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Ranking the Watchability of Every College Football Game in Week 9

Sony Michel

Sony Michel

College football’s Week 9 slate features 53 games, starting with six matchups on Thursday night. With over 40 games on Saturday, it’s not easy being a college football fan. At times, there’s simply too much going on to stay on top of all of the action. Some time slots are often overloaded with too many good games, which creates dilemmas for fans or just casual viewers.

To help every fan or viewer for the weekend action, Athlon Sports has ranked every FBS game from must-see to must-miss for Week 9. We wouldn’t encourage you to miss any game, but it’s understandable you can’t catch every minute of action on Saturday. The game rankings take into account the overall importance of the matchup, record, ability to watch top players, rivalries or storylines.

Related: Predictions for Every Week 9 Game

Here’s our ranking of the watchability for every college football game in Week 9:

Ranking the Watchability of Every Week 9 College Football Game

1. Georgia (5-2) vs. Florida (6-1) (Jacksonville)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Line: Florida -2.5

Barring a surprising upset in November, this game should decide the winner of the SEC East. The Bulldogs are still trying to find the right mix on offense after losing running back Nick Chubb and managed only nine points in the win over Missouri. Florida is coming off its first loss of the year (at LSU), but the bye week came at an ideal time, as the offense has two weeks to help Treon Harris settle into the starting job after Will Grier’s suspension. The Gators ran for 418 yards against the Bulldogs in last season’s matchup. Considering the uncertainty for both teams at quarterback, winning the battle up front and on the ground will play a huge role in the outcome of this game.

Prediction: Florida

Related: Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections

2. Stanford (6-1) at Washington State (5-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 10:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Line: Stanford -11

Washington State is one of the nation’s biggest surprise teams going into the Week 9 slate. The Cougars started the year with a disappointing loss to Portland State, but coach Mike Leach’s team has rebounded and won key road tests at Oregon and Arizona. Stanford will be Washington State’s toughest opponent so far this year, and the winner of this matchup is set to take control of the Pac-12 North. The Cougars’ rush defense will be tested by Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey and one of the nation’s top offensive lines. Slowing down McCaffrey is critical for Washington State’s defense, as Stanford can control the time of possession and line of scrimmage, limiting the opportunities for the Cougars’ passing attack.

Prediction: Stanford

3. Notre Dame (6-1) at Temple (7-0)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Line: Notre Dame -10.5

Temple football has experienced quite a journey over the last 15 years. The Owls were kicked out of the Big East, spent two years as a FBS independent, landed in the MAC for five seasons and then returned to the Big East in 2012. While this program has only two bowl appearances since 2009, Saturday’s primetime matchup and College GameDay in Philadelphia is a testament to how far Temple has developed as a program since 2005. While the Owls are capable of hanging with Notre Dame, pulling off the upset will require more from the offense (5.2 yards per play). The Fighting Irish simply has too much talent and firepower on offense for Temple.

Prediction: Notre Dame

Related: Predictions for Every Week 9 Game

4. North Carolina (6-1) at Pittsburgh (6-1)

Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Line: North Carolina -3

Just as everyone predicted in August, Thursday’s matchup between the Tar Heels and Panthers could decide the ACC’s Coastal Division. Of course, Duke will have a lot to say about the winner of this division in November. Can North Carolina’s improved defense find a way to slow down Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd?

Prediction: North Carolina

5. Oklahoma State (7-0) at Texas Tech (5-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Line: Oklahoma State -3

Oklahoma State is a quiet 7-0, but the schedule difficulty for coach Mike Gundy’s team should pickup significantly over the next five weeks. The Cowboys have won six in a row over the Red Raiders and are a slight favorite on Saturday afternoon. The two-quarterback system of J.W. Walsh and Mason Rudolph has produced results (40.3 points per game) for Oklahoma State so far and is a tough challenge for Texas Tech’s struggling defense (40.1 points per game allowed). The Red Raiders average 61.5 points through four home contests this season. There should be no shortage of offensive fireworks on Saturday in Lubbock.

Prediction: Oklahoma State

6. Oregon (4-3) at Arizona State (4-3)

Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 29 at 10:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Line: Arizona State -2.5

This is one of the toughest games to predict for Week 9. Having Vernon Adams at quarterback should make a big difference for the Ducks in the second half of the season, but the Sun Devils should have Demario Richard back at running back on Thursday night. That might be the difference in this game.

Prediction: Arizona State

7. USC (4-3) at California (5-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Line: USC -6

USC has won 11 in a row against California, and the Trojans can’t afford another loss in conference play. Behind quarterback Jared Goff, the Golden Bears have the firepower on offense to win this one. However, can California’s defense find a way to slow down Cody Kessler and JuJu Smith-Schuster? 

