Only hours remain until bets need to be locked in for this week's slate of games, and I’m here to help give some insight on where I believe the remaining value lies.
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Below are my favorite bets — eight against the spread and three plays on totals — for today’s Week 8 college football slate. So far, this article series has profited with a 13-12-1 (52%) overall record. This article has profited most against the spread with an 11-8-1 record (58%). Please note that there is no model involved with these picks, as they are independent of PFF Greenline.
NO. 2 CINCINNATI BEARCATS at NAVY MIDSHIPMEN
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN2
The Pick: Cincinnati -28
There are only two teams in college football that rank inside the top 10 in successful play rate on offense and defense: Georgia and Cincinnati.
Navy doesn’t even sniff the top 100 in either of those two metrics. The Midshipmen offense, in particular, is fifth-to-last in success rate and is set to go against one of the top defenses in the country, which ranks top 10 nationally in run-defense grade and yards per rush allowed outside of garbage time. Obviously, this Navy triple-option is different from the rushing offenses Cincy has seen this season, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a physical, well-tackling team that is equipped to handle Navy's attack.
The Cincinnati offense has the horses to put up major points with Desmond Ridder — the 13th-highest-graded quarterback in the FBS — and running back Jerome Ford — the third-highest-graded ball-carrier — leading the way. They have been excellent all season, averaging the fifth-most yards per play (7.1) while also covering 29- and 22-point spreads against Temple and UCF over the last two weeks.
CLEMSON TIGERS at NO. 23 PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN
The Pick: Clemson +3
The Panthers have had the third-easiest strength of schedule in the Power Five to date, and quarterback Kenny Pickett has been tearing up the lackluster competition. His four highest-graded games this season have come against UMass, Georgia Tech, Western Michigan and New Hampshire. Now, Pickett did play well in his other two outings against quality teams in Tennessee and Virginia Tech with 73.8 and 82.1 PFF grades, but the passing offense still combined for a lackluster 40.9% success rate in those two games. For reference, the FBS average is 44.8%.
In addition, this Clemson defense is a different animal from Tennessee and Virginia Tech. The Tigers rank top five in the Power Five in explosive pass play rate allowed and yards per play against. Clemson has always been a defense Pickett has struggled against. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has had no issue with Pickett, as the Pitt quarterback has earned a 38.5 passing grade against Clemson in his career. He’s, on average, gotten rid of the ball in 3.26 seconds this season, and holding onto the ball for that long against this Tigers defense can lead to bad results.
Pickett has had an exceptional season thus far, but there’s plenty of signs that a speed bump is destined to occur against Clemson.
USC TROJANS at NO. 13 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 7:30 PM EST | NBC
The Pick: USC +7
USC has undergone some defensive scheme adjustments since Clay Helton’s firing. The Trojans went from a blitz-heavy, man-to-man defense to a low-blitzing, zone defense. They’ve been good at getting after the quarterback without blitzing, boasting the 11th-best pressure rate in the Power Five since the firing, but the coverage unit has struggled to adjust by allowing the sixth-worst successful pass play rate.
That strong pass rush could be enough to cover the spread considering the state of Notre Dame’s offensive line and how poor the Fighting Irish's quarterback room has performed under pressure. The Irish rank 45th among Power Five programs in pressure rate allowed this season. Starting quarterback Jack Coan has rarely even churned out a positive gain under pressure as of late. Over the last four games, Coan has completed 6-of-23 passes under pressure for 78 yards while eating 12 sacks en route to a 37.5 passing grade. USC getting after Coan is bound to result in some bad decisions and stalled drives, giving the Trojans’ offense — which ranks 10th in the Power Five in success rate — an opportunity to keep it close at a minimum.
Related content for you: College Football Betting 2021: Week 8 college football over/under value picks via Darin Gardner
NO. 5 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES at INDIANA HOOSIERS
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 7:30 PM EST | ABC
The Pick: Ohio State -21
Indiana’s 25 game losing streak to Ohio State is likely to extend by one this weekend, as it will be tough for the Hoosiers’ shaky offense to lead the team to a victory. Backup quarterback Jack Tuttle will start again with original starter Michael Penix Jr. out with an injury, which isn't good news for Indiana. Tuttle earned a 37.1 passing grade and produced four turnover-worthy plays in last week’s loss to Michigan State. Indiana owned the second-least efficient offense in the Power Five for the week as a result.
This week will be even tougher on Tuttle, as his offensive line has to face a talented Buckeyes defensive front that ranks eighth in the Power Five in pressure rate generated. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, have allowed the fourth-worst pressure rate in the Power Five. They are going to struggle against Ohio State’s pass rush.
On the Buckeyes’ side of things, their early-season offensive woes have seemingly been fixed. Quarterback CJ Stroud has seen an increasingly high rate of quick, simplified schemed throws to the short and intermediate levels of the field in his last two games, and his up-and-down accuracy has been tamed. He owns a 93.5 passing grade in those two outings while leading the offense to an astounding +1.09 EPA per pass. If Stroud remains in that form, this spread will be covered with ease.
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 7:30 PM EST | ACC Network
The Pick: Virginia -6.5
Georgia Tech — who owns the fifth-lowest-graded coverage unit in the Power Five and ranks ahead of only Kansas in EPA per pass allowed among the group — is set to face off against one of the most explosive passing offenses in the country. Virginia, led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong, ranks sixth among Power Five offenses in explosive pass play rate through Week 7.
Armstrong has been aggressive with an 11.4 average depth of target, and he’s been connecting on a large sum of his deep shots. His 27 deep completions of 20-plus yards are seven more than any other Power Five quarterback. This is a major strength versus weakness matchup that makes this 6.5-point spread for Virginia enticing.
OTHER BETS I LIKE TODAY:
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN+
The Pick: UAB -23
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Western Michigan -1.5
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS
The Pick: UNDER 77
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 4:00 PM EST | ESPNU
The Pick: Houston -13.5
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS at NO. 4 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN
The Pick: UNDER 68.5
Saturday, Oct. 23 | 7:00 PM EST | CBS Sports Network
The Pick: OVER 39