Week 9 games that will impact the College Football Playoff
With one notable exception, The Week 9 college football slate has the feel of an undercard with half the top 10 teams having a bye. But if we’ve learned anything about this sport over the years, it’s that weeks like this are exactly when unexpected events can occur.
Here are the five games that could have the most impact on the race for the College football Playoff as October comes to a close.
No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 Florida
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Southeastern Conference would prefer that we not refer to this annual contest by its unofficial nickname. Bearing that in mind, the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party has returned to a place of prominence. With Kentucky in the mix as well, this game will not definitively determine the SEC East champion, but a loss would be all but impossible for either to overcome.
The Bulldogs got a much needed week off to regroup after being exposed by LSU. It can be inferred that a significant portion of their practice time has been devoted to devising more variety in the attack to make use of freshman QB Justin Fields, whose strength and athleticism can provide a wrinkle to help starter Jake Fromm. The Florida secondary, featuring S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, doesn’t give up many deep completions, so Fromm will have to be more efficient in the mid-range game than he was in Baton Rouge.
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The Gators, who also rested, don’t have any secret weapons waiting in the wings. But the offensive line has been able to give RB Jordan Scarlett room to roam, which has in turn helped QB Feleipe Franks be more effective. S Richard LeCounte and his fellow Georgia defensive backs have been needed in run support a lot, so Franks might have opportunities downfield.
No. 2 Clemson at Florida State
Saturday, noon ET, ABC
Clemson’s challenge from North Carolina State has been met and conquered. Now, the Tigers head to Tallahassee for the contest that most observers at the start of the season believed would be its primary obstacle. The Seminoles disappointed out of the gate but have shown signs of improvement, though one of those still ended in defeat when they squandered a big lead against archnemesis Miami.
The Tigers has become more explosive since QB Trevor Lawrence took the reins, notwithstanding the Syracuse game in which he left early with an injury. That explosiveness presents a huge problem for LB Dontavious Jackson and the FSU defense, which must be mindful of the long ball while also keeping RB Travis Etienne contained. The Seminoles’ attack is hardly a juggernaut, but the unit has at least become more competent and less turnover prone than the September version. The line, however, remains a work in progress. Protecting QB Deondre Francois will be a major concern against DE Clelin Ferrell and the talented Clemson D-line.
No. 7 Texas at Oklahoma State
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The Big 12 race is far from over. But should the poll rankings hold, the Longhorns are destined for a Red River rematch with Oklahoma. They have much work to do before they can even think about that, of course, starting with this visit to Stillwater. The Cowboys have been in freefall since cracking the top 15, but a desperate team at home can be dangerous.
The Longhorns’ bye week was particularly timely for QB Sam Ehlinger, who left the Baylor game with a shoulder sprain but should be available barring a late setback. The Oklahoma State defense isn’t exactly a rock, surrendering 394.7 yards a game, but DE Jordan Brailford must be kept out of Ehlinger’s backfield. The Cowboys need a clean game from QB Taylor Cornelius, who has tried to force matters as opposing defenses have focused on RB Justice Hill. Expect Longhorns LB Gary Johnson to be around the ball often.
No. 18 Iowa at No. 16 Penn State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Already tagged with two losses in conference play, the Nittany Lions are out of the Big Ten East hunt unless they get a lot of unexpected help. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, are very much alive in the West. They don’t control their own destiny since they’d lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Wisconsin, and they must handle several remaining tests beginning with this lengthy trip to Happy Valley. But they’ll be more than eager to avenge last year’s loss on the final play in Iowa City.
The Nittany Lions didn’t exactly bounce back from their collapse against Ohio State with authority, dropping a game to Michigan State in their next outing then nearly squandering another lead before escaping Indiana. Iowa has rebounded well from its setback, winning three in a row including a convincing romp past that same Indiana squad followed by last week’s whitewash of Maryland. Both teams can count on experienced quarterbacks. Penn State’s Trace McSorley might be better equipped to scramble out of trouble, but the Hawkeyes’ Nate Stanley knows how to keep the chains moving. Penn State S Nick Scott will be kept busy by Iowa TEs Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, while Hawkeyes FS Jake Gervase might have to help keep Nittany Lions WR KJ Hamler bottled up.
No. 15 Washington State at No. 23 Stanford
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
This game might only be available regionally, but it suddenly became the most important clash of the week in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 North. After a hard-fought home victory against Oregon, the Cougars must now do what the Ducks couldn’t, recharge their batteries quickly to meet a difficult opponent on the road. The Cardinal, like the Cougars, still haven’t lost in the division and thus have the opportunity to play their own way into the league championship game.
Stanford got a couple extra days to recover after surviving a Thursday night slog at Arizona State. RB Bryce Love has been playing through injuries for most of the season and is still unlikely to be at full speed. QB K.J. Costello must rediscover the efficiency he had early in the campaign. Washington State could use CB Sean Harper Jr., who missed the Oregon game with an unspecified injury. Cougars’ QB Gardner Minshew leads the FBS with an average of 392 passing yards a game. He’d like to start quickly, as he did in the win against the Ducks, to quiet the Stanford crowd. He’d be advised, however, to know the whereabouts of Cardinal CB Paulson Adebo at all times.
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