College Football Picks for Week Nine

Game of the Week:  #3 Ole Miss (7-0) at #24 LSU (6-2)
This game is a basic example of strength on strength, as the Ole Miss defense faces off with the LSU offense.  The Rebel defense has allowed only 10.6 points per game, which leads the nation, and they also lead the nation in interceptions with 15.  The defense has scored four touchdowns, and has only allowed six.  LSU’s offensive attack is responsible for 35.6 points per game, which includes last week’s 41-3 win over Kentucky.  LSU’s two losses came to Mississippi State and Auburn, with both coming convincingly (although the Mississippi State score was closer than the two teams were).  Ole Miss is coming off a 34-3 win over Tennessee which backed up back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, including a 23-17 win over Alabama.  While this game will be at Death Valley in Baton Rouge, Ole Miss dominated Texas A&M in a tough environment on the road, so they are more than capable of a win, and they are a 4-point favorite here in a renewal of one of the SEC’s more underrated rivalries.  One stat to the contrary is that LSU is 43-3 in home night games under Les Miles, and all three losses came to teams who would eventually become #1 in the nation that year (which is possible here).
Ole Miss 27, LSU 20.

Big Game Guarantee:  #20 USC (5-2) at #19 Utah (5-1)
If it’s possible for a game between two ranked teams to fly under the radar, this one has, but two top 20 teams will meet Saturday night in Salt Lake City, with the Utes favored by three at home.  Both teams aren’t that far from being undefeated, with Utah’s only loss coming by a point to Washington State, and USC losing by 6 to Boston College and by 4 on a hail mary pass to Arizona State.  Utah also has a big win over UCLA, who had been the favorites in the Pac-12 South, while USC has a win over Stanford, who sits second in the Pac-12 North, with both of the marquee wins coming on the road (oddly, the road team has won a vast majority of Pac-12 games this season).  There are five ranked teams in the Pac-12 South, so the loser of this game will be in a very tough spot if they want to win the division.  The X-factor in this game is the running game, with both teams having workhorse backs, with Javorius Allen of USC and Devontae Booker of Utah both playing impressively through the season so far.  Utah isn’t generally mentioned among the toughest environments in college football, but it is a very tough place to play, and has even been a hostile environment in the team’s down years, with them being much more competitive at home.  With this game so big in the Pac-12 race, home field advantage may be the difference.
Utah 27, USC 23.

Upset of the Week: #22 West Virginia (5-2) at Oklahoma State (5-2)
Oklahoma State is a 1-point home favorite in this game as the Mountaineers come to Stillwater.  West Virginia is coming off of their upset win at home over Baylor, while Oklahoma State was demolished by TCU last week, 42-9.  Some may say West Virginia will have a letdown game after the big win, particularly as they have to go on the road, and others may say that Oklahoma State will respond after their loss to find a way at home.  Last year, a 4-8 West Virginia team beat the Cowboys in Morgantown, 30-21, a loss that eventually cost Oklahoma State a shot at a conference title, so the Cowboys will likely want payback.  The difference in this game is Clint Trickett, the Florida State transfer under center for the Mountaineers, who has thrown for over 2,500 yards in the season’s first seven games, including 322 yards and three touchdowns last week against Baylor.  Trickett is one of the most underrated QBs in the nation, and he is capable of tearing apart any defense, so he is certainly capable of a big game against the Cowboys, who are 70th in defensive points per game.  This is one of those times that I just don’t agree with the spread, as in this case the better team (and clearly so in my mind) is an underdog.
West Virginia 42, Oklahoma State 28.

Closer Than the Experts Think:  South Carolina (4-3) at #5 Auburn (5-1)
Auburn is a 19-point favorite as they host the Gamecocks in a series where they haven’t lost a game since 1933, as the Tigers lead the series 9-1-1.  The teams last met in the 2010 SEC Championship, which Cam Newton and Auburn won 56-17, although they had played a much closer 35-27 game at Auburn.  On paper, this game shouldn’t be that close, since Auburn is a top five team with wins over LSU and Kansas State, with their only loss to top-ranked Mississippi State, while South Carolina is just over .500, with a bad loss to Texas A&M, and close losses to Missouri and Kentucky.  However, the Gamecocks do have a quality win over Georgia, and have seemed to play to the level of their opponent.  Steve Spurrier always seems to have something up his sleeve for games like these, at least offensively.  Defensively, the Gamecocks won’t be able to stop the Auburn rushing attack, so they won’t have a great shot to win, but they could beat the spread and keep the game from being an afterthought before halftime like many think it will be.
Auburn 45, South Carolina 30.

NFL Game of the Week:  Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) at Arizona Cardinals (5-1)
This matchup sees a pair of teams who both went 10-6 last year and are off to hot starts this year go at it, with the winner keeping pace with Dallas and Denver for best record in the NFL.  The Cardinals are a two-point home favorite, led by QB Carson Palmer, who has had a career rebirth playing for the team.  On the other side, Chip Kelly’s offense is led by Nick Foles, who isn’t having the same season statistically that he did a year ago, but is leading his team to wins.  Statistically speaking, the Eagles come into this game ranking better in passing and rushing yards, and passing yards allowed, while the Cardinals are better only in rushing yards allowed.  Additionally, while the teams had identical records last year, the Cardinals missed the playoffs while the Eagles went as the NFC East winner, so they have had better big game experiences.  The Cardinals are an excellent team, but the Eagles will get the job done.
Eagles 27, Cardinals 24.

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