2017 Week 9 NCAAF Weekend Preview

October 27, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a stacked weekend of college football ahead of us.

A weekend this big – with high profile matchups being played all over the country (and many at the same time, oddly enough) – rivals what we thought we had on opening weekend. The difference this time around is, teams have plenty of film on each other.

The last weekend of October brings with it the anticipation of the regular season homestretch, as well as a grand heaping of pressure for the young men on the field. This is when things really start to get exciting.

On the prediction game front, Week 9 stands to be a crucial weekend. Sal posted a perfect 5-0 record last weekend en route to yet another victory for the guests – their fifth of the year in total. I’m falling behind at a rate that cannot continue if I expect to win the overall battle. The records now stand:

K. Becks – 25-15

Guests – 29-11

This week, the Cincinnati Reds get a shout out on Around The Corn. @BigRedTweeter, Cincinnati baseball’s premier source of information both in-season and during the hot stove league, returns for a second year to make picks. Although baseball is Big Red Tweeter’s main passion, football isn’t a foreign concept, either.

I suppose that I have done the above to myself.

Let’s take a look at the best games in a big weekend for college football.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#11 Oklahoma State at #22 West Virginia (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Two potent offenses will square off in Morgantown Saturday afternoon, but only one of them looked the part last weekend. Oklahoma State narrowly escaped Texas in Austin last Saturday, needing overtime and a broken play that resulted in an interception to best the Longhorns. West Virginia’s offense has shown up in all of its games this season, but that’s also the only reason the Mountaineers come into this game ranked. The opposition has tended to have a pretty decent outing offensively against the Mountaineers this season as well, which does not bode well against the pass-happy Cowboys.

Oklahoma State may not look like a true Playoff contender at this point, but the Cowboys are led by a senior quarterback that understands how important this game is to his team. It’s a matter of time before that young Texas team knocks off a top ranked squad this season – Oklahoma State simply got caught in the middle of a good stretch for the Longhorns to do so. West Virginia’s defense will finally let them down in this one, because the offense will do its part to keep it close. Expect an entertaining shootout with Mason Rudolph getting the best of Will Grier.

My Pick: 45-37 Oklahoma State

@BigRedTweeter’s Take: Oklahoma State is coming off a terrible performance vs. Texas. Mason Rudolph is going to be ready to play.

OSU 45  WVU 35

#4 TCU at #25 Iowa State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

I’ll be the first to say, I gave Oklahoma a lot of grief when it lost at home to Iowa State three weeks ago, confidently stating that it was the end of the Sooners’ Playoff chances and labeling the loss as “terrible”. Well, neither of those things are true, as Oklahoma is still in the hunt and the Cyclones are as good as the program has seen in a decade. Though this game sets up similarly to that contest, however, I see Iowa State having a much more difficult time defeating the Horned Frogs. Not only will Gary Patterson’s team not overlook the now ranked Cyclones, as Oklahoma may have done, but TCU has been known as an extremely disciplined squad for the entirety of Patterson’s tenure as head coach.

The Horned Frogs are far and away the best defense in the Big 12, and arguably the only defense from the league that would be regarded as decent in the other four Power 5 conferences. Iowa State did punish Oklahoma’s secondary, but since that game the passing numbers have gone down steadily for Kyle Kempt. The good news is that Kempt has been smart with his decisions, throwing only one interception to seven touchdowns. The bad news is that he should have been able to do more against Kansas and Texas Tech, two of the worst pass defenses in the Big 12. If TCU keeps Kempt in check, the Horned Frogs will avoid being upset.

My Pick: 33-21 TCU

@BigRedTweeter’s Take: Iowa State is a fluke. TCU is going to lose a Big 12 game, but it won’t be a mid-afternoon game in Ames.

TCU 38 Iowa St 27

#2 Penn State at #6 Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Living in Columbus, I’ve heard a lot of noise leading up to this game. About how Urban Meyer is 4,573,376-1 against teams after a bye week. About how Urban Meyer is 33,476-1 against teams in so-called “redemption games”. About how Vegas currently has the Buckeyes at a touchdown favorite. And these are all good points (I mean, how can you argue with those records?). But let’s all remember that games are not played on paper. They are played on the field. And the teams that Urban has amassed over four million victories with following a bye week are not the teams playing in this game.

Ohio State hasn’t had to show much in the past month. On one hand, that’s allowed J.T. Barrett to get back into the good graces of the Buckeye faithful. On the other hand, we haven’t really learned anything about Ohio State’s defensive secondary, which along with Barrett was equally responsible for the loss to Oklahoma and slow start against Indiana. The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, have been playing lights out and are extremely balanced offensively. While I think the Buckeyes can hold Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley to minimal yards, I am not as confident in the ability of the secondary to stop Trace McSorley. The junior is adept at escaping the pocket and has a cannon for an arm. If McSorley isn’t harassed by the Ohio State defensive front, thus aiding the questionable defensive secondary, even a good J.T. Barrett won’t be enough.

