Best Week 8 college football bets

ByChris Fallica and Steve Coughlin ESPN logo
Monday, November 2, 2015

After an impressive 2014 season, "Stanford Steve" Coughlin, of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, and Chris Fallica, of ESPN Stats & Information and College GameDay, are back. Every Wednesday during the college football season, they'll give their best bets for picking the weekend's top college football games.

2015 season record:

Fallica:30-16-2 ATS (last week: 2-5)

Coughlin:18-15-2 ATS (last week: 2-3)

2014 season record:

Fallica: 44-40 ATS (52.4 percent)

Coughlin:45-28-1 ATS (60.8 percent)

Note: Against the spread (ATS)/total picks are in bold. Odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Texas A&M Aggies (+5.5) at Ole Miss Rebels

Fallica: The Rebels' season has taken a turn similar to 2014, but they still control their destiny in the SEC West. However, I worry about Ole Miss in this spot given all the injuries it is saddled with -- especially on defense. If Robert Nkemdiche can't play, that's a massive loss. Texas A&M's season is also at a turning point where a loss here will have many saying "told ya so" after a 5-0 start. Ole Miss doesn't possess the running game Alabama does and while the return of Laremy Tunsil will help the O-line (although the Rebels' starting center is out now), I think Texas A&M will continue its trend under coach Kevin Sumlin of playing its best ball on the road versus ranked teams.

Another thing to like about the Aggies is how they responded last week after falling 21-3 early. Despite that, A&M had the ball down 28-20 after a blocked punt and worked its way back into the game. Ultimately three pick-sixes did them in, but I don't think this is a case of "same old Aggies."

ATS pick: Texas A&M 33, Ole Miss 31

Coughlin: There isn't a game that lost more luster because of last week's outcomes than this matchup in The Grove. As much as you want to say Alabama went into College Station and rolled the Aggies, I didn't see it that way. It was a 28-20 game late in the fourth quarter and A&M had the ball. But what I took away from the game was that A&M quarterback Kyle Allen looked a little shaken, and it happened pretty soon in the game. Now, no one saw three pick-sixes coming that ultimately stamped the Tide's win, but it is what it is. On the other side, Ole Miss simply got punched in the face by Memphis. There is so much to play for in this game, and no matter how bad last week was for each of these teams, Ole Miss can stay in the driver's seat in the SEC West. I expect a close game in this one.

ATS pick: Ole Miss 31, Texas A&M 28

USC Trojans (-3.5) vs. Utah Utes

Fallica: I can already hear Lee Corso Saturday morning on College GameDay: "Utah is undefeated and No. 3 in the country. USC is 3-3, lost two straight and just fired its head coach. USC is a 3.5-point favorite. Somebody knows something and I'm going with the somebodies."

Don't worry Lee, I'm going with the somebodies, too. I can see Utah being a pretty big public play as an attractive underdog. The Utes have flirted with danger the past two weeks and this could be the week the other shoe falls. As crazy as it sounds, if USC beats Utah Saturday night, it likely needs Utah to pick up one more loss, and the Trojans would essentially control their destiny to get to the Pac-12 title game. They predictably showed a lot of fight last week before coughing up a fourth-quarter lead in South Bend. If they play that way Saturday night, they will walk out a winner.

ATS pick: USC 34, Utah 24

Coughlin:Look at what we have here: The No. 3-ranked team in college football is an underdog to a 3-3 team. I do remember this preseason seeing the Trojans as about a 10.5-point favorite in this game. As much as a I want to say that Devontae Booker is the most dependable player in the country, I also believe the Utes are playing with house money, as Travis Wilson is their starting QB. But it seems like the Utes are due for a down game and that includes Wilson. I look at USC in this spot, and I see a chance for the program to still get a signature win, in a season that has been rough on and off the field. I expect an enthused atmosphere, the USC offense to play really well, and the Men of Troy get an inspired win for interim coach Clay Helton.

ATS pick: USC 27, Utah 20

Charlotte 49ers (+16) vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Fallica: Southern Miss has been great versus the number this season (6-1), but FPI has them a little overvalued here, calling for an 11-point win. Charlotte has struggled to score points this season, but the ground game should churn out some yardage and eat some clock. You'll probably be surprised to hear the 49ers' defense ranks higher in defensive efficiency than Texas or Arkansas.

