McPhil’s Week 8 College Picks

Thanks to some poor ball security and offensive struggles, Northwestern fell short of covering the spread against Nebraska by just a point leaving me at 0-1 against the spread for college. From here on out I will be giving two picks for college weekly. Without further adieu, let’s get to the picks.

College picks ATS: 0-1

NC State @ Clemson, NC State covers the spread (+16.5)

Clemson will very likely win this game, but I think this spread is absurdly large and that people are severely underrating how good the Wolfpack was last season, and how good they’ve continued to be this season. Clemson is a good team with a young, inexperienced quarterback that has performed well from a clean pocket but has been spotty under pressure. Clemson would like to rely on their star running back Etienne and take as much pressure off Lawrence as possible, but I expect N.C. State’s stout run-defense to prove more difficult than previous opponents the Tigers have faced.

Not only is N.C. State’s defense one of the better units in the country, but their receiving core is one of the more talented and deep units in college football currently. Add that to the stellar performance of Ryan Finley this season and a narrow loss to Clemson last year, and I firmly believe this spread is just way too high. According to Pro Football Focus, “[Finley] hasn’t let pressure affect him much, fielding the ACC’s top passer rating under duress at 99.2. Ryan Finley has been the highest-graded on a per-snap basis, with an impressive 40.3% of his passes earning a positive grade from us, and his team generating 0.42 expected points each time he drops back to throw. Clemson has been absolutely dominant against the run on early downs, allowing just a 21.51% success rate, but have not been as dominant against the pass (41.07%)”. I expect the pass-happy Wolfpack to force the Tigers into some uncomfortable situations and ultimately lose the game, albeit by less than 16.5 points. Depending on where you bet, you may even be able to get them at 17.5.

Final score prediction: 34-21, Clemson

Minnesota @ Nebraska, Minnesota covers the spread (+4)

Northwestern did everything they possibly could to hand the game to the Cornhuskers last week and still Nebraska found a way to lose. This week, I’m going back at the Cornhuskers who are 1-4-1 against the spread this season and are for some reason FAVORED going into a game with Minnesota. While Minnesota is not a team of world-beaters or college stars, they’re a solid enough team to cover a +4 spread against a truly awful Nebraska team. ESPN has Minnesota’s chances of winning this game outright at 57.8%. A four-point spread is just a gift from God should Nebraska come close to sniffing the win again, but I think Nebraska played as well as they could last week and still fell short. Minnesota actually played Ohio State pretty close last week for a while, though the Buckeyes were clearly in control. I’m confident the Golden Gophers cover this spread against the inept Cornhuskers.

Final score prediction: 23-20, Minnesota

Author: Evan McPhillips

Analyst and Houston Texans Media Correspondent for Pro Football Focus. Follow me on Twitter @emcphil and @PFF_Texans.

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