After a few weeks of great matchups between undefeated teams and 1-loss teams, in week 9 every interesting game features at least one team with 2 losses. Part of the reason is clear: after clashes between 1-loss teams, there just aren't that many 1-loss teams left. Another reason is, this week isn't as good as the last few.
But it's not all bad. 2-loss teams need love, too. And many of them are very capable of upsetting a 1-loss or even an undefeated team. That's the greatness of college football—even when the games don't look very good beforehand, they often end up a lot more exciting than the "Game of the Century" types.
Undefeated vs. 2-loss teams
- #3 Mississippi State (6-0) at Kentucky (5-2) 3:30pm ET CBS
Line/spread: Mississippi State by 15
Analysis: Of course Mississippi State is making big news this year as the #1 team in the polls. But Kentucky has made its share of waves too in going from 2-10 last year to 5-2 this year. They took Florida into triple overtime before losing and upset South Carolina, but their 41-3 loss to LSU stands in stark contrast to the Bulldogs' experience with the Tigers (they led 34-10 before giving up a few late touchdowns). It would take a lot of overconfidence by Mississippi State to let Kentucky stay in this one, and the Bulldogs are likely to stay hungry since this is their first great season in a long, long time.
Strength power rating projection: MSU 42-19
Yardage Analysis projection: MSU 43-26
Final Prediction: Mississippi State 45, Kentucky 14
- #1 Mississippi (7-0) at LSU (6-2) 7:15 ET ESPN
Line/Spread: Mississippi by 3.5
Analysis: The spread is pretty surprisingly close given that LSU got beat down 41-7 by Auburn, but since the Tigers are playing at home they are unlikely to lose big, if they lose at all. Mississippi State had them down 34-10, as mentioned, but the final score was 34-29. The Tigers are also coming off a 41-3 win over Kentucky. But Ole Miss didn't miss a beat follwing their wins over Alabama and Texas A&M; they crushed Tennessee 34-3. The Rebels have played well on the road, too. LSU's defense should keep the game lower scoring and within reach. This is LSU's last gasp to stay relevant in the SEC West and therefore the College Football Playoff, but Mississippi keeps getting better each week.
Strength power rating projection: Ole Miss 26-18
Yardage Analysis projection: Ole Miss 23-13
Final Prediction: Mississippi 27, LSU 20
1-loss vs. 2-loss teams
- Rutgers (5-2) at #13 Nebraska (6-1) 12:00noon ET WatchESPN
Line/Spread: Nebraska by 20
Analysis: There's a pretty wide variation among the 2-loss teams, and Rutgers doesn't exactly top the quality scale. The Scarlet Knights were destroyed by Ohio State, 56-17, which figures heavily this week's Vegas spread. But Nebraska is a pretty unpredictable team from week to week; they might blow out Rutgers the way the Buckeyes did or they might fumble their way to their 2nd loss. The McNeese State game showed how bad Nebraska can be when they're overconfident at home, and that might be the situation in Lincoln this Saturday. So despite all our computer numbers pointing to a second straight demolition of Rutgers, we're picking a narrow escape for the Cornhuskers.
Strength power rating projection: Nebraska 41-15
Yardage Analysis projection: Nebraska 55-23
Final Prediction: Nebraska 27, Rutgers 21
- Ohio State (5-1) at Penn State (4-2) 8:00pm ET ABC
Line/Spread: Ohio State by 13.5
Analysis: Ohio State is due for a bad game. Since Virginia Tech they've won 66-0, 50-28, 52-24, and 56-17. Their opponents rank #163, #75, #34, and #82 in Strength, while Penn State ranks #63, so it's not far-fetched that their blowout streak could continue. Those teams' defenses ranked #119, #118, #55, and #75 while the Nittany Lions rank #25, so Ohio State's 50-point streak will probably end. Penn State's defense is very strong against the run, too, which is where the Buckeyes are doing their damage despite the hype for JT Barrett's passing. For the first time in weeks we might see Ohio State's offense stifled, but Penn State's offense hasn't shown the ability to take advantage of such a situation; they were held to 6 points by Northwestern and 13 at Michigan. We're picking another close game without pulling the trigger on the upset call.
