The page turns to Week 9.
College football enters the stretch run of its season with the team's postseason goals and expectations coming into focus. While some teams can take a breath on its BYE week plenty of Top 25 teams are in action in the midst of conference play, will someone have its College Football Playoff bubble burst to a rival?
Here are our picks for every Week 9 AP Poll Top 25 team's game. If you want to tail one of these wagers or bet on anything this weekend, I recommend doing it at FanDuel Sportsbook!
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Now, onto the picks:
No. 1 Georgia vs. Florida Prediction and Pick
PICK: Georgia -14.5
There may be some concern about the long-term trajectory of the two-time defending champions with tight end Brock Bowers set to miss an extended period of time, but I'm not sure this matchup exposes the team's issues.
Florida's defense has struggled to limit big plays, outside the top 120 in explosive pass and run rate, and that can be an issue against the Bulldogs, who have little issue pumping the ball down the field. UGA is top 20 in both yards per pass attempt and completion percentage, so I believe the Bulldogs will put the Gators in a negative game script early and force quarterback Graham Mertz into a few turnovers.
Mertz has been on point this season with only one turnover worthy play according to Pro Football Focus, but in a negative game script like this, and a defense full of NFL talent, I think this game can go sideways for him.
No. 3 Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Prediction and Pick
PICK: Ohio State -14.5
No. 4 Florida State vs. Wake Forest Prediction and Pick
PICK: Wake Forest +20.5
No. 5 Washington vs. Stanford Prediction and Pick
PICK: Washington -26.5
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. Kansas Prediction and Pick
PICK: Oklahoma -10
Kansas has fallen into a comfortable spot in the Big 12: right in the middle of the pack where they can beat anyone BUT the elite teams in the conference.
Like last year, the Jayhawks' dynamic offense has been able to score in bunches and give similarly talented opponents fits with its unique schemes and speed around a dual-threat quarterback (either Bean or Daniels).
However, when the team punches up in weight, the Jayhawks get blitzed. The team lost 40-14 to Texas three weeks ago, and when you go back to last season, the team lost by 20 to Kansas State, 41 to Texas, and 10 to Oklahoma (allowing over 700 yards in the game).
This version of OU is better than last year and should have little issue containing Kansas' offense in order to cover the double-digit spread. The Sooners are top five in the country in net success rate, ranking as a top 10 offense and defense in terms of that metric. While Kansas may hit a few big plays, the team's porous defense is outmatched in this one.
The Sooners win this one going away and cover the spread.
BYU vs. No. 7 Texas Prediction and Pick
PICK: Texas -17.5
No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 13 Utah Prediction and Pick
PICK: Oregon -6.5
Utah continues to impress despite facing injuries on both sides of the ball, rallying to beat USC on the road on a last-second field goal.
However, the run ends on Saturday against Oregon, who will not allow the explosive plays that USC allowed to the Utes last weekend. Oregon's offense is far more disciplined and will put the pressure on a Utah defense that is quietly having a poor season against the run, 115th in Pro Football Focus' rush defense grade.
That's a big issue against the Ducks, who are No. 1 in the nation in offensive line yards and averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Utah's defense has a lofty reputation, but the team continues to lose players to injury and is now moving key players to offense to make up for injuries there, including starting safety Sloane Vaki.
Given the Ducks' consistent offense which is the best in the country in terms of success rate, I struggle to see how Utah keeps pace. Lay it with Oregon.
Indiana vs. No. 10 Penn State Prediction and Pick
PICK: Penn State -32
No. 11 Oregon State vs. Arizona Prediction and Pick
PICK: Arizona +3.5
Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Ole Miss Prediction and Pick
PICK: Vanderbilt +24.5
Pittsburgh vs. No. 14 Notre Dame Prediction and Pick
PICK: Pitt +20.5
No. 17 North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech Prediction and Pick
PICK: Georgia Tech +11.5
North Carolina's undefeated season is no more after the team lost as 24-point home favorites to Virginia last week at home. The team is on the road to face Georgia Tech on Saturday night, a team that is full of inconsistencies week-to-week.
The Yellow Jackets have a thrilling win over Miami, but also a concerning loss to Bowling Green at home as massive favorites.
However, this matchup may suit the Yellow Jackets well, who have shown an ability to score on any team this season. The unit top 24 in yards per play and seventh in explosive rush rate while averaging over five yards per carry. The team's offense will keep the Yellow Jackets in this one against a North Carolina defense that is outside the top 100 in defensive line yards.
Georgia Tech has some defensive question marks, but the team has a nose for the ball, 12th in the country with 14 turnovers gained. Catching two possessions against a North Carolina team that hasn't covered either time it was a double-digit favorite this season, one turnover could flip this game on its head.
No. 20 Duke vs. No. 18 Louisville Prediction and Pick
PICK: Louisville -4
No. 19 Air Force vs. Colorado State Prediction and Pick
PICK: Colorado State +13
No. 21 Tennessee vs. Kentucky Prediction and Pick
PICK: Kentucky +3.5
No. 22 Tulane vs. Rice Prediction and Pick
PICK: Rice +11
Colorado vs. No. 23 UCLA Prediction and Pick
PICK: UCLA -17
Colorado comes off of its BYE week but draws a brutal matchup against UCLA and I struggle to see the Buffs holding up against one of the best defensive lines in not just the PAC-12, but the entire country.
UCLA has the top pass rush grade according to Pro Football Focus and should have little issue getting to the most sacked quarterback in the country in Shadeur Sanders.
The Bruins allow about one point per drive, fifth best in the country, and only four yards per play. The defense has been the strong point of the roster thus far, but now the offense may be rounding into form after Chip Kelly made the move to start veteran Ethan Garbers over turnover-prone freshman Dante Moore.
The Bruins responded by beating Stanford 42-7 on the road. I envision the team can get margin yet again in this one and cover with ease behind its stifling defense.
No. 24 USC vs. California Prediction and Pick
PICK: Cal +10.5
USC nearly erased a double-digit deficit to keep its PAC-12 title hopes alive against Utah but allowed a final-minute drive that set up a Utes field goal. Following the game, USC didn't make any of its players available post-game following a second straight loss.
The team now travels to Berkley to face a lowly Cal team that is fresh off of its bye and has looked renewed on offense with freshman Fernando Mendoza taking over under center. The team put up 40-plus points at home against Oregon State before running into Utah on the road. It's worth noting the dynamic freshman QB did get banged up against Utah ahead of the BYE week, he was replaced by former starter Ben Finley.
USC's season is over and it hasn't covered a PAC-12 game yet. The team has been rightfully downgraded, but I'm not sure we have found the bottom yet as a team full of future NFL players may begin to think about respective futures and let go of the rope on the remaining handful of games.
The Trojans are outside the top 100 in EPA/Play and tackling this season and have allowed 28 or more in five straight games, including three games of 40 or more.
While Cal is far from an elite PAC-12 club, the team rallied to lose 41-35 on the road last year against USC and is top 50 in explosive rush and pass defense this season, making it difficult for the Trojans to get easy scores.
Further, it's worth noting the Trojans grueling schedule, which included a cross-country trip to Notre Dame two weeks ago, an emotional and taxing game against Utah, and PAC-12 favorite Washington coming to Southern California next weekend. Cal may be frisky off the bye with an outside shot at bowl eligibility on the line.
Old Dominion vs. No. 25 James Madison Prediction and Pick
PICK: James Madison -20
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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