Week 9 in College Football is chock full of massive matchups with national implications. Here’s my take on the must-see games in each conference.
ACC: No. 14 NC State (6-1) at No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1)
Top -15 NC State and Notre Dame in a game with major postseason implications?
Did not see that coming. But this game is easily the ACC’s best this week and definitely one to watch, after Notre Dame’s shellacking of USC last week and NC State’s hot start, including wins over Louisville and Florida State. Expect a hard-fought, smashmouth football game.
There’s a fantastic battle brewing in the trenches that any true football fan would go nuts over. Notre Dame has an outstanding O-line with a couple of NFL prospects squaring off against an equally impressive Wolfpack D-line. The Irish have the nation’s sixth-ranked rushing offense going against, you guessed it, the sixth-best rushing defense at NC State.
But NC State is more than just a solid front seven. They’re balanced and effective on offense, averaging over 35 ppg, and most importantly, they take care of the football – three turnovers all season, no interceptions. If you’ll remember last week, that’s what I said would bite USC in their trip to South Bend. NC State, too, has an exceptional O-line.
This one’s going to be close. If NC State wants to win, they’ve got to play keep away and hope their secondary can hold up if Notre Dame decides to start slinging it around. NC State has a multi-sport history of playing spoiler though, and the Irish could be due for a letdown if they come in overconfident after last week’s effort. Who knows. Give me NC State, if for no other reason just that I hate the idea of Notre Dame being in the playoff conversation and potentially knocking out a champion of an actual Power Five conference. 13th data points always matter, until the committee decides they don’t. Brings to mind another Jurassic Park gif…
Clint’s Call: NC State over Notre Dame, 24-21
B1G: No. 2 Penn State (7-0) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1)
No question, this one’s the game of the YEAR in the Big 10, and if either team tells you they don’t have revenge on the brain, they are LYING! Although they managed to get into the College Football Playoff without so much as an appearance in their conference championship game, it’s easily Ohio State with the most revenge on the mind, as the Buckeyes lost last year’s meeting on a late game special teams blunder. This year, Urban Meyer’s boys have had a week of to stew and prepare for this game and the Horseshoe is sure to be electric.
Both teams are balanced on offense. If Ohio State sells out to stop Saquon Barkley, they’ll still have dual-threat Trace McSorley to deal with, and conversely JT Barrett has opened up Ohio State’s passing game considerably this year – granted against absolutely nobody. In fact, each team has really only played one quality opponent, with Ohio State getting drummed by Oklahoma at home – thus giving Baker Mayfield yet another opportunity to look like an ass – and Penn State of course pounding Michigan last week.
The eye test tells me that Penn State is the overall better team. But there is just so much not working in there favor this week. A second-straight big game against a revenge-minded team that has had an extra week to rest and prepare for a game in front of their rabid home fans? It’s a recipe for Penn State disaster. Not to mention this will be the first true test for Penn State’s secondary, as all their opponents thus far have been boondoggled by this new-fangled idea of a “forward pass.” When did they add that trickery to the rule book?
Personally, I’d really like to see Penn State win this one, and they absolutely can. But I think the safe pick is…
Clint’s Call: Ohio State over Penn State, 38-35
Big 12: No. 4 TCU (7-0) at No. 25 Iowa State (5-2)
It’s a big week in the Big 12. You’ll probably see a better game between Oklahoma State and West Virginia, as the Pokes and ‘Eers each try to stay in the conference title hunt. But if you ask me, the game of the week is in Ames, where the 4th-ranked Frogs will attempt to stay undefeated and atop the conference standings against a surging Iowa State squad that is itself in the conference title hunt with one loss and the tiebreaker over Oklahoma. Deal with it.
Last time TCU visited Iowa State, Trevone Boykin won hearts and minds when he befriended young Iowan Abby Faber (top image) and later morphed into an emoji at the sight of a Derrick Kindred hit (above). It was a big day.
This time around, Iowa State is better by leaps and bounds. Matt Campbell has the Cyclones surging, behind the hot arm of former walk-on QB Kyle Kempt and big play weapons like WR Allen Lazard and RB David Montgomery – who is among the best in the country at shedding tackles. The defense is also disciplined, led by former QB turned linebacker Joel Lanning – there’s a page out of TCU’s book.
