Week 9 of the college football season has begun, and numerous teams with an inside track to the playoff have significant tests.
Tennessee survived its largest challenge so far, outlasting Alabama 52-49 in Knoxville. The Volunteers will now host a Kentucky group coming off a bye that currently has shown a propensity to knock off ranked opponents.
Sticking with the SEC East, Georgia and Florida will travel to Jacksonville to partake in an annual rivalry game that is nevertheless in search of its personal name. Unfortunately for the Gators, they enter the matchup as additional than 3-touchdown underdogs, but something is probable in Jacksonville.
Farther north, Michigan will host bitter rival Michigan State in a contest that usually appears to bring fireworks, though Ohio State will travel to Penn State for the Buckeyes’ most vital game to date. Ohio State has won 5 straight against the Nittany Lions and rolls into Happy Valley 7-.
Oklahoma State appears to construct off the momentum of a comeback win at property against Texas with an away game versus Kansas State, and out west, Oregon travels to Cal just after a statement victory against UCLA in Eugene.
College football’s final weekend in October is right here, and these are the largest storylines this week.
No. 19 Kentucky at No. three Tennessee (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app)
A couple of items have changed for Tennessee (in fact a lot) because the Vols final faced Kentucky. Their 45-42 win more than the No. 18-ranked Wildcats final season in Lexington snapped an 11-game losing streak against nationally ranked foes. Before that contest, which featured 1,073 yards of total offense, Tennessee’s final such victory came back in 2018 with a 24-7 win more than No. 11 Kentucky.
That’s the way it is been for the Wildcats in this series. They’ve lost 34 of the previous 37 meetings, despite the fact that Mark Stoops has two of these 3 wins in the previous 5 years.
Stoops has constructed Kentucky’s plan from the ground up with a pair of ten-win seasons in the previous 4 years. Josh Heupel, in just his second season at Tennessee, has orchestrated an even additional gorgeous turnaround. The Vols (7-) are ranked No. three in the AP poll. They beat Alabama for the very first time in 16 years. Tennessee leads the nation in scoring offense (50.1 points per game) and is seeking for its fifth win of the season more than a ranked opponent.
For the very first time in two decades, Tennessee is legitimately in the national championship conversation at a point in the season when the leaves are altering. A fifth win more than a ranked group would match the quantity of coaches the Vols have had because Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008.
These are dizzying occasions on Rocky Top certainly. But Heupel stated his group is not about to get ahead of itself with a rested, healthier Kentucky group coming into Neyland Stadium on Saturday evening.
“We’re nevertheless in the starting stages of this journey, genuinely the halfway point,” Heupel stated. “For us, the preparation, getting genuine with each and every other, competing just about every day is going to be essential. … So far, these guys have handled it the proper way.”
In other words, any mention of the trip to No. 1 Georgia in two weeks is off-limits.
Kentucky (five-two) was off final week, which really should guarantee that quarterback Will Levis will be as wholesome as he has been because suffering a turf toe injury against Ole Miss on Oct. 1 and missing the subsequent game against South Carolina. Levis threw for 372 yards and 3 touchdowns final season against Tennessee. One of Kentucky’s chief complications this season has been safeguarding the quarterback. The Wildcats have permitted 26 sacks in seven games.
Levis will require to hit some significant plays down the field against a Tennessee defense that is ranked 130th out of 131 teams in pass defense (329.7 yards per game). But the Vols have been stout against the run. They’re providing up just 90.eight yards per game on the ground, tied for eighth nationally. That’s exactly where Chris Rodriguez Jr. comes in for Kentucky. He is a challenging runner involving the tackles, fantastic just after speak to and can support shorten the game for the Wildcats if he is capable to get it going against Tennessee’s D.
In Kentucky’s 27-17 win more than Mississippi State two weeks ago, the 224-pound Rodriguez ran the ball 31 occasions for 197 yards and two touchdowns. — Chris Low
No. two Ohio State at No. 13 Penn State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
Before the season, an Ohio State schedule featuring Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa — all ahead of Nov. 1 — projected as 1 that could hold up against that of any national title contender. The way it turned out, the Buckeyes are nevertheless attempting to peel off the ain’t-played-no one label, in spite of their flat-out dominance.
Ohio State has won just about every game by double figures and the previous six by an typical of 38.7 points. Another convincing win at Beaver Stadium really should boost Ohio State’s profile heading into the very first College Football Playoff rankings reveal, despite the fact that thumping Penn State probably does not carry the similar worth just after what Michigan did to the Nittany Lions on Oct. 15.
“We know that we have to bring it just about every week,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day stated. “This is element of that competitive excellence, that competitive stamina. Going on the road and winning a game like this is going to be enormous.”
Following the Michigan loss, Penn State responded properly final week against Minnesota, and the Lions could match up superior against the Buckeyes than the Wolverines, in particular mainly because of a talented secondary led by security Ji’Ayir Brown and cornerback Joey Porter Jr. Michigan utilised Penn State’s aggressiveness on defense against the Lions, to the tune of 418 rushing yards, but Penn State D-coordinator Manny Diaz probably will maintain the stress on Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud if he can.
