College Football Week 8 Picks: Conferences Races Heat Up With Key Clashes

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Penn State vs Michigan Week 8 college football

We're past the midpoint of the 2019 college football season, and the races for the Playoffs and conference crowns are heating up. Week 8's primetime showdown is Penn State taking on Michigan in Happy Valley, but there's plenty of compelling clashes in store before we get there. Who will win this weekend's 12 biggest games? Our writers and editors make their picks.

Season-Long Standings

Max Meyer: 64–21 (75.3%)
Lorenzo Arguello: 9–3 (75%)
Michael Shapiro: 62–23 (72.9%)
Molly Geary: 61–24 (71.8%)
Laken Litman: 57–28 (67.1%)
Ross Dellenger: 56–29 (65.9%)

No. 9 Florida at South Carolina (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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Molly Geary picks Florida: Both of these teams are in danger of a letdown, though for different reasons. South Carolina is coming off a momentous upset of Georgia, and pulling off top-10 wins in back-to-back weeks would take a similar effort. Florida has to quickly reset after its first loss of the season in a primetime showdown in Death Valley, and taking the trip now to Columbia will be no walk in the park. Additionally, the Gators could be without top pass rushers Jabari Zuniga and Jon Greenard again, but they've spent the week knowing it's a possibility. We'll take Florida in a close one.

Iowa State at Texas Tech (12 p.m. ET, FS1)

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Michael Shapiro picks Texas Tech: Quarterback Jett Duffey has revived the Red Raiders' offense after replacing the injured Alan Bowman, with Texas Tech riding its dual threat quarterback to 75 points over the last two weeks. This isn't your typical Tech team, either. Head coach Matt Wells is leading a respectable defensive unit, one far tougher than those of the Kliff Kingsbury era. Don't be surprised if Texas Tech pulls off the upset at home.

TCU at Kansas State (2:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

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Michael Shapiro picks Kansas State: Expect a slog in the Little Apple as both squads look to bleed clock with a bruising rushing attack. The Wildcats should pick off freshman QB Max Duggan for the first time this season with TCU on the road, dropping Gary Patterson's squad to .500 with matchups against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma still on the 2019 schedule.

No. 2 LSU at Mississippi State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

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Molly Geary picks LSU: Coming off its win over Florida, this could have been a potentially dangerous spot for LSU on the road against a different opponent. But it's hard to picture the Bulldogs, who rank 109th in defensive passing yards per attempt, doing enough to slow Joe Burrow and the Tigers' offense, and Mississippi State's own offense is in flux. Plus, MSU's own offense is in flux, and just officially benched Tommy Stevens in favor of true freshman Garrett Shrader. The Bulldogs aren't as bad as their 10-point performance in an ugly loss to Tennessee, but it would take a whole lot to go wrong for LSU in this one to see an upset.

No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

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Max Meyer picks Washington: This is one of those quintessential Pac-12 upsets that doesn’t make any sense on paper, but occurs regularly because the Pac-12 is the Pac-12. Look, Oregon has one of the best defenses in college football and a likely first-round draft pick at quarterback in Justin Herbert. But the Ducks’ offense has been off at times this season, and Herbert just lost his most reliable target, tight end Jacob Breeland, for the season. I don’t trust head coach Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo in big games, either. Washington has been inconsistent in a transition year, but I liked how the defense looked this past weekend at Arizona after laying an egg against Stanford. I think Chris Petersen, Jacob Eason and Co. pull this one out to revert the Pac-12 to the Parity-12.

Temple at No. 19 SMU (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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Laken Litman picks SMU: Temple may have ruined Memphis’s perfect season last week by forcing four turnovers and being on the winning side of a late controversial call. But SMU, led by Texas transfer QB Shane Buechele, is not ready to squander its perfect record. The Mustangs are 6-0 for the first time since the Pony Express days and boast the nation’s 11th-best offensive attack (498.8 yards per game) and is scoring the sixth-most points in the country (44.8 points per game). While the Owls are often good for an upset (Maryland and Memphis can attest) and have the second-best defense in the AAC (holding opponents to 19 ppg), SMU isn’t giving this one away at home.

North Carolina at Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra)

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Lorenzo Arguello picks North Carolina: From a 2-0 start to almost knocking off then-No. 1 Clemson two weeks ago, the beginning of the Mack Brown era at UNC has turned heads this season. The Tar Heels can keep riding that high with this week’s visit to Blacksburg. A win would keep UNC in serious contention for the wide-open ACC Coastal, while crucially sinking Virginia Tech in the standings. Neither UNC nor Tech do anything all that impressively on either side of the ball, making this game a toss-up. With that in mind, the pick here is for Sam Howell to do just enough for the Tar Heels to get the road victory and keep their ACC championship game hopes alive.

Duke at Virginia (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

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Laken Litman picks Duke: The Blue Devils are hot right now, winning four of their last five games. Beat UVA on the road this week, and there’s a chance they’ll be the sole No. 1 team in the ACC Coastal division (right now there’s a three-way tie between Duke, Virginia and North Carolina). Duke has a powerful offensive attack—it showed as much in last week’s 41-23 win over Georgia Tech—and just might be able to take advantage of a Cavaliers defense that lost All-American cornerback Bryce Hall (ankle) for the year.

No. 18 Baylor at Oklahoma State (4 p.m. ET, FOX)

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Lorenzo Arguello picks Baylor: In his third year at helm, Matt Rhule’s Waco turnaround has Baylor dreaming of the Big 12 title game. Sure, the Bears have only beaten so-so or flat-out bad squads, but their 6-0 record is more than a mirage, ranking 11th nationally in yards per play and 26th in yards per play allowed. This week’s trip to Oklahoma State provides the Baylor defense with its biggest test yet: Having to stop the nation’s leading rusher in Chuba Hubbard and superstar receiver Tylan Wallace. We expect a close one in Stillwater and we’ll say Baylor improves to 7-0.

No. 17 Arizona State at No. 13 Utah (6 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

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Max Meyer picks Utah: True freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels has been extremely impressive for the Sun Devils, and he’s been a key reason why ASU is off to a surprising start. But there are still question marks at offensive line and in the secondary, while Utah is clearly the most complete team in the Pac-12 South. Zack Moss only carried the ball five times in his return against Oregon State, but made them count as he ran for 121 yards. Tyler Huntley may be one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country, and he’s looked excellent in new OC Andy Ludwig’s system. Huntley is sixth in the country in yards per attempt (10.6) and third in completion rate (75.6%). The only quarterback who tops him in both metrics? That would be Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow. Give me the Utes here.

Tulane at Memphis (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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Ross Dellenger picks Tulane: The Green Wave have three 300-yard rushers, including QB Justin McMillan who's accounted for 14 touchdowns, and their only loss is at Auburn. Memphis lost its first game last week against Temple, and the Tigers have a high-powered offense. This one feels like it is destined for a typical American Athletic Conference shootout. 

No. 16 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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Ross Dellenger picks Penn State: A nighttime white out in Happy Valley awaits the Wolverines. This should be an old-school smash-mouth affair in State College, and we'll give the edge to the Nittany Lions at home.