College Football Picks: Week 9 Predictions for Every Game
Week 9 is loaded with unfriendly environments for college football's best teams.
Beyond the three clashes between AP Top 25 squads, 12 of the 14 ranked programs in action are preparing for road or neutral-site games. That includes No. 2 Clemson (Florida State), No. 3 Notre Dame (Navy) and No. 6 Texas (Oklahoma State).
The 2018 season has been riddled with upsets, and a road-heavy slate means the upcoming weekend should bring several more.
Organized by kickoff time, the predictions offer a preview for every game involving a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Note: AP Top 25 teams are highlighted first within a specific time slot.
Baylor (4-3) at No. 13 West Virginia (5-1), 7 p.m. ET
Save for a major letdown opposite Kyler Murray and Oklahoma, Baylor's secondary has been adequate this season. A blowout isn't likely in Morgantown. Still, West Virginia's 48th-ranked defense should prevent Baylor from putting up a bunch of points.
Prediction: West Virginia 31, Baylor 24
Ball State (3-5) at Ohio (4-3), 7 p.m. ET
Ball State has been consistently average on both sides of the ball in 2018. Ohio's performance tends to vary dramatically, but Athens is kind to the Bobcats. They're tallying 561.3 yards per game at home compared to 377.8 on the road.
Prediction: Ohio 38, Ball State 24
Toledo (3-4) at Western Michigan (6-2), 7 p.m. ET
Western Michigan enters this MAC clash riding a six-game winning streak. The Broncos are prone to giving up small chunks of yardage, but their rushing attack should be able to overwhelm a Toledo defense that ranks 101st nationally in yards allowed per carry.
Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Toledo 27
No. 25 Appalachian State (5-1) at Georgia Southern (6-1), 7:30 p.m. ET
In five straight outings, Appalachian State has surrendered 17 points or fewer. That stingy defense will be the deciding factor, especially since Georgia Southern's success hinges on the effectiveness of its running game. Road games are always dangerous, but we're taking the Mountaineers.
Prediction: Appalachian State 29, Georgia Southern 24
Georgia Tech (3-4) at Virginia Tech (4-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
As tremendous a coordinator as Bud Foster is, Georgia Tech's triple-option attack has been a problem for Virginia Tech recently. Plus, in the absence of quarterback Josh Jackson (fractured fibula), the Hokies are limited offensively. The trends are in Georgia Tech's favor.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 26, Virginia Tech 23
Louisiana Tech (5-2) at Florida Atlantic (3-4), 6:30 p.m. ET
Put simply, Florida Atlantic has been inept on the road. It's a good thing the Owls host Louisiana Tech, because otherwise, this would probably get ugly. FAU's defense still can't be trusted to hold off Louisiana Tech, but the Owls should avoid a blowout.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 27, Florida Atlantic 23
Miami (5-2) at Boston College (5-2), 7 p.m. ET
Head coach Mark Richt better get this choice right. After giving quarterback Malik Rosier chance after chance, Richt yanked N'Kosi Perry from the lineup at only the second sign of trouble. Miami's No. 2 defense should again buoy Rosier when he inevitably struggles opposite a solid BC unit, but this is a seriously flawed Hurricanes offense.
Prediction: Miami 28, Boston College 20
Indiana (4-4) at Minnesota (3-4), 8 p.m. ET
Turnovers have plagued both teams recently, but defense is a greater concern for the home side. Since winning three straight to begin the year, Minnesota has dropped four consecutive tilts while ceding 43.3 points per outing. Indiana should outlast the Gophers in a sloppy game.
Prediction: Indiana 30, Minnesota 24
Wyoming (2-6) at Colorado State (3-5), 10 p.m. ET
On the bright side for Wyoming, its defense has been respectable lately. But until the Pokes show a competent passing game—Tyler Vander Waal has 1,044 yards and three touchdowns in eight starts—they're not going to be the choice.
Prediction: Colorado State 27, Wyoming 13
No. 23 Utah (5-2) at UCLA (2-5), 10:30 p.m. ET
Quarterbacks Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Wilton Speight have guided UCLA to consecutive wins, and the Bruins have reason to be optimistic. However, a Utah defense that has allowed only 4.32 yards per snap this season (seventh in the nation) should be able to contain the Bruins.
