It’s going to be a wild weekend of college football in week nine. Seven ranked top 10 teams will hit the road this weekend. The college football committee will also unveil their first rankings on Sunday. I expect a lot of movement in the top 25 after Saturday, including a loss in the top 5! I have all the big winners below.
A LOOK BACK AT WEEK 8
Colorado became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007, with a 10-5 victory over Stanford. The win moved the Buffs to 4-1 in the PAC 12 South. They share the top spot with Utah. Both teams control their own destiny and will meet in the final game of the regular season. Head Coach Mike MacIntyre took the entire team to In-N-Out burger for a celebration after the game, ordering 165 Double-Doubles with fries. BYU coach Kalani Sitake left Boise Friday night shaking his head after his Cougar team dropped yet another close game. The Cougars were beaten by Boise State 28-27. The Cougars at 4-4 have suffered four losses by a total of eight points this season. Finally, one has to wonder what has happened to the Houston Cougars. SMU dismantled the Cougars on Saturday 38-16. The Cougars are now in jeopardy of not winning the AAC West, trailing Navy by two games.
In the past few weeks I have been critical to the coaches who have lost their teams after slow starts. I want to take a bit to talk about three coaches who have been able to right the ship after disastrous starts. Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern has always been one of my favorite coaches over the past decade. The Wildcats opened the season 1-3, suffering losses to Western Michigan, Nebraska and FCS opponent Illinois State. Since then, the Wildcats have reeled off three straight, including wins at Iowa and Michigan State. At 4-3 the Wildcats need just two more victories to go bowling.
Gus Mahlzan and his Auburn Tigers opened the season 1-2 and many were calling for his head, before they beat LSU, ultimately costing Les Miles his job. Looking back the two losses were too #2 Clemson and #17 Texas A&M. Since then the Tigers have gone 4-0 and climbed to 15th in the polls. The Tigers could easily finish with a nine win season and a major bowl.
Finally, Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars failed to learn anything from last season. The Cougars once again opened the season by losing to an FCS opponent and then were throttled by Boise State, falling to 0-2. At that point, many Cougar faithful were on the phone to the Cougar athletic director demanding answers. Leach had even taken to the media, calling his team the equivalent to a “womans softball team”. Five wins later, the Cougars are 4-0 sitting at the top of the PAC 12 North standings with the Washington Huskies.
FEATURED GAMES FOR WEEK 9
#4 WASHINGTON 7-0 AT #17 UTAH 7-1 This is the first real marquee matchup in the PAC 12 this year. Utah ended an eight game losing streak to the Huskies with a road win in Seattle last year. Ute quarterback Troy Williams was a highly touted recruit by Washington, but did not see eye to eye with head coach Chris Petersen so he transferred to Utah. He has been a key to the Utes success. Tailback Joe Williams has provided a huge spark since returning from his abbreviated retirement. Williams rushed for over 500 yards last season and was number one on the depth chart all spring and summer, but abruptly retired before the season started. Injuries to the position prompted Utah coaches to persuade Williams to return. In two weeks since rejoining the team, Williams has rushed for over 400 yards including 332 yards last weekend against UCLA! The Huskies have the fourth ranked scoring offense and the sixth ranked scoring defense in the country. Their average margin of victory is 33.7 ppg per game. Utah relies on forcing turnovers, but the Huskies have turned it over just five times all season. WASHINGTON CREATES A FUSS IN THE “MUSS” 37-23.
#7 NEBRASKA 7-0 AT #11 WISCONSIN 5-2 This game could have big implications in the BIG 10 West, if the Badgers are able to steal a victory. The Badgers will be facing their 5th top 10 ranked team this season. Corey Clement and the running game will be key for the Badgers. Two years ago in Madison, Melvin Gordon was able to top 400 yards versus the Huskers defense. The Badgers just lost star linebacker Jack Cichy for the season on Saturday. He will surely be missed. The Huskers will welcome back top receiver Jordan Westerkamp from injury. He will provide Tommy Armstrong with a down field threat. Armstrong has thrived in the second year of head coach Mike Riley’s offense. I think this game goes to the final whistle. BADGERS DO JUST ENOUGH TO HIT THE WIN COLUMN 22-20.