The Lions are seeking for additional sacks, collecting 15 via the very first seven games.
“Obviously, we are difficult routes additional in terms of the balls that are finding broken up, hopefully forcing the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer,” Penn State coach James Franklin stated. “So in theory, we really should be capable to be additional disruptive on the quarterback with sacks and pressures and items like that.”
Franklin has steadfastly supported his quarterback, senior Sean Clifford, who overcame an early interception against Minnesota to pass for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns, winning Big Ten offensive player of the week honors. Clifford played properly in final year’s loss at Ohio State but received tiny support from Penn State’s offensive line and run game. The hope is that with improvement in each regions, combined with property-field benefit, Penn State can beat the Buckeyes for just the second time in State College because 2005.
Ohio State star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (hamstring) is anticipated to play for a second straight game, but he could as soon as once more have a plays limit. Smith-Njigba has been restricted to 5 receptions in 3 games, despite the fact that teammates Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. have filled his production void with 1,333 getting yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Buckeyes will appear for additional in the run game just after Iowa restricted them to two.two yards per carry with a extended of 13 yards. — Adam Rittenberg
No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Kansas State (Saturday, three:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
The Cowboys will pay a visit to K-State for 1 of the largest matchups of the Big 12 season hence far and what could shape up as an elimination game for a spot in the conference title game.
Both teams have currently played the conference leader, TCU, and lost. According to ESPN Analytics, Oklahoma State has an 82% opportunity to attain the Big 12 title game with a win though Kansas State would have a 36% opportunity with a victory.
Kansas State coach Chris Klieman is -three against Mike Gundy and the Cowboys because arriving in Manhattan, but Klieman is emphasizing to his group that it gets to play at property for the very first time because Oct. 1 and nevertheless has a opportunity in the title race.
“Everything is nevertheless in front of us, but it is all about our preparation, and this is the subsequent chance,” Klieman stated this week. “Now we’ve got 5 1-week seasons left.”
Klieman will probably be going into the game with beginning quarterback Adrian Martinez as a game-time choice just after an undisclosed injury in the very first series sidelined him in a loss to TCU final week.
“I hope Adrian is offered, but I never know if he’ll be offered. And there is other youngsters like that,” Klieman stated. “We attempted to handle our way via Deuce Vaughn getting banged up, and he carried the ball not as a lot of occasions as he normally does. We hope Deuce is healthier this week, but we’ll see.”
The Wildcats got a complete dose of Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders final year when he threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns and ran for one more score in a 31-20 Oklahoma State win. But the Cowboys know they will have to cease the run against a challenging K-State group that averages 232.1 rushing yards and hopes to maintain Sanders — and an Oklahoma State offense that averages 44.7 points per game — off the field.
The Cowboys struggled early to cease the ground game final week against going to Texas, enabling 161 rushing yards in the very first half but they tightened up in the second half, yielding just 43 yards though rallying for a 41-34 win.
“You know, unless you happen to be playing Mike Leach, you have got to cease the run, you got to run the ball properly,” Gundy stated. — Dave Wilson
Michigan State at No. four Michigan (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN app)
Michigan State handed Michigan its only common-season loss final season in a 37-33 choice more than the Wolverines. It did not stop Michigan from producing it to the conference championship game or the playoffs, but that loss has stuck with the Wolverines.
The teams are set to play Saturday evening at Michigan Stadium in their annual rivalry game.
“Nobody’s watched the highlights of that game or the film of that game additional than we have,” Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh stated on the Inside Michigan Football radio show. “And also, this year’s tape. But you genuinely want to just know them, you want to master what they are undertaking so you can use it against them. And I’m positive they are undertaking the similar issue up the road, no query about it.”
Michigan State operating back Kenneth Walker had 5 rushing touchdowns in final year’s victory, and the Spartans held Michigan with out a rushing score. Walker is now in the NFL, and Michigan State has been attempting to get its run game going, rushing for 106.1 yards per game, which is No. 116 of all FBS teams.
Michigan, on the other hand, is ranked No. 7 in rushing yards per game, and operating back Blake Corum has had 666 yards on the ground in the previous 4 games, which is the most for a Michigan operating back because Mike Hart in 2004. Corum’s 13 rushing touchdowns are also the most via the team’s very first seven games in plan history.
That is going to make for a challenge for Michigan State to cease the Wolverines’ ground attack. Harbaugh stated he expects it will be a physical game, as the group with the most rushing yards normally comes out on top rated, and it is been marked on the calendar for each teams.
“We all know what this week is. It’s not just one more game for us,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker stated. “Our players and employees and fans have an understanding of that.”
Tucker and the Spartans utilised their bye week to attempt to get wholesome and get some players back. He noted that it is going to take a concerted work, whether or not it is referred to as circling the wagons, bunker mentality or “Us against the planet,” to beat Michigan this weekend.