Prediction: Utah 34, UCLA 20
Top Saturday Early Games
No. 2 Clemson (7-0) at Florida State (4-3), Noon ET
Florida State played its most complete game of 2018 in Week 8, also posting season-best marks of 38 points scored and 17 allowed. Even with FSU's home-field benefit, the gap between the Seminoles and Clemson is massive. The Tigers should own the trenches and suffocate Florida State's offense all game.
Prediction: Clemson 35, Florida State 17
No. 20 Wisconsin (5-2) at Northwestern (4-3), Noon ET
Northwestern took Michigan to the wire, upset Michigan State and barely survived Nebraska and Rutgers. Which Wildcats team will show up? Although Wisconsin's defense is mediocre this year, the unit ranks 24th inside the red zone. Timely stops will propel the Badgers.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 23
Texas Tech (5-2) at Iowa State (3-3), Noon ET
Alan Bowman returned in style last weekend, throwing for 408 yards during a 48-16 blowout of Kansas. However, the emergence of Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy has dramatically improved the effectiveness of the Cyclones' scoring attack. Texas Tech needs to play a mistake-free outing to hold off Purdy.
Prediction: Iowa State 34, Texas Tech 26
Purdue (4-3) at Michigan State (4-3), Noon ET
Michigan State had a horrible, no good, very bad offensive day (only 94 total yards of offense) in a loss to Michigan. That's a troubling sign prior to a matchup with Purdue, which has cracked 40 points in three straight games. The Spartans need their secondary to have its best showing of the year.
Prediction: Purdue 31, Michigan State 24
North Carolina (1-5) at Virginia (5-2), 12:20 p.m. ET
Wins over Miami and Duke have shuttled Virginia right into the thick of the Coastal Division race in the ACC. The Cavaliers are 5-0 when they force multiple turnovers, and North Carolina has committed 10 giveaways over the last three games. Advantage, UVA.
Prediction: Virginia 30, North Carolina 17
Other Saturday Early Games
Wake Forest (3-4) at Louisville (2-5), Noon ET
For Louisville's sake, hopefully a bye week allowed the offense to correct its laundry list of issues. Wake Forest's unit has encountered a rough stretch too, but Cade Carney, Matt Colburn II and the Demon Deacons running game can take control of this one.
Prediction: Wake Forest 37, Louisville 27
Vanderbilt (3-5) at Arkansas (2-6), Noon ET
It took eight weeks, but Arkansas finally has a victory over an FBS opponent. The next challenge is knocking off an SEC program. Vanderbilt, which is 0-3 on the road, can be beaten if the Razorbacks and their 47th-ranked rushing defense don't allow the visitors and their 100th-ranked rushing attack to have a successful day on the ground.
Prediction: Arkansas 24, Vanderbilt 19
Massachusetts (2-6) at Connecticut (1-6), Noon ET
Giving credit where it's due, UConn managed to hang with South Florida on the road in Week 8. We're still not going to trust a defense that has allowed 10.9 yards per pass (worst in the nation) with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions when UMass' explosive aerial attack is coming to town.
Prediction: UMass 48, UConn 38
Army (5-2) at Eastern Michigan (4-4), Noon ET
One-possession losses are kind of Eastern Michigan's thing; 12 of the program's last 13 losses have come by seven points or fewer. The Eagles can keep up, but a 112th-ranked run defense will be their downfall when triple-option Army needs a clutch score.
Prediction: Army 27, Eastern Michigan 24
Central Michigan (1-7) at Akron (3-3), Noon ET
If you're a regular reader of the predictions, you may have noticed a trend with Central Michigan: We're not picking the Chips because they don't score enough. Maybe that changes against a mediocre Akron team, but there's no evidence to pick it.
Prediction: Akron 28, Central Michigan 20
Bethune-Cookman (4-4) at Nebraska (1-6), Noon ET
The drive toward bowl eligibility is alive! Nebraska's improving offense broke through in Week 8, racking up 659 yards in a 53-28 home win over Minnesota. Bethune-Cookman has consistently fallen to top competition this year, and a trip to Lincoln will be no different.
