By Brad Carroll
There might not be a mega-matchup on the college football schedule this week, but the possibility is there for any number of games to become instant classics. Four of the top five teams in the polls will be in action Saturday, including No. 1 Mississippi State playing for the first time ever as the top-ranked team in the nation.
The Bulldogs will play Kentucky as the CBS national game, which proves how quickly things have changed this season. Mississippi State and Kentucky will take center stage over the likes of Ole Miss at LSU, Alabama at Tennessee and South Carolina at Auburn. It's a new era in college football and Mississippi State is at the forefront.
But the mainstays are everywhere on this Saturday as well, including Texas at Kansas State, Michigan at Michigan State and Ohio State at Penn State. We preview and our college football experts pick against the spread all of the games above, and 12 in all, on this all-important Week 9.
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Texas at No. 11 Kansas State, 12 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Texas +10; Kansas State -10
Brad's Breakdown: Kansas State has won five of the past six matchups with Texas and three straight at home, so the sledding will be tough for a rebuilding Longhorns squad to stop that trend and pull the upset. Kansas State is coming off a 31-30 upset of Oklahoma to remain unbeaten in conference play. If the Wildcats run the table, and it won't be easy with road games against TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, all ranked teams, on the schedule, they could be playing in the College Football Playoff at year's end. Kansas State can't overlook Texas, however, as it could be rip for an upset. Texas played well in a five-point loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago and then beat Iowa State at home 48-45 last week to improve to 3-4 on the season. The Longhorns are trending up, but the Wildcats have to realize they need some impressive wins over final month or so of the season to impress the playoff committee. Kansas State will get one impressive win at home Saturday.
Brad's Score: Kansas State 35, Texas 21
Craig's Score: Kansas State 31, Texas 20
Glenn's Score: Kansas State 56, Texas 20
Matt's Score: Kansas State 31, Texas 20
Rutgers at No. 16 Nebraska, 12 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Rutgers +17.5; Nebraska -17.5
Brad's Breakdown: This could be the worst possible matchup for Rutgers Saturday afternoon, as the Scarlet Knights can't stop the run, while Nebraska's offense is all about the ground game. Rutgers allowed Ohio State to rush for 324 yards in a 56-17 loss last week. Now, the Knights defense has to contend with Ameer Abdullah, who has rushed for 1,024 yards and a Big Ten-leading 14 touchdowns this season. Abdullah had 146 rushing yards and four touchdowns last week in a 38-17 win over Northwestern. Nebraska is 6-1 this season with its only loss coming to Michigan State. If the Cornhuskers win out the rest of the way, they will play in the Big Ten championship game, and if enough breaks fall their way the could have an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. Rutgers is 5-2 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, losing to Penn State by three and Ohio State by a ton. It's tough to trust Nebraska giving a bunch of points, but after what Ohio State did on the ground to Rutgers last week, there should be no stopping Abdullah in this game.
Brad's Score: Nebraska 45, Rutgers 24
Craig's Score: Nebraska 28, Rutgers 17
Glenn's Score: Nebraska 24, Rutgers 17
Matt's Score: Nebraska 41, Rutgers 14
No. 1 Mississippi State at Kentucky, 3:30 pm., CBS
The Spread: Mississippi State -14; Kentucky +14
Brad's Breakdown: Mississippi State is ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history and Saturday will be the first time it actually plays a game as the top-ranked team, as the Bulldogs are coming off a bye week. Mississippi State has obliterated any challenge in its way this season, beating then-No. 8 LSU, then-No. 6 Texas A&M and then-No. 2 Auburn in three straight weeks. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott is a Heisman candidate, with the ability to beat you with his arm or legs, combining for 23 touchdowns this season. He's on pace to beat Tim Tebow's SEC record for most in a season. Kentucky is 5-2 this season, but is coming off a 41-3 loss to LSU. The Wildcats also lost in triple overtime to Florida. Of the five wins, only South Carolina counts as a quality victory, and that's not saying much anymore. Mississippi State has won five straight against Kentucky and there's no way the Bulldogs don't make it six.
