College football rolls into Week 8, and in a change of pace, the biggest game is in the Big 10, rather than the Southeastern Conference. Covers checks in on that matchup and three others, with insights from Matt Chaprales, head of content for PointsBet USA.
No. 16 Michigan Wolverines at No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions (-7.5)
Penn State is undefeated and very much in early College Football Playoff discussion heading into this prime-time game in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS) engaged in a defensive slog at Iowa in Week 7, coming away with a 17-12 victory as 3.5-point favorites.
Michigan cannot take another loss and reasonably expect to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation, thanks to its Week 4 blowout setback at No. 6 Wisconsin. In Week 7, the Wolverines (5-1 SU, 2-4 ATS) blew almost all of a 28-0 lead at Illinois, with the score 28-25 early in the fourth quarter. Jim Harbaugh’s squad ultimately won 42-25, but fell short as 24.5-point faves.
“Early action has laid the 7.5 with Penn State, meaning the first move looks like it would be to 8,” Chaprales said. “Either way, with two high-profile teams battling under the lights, we’re anticipating good two-way action on this game.”
No. 12 Oregon Ducks at No. 23 Washington Huskies (+2.5)
At midseason, Oregon is the Pac-12’s best hope for a CFP bid, making this contest extremely important. The Ducks (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) bounced back from a season-opening neutral-site loss to Auburn by winning five in a row. In Week 7, Oregon hammered Colorado 45-3 laying 23.5 points at home.
Washington fully expected to be a CFP contender this year, but two outright losses as double-digit chalk – home against California and at Stanford – shattered those expectations. The Huskies (5-2 SU and ATS) followed the Stanford setback by ripping Arizona 51-27 laying 6 points on the road in Week 7.
“Oregon enters with the superior body of work, while Washington has already stumbled a few times in conference play, losing twice as big favorites,” Chaprales said. “Given that, we opened the Ducks as short road favorites and wouldn’t be surprised if this number moves further in their direction.”
That’s exactly what happened by Monday afternoon, with the line ticking up to Oregon -3.
No. 9 Florida Gators at South Carolina Gamecocks (Off)
Florida acquitted itself well in a very difficult two-seek stretch of SEC play, but couldn’t muster two victories. Following a Week 6 home win over Auburn, the Gators (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS) went to Louisiana State as 14.5-point pups and were in it almost the entire way before bowing out 42-28.
South Carolina wouldn’t normally be worth a mention in this space, except that it’s coming off a monster upset and is 4-1 ATS in its last five games. The Gamecocks (3-3 SU, 4-2 ATS) were 20.5-point road ‘dogs against unbeaten Georgia, but came away with a 20-17 double-overtime victory.
Gamecocks QB Ryan Hilinski left in the third quarter of the big win, due to a knee sprain. It appears he will play this week, but it’s not yet certain.
“This game is currently off the board, pending the status of Hilinski,” Chaprales said. “Assuming he’s a go, it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to this team, on the heels of one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.”
If Hilinski indeed is cleared to play, Chaprales expects to open Florida around -6.
No. 18 Baylor Bears at Oklahoma State Cowboys (-3.5)
No. 5 Oklahoma is rightly all the rage in the Big 12, but flying under the radar is an unbeaten Baylor team. The Bears (6-0 SU, 3-3 ATS) barely kept their perfect record intact in Week 7, edging Texas Tech 33-30 in double overtime giving 10.5 points at home.
Oklahoma State, coming off a bye week, certainly knows a little bit about Texas Tech, as well. The Cowboys (4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS) went to Lubbock as 9-point Week 6 favorites and exited with a 45-39 outright loss.
“This game opened Oklahoma State -3.5 and ticked down to 3 on the strength of some early Baylor interest,” Chaprales said. “The Bears have impressed in a weak Big 12 so far, but the market remains a bit skeptical about their 6-0 start, evidenced by them catching points against a team that’s dropped two of its past three.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.