Iowa State has been a textbook spoiler since the Oklahoma upset and they haven’t done much wrong. In fact, I’d wager if they started Kempt from day one, they might just be undefeated. But ifs and buts, candy and nuts, blah blah.
I like the Frogs to keep rolling in this one, because this TCU team is just very good and improving every week. That’s not to say that the Frogs might not stumble before all is said and done, but this is definitely the best defense TCU has fielded since 2014 and Kenny Hill’s improvement coupled with a stellar run game has made the offense so balanced and hard to stop. Gary Patterson always said “You prepare and work hard for the smaller games and the big games take care of themselves.” A lot of folks rightfully have the Frogs on upset alert, but Coach P won’t allow Iowa State to sneak up on this veteran group of Frogs. Personally, I’m far more worried about trips to Norman and Lubbock this year.
Clint’s Call: TCU over Iowa State, 41-24
Pac 12: No. 15 Washington State (7-1) at Arizona (5-2)
Who’d have thunk these two would be serious contenders for their conference title this year (see NC State, see TCU, see Iowa State, etc.)
The Mike Leach effect has fully taken hold at Wazzu (I’m definitely look forward to that Washington game) and much further south Arizona is looking like a competent football team since naming Khalil Tate the starting QB. Tate is an adept runner, while the Cougars’ Luke Falk is your typical Leach Air Raid guy with over 13,000 career passing yards and the Washington State career record for victories at 25.
Where this Washington State team differs from Leach’s teams historically is they can actually play some pretty good defense. They’re 22nd nationally against the run and 7th in total defense. And they’ve got a defensive tackle named Hercules for crying out loud.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s pass defense is kind of terrible. Uh oh.
The winning formula for Arizona is two-fold: take advantage of Wazzu’s somewaht suspect O-line and pressure the crap out Falk, and lean on a solid run game to play keep away. This of course makes the battle in the trenches paramount… so it’s like every other football game ever.
Personally, I can’t seem to make sense of the fact that Washington State is only a field goal favorite in this game. I mean, I get that it’s on the road and all, but this is Arizona. They may have won three straight, but they haven’t exactly stopped anyone they’ve played in conference and they haven’t played anybody that good yet. Maybe there’s something Vegas is seeing that I’m not.
Clint’s Call: Washington State over Arizona, 45-31
SEC: No. 3 Georgia (7-0) vs. Florida (3-3)
Much like in the Big 12, the best game in the conference this week will most likely be elsewhere between Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Ah, nothing like an SEC contest between two maroon-clad schools aroused at the sound of cowbells. But I’ll be watching Florida-Georgia with much greater interest. Too bad the mere mentioned of the game just makes me think of these tools…
This year’s installment of the rivalry formerly known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” – why do they always change the best names? – is Georgia’s last big chance to really show the nation just how good they are before a likely berth against Alabama in the SEC title game. Florida is an extremely flawed team, but if the Bulldogs smack them around pretty good, it will be a solid statement in an SEC East with virtually no opportunities to do so. On the flip side, if they can only squeak by Florida, it looks bad. It’s the whole beauty contest aspect of college football that really and truly sucks.
Florida’s offense is pretty atrocious. The defense has shown flashes, but if LSU was able to run for over 200 yards on them, you’d have to think Nick Chubb and Georgia will be able to do the same. But then again, it is a rivalry game and weird things have a tendency to happen. Georgia does have the extra motivation of having lost three straight to the Gators, including a couple they really shouldn’t have lost.
Clint’s Call: Georgia over Florida, 35-10
Group of Five Game of the Week
American: Houston (4-3) at No. 17 USF (7-0)
The Houston Cougars haven’t exactly had the same bite this year since Tom Herman left for Texas. But even if they don’t have much of a chance of pulling an upset here, this game is worth watching just to see one of the best rising young defensive stars in sophomore DT Ed Oliver go up against USF QB Quinton Flowers and one of the nation’s most potent offenses.
That’s really all of got on this one. Houston has been way too inconsistent to expect an upset on the road. USF most likely won’t be challenged until their rivalry showdown with UCF for conference supremacy at year’s end. That one should be fun though.
Clint’s Call: USF over Houston, 42-17