Viewers Guide, Picks: Week 9

Here we go with our Viewers Guide and Picks for Week 9 of the college football season.

Oregon (and Marcus Mariota) hosts UCLA (and Brett Hundley)

In Week 8, I was 16-8 straight-up and 13-11 against-the-spread. My eight straight-up losers were Louisville (to Central Florida), Georgia (to Vanderbilt), South Carolina (to Tennessee), Northwestern (to Minnesota), UCLA (to Stanford), Texas A&M (to Auburn), LSU (to Ole Miss) and Clemson (to Florida State).

For the year, that makes me 156-43 straight-up and 92-101-1 against-the-spread.

On Big Ten games, I was 4-1 straight-up and 2-3 ATS. In eight weeks on Big Ten games, I am 53-10 straight-up and 31-28 against-the-spread.

We are now down to 10 undefeated teams after losses by Louisville, UCLA, Houston and Clemson. Teams at 7-0 include: Ohio State, Texas Tech, Northern Illinois, Oregon, Missouri and Alabama. Miami (Fla.), Baylor, Florida State and Fresno State are 6-0.

There are four games pitting ranked teams this week. They include: No. 12 UCLA at No. 3 Oregon, No. 21 South Carolina at No. 5 Missouri, No. 6 Stanford at No. 25 Oregon State and No. 10 Texas Tech at No. 15 Oklahoma.

Here we have the Viewers Guide and Picks for Week 9:

Thursday’s Games

I posted my picks for the two Thursday games here.

I picked Mississippi State, favored by 10-1/2, to defeat Kentucky 31-17. MSU held on for a 28-22 win, so I went 1-1 there (won SU, lost ATS)

I picked Marshall, favored by 9, to win on the road at Middle Tennessee 33-27. MTSU rallied with a final-play touchdown to beat Marshall (and me) 51-49. I went 1-1 there (lost SU, won ATS).

So I am 1-1 SU and 1-1 ATS to start the week.

Friday’s Game

* Boise State at BYU (-7), 8 p.m. (ESPN) -- Boise State is 3-0 all-time vs. BYU, including a 7-6 thriller last year at Boise. In that game, the Broncos scored on an interception return. BYU had a late touchdown, but missed on a two-point conversion to try and win it. BYU has won four straight and just knocked Houston from the ranks of the unbeaten with a wild 47-46 win last week. Boise has won three straight since its loss at Fresno State on Sept. 20 (41-40). This has the makings of a good game between a pair of 5-2 teams. BYU 31-30

Saturday’s Games

* Nebraska (-10 ½) at Minnesota, noon (ESPN) -- Would you believe that Minnesota leads the all-time series with Nebraska 29-22-2? But the Huskers have rolled in the teams’ two Big Ten games, winning 41-14 at Minnesota in 2011 and 38-14 last year at home. It seems that Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (turf toe) is close to returning after missing the last three games. NU has won three straight since its home loss to UCLA and is coming off an open week, putting the Huskers back inside the top 25 nationally. Minnesota is sky high after last week’s win at Northwestern (20-17) lifted the Gophers’ bowl hopes. Can Minnesota get in front of Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah? Nebraska 36-23

* Louisville (-20 ½) at South Florida, noon (ESPN2) -- Louisville will try and bounce back after giving away last week’s game at home to Central Florida (38-35). The Cardinals will probably need to win out for a shot at the AAC title and a BCS bowl bid. USF has wins over Cincinnati and Connecticut after an 0-4 start. UL has won the last two in this rivalry, including a 27-25 win at home last year. Louisville 37-14

* Wake Forest at Miami (Fla.) (-23 ½), noon (ESPNU) -- Miami is 6-0 this year and won eight straight dating to last year. The Canes scraped by at North Carolina (27-23) in their last outing. Of course, the Miami community is overjoyed as the Canes are allowed to play for an ACC title and a bowl bid this year. At No. 7 this week (and a game at No. 2 Florida State looming next week), the Canes are in the national title hunt. Wake has quietly won two in a row to get to 4-3. But this is a big step up, going down to Miami. Miami has won six straight in the series, though they have not met since 2009. Miami 35-20

* Connecticut at Central Florida (-21 ½), noon (ESPN-Plus) -- UCF has the AAC championship (and a first-ever BCS bowl bid) in its sights after last week’s win at Louisville. The Knights will not want to let up as they welcome in winless Connecticut. QB Blake Bortles and his mates keep right on rolling. This is the school’s first-ever meeting. Central Florida 38-14