Strength power rating projection: OSU 39-18
Yardage Analysis projection: OSU 28-19
Final Prediction: Ohio State 23, Penn State 15
- USC (5-2) at #22 Utah (5-1) 10:00pm ET Fox Sports 1
Line/Spread: pick 'em
Analysis: Both of these teams have just one Pac-12 loss so it's a pretty big game in the South division. USC has once again been a bit up and down due to being short-staffed, while Utah has been up and down because that seems to be their nature. It also might have something to do with their 2-quarterback system, which has been a boon for the most part, but it sometimes takes them too long to decide which quarterback is "hot"—they barely did in time to beat Oregon State in overtime last Thursday night. With two unpredictable teams, Vegas decides not to designate a favorite, which is pretty much how we see it. The Strength power rating has Utah by about 1/2 a point, while the yardage projection makes USC a slim favorite. Both these teams are living on the edge—USC beat Stanford by 3, lost to ASU on a hail Mary, and beat Arizona on a missed field goal, while Utah lost to Washington State by a point, but UCLA on a missed field goal, and beat Oregon State in 2 overtimes. Both teams also have running backs having breakout seasons, so we'll take the Utes as their rushing defense has been a bit better—and they have a good kicking game for when it gets tight.
Strength power rating projection: Utah 27.5-27.0
Yardage Analysis projection: USC 32-27
Final Prediction: Utah 33, USC 30 OT
- #24 Arizona State (5-1) at Washington (5-2) 10:45pm ET ESPN
Line/Spread: ASU by 3
Analysis: Arizona State got sudden respect last week after easily downing Stanford 26-10, while Washington lost to Oregon 45-20. Coming off those performances it's not hard to see why the Sun Devils—now ranked #14 in the polls—are a favorite on the road. But like many Pac-12 teams this year, you never know what you're going to get one week to the next. Washington has had several dismal outings but they dominated Cal 31-7, a far easier time than UCLA had with the Bears. And speaking of UCLA, who can forget their 62-27 romp over Arizona State? While the Huskies have been frustrating to follow this year and the run/pass yardage matchups are terrible for them, we think they could take the Sun Devils down a peg on Saturday.
Strength power rating projection: ASU 34-32
Yardage Analysis projection: ASU 41-20
Final Prediction: Washington 35, Arizona State 31
2-loss vs. 2-loss teams (elimination games)
- Maryland (5-2) at Wisconsin (4-2) 12:00noon ET Big Ten Network
Line/Spread: Wisconsin by 10.5
Analysis: What we're keying on here is projected rushing yards. With Wisconsin the #1 rushing team in the nation and Maryland defense weak (#75 adjusted) against the run, the Badgers should have a field day at home. Strictly by scoring margins this should be a close game, but when Melvin Gordon gets going sometimes Wisconsin puts up insane numbers.
Strength power rating projection: Wisconsin 31-27
Yardage Analysis projection: Wisconsin 45-17
Final Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Maryland 24
- West Virginia (5-2) at Oklahoma State (5-2) 3:30pm ET WatchESPN
Line/Spread: Oklahoma State by 1
Analysis: These were two of the Big Twelve's "spoilers" last week; West Virginia was successful in spoiling Oklahoma's season but Oklahoma State failed to make a dent against TCU. Now one of them is going to bite the dust for good. Naturally after last week's action the nation is high on the Mountaineers and down on the Cowboys, so it might seem a bit contrarian that Oklahoma State is favored by Vegas. Looks like a trap, so even though our computers are screaming Mountaineers we're going with the Cowboys to win big.
Strength power rating projection: West Virginia 36-30
Yardage Analysis projection: West Virginia 47-20
Final Prediction: Oklahoma State 27, West Virginia 10