College Football Picks: Week 9 Predictions for Every Game
With the Big Ten and Mountain West kicking off their seasons last week, the 2020 college football landscape is slowly but surely taking shape.
The Big Ten wasted little time grabbing headlines with Ohio State looking very much like a title contender, Michigan making a strong statement and Penn State suffering a surprising loss.
There is one fewer unbeaten after Cincinnati knocked off SMU last week, and things still look awfully top-heavy in the AP Poll with Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame continuing to roll.
The upcoming weekend's slate features just one head-to-head battle of AP Top 25 teams with Penn State looking to right the ship against Ohio State. A second loss would quickly knock the Nittany Lions from the rankings, while a win would turn the entire conference on its head.
Who will pull off this week's big upset?
Ahead are B/R's predictions for each Week 9 game with a closer look at each AP Top 25 contest and a handful of the best clashes between unranked teams, followed by a quick rundown of the rest of the slate.
AP Nos. 25-21
No. 25 Boise State (1-0) at Air Force (1-1), 6 p.m. ET
Somewhat lost in the excitement that was the start of the Big Ten season, the Mountain West also kicked off its 2020 campaign Saturday. Boise State demolished Utah State by a 42-13 margin to quickly jump into the AP poll, and it is on a collision course with BYU in two weeks. Air Force is averaging 5.6 yards per carry with its triple-option offense, but the Broncos didn't have any trouble last year in a 30-19 win.
Prediction: Boise State 35, Air Force 24
No. 24 Oklahoma (3-2) at Texas Tech (2-3), 8 p.m. ET
The Sooners are back in the rankings after consecutive wins over Texas and TCU, while Texas Tech is fresh off a victory over West Virginia. The Red Raiders don't have the defense to slow down Spencer Rattler and the Oklahoma offense—Texas put 63 points on them earlier this year. They also lack the offensive firepower to play from behind.
Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Texas Tech 28
No. 23 Iowa State (3-2) at Kansas (0-5), Noon ET
Kansas might be the worst team in the country, and running back Pooka Williams opting out of the remainder of the season didn't help things any. The Jayhawks are allowing 437.6 yards and 45.0 points per game during their 0-5 start. Expect Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy to have a field day after a slow start to his season.
Prediction: Iowa State 45, Kansas 13
No. 22 SMU (5-1) vs. Navy (3-3), 7:30 p.m. ET
Despite a lopsided loss to Cincinnati last week, SMU is still a good team, and the experience Shane Buechele brings at the quarterback position should help stop things from compounding. The Midshipmen allowed 580 yards and 55 points against BYU earlier this year, and the Mustangs could put together a similarly dominant offensive showing.
Prediction: SMU 41, Navy 20
No. 21 USC (0-0) IDLE
Next Game: vs. Arizona State (Nov. 7)
AP Nos. 20-16
No. 20 Coastal Carolina (5-0) at Georgia State (2-2), Noon ET
The Chanticleers won 28-14 last week in their first-ever game as a ranked team. A stellar rushing attack that is averaging 187.4 yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game has been the key to their success, and that could make Georgia State a tough test. The Panthers have allowed just 97.0 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry during their 2-2 start.
Prediction: Georgia State 31, Coastal Carolina 28
No. 19 Marshall (5-0) at Florida International (0-3), 7 p.m. ET (Friday)
This game is postponed due to Covid-19 issues.
No. 18 Penn State (0-1) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (1-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
For prediction, see No. 3 Ohio State.
No. 17 Indiana (1-0) at Rutgers (1-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
A pair of surprise winners from the opening week of Big Ten action go head-to-head in this one. The Hoosiers pulled off the more impressive upset, but it wasn't pretty as Penn State outgained them 488-211 and they turned the ball over twice. Meanwhile, Rutgers forced a ridiculous seven turnovers last week against Michigan State and held the Spartans to 60 rushing yards on 38 carries.
Prediction: Rutgers 24, Indiana 21
No. 16 Kansas State (4-1) at West Virginia (3-2), Noon ET
It's hard to get a good feel for West Virginia, which has beaten up on lesser opponents but struggled against Oklahoma State and lost to Texas Tech a week ago. The Mountaineers are capable of slowing down the Kansas State offense enough to come away with the win, but which team will show up? For the Wildcats, there's also some danger in looking ahead to their Nov. 7 matchup with Oklahoma State.
Prediction: West Virginia 27, Kansas State 24
AP Nos. 15-11
No. 15 North Carolina (4-1) at Virginia (1-4), 8 p.m. ET
The Tar Heels rebounded from their first loss of the season to blow out a ranked NC State team 48-21 last week. It was another banner day on the ground for the North Carolina rushing attack with 326 yards and five touchdowns, and it is now averaging 249 rushing yards per game. Virginia has lost four straight and won't be able to slow down the running game enough to avoid running that streak to five.
