Week 8 of the college football season is one of the quieter ones, with no matchup of ranked teams anywhere. But that doesn’t prevent coaches from cautioning their players from looking ahead to what is a blockbuster schedule next week.
Clemson (plus-3) at No. 23 Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
It has been five years since the Tigers (4-2, 3-1 ACC) were an underdog in a regular-season conference game, in that case to Louisville and Lamar Jackson. That may be because they haven’t scored more than 20 points in any game against an FBS opponent this season.
So Heinz Field should be rocking when the Panthers (5-1, 2-0) take the field seeking a nationally significant victory with one of the nation’s most potent offenses, averaging 530 yards of total offense and 48.3 points per game. Quarterback Kenny Pickett (21 touchdown passes, one interception) is now at 22-1 odds in the Heisman Trophy race.
However, Pickett hasn’t had much success against Clemson, throwing five interceptions in two games. The Tigers defense is the nation’s second-stingiest in points allowed (12.5 per game) and gives up 315 yards per game on average.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Clemson 27
No. 8 Oklahoma State (plus-7) at Iowa State, 3:30 p.m., Fox 29
The Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) defeated Texas last week and moved into the top 10, but the fact that they’re underdogs against the Cyclones (4-2, 2-1) tells you that respect is difficult to come by.
Iowa State began the season in the top 10, but losses to Iowa and Baylor moved them out of the polls and down the conference standings. But the Cyclones still have a chance to make their second straight Big 12 championship game, and with Breece Hall (748 rushing yards, 10th in FBS) and Brock Purdy (73.9 completion percentage, third) still their main players, they’re knocking on the door.
This game could come down to defense. The Cyclones are third in the nation in total yards allowed at 252.2 per game. The Cowboys allow 98.8 yards per game on the ground.
Prediction: Iowa State 24, Oklahoma State 20
No. 10 Oregon (plus-2) at UCLA, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC
The Ducks (5-1, 2-1) appear to have the best chance of any Pac-12 team to reach the College Football Playoff, but injuries are making it difficult. Luckily, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, believed to be a possible top-five pick in the 2022 NFL draft, is healthy after missing time with a sprained ankle early in the season.
The Bruins (5-2, 3-1) need a victory to keep pace with Utah and Arizona State in the Pac-12 South. Their coach is Chip Kelly, who led Oregon to a 46-7 record over four seasons and got a call from the Eagles, where he coached for a little less than three seasons.
Each team can ground out the yardage. Oregon has rushed for at least 180 yards in each of its six games, while the Bruins have run for more yards than their opponents in 13 consecutive contests.
Prediction: Oregon 38, UCLA 31
Tennessee (plus-25) at No. 4 Alabama, 7 p.m., ESPN
Despite the one-sided point spread, this game could be a shootout between two of the nation’s most potent offenses. The Crimson Tide (6-1, 3-1 SEC) average 45 points and 483 total yards, while the Volunteers (4-3, 2-2) post 39 points and 473 total yards per game.
The quarterback matchup between Alabama’s Bryce Young and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, who rank fourth and fifth in the nation, respectively, in pass efficiency, may not happen because Hooker’s leg injury leaves his status in doubt. The Tide came up with seven sacks last week against Mississippi State, four by linebacker Will Anderson Jr., and the Vols have allowed 25 for the season.
Prediction: Alabama 52, Tennessee 24
Southern California (plus-6 ½) at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC10
This was once one of the great rivalries in college football and it still may be in the minds of many, but the struggles of the Trojans (3-3) and interim coach Donte Williams, who took over for Clay Helton, have taken some of the luster off.
The Fighting Irish (5-1) have 10 interceptions on the season and will seek to disrupt a USC passing attack that averages more than 318 yards per game and features 6-foot-5 receiver Drake London (64 receptions, 832 yards, five touchdowns). The Trojans defense allows 6.2 yards per play, but Notre Dame must give quarterbacks Jack Coen and Tyler Buchner time to throw; the Irish have allowed 24 sacks.
Notre Dame has won 36 straight games against unranked opponents, the longest active streak in FBS.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Southern Cal 20
No. 5 Ohio State (minus-21) at Indiana, 7:30 p.m., 6ABC
With a big game coming up next week against Penn State, the Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) know they have to stick to business against the Hoosiers (2-4, 0-3), who scored a combined 15 points in their last two games, and whose four losses have come against ranked teams.
Ohio State keeps rising in the polls and on offense (563 total yards, 48.5 points per game). Quarterback Chris Stroud, the nation’s second-most- efficient passer, will be going against a secondary that’s been hammered by injuries.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Indiana 17