Week 9 starts off with a bang – a whopping 11 games on the college football schedule before we even get to Saturday.
Thursday night features two of the best passing, and then rushing offenses in the FBS squaring off – Baylor (ranked No. 12 nationally in passing) at (13) West Virginia (No. 11 in passing) at 7pm EST on FS1 and (25) Appalachian State (ranked No. 7 in rushing) at Georgia Southern (No. 5 in rushing) at 7:30pm EST on ESPNU.
Though there are three Power vs. Power matchups on Friday night, only one – (23) Utah at UCLA at 10:30pm EST on ESPN – includes a Top 25 team.
Saturday kicks off early with (2) Clemson trying to survive at unranked Florida State at Noon on ABC. The mid-afternoon time slot offers a trio of quality options, all at 3:30pm EST: (9) Florida vs. (7) Georgia on CBS, K-State at (8) Oklahoma on FOX, and (18) Iowa at (17) Penn State on ESPN.
Primetime also doesn’t disappoint. While (14) Washington State visits (24) Stanford and (16) Texas A&M is at Mississippi State, both at 7pm EST on the Pac-12 Network and ESPN respectively, don’t forget to switch over to the major networks an hour later at 8pm EST to see two Top Ten teams get tested under the lights. CBS has (3) Notre Dame at Navy and ABC has the call for (6) Texas at Oklahoma State.
Week 9 is also the final week of play before the first CFB Playoff Rankings come out on Tuesday, Oct. 30. This first set of rankings is crucial because it establishes which four teams won’t have to do anything, presumably, but win out to remain in the bracket. For the rest of the field, it will be a case of waiting for a top four team to fall or winning so impressively that the committee has no choice but to leapfrog one team over another.
RANKED vs. RANKED (3)
- (9) Florida vs. (7) Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.) – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, CBS
- (18) Iowa at (17) Penn State – Saturday, 3:30pm EST, ESPN
- (14) Washington State at (24) Stanford – Saturday, 7pm EST, Pac-12 Network
OFF THIS WEEK (19)
- American Athletic: East Carolina, Memphis, Temple, (10) UCF
- Big Ten: (5) Michigan, (11) Ohio State, Rutgers
- Conference USA: Marshall, UTSA
- Independents: Liberty
- MAC: Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami Ohio
- SEC: (1) Alabama, Auburn, (4) LSU, Ole Miss
- Sun Belt: Louisiana-Monroe
FIRST-EVER MEETINGS (3)
- Illinois at Maryland
- Liberty at UMass
- Northern Illinois at BYU
7: Michigan State has won 7-straight over Purdue (last loss in 2006)
7: Central Michigan has won 7-straight over Akron (last loss in 2003)
- Baylor has NEVER won AT (13) West Virginia (0-3)
- Kansas has NEVER beaten TCU in Big 12 play (0-6)
- Syracuse has NEVER beaten (22) NC State at home (0-5)
- Tulane has NEVER won AT Tulsa (0-6)
- Wake Forest has NEVER won AT Louisville (0-2)
(23) Utah at UCLA (Friday, 10:30pm EST, ESPN)
Fresh off a 41-28 win over USC, (23) Utah makes an appearance in the AP Top 25 for the first time since Week 5 of the 2017 season. Friday night the Utes visit two-win UCLA, the team with the third-worst rushing defense in the Pac-12. This sets up well for Utah junior running back Zack Moss (#2), the No. 2 rusher in the nation averaging 107.8 yards per game. He’s rushed for 65-plus in each appearance and hung up 160 on Stanford on Oct. 6 and 136 last week vs. the Trojans.
Purdue at Michigan State (Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN)
After shocking then No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday night, Purdue visits East Lansing this weekend where it hasn’t won since 2006. Before automatically assuming the Spartans’ always stingy defense will shut down the Boilermaker’s potent passing attack – ranked No. 6 nationally – consider this: Michigan State is currently ranked No. 117 vs. the pass. Nationally. It’s the lowest mark for Mark Dantonio’s program since the 2009 squad which, ranked No. 112 in passing defense, finished the season 6-7.
(14) Washington State at (24) Stanford (Saturday, 7pm EST, Pac-12 Network)
Stanford is another old-school, gritty team, like Michigan State, that we expect to consistently have a potent defense. Instead, the 2018 edition of the Cardinal D is ranked No. 61 vs. the run and No. 98 vs. the pass. It’s a fortunate scenario for (14) Washington State, which unsurprisingly is ranked No. 1 in the FBS in passing offense. The Cougars’ attack is also the only unit in the country averaging 400-plus yards through the air. Keep an eye on senior quarterback Gardner Minshew II (#16), he’s No. 1 in the nation in yards per game (392.1) and No. 2 in total yards (2,745).
