The war of attrition that is the college football season continues to cull pretenders from the ranks of contenders, and entering Week 8 only 11 unbeaten teams remain among the Associated Press (AP) Top-25 rankings.
Of course, that list is headlined by top-ranked Alabama (7-0), as the Crimson Tide look poised to defend last year’s national championship.
Nick Saban’s boys were said to be faced with a stiff test last week against then ninth-ranked Tennessee (5-2), but Alabama manhandled the Volunteers in the type of relentless 49-10 thrashing that has defined the head coach’s historic eight-year era.
They’ll face another ranked team this week, and a fellow unbeaten to boot, when sixth-ranked Texas A&M (6-0) travels to Tuscaloosa.
The Aggies had a bye last Saturday, but in their previous game they also beat Tennessee in a 45-38 shootout. Texas A&M hasn’t been seriously threatened since surrendering a 15-point fourth quarter comeback in the season opener versus UCLA, and after winning that game in overtime, they’ve rolled in every contest since.
Nonetheless, taking on Alabama in Bryant-Denny is a tall order for any team. Since Saban’s first full year as head coach in 2008, the Tide have only lost four games in Tuscaloosa. Furthermore, Alabama is 23-7 under Saban when playing Top-10 ranked teams.
With that dominance in mind, online sportsbook Bovada has Alabama as big 17.5-point home favorites over the unbeaten SEC upstarts from the Lone Star State.
Second-ranked Ohio State (6-0) travels to Penn State (4-2), where the Buckeyes will be large 20-point road favorites over the Nittany Lions.
Head Coach Urban Meyer’s playoff hopes were nearly dashed last Saturday, but Ohio State rallied to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime to escape with a 30-23 win over then eighth-ranked Wisconsin (4-2).
Third-ranked Michigan (6-0) is fresh off of its bye week, and they’ll stay home to play an overmatched Illinois (2-4) squad in the cozy confines of the Big House. The Wolverines are rolling this season, as evidenced in their 78-0 demolition of Rutgers (2-4) two weeks ago to up their average to 50.0 points per game.
The consensus line on this game isn’t that wide, but throw in a Wolverines defense allowing just 10.3 points per game, and the books have Michigan as heavy 35.5-point favorites.
Fourth-ranked Clemson (7-0) takes their bye this week, while fifth-ranked Washington (6-0) stays home to battle Oregon State (2-4) in a Pac-12 matchup.
The Huskies also hit the 70-point plateau two weeks ago against Oregon (2-4), doing to the Ducks what they did to so many opponents during their own high-flying glory days a few seasons past.
Washington is averaging 49.5 points per game, and the consensus among sportsbooks is that they’ll keep pushing the pace, as the Huskies are set as 37.5-point favorites.
Four other unbeaten teams will put their unblemished records on the line this Saturday – with ninth-ranked Baylor (6-0) on a bye – and each will enjoy hometown cooking:
No. 8 Nebraska (6-0) vs. Purdue (3-3) | Nebraska (-24)
No. 12 West Virginia (5-0) vs. TCU (4-2) | West Virginia (-5)
No. 14 Boise State (6-0) vs. BYU (4-3) | Boise State (-7)
No. 20 Western Michigan (7-0) vs. Eastern Michigan (5-2) | Western Michigan (-23.5)