Prediction: Nebraska 45, Bethune-Cookman 21
Southern Miss (3-3) at Charlotte (3-4), 2 p.m. ET
Southern Mississippi's ground game ranks 114th, and Charlotte boasts the sixth-best run defense. This matchup will come down to the effectiveness of USM quarterback Jack Abraham, whose efficiency gives the Golden Eagles a slight edge despite playing on the road.
Prediction: Southern Miss 24, Charlotte 20
Coastal Carolina (4-3) at Georgia State (2-5), 2 p.m. ET
This is a clash between two bottom-five defenses, especially against the run. Georgia State, however, has mustered only 3.7 yards per carry this season. Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina has posted 5.1 yards per attempt opposite Group of Five competition.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 42, Georgia State 28
TCU (3-4) at Kansas (2-5), 3 p.m. ET
Left shoulder surgery has ended quarterback Shawn Robinson's season, so TCU will turn to Michael Collins. That's a huge problem for the Horned Frogs moving forward, and not even Kansas can be considered a gimme. But TCU's defense is still the best unit on the field.
Prediction: TCU 31, Kansas 17
Oregon State (1-6) at Colorado (5-2), 3 p.m. ET
USC and Washington slowed down Colorado in consecutive road games for the Buffaloes. They're headed for a bounce-back performance opposite Oregon State, the third-worst defense in the nation.
Prediction: Colorado 45, Oregon State 24
Top Saturday Afternoon Games
No. 9 Florida (6-1) vs. No. 7 Georgia (6-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
Georgia's rushing attack will stress Florida's defense, but the passing game is a bigger concern for the Gators. Georgia has ceded just 5.4 yards per pass this season (fifth in the nation). Florida must be able to create yards after the catch; otherwise, the Dawgs will quickly pull away.
Prediction: Georgia 27, Florida 16
Kansas State (3-4) at No. 8 Oklahoma (6-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
After a dreadful September opposite comparable foes, Kansas State has hung 65 combined points on Baylor and Oklahoma State. If, and only if, that offense appears, the Wildcats have a chance to pull the stunner. We're not banking on it.
Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Kansas State 24
No. 18 Iowa (6-1) at No. 17 Penn State (5-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
As talented as Penn State is, the offense has struggled to move the sticks on third down. The 36.84 conversion rate is 93rd nationally, while Iowa has surrendered only a 36.78 percent mark. It's essential the Hawkeyes win the turnover battle, but they're a huge matchup problem for Penn State.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Penn State 20
No. 21 South Florida (7-0) at Houston (6-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
Houston has scored no fewer than 41 points in a game this season. That trend figures to continue against a simply average South Florida defense. Yes, the unit is comparable to Houston's, but USF hasn't showed the red-zone efficiency to atone for it like the Cougars.
Prediction: Houston 41, South Florida 27
No. 12 Kentucky (6-1) at Missouri (4-3), 4 p.m. ET
Kentucky has done a commendable job of preventing big plays through the air (tied for 18th nationally). Led by strong-armed quarterback Drew Lock, Missouri will repeatedly test that strength. The Wildcats should pass, but they'll need a productive rushing day to outlast the hosts.
Prediction: Kentucky 26, Missouri 23
New Mexico (3-4) at Utah State (6-1), 4 p.m. ET
Utah State played a much closer game than anticipated with Wyoming in Week 8, but the winning streak ought to reach seven Saturday. New Mexico lacks a reliable offense—particularly on the road—so the Aggies should cruise to a win.
Prediction: Utah State 45, New Mexico 21
Other Saturday Afternoon Games
Duke (5-2) at Pitt (3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET
Both offenses are extremely frustrating. Naturally, it makes this contest tough to predict. Neither unit will play particularly fast, so efficiency on the ground will be imperative. Pitt holds a slight advantage in that category. Any extra involvement in this game should be avoided.
