About a month ago, the schedule for Week 9 of the college football season probably didn’t look all that meaningful.
At that time, Baylor and Oklahoma were the clear cut favorites in the Big 12, so games like Texas-Kansas State and West Virginia-Oklahoma State probably carried little weight.
Ohio State was still stinging from a loss to Virginia Tech, so a game at Happy Valley probably didn’t carry much buzz.
And USC-Utah may have looked like a formality for USC rather than a matchup featuring a Pac-12 South upstart.
Recent weeks have changed the stakes.
The Big 12 is one of the most wide-open leagues in the country with Kansas State and West Virginia moving into the role of contenders. Ohio State’s offense has topped 50 points in four consecutive games. And Utah has picked up back-to-back Pac-12 wins over UCLA and Oregon State to position the Utes as a factor in the division.
The Week Ahead: Oct. 25
All games Saturday. All times Eastern.
Texas at Kansas State
When and where: Noon, ESPN
We’re watching because... Kansas State can further solidify its Big 12 credentials against an improving Texas team. The Wildcats squeaked by Oklahoma thanks in part to two missed field goals and an extra point in Norman. If K-State is truly a national contender, the Wildcats should be able to handle Texas at home. The Longhorns, though, may end up as one of the most improved teams during the second half of the season. Tyrone Swoopes is a rising star after passing for 321 yards and rushing for 95 against Iowa State on Saturday.
Vegas says: Kansas State by 10
West Virginia at Oklahoma State
When and where: 3:30 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... this game has the best chance for weekly Big 12 fireworks. West Virginia is a sneaky-good 5-2 team. The Mountaineers have a win over Baylor on the resume and the two losses came to Alabama and Oklahoma in games decided in the second half. After building a 3-0 record against the worst teams in the league, Oklahoma State received a rude awakening win a 42-9 loss to TCU. The Cowboys will need to bounce back from a two-turnover, 258-yard effort on offense.
Vegas says: Oklahoma State by 2 1/2
Ole Miss at LSU
When and where: 7:15 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... LSU is starting to look like LSU again. After starting 0-2 in the SEC, the Tigers picked up back-to-back wins over Florida and Kentucky. Does that signal a team ready to beat No. 3 Ole Miss? No. But this does look like a much tougher game that it seemed at the start of the month. The Rebels’ defense is dominant, but LSU returned to its running back-by-committee for 303 rushing yards against Kentucky.
Vegas says: Ole Miss by 3 1/2
Ohio State at Penn State
When and where: 8 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... Ohio State is starting to round into Big Ten title form. If the Buckeyes’ are legitimate contenders, they won’t have too much trouble with an undermanned Penn State team, even on the road. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has accounted for 10 total touchdowns in two Big Ten games, and Ohio State’s defensive line should be no match for the poor Penn State offensive front.
Vegas says: Ohio State by 13
USC at Utah
When and where: 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1
We’re watching because... Utah is creeping into the Pac-12 South picture. The Utes should be kicking themselves for coughing up a one-point loss to Washington State at the end of September. The Utes have since defeated UCLA and Oregon State. A win over USC would be a clear signal that Utah is ready to contend in the Pac-12. Otherwise, this will be a matchup of two of the best running backs in the league. Utah’s Devontae Booker is averaging 188 rushing yards per game in league play. USC’s Buck Allen is averaging 149 yards.
Vegas says: USC by 1
Talk Back on U-verse Game of the Week
Each week, AT&T U-verse and Athlon Sports will host a live interactive experience for an SEC game in which two greats from each school will take fan questions live throughout the game.
This week, former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia and former Auburn wide receiver Ben Obomanu will join Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta for the fun.
Visit att.com/talkback during South Carolina-Auburn to watch the game with us.
South Carolina at Auburn
When and where: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
We’re watching because... we haven’t written off Auburn as an SEC West contender. Mississippi State and Ole Miss remain undefeated, and Alabama flexed its muscles. Auburn can't be dismissed, even after the loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago. The Tigers still have Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama on the road, so they can’t squander an opportunity against a vulnerable Carolina team at home.
Vegas says: Auburn by 17 1/2