It’s week eight of college football season and we’ve got some great ranked matchups to watch on Saturday. As far as my picks were concerned, last week was a week to forget. I went 0-3 both straight up and against the spread. That brings my numbers (thru four weeks of picking games) to 6-6 straight up and 5-7 against the spread. Here are three games to keep an eye on this week:

No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State – Noon on FOX

The battle for one of the best trophies in college football, the Paul Bunyan Trophy, begins at noon. The winner of this game also controls their own destiny in the Big Ten East.

Michigan has been on a tear lately, winning six straight since losing the opener to No. 12 Notre Dame. Karan Higdon has been fantastic for the Maize and Blue, averaging 114.5 yards per game on the ground. That puts him at ninth in the country in average rushing yards per game. Michigan State counters with the nation’s best rushing defense, allowing only 62.3 yards per game on the ground.

Pretty good, right? The Wolverines happen to have the nation’s top passing defense and second-best scoring defense.

The run game and controlling the line of scrimmage will be the key to this game, but the quarterback play will be critical too. Shea Patterson only threw for 124 yards last week against Wisconsin, but he killed the Badgers with his feet, picking up 90 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

Brian Lewerke is having an adequate season for Michigan State. He’s completing 60 percent of his passes and has thrown eight TDs against seven picks – those seven picks match the total he had all of last season. He has done just enough at times to keep the Spartans in it. He completed less than 47 percent of his throws against Penn State, but connected with Felton Davis III for the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play.

Lewerke’s play is a big reason that Michigan State has been so inconsistent this year. The Spartans were ranked inside the top 15 to start the season and then looked bad right out of the gate with a seven-point win against Utah State. The Spartans then lost two of their next four (at Arizona State by three and at home to Northwestern by 10) before their stunning upset win against the Nittany Lions.

Both teams are coming off great wins. Michigan crushed No. 15 Wisconsin by 25 points last week at home while Michigan State came from behind to stun No. 8 Penn State in Happy Valley.

Michigan State has won 8 of the last 10 in the rivalry. Can the Spartans pull off two top-10 upsets in back-to-back weeks?

The Line: Michigan (-7)

My Pick: The Wolverines are 0-17 against ranked teams on the road since 2006. 2006! Throw in Mark Dantonio’s wizardry in the rivalry, and I’m taking Sparty in the upset. I like Michigan State and the points.

No. 16 N.C. State at No. 3 Clemson – 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

A key ACC game gives the winner control of their own destiny in the Atlantic Division.

After Clemson almost lost to Syracuse, the undefeated Tigers quickly moved on and pasted Wake Forest by 60 points on the road last week. Can true freshman Trevor Lawrence continue to grow and settle into the quarterback position? He’s been great so far this year, completing 69 percent of his passes to go along with 11 TD passes and just two picks.

Ryan Finley has flown under the national radar for undefeated N.C. State. Hurricane Florence forced ranked West Virginia and N.C. State to cancel their matchup, an unfortunate situation that hurt both teams in the rankings but was essential for player and fan safety. The senior QB is sixth in passing yards per game, averaging a ridiculous 324 yards per game through the air. His other numbers mirror Lawrence’s: he’s completing 69.5 percent of his passes and has 10 TD passes and three picks. Clemson’s secondary has been exposed at times this season. We’ll have to see if Finley is able to exploit that matchup or whether Clemson’s defensive line is able to pressure and frustrate him.

Keep your eye on the battle at the line of scrimmage. Travis Etienne is averaging an absurd 9.2 yards per carry this season. He’s sixth in the nation with 761 rushing yards and also has 11 rushing touchdowns. N.C. State has the nation’s 13th-best rushing defense, allowing just 107.4 rushing yards per game, and has only allowed three rushing touchdowns all season long.

Another key stat to watch out for is third-down conversions. The Wolfpack lead the nation in third down conversion percentage at nearly 61 percent! Clemson has the nation’s eighth-best third-down defense at 27.8 percent. If the Wolfpack keep moving the chains on third down, that will go a long way towards wearing down the Tigers’ sixth-ranked scoring defense while helping them keep Etienne and the Clemson offense in check.

The Line: Clemson (-17.5)

My Pick: Clemson is the better team, and I expect to see a lot of Lawrence handing the ball off to Travis Etienne. However, 17.5 points is too high in my opinion. I’m picking Clemson to win, but take the Pack and the points.

No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU – 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

The Tigers became legitimate College Football Playoff contenders after kicking No. 2 Georgia’s rear last week with some good ‘ol-fashioned smash-mouth football and great defense. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs, who had suffered back-to-back losses to Kentucky and Florida, stunned top-10 Auburn and then went into their bye week. So both teams are coming off of home wins against top-10 opponents.

The big difference is that Mississippi State just picked up its first win against a ranked team, while LSU’s win was its third against a top-10 team just this season.

The Tigers ran for 275 yards against one of the best defenses in the country. If they can come close to duplicating that kind of performance, they’ll be able to control the tempo of the game just like they did last week.

Mississippi State has the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing just 12.7 points per game. If they can bend, but not break, the Bulldogs will have a real chance to get the upset. The problem for Mississippi State is that the team is pretty one-dimensional on offense. The Bulldogs average more than 240 yards per game on the ground, but just 190 yards per game through the air. That makes them the nation’s 18th-best rushing attack but the country’s 105th-best passing offense. Nick Fitzgerald doesn’t have a touchdown pass in his last three games and has failed to throw for even 100 yards in the last two outings. However, he does lead the team in rushing and averages 5.2 yards per carry with seven rushing touchdowns.

That’s the key matchup in the game. The Tigers are going to load the box, dare the Bulldogs to run the ball, and try to force Fitzgerald to beat them with his arm.

Both teams have outstanding rushing defenses and rushing offenses. LSU is ranked 26th in the country in rushing defense, allowing just 120.4 rushing yards per game. The rushing offense ranks 37th with 202.1 yards per game. While the Bulldogs have the 18th-best rushing attack in the country, they also have the nation’s 19th-best rushing defense, yielding a mere 115.3 yards per game.

Mississippi State’s defense is good enough to keep this game close, but will the Bulldogs be able to make the two or three big plays on offense they’ll need if they want to win under the lights at Death Valley?

The Line: LSU (-6.5)

My Pick: The Tigers know what needs to be done with the Alabama game looming next week and their defense matches up well with Mississippi State’s one-dimensional offense. I think this game will be close for a long time, but I’m taking LSU to win and cover.

Noah Niederhoffer (@Noah715) is a producer at SiriusXM and a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Originally from Atlanta, he now lives in Washington, D.C.