* Northwestern at Iowa (-3 ½), noon (Big Ten Network) -- Three weeks ago, Northwestern was unbeaten and ranked 16th. But losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota have suddenly put NU’s bowl hopes in peril. The Wildcats played without QB Kain Colter and WR Venric Mark last week, although Colter may be back. Iowa showed some mettle in last week’s loss at Ohio State (34-24). Back at home, soph QB Jake Rudock gives the Hawkeyes a passing chance in this battle of 4-3 squads. Iowa leads the all-time series at 47-24-3, although NU won 28-17 last year. Neither team has many gimmes left, so this is critical for each team’s bowl hopes. I may regret this because NU is due to bounce back at some point. Iowa 35-28

* Vanderbilt at Texas A&M (-17 ½), 12:20 p.m. (SEC Network) -- Both teams face injury questions at quarterback with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel nursing a shoulder and Vandy’s Austyn Carta-Samuels leaving last week’s win over Georgia with a leg injury. Manziel was hurt in A&M’s home loss to Auburn (45-41). This is the schools’ first-ever meeting and I think it has some potential. Can the Vandy defense stick with the high scoring Aggies (fourth nationally at 46.9 ppg) whether Manziel plays or not? Hmmm. Texas A&M 45-30

* Pittsburgh (-6 ½) at Navy, 1 p.m. (CBS Sports Network) – Navy has lost back-to-back games at Duke (35-7) and at Toledo (45-44, 2 OT) to fall to 3-3. Pitt rebounded from a listless loss to Virginia Tech (19-9) by downing new FBS member Old Dominion (35-24) last week. RB Isaac Bennett rushed for 240 yards in that Panthers win and the plan has to be to pound him again this week. Pittsburgh 31-17

* N.C. State at Florida State (-31 ½), 3:30 p.m. (ABC regional, ESPN2 outside region) -- FSU returns home after its rout at then-No. 3 Clemson (51-14). The Seminoles, sitting at No. 2 in the new BCS rankings, look like a real national title threat behind redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston. N.C. State, 3-3 overall and 0-3 in ACC play, should be the right kind of tune-up for next week’s showdown with Miami. But remember, the Wolfpack upset FSU 17-16 last year to give the Noles their first loss in 2012. The Seminoles will be out for revenge. NCSU has lost three of its last four games, but has at least been competitive in each. Florida State 38-14

* Michigan State (-10) at Illinois, 3:30 p.m. (ABC regional, ESPN2 outside region) -- Michigan State is 3-0 in Big Ten play since its loss at Notre Dame (17-13). The latest win was an unfulfilling 14-0 triumph over hapless Purdue. This would be a big road win for MSU as it seeks to keep pace with Nebraska and others in the Legends Division. Illinois has lost three of its last four, including a 56-32 loss at Wisconsin last week. MSU leads the all-time series 25-17-2, although the teams have not played since 2010 (26-6 MSU win). The Illini should be desperate for a win to give their bowl hopes a boost. This ought to be a pretty good game, provided the Illini stay away from the costly turnover. MSU can’t afford to look ahead to next week’s game with Michigan. Michigan State 27-20

* Clemson (-14) at Maryland, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) -- The Tigers will try and bounce back after last week’s deflating loss at home to FSU. After a 4-0 start, Maryland has lost two of its last three games. The losses were at FSU (63-0) and last week at Wake Forest (34-10). My guess is Clemson comes back strong after that ugly loss last week. Maryland’s season is circling the drain after the Terps lost their top two receivers for the season. Clemson 38-20

* Tennessee at Alabama (-27 ½), 3:30 p.m. (CBS) -- On Thursday, I shared this neat story of how players from Tennessee and Alabama have carried Beads of Courage in recent games. Tennessee comes in off its upset win over South Carolina (23-21). Alabama has been on a rampage in building its 7-0 record. The Crimson Tide are first nationally in scoring defense (9.7 ppg allowed). It will be a tall order for the Vols to hang with the Tide. Alabama 35-13

* Texas Tech at Oklahoma (-7), 3:30 p.m. (FOX) -- Tenth-ranked Texas Tech, at 7-0, travels to No. 15 Oklahoma. The Sooners, with one Big 12 loss already to Texas (36-20), can ill afford a second. OU bounced back with last week’s win at Kansas (34-19). Texas Tech has not played anybody remotely close to this good. Tech’s opponents are a combined 18-28 and only one (Texas State) has a winning record. Tech boasts the nation’s No. 2 passing offense (416.4 ypg), but Oklahoma is No. 1 nationally in passing yards allowed (149.7 ypg). Something will have to give. This should be one heck of a game. OU won at Texas Tech last year (41-20). Oklahoma 35-30

* West Virginia at Kansas State (-10 ½), 3:45 p.m. (Fox Sports 1) -- Kansas State took a 55-14 win at WVU on its way to the Big 12 title last year. WVU is 3-4 overall and 1-3 in Big 12 play, while K-State is 2-4 overall and 0-3 in conference play. Call me absolutely crazy but I will go with QB Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers on the road. West Virginia 30-24

