College football picks: No. 8 Michigan State edges No. 6 Michigan; Utah beats UCLA

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh fist bumps punter Brad Robbins (91) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh fist bumps punter Brad Robbins (91) during the second half against Northwestern on Oct. 23 in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

Each week, the Times’ national college sports reporter J. Brady McCollough will pick the week’s eight best games — that have a combination of big-brand intrigue and a spread within a touchdown — plus the USC and UCLA games. Through eight weeks, McCollough is 40-40.

No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne and running back Kenneth Walker III celebrate Walker's touchdown run.Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne and running back Kenneth Walker III celebrate Walker's touchdown run.

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne, left, and running back Kenneth Walker III celebrate Walker’s touchdown run against Western Kentucky on Oct. 2 in East Lansing, Mich. (Al Goldis / Associated Press)

Two of the more surprising unbeaten teams in the country happen to share a state border and really hate one another. In 113 meetings, Michigan and Michigan State have never been unbeaten and ranked in the top 10 when they played, so there’s a good reason ESPN College GameDay and Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff pregame show will air from East Lansing. Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines are a four-point favorite on the road, which will certainly be made clear to Mel Tucker’s Spartans, who beat Michigan last year in Ann Arbor 30-27. Michigan has a collection of players like star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who came back because of 2020’s bitter taste, while Michigan State has a lot of guys like stud running back Kenneth Walker III, who transferred in and has no experience in this rivalry. The game will come down to the play of each team’s steady but unheralded quarterback, and Michigan State’s Payton Thorne has much better wide receivers than Michigan’s Cade McNamara. Michigan State 31, Michigan 27

No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson carries the ball up field against Purdue.Iowa running back Tyler Goodson carries the ball up field against Purdue.

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson carries the ball up field against Purdue on Oct. 16 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Did the Badgers figure something out while beating Purdue 30-13 last week? The Boilermakers were coming off an upset of Iowa when the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 2, but let’s hold off on applying the transitive property in this case. Iowa has the defense to fully stifle Wisconsin’s offense. Iowa 20, Wisconsin 17

Texas at No. 16 Baylor

Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon throws against BYU.Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon throws against BYU.

Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon throws against BYU during the first half on Oct. 16 in Waco, Texas. (Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

Is this the week Texas coach Steve Sarkisian gets his first win against a top-25 opponent while leading the Longhorns? The teams appear evenly matched on paper, but the Bears have beaten two top-25 teams, Iowa State and Brigham Young, to gain real momentum in their second season under Dave Aranda. Both teams are coming off a bye week, but an extra week to prepare for star Texas running back Bijan Robinson will be especially beneficial for the Bears. Baylor 35, Texas 28

Arizona at USC

USC wide receiver Drake London plays against Notre Dame.USC wide receiver Drake London plays against Notre Dame.

USC wide receiver Drake London plays against Notre Dame in the first half in South Bend, Ind. on Oct. 23. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

The Trojans are desperate to end a three-game losing streak at the Coliseum and even their record at 4-4. Arizona hasn’t won in 19 contests. If USC can’t make it 20, then the Trojans’ problems are worse than anyone realized. USC 38, Arizona 13

No. 10 Mississippi at No. 18 Auburn

Mississippi wide receiver Dontario Drummond sets up to pass to quarterback Matt Corral.Mississippi wide receiver Dontario Drummond sets up to pass to quarterback Matt Corral.

Mississippi wide receiver Dontario Drummond sets up to pass to quarterback Matt Corral, unseen, during the first half in Oxford, Miss.,on Oct. 23. (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

With one loss, Lane Kiffin’s Rebels are still in the hunt for the SEC West Division crown. Of course, they’d need to win out and have Alabama lose another game, so the odds are pretty slim. Ole Miss is more likely playing for a New Year’s Six bowl bid, and this trip to Auburn feels like a crucial game to achieve that goal. Ole Miss 30, Auburn 24

No. 19 SMU at Houston

SMU running back Tyler Lavine scores a touchdown in front of Tulane linebacker Marvin Moody.SMU running back Tyler Lavine scores a touchdown in front of Tulane linebacker Marvin Moody.

SMU running back Tyler Lavine scores a touchdown in front of Tulane linebacker Marvin Moody during the second half in Dallas on Oct. 21. (Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)

The SMU offense under Sonny Dykes continues to produce big numbers. This year, it’s Oklahoma transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai keeping the unit humming. But Houston’s defense will be the best group it has faced, but the Mustangs will have a little too much horsepower. SMU 28, Houston 24

No. 12 Kentucky at Mississippi State

Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson warms up before a game.Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson warms up before a game.

Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson warms up before a game against Georgia on Oct. 16 in Athens, Ga. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

The Wildcats have the No. 12 ranking, but these teams feel pretty evenly matched. Mike Leach’s offense against Mark Stoops’ defense will be a fun chess match. Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 26

North Carolina at No. 11 Notre Dame

Notre Dame wide receiver Avery Davis celebrates his four-yard touchdown reception with quarterback Jack Coan.Notre Dame wide receiver Avery Davis celebrates his four-yard touchdown reception with quarterback Jack Coan.

Notre Dame wide receiver Avery Davis (3) celebrates his four-yard touchdown reception with quarterback Jack Coan (17) against USC in the first half in South Bend, Ind. on Oct. 23. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Las Vegas oddsmakers have the 6-1 Fighting Irish as only a 3.5-point favorite at home against 4-3 North Carolina, which has been underachieving all year based on its No. 8 preseason ranking. Vegas must be banking on the Tar Heels playing to their assumed potential, but the smart money is on Notre Dame. Notre Dame 42, North Carolina 34

UCLA at Utah

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich makes a catch in front of Oregon cornerback DJ James.UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich makes a catch in front of Oregon cornerback DJ James.

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich makes a catch in front of Oregon cornerback DJ James in the third quarter at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 23. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

With Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s health in question due to a hand injury suffered against Oregon, the Bruins will need an inspired performance from their running game and their defense. It does not help them that the Utes are coming off a tough loss to Oregon State and will be looking to keep control in the Pac-12 South. Utah 28, UCLA 19

Fresno State at No. 21 San Diego State

San Diego State running back Chance Bell is congratulated after rushing for a touchdown by quarterback Lucas Johnson.San Diego State running back Chance Bell is congratulated after rushing for a touchdown by quarterback Lucas Johnson.

San Diego State running back Chance Bell, left, is congratulated after rushing for a touchdown by quarterback Lucas Johnson in the second half against Air Force on Oct. 23 at Air Force Academy, Colo. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Aztecs are getting zero buzz for their unbeaten record, which includes a win over Utah. The reason for that is the way Brady Hoke’s team is winning — with defense and ball control. Fresno State has an electric offense led by quarterback Jake Haener, who became a Fresno folk hero in the win over UCLA. San Diego State’s defense will bend but not break. San Diego State 24, Fresno State 23.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.