Unpredictable events are often the norm during the college football season, especially as the playoff chase heats up in the final weeks and the stakes get higher.
The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Erick Smith and Eddie Timanus — weighs in with some bold predictions for the games during Week 9.
No. 7 Texas is the top 10 team that is most likely to get upset this weekend. No, we did not forget about No. 6 Georgia, which is facing No. 11 Florida. The Bulldogs stumbled badly against LSU when we last saw them in action, and now they find themselves with, essentially, their season on the line against the Gators in the Cocktail Party. Lose and they can forget about a return trip to the College Football Playoff. But with two weeks to prepare for a Florida team that isn’t exactly high-powered, Georgia should be able to do enough to win.
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Texas, meanwhile, has rocketed into the top 10, but does it deserve to be there? The Longhorns’ last three wins have all come in one-score games, and their performances of late have not been especially impressive. Oklahoma State is certainly worse this season than what we came to expect in the Mason Rudolph-James Washington era, but Boone Pickens Stadium remains a tough place to play. Mike Gundy is a good enough coach to get his team in a position to spring an upset – even after coming off a rough loss to Kansas State.
Iowa will beat Penn State and make people take note of the Hawkeyes’ shot at running the table and entering December with just one loss. That might not mean much in terms of the College Football Playoff chase: Wisconsin owns the head-to-head tiebreaker in the Big Ten West Division, so Iowa would need to win out and have the Badgers lose (maybe to Purdue) in order to reach the conference title game. But with just a bit of help, the Hawkeyes could use a win at Penn State as a springboard to meet one of Michigan or Ohio State in early December with a spot in the top four on the line.
We know, predicting a win against Vanderbilt should not qualify as a bold prediction. But did you see the first half of Arkansas’ season? After beating Eastern Illinois in the opener, the Razorbacks lost five in a row. Along with the expected rout by Alabama, there was a come-from-ahead flop at Colorado State and a home beatdown by North Texas. It was a very difficult start to Chad Morris’ tenure.
Last week, Arkansas shut out Tulsa. Yeah, it was Tulsa. But it was something. This week, again in Fayetteville, they’ll notch their second consecutive victory by beating Vandy. There’s no reversing the first half of the season; the Hogs are still headed for a losing record. But they’re showing signs of life, and it’ll result in another win.
On a weekend when half of the top 10 is home resting, you'd think there not much chance for drama. Most of the nation's attention will be focused on the showdown between Georgia and Florida, but that doesn't mean it will be quiet elsewhere.
There's some dangerous road trips facing ranked teams that may be under the radar. Kentucky has a chance to win the SEC East, but the Wildcats will be facing a big challenge from Missouri. Do they have enough offensive to keep up with the explosive Tigers? It doesn't seem likely, meaning that Georgia-Florida game really is for all the marbles in the division.
Unbeaten South Florida is ready for a fall, and Houston is just the team to do it.
And don't fall asleep too soon as the new Pac-12 South favorite Utah heads to UCLA. The Bruins have suddenly come to life under Chip Kelly and still have hopes of winning the division. The Utes better be ready or they'll go home a loss they cannot afford.
The ranks of the unbeaten will be reduced again on Saturday. No, Clemson won’t lose at Florida State, although it might be somewhat closer than we thought it might be back in early September.
It will instead be South Florida that gets it’s first ‘L.’ OK, this prediction might actually not be so bold. The Bulls have experienced enough close calls to be considered the shakiest of the undefeated squads without much debate. Their good fortune will run out at Houston. The Cougars are 6-1 themselves, and their lone loss was a crazy 63-49 track meet with Texas Tech. USF has made the needed plays all year, but this time the Bulls won’t be able to keep up.
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