College Football Week 8 Best Bets: Back UCLA to cover the spread against Stanford

2T1W8GD UCLA quarterback Dante Moore (3) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Oregon State Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Corvallis, Ore. Oregon State won 36-24. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

UCLA -17 (-105 FanDuel): This is a lot of points to cover on the road. However, it presents an excellent opportunity to sell high on a Stanford offense that just put up 40-plus points en route to an overtime win against the defensively weak Colorado.

Nevada @ San Diego State over 47.5: Neither Nevada nor San Diego State is a particularly good team. And while the two offenses have been average at best — even adjusting for schedule — they have both managed to put up points when faced with defenses similar to those they will face this weekend.

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We backed two moneyline underdogs last week, but things didn't quite go to plan.

Down in Texas, BYU got blown out by a TCU team down to its backup quarterback. Cougars quarterback Kedon Slovis threw a pick-six on his first offensive snap, the second time this season BYU has given up a defensive touchdown on their first play of a game. Things didn't get much better from there.

Two thousand miles northwest, Oregon managed to lose to Washington despite having a lead and the ball in Washington’s half with two minutes on the clock. Oregon outgained Washington by 130 yards on offense but still fell 36-33.

We're onto Week 8.

UCLA @ Stanford

Best bet: UCLA -17 (-105 FanDuel)

This is a lot of points to cover on the road. However, it presents a nice opportunity to sell high on a Stanford offense that just put up 40-plus points en route to an overtime win against the defensively weak Colorado. It also presents an opportunity to buy low on a UCLA team that will be going up against the weakest defensive unit they have faced in several weeks, having just run through the Utah-Washington State-Oregon State gauntlet with true freshman quarterback Dante Moore.

Yes, Moore threw a pick-six in each of those three games, but before that run, he looked like a solid prospect against the likes of San Diego State and NC Central.

After adjusting for the strength of the opponents played, Stanford gives up half a yard more per coverage snap and almost half a yard more per rushing attempt than any of those three teams. Meanwhile, UCLA fields the best run defense Stanford will have faced all year and is 13th in adjusted coverage defense overall.

Stanford managed only 10 points against USC and 9 points against Oregon, and one could argue that this UCLA defense is more well-rounded than either of those teams.

Nevada @ San Diego State

BEST BET: OVER 47.5 (-110 FANDUEL)

Neither Nevada nor San Diego State is a particularly good team. And while the two offenses have been average at best — even adjusting for schedule — they have both managed to put up points when faced with defenses similar to those they will face this weekend.

San Diego State has faced two bottom-15 passing defenses this season, and the offense scored 72 points over those two games. The Aztecs now face an even easier opponent in the Nevada Wolfpack, who not only field the second-worst pass defense in the country but also the second-worst run defense.

Things get easier for the Nevada offense, too, as the Aztecs have given up chunks of offense to opposing teams and rank as the 13th-worst run defense and 12th-worst pass defense in my model.

Nevada is not spectacular by any means, but they have scored three or more touchdowns in three of their last four games against similar-level defenses in Kansas, Texas State and UNLV.

This total very much undervalues the weakness of these two defenses, and I would not be surprised if SDSU got close to covering this number on its own.

Team Metrics
Metric Nevada San Diego State
Power Rank: Overall 131st 87th
Power Rank: Defense 131st 121st
Power Rank: Offense 130th 87th
SOS Played 43rd 46th
Avg Offensive Snaps 69.3 67.1
% Run Plays 39.5% 48.0%
% Pass Plays 60.5% 52.0%
EPA Per Run -0.18 -0.18
EPA Per Pass -0.11 -0.07

Eastern Michigan @ Northern Illinois

BEST BET: NORTHERN ILLINOIS -11.5 (-110 FANDUEL)

Northern Illinois has by far the biggest advantage in two areas of this matchup. And despite the justifiably low total, I think there is a strong possibility of covering a spread in this range, as the Eastern Michigan offense will have difficulty finding consistent success.

The Eagles have fielded the worst passing offense in the entire country through seven weeks, sitting 133rd of 133 teams in my schedule-adjusted rankings. They failed to generate much against the likes of Kent State (131st), Ball State (105th) or even UMass (132nd), while Northern Illinois ranks 34th in coverage defense and recently limited Ohio's standout QB Kurtis Rourke to just 159 yards and three interceptions on 36 attempts.

EMU may have a better time running the ball against a middle-of-the-pack run defense, but its rushing offense has yet to produce any real threat, having generated just 3.5 yards per carry against Ball State and Kent State in the team's two most recent outings.

The Eastern Michigan secondary should be able to do a decent enough job of dealing with a relatively low-volume, low-efficiency NIU passing offense, but the advantage Northern Illinois holds in the run game is significant.

Eastern Michigan’s 125th-ranked run defense should have a very tough time dealing with Antario Brown and Gavin Williams, who have helped guide Northern Illinois to the ninth-highest adjusted yards per carry average in the FBS this season.

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