Week 9 is here and the College Football playoff picture is slowly but surely settling out. After a statement win in Happy Valley and South Bend, both Penn State and Notre Dame turn right around for huge matchups and hope for similar performances to continue their march toward a national title. The Big 12 picture will be much more defined after the next few weeks and part of that shape up takes place in Morgantown Saturday. We’ll also be looking at Ohio State’s revenge match with visiting Penn State, and the Wolfpack of NC State visiting South Bend and the Irish.
No. 11 Oklahoma State at No. 22 West Virginia, Noon (ABC); OKST -7.5
Question: Can Oklahoma State get the offense back on track?
Morgantown will be the site for this Week 9, Big 12 elimination game. With only four weeks remaining in the season after this weekend, a second conference loss for either the Oklahoma State Cowboys or the West Virginia Mountaineers will be very difficult to overcome. TCU stands at the top of the conference at 4-0 and both the Cowboys and Mountaineers are tied in a log jam at 3-1 with two other schools. Get ready for two big time offenses to show up.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier leads the nation with 26 touchdown passes. Grier, in his first season in Morgantown after transferring from Florida, has shined the past few weeks for WVU. He set a school record with back-to-back five touchdown games in the Mountaineers past two contests against Texas Tech and Baylor. A huge help to Grier’s success has been that of wide receiver David Sills V. He’s racked up 15 touchdowns thus far, and last week against Baylor had 136 receiving yards and three touchdowns to lead WVU to the victory. Look for this combination to be a big threat to the Cowboys defense.
Oklahoma State also has a big time quarterback in Mason Rudolph. Rudolph ranks first nationally in yards per game with 378.6. He’s thrown for 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Like Grier, Rudolph has one of the top wide receivers in college football in James Washington. Washington was quiet last week against Texas, but don’t expect to see a second game in a row like that. The Cowboys also have running back Justice Hill and wide receivers Marcell Ateman and Jalen McCleskey to take some of the pressure off No. 28.
Expect fireworks in Morgantown. WVU is coming off two big performances and Oklahoma State needs to get it’s offense back on track after a close 13-10 overtime win at Texas last week. Something’s got to give in this one. WVU played TCU closer than the Pokes but I think Coach Mike Gundy is going to have his boys ready for this one. Oklahoma State finds a way to win on the road, 38-31.
No. 14 NC State at No. 9 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. (NBC); ND -7.0
Prediction: Notre Dame rolls over a second straight top 15 opponent
Two 6-1 teams with playoff potential meet up in what could be a season defining win for either program. Notre Dame is facing a second straight top 15 opponent in the NC State Wolfpack, who are having one of their best seasons in recent memory under Coach Dave Doeren. Coach Doeren would love nothing more than to get this win in South Bend for his teams seventh straight victory. The Fighting Irish dismantled USC 49-14 last week and look for another marquee win against the Wolfpack.
After a 4-8 season in 2016, the Irish fans are back on the wagon as a second straight win against a tough opponent will solidify their spot in the top 10 with four weeks to go. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush sparked the Irish offense in his return last week against the Trojans. Wimbush threw two touchdowns and also ran for a pair. Running back Josh Adams didn’t disappoint with 191 rushing yards and three touchdowns against a USC defense that had been its strength the past few weeks. Wimbush and company will be looking for a similar output this week and their offensive line will be called upon to control Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb, a likely top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
NC State’s offense has a few weapons of their own to combat the stingy Irish defense in quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Nyheim Hines. Finley has been as consistent as they come, leading the offense with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions this season, and he’s led the Wolfpack to six straight wins since an opening season loss to South Carolina. Hines has gone over 100 yards in three straight games and will look to continue that trend in South Bend.
The other side of the ball will have a big task on hand to keep this one close. NC State’s run defense has been good this year but the Irish bring in the nation’s sixth ranked rushing attack, averaging over 317 yards per game, and will look to assert their dominance in this one. Chubb and company will need to step up in a big way to contain on the edges.
I expect a lower scoring battle in this one. I think Notre Dame has too many weapons for the Wolfpack to defend and it’ll take a big time effort from NC State’s offense to keep this one close in the second half. The Irish are going to run the ball until NC State can prove they can stop it. I don’t see that happening so watch out for good days from Wimbush and Adams in a 14-point Irish victory.
No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. (FOX); OSU -6.5
Question: Can the Buckeyes exact their revenge?
The Ohio State Buckeyes are excited for another home top 10 matchup when the Nittany Lions visit the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes have fought their way back up to No. 6 in the rankings after their Week 2 home loss to Oklahoma that dropped them from the No. 2 spot. The No. 2 spot was also where the Buckeyes stood last season when they visited Penn State, and the Buckeyes have not forgotten about that loss. Penn State is coming off a big home win against Michigan 42-13 and Heisman front-runner Saquon Barkley continues to dazzle, leading the country in all purpose yards. These two Big 10 heavyweights will determine the front runner for the East division representative for the Big 10 title game.
The Buckeyes have been consistently taking care of business over the past four weeks. They really haven’t been tested since their matchup with the Sooners, so Saturday afternoon could be a wake up call. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett has been leading the way with 21 touchdowns and only one interception through eight weeks. The surrounding role players have been filling in nicely with freshman phenom J.K. Dobbins at running back and wide receiver Parris Campbell. Revenge is on the mind of all the Buckeyes after last season’s loss to the Nittany Lions knocked them out of the Big 10 title game and left a bad taste in their mouths.
The Penn State offense has a plethora of play-makers and will look to spread out the Ohio State defense and keep them guessing. Saquon Barkley will probably be used in several different formations again to keep the defense guessing. Quarterback Trace McSorley has been able to lead the offense without as much running this year, plus a big time wide receiver in DaeSean Hamilton and freakishly talented tight end Mike Gesicki. With a big play defense that’s been coming into it’s own the past few weeks, Penn State could be on pace for a strong finish and push for the playoff.
I’ve been going back and forth on this one for the past few days. Penn State is good but the Buckeyes have really worked out their kinks on offense since their loss to Oklahoma. Coach James Franklin will have the Nittany Lions ready for this one and his counterpart, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, is one of the best in the game. Penn State has the talent edge at the skill positions but something is telling me that the Buckeyes are going to come out on top in this one. Ohio State 28-24.
Enjoy Week 9 everyone!
Other Saturday games of note:
No. 4 TCU at No. 25 Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN2); TCU -6.5
No. 16 Michigan State at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN); MSU -2.0
No. 21 USC at Arizona State, 10:45 p.m. (ESPN); USC -3.0