Prediction: USC

Related: 10 Candidates to Replace Steve Sarkisian at USC

8. Ole Miss (6-2) at Auburn (4-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Line: Ole Miss -7

While all eyes in the SEC are focused on next week’s Alabama-LSU showdown, Ole Miss still controls its destiny in the West Division. The Tigers are showing signs of life on offense, but the Rebels win in Auburn for the first time since 2003.

Prediction: Ole Miss

9. Clemson (7-0) at NC State (5-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2

Line: Clemson -10

A road matchup one week before playing Florida State sounds like a perfect spot for Clemsoning, right? Wrong. The Tigers continue their march to the College Football Playoff with a victory in Raleigh. NC State has not defeated a FBS team with a winning record this year and lost by 15 in Virginia Tech and by seven at home against Louisville.

Prediction: Clemson

10. West Virginia (3-3) at TCU (7-0)

Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Line: TCU -14

West Virginia’s secondary could be shorthanded on Thursday night. That’s not an ideal scenario against TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin.

Prediction: TCU

11. Tennessee (3-4) at Kentucky (4-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Line: Tennessee -8.5

Tennessee’s domination in this series is unlikely to end on Saturday night. The Wildcats are improving under third-year coach Mark Stoops, but the Volunteers pushed Alabama last week and appear to be over their second-half struggles. This matchup features two of the SEC’s top running backs in Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd against Kentucky’s Boom Williams.

Prediction: Tennessee

12. Arizona (5-3) at Washington (3-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 11 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Line: Washington -4.5

This late-night matchup in Seattle is a tough game to get a read on. The status of Washington quarterback Jake Browning is uncertain due to a shoulder injury suffered in Week 7. Arizona is 2-3 in its last five games, has a struggling defense and a quarterback rotation between Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall. Expect the Huskies to use a heavy dose of freshman running back Myles Gaskin against an Arizona defense allowing nearly 170 rushing yards per game.

Prediction: Arizona

13. Illinois (4-3) at Penn State (6-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Line: Penn State -5.5

Two of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks – Illinois’ Wes Lunt and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg – will be featured in this matchup. Interim coach Bill Cubit has the Fighting Illini in a good spot to make a bowl game but winning two in a row over the Nittany Lions won’t be easy.

Prediction: Penn State

14. Vanderbilt (3-4) at Houston (7-0)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Line: Houston -12

Intriguing matchup between Houston’s dynamic offense (47.6 points per game) and Vanderbilt’s defense (4.8 yards per play). Even if the Commodores find a way to slow the Cougars’ offense, will Vanderbilt’s offense generate enough points?

Prediction: Houston

15. South Carolina (3-4) at Texas A&M (5-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Line: Texas A&M -16.5

South Carolina’s struggling defense (26.3 points per game allowed) should help Texas A&M’s offense (only three points last week) find a spark. Coach Kevin Sumlin opened up the quarterback battle after Kyle Allen struggled against Ole Miss, so there’s some mystery under center for the Aggies.

Prediction: Texas A&M

Related: Predictions for Every Week 9 Game

16. Michigan (5-2) at Minnesota (4-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Line: Michigan -14

It’s been a tough week for Minnesota with head coach Jerry Kill resigning on Wednesday morning. The Golden Gophers will play hard for interim coach Tracy Claeys, but Michigan’s defense is the difference in this game.

Prediction: Michigan

17. Miami (4-3) at Duke (6-1)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Line: NL

The post-Al Golden era for Miami starts in Durham against Duke, as the Blue Devils look to remain unbeaten in conference play and keep pace with Pittsburgh and North Carolina. Adding to the overall uncertainty surrounding the Hurricanes is the health of quarterback Brad Kaaya. The sophomore is not expected to play due to a concussion suffered against Clemson.

Prediction: Duke

18. Syracuse (3-4) at Florida State (6-1)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ABC

Line: Florida State -20.5

This is an interesting spot for Florida State. The Seminoles are coming off a loss and can’t afford to look ahead to next week’s showdown against Clemson. Expect running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Everett Golson to get back on track against a Syracuse defense giving up 27.1 points per game this year.

Prediction: Florida State

19. Colorado (4-4) at UCLA (5-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Line: UCLA -21

Colorado is showing progress under Mike MacIntyre and snapped a 14-game losing streak in Pac-12 games last Saturday at Oregon State. The Buffaloes nearly defeated UCLA in Boulder last year, but the Bruins are favored by three touchdowns. Even though the status of running back Paul Perkins and receiver Devin Fuller is uncertain due to injury, UCLA wins this one on the right arm of quarterback Josh Rosen.

Prediction: UCLA

20. Oregon State (2-5) at Utah (6-1)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Line: Utah -24

Old friends Kyle Whittingham and Gary Andersen meet for the first time on opposing sidelines since 2012. Utah is still in control of the Pac-12 South despite last week’s loss to USC. The Utes get back on track.

