Can AJ McCarron and Alabama survive a tough test from Mississippi State on Saturday?
Week 9 of the college football season features four big games that will pit Top 15 teams against each other.
Mississippi State vs. Alabama, Florida vs. Georgia, Texas Tech vs. Kansas State and, of course, Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma—the marquee matchup of the weekend—are all games that will have a big impact on next week’s BCS standings, no matter who wins.
Of course, those aren’t the only games that could cause a serious shakeup to the rankings.
Here are the predictions for how every BCS Top 25 team will fare in Week 9.
Betting lines courtesy of Covers.com
Spread: Alabama (-23.5)
Mississippi State deserves a lot of credit for its 7-0 start and its Top 15 national ranking. But the bottom line is that the Bulldogs' schedule so far has not been all that daunting. Their only two wins of note are against Auburn and Tennessee, two of the most disappointing teams in the SEC.
Dan Mullen is turning the program in the right direction. However, it’s going to be nearly impossible for his team to go on the road and shock an Alabama squad that is playing extremely efficient football at this point in the season.
The Bulldogs are capable of keeping things interesting for a half, especially if QB Tyler Russell plays well. But ultimately, the Tide are just too strong on defense and just have too many playmakers on offense to deal with.
Pick: Alabama wins, Mississippi State covers
Prediction: Alabama 38, Mississippi State 20
Jelani Jenkins and Aaron Murray
Spread: Florida (-6.5)
This game definitely looks like it’s going to be a physical battle. Both these teams have talented defenses that are loaded with tough players who love to mix it up.
Florida’s offense hasn’t exactly been explosive this season, but QB Jeff Driskel, RB Mike Gillislee and the rest of the unit have consistently gotten the job done. Plus, the Gators defense has stepped up and been suffocating in recent weeks.
Georgia may have the advantage at quarterback with Aaron Murray, but the Bulldogs just seem to lack the type of determination and energy that Florida’s been playing with in 2012.
Pick: Florida wins and covers
Prediction: Florida 27, Georgia 13
Collin Klein and John Hubert
Spread: Kansas State (-7)
Texas Tech has really turned things around after falling apart in the second half of last season. QB Seth Doege is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, and I was impressed by the amount of receiving weapons he had at his disposal when I watched the Red Raiders against West Virginia.
Still, it’s hard to bet against Heisman favorite Collin Klein and Kansas State, given the way the Wildcats are playing right now.
Klein is a true playmaker and game-changer, and he’s arguably the most dangerous player in college football this season.
After picking up such a big win at West Virginia last week, I could see the Wildcats having a bit of a letdown this weekend. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if they came out flat and had a slow start on Saturday. In the end, however, Texas Tech simply won’t have an answer for Klein.
Pick: Kansas State wins and covers
Prediction: Kansas State 35, Texas Tech 24
Spread: Oregon (-46)
Obviously, Oregon is going to win this game comfortably, seeing as Colorado might just be the worst BCS team this season. The question, though, is can the Ducks cover such a big spread?
So far this season, Chip Kelly has shown mercy on opponents after his team has built up a big early lead. However, now that Kansas State has jumped Oregon in the BCS standings, Kelly knows that there’s no more time to play around. His team has to win big from here on out to impress voters.
Kelly won’t show mercy on the Buffaloes on Saturday. Hopefully, the scoreboard operator at Autzen Stadium is ready for a busy day.
Pick: Oregon wins and covers
Prediction: Oregon 66, Colorado 10
Spread: Oklahoma (-10)
Notre Dame’s defense has been one of the most impressive units in college football so far this season. However, the Irish have yet to face an offense like the one Oklahoma has.
Shutting down overrated Big Ten teams is nice and all, but shutting down Landry Jones, Damien Williams, Kenny Stills and the rest of the Sooners offense on the road is a whole different story.
If the Oklahoma offensive line can step up, contain dangerous pass-rusher Stephon Tuitt and give Jones the proper pass protection, he should be able to carve up an Irish secondary that has not yet been truly tested.
Pick: Oklahoma wins and covers
Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Notre Dame 23
Spread: Oregon State (-4)
Oregon State has been one of the biggest surprise stories of the 2012 season. After a miserable 3-9 campaign last year, the Beavers have turned things around and started off this season undefeated.
