College football Week 9: Picks and previews

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Virginia Tech (2-5, 1-3 in ACC) at No. 24 North Carolina State (5-2, 1-2 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Thursday, ESPN
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We are one more game weekend out of the first College Football Playoff rankings. Several of the major players for the top-four spots are in action this week. 

Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads courtesy of DraftKings, current at the time of publication and subject to change) for games featuring teams in The Associated Press Top 25 and other interesting matchups throughout the country.

All times Eastern. Statistics in parentheses are from the 2022 season unless otherwise noted. 

 

1 of 23

Virginia Tech (2-5, 1-3 in ACC) at No. 24 North Carolina State (5-2, 1-2 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Thursday, ESPN

Virginia Tech (2-5, 1-3 in ACC) at No. 24 North Carolina State (5-2, 1-2 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Thursday, ESPN

Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

N.C. State has endured two losses in its last three games but returns from an off week still ranked in the Top 25. The final push likely won’t be easy without injured quarterback Devin Leary, considering the Wolfpack have totaled 48 points in the last three games. Not to mention, N.C. State has dropped five in a row versus Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies have been outscored 139-63 during their current four-game losing streak.

Prediction: North Carolina State (-13 1/2)

 

2 of 23

No. 14 Utah (5-2, 3-1 in Pac-12) at Washington State (4-3, 1-3 in Pac-12), 10 p.m., Thursday, FS1

No. 14 Utah (5-2, 3-1 in Pac-12) at Washington State (4-3, 1-3 in Pac-12), 10 p.m., Thursday, FS1

Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports

If there is a concern for the Utes, it’s that they allowed 42 points in each of the last two games while splitting the season series with UCLA and USC. Meanwhile, Washington State just totaled 24 points in back-to-back road losses to the Trojans and Oregon State, but it’s averaging 32.8 points while going 3-1 at home. Utah has won the last three meetings in this series — all came at home. However, the Cougars won the most recent matchup in Pullman in 2018.

Prediction: Utah (-7)

 

3 of 23

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 in Big Ten) at No. 13 Penn State (6-1, 3-1 in Big Ten), Noon, Saturday, Fox

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 in Big Ten) at No. 13 Penn State (6-1, 3-1 in Big Ten), Noon, Saturday, Fox

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK

This is just the second ranked team Ohio State will face in 2022. The Buckeyes sit fifth in the country, allowing 14.9 points. Meanwhile, Penn State is giving up 18.9 per contest overall and 48 total while going 4-0 at home. Of course, the Nittany Lions have not seen an offense the caliber of Ohio State, and that includes the Michigan group that beat them 41-17. The Buckeyes have won five straight in the series since they were ranked No. 2 and fell 24-21 at Happy Valley in 2016.

Prediction: Ohio State (-16)

 

4 of 23

No. 7 TCU (7-0, 4-0 in Big 12) at West Virginia (3-4, 1-3 in Big 12), Noon, Saturday, ESPN

No. 7 TCU (7-0, 4-0 in Big 12) at West Virginia (3-4, 1-3 in Big 12), Noon, Saturday, ESPN

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The last time TCU went 8-0 was 2015, and it beat West Virginia for the eighth victory. Since that triumph, however, the Horned Frogs are 1-5 against the Mountaineers. TCU has also been outscored 105-26 during its three-game losing streak at West Virginia. Then again, the Mountaineers have allowed 88 points and 408 rushing yards in their last two games this month. Meanwhile, TCU’s Kendre Miller has averaged 124.6 rushing yards and scored eight of his 10 touchdowns on the ground in the last five contests.

Prediction: West Virginia (+7 1/2)

 

5 of 23

Notre Dame (4-3) at No. 16 Syracuse (6-1), Noon, Saturday, ABC

Notre Dame (4-3) at No. 16 Syracuse (6-1), Noon, Saturday, ABC

Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse has lost four straight against the Irish by an average margin of 22.5 points. But, they enter this latest installment of the series as the better team and are hosting the contest for the first time since 2003 — which Syracuse won 38-12. Not to mention, the Orange nearly knocked off Clemson on the road last week. Notre Dame will host Clemson next week and could use some momentum entering that matchup. The Irish have totaled 38 points in splitting its two games against ranked teams — Ohio State and BYU — this season.

