We’re officially into Week 9 of the college football season, and tensions are running high. Conference rivalries are heating up every week as the College Football Playoffs rapidly approach. We had a few weeks of not being able to watch two ranked teams battle it out, but that all changes this weekend. This week will most likely decide who ends up in the playoffs and which teams are left out of the New Year’s Six.
Let’s dive on in and take a look at my top 5 games to watch this weekend:
#11 Oklahoma State (-6.0) @ #22 West Virginia
The Oklahoma State Cowboys enter this game on a 3-game win streak against Texas Tech, Baylor, and Texas. They squeaked by Texas in a 13-10 overtime thriller in their last game after Texas QB Sam Ehlinger made one of the worst plays I’ve ever seen. Instead of throwing it away under pressure on 3rd down to set up a game-tying field goal to send the game into double overtime, Ehlinger lobbed the ball into the end zone with only Cowboys around. Mason Rudolph has continued to be impressive this season, leading the NCAA in passing yards with 2650. He has also thrown for 19 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. WR James Washington is 2nd in the NCAA in receiving yards and he is almost exclusively a big-play man. He has only 38 catches this year but has turned that into 914 yards, an average of over 24 yards/catch. This offense is a force to be reckoned with and can easily drop 50 points in a game if you’re not careful. West Virginia is also very capable of putting up points. QB Will Grier is not far behind Rudolph in terms of yards at 2467. He also leads the NCAA in touchdowns with 26 and has only thrown 5 interceptions as well. Grier is putting himself on the outskirts of the Heisman conversation and is a name to remember. He also has a big-play receiver by the name of David Sills V who has 15 touchdowns this season and is in fact the only receiver in double digits. West Virginia is 5-2 with both losses coming against ranked opponents at the time: #21 Virginia Tech and #8 TCU.
Prediction: This game is an old-fashioned Big 12 shootout, but Rudolph outplays Grier in a 45-41 win for the Cowboys.
#3 Georgia (-14.0) @ Florida:
This is a pivotal game for coach Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs. They enter the game at #3 in the country, but have to play hated rival Florida. The Gators have taken the last 3 matchups against Georgia and look to play spoilers this week. Georgia has essentially obliterated every team they’ve played so far this year, except for the 20-19 thriller against Notre Dame. Georgia is a run-heavy offense, led by RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel who have combined for over 1000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Georgia has run the ball almost 3 times as much as they have passed it this season. Florida is ranked 47th in run defense this season. Florida’s offense has been atrocious en route to a 3-3 start. They have dropped their last two games in nail-biting fashion against LSU and Texas A&M. There has been no offensive playmaker for the Gators along with no quarterback consistency. I am giving this game my #4 ranking for the week because of the Gators defense and the fact that this is a very heated rivalry.
Prediction: Florida plays Georgia close until the 3rd quarter. Kirby Smart makes halftime adjustments and the Bulldogs have a huge second half and win 30-13.
#4 TCU (-6.5) @ Iowa State
Before the season, TCU was not even thought about as a team that could be competitive in the conference, much less make the playoffs. But here we are in week 9 and the Horned Frogs find themselves at #4 in the country. They have won 2 of their biggest 4 games already with wins over #11 Oklahoma State and #22 West Virginia. Their biggest challenge remaining is the Oklahoma Sooners on November 11 in Norman. However, they need to get through the Iowa State Cyclones, who have caught everyone off-guard and are ranked for only the 40th time in school history. TCU is led by QB Kenny Hill who is off to an amazing start throwing for 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. RB Darius Anderson is also a dangerous player out of the backfield for the Horned Frogs. This team has played great offense and has done surprisingly well on defense for a Big 12 school. Iowa State does have two bad losses against Iowa and Texas, but also have huge wins against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. RB David Montgomery has been the best Cyclones offensive player. He has rushed for over 600 yards this season to go along with 8 touchdowns. The Cyclones shut down Texas Tech’s high-flying offense to only 13 points in last week’s win.
Prediction: Iowa State’s stay in the Top 25 is short and ends after a 38-21 victory for the Horned Frogs as they keep on inching closer towards the CFP.
#14 NC State @ #9 Notre Dame (-7.5):
I never would have believed, even 2 weeks ago, that this would be a game I would be seriously interested in. The pesky Irish haven’t gone away this season and have only 1 loss which came to the now #3 Georgia Bulldogs. They are flying high off of their 49-14 shellacking of USC and preseason Heisman favorite Sam Darnold. They’ve now put together 5 wins in a row and look to keep the train rolling. Notre Dame is a run-heavy team led by RB Josh Adams, who ranks 7th in yards with 967. QB Brandon Wimbush can also hurt you with his legs and has scampered his way to over 500 yards on the ground this year. However, NC State comes into this one ranked 6th in rush defense as they look to contain the ND ground game. NC State comes into this one on a 6-game win streak since dropping their opener to South Carolina 35-28. They have beaten both Florida State and Louisville which were preseason dreams rather than realistic goals. QB Ryan Finley ranks inside the top 20 in passing yards this season and hasn’t thrown an interception in 7 games. He has vaulted himself up the draft boards and looks to continue that success against Notre Dame. Finley won’t beat you with his legs, but can beat you with that collected play and his refusal to turn the ball over.
Prediction: Notre Dame drops their second game of the season and falls out of the top 10 as the Wolfpack continue to shock the country with a 27-24 win. The Wolfpack then jump into the top 10 as Notre Dame falls out.
#2 Penn State @ #6 Ohio State
For the second time this season, the Buckeyes will host a #2 vs #6 matchup at the Shoe. This time, however, they will be the #6 team. They have been impressive since dropping the game to Oklahoma as it seems their offense has finally begun to click. Penn State has been even hotter, led by freak athlete and almost-guaranteed Heisman winner Saquon Barkley. They have not lost yet this season and are coming into this one after painfully ending Michigan’s hopes with a 42-13 blowout win. Their only close game this season came against Iowa. The Hawkeyes had the game won, but let McSorley drive the whole field and throw a walk-off touchdown. The Buckeyes have a Heisman candidate of their own in JT Barrett. After being rendered almost useless by Oklahoma, Barrett has been unstoppable since. The Buckeyes are averaging 53 points per game since the loss and their offense and defense look tough to beat. However, they need to prove it in this winner-take-all game that will decide what the CFP look like this season.
Prediction: OSU upsets Penn State 28-17 in a revenge game. Barrett finally rises up to the occasion in a big game and leads late 4th quarter drives that cement the game.
Who are you watching this week?