College football Week 9: 5 sneaky good games of the week

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - OCTOBER 24: Monte Pottebaum #38 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs the ball during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on October 24, 2020 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - OCTOBER 24: Monte Pottebaum #38 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs the ball during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on October 24, 2020 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The college football Week 9 schedule is headlined by Penn State’s clash with No. 3 Ohio State, but plenty of other games on the slate figure to entertain.

The college football season forges on in Week 9, and even with the Big Ten already experiencing COVID problems in its first week back, the weekend slate should be an entertaining one for fans. While Penn State’s battle with Ohio State no longer holds the same significance after last week’s loss, plenty of other games in both major and mid-major conferences should be competitive.

5. UCF at Houston (+2.5)

In a matchup between two perennial Group of Five elites, UCF and Houston face off on Saturday with massive implications in the AAC standings. While both sit behind No. 7 Cincinnati, the Cougars will look to stay undefeated in conference play and the Knights will look to gain some ground. A loss could sink either, and the ultimate result will tell fans a lot about the conference pecking order behind the Bearcats.

UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel has over 400 passing yards in all but one game this year, and, two weeks removed from a 600-yard passing performance, has shown no signs of slowing down. A Houston defense that has allowed an average of 26 points per game will be tested early and often, and a strong outing will be crucial to a Cougars win.

4. Troy at Arkansas State (-3)

Arkansas State and Troy both check-in near the middle of the Sun Belt standings, and with the season roughly halfway over, both could use a conference win to keep pace with teams like Coastal Carolina and Louisiana. This game should provide an especially good litmus test for an Arkansas State team which has been difficult to evaluate thus far.

Red Wolves wideout Jonathan Adams Jr. is the engine of the offseason and should fill that same role on Saturday. The senior has 47 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and another strong outing could lift his team over .500. The Trojans certainly need quarterback Gunnar Watson back in the fold on Saturday, though, as backup Jacob Free struggled in last week’s loss to Georgia State.

3. LSU at Auburn (+3)

LSU and Auburn both entered the season with high expectations, but each has struggled to deliver throughout the early stages of the 2020 season. The reigning national champs saw a huge game against Florida postponed due to COVID-19 concerns but rebounded from a loss to Missouri nicely with a blowout win over the same South Carolina team that upset Auburn.

With quarterback Myles Brennan‘s injury status still up in the air after an abdominal injury, LSU may again have to rely on freshman TJ Finley, who filled in admirably against the Gamecocks, under center. Auburn, meanwhile, would be wise to turn to the ground game considering Bo Nix‘s struggles, especially against a porous LSU defense.

2. Texas at Oklahoma State (-3.5)

Oklahoma State likely represents the Big 12’s only College Football Playoff hope at this point, but Saturday’s game against Texas could trip up the Cowboys, who handled Iowa State last weekend. While the Longhorns have dropped games against Oklahoma and TCU, they still have the weapons to give the Cowboys some issues.

Running back Chuba Hubbard remains the most important piece on Mike Gundy’s roster, but the Cowboys will have to make sure that this doesn’t become a shootout. Texas signal-caller Sam Ehlinger has 24 total touchdowns this season, and while he dealt with an injury last week, he appears ready to go for Saturday’s showdown.

1. Northwestern at Iowa (-2.5)

Iowa dropped its season opener against Purdue despite Rondale Moore’s mysterious absence, but Saturday’s game against Northwestern should provide an opportunity for the Hawkeyes to get back on track. The Wildcats dominated Maryland in their opener, but the Terrapins always figured to check-in near the bottom of the Big Ten.

The Wildcats produced a staggering 325 yards on the ground against Maryland, and if their stable of backs can replicate that effort against a Hawkeyes defense which surrendered 195 rushing yards to the Boilermakers, Iowa could find itself in unfamiliar territory at 0-2.

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