* Utah at USC (-6 ½), 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Network) -- Both teams come in at 4-3, although each only has one Pac-12 win. The Trojans were stopped cold in last week’s loss at Notre Dame. Utah’s one conference win was a biggie over then-No. 5 Stanford (27-21). But the Utes gave back that momentum with a loss at Arizona (35-24). USC 31-21

* Notre Dame (-20) at Air Force, 5 p.m. (CBS Sports Network) – Things are coming together for Notre Dame after back-to-back wins over Arizona State (37-34) and USC (14-10). Air Force has lost six straight since opening the season with a win over FCS Colgate. Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees suffered a neck injury against USC, but he is likely to play at AFA. ND is 23-6 all-time against AFA, including a 2011 home win (59-33). Can Notre Dame stop the AFA triple option? Hmm. Notre Dame 37-20

* UCLA at Oregon (-23 ½), 7 p.m. (ESPN) -- UCLA must bounce back quickly from last week’s loss at Stanford (24-10). The Ducks are sitting at 7-0 and No. 3 in the BCS standings. But the BCS experts project Oregon moving past Florida State if both win out. Oregon has outscored its opponents, on average, roughly 58-17 (wow). Everybody is listing Oregon QB Marcus Mariota as their Heisman favorite. He can boost that cause with a big win over the Bruins. The teams last met in the 2011 Pac-12 title game at Oregon with the Ducks winning 49-31. I think Oregon wins, but I’m not sure it’s a blowout. Oregon 33-20

* South Carolina at Missouri (-3), 7 p.m. (ESPN2) -- Missouri moved to 7-0 after beating Georgia (41-26) and Florida (36-17) the last two weeks. The Tigers are sitting at fifth in the BCS standings. They can complete a rare SEC East trifecta with a win at home over South Carolina and almost put the division race on lockdown in the process. But look for the Gamecocks to come out strong after last week’s loss at Tennessee. Backup QB Dylan Thompson will start in place of Connor Shaw for South Carolina. Backup Maty Mauk threw for 295 yards in his first start in place of injured James Franklin last week for Mizzou. South Carolina downed Mizzou 31-10 at home last year. Hard to believe the Tigers were 2-6 in their first year in the SEC and picked sixth by many in the East race this year. Missouri in a good one 31-26

* Baylor (-34 ½) at Kansas, 7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Baylor is averaging 64.7 ppg (first nationally), while Kansas is averaging 18.3 ppg (114th nationally). The Bears are 6-0 and sitting eighth in the BCS rankings. Baylor 55-17

* Texas at TCU (-2), 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1) -- Texas has won three straight to open Big 12 play and had last week off after its resounding win over Oklahoma. Case McCoy is expected to start again for Texas. It has been a disappointing year for TCU, which can regain some respectability with a win. The Horned Frogs fell at Oklahoma State (24-10) last week. Texas has won 28 of the last 30 meetings with TCU, although the Frogs won last year at Texas (20-13). Texas 36-27

* Penn State at Ohio State (-14 ½), 8 p.m. (ABC) -- Hey, here’s a stat: Penn State has lost nine straight games to teams ranked in the top four. OSU is No. 4 this week. The Buckeyes are looking to get to 8-0 and extend their nation’s best winning streak to 20 straight. PSU freshman QB Christian Hackenberg figures to torment an OSU pass defense that has given up nearly 300 yards per game in Big Ten play. QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde are rounding into form, however, for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 15-13 all-time vs. PSU and won 35-23 last year at State College. The Buckeyes are 10-3 all-time in home night games at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State 38-21

* Stanford (-4) at Oregon State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN) -- Oregon State QB Sean Mannion leads a passing offense ranked first nationally (442.1 ypg). The Beavers have won six straight since their opening loss to FCS Eastern Washington. But this is also their first ranked opponent. Stanford bounced back from its loss at Utah with last week’s solid win over UCLA. This should be an entertaining game for sure. Stanford 34-25

* Fresno State (-8 ½) at San Diego State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2) -- First place in the Mountain West Western Division is on the line as Fresno State, at 6-0, visits San Diego State, sitting at 3-3. Stay up late and enjoy watching Fresno QB Derek Carr at work. SDSU has won three straight after an 0-3 start. Fresno State 41-30

* California at Washington (-25), 11 p.m. (Fox Sports 1) -- After a 4-0 start, Washington has hit an ice patch with three straight losses to ranked teams (Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State). Cal is 1-6 with six double-digit losses to FBS schools. Make it seven. Washington 45-17 is running a great promotion with free access to your favorite team site for the rest of this calendar year. Click here to find your favorite team’s site and take a free trial.

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