Week 8 College Football Pick’em Strategy: Will Stanford Lose Again?

With several solid chances to choose anti-public favorites last week, our game winner picks had a very solid performance, and all three strategies should have moved you up in the standings. While there may not be as many odds-on value opportunities this week, there are several attractive upset picks, and there is a Sun Belt game we really like.

Where We Stand After Week 7

Week 7 was a nice bounce back week for our game winner picks across all strategies. After a down Week 6, all three strategies climbed in the rankings, highlighted by our Conservative strategy that now ranks in the top 4% nationally.

Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses confidence points) heading into Week 8. The Conservative pick set should have you in the top 5 of a 100 person pick’em pool:

  • Conservative: 96.3rd percentile (+4.8 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 82.7th percentile (+7.5)
  • Very Aggressive: 70th percentile (+4.9)

Here is where we stand on Yahoo! with our point spread pick’em strategies. Our against the spread picks did not fare quite as well, as none improved from last week. It should be noted, though, that Conservative strategy cannot possibly improve since it was been in the top 1% in the nation every single week this season:

  • Conservative: 99th percentile (no change from last week)
  • Aggressive: 91st percentile (-5)
  • Very Aggressive: 74th percentile (-10)

(Keep in mind that we occasionally “flip” picks if the point spread listed on ESPN is significantly different than the point spread listed on our site.)

Last week we pointed out four games in which we favored a team to team to win even though a majority of the public did not. For the second week in a row North Carolina won despite being picked by an overwhelming minority of the public. Also, LSU nearly doubled South Carolina’s total yardage and hung on late for the 23-21 win.

Unfortunately, two of the picks we really liked, BYU and Purdue both lost big on Saturday.

We also noted two against the spread picks in which 90% or more of the public was picking a particular team. If you saw The Man smiling big on Saturday, that was likely due in part to the fact that both Iowa State and Texas Tech covered despite only 10% and 7% of the public respectively picking them to do so.

Our Week 8 College Football Office Pool Picks

Here’s where you can find our computer generated picks for college football office pools, based on logic appropriate for your size of pool (very important!):

On our game winner office pool picks, there is a drop-down menu above the picks table where you can select Yahoo!, ESPN, or AP Top 25 teams. A lot of people play in Yahoo! and ESPN pools, each of which pick a specific subset of games to include in their pick’ems week to week. We calculate pick sets designed specifically for these sets of games.

Also, if you haven’t checked out our college football pick’em strategy series, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’ll ensure our choices here make a lot more sense.

And now, it’s time for our handy Game Winner table, which summarizes a few teams that look like they could be smart picks for people that need to take some risks. It’s based on our detailed pick’em analysis page.

Week 8 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners

TeamOpponentAdj Win OddsPublic %ValueSpreadPick Type
Western Kentuckyvs Louisiana-Monroe61%32%29%-3.5Odds-On Contrarian
TCUvs Texas Tech47%14%33%+1.0Low Risk Upset
Californiavs Stanford44%6%38%+2.5High Risk Upset
Connecticutat Syracuse36%7%29%+4.0High Risk Upset
Marylandvs North Carolina State42%16%26%+3.0High Risk Upset
Toledovs Cincinnati30%2%28%+7Long Shot Upset
Virginia Techat Clemson27%3%24%+7.5Long Shot Upset

Compared to the last three weeks we don’t see quite as much opportunity to go against the grain. This week, there is only one odds-on contrarian pick, which occurs when the public disagrees with our (and in this case, Vegas’s) favorite. Western Kentucky has been picked by less than one-third of the public, and we see the Hilltoppers as a great pick for any size pool.

We think Louisiana-Monroe’s high-profile two-week stretch in which they beat Arkansas and took Auburn to overtime could be skewing public opinion here.

There is also an excellent candidate this week for those in bigger pools looking for an upset. TCU is an underdog by just one point at home against Texas Tech, and we see this game as a relative tossup. With over 85% of the public picking the Red Raiders, there is significant value in backing TCU.

If you’re looking for something even more contrarian, there are actually three high risk upsets that present fairly solid choices. We give California, Maryland and Connecticut around a 40% probability to win as underdogs. With such low public pick percentages, all three are good places to look for those seeking to take some chances this week.

Finally, while there does appear to be some value in Virginia Tech and Toledo as long shot upsets, we wouldn’t recommend taking either with so many other solid options on the board this week.

Against The Spread Pick’em Strategy

A lot of point spread based pick’em contests publish the games and associated point spreads at the beginning of the week, but give you until the end of the week (or close to it) to submit your picks. This means a great strategy is to look for a game where the official spread in your contest is different from the current spread offered at most sports books, and take the “free points.” In general, the edge you get from those free points is going to be stronger than any lean you have on who is favored to cover.

Below are the biggest line movements from earlier in the week. Line movement highlights can also be found on on the right side of our college football odds page.

Week 8 Point Spread Movement Highlights

TeamOpponentOpening LineCurrent LineMovement
Florida Stateat Miami-18-213.0
UT-San Antoniovs San Jose State+14+113.0
Arizona Statevs Oregon+10+82.0
Virginia Techat Clemson+9+7.51.5
Nebraskaat Northwestern-5-6.51.5

The other major source of value in ATS pick’ems is finding teams that a huge majority of your opponents are picking, and then taking the other side. Most Vegas point spreads are pretty efficient, so if most of your opponents are picking a certain team to beat the spread this week, that team is almost certainly being overvalued. And that means you’ve got roughly a 50/50 shot of pulling ahead of a huge chunk of your opponents by picking against them, no matter what your personal opinion is of that game.

Here are five teams where the lines for the Yahoo! ATS pick’em are the within a point of those found at Pinnacle sports book on Thursday morning, yet 25% or less of contestants are selecting them to cover:

Week 8 Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights

TeamOpponentPublic Pick%TR Cover OddsCurrent Line
Californiavs Stanford7%53%+2.5
Toledovs Cincinnati10%47%+7
Virginia Techat Clemson11%54%+7.5
Connecticutat Syracuse16%48%+4
TCUvs Texas Tech16%48%+1

If the lines in your pick’em contest are the same or very close to those shown above, and if you think your competitors will be picking teams in roughly the same manner as the general public (e.g., in line with the Yahoo! contest picking trends), we’d recommend playing all five of these teams.

As you can see, our models only really favor two of these five teams to cover the spread. However, all of our predictions for these games are close enough to 50/50 that the public’s blatant irrationality is worth exploiting in every case.

For advice on other games in your spread-based pick’em pool this week, check out our college football office pool spread picks page, or our college football ATS picks page.

As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to answer as many as possible, and we look forward to a fun and interactive college football weekly pick’em advice column this season.