Prediction: Utah

21. Texas (3-4) at Iowa State (2-5)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Line: Texas -6.5

The Longhorns are making a run at the postseason after back-to-back wins. Coach Charlie Strong’s team keeps the momentum going with a victory in Ames. Iowa State has a new play-caller (Todd Sturdy) and starter at quarterback (Joel Lanning), and both have their hands full against a Texas defense ranked No. 3 in Big 12-only games in scoring defense.

Prediction: Texas

22. Virginia Tech (3-5) at Boston College (3-5)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Virginia Tech -2.5

Points will be at a premium in a critical game for the bowl hopes of Virginia Tech and Boston College. The Eagles have won the last two meetings in this series.

Prediction: Virginia Tech

23. Georgia Tech (3-5) at Virginia (2-5)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Georgia Tech -6

Georgia Tech erased some of the disappointment from its slow start with last week’s upset over Florida State. Can the Yellow Jackets avoid a letdown against Virginia? The guess here is yes, as coach Paul Johnson’s team is poised for a strong finish to the 2015 season. 

Prediction: Georgia Tech

24. Louisville (3-4) at Wake Forest (3-5)

Date/Time: Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Line: Louisville -11.5

Points will be at a premium in this matchup, as Louisville and Wake Forest rank near the bottom of the ACC in scoring. The Demon Deacons keep it close, but the Cardinals’ edge in offensive talent is too much.

Prediction: Louisville

25. Rutgers (3-4) at Wisconsin (6-2)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Line: Wisconsin -20.5

Despite a handful of injuries, Wisconsin is 6-2 and still has a chance to win the Big Ten’s West Division. Could running back Corey Clement return this week? The Badgers notch another victory on Saturday.

Prediction: Wisconsin

26. Maryland (2-5) at Iowa (7-0)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2

Line: Iowa -17

Running back Jordan Canzeri is not expected to play for Iowa, but the Hawkeyes’ backfield is in good hands with Akrum Wadley. Maryland’s offense has showed signs of life in its last two games. However, the problems on defense (175.6 rush yards per game allowed and 34.1 points per contest) are too much to overcome against the surging Hawkeyes.

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Prediction: Iowa

27. Nebraska (3-5) at Purdue (1-6)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Line: Nebraska -10.5

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong is questionable to play due to an injury, but the Cornhuskers should avoid another heartbreaker regardless of which signal-caller starts under center.

Prediction: Nebraska

28. South Florida (4-3) at Navy (5-1)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Line: Navy -7

South Florida is quietly making progress under coach Willie Taggart, but this is a tough spot for the Bulls. While Houston, Memphis and Temple are getting all of the attention from the American Athletic Conference, Navy shouldn’t be overlooked at 3-0 in league play.

Prediction: Navy

29. Louisiana Tech (5-3) at Rice (4-3)

Date/Time: Friday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Line: Louisiana Tech -12.5

A critical game for the top spot in Conference USA’s West Division. Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon could have a huge night against Rice’s rush defense (205.3 yards per game).

Prediction: Louisiana Tech

30. Oklahoma (6-1) at Kansas (0-7)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Line: Oklahoma -39

The only question about this one is how much Oklahoma’s margin of victory is.

Prediction: Oklahoma

31. San Diego State (5-3) at Colorado State (3-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Line: San Diego State -3.5

The Aztecs have a commanding lead to win the Mountain West’s West Division, while Colorado State needs three wins over its final four to get bowl eligible in coach Mike Bobo’s first year. The Rams’ rush defense (107th nationally) will have a tough time slowing down San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey.

Prediction: San Diego State

Related: Predictions for Every Week 9 Game

32. Tulsa (3-4) at SMU (1-6)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNEWS

Line: Tulsa -3.5

This matchup features two first-year coaches (Philip Montgomery, Tulsa and Chad Morris, SMU) who specialize in offense. This could be one of the highest-scoring games of Week 9.

Prediction: Tulsa

33. East Carolina (4-4) at UConn (3-5)

Date/Time: Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Line: East Carolina -7

The Pirates fell short in their upset bid over Temple last week, largely due to the offense posting a season-low of 14 points. UConn needs this one to keep its bowl hopes alive.

Prediction: East Carolina

34. Tulane (2-5) at Memphis (7-0)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Line: Memphis -31.5

Tulane’s defense may provide a few headaches in the first quarter for Memphis’ high-powered offense early, but the Tigers cruise to an easy win.

Prediction: Memphis

35. Tennessee-Martin (4-2) at Arkansas (3-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Line: NL

A win here helps Arkansas get back to .500 and in good shape to push for a bowl game in November.