UAB at UTEP (Saturday, 7:30pm EST, ESPN+)
Our “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” selection for Week 9 tune in to this one, or check the stats on Sunday morning, to see if UAB can add to it’s growing pile of defensive accolades. The Blazers are ranked No. 2 in the country in sacks with a whopping 27 – that’s one more than both (1) Alabama and (11) Ohio State which are tied at 26 apiece. Enter in UTEP, ranked No. 123 in sacks allowed, and you get the picture. Only five teams in the country have given up more sacks than the Miners’ 26. Players to watch include senior defensive lineman Jamell Garcia-Williams (#99), his 6.5 sacks thus far ranks No. 18 nationally and No. 4 in Conference USA.
HARDWARE UP FOR GRABS
The Belt – Troy at South Alabama – series started in 2012 – tied at three games apiece.
Established in 2015 The Belt is just that, a championship belt complete with football bling. It may be the best swag in all of college football. The two schools are located a mere 175-miles apart in southern Alabama. The Jaguars have worn the belt twice vs. the Trojans’ single wearing.
The Bronze Boot – Wyoming at Colorado State – series started in 1899 – Colorado State leads 58-46-5 but Wyoming has won two-straight.
Awarded to the winner of the “Border War” since 1968, the Bronze Boot is, as advertised, a bronzed jump boot formerly worn by Colorado State alum and Vietnam veteran Jeff Romero, Sr. In one of the coolest traditions associated with a rivalry game, the two schools’ ROTC detachments meet at the Wyoming/Colorado border each year after the contest with the game ball, the school scheduled to host the next meeting running the ball back to its stadium. The Cowboys have captured the Boot 26 times vs. the Rams’ 24.
The Golden Screwdriver – Hawaii at Fresno State – series started in 1938 – Fresno State leads 27-22-1 and has won six of the last seven.
What sets the Golden Screwdriver apart from all the other FBS rivalry trophies is that it’s not an official part of the game its associated with. At least not yet. It’s also got perhaps the best backstory combined with the least savory aesthetics.
It all began at the 2002 Hawaii at Fresno State game, when then Warrior head coach June Jones claimed to have been hit in the head by a screwdriver hurled from the stands at the end of his team’s 31-21 win. The trophy, a golden screwdriver implanted in artificial turf on a rustic wooden base, “commemorates” the altercation. Its creation is the result of a Fresno radio station’s call for listeners to design an annual award for the rivalry game.
The Okefenokee Oar – (9) Florida vs. (7) Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.) – series started in 1915 – Georgia leads 50-43-2, but Florida has won three of the last five.
Established in 2009 by the student governments of both schools, the Okefenokee is a 10-foot long oar, carved from a 1,000-year old cypress tree from the Okefenokee Swamp. Covering nearly 700-square miles, the swamp straddles the Florida-Georgia state line. The Gators have paddled home with the oar five times vs. the Bulldogs’ four.
The Rip Miller Trophy – Navy vs. (3) Notre Dame (at San Diego, Calif.) – series started in 1927 – Notre Dame leads 75-13-1 and has won six of the last seven.
First awarded in 2011, Rip Miller was a member of Notre Dame’s Seven Mules, the line that blocked for the legendary Four Horseman from 1922-24. Miller went on serve as an assistant at Navy from 1925-30, taking over the head job in 1931. As a coach, he was part of the effort to establish an annual game between Navy and Notre Dame. Miller finished his career as an assistant athletic director in Annapolis, a post he held from 1948-74. The Irish have won the prize honoring his legacy six times vs. the Midshipmen’s once.
Illinois’ visit to Maryland on Saturday afternoon marks the first time the two programs have ever met on the gridiron. After the dust settles in College Park, the Terrapins, which jumped ship from the ACC to the Big Ten in 2014, will have finally played every member of its new conference home.
It also means that only one in-conference matchup among the Power 5 leagues will have yet to played – Wake Forest and Pittsburgh. The Panthers – which moved from the Big East to the ACC in 2013 – are slated to visit the Demon Deacons on Saturday, Nov. 17 in Winston-Salem.
Combined, the two matchups mark a significant “settling” milestone in the aftermath of the epic wave of conference realignment from 2010 to 2014.