Week Nine Predictions
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As the College Football Playoff selection committee prepares to release their first rankings next week, a huge slate of games are set to go down this weekend. All eyes are on the Mississippi schools to see if they can stay unbeaten until they face off in the final week of the regular season. If and when one of them would slip, a whole handful of teams are drooling to jump into the top four....
Here are my picks for the games of week nine...
#6 Oregon (6-1) at Cal (4-3) - 10:00 - FOX Sports 1 - With the CFP rankings set to debut this coming Tuesday, the Ducks need to turn things up a notch in the eyes of the selection committee. They should get that chance as Cal is 120th in the country in points given up at 39 per game. I see Oregon capitalizing on this and winning big. I am impressed so far with first-year HC Sonny Dykes at Cal, but I don't think his team will win this one. Oregon, 44-24.
Rutgers (5-2) at #16 Nebraska (6-1) - 12:00- ESPN2 - Gonna go Huskers big here. Rutgers has built a 5-2 record by beating bad teams (including Michigan). Nebraska has performed much better and has the 12th-best scoring offense to go along with the 18th-best scoring defense. I have been on Bo Pelini's case for many years now, but if he wins this one, he will have his team in prime position to crack the top 15 and start thinking B1G Title Game. Nebraska, 33-10.
Texas (3-4) at #11 Kansas State (5-1) - 12:00 - I keep thinking that any game now Charlie Strong will have his team turn it around and get things rolling. And they just might. But I don't think it will start this weekend as Kansas State has a good team and they will be at home. With Texas and their athletes anything is possible, but I just see the Wildcats as the better team at this point. Texas' offense is awful. Kansas State, 28-14.
#1 Mississippi State (6-0) at Kentucky (5-2) - 3:30 - CBS - The Bulldogs better be careful here or a dream season could get destroyed. The Wildcats do not have the big name of the Alabama's and the Auburn's and the LSU's, but what they do have is a good football team in Mark Stoops' second season. You can bet a rowdy crowd will be jacked-up to see their basketball school make noise in the football universe. It will be a close one, and I am tempted to pull an upset....And I am. Kentucky, 31-29.
Michigan (3-4) at #8 Michigan State (6-1) - 3:30 - ABC regional - Yeah, yeah, Brady Hoke could get a big win here and get fans off of his back and all that. Not a chance. I was a Hoke fan the first several years of his tenure, but this latest season things have gone from bad to worse and he is toast. His team is not very good and if Michigan State is fired up in the least bit, they will win this and begin to position themselves for the post season. Surprisingly, the MSU offense is the unit ranked in the top 5 nationally (47 ppg). Michigan State, 34-20.
Texas Tech (3-4) at #10 TCU (5-1) - 3:30 - FOX - Of all of the games in the Pick'em Contest that are tough, finally an "easy" game to pick pops up here. TCU is clearly the better team and are also at home. So they cruise right? Well, it's college football so you never really know, but a "yes" would be my answer. If TTU wins this game it would be one of the bigger upsets of 2014. Without much more time thinking this over, I am going Horned Frogs. TCU, 36-17.
#22 West Virginia (5-2) at Oklahoma State (5-2) - 3:30 - ESPN - The Mountaineers are riding high after a big win over Baylor. But what we have learned about West Virginia, historically, is that they are as tough as it gets at home, but not all that when they hit the highway. In this one, I see the Cowboys getting a big win at home to bounce back from an embarrassing road loss a week ago to TCU, 42-9. So how can I pick the Cowboys after that beat down? I am asking myself that same question. Oklahoma State, 35-26.
Oregon State (4-2) at Stanford (4-3) - 3:30 - ESPN2 - I don't know what to think about Stanford right now. I was big on them under Harbaugh, then Shaw came in and did great in years one and two. But so far in year three, his team seems to be very average. He has a strong defense, and the Oregon State offense is nothing to write home about. I am picking the Cardinal in a low-scoring, get-a-call-at-home kind of game. Stanford 20-14.
Syracuse (3-4) at #21 Clemson (5-2) - 7:00 - ESPNU - The Tiger offense has become a huge question mark with injuries to key players including QB Deshaun Watson. But Clemson will get a spark this weekend as freshman running back Tyshon Dye is set to make an impact straight out of the gates. A highly rated recruit, Dye, too, has been battling injuries but is said to be near full speed now. Syracuse is not that good of a squad (106th and 49th in points for and points against, respectively). Clemson, 34-13.
#3 Ole Miss (7-0) at #24 LSU (6-2) - 7:15 - ESPN - Rebel fans, I promise I am not hatin' by picking y'all to get upset all the time. But with the slate of opponents y'ou face, it is just too tempting. I get it, your team is good. Y'all can play. But I have to pick LSU in this one - at home, at night - in the famed Tiger Stadium. The Tigers have been quiet this season, but I feel the Mad Hatter has something up his sleeve. The Tigers get it done late on a weird, Les Miles' type of play.. LSU, 27-21.
#4 Alabama (6-1) at Tennessee (3-4) - 7:30 - ESPN2 - If you are Butch Jones and you are trying to build your UT team up and build momentum in the Volunteer fan base, then seeing Nick Saban (a pissed off Nick Saban) across the field is your worst nightmare. It is beyond obvious that Saban is trying to impress the selection committee (59-0 over Texas A&M says enough) and he will have his team dialed-in and focused week after week from now until January. As I have said, I think Jones will get the Vols back up there, but this weekend could be ugly. Alabama, 44-10.
South Carolina (4-3) at #5 Auburn (5-1) - 7:30 - SEC Network - Is this the game where Steve Spurrier surprises everyone with a big road win? With the genious of his play-calling, you cannot put anything past him, but I think Auburn at home is very tough and that the QB battle is in the Tigers' favor with Nick Marshall better than Dylan Thompson. Years ago, this would be an Auburn route all day long. But USC has upped their talent level to be able to hang in games like this even in an off year. Auburn, 30-17.
#13 Ohio State (5-1) at Penn State (4-2) - 8:00 - ABC - With the NCAA finally removing the penalties they had placed on the wrong people, the Nittany Lions are back to full speed and the energy in State College is high! But despite the fact that PSU can put the ugliness behind them and get back into the college football world for real, this year's team is still lacking some key parts - namely an offense. Penn State is 111th in the country averaging just 21 points per game. The rushing game is especially pitiful. Ohio State, 30-17.
#20 USC (5-2) at #19 Utah (5-1) - 10:00 - FOX Sports 1 - In Vegas, this one is a toss-up, and rightfully so. Look at the matchups concerning offense vs defense: both offenses are in the top 30, both defenses in the top 50. Good teams, but not great. So how do you decide a winner in a game like this? Utah is 3-0 on the road - too bad this one is at home! As for USC, they are 2-1 on the road with a close loss to BC, 37-31. As per habit, I go home team when I cannot decide. USC, 35-27.
#14 Arizona State (5-1) at Washington (5-2) - 10:45 - ESPN - "When in doubt, go with the home team." That has been my philosophy for years, and it has served me in a very average manner. I just don't know enough about the late-playing left coast teams that I do not see as much of. Oregon and Stanford and USC are teams I see plenty of due to media love, but past those teams the PAC is a bit of a mystery to me. By 10:30 kickoff times, I am either too tired or too cross-eyed to analyze Pac-12 football! I'll get better. Washington, 30-24.
* All rankings AP, All times EST
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