Best Games from Each Conference: Week 9
ACC: Duke at North Carolina
While this game certainly won’t have the same aura surrounding it that the basketball game will later this year, fans could certainly be in for a treat with this one. This game could go a long way in determining bowl eligibility for Duke and North Carolina, so expect both teams to be ready to go when they hit the field.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are already greatly improved from the 2018 season, eclipsing their win total and competing in every game they have played so far. The team has lost their four games by six, three, one, and two points, with the one point loss being to Clemson after they decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win. Sam Howell has been great for Mack Brown’s club as he nears the 2,000-yard mark with 20 touchdowns on the year.
The Blue Devils have a pretty special player as well in Quentin Harris, who is a true dual-threat with over 1,200 yards through the air and leading the team in rushing with 417. He has accounted for 17 touchdowns this year as well. Victor Dimukeje’s 6.5 sacks on the year should play a big factor in this game, but I think the Tar Heels’ bad luck will finally run out this week as they get a big win and get some momentum going into the last third of the year.
Prediction: North Carolina 34, Duke 21
American Athletic: Tulane at Navy
The Tulane Green Wave already showed they can stop one ferocious rushing attack from a Wing-T offense after defeated Army three weeks ago and held them to under 200 yards on the ground. Navy is a little more talented than the Black Knights this year, but I am sure the Green Wave will be ready to bounce back after a tough 30-point loss to Memphis last week.
Justin McMillan has continued to impress for Tulane this year, throwing for nearly 1,300 and leading the team with nearly 400 yards on the ground. They will have him and receiver Darnell Mooney play well if they are going to have any success against the Midshipmen.
Navy has continued to play very well and is sitting at 5-1 on the year. They have not had much of a challenge since losing to Memphis a few weeks ago. With them continuing to have success on the ground - quarterback Malcolm Perry leads the team with 800 yards on the ground - it is hard to believe they won’t give the Green Wave some trouble. This will be a great game and Navy will have success, but there is no way Tulane drops another big game like this.
Prediction: Tulane 28, Navy 17
Big 12: Oklahoma State at 23 Iowa State
Amazingly, with just five games left on the year, the Iowa State Cyclones has a great shot of playing for the Big 12 conference championship in December. They have a great shot at winning this week against Oklahoma State, who has struggled the last few weeks. This could be a huge game in the Big 12 and the Cowboys will need to win if they want any shot at making a bowl..
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy has had an incredible year so far, throwing for nearly 2,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has continued to make a push towards being an NFL Draft prospect. The defense has been pretty good as well and O’Rien Vance has been a huge part of their success with 6.5 sacks on the year.
The Cowboys need to continue to take advantage of running back Chuba Hubbard. He leads the country with nearly 1,300 yards on the ground and it has been hard to stop him. However, he seems like the only bright spot on this team this season and it could end up being a long day for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Iowa State 38, Oklahoma State 24
Big Ten: 13 Wisconsin at 3 Ohio State
Had the Wisconsin Badgers not lost to the Illinois Fighting Illini last week, this game could have possibly been the site for College GameDay instead of the crew rolling into Brookings, South Dakota for a big FCS game. Ohio State looks like one of the best teams in the country right now and if they can get past the Badgers, they could all but lock their spot in the top four later this year.
The Badgers are led by Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor and, despite the loss, he had a huge game against Illinois last week. He is pushing on the 1,000-yard mark for the third straight season and he could easily be in New York come December. Defensively, they will have to continue to play great with their 27 sacks and eight interceptions on the year.
The Buckeyes have their own Heisman candidate in quarterback Justin Fields, who has accounted for 30 touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards this year. He and JK Dobbins will have to play nearly perfect if they want to avoid the upset this week. The team also has 29 sacks and 10 interceptions this season, so that could play a big role in the game this week.
We are due for a big upset of one of the top teams in the country and I think the Badgers are primed for their big win. If they can slow down Fields, they should easily win this game in a raucous Columbus.
Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Ohio State 18
Conference USA: Western Kentucky at Marshall
After an early season loss to FCS Central Arkansas, it seemed like the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were on their way to a bad season. However, the team has turned things around and is on a four-game win streak and at 5-2 on the year. For Marshall, it seemed they only needed to start conference play to get things going as the team is 2-1 in Conference USA.
The Hilltoppers are going to want to win this game and they will need Ty Storey and Gaej Walker to play nearly perfect this week. Walker leads the conference with 628 yards on the ground and four touchdowns and is by far the best player on the team. Kyle Bailey has also had a great year with two interceptions and 57 tackles.
The Thundering Herd have had some bad luck in their games so far this year, but in conference play they have been nearly perfect. Isaiah Green continues to have a great year throwing and running the ball. On defense, they have recorded 25 sacks, six belonging to Darius Hodge. This should be a good game, but the Hilltoppers have way too much momentum to fall this week.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 27, Marshall 21
Mid-American: Central Michigan at Buffalo
It has been quite some time since we had a Central Michigan team worth watching and we might finally have one again. The Chippewas have turned things around with a three-game win streak and there is a very good chance they will keep it going against Buffalo this week.
