Hope you have a favorite local watering hole or a living room with multiple screens because the schedule makers for Week 9 of college football have gifted us a mid-afternoon (early afternoon for those of you on the West Coast) window chock full of big name teams and rivalry games. I'm not going to waste a ton of time trying to sell you on why this week's schedule is the start of when things get fun. Instead, let's just dive into these match-ups and get pumped for Saturday.
#11 Oklahoma State @ #22 West Virginia (+7.5), Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ABC)
The Cowboys offense struggled last week against a good Texas defense, but their defense stepped up to hold the Longhorns to just 10 points and keep the Cowboys alive in the Big 12 race. Now, they face a prolific Mountaineers offense that closely mirrors their offensive production. The teams are just 0.4 apart in scoring (43.7 to 43.3), 31 yards apart in rushing (197.4 to 176.1) and 28 yards apart in passing (392.7 to 364). The Mountaineers defense has struggled to stop teams (29.8 PPG) while the Cowboys have been better in that department this year (22.3 PPG).
This is a premier showdown between two of the better QBs in the country in Mason Rudolph and Will Grier and it's a great way to kick off the Saturday slate with a potential fireworks display in Morgantown.
#3 Georgia @ Florida (+13.5), Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Now we get into the craziness. Four games, all kicking off at the same time. Four Top 10 teams playing, with two of those facing each other. Strap in folks, this should be fun.
We start with The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, where the Bulldogs enter on a three-game losing streak in this rivalry. However, this is a different Bulldogs team than the one we've seen against the Gators in the past couple of years. This year's edition of the 'Dawgs feature one of the best run defenses in the country (4th, 82.1 YPG, 2.82 YPC) and as usual, a dominant running game. For Florida, the biggest question remains QB Feleipe Franks. Flashes of his potential have been seen (the Tyrie Cleveland Hail Mary throw) while making plenty of mistakes. That's normal for a young QB, but against this Georgia defense, that will be loaded up to stop running back Malik Davis, Franks will have to make plays to keep the Gators in this one.
I also wonder when we'll start to see Georgia QB Jake Fromm be asked to do more. He's been good, but he also has had the benefit of the strong running game behind him. This could be the game to test him a bit, and I'll be interested to see how he answers the challenge.
#14 NC State @ #9 Notre Dame (-7), Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Fresh off a 49-14 drubbing of USC, the Irish welcome a dangerous Wolfpack team to South Bend. The Irish ran all over the Trojans in that win last Saturday night, but they'll have a tougher time doing that to NC State this week. The Wolfpack rank 6th in the nation in run defense allowing just 91.8 yards per game, while the Irish come in with the 6th ranked rushing attack averaging 317.9 yards per game on the ground.
NC State has the kind of defense that's suited to dealing with a dual-threat QB like Notre Dame's Brandon Wimbush. The question is whether they can stop Wimbush while also stopping Josh Adams. Only one team has been able to fully slow the Irish run game this year, Georgia, and the Wolfpack will need to take a page out of Kirby Smart's playbook to win this game in South Bend. Either way, this feels like another playoff eliminator. If Notre Dame wins, their hopes stay alive. Same for NC State. Speaking of potential playoff eliminators.....
#2 Penn State @ #6 Ohio State (-6.5), Saturday 3:30 p.m. (FOX)
Welcome to the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes are looking for revenge after last season's 27-24 loss in Happy Valley that came down to a blocked field goal at the end. The Buckeyes have had the upper hand in this rivalry in recent years winning seven of the last ten and posting an 8-2 record in the last 10 times the teams have met in Columbus. As you can see, despite being the lower ranked team, the Vegas insiders see Ohio State as the favorite. Wonder how James Franklin's crew feels about that.
Penn State's offense runs through Saquon Barkley as we've said many times over. But, last week, you saw just how dangerous Trace McSorely can be when a team is loaded up to stop Barkley. The mere threat of Barkley on a zone read, was enough to move the Michigan linebackers completely out of their assigned lanes and give McSorely room to roam. The Nittany Lions also have weapons like DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki to work to in the passing game. Gesicki in particular is a match-up problem for the Buckeyes who struggled covering Indiana's taller receivers earlier this year.
The Buckeyes pass rush is fierce with 17 sacks this season so far and they rotate a deep group of guys to stay fresh. Penn State's offensive line will be tested. On offense, the Buckeyes have looked better in recent weeks, but part of that is due to the competition. They've rolled up wins against UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska. Can they continue to roll against and aggressive, attacking defense directed by coordinator Brent Pry? We'll find out.
UCLA @ #12 Washington (-17), Saturday 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Okay, so this is the least of the mid-afternoon games, but it is still one to keep an eye on. Washington is coming off a bye after losing its last time out to Arizona State. That loss, combined with the Huskies soft out of conference schedule, has on the outside looking in at the playoff race at the moment. Winning this game won't necessarily jump them right back in, but winning convincingly could jump-start a road to working their way back into the top four picture.
UCLA's Josh Rosen hasn't gotten much help from the defense this year, but he's continued to play well completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,620 yards 19 TDs and 8 INTs. He'll have a challenge going up against this Washington defense that is 3rd in scoring defense (10.6 PPG) and have allowed opponents to throw for just 163.9 yards per game.
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