Week 9 Predictions

Predictions for Week 9

No. 1 Georgia (7-0) vs. Florida (4-3), 3:30 p.m. ET (in Jacksonville)

After three straight seasons in which both of these teams were ranked in the Nos. 5-9 range at the time of this game, No. 1 against unranked feels kind of boring.

And, historically speaking, it will be.

There have been six iterations of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in which one of these teams was ranked in the Top Three and the other was unranked. The ranked team won each of those six games by a margin of at least 19 points. The average margin is 38.0 points,

thanks to one particularly ugly 75-0 game in 1942.

Georgia’s elite defense will bottle up whichever mobile quarterback Dan Mullen decides to trot out there, and the Bulldogs will take one more gigantic step toward a 12-0 regular season.

Prediction: Georgia 35, Florida 13

No. 2 Cincinnati (7-0) at Tulane (1-6), Noon ET

Remember when Tulane almost beat Oklahoma?

Well, more recently, the Green Wave have gotten smashed by Ole Miss (61-21), East Carolina (52-29), Houston (40-22) and SMU (55-26) thanks to what we will generously call less than spectacular defense. And I’m relatively confident that last week’s close call against Navy will serve as a wake-up call for a Cincinnati offense which had been on fire before that game.

Desmond Ridder and Jerome Ford will run all over Tulane in a game that’ll be over before the third quarter is.

Prediction: Cincinnati 49, Tulane 19

No. 5 Ohio State (6-1) vs. No. 20 Penn State (5-2), 7:30 p.m. ET

Only on rare occasions does this rivalry game get out of hand. Ten of the last 20 meetings have been decided by one possession, including three games decided by one point. Only one of those 20 games was a blowout by more than 28 points.

But given how awful Penn State looked last week in its loss to Illinois and how unstoppable Ohio State has been since the second quarter of that Week 3 game against Tulsa, this feels like it’s going to be an exception to the rule.

Penn State has yet to allow an opponent to score more than 23 points in a game this season, but it has also only faced one opponent (Auburn) who ranks better than 70th in the nation in scoring or total offense. And, let’s be honest, Auburn is just an OK offense that ran up the score in early games against Akron and Alabama State. Trying to keep Ohio State from scoring at least 24 points is going to be like trying to stay dry on one of those canyon river rapids rides with a dozen waterfalls.

And Penn State’s running game hasn’t shown enough this season for me to believe it can exploit Ohio State’s front seven the way that Oregon did.

Prediction: Ohio State 42, Penn State 17

No. 6 Michigan (7-0) at No. 8 Michigan State (7-0), Noon ET

Who does a better job of slowing down the run?

Michigan State boasts the nation’s leading rusher in Kenneth Walker III, and throughout this season, it has won comfortably when he gets rolling. As a team, though, Michigan averages 51 more rushing yards per game than Michigan State and has only allowed three sacks all year.

Both defenses have been solid against the run, and Michigan State has been particularly good with its pass rush (3.7 sacks per game). However, this will be the stiffest test either defense has faced.

But the reason I’m going with the Spartans is their considerable advantage at wide receiver.

Both Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor rank top-10 in the Big Ten in receiving yards, while Michigan’s leader in receptions is running back Blake Corum with 18. Michigan State’s secondary has struggled at times this season, but that was mostly against established wide receivers like Miami’s Charleston Rambo or Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns. Five-yard checkdowns haven’t been the problem for Sparty, and I like Payton Thorne to make a few more big passing plays than Cade McNamara.

And, if it becomes a factor, Reed is one of the most dangerous punt returners in the country. Considering the 2015 showdown between these Mitten State rivals was decided on a punt play, maybe it’ll happen again.

Prediction: Michigan State 27, Michigan 24

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