Tucker hasn’t lost to Harbaugh and Michigan more than the previous two seasons. And Harbaugh stated that in spite of the Spartans possessing a three-four record, Michigan State will give the Wolverines its most effective.
“Old cliché, throw out the records, is really correct,” Harbaugh stated. “It does not matter. Both sides just want it that a lot.” — Tom VanHaaren
Florida vs. No. 1 Georgia at TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida (Saturday, three:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Georgia and Florida are each coming off a bye week, but the Gators arguably necessary the time to regroup a tiny additional ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
It was 1 issue to shed at property to LSU on Oct. 15. But it was one more issue to give up 45 points and 528 yards of offense in the approach.
Florida coach Billy Napier does not want to get technical or give away specifics of what is driving his team’s defensive struggles. But he stated, “I assume we have an understanding of what the concerns are.”
Chief amongst them, Napier explained, is a lack of consistency.
Defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp stated the Gators are “just a couple of plays away.” And though that is frustrating to be so close and however so far away, Sapp acknowledged there is hope in that sentiment, as properly.
But digging deeper, you discover a defense that desperately desires additional from its front seven.
Florida is providing up the most yards per rush in the SEC East (four.47). And it is struggling to influence the quarterback with the conference’s lowest quantity of disrupted dropbacks at 31, a figure that consists of sacks, interceptions, batted passes, passes defended and tipped passes.
Then there are the missed tackles. Florida has 67 of them. Georgia, meanwhile, has only 39.
To have any opportunity of pulling off the upset in Jacksonville, the Gators will require their defense to boost in a hurry, and Florida will require a significant-time efficiency from quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Richardson has flashed very first-round talent, but he also has battled consistency concerns in the passing game, with six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
But Napier stated he sees development in Richardson’s understanding of the offensive method and diagnosing what the defense is undertaking.
“I assume he’s nevertheless operating difficult on mastering what that approach appears like Sunday to Saturday — the unwavering commitment to what is essential to play and win,” Napier stated. “So that is exactly where he’s at. Seven games in and continues to get superior.” — Alex Scarborough
Southern at Jackson State (Saturday, two p.m. ET, ESPN app)
For all of the headlines Deion Sanders has developed with his recruiting, he has carried out just as properly on the field itself.
His Tigers will welcome “College GameDay” to town with an unbeaten status and a No. five FCS ranking by their name. They have won 14 straight SWAC games, and just after rolling to an 11-two record powered largely by defense final season, they’ve been racking up significant offensive numbers this time about. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, has taken his improvement up a couple of notches, finishing 73% of his passes with a 23-to-five touchdown-to-interception ratio. And Jackson State is outscoring opponents by an typical of 41-ten. The Tigers did most of that with out blue-chip freshman Travis Hunter also. He was injured in the very first game of the season and did not return to action till final week.
If Southern maintains its current kind, on the other hand, this could be an intriguing game. The Jaguars fell to 1-two just after a shutout loss to Texas Southern on Sept. 17, but they have outscored their previous 4 opponents by an typical of 44-ten. Sophomore dual-threat Besean McCray has completed 74% of his passes in that span and has rushed for more than 70 yards 4 occasions this season. First-year coach Eric Dooley necessary a couple of weeks, but he has the blue and gold rolling. Will that be sufficient against a superpowered Jackson State? We’ll see. — Bill Connelly
No. eight Oregon at California (Saturday, three:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
For a group that lost by 45 points to open the season, it is a extended road back to playoff relevance. That the Ducks are now ranked No. eight in the AP poll — just previous the halfway point of the common season — represents a outstanding rise. Under very first-year coach Dan Lanning, Oregon is the only group that is undefeated in Pac-12 play and heads to Berkeley, exactly where items have began to fall apart for the Golden Bears below Justin Wilcox. The matchup gives a fascinating what-if storyline thinking of Oregon very first pursued Wilcox ahead of it was rebuffed, top to Lanning.
It’s a powerful year for quarterback play in the Pac-12, but Oregon’s Bo Nix is proper there amongst the most effective. He ranks second in the conference in QBR, very first in yards per dropback (eight.7) and fourth in touchdown passes (17), and he has been sacked just as soon as all season (the fewest amongst qualifying QBs in the nation). Since the Georgia loss, Oregon has scored at least 41 points in each and every game and hasn’t been overly reliant on any of the playmakers about Nix. Despite its struggles, Cal’s defense has been great, possessing permitted no additional than 28 points in any of the Bears’ 4 losses.
If Oregon genuinely is going to make a push to be element of the playoff conversation, two essential items have to come about:
1. Georgia desires to maintain rolling. If the Bulldogs are the clear No. 1 group in the nation, it is simpler to forgive Oregon’s loss.
two. Style points. The Ducks can not leave any doubt about how a lot they’ve enhanced, and close games against teams like Cal will not make the important impression. They require to be dominant.
On the flip side, Cal’s paltry offensive production tends to make it fair to query how extended coordinator Bill Musgrave will be for the job. The Bears have averaged just 14.three points more than the previous 3 games, which just will not get it carried out. — Kyle Bonagura