Prediction: Notre Dame (+2 1/2)

 

6 of 23

No. 8 Oregon (6-1, 4-0 in Pac-12) at California (3-4, 1-3 in Pac-12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

No. 8 Oregon (6-1, 4-0 in Pac-12) at California (3-4, 1-3 in Pac-12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

The revival of Bo Nix (1,809 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, three interceptions; 382 rushing yards, eight rushing TDs) gets plenty of pub at Oregon, but how about Minnesota transfer running back Bucky Irving? The sophomore has rushed for 523 yards and averaged 7.1 per carry during the Ducks’ six-game winning streak. Cal allows a serviceable 117.4 rushing yards per game, but it’s also dropped three in a row, mostly because the Golden Bears have totaled 43 points in the last three contests.

Prediction: Oregon (-17 1/2)

 

7 of 23

Florida (4-3, 1-3 in SEC) vs. No. 1 Georgia (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) at Jacksonville, Fla., 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS

Florida (4-3, 1-3 in SEC) vs. No. 1 Georgia (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) at Jacksonville, Fla., 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS

Bob Self/Florida Times-Union/USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s “Cocktail Party” time, and the Bulldogs have won four of the last five installments of this rivalry. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this annual football fun fest. That doesn’t bode well for the Gators, who can be prepared to the hilt, but Georgia — outscoring opponents 292-64 — is just too good at this moment to be upset. Especially in a game that is easy to get pumped up to play. This will be just the second time this season that Florida has played a game outside The Swamp.

Prediction: Georgia (-22 1/2)

 

8 of 23

No. 9 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 in Big 12) at No. 22 Kansas State (5-2, 3-1 in Big 12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox

No. 9 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 in Big 12) at No. 22 Kansas State (5-2, 3-1 in Big 12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox

Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports

After injuring his knee early in Kansas State’s 38-28 loss at TCU last weekend, quarterback Adrian Martinez (907 passing yards, 565 rushing yards) is considered a game-time decision for this one . However, veteran backup Will Howard (13-for-20, 225 yards, two touchdowns, one interception; one rushing TD vs. TCU) held his own in relief and seems capable of leading this team. Regardless, the Wildcats, who have lost three straight in the series, must stop Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders (2,030 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions; 352 rushing yards, eight rushing TDs).

Prediction: Kansas State -1 1/2

 

9 of 23

No. 10 Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1 in ACC) at Louisville (4-3, 2-3 in ACC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

No. 10 Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1 in ACC) at Louisville (4-3, 2-3 in ACC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

For pure entertainment purposes, if this year’s matchup between the Demon Deacons and Cardinals is as exciting as last year, fans are in for another treat. Wake needed a field goal with 22 seconds remaining in regulation to win 37-34 at home. Two of the ACC’s best quarterbacks were each worthy of praise in that contest, with Wake’s Sam Hartman throwing for 324 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and rushing 35 times with a score. Meanwhile, Louisville star Malik Cunningham totaled 309 through the air and 46 on the ground, and four overall touchdowns. The Cardinals are banged up but 3-1 at home in the series since 2014.

Prediction: Wake Forest (-3 1/2)

 

10 of 23

No. 17 Illinois (6-1, 3-1 in Big Ten) at Nebraska (3-4, 2-2 in Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

No. 17 Illinois (6-1, 3-1 in Big Ten) at Nebraska (3-4, 2-2 in Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Ron Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

For those not aware, Illinois ranks No. 1 in the country in scoring defense (average 8.9 points allowed) and average scrimmage yards allowed (221.1), and boasts the nation’s top rusher in Chase Brown (1,059 rushing yards) entering this week’s action. Also, the Big Ten West is there to lose for the Illini, whose five-game winning streak is their longest since a six-game run in 2011. They’ll also be looking for a third consecutive victory over Nebraska, which is 2-2 since firing Scot Frost. The Cornhuskers have lost 19 straight against Top 25 teams.

Prediction: Illinois (-8)

 

11 of 23

No. 20 Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0 in AAC) at UCF (5-2, 2-1 in AAC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

No. 20 Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0 in AAC) at UCF (5-2, 2-1 in AAC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Albert Cesare/ The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Tulane and Cincinnati are the lone undefeated teams in American Athletic Conference play, but Central Florida is right behind and won its last three home games by an average margin of 32 points. The Bearcats, meanwhile, are undefeated since opening with that seven-point loss at Arkansas. However, they’ve won the last two — against USF and SMU — by a combined six points. So, Cincinnati, which has won three straight in this series, knows how to win tight games, and this could be another one.