Prediction: Pitt 27, Duke 22
Arizona State (3-4) at USC (4-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
USC quarterback JT Daniels (concussion) is expected to play. Without him, the Trojans would've turned to Jack Sears—and his zero career pass attempts—because Matt Fink has three broken ribs. Daniels will steady USC in a low-scoring game with Arizona State, which ranks 71st in passing defense and has only three picks.
Prediction: USC 31, Arizona State 24
Illinois (3-4) at Maryland (4-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Maryland's success is dependent on the ground game. Fortunately for the Terps, Illinois has the 12th-worst rushing defense in the country. Running backs Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland will carry Maryland to a Big Ten victory.
Prediction: Maryland 38, Illinois 21
Middle Tennessee (4-3) at Old Dominion (2-6), 3:30 p.m. ET
Old Dominion averages 4.4 red-zone trips per game, but a 65.7 percent touchdown rate is usually a problem. Middle Tennessee, however, is tied with ODU at 116th nationally with touchdowns allowed on 75 percent of red-zone drives. Unless the uninspiring Middle Tennessee offense has a breakout game, the Monarchs have a clear path to a win.
Prediction: Old Dominion 34, Middle Tennessee 24
Northern Illinois (4-3) at BYU (4-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Both offenses reached the 400-yard plateau in their most recent games. Can either one repeat that showing? This will likely be a defense-first slog in which one quarterback finally makes a play, and we'll give that advantage to BYU's Zach Wilson.
Prediction: BYU 22, Northern Illinois 17
Cincinnati (6-1) at SMU (3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET
The undefeated season ended in an overtime loss to Temple, but Cincinnati is squarely in the AAC race. As long as the Bearcats secondary keeps thriving, SMU won't be able to consistently move the ball—and probably can't stop Cincy's rushing attack anyway.
Prediction: Cincinnati 35, SMU 21
Rice (1-7) at North Texas (6-2), 4 p.m. ET
North Texas needs to capitalize on a prime opportunity to get the offense rolling again. After scoring 44-plus points in their first four contests, the Mean Green have mustered 30 just once in their last four. Rice allows the seventh-most points per game.
Prediction: North Texas 42, Rice 24
Top Saturday Night Games
No. 15 Washington (6-2) at Cal (4-3), 6:30 p.m. ET
Cal enjoyed a much-needed offensive resurgence during a 49-7 smackdown of Oregon State last week. This contest could be a little trickier for Washington than anticipated, but Cal's season-long trend of multiple turnovers will prevent an upset.
Prediction: Washington 27, Cal 20
No. 14 Washington State (6-1) at No. 24 Stanford (5-2), 7 p.m. ET
Despite a majority of the numbers favoring Washington State, the Cougs are three-point underdogs, per OddsShark. Stanford isn't a great team, but Wazzu's reliance on the passing game should benefit an uninspiring defensive line. For a Cardinal win, though, quarterback K.J. Costello needs to protect the ball.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Washington State 24
No. 16 Texas A&M (5-2) at Mississippi State (4-3), 7 p.m. ET
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has failed to hit 100 passing yards in three straight games. Texas A&M's game plan should be simple: Stack the box and dare him to throw. Fitzgerald is a dangerous runner, but his effectiveness will be limited.
Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Mississippi State 10
No. 22 North Carolina State (5-1) at Syracuse (5-2), 7 p.m. ET
Syracuse appears to have a quarterback dilemma, but Dino Babers isn't tipping his hand on the direction of the offense. While the choice between Eric Dungey and Tommy DeVito creates an unknown, N.C. State's suspect secondary is likely headed for a frustrating night either way.
Prediction: Syracuse 35, N.C. State 30
Boise State (5-2) at Air Force (3-4), 7 p.m. ET
Protecting the ball is crucial for Boise State. During a two-game stretch in which it had seven giveaways, it lost to San Diego State and barely clipped Nevada. On paper, Air Force won't be close unless its running game overpowers a sturdy front seven. But the Falcons will be positioned for an upset if they snatch a couple takeaways.
Prediction: Boise State 28, Air Force 23
Other Saturday Night Games
UNLV (2-5) at San Jose State (0-7), 6:30 p.m. ET
Since the visitors have the No. 88 pass defense in the nation, San Jose State's only offensive threat matches up perfectly. Though we're still not taking the Spartans because of their below-average defense, UNLV's aerial attack must be effective.