Central Michigan has enjoyed three straight comfortable wins and their success rests mostly on the shoulders of the receiving corps, led by Kalil Pimpleton. Their three core guys have made big plays down the field and have accounted for nearly 1,200 of the team’s 1,931 passing yards. Defensively, the team has been on fire as well with Troy Brown looking like a possible NFL prospect. Brown leads the team in tackles and has two interceptions.
Based off their ten-win season from 2018, the Buffalo Bulls are having a rather disappointing year so far. The team sits at 3-4 and, unless they fix something quickly, could be on the outside looking in come bowl season. After a big shutout win last week over Akron, the defense will have to play nearly perfect if they are going to upset the Chippewas this week. I just don’t think it is going to happen.
Prediction: Central Michigan 31, Buffalo 13
Mountain West: Utah State at Air Force
This game will likely go a long way in determining the Mountain division representative in the Mountain West conference championship. While Boise State is clearly the class of the division, both the Utah State Aggies and the Air Force Falcons should be able to make a good run at the division crown in the final few weeks.
The Falcons have over 2,100 yards on the ground, which is not unlike the Air Force teams of the past. What is unlike them, however, is Geraud Sanders, who has stood out as a receiving threat this year. He has made some big plays for the team when they were faced with long down situations. Look for him to make an impact in this game against the Aggies.
As for the Aggies, I was wrong last week in picking the Nevada Wolf Pack to beat them. Gerold Bright showed out and Jordan Love did what he does in the game. Expect them to be just as ready for this game and make a move towards their huge matchup with Boise State in a few weeks. Utah State should do just enough to slow down Air Force and pull out a big win.
Prediction: Utah State 21, Air Force 17
Pac-12: Washington State at 11 Oregon
Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about the possibility of Washington State making a push for the College Football Playoff. Now the team could miss out on making a bowl altogether while Oregon, whose only loss was the season opener to Auburn, could make a late push for the Final Four.
It has not be a great month for the Cougars. The team went on a three-game losing skid, which included allowing the terrible UCLA to score 67 points, and only just got back on track last week against Colorado. Anthony Gordon has been great, as expected in Mike Leach’s offense, and has racked up nearly 3,000 yards on the year. But their biggest problem has been their defense as the team has allowed nearly 29 points a game.
Oregon has looked very good since losing that heartbreaker to Auburn to open the year. They have won six straight games and went five straight games without allowing teams to score more than seven points. Justin Herbert has looked like the first-round player everyone thinks he is and the defense has played great, pulling down 12 interceptions and 22 sacks. Oregon should win this one easily, but expect the Cougars to throw up some points.
Prediction: Oregon 52, Washington State 30
SEC: 9 Auburn at 2 LSU
Was there every any question that this was going to be our game of the week? It is always a fun game when the Tigers meet with each other. Both of these teams still have a shot to win the SEC and make the playoff, so expect this game to have a huge championship feel to it.
Joe Burrow is still the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at this point, throwing for nearly 2,500 yards and breaking LSU’s single-season touchdown record in just seven games. The real question is how well their defense is going to play. The team has played better in recent weeks with everyone being healthy and Derrick Stingley Jr., a freshman, has continued the legacy of great LSU defensive backs with three interceptions on the year.
Auburn will need to take advantage of JaTarvious Whitlow if they are going to have any shot at winning the game. They must first establish a run game against a dominant defensive front for LSU. Bo Nix will also have to stay calm and collected in the pocket.
LSU has been in big games already this year and with the defense playing better, there is no doubt in my mind they will come away with another big win this week. They just can’t look ahead to two weeks from now when they face off against Alabama.
Prediction: LSU 42, Auburn 27
Sun Belt: Troy at Georgia State
It is crazy what a year and a coaching change will do for some teams. The Troy Trojans know all about that for sure as the team was a perennial power in the Sun Belt under Neal Brown. He is gone to West Virginia and the team is back to what they were during the latter half of the Larry Blakeney era, while the Georgia State Panthers are slowly emerging as one of the surprise teams in the conference.
The Trojans are sitting at 3-3 on the year and with some tough games still ahead of them, they are looking at possibly ending their three-game bowl streak. While losing Sawyer Smith to transfer really hurt them, Kaleb Barker hasn’t played terribly, throwing for 1,670 and 16 touchdowns. They will need more of that production this week if they are going to leave Atlanta with a win.
The Georgia State Panthers have been on a roll all year since upsetting Tennessee to open the season. They got a big win over Army last week and that was mostly thanks to Dan Ellington going 20-28 with 232 yards and three scores. He has been nearly perfect on the year, throwing for nearly 1,600 yards and rushing for almost 300 with 18 total touchdowns against only three turnovers on the season. The Panthers have some big games ahead of them in the coming month, but if they can keep their eyes forward and focused, expect them to pull out a win over the Trojans this week.
Prediction: Georgia State 32, Troy 14