Welcome to Week 8 of the college football "upset watch" here at Athlon Sports!
This weekly exercise is serious business, folks. We've had at least one team from each of the first seven weeks of "upset watch" go down to underdogs. Last week we had two teams fall victim to the upset bug, with James Madison losing on the road to Georgia Southern and Notre Dame losing at home to Stanford. Bottom line – if your team is on our weekly upset watch, you should be nervous.
Which team will it be this week? Let's take a look at the five teams on "upset watch" for Week 8.
South Dakota State (at North Dakota)
4 p.m. ET on ESPN+
Going to dip our toes into the FCS waters for our first selection this week. South Dakota State is feeling pretty good right now, ranked No. 1 and coming off a big win over perennial powerhouse North Dakota State. Now the Jackbrabbirs travel to Grand Forks to face a 4-2 North Dakota squad coming off a bye. The Fighting Hawks have held their own against the one FBS foe they faced (Nebraska) earlier this season, and got a big win on the road over Youngstown State two weeks ago. This smells like a trap game for SDSU.
BYU (at Liberty)
3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU, live stream on fuboTV (Start your free trial)
The Cougars are just about a touchdown favorite on the road this weekend, but anyone who has been paying attention to what Liberty has done this season knows that the wrong team might be favored. Liberty's only blemish is a one-point road loss over the current No. 13 team in the country, Wake Forest. The Flames survived a one-point scare at home last week to FCS foe Gardner-Webb, but sometimes winning those close ones builds character – regardless of the opponent. There's also the theory that Liberty was looking ahead to this big matchup with a fellow FBS Independent program. Whatever the case, don't be shocked to see BYU drop its fourth game of the season.
No. 13 Wake Forest (vs. Boston College)
3:30 p.m. ET on ACC Network, live stream on fuboTV (Start your free trial)
This is nothing more than a feeling, but it seems like Wake Forest has quietly survived to be 5-1 entering this game. At the same time, it feels like we routinely see underperforming Boston College teams rise up and take down teams the Eagles otherwise have no business competing with. This matchup just seems like one of those games. We'll have two future NFL signal-callers going at it in what should be an exciting affair in Winston-Salem.
No. 6 Alabama (vs. No. 24 Mississippi State)
7 p.m. ET on ESPN, live stream on fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Conventional wisdom and history both tell us that there's a slim chance Alabama loses back-to-back games. It hasn't happened since the 2013 season when the Crimson Tide lost to Auburn in the Iron Bowl to finish the regular season and then lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. That said, last weekend's loss in Knoxville was a slugfest and a shootout all rolled into one. It was physically and emotionally draining for both the players and the fans. The Alabama team and the Tide faithful now both need to dig deep and put their resilience on display at home on Saturday. Mississippi State is dangerous. The Bulldogs have the talent to hang with and beat the Crimson Tide – and they've got nothing to lose.
No. 5 Clemson (vs. No. 14 Syracuse)
12 p.m. ET on ABC, live stream on fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Clemson is starting to look like the Clemson we are used to seeing in the Dabo Swinney era. That said, there's one ACC team left on the schedule with the personnel to derail the season for the Tigers: Syracuse. The unbeaten Orange will enter Death Valley with NFL talent at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and every level of the defense. This is the best and most talented Syracuse football team since Donovan McNabb was on the roster. Despite that, Clemson is nearly a two-touchdown favorite. Dabo better have his Tigers locked in.
Podcast: Week 8 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.