CALIFORNIA 4-3 AT USC 4-3 Both teams enter with identical records, in what figures to be a shootout Thursday night in the “City of Angels”. Quarterback Davis Webb continues to light up opposing defenses with his version of the “Bear Raid” offense. Some Bear fans have been whispering that Webb, might be a better fit to run the offense than Jared Goff. The 6-5 gunslinger has thrown for 2,581 yards and 27 scores. The Trojans have rebounded after a slow start, winning three in a row. Sam Darnold has been the difference, taking command of the offense and playing mistake free football. USC still has an outside shot to win the PAC 12 South but will need some help to do it. The Trojans have won 12 straight in this series. MAKE IT 13, TROY SLEIGHS THE BEAR 44-41.
#22 NAVY 5-1 AT SOUTH FLORIDA 6-2 This will be a great battle between the top two teams currently in the AAC. Each team sits at the top of their respective division. Navy has been terrific, since quarterback Will Worth has taken over. Worth responded last week with a career day rushing for over 200 yards and accounting for five touchdowns. The Bulls are coming off a stinging loss to the Temple owls in which they were totally outplayed. I expect head coach Willie Taggart to have his squad focused for this one. Quentin Flowers is one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks. He leads is team in rushing has had success tossing the rock. The Bulls lead the conference in offense, scoring at a 42 point clip per game. The way to beat Navy, is to play with the lead. I think the Bulls do that and come away with a victory. BULLS SINK MIDSHIPMEN 38-31.
#13 BOISE STATE 7-0 AT WYOMING 5-2 The Broncos continue to be the frontrunner to play on New Years day from the NON power five schools. A blocked 44 yard field goal in the final seconds secured a 28-27 win over BYU last weekend. Turnovers again were a bugaboo, as head coach Bryan Harsin continues to stress ball management. To complicate matters, the Broncos have only forced three turnovers, fewest in the nation. Quarterback Brett Rypien and tailback Jeremy McNichols have been a one-two punch for the offense. The Cowboys are finally playing up to head coach Craig Bohl’s expectations. Brian Hill is second in the nation with 1,010 yards rushing. Early season losses to Nebraska and Eastern Michigan are the only blemishes on the schedule. One more victory will get the Cowboys to a bowl game, there first since 2011. War Memorial Stadium should be rocking for this tilt. The Broncos are 10-0 in this series, but this one won’t be easy! COWBOYS JUST CAN’T SEEM TO LASSO BRONCOS, FALL JUST SHORT 32-28.
#3 CLEMSON 7-0 AT #12 FLORIDA STATE 5-2 The top five is about to see its second shakeup in two weeks, when Florida State takes down Clemson Saturday night. Clemson has been living on borrowed time, pulling wins from the jaws of defeat twice already this season. Quarterback Deshaun Watson will have moments of brilliance, but in the end it won’t be enough. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher will have the Seminoles ready to play on this prime time nationally televised contest. Both teams are coming off a bye week, and will benefit from having key players return from injury. The difference for me in this game will be Seminole tailback Dalvin Cook and the rejuvenated defense. CHEIF OSCEOLA AND RENEGADE RIDE VICTORY LAPS, 31-24.
SUPER SIX PACK: SIX GAMES, SIX WORDS, SIX PICKS
#15 AUBURN 5-2 AT OLE MISS 3-4 Two teams trending in opposite directions. TIGERS 33-30.
#25 VIRGINIA TECH 5-2 AT PITTSBURGH 5-2 Bye week makes the difference for the Panthers. PITT GOBBLES HOCKIES 27-20.
#5 LOUISVILLE 6-1 AT VIRGINIA 2-5 I’m looking forward to seeing Lamar Jackson in person. CARDINALS CRUSH CAVS 48-17.
APPALACHIAN STATE 5-2 AT GEORGIA SOUTHERN 4-3 Sun Belt thriller, ground and pound wins it. EAGLES 35-28.
KENTUCKY 4-3 AT MIZZU 2-5 Crucial game for Wildcats bowl hopes. TIGERS WIN BATTLE OF CATS 29-24.
#10 WEST VIRGINIA 6-0 AT OKLAHOMA STATE 5-2 This one goes to overtime. MOUNTIES PREVAIL 45-42.
LAST WEEKS RESULTS
FEATURED GAMES 5-0
UPSET EXPRESS 1-0
SUPER SIX PACK 2-4