Prediction: UNLV 27, San Jose State 20
Arkansas State (4-3) at Louisiana (3-4), 7 p.m. ET
Louisiana held a sizzling Appalachian State team to 27 points in Week 8. However, Arkansas State's dynamic offense finally showed its potential and piled up 51 points. The Ragin' Cajuns can score plenty, but they'll fall short of the Red Wolves.
Prediction: Arkansas State 48, Louisiana 38
Tulane (2-5) at Tulsa (1-6), 7 p.m. ET
Losers of six straight, Tulsa hasn't cracked five yards per snap offensively since early September. By no means is Tulane a dramatically better team, but the Mean Green can trust their ground game to upend the country's No. 111 run defense.
Prediction: Tulane 31, Tulsa 21
New Mexico State (2-6) at Texas State (1-6), 7 p.m. ET
Defense is mostly a foreign concept to New Mexico State, which has surrendered 40-plus points six times this season. But as much as that might help Texas State's struggling attack, the visiting Aggies have enough firepower to match.
Prediction: New Mexico State 34, Texas State 27
UAB (6-1) at UTEP (0-7), 7:30 p.m. ET
Each of UTEP's last four losses have come by single digits, so...progress! However, UAB's defense should be able to shut down the Miners and guide the Blazers to their sixth straight win.
Prediction: UAB 34, UTEP 14
Tennessee (3-4) at South Carolina (3-3), 7:30 p.m. ET
The gauntlet is finally over for Tennessee, which fell to Florida, Georgia and Alabama and toppled Auburn during a five-week span. Though there are plenty of calls for Michael Scarnecchia to replace Jake Bentley under center, South Carolina can lean on its defense to hold off the Vols this weekend.
Prediction: South Carolina 28, Tennessee 20
Florida International (5-2) at Western Kentucky (1-6), 7:30 p.m. ET
Western Kentucky practically invented a way to lose in Week 8, missing a kick as regulation expired, getting penalized for a face mask during the return and falling to Old Dominion on an untimed down. Let's just say the 'Toppers will come up short in more conventional fashion opposite FIU's all-around balance.
Prediction: Florida International 29, Western Kentucky 17
Saturday Evening Games
No. 3 Notre Dame (7-0) vs. Navy (2-5), 8 p.m. ET
Navy has been a major disappointment. Notre Dame should cruise to a victory if two things happen: sturdy run defense and efficient passing. The triple-option Mids rely on their running game, and their coverage ranks 104th nationally in yards allowed per throw.
Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Navy 17
No. 6 Texas (6-1) at Oklahoma State (4-3), 8 p.m. ET
Sam Ehlinger is recovering from a shoulder injury but is expected to play. Oklahoma State has the benefit of home field, but its secondary is the weakest link of the team. As long as Ehlinger isn't limited, Texas will survive a tough trip to Stillwater.
Prediction: Texas 31, Oklahoma State 23
No. 19 Oregon (5-2) at Arizona (3-5), 10:30 p.m. ET
Having a healthy quarterback helped Arizona score 30 points for the first time since mid-September last week, but the Wildcats still aren't playing much defense. Oregon signal-caller Justin Herbert should have his first 300-yard game in over a month.
Prediction: Oregon 41, Arizona 26
Hawaii (6-3) at Fresno State (6-1), 10:30 p.m. ET
The explosiveness of Hawaii's offense has steadily dissipated. Cole McDonald recorded 10.4 yards per attempt in his first four appearances but plummeted to 6.5 during his last four. Fresno State's sixth-ranked pass defense should continue that trend.
Prediction: Fresno State 28, Hawaii 24
San Diego State (6-1) at Nevada (4-4), 10:30 p.m. ET
Will Christian Chapman be back? SDSU's quarterback has been sidelined due to a knee injury but was available in emergency last week. Nevada can be controlled through the air, so his efficiency would offer a much-needed boost to a reeling offense. Regardless, SDSU's suffocating defense can contain the Wolf Pack.
Prediction: San Diego State 24, Nevada 20