Prediction: North Carolina 27, Virginia 20
No. 14 Oregon (0-0) IDLE
Next Game: vs. Stanford (Nov. 7)
No. 13 Michigan (1-0) vs. Michigan State (0-1), Noon ET
The Wolverines started their 2020 season with a bang last week, scoring a 49-24 victory over a ranked Minnesota squad. Joe Milton looked good under center, the running game tallied 253 yards and five touchdowns, and the defense forced a pair of turnovers. Meanwhile, Michigan State lost by 11 to Rutgers at home, and now it has to travel to the Big House.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Michigan State 10
No. 12 Miami (5-1) IDLE
Next Game: at NC State (Nov. 6)
No. 11 BYU (6-0) vs. Western Kentucky (2-4), 10:15 p.m. ET
The Hilltoppers struggled with FCS opponent Chattanooga last week in a 13-10 victory. They're going to get absolutely dismantled by Heisman candidate Zach Wilson and a BYU offense that is averaging 547.7 yards and 45.0 points per game. There's a good chance this will be the most lopsided game on Saturday's slate.
Prediction: BYU 55, Western Kentucky 17
AP Nos. 10-6
No. 10 Florida (2-1) vs. Missouri (2-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
The Gators finally returned to practice Monday after a COVID-19 outbreak shut things down for two weeks. Look for Kyle Trask (996 yards, 14 TD, 1 INT) and Kyle Pitts (17 receptions, 274 yards, 7 TD) to pick up right where they left off against a Tigers secondary that allowed 430 yards and four touchdowns to Myles Brennan in a win over LSU.
Prediction: Florida 42, Missouri 24
No. 9 Wisconsin (1-0) at Nebraska (0-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
This game is cancelled due to Wisconsin's Covid-19 cases.
No. 8 Texas A&M (3-1) vs. Arkansas (2-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
This is a big game for both of these teams. Texas A&M is trying to prove it belongs in the playoff conversation despite an early loss to Alabama, while Arkansas would likely move into the AP Poll for the first time since 2016 with a victory. The Razorbacks have struggled to run the ball this year, and the Aggies have one of the best run defenses in the country, so it's going to be on the arm of Feleipe Franks if Arkansas is going to pull off another upset.
Prediction: Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 17
No. 7 Cincinnati (4-0) vs. Memphis (3-1), Noon ET
After a convincing win over SMU last week, this is the toughest remaining test for a Cincinnati team trying to crash the playoff party. Memphis beat Cincinnati twice last year, in the regular-season finale and then in the AAC title game, but the Bearcats are the superior team this time around thanks to one of the best defenses in the nation.
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Memphis 14
No. 6 Oklahoma State (4-0) vs. Texas (3-2), 4 p.m. ET
After a two-week hiatus, Oklahoma State returned with a 24-21 victory over a good Iowa State team. Spencer Sanders threw a pair of interceptions in his first action since getting injured in the first quarter of the Cowboys' opener. But Chuba Hubbard broke loose for 139 yards, and Sanders added 71 rushing yards himself. The Longhorns have plenty of offensive firepower, but they've provided little defensive resistance all year, and the trio of Sanders, Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace is going to be a handful.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 42, Texas 28
AP Nos. 5-1
No. 5 Georgia (3-1) at Kentucky (2-3), Noon ET
With a bye last week, the Bulldogs had an extra week to stew on their 41-24 loss to Alabama. With that defeat on their resume, every outing the rest of the way will be a statement game. Dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson is having a productive season, but the Wildcats simply don't have the offensive firepower to keep pace or rally from an early deficit.
Prediction: Georgia 28, Kentucky 10
No. 4 Notre Dame (5-0) at Georgia Tech (2-4), 3:30 p.m. ET
Notre Dame's defense has held opponents under 14 points in four of five games this year, and Georgia Tech is just two weeks removed from a 73-7 loss to Clemson. The Fighting Irish need to be careful not to start looking ahead to their Nov. 7 matchup with the Tigers, but this one should be a cakewalk.
Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Georgia Tech 13
No. 3 Ohio State (1-0) at No. 18 Penn State (0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET
This game had serious College Football Playoff implications before Penn State was upset by Indiana last week. Meanwhile, Ohio State looked terrific with Justin Fields completing 20 of 21 pass attempts for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding another 54 yards and a score on the ground. The Nittany Lions are good enough to keep it close, even after last week's shocker, but this won't be the heavyweight battle it was shaping up to be a few weeks ago.
