginia squad. This is a major opportunity to prove themselves at home against an Iowa State team that's playing some great football. The two are pretty evenly matched top to bottom, although the return of Sanders might give OSU a slight edge on offense. Perhaps if this game was in Ames, I'd roll with the Cyclones but home-field advantage leads me to pick the Cowboys. 

Oklahoma State, 38 Iowa State, 28

Other Picks

(#8) Penn State @ Indiana -- Penn State, 27 Indiana, 24

(#23) NC State @ (#14) UNC -- UNC, 37 NC State, 24

(#3) Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh -- Notre Dame, 20 Pittsburgh, 13

(#2) Alabama @ Tennessee -- Alabama, 49 Tennessee, 21

Upset Pick: Wake Forest, 34 Virginia Tech, 30

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.