Ranking the top Week 9 college football games you should be watching on Saturday.
1. No. 19 Ole Miss at Auburn, Noon, ESPN
Ole Miss is the team nobody can figure out. The Rebels topped Alabama in Tuscaloosa and then laid an egg against an improved Memphis team on the road. Last week their defense came alive and stuffed Texas A&M, 23-3, but a trip to Auburn won’t be easy. The Tigers have shown signs off life of late, beating Kentucky in Lexington and taking Arkansas to four overtimes in a tight loss last week. Auburn’s improved offense, which has averaged 37 points over the last three games, could spoil Ole Miss’ SEC West title hopes.
2. Syracuse at No. 17 Florida State, Noon, ABC
Syracuse fans can breathe easy for at least one reason on Saturday: Florida State’s electric running back, Dalvin Cook, will miss the game as he nurses a nagging hamstring injury. To make things more interesting, the Seminoles are coming off a regular-season loss for the first time since 2012. Does coach Jimbo Fisher’s squad avoid a hangover from its crushing, lasts-second defeat to Georgia Tech last week? It’ll have to improve on third down (2-10 vs. the Yellow Jackets) to get rolling.
3. South Carolina at Texas A&M, Noon, SEC Network
This was the game that launched quarterback Kenny Hill’s Heisman campaign for Texas A&M last year. Where is Hill now? He transferred to TCU. Today the Aggies have a new quarterback controversy on their hands. Kyle Allen struggled in a 23-3 loss to Ole Miss last week, going 12-of-34 through the air. But coach Kevin Sumlin opted to sub Jake Hubenak instead of Kyler Murray as Allen’s replacement. Can the Aggies’ offense put their 192-yard performance against Ole Miss in the past? Going against a bad South Carolina defense (14th in the SEC) should help.
1. Georgia vs. No. 11 Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party rarely sticks to the script, and last year’s installment was no exception. An underachieving Florida squad stomped Georgia, 38-20, behind 418 rushing yards. This year the Gators have allowed just 3.46 yards per carry, so Bulldogs’ quarterback Greyson Lambert will need to step up; he’s completed just 54% of his passes with two touchdowns in his last three games. While Mark Richt is 1-3 at Georgia when facing a higher-ranked Florida squad, the No. 12 Dawgs beat the No. 3 Gators 17-9 in 2012. In all likelihood, the winner of this game will play for the SEC title.
2. No. 3 Clemson at NC State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ABC
Does any team have a more deceiving 5-2 record than NC State? The Wolfpack have played just three Power Five opponents this season and are 1-2 in those games; their only win came in a 35-17 result over Wake Forest. Clemson, meanwhile, looks like the most dangerous team in the country. It’s fresh off handing Miami its worst loss (58-0) in program history, a loss that ended Al Golden’s tenure with the ‘Canes. This will be the biggest test to date for Jacoby Brissett and NC State’s offense, as the Tigers’ defense (4.14 yards per play allowed) ranks sixth nationally.
3. USC at Cal, 3:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Last week the unranked Trojans proved why they were home favorites against third-ranked Utah. USC forced the Utes into four turnovers in a 42-24 win, the first for interim coach Clay Helton. Now Helton’s squad must avoid a letdown on the road against Cal, which hasn’t beaten USC since 2003. But Bears quarterback Jared Goff has already thrown 20 touchdown passes this year, including three in a loss to UCLA last week. Can the Trojans’ secondary stand strong?
1. No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 21 Temple, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
As Temple prepares for what might be the biggest game in program history against Notre Dame, Owls coach Matt Rhule isn’t ignoring the moment. “We don’t pretend it’s not here,” Rhule said this week. “We don’t pretend GameDay’s not coming. We don’t pretend it’s not Notre Dame.” But the AAC’s best defense (4.38 yards per play) must play to its potential against C.J. Prosise and the Irish if it hopes to push Temple to 8-0. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has had two weeks to prepare for its road trip to Philly.
2. No. 8 Stanford at Washington State, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The last two weeks have been somewhat of a coming-out party for Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. He’s compiled 669 total all-purpose yards in wins over UCLA and Washington. McCaffrey now leads the country with 259.7 all-purpose yards per game, and he’ll carry the Cardinal into Pullman on Saturday. Coach Mike Leach has Washington State playing spoiler this season; it’s already beaten both teams that played in last year’s Pac-12 title game (Oregon and Arizona). Could the Cougs make a serious run at the Pac-12 North?
3. No. 15 Michigan and Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
An emotional week in Minneapolis will culminate in a visit from Michigan. Longtime Minnesota coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement on Wednesday due to health reasons. Interim head coach Tracy Claeys, who has stepped in for Kill before, takes over just in time for the stingy Wolverines. Now Minnesota will try to channel that emotion into a strong performance against Michigan, which leads the FBS in total defense (3.45 yards per play allowed).