A busy weekend is on tap in the world of college football. Two games on Thursday, two games on Friday, and a whole bunch of games on Saturday make up the Week 8 card and we’ve got a lot of things to consider.
Along with the usual situation spots of letdowns, look-aheads, sandwiches, and revenge games, we also have to start considering the situations that individual teams are in. Some teams that had College Football Playoff aspirations are already eliminated from contention for those four spots and it is only the middle of October. Also, teams have to be looking ahead at the schedule to see what they need to do in order to obtain bowl eligibility.
Remember that it takes six wins to get bowl-eligible, though only one win over an FCS team counts towards the win total, so there will be some teams that need seven. Depending on the strength of the opponents left from this point forward, some teams will have to give a little extra effort to make sure that they don’t lose a winnable game and make that magic six-win mark harder than it needs to be.
With all that in mind, let’s look at some situational spots to consider for Week 8:
Georgia State at Arkansas State – The Red Wolves have played a strong schedule by Sun Belt standards. Arkansas State lost by 50 to Alabama and then played Tulsa, a decent AAC team, UNLV, who, at the time, was a decent Mountain West team with QB Armani Rogers, and then arguably the two best Sun Belt teams in Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Now, the Red Wolves draw a subpar Georgia State team at home in Jonesboro when they desperately need a win. Arkansas State’s two conference losses are to teams in the East Division, so if they run the table the rest of the way, they’ll get another crack at somebody from the East for the conference title. While the Red Wolves have suffered a couple of tough losses the last two weeks, they don’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things. This is a good spot for a blowout.
Stanford at Arizona State – Sometimes bye weeks come at inopportune times. Stanford desperately needed its week off. The Cardinal head to Tempe for what will be a raucous environment on Thursday night against Arizona State. The bye week seems to have gotten Bryce Love healthy enough to play, but who knows what that entails at this point. Stanford, despite the blowout at Notre Dame and the loss to Utah, is in fine shape in the Pac-12 as one of four teams with one loss. The loss to Utah means very little, as the Utes are in the South Division. The win over Oregon looms large. This is a big spot for the Cardinal and they should come ready off a bye.
Cincinnati at Temple – How many times have we seen a team get ranked and then lose immediately? It happened to Colorado and Cincinnati is in a similar boat. The Bearcats have played the 118th-ranked schedule per Sagarin, but they are a top-25 team from beating up on that lowly schedule. This is really their first time stepping up in class, even though Temple is barely a top-60 team per Sagarin and just outside the top-50 in my personal power ratings. This is a big spot for the Bearcats.
UCF at East Carolina – This is a spot that college football bettors find all the time. UCF is the far superior team in this spot against East Carolina, but UCF, who had played one of the worst FBS schedules prior to last week’s game against Memphis, is in an awful spot. The Knights are back on the road after an emotional comeback win over the Tigers last week in a double revenge spot for Memphis. Getting amped up to blow out East Carolina and cover the spread of 21.5 might prove to be difficult, even though UCF is light years better.
Virginia at Duke – Here’s a quintessential college football handicap. Virginia is coming off of its biggest win since 2011 and is on the road to face a really solid and well-coached Duke Blue Devils squad. The Cavaliers were outgained last week by Miami, but escaped with the win and supports subsequently stormed the field. Now the Cavaliers have to get back up for a big road game against a team that just faced the triple option in a win over Georgia Tech.
Miami of Ohio at Army – What a spot here for the RedHawks. In fact, this could be something of a throwaway game. The RedHawks are taking a break from conference play to face the triple option of Army. The triple-option offense requires a lot of prep work and study. It’s also very hard to play against, as defensive linemen spend the day getting cut blocked and the defense traditionally spends a lot of time on the field. There isn’t a lot of incentive for Chuck Martin to put his first-team defense through that, as the RedHawks are 3-1 in conference play and have Buffalo on deck with a shot at first place in the division. This line has come down, but this looks like a miserable spot for Miami. They do have extra prep before the Buffalo game, but still.
Michigan at Michigan State – Mark Dantonio’s team did it again. The Spartans went on the road to Happy Valley and beat Penn State. To say that it had been a mediocre season of mediocrity for Michigan State would have been an understatement, but the outlook seems to have changed with that win. On the other hand, that may say a lot more about Penn State. Michigan is in East Lansing this week with no margin for error in the College Football Playoff picture. This is one of the more complex games on the card this week.