The team has played two Pac-12 road games so far, and both games were decided by one score. It’s likely that the Beavers will once again be in store for another close battle at Washington this weekend.
The Huskies just got blasted by Arizona 52-17 last week, but they should be ready to give Oregon State a tough test, just like they did to Stanford when they upset the Cardinal in Week 5.
Pick: Oregon State wins, Washington covers
Prediction: Oregon State 28, Washington 27
Spread: USC (-6.5)
USC has a solid team with plenty of offensive talent this year. However, the Trojans are one of the most overrated teams in the country right now, and their mediocre defense is going to get exposed by the explosive Arizona offense this weekend.
The Wildcats have experienced an offensive revitalization under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez. And senior quarterback Matt Scott is one of the best kept secrets in college football in 2012. Scott has helped the Arizona offense average 548 yards and 39 points per game this year.
The last time USC made the trip to the state of Arizona back in 2011, the Trojans got stunned by Arizona State, 43-22. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a similar result, only this time in Tucson, on Saturday afternoon.
Pick: Arizona wins outright
Prediction: Arizona 41, USC 33
Spread: Florida State (-28)
All week long, everyone at Duke has been celebrating the team clinching bowl eligibility with its sixth win of the season. That’s great for the program. However, the Blue Devils are in for a rude awakening when they visit Tallahassee on Saturday.
Even without running back Chris Thompson, Florida State’s offense should still put up a ton of points against Duke’s inferior defense.
Pick: Florida State wins and covers
Prediction: Florida State 55, Duke 17
Derek Dooley and Steve Spurrier
Spread: South Carolina (-14)
South Carolina is bruised and battered after a brutal three-game stretch that included battles with three of the best teams in the SEC: Georgia, LSU and Florida.
Tennessee may not be on par with those three teams, but the Volunteers do have enough firepower at the offensive skill positions (QB Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson) to take advantage of the Gamecocks’ vulnerable state.
Derek Dooley knows he needs a big win this season if he wants to ensure his job security, and picking up a victory on the road against a marquee team like South Carolina would certainly help.
Pick: Tennessee wins outright
Prediction: Tennessee 31, South Carolina 26
Spread: Rutgers (-13.5)
There’s a reason that Rutgers is 7-0 right now. The Scarlet Knights have a solid running game, led by breakout star Jawan Jamison, and one of the toughest defenses you'll find in college football.
Kent State comes to town with a 6-1 record. But the Golden Flashes don’t exactly have many impressive wins on their resume. Their only notable win was a two-point victory over Ball State back in Week 5.
Rutgers is playing a disciplined brand of football under first-year coach Kyle Flood, and the team should be able to handle its business without much trouble against an overmatched MAC opponent.
Pick: Rutgers wins and covers
Prediction: Rutgers 34, Kent State 13
Spread: Louisville (-3.5)
Louisville is 7-0 at this point in the season. However, the Cardinals have been living on the edge lately, as four of their last five games have been decided by one score.
Cincinnati is reeling after getting beat on the road at Toledo last week, but the Bearcats will be motivated for this Big East showdown, knowing that this game has huge implications in the race for a league title.
Louisville may have home-field advantage and the better quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, but this could be the week that Charlie Strong’s squad finally gets burned.
Pick: Cincinnati wins outright
Prediction: Cincinnati 41, Louisville 30
Spread: Stanford (-24)
Washington State has not had anywhere near the type of resurgence this year that some were expecting under new head coach Mike Leach. The Cougars are just 2-5, and they rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in both total offense and total defense.
Still, given that they’ve had two weeks to prepare for Stanford, it’s conceivable to think that they are capable of covering a 24-point spread.
The Cardinal will do what they have to do to win this game comfortably. But Washington State will likely throw the ball at least 50 times, and they should be able to connect on a few big plays late and put enough points on the board to come away with a backdoor cover.
Pick: Stanford wins, Washington State covers
Prediction: Stanford 49, Washington State 28
Spread: Clemson (-12)
Late-season Thursday night road games are usually pretty tricky for ranked teams, and we’ve seen a lot of upsets happen in recent years.
