Take The Points: Week 8 College Football Preview: Best Picks Against the Spread

Who was it who said the night is darkest just before the dawn? Whoever it was is a freaking genius, and they must have been talking about my college football gambling picks.

On last week’s podcast, I may or may not have handed out Washington State -14.5 as the lock of the week at Cal on Friday night.


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Okay! Not our best, not our best. For those of you counting at home (and as Rossy Three Stacks points out on this week’s podcast), that’s about a 48.5-point difference between the Vegas spread and the actual final score. Mike Leach swung his sword right through my bankroll…but….

WE BOUNCE BACK BABY! Saturday was fantastic. It started with an epic West Virginia 4th quarter comeback for the win #AndCover, followed by a few more easy wins en route to a 4-1 day. The only loss? Auburn’s meltdown against LSU. Should’ve been 5-0, but I digress…

With a 4-2 spot last week I’m now up to 30-15 on the season. It’s getting serious. We’re at the point where Todd Fuhrman literally texted me this week telling me “don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.” You mean a human ATM, Todd? Is that what you’re saying?

Well fear not, because me, Josh, the Human ATM is here again this week for six winning picks.

Auburn (-15.5) at Arkansas

Like a good cornerback, I’ve got a short memory. I’m letting Auburn off the hook for blowing my perfect record last Saturday and backing the Tigers again here on the road. Auburn’s proven this season that when it wants to show up and play, they’ll kick just about anyone’s ass not named Clemson. When they come out flat, they struggle with Mercer and blow 20-point leads at LSU. Gus Malzahn, who literally ends up on the hot seat anytime he loses a game, didn’t do himself any favors with the fan base when he called the LSU loss “not the end of the world.”

Well, he’s right. Even with two losses, Auburn controls its own destiny to the CFB Playoff. If the Tigers win out, beat Georgia (twice) and Alabama, they’d go. Is that going to happen? No, but Malzahn can sell his team on that, and I bet the players buy in. Arkansas is banged up in all sorts of places, most importantly quarterback. Cole Kelley won’t beat the Tigers with his arm, and the Hogs certainly aren’t beating this Auburn defense on the ground.

PICK: Auburn 38, Arkansas 13

Tennessee at Alabama (-36)

Is this a sucker’s bet? Am I a sucker? Yes and yes.

Roll damn Tide. Tennessee hasn’t scored a touchdown in more than 10 quarters, and that was against UMass in a four-point win. Sometimes teams in spots like this will come out and play an emotional game for their embattled coach. This isn’t the time. The Vols had that chance three weeks ago and got blanked on national TV by Georgia. In a rivalry game, Nick Saban will take every chance he can get to lay the wood on Tennessee. I’d go HARD on Alabama in the first half if you’re into that sort of thing, but I’ll take them for the game too. This might be Alabama’s best team yet under Nick Saban. It could certainly end up as the most dominant.

PICK: Alabama 51, Tennessee 3

West Virginia (-9.5) at Baylor

Am I still a sucker? (Checks self). Yep, I’m still a sucker. This is the weirdest line of the week, which obviously means Baylor is going to cover. Look, West Virginia has some holes. The defense is ranked 111th in total yards. They’re especially bad against the run, where they are 118th in yards per carry allowed. Baylor will gash them for some big runs throughout the game, but the Bears running game has topped 100 yards once in four tries against Power Five teams. Also, you know who’s run defense is even worse than West Virginia’s? Baylor’s! The Bears gave up 747 yards of offense to Oklahoma State. Mason Rudolph, James Washington and company are about as good as it gets this season, but Will Grier and that group of receivers ain’t that far off. WVU will light up the scoreboard and stop Baylor enough to get the cover.

PICK: West Virginia 56, Baylor 35

UCF (-7) at Navy

This was almost a battle of unbeatens, and even though ESPN would probably still have sent Gameday to Penn State to try and promote its primetime game (not a coincidence by the way), it would have been pretty cool to see the scene in Annapolis if they would have come for this game instead.

Central Florida’s offense is remarkable in Scott Frost’s second year. The Knights are outscoring opponents by 33.8 points per game, the highest margin in the country. Quarterback McKenzie Milton has 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. The schedule hasn’t been the stiffest, but they did blow the doors off Memphis a few weeks ago.

Beating Navy always means slowing down the triple option. Well, when your coach once quarterbacked a national championship team running that very offense, my bet is he’ll have some ideas of how to defend it. Frost led Nebraska to the 1997 national title running the wishbone offense and he’ll be ready for Navy’s attack on Saturday. The Knights rank second in the AAC in third-down defense, which is a key stat to pay attention to for Navy/Georgia Tech/Air Force opponents. Get off the field on third downs against that offense, and you can win games.

PICK: Central Florida 41, Navy 24

Michigan at Penn State (-9.5)

This line opened way way way higher, around 12.5 or 13, before smart people bet it down under double digits. I would have loved to be one of those people. I’m not ready to back off the Michigan bandwagon quite yet. It might just be me and Jim Harbaugh’s family still riding it, but I’m there. I throw out the Michigan State loss because the Wolverines turned it over five times in a literal flood. The Indiana game was tricky, and while I would have liked to see Michigan not have to go to overtime before beating the Hoosiers, I still think they are tailor-made to hang with Penn State. They’ve got the best rushing defense in the country, and an offense that can control the clock. Get ready for six tight ends, eight fullbacks, muddle huddles, everything Harbaugh can throw at the Nittany Lions, he’s throwing it at them on Saturday night. Penn State has more reliable weapons, and a much better quarterback, so I think they’ll squeak out a win…but give me Michigan to cover and don’t be stunned if they walk out of Happy Valley with an upset.

PICK: Penn State 20, Michigan 16

USC at Notre Dame (-3.5)

Here it is, the day of reckoning for Notre Dame. I’ve been beating the Irish drum all season long. Isn’t it crazy that Notre Dame can lose by a single point to Georgia, then also beat Michigan State by 20 on the road, and still be ranked outside the top 10? Yes the Irish were 4-8 last season, and yes neither of those results looked as impressive at the time as they do today, but shouldn’t we go back now and give Brian Kelly’s team a little more credit? They hung toe-to-toe with perhaps the second best team in the country! They beat a top-20 team (for now) by 20 on the road! I love the Irish, and I love them in this spot. Coming off a bye, Brandon Wimbush is healthy, USC is in the midst of a gauntlet with no end in sight. The Trojans are 122nd in the country in giveaways, while Notre Dame is 9th in turnover margin. If that trend continues on Saturday night, I think the Irish win comfortably. The talent on both sides is basically equal, but because the Irish are at home, I’m taking them by a touchdown here.

PICK: Notre Dame 31, USC 24

Alrighty then, lock it in. There’s no Washington State pick involved, so we’re going 6-0 this week. I can’t wake up Sunday morning to a 36-15 record this season. I’m going to buy the champagne tonight. Enjoy the games.


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