Picks for the biggest Week 9 games
Wes Huber previews and offers up picks for Saturday's biggest matchups.
Picks for the biggest Week 9 games
No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 21 Temple
Line: Notre Dame -10.5
Looking over the strengths of these excellent programs, you can get a sense for the high level of competitiveness ahead. Notre Dame is built around a controlling offensive line anchored by LT Ronnie Stanley, our seventh-highest graded LT in pass protection to date. The other side of the ball finds DT Sheldon Day patrolling the interior with the sixth-best run defending grade in the nation.
Temple has previously found themselves as the predicted underdog in three games this season, overcoming each, and no team has scored twenty points (23) on the Owls since September Week 3. Viewing the Temple offense operate, it quickly becomes evident that RB Jahad Thomas is the key and LT Dion Dawkins the seam-creating bulldozer. It’s not until you examine the defense that you discover the Owls collection to be the reckoning force in their early-season dominance
The predicted spread is not only a near-guarantee to fall, the Temple defense holds such a decided advantage over that of Notre Dame’s, the Owls will most likely add another win to their impressive 7-0 season.
Prediction: Temple 30, Notre Dame 21
No. 8 Stanford at Washington State
Line: Stanford -11.0
Another outstanding performance from HC Mike Leach’s Washington State squad and yet another week as an unranked underdog. QB Luke Falk has the nations fourth-highest passing grade over the last five weeks and the pass protection provided by his offensive line being the catalyst.
The fact that the Cougars are unranked is the surprise, but finding them as the underdog to the Cardinal… not so much. Stanford is arguably the hottest team in college football at the moment behind the precision passing of QB Kevin Hogan and untouchable running of utility-tool Christian McCaffrey.
The conclusion of this matchup will see the Cardinal taking the victory. However, the Washington State offense is a well-oiled machine and should find significant gaps in a Stanford defense struggling at the third-level. McCaffrey and Co. will shred the Cougars porous run defense, but covering an 11-point spread over Leach’s Air Raid will be a difficult task.
Prediction: Stanford 38, Washington State 32
Georgia at No. 11 Florida
Line: Florida -3.0
The particulars of this matchup would be significantly more promising with Bulldogs RB Nick Chubb healthy and Gators QB Will Grier reinstated. Neither is in the cards and we are left with a tumbling Georgia team, a Florida quarterback whose lack of height (5-11) creates difficulty viewing the field over towering lineman, and has already displayed an inability to overcome SEC competition in Treon Harris. The glaring advantage can be seen in pass coverage, as Florida is stacked in its secondary, and Georgia is lacking the playmakers to slow opposing aerial attacks.
If Harris can display more of the player we witnessed in Week 7 against LSU and less of his disastrously inefficient play from 2014, Florida will take a large victory over the visiting Bulldogs. Even if Harris’ recent performance proves to be a fluke, Florida will still pull the addition to the win column due to the inept Bulldog passing offense.
Prediction: Florida 28, Georgia 17
No. 12 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Line: Oklahoma State -3.0
If it’s defense you prefer, you may want to have another game programmed on your remote’s previous button when the Cowboys offense takes the field. Texas Tech is ranked at the bottom of every important defensive category to date. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, fields an intimidating defense that is complimented by PFF’s eighth-best passing grade in QB Mason Rudolph. Outside of late movement, a three-point advantage is simply oozing with potential for earnings.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 40, Texas Tech 30
Massachusetts at Ball State
Line: Ball State -2.5
The Minutemen gave Toledo a scare last week behind three early scoring strikes from QB Blake Frohnapfel. The Rockets overcame an 18-point halftime deficit as its top-30 defense emerged in the second half and the Massachusetts secondary crumbled. A trend that has stymied the UMass program all season due to an adequate offense and vanilla defense.
Ball State is not blessed with a dominant group on offense or defense, but they pride themselves on taking care of the little things. The offensive line grades out within the top-five in the country behind the pass blocking of LT Drake Miller and run blocking of C Jacob Richard. The special teams unit has performed within the FBS’ top-ten and will be enough to push the Cardinals to victory at home while covering the spread.
Prediction: Ball State 32, Massachusetts 27
Southern California at California
Line: USC -6.0
The Trojans looked extremely impressive taking the victory over Utah in Los Angeles last week and will look to continue the momentum against a Golden Bear program coming off of back-to-back defeats. USC was able to exploit the Utes struggling secondary and were aided by the inability of Utah QB Travis Wilson to aggressively push the offense when needed. The Trojans may have found their bell-cow in true freshman RB Ronald Jones II, but Cody Kessler has taken a step backward this season from the lofty-pedestal he rested upon in 2014.
Cal can attribute recent defeats to Utah and UCLA to an inability to protect QB Jared Goff. The offensive line allowed 34 total QB hurries during the two game losing streak after only allowing 41 combined during its first five games. Not all is lost, Goff was able to bounce back from an uncharacteristic five interception game at Utah with a solid effort against a surging Bruins squad.
In addition, UCLA and Utah possess top-20 pass rushes, and that particular attribute has been an area extremely lacking from the USC defense. The combination of the Trojans inability to pressure the pocket and an emerging Golden Bear secondary will be enough to keep Cal within striking distance. Avoid the O/U as California has only exceeded a point total of 68 once all season within a meaningful game, but placing stake in an “upset” in Berkeley could pay off.
Prediction: California 31, USC 30
Tulsa at SMU
Line: Tulsa -3.5
SMU is a surprisingly enjoyable team to watch — on offense. The defense rivals Texas Tech and Kansas, but QB Matt Davis has big-play potential using his arm or legs. Unfortunately, the Mustangs potential ends there, revealing a sloppy offensive line, and deficient defense.
Tulsa may not field a defense capable of stopping the run, but its pass rush and secondary have proven adequate, and the passing offense ranks in as the FBS’ sixth-best. Quite simply, the Vegas prediction undervalues the Golden Hurricane and the line has jumped 57 percent over the last three days behind this exact train of thought.
Prediction: Tulsa 49, SMU 24
Georgia State at Arkansas State
Line: Arkansas State -18.0
The Panthers will face the Red Wolves in Jonesboro this weekend with little-to-no confidence from oddsmakers supporting an upset. A scenario unlikely to be realized, but one that is packed with a significant 18-point advantage. G-State QB Nick Arbuckle is currently PFF’s 15th-highest graded signal caller, possesses ample ability to score enough points to keep this game competitive, and to threaten the spread.
Prediction: Arkansas State 37, Georgia State 22
Follow Wes on Twitter: @PFF_Wes
Wes Huber | Analyst
Wes is an analyst and fantasy correspondent at Pro Football Focus. He's been with the company since 2014, and his work has been featured on DraftKings Playbook and FantasyPros.