Eastern Michigan at Ball State – Eastern Michigan finally won a close game. No player or fan has fingernails anymore from following this team. Against FBS foes this season, Eastern Michigan games have ended with final margins of one, seven, three, three, three, and two. Last season, EMU’s FBS games ended with scores of 17, three, seven (2OT), four, five, one, three (OT), three (OT), 42, 12, three, and three. EMU got a big win last week by stopping a late two-point conversion. That sigh of relief you heard from Ypsilanti was pretty resounding last week. Can EMU get up again this week?
Akron vs. Kent State – This isn’t a premier rivalry game, but the Wagon Wheel is up for grabs here. Akron has won this game three straight years and leads the series overall 34-24-2. These two campuses are about 15 minutes apart. There is no love lost in this rivalry either. With Kent State improving and Akron appearing to regress over the last two weeks, this should be an interesting one. We haven’t seen much line movement yet, but this is a big time rivalry game for the two schools, thus a good situational spot to cover.
Penn State at Indiana – What does Penn State have in mind for the rest of this season? Each of the last two years, Penn State felt like a College Football Playoff contender. The consolation prizes were the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. That won’t be the consolation prize this year, barring some shenanigans of epic proportions in the Big Ten. How does James Franklin motivate this team? Both losses were extremely winnable games. A long trip out to Bloomington doesn’t seem great for a reeling team.
Tulsa at Arkansas – Year One for Chad Morris has not gone well. Arkansas’s only win of the season is over Eastern Illinois from the FCS. This week, the Razorbacks get a break from SEC play to face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. With a six-game losing streak in progress, this is a game that the players should have circled to get a little bit of good feelings going. With Vanderbilt in town next week, a two-game winning streak isn’t out of the question. This line has shot up and it makes a ton of sense.
Western Michigan vs. Central Michigan – The Michigan MAC Trophy isn’t appreciated as much as it should be. The Central Michigan Chippewas, Eastern Michigan Eagles, and Western Michigan Broncos vie for this each year. Central Michigan won it for the first time since 2013 last year and head coach John Bonamego took it to bed with him on social media. Western Michigan can lock it up this week after beating Eastern Michigan 27-24 earlier this season. That would be the fourth time in five years that the Broncos have secured the hardware.
Oregon at Washington State – The Ducks find themselves in a brutal spot this week. After the emotional win over Washington, they’re on the road in Washington to take on Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars. Pullman is not a fun or easy road trip for anybody to take and the Ducks have to try to sustain last week’s momentum against a very tough scheme to face. Washington State is also off of a bye. For spot players, this is Handicapping 101.
Minnesota at Nebraska – There really isn’t anything unique about this situation, but Nebraska doesn’t have a win yet in the Scott Frost era. It will either happen this week or next week because Bethune-Cookman is in town next week. The longer this goes for a Cornhuskers team that has played a lot better than the record would indicate, the more the urgency sets in. The Golden Gophers played well at Ohio State last week, so PJ Fleck’s bunch has some good feelings rolling in here. This is a pretty compelling game that looks like something of a throwaway given the rest of the card.
NC State at Clemson – We haven’t heard much about Clemson because they haven’t played much of a schedule since the near disaster at Kyle Field in Week 2. Clemson’s only legitimate opponent was Texas A&M and the Tigers were outgained and outplayed, but they came away with the win. This week, the Tigers step in class and play NC State. It has been a weird set of opponents for Clemson as well, as three of the first four teams ran the option. Syracuse had success moving the ball. Wake did not. NC State is balanced and doesn’t make mistakes. Don’t be surprised if this winds up being really close, even though this is a huge step up in class for an NC State team with the 64th-ranked schedule per Sagarin.
Charlotte at Middle Tennessee – We still don’t know if Brent Stockstill will be good to go for the Blue Raiders this week, but we do know that Chris Reynolds will not be for Charlotte. The 49ers, both the college and pro, are without their quarterback now. That means we could have a battle of the backups in Murfreesboro this week. With MTSU laying a big number with a low total, this is a game to have on your radar.
Memphis at Missouri – Poor Memphis. Brady White has an elite TD/INT ratio. Darrell Henderson is the best running back in the country statistically. They’ve lost three games. Now they draw a Missouri team that has to be excited to leave SEC play for a week. Memphis just lost to UCF in their regular season Super Bowl for a third conference loss, so their goals are no longer reachable. It’s fair to say that this is a horrible spot for a deflated Memphis team.