Burning questions for week 9 of the college football season, including how the landscape of the SEC will look much more clear after Saturday and how UCLA can continue their surprising mid-season success.
Week 9 in college football has three of the top five teams in the nation on bye weeks. This provides other teams in the top 10 with an opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage without distractions from dominating performances by Alabama, LSU, and Michigan. Georgia and Florida face off in a battle of top 10 teams, Washington State goes to Stanford with the hope of getting another statement win, and Iowa matches up with Penn State with both teams having a chance to fall out of the rankings with a loss.
5. Will the winner between Georgia and Florida win the SEC East?
Yes. The only other competition the winner of this game will have is Kentucky. Kentucky already has a strong victory over Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators from earlier in the season, but the Wildcats still have three more conference games to play, including one at home against Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs. The Wildcats will find a way to slip up late, leaving the victor of Georgia and Florida this week with a head-on collision with Alabama in the SEC title game.
4. Can Travis Etienne continue to put up Heisman numbers?
A strong Florida State defense won’t shut him down. The running back for the Clemson Tigers has 800 yards rushing on 98 carries with 14 touchdowns. He has burst onto the Heisman scene in recent weeks from dominating performances against Wake Forest and NC State. The Tigers have a match-up with the Florida State Seminoles this weekend. The Seminoles are only allowing 100 yards per game on the ground so it may be tough for Etienne to continue his strong numbers, but with a passing attack led by Trevor Lawrence that can blow the game up early, Etienne will still be able to get a solid number of carries and red zone work to put up a nice stat line.
3. What undefeated team will fall this week?
USF against Houston. The only other undefeated teams to play this week are Clemson at Florida State and Notre Dame at Navy. These do not look like they will be competitive games, but this AAC match-up between the USF Bulls and the Houston Cougars should be a high scoring game with a close finish. Houston quarterback D’Eriq King has thrown for 23 touchdowns and only three interceptions this year. Houston’s stout run defense led by Ed Oliver needs to force USF quarterback Blake Barnett into more passing situations than he is used to. The passing attack and run defense are the keys to victory for Houston to knock off unbeaten USF.
2. Can UCLA continue their mid-season turnaround?
Hopefully. This is one of the most surprising and intriguing stories of the college football season. After starting 0-5, Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins are 2-5 and with a win against Utah this weekend, they will be a half-game behind USC in the Pac-12 South. While it may not seem likely that the Bruins can pull off this feat, it is within the realm of possibility because of and the fact that all of the teams that beat UCLA in their first five games all currently have records that are 5-2 or better. Beating Utah will not be an easy task, but it will be interesting to see how the standings look next week if they do.
1. Will Appalachian State sustain their top 25 ranking?
They will with a win on Thursday. The Appalachian State Mountaineers achieve their first even top 25 ranking after becoming an FBS team back in 2014. The Mountaineers go up against Georgia Southern on Thursday night in a game that could eliminate the loser from a chance to win the Sun Belt group A title. Troy, Georgia Southern, and Appalachian State are all undefeated in conference play so the winner of this game will be in control of their own destiny later in the season. This is a chance for the Mountaineers to get their first quality win of the season and cement themselves in the weekly AP top 25 rankings.