Will any of us have enough adrenaline left to make it through prime time in Week 9? This week’s four matchups of top-25 teams all take place in the noon and 3:30 ET windows, and each of those four games could overturn the playoff picture if it doesn’t follow script. Will Penn State have enough gas to win the second leg of the Big Ten’s toughest back-to-back stretch, against a fired-up Ohio State team in Columbus? Will NC State announce itself as an ACC contender by halting Notre Dame’s hot streak? Which Big 12 contender will see their title game chances take a potentially fatal blow: West Virginia or Oklahoma State? And is TCU really going to make it to November undefeated?
Below, our experts make their picks for Week 9’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.
Chris Johnson: 76–24 (76%)
Molly Geary: 74–26 (74%)
Andy Staples: 71–29 (71%)
Eric Single: 67–33 (67%)
Bruce Feldman: 61–31 (66.3%)
Scooby Axson: 56–30 (65.1%)
Joan Niesen: 64–36 (64%)
Oklahoma State at West Virginia (Noon ET, ABC)
Chris Johnson picks West Virginia: This is the Mountaineers’ best chance to shake up the Big 12 race. It doubles as a showdown between two of the nation’s top wideouts, West Virginia’s David Sills V and Oklahoma State's James Washington. There will be a lot of points.
Louisville at Wake Forest (12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
Bruce Feldman picks Louisville: Both teams’ defenses have sputtered: Louisville ranks last in the ACC in total defense for this month, and Wake is second-to-last. The Deacs are on a three-game losing skid, and Lamar Jackson is not an ideal follow-up to a taxing game against Georgia Tech’s triple option. I’ll go with the Cards and their Heisman winner, who has run for almost as many yards in the past three games as he did in the season’s first five.
NC State at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Andy Staples picks Notre Dame: NC State should be much tougher for Notre Dame to run against than USC was, which means Fighting Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush will need to provide some air support. This is his chance to prove he can.
TCU at Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Eric Single picks TCU: Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt is a great story; Kenny Hill 2.0 is a better one. The Horned Frogs’ defense will offer the Cyclones a lot more resistance than Texas Tech’s did.
UCLA at Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Molly Geary picks Washington: Going up against the Bruins’ defense could be just what the doctor ordered for the Huskies, who haven’t played since a stunning road loss to Arizona State. UCLA ranks dead last in the country in rushing yards allowed per game, so look for a big day from Myles Gaskin.
Georgia vs. Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Joan Niesen picks Georgia: I've seen nothing from Georgia that would lead me to predict a loss from here on out—until it (likely) meets Alabama in the SEC title game. Florida and its struggling offense don’t look like a threat to the machine Georgia has put together, even in a rivalry game which has been reliably unpredictable.
Penn State at Ohio State (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Andy Staples picks Penn State: Is Ohio State’s offense better than it was against Oklahoma? We’re about to find out. If the Nittany Lions can force the Buckeyes to chuck the ball downfield the way they did last year, they can win again.
Mississippi State at Texas A&M (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Scooby Axson picks Texas A&M: The play of Kellen Mond will be key: A&M’s freshman quarterback continues to make strides as the Aggies have made their way back to respectability after a nightmare start to the season. Give them the slight advantage here; the home team has won each of the last four meetings in this series.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Bruce Feldman picks Oklahoma: Sooners coach Lincoln Riley faces his alma mater, which is coming off a dud of a showing at home against Iowa State. The Red Raiders’ defense is much improved, but I don’t like their chances of knocking Baker Mayfield’s team off in Norman the way the Cyclones did. Expect a shootout—it won’t be as wild as last year’s meeting in Lubbock, which broke the record for the most total yards in a four-quarter FBS game, but there will still be plenty of fireworks.
Georgia Tech at Clemson (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Joan Niesen picks Clemson: It seems like forever and a day since Clemson lost to Syracuse in its most recent game two weekends ago, and this matchup with Georgia Tech will be a good test to see how much of an aberration that was. My guess is it was a major one, and the Yellow Jackets don’t have the personnel to put up points against Clemson’s loaded defensive front.
Washington State at Arizona (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
Chris Johnson picks Arizona:Khalil Tate isn’t a secret anymore, but he’s also not yet being taken all that seriously as a Heisman Trophy candidate. A signature performance against a ranked opponent could change that. The Cougars won’t be able to slow down Rich Rodriguez’s latest dual-threat dynamo.
USC at Arizona State (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Eric Single picks USC: Do I dare go against the red-hot Sun Devils and their suddenly airtight defense? For as bad as USC looked last weekend in South Bend, I think they have enough in the running game to make up for however inconsistent Sam Darnold might be.