Clemson is clearly a much more talented team overall than Wake Forest. But the big question is, do the Tigers have the discipline to go on the road after a short week of practice and take care of business the way they should.
The Demon Deacons have always been a tough, well-coached team under Jim Grobe. While they may not have the type of athletes that Clemson does, they could still definitely give the Tigers a competitive game, especially at home.
Pick: Clemson wins, Wake Forest covers
Prediction: Clemson 33, Wake Forest 24
Spread: Texas A&M (-14)
Auburn has been a complete disaster this season, as the Tigers have stumbled to a 1-6 start. But it’s not as if they've lost to a bunch of nobodies. In the Tigers' defense, their schedule has certainly been no cakewalk. There’s no shame in losing to teams like Clemson, Mississippi State, LSU and Arkansas.
Still, since they haven’t been able to get the job done, this is now a team that’s in full desperation mode. And it will be interesting to see how the Tigers perform now that their backs are up against the wall.
Texas A&M comes to town after getting beat up by a superior LSU team last week. The Aggies’ freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel, is a tremendous talent, but he showed some vulnerabilities in last week’s loss.
Manziel could struggle on the road in a hostile SEC environment, and Auburn should be able to take advantage of his miscues.
Pick: Auburn wins outright
Prediction: Auburn 28, Texas A&M 24
Spread: Boise State (-16.5)
It’s hard to put a lot of trust in Boise State this season. This is not the same Broncos team that we got used to seeing during the Kellen Moore era. This year’s squad seems to lack that special “it” factor that those teams had.
On paper, Boise State is clearly a better team than Wyoming, which has just one win so far this season. However, the Cowboys are a better team than their record shows.
Wyoming will be without its head coach Dave Christensen, who was suspended for his postgame tirade following the Air Force game. But the Cowboys should still be competitive at home, and they should play the Broncos tough.
Pick: Boise State wins, Wyoming covers
Prediction: Boise State 40, Wyoming 27
Spread: Nebraska (-2.5)
Michigan is coming off a big win over Michigan State last week, which is important to note, because the Wolverines usually don’t fare well in the game after they play their in-state rival. Over the last five years, they’re 1-4 in games after they’ve played the Spartans.
Nebraska will be seeking revenge for the embarrassing 45-17 beat down that the Cornhuskers experienced in Ann Arbor last season.
The Wolverines have started to gain momentum in recent weeks, but it’s hard not to side with Nebraska in this game, given the let-down factor for Michigan and the revenge factor for Nebraska.
Pick: Nebraska wins and covers
Prediction: Nebraska 30, Michigan 24
Spread: Texas (-21)
Texas is currently 5-2 and ranked No. 23 in the BCS standings. But this is a team that’s got some serious issues to deal with right now, especially on defense. The Longhorns have given up an average of 53 points and 581 yards in their last three games.
Luckily, their opponent this week, Kansas, has the worst offense in the Big 12.
Still, with the way Manny Diaz’s defense is looking lately, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Jayhawks actually make this game interesting.
Pick: Texas wins, Kansas covers
Prediction: Texas 37, Kansas 21
Spread: Ohio (-7)
Ohio may not be able to actually crash the BCS bowl party this season. However, right now, the Bobcats do look like the clear-cut favorites to win the MAC, and they have a great shot to finish the year undefeated.
Frank Solich’s squad has played some close games against weak teams in recent weeks, but this could finally be the week that Ohio really makes a statement.
Miami of Ohio does have one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, Zac Dysert, but the RedHawks just don’t have the defense to contain QB Tyler Tettleton, RB Beau Blankenship and the rest of the Ohio offense.
Pick: Ohio wins and covers
Prediction: Ohio 45, Miami (Ohio) 31
Spread: Wisconsin (-6)
The past two meetings between these two teams have each been decided by one score, and that trend should continue this weekend.
Both of these teams have been disappointing this season. But the difference is, Wisconsin has started to turn things around, while Michigan State has lost three out of its last four.
The 4-4 Spartans could desperately use a win at this point in the season, but it won’t be easy to get a victory in a hostile environment at Camp Randall Stadium.
This might end up being the most entertaining game of the weekend.
Pick: Wisconsin 45, Michigan State 41
Prediction: Wisconsin wins, Michigan State covers