Week 8 of the college football season features a handful of intriguing top 25 matchups, including South Carolina-Florida and West Virginia-Kansas State. While those games will grab the national headlines, Athlon's editors give a look at the top upset picks to watch this Saturday.
College Football's Week 8 Upset Picks
Dave Bartoo (@CFBMatrix), CFBMatrix.com, Maryland +3.5 vs. NC State
In a week in which my March game picks matched all but 4 FBS Vegas favorites, it is slim pickings for any CFBMatrix upset alerts. This should be a very close game. Coach O’Brien of NC State is strong after week 7 of each college football season and their talent is equal to that of Maryland. The Terps are struggling for consistency but the key will be the home field. When you look at the numbers for both teams home and away the average score is 23-22 in 2012. Maryland covers and wins by one.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Northwestern (+6) over Nebraska
I have no doubt Nebraska will be motivated to avenge last season’s loss at home to Northwestern. The question, though, is if motivation will matter against the Northwestern offense. The matchup of Kain Colter and Venric Mark against the Cornhuskers defense remains a mismatch, despite the Wildcats sputtering last week against Minnesota. Nebraska’s defense can’t seem to stop the run and Nebraska is still struggling in the turnover department (minus-7 since the Southern Miss opener). Seems to be a recipe for another Northwestern upset.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Penn State (+3) at Iowa
The Hawkeyes defense has played well of late. But that was against a back-up quarterback in Minnesota's Max Shortell and Michigan State's scuffling Andrew Maxwell. I can't believe I am saying this, but Matt McGloin is the best passer of the football in the Big Ten and Iowa's defense hasn't seen one like him all season. He is taking care of the football, getting his power running game involved and letting Michael Mauti and the defense do the rest. Penn State, under Bill O'Brien, has been reenergized and is the better team. I will take the Nittany Lions to win the battle of the Big Ten unbeatens on the road.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Penn State (+3) over Iowa
Even though the Hawkeyes are coming off a huge road victory against Michigan State, I am surprised to see them favored over Penn State. The Nittany Lions have lost four in a row in Iowa City but won last season’s meeting 13-3 in Happy Valley. Penn State’s defense ranks 15th nationally, allowing just 16 points a game. Iowa has struggled to find consistency on offense all year and surprisingly, quarterback James Vandenberg has thrown only two touchdowns and has failed to top 200 yards in back-to-back games. The Hawkeyes got a spark from walk-on Mark Weisman at running back, but the sophomore is questionable to play with an ankle injury. It’s a huge concern for Iowa if Weisman cannot go, especially with Damon Bullock out with a concussion. The Hawkeyes own one of the Big Ten’s stingiest defenses but will be tested by a Penn State passing offense averaging 251.8 yards per game. Both teams have a solid defense, but the Nittany Lions are better on offense, which will be the difference in a low-scoring game.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Washington (+7.5) at Arizona
Washington has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date. The Huskies have played teams ranked third (Oregon), sixth (LSU), 10th (USC) and 20th (Stanford) in the initial BCS standings. They are 1–3 in those games, with the one win coming vs. Stanford. This is not a bad team, despite its rather ordinary 3–3 overall record. Arizona got off to a 3–0 start under new coach Rich Rodriguez but has since lost three straight, all in league play. The Wildcats, too, have faced a tough slate, with Pac-12 games against Oregon (No. 3), Oregon State (No. 8) and Stanford (No. 20). One of those losses, vs. Oregon State, came by three points; another, vs. Stanford, went to overtime. Arizona is also 3–3, and like Washington, not a bad team. So which “not bad” 3–3 team is better? Well, the home-standing Wildcats are favored by more than a touchdown, and that seems a bit high. Washington 27-21
Mark Ross:Eastern Michigan (+3.5) over Army
Yes, Eastern Michigan is still searching for its first win, but Army only has one, a three-point home victory over a Boston College team that will be under new leadership next season, if not sooner. So it's not exactly like the Eagles, who are playing at home, are going up against a Black Knight juggernaut here. Granted, Army is No. 1 in the nation in rushing (385.32 ypg), while Eastern Michigan is dead last when it comes to stopping the run (296.8 ypg), but the Knights are giving up close to 240 (114th) on the ground themselves. The Eagles also are coming off of their best performance yet, as they collected 624 yards of total offense in a 52-47 loss to Toledo last week. They piled up more than 300 yards both rushing and passing, by far their best offensive effort of the season, and the five points were their closest margin of defeat yet. It may not be pretty, but a win is a win, and that's exactly what Ron English and his team will finally get this Saturday.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Washington (+7.5) at Arizona
This upset seems pretty unlikely at first glance, but the struggling Huskies have played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation at the halfway point of the season. Washington quarterback Keith Price has not been the same behind a banged-up offensive line, but playing the likes of LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC can make many players struggle. I think Price and running back Bishop Sankey will be able to move the ball against a porous Arizona defense and stay in this road game. Arizona signal caller Matt Scott has flourished under Rich Rodriguez, but the Wildcats have dropped three in a row — albeit to a trio of quality opponents. The Wildcats had a bye week to fix their defense and prepare for a much-improved Huskies defensive unit, and both teams need this win badly to build momentum in the latter half of the Pac-12 campaign. I’ll take the better defense of Washington to shock Arizona in Tucson.
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