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Penn State 24
No. 2 Alabama (5-0) vs. Mississippi State (1-3), 7 p.m. ET
Bryce Young, a 5-star recruit, saw some action under center for Alabama in last week's blowout win over Tennessee, and he could get a chance to play in this one, as well. Mississippi State has scored 30 total points in three games since kicking off the season with an upset win over LSU, and this won't be the week the offense gets back on track.
Prediction: Alabama 49, Mississippi State 13
No. 1 Clemson (6-0) vs. Boston College (4-2), Noon ET
Clemson is a runaway freight train at this point, and Boston College won't be the team to slow it down. The Tigers have too many weapons offensively and too much talent on the defensive side of the ball for the Eagles to even keep it close. It won't be a 73-7 shellacking like the one put on Georgia Tech, but it won't be close.
Prediction: Clemson 48, Boston College 10
Best Unranked Clashes
LSU (2-2) at Auburn (3-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
This looked like a much more significant game when LSU began the season at No. 7 in the AP Poll and Auburn was close behind in the No. 11 spot, but a pair of losses for each team has left this matchup in the unranked section. LSU has some momentum after a 52-24 blowout win over South Carolina last week, while the Auburn defense was shaky once again, allowing 444 yards against Ole Miss.
Prediction: LSU 34, Auburn 24
Northwestern (1-0) at Iowa (0-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
The Big Ten was full of surprises in its opening week of action, including Iowa's 24-20 loss to Purdue. The Hawkeyes were No. 24 in the first AP Poll and viewed by many as the clear No. 3 team in the West Division behind Wisconsin and Minnesota. Meanwhile, Northwestern rushed for 325 yards in a 43-3 thrashing of Maryland and looks poised to make a jump into the rankings with another win.
Prediction: Northwestern 27, Iowa 21
Virginia Tech (3-2) at Louisville (2-4), 4 p.m. ET
More was expected of these two teams, and this has a chance to be a great game. Louisville, with losses to Notre Dame, Miami and Pitt on its resume, is better than its 2-4 record indicates. Expect a big game from Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham against a mediocre Hokies secondary.
Prediction: Louisville 38, Virginia Tech 28
The Rest of the Slate
South Alabama (3-2) at Georgia Southern (3-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Prediction: Georgia Southern 31, South Alabama 24
Colorado State (0-0) at Fresno State (0-1), 10 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Prediction: Fresno State 30, Colorado State 21
Minnesota (0-1) at Maryland (0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday)
Prediction: Minnesota 27, Maryland 10
East Carolina (1-3) at Tulsa (2-1), 9 p.m. ET (Friday)
Prediction: Tulsa 37, East Carolina 17
Hawaii (1-0) at Wyoming (0-1), 9:45 p.m. ET (Friday)
Prediction: Hawaii 34, Wyoming 28
UTSA (4-3) at Florida Atlantic (1-1), Noon ET
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 28, UTSA 21
Temple (1-2) at Tulane (2-4), Noon ET
Prediction: Tulane 28, Temple 24
Purdue (1-0) at Illinois (0-1), Noon ET
Prediction: Purdue 37, Illinois 24
Wake Forest (3-2) at Syracuse (1-5), Noon ET
Prediction: Wake Forest 42, Syracuse 20
North Texas (2-3) at UTEP (3-3), 2 p.m. ET
Prediction: North Texas 35, UTEP 27
UCF (3-2) at Houston (2-1), 2 p.m. ET
Prediction: UCF 42, Houston 32
Rice (0-1) at Southern Mississippi (1-4), 3 p.m. ET
Prediction: Rice 24, Southern Mississippi 20
Troy (3-2) at Arkansas State (3-3), 3 p.m. ET
Prediction: Arkansas State 34, Troy 28
UAB (4-2) at Louisiana Tech (3-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: UAB 32, Louisiana Tech 21
TCU (1-3) at Baylor (1-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Baylor 24, TCU 21
Ole Miss (1-4) at Vanderbilt (0-3), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Vanderbilt 20
Appalachian State (3-1) at UL Monroe (0-6), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Appalachian State 45, UL Monroe 10
New Mexico (0-0) at San Jose State (1-0), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: San Jose State 21, New Mexico 13
Charlotte (2-2) at Duke (1-5), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: Duke 31, Charlotte 22
Louisiana (4-1) at Texas State (1-6), 8 p.m. ET
Prediction: Louisiana 38, Texas State 21
San Diego State (1-0) at Utah State (0-1), 9:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: San Diego State 28, Utah State 20
Nevada (1-0) at UNLV (0-1), 10:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Nevada 35, UNLV 21