NCAAF Week 8 Marquee Matchups
College Football Week 8 has several marquee games, including Oregon- UCLA, Pitt-Louisville, and Air Force-Boise State.
Somehow, the ESPN College Gameday cast and crew dug up an old map—probably one left over by Lewis & Clark—and found their way west of the Rocky Mountains.
Meanwhile, not quite as far west, we find a juicy under, largely courtesy of a service academy running the triple option. But we repeat ourselves.
And in one of ESPN’s usual College Gameday haunts: the Eastern Seaboard, we find the reigning ACC champs an unlikely underdog and their favored opponents possibly missing their quarterback.
Here’s the map to this week’s Three Bets.
A Chip off the Ol’ Duck
After both teams enjoyed byes last week, the Chip Kelly Bowl is finally here, bringing the one pressing question: Will the one-time Oregon poster coach finally beat his former team? Since coming to Westwood, Kelly is 0-3 against the Ducks, but the last two meetings were decided by three points.
Did someone mention points? Expect a lot of them here. Since its Week 0 49-3 bludgeoning by No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs, Oregon hasn’t scored fewer than 41 points, averaging 49.8 points over that five-game span. As for UCLA, Kelly has the 6-0 Bruins rolling, scoring 40 or more points in five out of six weeks (and scoring 32 in the other), averaging 41.5 points per game. This explains the 70 or 70.5 total you can find at most shops.
The reason isn’t hard to find. Neither Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (58th), nor UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (60th) are in the Top 50 in terms of passing yardage. But they are two of the most ruthlessly efficient QBs in the nation. Nix is completing 70.4% of his passes for 1,526 yards and 12 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Equally as important, he’s been sacked once. Once.
Thompson-Robinson, meanwhile, completed nearly 75% of his passes for 1,510 yards and 15 TDs to only two interceptions. Two. His 180.6 passing rating is sixth in the nation and only Michigan Wolverine QB J.J. McCarthy (77.1%) has a better completion rate.
What this comes down to is the front seven. UCLA’s Laiatu Latu leads the nation in sacks per game (1.08) and is tied for third overall (6.5). That’s nearly half of Bruins’ 15 sacks. While Oregon allows only 98 yards on the ground, they haven’t seen a back like UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet (615 yards, six TDs), who is averaging 7.1 yards a carry.
The Pac-12 has a definitive home-field advantage this season. Pac-12 home teams were 21-7 ATS going into last week. They were 28-1 SU.
Based on that, give the slight SU edge to Oregon. But based on UCLA’s 6-0 against the spread record in its last six conference games, along with its 7-2 ATS record in its last nine, expect the Bruins to easily cover. Fans of the total can feast on the fact the Over is 3-1-1 in the last five meetings between these two.
Prediction: UCLA +6 (-110 at BetMGM)
Watch: Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET FOX
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The Pitts for Louisville
Israel Abanikanda’s name doesn’t roll off the tongue with the same ease as “Tony Dorsett.” But the Pitt Panthers’ standout running back just erased the Pitt legend’s name from the school record book with his 320-yard, six-TD game two weeks ago against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Abanikanda broke Dorsett’s 47-year-old record for single-game yardage and tied the school and ACC records for touchdowns in a game.
While it’s almost sacrilegious to break a Dorsett school record, Abanikanda’s dismemberment of the hapless Hokies came with an 80-yard TD run. It also staked him as FBS’ all-purpose yardage leader (186.2 ypg). His 12 TDs are tied for second in the nation.
This is one element making Pitt a value-laden underdog here. The Panthers have two losses by a combined 12 points. One was to No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers (enough said). The other was a burp-in-the-universe five-point setback to Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in which the Panthers outgained Tech by nearly 100 yards, yet suffered three second-half turnovers.
Abanikanda’s explosiveness comes against a Louisville Cardinals’ defense ranked just ahead of Virginia Tech in rushing yards-per-game allowed (133.8 vs. 133.9), so draw your own conclusions at what Abanikanda can do here.
The other element making Pitt a good pick comes from a Louisville squad that may miss do-everything QB Malik Cunningham, who missed the Cardinals 34-17 beating of Virginia two weeks ago with a concussion. Cunningham accounts for 1,419 yards in total offense (962 passing, 457 rushing) with 12 TDs (three passing, nine rushing). He’s questionable at the time of this writing.
Louisville is 1-5 ATS in its last six following an ATS win, 2-5 ATS in its last seven following a bye and 2-5 ATS against teams with a winning record.
Prediction: Pitt +3 (-105 at Unibet)
Watch: Saturday 8 p.m. ET ACC Network
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No Wild Blue Yonder Here
Talk about no truth in advertising. In the Air Force Falcons, you’re looking at the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. The Falcons’ 2,519 yards are more than 600 ahead of No. 2—fellow service academy Army Black Knights. Air Force averages nearly 360 yards a game on the ground and its 23 rushing TDs are second in the nation.
Leading the oxymoronic Falcons is Brad Rogers, who is fourth among FBS backs with 853 yards and second with 12 TDs. John Lee Eldridge III chips in 576 yards and is averaging almost a first down a carry (9.4).
These are not your older brother’s Boise State Broncos. They average a rather pedestrian 339 yards a game on offense, not cracking 200 yards a game in either rushing or passing.
Now, factor in Boise State’s respectable defense (101.3 yards-per-carry allowed), which yields 2.9 yards per carry. Air Force? It’s NORAD-esque defense allows only 283 yards and 16.4 points a game.
So to recap. You’ve got a triple-option running team on one hand, a subpar offense on the other and decent defenses on both hands. Throw in Air Force’s 5-1 Under record in its last six October games, Boise State’s 6-1 Under record in its last seven road games against winning teams and the Broncos’ 10-3 Under record in its last 13 and you can fly Under the radar on this one.
Prediction: Under 47.5 (-110 at Caesars)
Watch: Saturday 7 p.m. ET CBS Sports Network
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