College football Week 9 picks against the spread for every top-25 game

Week 9 is the last week before the first College Football Playoff rankings are revealed, and it features three matchups between ranked teams.

The 3:30 p.m. slot features the main event in the SEC East between No. 7 Georgia and No. 9 Florida. It’s a matchup of one-loss teams, and the winner will be in good shape heading into the final leg of the regular season. No. 18 Iowa also travels to No. 17 Penn State in that time slot. No. 14 Washington State travels to No. 24 Stanford in the primetime slot at 7:30 p.m. in another Pac-12 showdown.

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Here is a look at our record so far:

Straight up: 127-28, .819 (12-3 last week)
Against the spread: 80-61, .567 (6-9 last week)
Upset picks: 5-6, .455 (0-1 last week)

And now, Sporting News’ picks against the spread for Week 9 (lines reflect Consensus picks according to as of Monday):

Baylor at No. 13 West Virginia (-14)

The Mountaineers are coming out of a bye week against an improved Baylor team, which has already played at Oklahoma (33-point loss) and Texas (six-point loss). West Virginia had five turnovers in its last two games before the bye week. This used to be a game where 70 points was required to win. Now, 40 will be fine. West Virginia wins 42-31 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

No. 25 Appalachian State (-8) at Georgia Southern

The Mountaineers have won the last three meetings by 18-plus points, and Darrynton Evans has settled in as the lead back role with the loss of Jalin Moore. The Eagles have a chance to make a statement at home in what should be a Sun Belt thriller. Appalachian State wins 31-28 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

No. 23 Utah (-10) at UCLA

Don’t look now, but the Bruins have won two games in a row under Chip Kelly. The Utes have found their offense, too, with 40-plus points in three consecutive games. This is an opportunity for the Bruins at home, and we’re just skeptical about a double-digit road favorite. Utah wins 35-28 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

No. 2 Clemson (-14) at Florida State

This is tougher than it looks. The Tigers have split the last two meetings in Tallahassee, and won their last meeting by just three points. Willie Taggart has the Seminoles trending in the right direction, and we could see FSU rising up for the cover here. — but we’ve picked against the Tigers the last two weeks and lost. We’ll make FSU prove it. Clemson wins 38-21 and COVERS the spread.

No. 20 Wisconsin (-5.5) at Northwestern

The Big Ten West is wide open, and these teams have split the last four meetings. It’s a contrast of styles, and Alex Hornibook will be on the spot again, but we like Jonathan Taylor to make a few big runs that prove to be the difference. Wisconsin ranks first in the Big Ten in rush offense (282.1 yards per game). Northwestern is last (78.1). Wisconsin wins 34-24 and COVERS the spread.

No. 7 Georgia (-7) vs. No. 9 Florida

The line opened at 6.5, and the Bulldogs got a half-point bump. Florida ranks third in the SEC with 22 sacks, while the Bulldogs rank last with nine. The Gators are good enough to pressure Jake Fromm and hang around in this game, but we think Georgia pulls it out. Georgia wins 28-21 and COVERS the spread.

MORE: Week 9 bowl projections

Kansas State at No. 8 Oklahoma (-23)

If the Sooners want to get back in the Playoff hunt, they have to put up big scores. The Wildcats are coming off an impressive win against Oklahoma State. The Sooners have covered as 20-plus point favorites in that situation against Baylor and TCU, and they’ll do it again at home. Oklahoma wins 52-21 and COVERS the spread.

No. 18 Iowa at No. 17 Penn State (-5)

The Hawkeyes need this one in order to keep their Big Ten West and Playoff hopes alive. It’s a tall order on the road against a Penn State team that refocused after heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Michigan State. This is a chance for the Hawkeyes to avenge last year’s loss as well. The Hawkeyes are good enough to steal this win, but we can’t see the Nittany Lions losing three. Penn State wins 27-24 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

No. 21 South Florida at Houston (-7.5)

The Bulls are undefeated and still a touchdown underdog at Houston. The Cougars are 6-1 and average 48.7 points per game, good for second nationally. There’s a shootout in the works, and it will be just as thrilling as Houston’s 28-24 victory last year. Houston wins 34-31 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

No. 12 Kentucky at Missouri (-7)

There isn’t much faith in Kentucky to keep its Cinderella season rolling against Missouri, which rolled up 66 points in a victory against Memphis last week. The Wildcats, however, have won the last three meetings and have more to play for than the Tigers at this point in the season. We’re sticking with Benny Snell in a big spot. Kentucky wins 35-34 in an UPSET.

No. 15 Washington (-10.5) at Cal

The Huskies are still alive in the Pac-12 North race and coming off a two-touchdown victory against Colorado. Cal broke a three-game losing streak and is an improving team, but Washington’s defense is methodical in a victory. Washington wins 28-17 and COVERS the spread.

MORE: SN’s Week 9 Power Rankings

No. 14 Washington State at No. 24 Stanford (-3)

The Cougars are riding the hot hand of Gardner Minshew and have a chance to take control of the Pac-12 North race here, but it comes on the road against the Cardinal. The Cougars have won the last two meetings. They make it three in a row. Washington State wins 37-31 in an UPSET.

No. 16 Texas A&M at Mississippi State (-3)

This is an underrated building-block game for Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies. It’s one thing to lose in respectable showings to Clemson and Alabama. This is a game Texas A&M will be expected to win every year, and it’s on Kellen Mond to silence the cowbells. We think Texas A&M does that. Texas A&M wins 24-17 in an UPSET.

No. 22 N.C. State at Syracuse (-1)

The Wolfpack can show what they’re made of here after losing in blowout fashion to Clemson against the Orange, whose second loss came the week after losing to the Tigers. The Wolfpack have won the last four meetings and bounce back in a wild one. North Carolina State wins 36-33 in an UPSET.

No. 3 Notre Dame (-21.5) vs. Navy

Notre Dame travels to San Diego to face the Midshipmen as part of the Shamrock Series. The Irish have controlled this series, but Navy has managed to keep its last four losses to 17 points or fewer. That line is too close to call for Notre Dame, even with the extra week of preparation. ­­Notre Dame wins 38-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

No. 6 Texas (-2.5) at Oklahoma State

Sam Ehlinger is on track to play against a reeling Oklahoma State defense, but it’s still a road game in Stillwater and the Cowboys will be wearing Barry Sanders’ throwback uniforms. If the Longhorns are indeed “back,” then they have to win this one. Texas wins 31-24 and COVERS the spread.

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