Brad's Score: Mississippi State 44, Kentucky 14
Craig's Score: Mississippi State 34, Kentucky 14
Glenn's Score: Mississippi State 42, Kentucky 14
Matt's Score: Mississippi State 38, Kentucky 21
Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Michigan +17.5; Michigan State -17.5
Brad's Breakdown: Michigan has hit rock bottom, or at least it hopes it has already hit the bottom. Coach Brady Hoke is on the hot seat, athletic director Dave Brandon is as well, and the team is under .500 for the season. On top of that, student ticket prices will be slashed next season in an effort to fill the seats at the Big House again. It can't get much worse, right? Well, the Wolverines have to travel to rival Michigan State Saturday, knowing full well the Spartans are now the big brother, with all the spoils that come from being a title contender. Michigan State is in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff and has just one game left against a ranked team, home to Ohio State in two weeks. If the Spartans sweep their schedule, and wins the Big Ten championship, they could get one of the final four spots. Michigan State routed Indiana last week, finally putting away a team late after suffering near collapses against Nebraska and Purdue the two weeks prior. This game is a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions. But while Michigan will lose the game, the huge point spread is too much to pass up, especially in a rivalry game.
Brad's Score: Michigan State 37, Michigan 21
Craig's Score: Michigan State 38, Michigan 20
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 35, Michigan 20
Matt's Score: Michigan State 35, Michigan 14
Texas Tech at No. 10 TCU, 3:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Texas Tech +23; TCU -23
Brad's Breakdown: TCU bounced back from its devastating loss to Baylor two weeks ago with a 42-9 beat-down of Oklahoma State last week. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has the Horned Frogs playing perhaps their best football ever, even better than the team that beat Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl. TCU will need a lot to go right to make it into the top four at year's end, but sweeping the rest of their games, including against West Virginia and Kansas State following this matchup against Texas Tech, is something it can control. Texas Tech stopped a four-game losing streak last week by beating two-win Kansas, by just 13 points. The Red Raiders lost to Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia before that. If there ever was a thought of TCU suffering a let down, that should have been answered with its rout of Oklahoma State last week. The Horned Frogs win big again.
Brad's Score: TCU 49, Texas Tech 20
Craig's Score: TCU 35, Texas Tech 20
Glenn's Score: TCU 56, Texas Tech 35
Matt's Score: TCU 51, Texas Tech 24
No. 22 West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Pick 'em
Brad's Breakdown: West Virginia is riding high after upsetting then-No. 4 Baylor last week 41-27 for its fourth straight victory. Oklahoma State is heading in the opposite direction after suffering its worst loss since 2008, dropping a 42-9 game to TCU last week. The Mountaineers were impressive on both offense and defense against the Bears, with Clint Trickett throwing for 322 yards and three touchdowns and the defense holding the explosive Baylor offense to just 318 total yards. A week after Baylor scored 24 straight points in the fourth quarter to beat TCU by three, West Virginia held the Bears without a point in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State lost both of its two games against quality opponents this year, to Florida State and TCU, and the Mountaineers have worked their way to that status as well. So, West Virginia continues to roll.
Brad's Score: West Virginia 41, Oklahoma State 35
Craig's Score: Oklahoma State 41, West Virginia 35
Glenn's Score: West Virginia 31, Oklahoma State 28
Matt's Score: Oklahoma State 35, West Virginia 28
No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Ole Miss -3.5; LSU +3.5
Brad's Breakdown: Ole Miss is the best team in the country right now. They might not be ranked No. 1, but the Running Rebels have been the most impressive to start the season, even more so than Mississippi State. Even though they are undefeated and have beaten Boise State, Alabama and Texas A&M, Ole Miss still doesn't get the respect it deserves. That only helps in games like this, when the Rebels are favored by a small margin against an overrated LSU team. While Ole Miss was beating Alabama and Texas A&M as underdogs and then blowing out Tennessee as big favorites, 34-3, LSU was losing to Mississippi State, getting routed by 34 against Auburn and barely surviving in a three-point win over Florida before beating Kentucky 41-3 last week. Ole Miss has the better defense and the better quarterback, so it should be no surprise who wins this game.
Brad's Score: Ole Miss 31, LSU 17
Craig's Score: Ole Miss 27, LSU 21
Glenn's Score: Ole Miss 35, LSU 13
Matt's Score: Ole Miss 35, LSU 28
No. 4 Alabama at Tennessee, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Alabama -17.5; Tennessee +17.5
Brad's Breakdown: Just which Alabama team will show up Saturday? Against Ole Miss and Arkansas, the Crimson Tide managed just three offensive touchdowns, losing to the Rebels and beating the Razorbacks by just one point. Against Texas A&M last week, however, the Tide put up 59 points in a shutout victory. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who used to coach Tennessee, has admitted his offense flows better at home rather than the road, which doesn't bode well for this matchup at the Vols. But Tennessee likely won't take advantage, as it has lost four of its last five, to Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss. The Vols lost 35-32 to Georgia, but the rest were blowouts. Alabama, if its offense shows up, should coast to an easy victory.