Prediction: Cincinnati (-1)

 

12 of 23

Missouri (3-4, 1-3 in SEC) at No. 25 South Carolina (5-2, 2-2 in SEC), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

Missouri (3-4, 1-3 in SEC) at No. 25 South Carolina (5-2, 2-2 in SEC), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

Jordan Prather/USA TODAY Sports

One should feel good for South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler, who, while putting up pedestrian numbers (1,466 passing yards, five touchdowns, eight interceptions), is once again playing for a ranked team. The Gamecocks have won four in a row, thanks to a defense that’s allowed an average of 17.0 points during the winning streak. Missouri has won three straight in this series but dropped five consecutive road contests and 14 of the last 17 away from home dating to the start of the 2019 season.

Prediction: South Carolina (-4)

 

13 of 23

No. 10 USC (6-1, 4-1 in Pac-12) at Arizona (3-4, 1-3 in Pac-12), 7 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network

No. 10 USC (6-1, 4-1 in Pac-12) at Arizona (3-4, 1-3 in Pac-12), 7 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network

Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports

USC has had two weeks to regroup and rest up from that wild one-point loss at then-No. 20 Utah. This is another road test for the Trojans, but Arizona has lost two in a row, allowed 49 points in three of its last four games, and dropped nine straight in this series, dating to a 39-36 home victory in 2012. This all sets up for a potentially big night from USC Heisman Trophy candidate Caleb Williams (1,971 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, one interception; 235 rushing yards, three rushing TDs).

Prediction: USC (-15)

 

14 of 23

No. 19 Kentucky (5-2, 2-2 in SEC) at No. 3 Tennessee (7-0, 3-0 in SEC), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

No. 19 Kentucky (5-2, 2-2 in SEC) at No. 3 Tennessee (7-0, 3-0 in SEC), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK

According to The Athletic , this is the first time since 1951 that these rivals are both ranked for their matchup. Plus, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (2,093 passing yards, 18 yards, one interception; 315 rushing yards, three rushing TDs) is a serious Heisman Trophy contender, and Jalin Hyatt has caught 13 passes for 381 yards and seven TDs in the last two games. Meanwhile, Kentucky is allowing just 16.4 points and is 2-1 against Top 25 teams this season. And the Wildcats won the most recent meeting in Knoxville, 34-7, in 2020.

Prediction: Kentucky (+12 1/2)

 

15 of 23

Michigan State (3-4, 1-3 in Big Ten) at No. 4 Michigan (7-0, 4-0 in Big Ten), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Michigan State (3-4, 1-3 in Big Ten) at No. 4 Michigan (7-0, 4-0 in Big Ten), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Wolverines are three-touchdown favorites against their in-state rival, but they’ve also lost the last two meetings. In fact, the Spartans have won five of the last seven played at the Big House. Now, Michigan is rolling and has won 12 consecutive regular-season contests since falling 37-33 at Michigan State a year ago. Meanwhile, the Spartans should have some momentum after ending their four-game skid with the double-overtime win against Wisconsin from two weeks ago. Even with that triumph and history on its side, Michigan State still faces a tall order in upsetting the Wolverines again.

Prediction: Michigan State (+22 1/2)

 

16 of 23

No. 15 Mississippi (7-1, 3-1 in SEC) at Texas A&M (3-4, 1-3 in SEC), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

No. 15 Mississippi (7-1, 3-1 in SEC) at Texas A&M (3-4, 1-3 in SEC), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

Matt Bush/USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss needs to bounce back from that 25-point loss at LSU, and a visit to disjointed Texas A&M might provide the ideal opportunity to get it done. The Rebels won last year’s meeting, and these Aggies appear in disarray while amid a three-game losing streak, dealing with various personnel issues and wondering if Jimbo Fisher really is the right man for the job. Then again, when we least expect it, Texas A&M might finally come to play and show a little pride to pull off this mild upset.

Prediction: Texas A&M (+2 1/2)

 

17 of 23

Pittsburgh (4-3, 1-2 in ACC) at No. 21 North Carolina (6-1, 3-0 in ACC), 8 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

Pittsburgh (4-3, 1-2 in ACC) at No. 21 North Carolina (6-1, 3-0 in ACC), 8 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

It’s North Carolina that sits top of the ACC Coastal Division, not Pittsburgh. The Tar Heels have won three in a row, but the last two — at Miami, Fla., and Duke — by three points each. Though Pitt has dropped two of its last three after scoring 10 points at Louisville last week, we still expect this one to be close. And potentially high scoring. Two of the ACC’s best will be on display in Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, who ranks among the national leaders in passing yards (2,283), touchdowns (24) and passer rating (184.8). And Panthers running back Israel Abanikanda is fourth in the country with 959 yards and a 137.0 average per contest.