My Pick: 34-31 Penn State

@BigRedTweeter’s Take: Both teams have a lot to play for. PSU is trying to return the tradition that has been gone for so long. Ohio State is coming off a stretch of relatively easy wins and a bye week, and the offense is humming along. J.T. Barrett has played exceptionally well in the games he’s expected to, so this will be a big test. Everyone will say Barkley is the X Factor, and he will get his touches/yards, but don’t expect the wheel route they’ve fallen in love with to be so open with Jerome Baker draped on him. McSorley will be the determining factor for Penn St. But I love the Bucks run D to get the job done in what’s supposed to be a rainy mess in Columbus.

OSU 31 Penn St 21

#14 North Carolina State at #9 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Sorry, Irish fans – there’s a reason that College GameDay isn’t broadcasting from South Bend this weekend. Although this is one of the better games of the weekend, it has the feel of a game between two teams still looking for the national respect they believe they deserve. For North Carolina State it’s understandable – the Wolfpack haven’t been nationally relevant since 2010, and have finished ranked at the end of the season just once since 2002. But thanks to Boise State transfer Ryan Finley along with a monstrous defensive line, Dave Doeran’s team is sound on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame’s offense is predicated on the run game, with quarterback Brandon Wimbush leading the team with 10 rushing touchdowns to go along with eight passing scores.

The battle between Wimbush & Co. and the N.C. State defensive line will be one to keep an eye on, but the emergence of Nyheim Hines at running back for the Wolfpack could be the difference in this game. Hines has rushed for at least 100 yards in his last three outings, and if he can do so again in this one, it will probably mean that N.C. State was able to assert itself offensively. However, Notre Dame isn’t afraid of a shootout and needs another strong victory to gain the respect it desperately is trying to gain. At home, the Golden Domers defend their turf.

My Pick: 35-28 Notre Dame

@BigRedTweeter’s Take: Brandon Wimbush is scary athletic, and Notre Dame is humming right along after throttling America’s dreamboy Sam Darnold last week. N.C. State is a threat when they play at the friendly confines, but South Bend is a much different challenge for the Wolfpack.

ND 41 NC State 24

#15 Washington State at Arizona (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)

Most of the marquee games of the weekend will begin before the sun sets in the Eastern time zone, but don’t forget about the Pac-12 even though conventional wisdom says that the conference has already cannibalized itself out of the Playoff. Washington State may have Luke Falk slinging the ball around the field, but it’s the Wildcats that are fifth in the country in scoring offense, averaging a cool 43.1 points per game. This is exactly the type of team that can give the Cougars trouble because Arizona plays a brand of football that few in the Pac-12 ever try. Rich Rod has put together a mean rushing offense in a passing league, but it has worked to beat traditionally pass-happy California and UCLA already.

Turnovers will be the deciding factor in this game. Against Cal, the Cougars were awful, turning the ball over seven times in a lopsided upset loss. The Wildcats aren’t as opportunistic defensively as the Golden Bears, but 66 percent of Arizona’s turnovers have been interceptions. Most of the opportunities to take Washington State off the field will come through the air, as the Cougars are No. 119 nationally in rushing attempts this season. Like California, if Arizona can force a few takeaways, the ugly pass defense numbers can be thrown out the window.

My Pick: 45-42 Arizona

@BigRedTweeter’s Take: Washington State is going to whoop some serious ass this week. I expect a huge game from Falk. Tate is going to run around the Cougs D, but I expect a win from Wazzu.

WSU 49 Arizona 35

5 Games to Flip To

#3 Georgia vs. Florida [game in Jacksonville] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The PC crowd can call it whatever they want, but this one is always going to be the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Unfortunately for Gator fans, they’re going to need to dip into the Georgia liquor supply to enjoy this one, as Georgia will be at an advantage in either a defensive battle or a shootout.

Houston at #17 South Florida (Saturday, 3:45 PM ET)

Any team that can move the football against South Florida will have a chance to hand the Bulls their first loss of the season.

Mississippi State at Texas A&M (Saturday, 7:15 PM ET)

What’s it like to be a decent, not great, team in the SEC West? Tune in to find out.

Georgia Tech at #7 Clemson (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Clemson will likely pull away in the second half, but Georgia Tech has the offensive firepower to keep things interesting until the Pac-12 games begin.

Texas Tech at #10 Oklahoma (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Sooners have struggled with Texas Tech in prior years, and they have not looked very strong the past two weeks. At the very least, this one should produce a lot of offensive highlights.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like @BigRedTweeter did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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