Brad's Score: Alabama 38, Tennessee 10
Craig's Score: Alabama 38, Tennessee 17
Glenn's Score: Alabama 38, Tennessee 20
Matt's Score: Alabama 41, Tennessee 14
South Carolina at No. 5 Auburn, 7:30 p.m., SEC
The Spread: South Carolina +18; Auburn -18
Brad's Breakdown: Auburn has had two weeks to both prepare for South Carolina and to get over its loss to Mississippi State to drop out of College Football Playoff position. But the Tigers are still in prime position to return to the top four, and likely will make the playoff if they sweep the remainder of their games. This game against South Carolina looked like it would be at least a fight for Auburn just a few weeks ago, but the Gamecocks lost to Missouri and Kentucky and have little to no chance of pulling the upset on the road. South Carolina, which allows 31.4 points per game, hasn't beaten Auburn since joining the SEC, losing all seven games. Auburn should be a hungry team in front of a raucous crowd which should make for a very long night for South Carolina.
Brad's Score: Auburn 42, South Carolina 20
Craig's Score: Auburn 31, South Carolina 14
Glenn's Score: Auburn 28, South Carolina 27
Matt's Score: Auburn 41, South Carolina 20
No. 13 Ohio State at Penn State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Ohio State -14.5; Penn State +14.5
Brad's Breakdown: Ohio State is nowhere near the team that lost to Virginia Tech at home at the beginning of the season. Over its last four games, the Buckeyes have won by an average score of 56-17, scoring 50 or more in each game, a school record. Ohio State has routed both Maryland and Rutgers to open the Big Ten part of the schedule. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has found his way as well, throwing 17 touchdown passes against one interception over that span of games. The only thing standing in Ohio State's way of beating Penn State, and Illinois the week after, is the fact Michigan State looms on the schedule on November 8. Penn State started 4-0 this season but has lost back-to-back games to Northwestern (29-6) and lowly Michigan (18-13). Even though it should be a tough atmosphere for the Buckeyes to handle early, they should have no problem pulling away for an easy victory in the second half.
Brad's Score: Ohio State 31, Penn State 14
Craig's Score: Ohio State 36, Penn State 20
Glenn's Score: Penn State 24, Ohio State 17 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Ohio State 35, Penn State 20
No. 20 USC at No. 19 Utah, 10 p.m., FS1
The Spread: USC -1.5; Utah +1.5
Brad's Breakdown: Utah might be the least-known ranked team in the country, and it could be because the Utes haven't done anything this season except beat then-No. 8 UCLA three weeks ago. That 30-28 victory jumped them into the top 25. But that win looked a lot better then than it does now, as the Bruins have fallen off drastically. Before that win, the Utes lost to Washington State 28-27. They beat Oregon State in double overtime last week. So, Utah might not deserve the high ranking that accompanies it. USC has had a wild few weeks, losing on a Hail Mary to Arizona State three weeks ago, then surviving to beat then-No. 10 Arizona on a late field goal miss, before finally beating Colorado last week with quarterback Cody Kessler throwing seven touchdown passes. Utah should have a nice home field advantage, but USC should continue its recent success with a close win over the Utes.
Brad's Score: USC 24, Utah 21
Craig's Score: USC 27, Utah 24
Glenn's Score: USC 45, Utah 35
Matt's Score: USC 24, Utah 21
No. 14 Arizona State at Washington, 10:45 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Arizona State -3.5; Washington +3.5
Brad's Breakdown: Arizona State, which should have starting quarterback Taylor Kelly back, has owned Washington in this series. The Sun Devils have won eight straight games against Washington, including a 53-24 victory last year. Kelly, who scored four touchdowns against the Huskies last year, has watched from the sideline as Mike Bercovici has beaten USC and Stanford in back-to-back weeks to get the Sun Devils to No. 14 in the AP poll. Washington has lost two of its last three games, with losses to Stanford and Oregon and a win over California. The home crowd should carry the Huskies early, but Arizona State will take over and win going away.
Brad's Score: Arizona State 45, Washington 35
Craig's Score: Arizona State 34, Washington 30
Glenn's Score: Arizona State 31, Washington 17
Matt's Score: Arizona State 34, Washington 28
Brad Last Week: 4-7 (spread), 8-3 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 47-47 (spread), 69-25 (straight-up), 5-5 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 6-5 (spread), 8-3 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 43-51 (spread), 66-28 (straight-up), 5-8 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 6-5 (spread), 6-5 (straight-up), 0-2 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 52-42 (spread), 70-24 (straight-up), 6-5 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 7-4 (spread), 8-3 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 48-46 (spread), 69-25 (straight-up), 3-4 (upsets)