Prediction: North Carolina (-3)

 

18 of 23

Stanford (3-4, 1-4 in Pac-12) at No. 12 UCLA (6-1, 3-1 in Pac-12), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Stanford (3-4, 1-4 in Pac-12) at No. 12 UCLA (6-1, 3-1 in Pac-12), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports

UCLA has a chance to show its mettle while trying to rebound from that rough 15-point loss at Oregon last weekend. And the Bruins get to do so at home, where they’ve won seven in a row dating to last season. That said, UCLA has no reason to sleep on Stanford, which followed a three-game losing streak by winning at Notre Dame and versus Arizona State — by a total of three points. The Cardinal also allowed 14 points in each of those contests, so that’s the challenge for a UCLA squad averaging 39.9 points.

Prediction: Stanford (+16 1/2)

 

19 of 23

Arkansas (4-3, 1-3 in SEC) at Auburn (3-4, 1-3 in SEC), Noon, Saturday, SEC Network

Arkansas (4-3, 1-3 in SEC) at Auburn (3-4, 1-3 in SEC), Noon, Saturday, SEC Network

Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

Is disappointing the appropriate term to describe the status of both teams? Sure, Auburn was not expected to be a major player within the SEC this season, but it’s in danger of losing four straight games for a second consecutive season, as well as three games at home. Now, the Tigers have won six in a row over Arkansas, which is looking to avoid a fourth consecutive SEC defeat. The Razorbacks, a Top 25 staple earlier this season, lost their last two league games — versus Alabama and Mississippi State — by 23 points each.

Prediction: Auburn (+3 1/2)

 

20 of 23

Oklahoma (4-3, 1-3 in Big 12) at Iowa State (3-4, 0-4 in Big 12), Noon, Saturday, FS1

Oklahoma (4-3, 1-3 in Big 12) at Iowa State (3-4, 0-4 in Big 12), Noon, Saturday, FS1

Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Sooners halted a three-game skid with their 52-42 win over Kansas on Oct. 15 but are giving up 48.8 points per game in conference play. Iowa State, meanwhile, has totaled just 65 points while off to its worst league start since going 0-6 in 2016. However, the Cyclones are yielding just 15.1 points per contest — and they won 37-30 when the teams last met in Ames during the 2020 season. Dating to last season, Oklahoma has lost three straight Big 12 road games for the first time since dropping four in a row spanning the 2009 and ’10 campaigns.

Prediction: Oklahoma (-1)

 

21 of 23

Northwestern (1-6, 1-3 in Big Ten) at Iowa (3-4, 1-3 in Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Northwestern (1-6, 1-3 in Big Ten) at Iowa (3-4, 1-3 in Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Bryon Houlgrave/The Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

 

22 of 23

Baylor (4-3, 2-2 in Big 12) at Texas Tech (4-3, 2-2 in Big 12), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Baylor (4-3, 2-2 in Big 12) at Texas Tech (4-3, 2-2 in Big 12), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

It’s a matchup of teams right in the middle of the Big 12 standings. For Baylor, that’s not where it was expected to be. It has not helped that the Bears are 1-2 on the road this season. They’ve also lost 10 in a row at Texas Tech, dating to a 21-15 victory there in 1990. On the flip side, the Red Raiders are 4-0 this season at home, where they’ve already knocked off then-ranked teams in Houston and Texas.

Prediction: Texas Tech (-2 1/2)

 

23 of 23

San Diego State (4-3, 2-1 in Mountain West) at Fresno State (3-4, 2-1 in Mountain West), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

San Diego State (4-3, 2-1 in Mountain West) at Fresno State (3-4, 2-1 in Mountain West), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

This matchup features two of the three teams tied for the lead in the West Division of the Mountain West. Each team enters looking for a third consecutive victory. The Aztecs have allowed 21 points in back-to-back wins over Hawaii and Nevada after giving up 35 in a loss at Boise State. However, they’re averaging just 19.1 points on the season. Meanwhile, Fresno has yielded just 19 points in beating San Jose State and New Mexico over the past two weeks. The Bulldogs have won three of the last four versus SDSU.

Prediction: San Diego State (+8 1/2)

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.





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