Prediction: Arkansas

36. Air Force (4-3) at Hawaii (2-6)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 10:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Line: Air Force -7

Air Force’s offense posted 458 rushing yards in last week’s win over Fresno State. That’s bad news for a Hawaii defense giving up 228.8 per game this year. A loss by the Rainbow Warriors will clinch their fifth consecutive losing season.

Prediction: Air Force

37. UCF (0-8) at Cincinnati (4-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPNEWS

Line: Cincinnati -27

Danny Barrett steps in as UCF’s interim coach after George O’Leary retired on Sunday. Cincinnati’s explosive offense easily wins this one.

Prediction: Cincinnati

38. Boise State (6-2) at UNLV (2-5)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Line: Boise State -20

Boise State isn’t in the driver’s seat to win the Mountain Division but every win over conference opponents keeps the pressure on Utah State.

Prediction: Boise State

39. FIU (4-4) at FAU (1-6)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: American Sports Network

Line: FIU -2.5

Shula Bowl XIV is a critical one for both teams. FIU can move closer to bowl eligibility with a win, while FAU looks to snap a three-game losing streak and build momentum in this series after losing three out of the last four to the Panthers.

Prediction: FIU

40. Central Michigan (4-4) at Akron (3-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Central Michigan -3.5

Can Akron’s defense (5.2 yards per play allowed) find a way to slow down Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush?

Prediction: Central Michigan

41. Texas State (2-4) at Georgia Southern (5-2)

Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Line: Georgia Southern -21

Last week’s defeat at Appalachian State was Georgia Southern’s first loss in Sun Belt play. The Eagles get back on track this week.

Prediction: Georgia Southern

42. WKU (6-2) at Old Dominion (3-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Noon ET

TV Channel: FSN

Line: WKU -24

Beating WKU was already a challenge, but the assignment got even tougher last week when Old Dominion lost quarterback David Washington due to an injury. Hilltoppers win big.

Prediction: WKU

43. UMass (1-6) at Ball State (2-6)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Ball State -2.5

Hopes were high for a rebound year for UMass and Ball State after losing records in 2014. Instead, both teams are fighting just to avoid their seventh loss in Week 9.

Prediction: UMass

Related: Predictions for Every Week 9 Game

44. UTEP (3-4) at Southern Miss (5-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Fox College Sports

Line: Southern Miss -24

Southern Miss’ turnaround has been an under-the-radar storyline in 2015. The Golden Eagles won four games from 2012-14 but will reach bowl eligibility with a victory over the Miners on Saturday.

Prediction: Southern Miss

45. Wyoming (1-7) at Utah State (4-3)

Date/Time: Friday, Oct. 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Line: Utah State -28

The Aggies have experienced the best (+7) and the worst (-4) of turnover margin the last two weeks. Expect Matt Wells’ team to rebound after losing to San Diego State last Friday.

Prediction: Utah State

46. ULM (1-6) at UL Lafayette (2-4)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: UL Lafayette -11.5

UL Lafayette has won six out of the last seven meetings against their in-state rival.

Prediction: UL Lafayette

47. Western Michigan (4-3) at Eastern Michigan (1-7)

Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Line: Western Michigan -20

Eastern Michigan is improving under second-year coach Chris Creighton, but the Broncos’ high-powered offense will be too much for the Eagles.

Prediction: Western Michigan 

48. Marshall (7-1) at Charlotte (2-5)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FSN

Line: Marshall -19.5

The Thundering Herd have been hit by injuries to a few key players this year but enter Saturday’s matchup at Charlotte on a six-game winning streak.

Prediction: Marshall 

49. Georgia State (2-4) at Arkansas State (4-3)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Arkansas State -18.5

The Red Wolves have won three in a row and a victory over Georgia State sets up a huge showdown next Thursday at Appalachian State.

Prediction: Arkansas State

50. Troy (2-5) at Appalachian State (6-1)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Appalachian State -24

Troy pounded New Mexico State 52-7 last week. However, the challenge for the Trojans is tougher this week, as Appalachian State is the best team in the Sun Belt.

Prediction: Appalachian State

51. Idaho (3-4) at New Mexico State (0-7)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Idaho -5.5

Idaho is trying for its first three-game winning streak since 2009, but top receiver Dezmon Epps is suspended indefinitely due to an off-field incident.

Prediction: Idaho

52. Buffalo (3-4) at Miami, Ohio (1-7)

Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Line: Buffalo -7

Two game features two promising coaches – Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) and Lance Leipold, Buffalo – but the Bulls have a significant advantage on Thursday. The RedHawks average only 14.4 points per game, while Buffalo’s offense features steady quarterback Joe Licata and a solid group of skill players.

Prediction: Buffalo

53. UTSA (1-6) at North Texas (0-7)

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: American Sports Network

Line: UTSA -9.5

The winner of this game should avoid finishing in the cellar of Conference USA’s West Division.

Prediction: UTSA