ATS pick: Southern Miss 38, Charlotte 28

Eastern Michigan Eagles (+28) at Northern Illinois Huskies

Fallica: The MAC schedule-maker did the Eagles no favors with consecutive road games at Toledo and NIU. Predictably, EMU was drilled by Toledo last week, but there could be a little lookahead here by the Huskies as they go to Toledo on Tuesday night. Our numbers have NIU as a 23-point favorite. Northern will win, but the back door could be open late.

ATS pick: Northern Illinois 49, Eastern Michigan 28

Texas State Bobcats (-3.5) vs. South Alabama Jaguars

Fallica: I'm not going to go into a huge breakdown on this one, other that to say this is strictly a numbers play. FPI has Texas State as a 10-point favorite, despite its only win coming over Prairie View. The Bobcats did put up 50 at home against an improved Southern Miss team and kept it respectable in Tallahassee for a half.

ATS pick: Texas State 42, South Alabama 31

Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (+6.5) vs. Clemson Tigers

Fallica: This will be a big test for the Clemson defense, as Brad Kaayais the best QB it will have faced this season. Miami's passing offensive efficiency vs. Power 5 teams is fourth out of 65. Notre Dame is 13th and DeShone Kizer threw for 321 yards in the rain at Clemson. And while the Tigers' defense is fifth nationally in defensive efficiency, if you drill that down to Power 5 teams vs. Power 5 teams, that rank falls to 14th (for comparison, Alabama is first in overall defensive efficiency by the same measure). However, the Irish couldn't block Shaq Lawson, and he should give the Miami O-line trouble as well. On the other side of the ball, the Canes are thin at linebacker with the loss of Raphael Kirby in addition to Darrion Owens. Clemson hasn't covered in its past four ACC games as a road favorite -- and it won't here, either -- but it will grind out another tough win (as it did at Louisville) and keep its winning streak vs. unranked teams alive.

ATS pick: Clemson 27, Miami 24

Vanderbilt Commodores (+2.5) vs. Missouri Tigers

Fallica: This Missouri team is certainly nowhere close to the one that won consecutive SEC East championships. Since Sept. 19, the Tigers are 116th in offensive efficiency (Kansas, the worst Power 5 team in the country, is 120th) and have scored 9, 12, 24, 3 and 6 points. Vanderbilt is a top-20 defense, which held a potent Western Kentucky offense to 12 points and gave Ole Miss and Georgia all they could handle. The Commodores have been in every game they have played this season and will give coach Derek Mason his first SEC win.

ATS pick: Vanderbilt 17, Missouri 13

Temple Owls at East Carolina Pirates (-3)

Coughlin: No one loves the American Athletic Conference more than me. This seems like an awful spot for the Owls on the road in a monster conference game and with Notre Dame on their schedule next week. However, "The Bear" tells me the FPI has Temple as a four-point favorite in this game. So I'll side with the computers on this one, especially seeing how I can't stand this week's slate of games.

ATS pick: Temple 24, ECU 21

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at LSU Tigers (-16.5)

Coughlin: No one has been more wrong on LSU this season than me, but I'm not giving up yet. The Tigers have a bye week after hosting the Hilltoppers, which is then followed by a trip to Tuscaloosa. So why would Les Miles run Leonard Fournette into the ground in this game? Why would Cam Cameron use any of his best pass plays against this team from the Sun Belt conference? Western Kentucky comes in averaging 55 points in its past four games, so even if it scores half of that, you have to figure the Hilltoppers could cover against LSU's one-dimensional offense.

ATS pick: LSU 42, Western Kentucky 28

Florida State Seminoles at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+6.5)

Coughlin: FSU fans, I'm sorry -- I have nothing against your team. The reason I called them overrated last week is because I expect more from the Noles, I mean, I picked them to make the College Football Playoff. I might also be a little bitter in the fact that Louisville was winning 14-13 in the fourth quarter last week and couldn't even cover seven points! With that, I honestly think the Yellow Jackets should be getting more points in this game, so something seems fishy to me.

ATS pick: Florida State 31, Georgia Tech 26