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Week 9 College Football Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts


The College Football Playoff picture is starting to get some clarity, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.

The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.

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Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:

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Vanderbilt at Houston

The Commodores are coming off the first SEC win of Derek Mason’s tenure with a 10–3 win over Missouri. A modest win streak, though, seems unlikely. Vanderbilt has a solid defense, allowing only five rushing touchdowns all season, but Houston has been a juggernaut in the American Athletic Conference. Under first-year coach Tom Herman, the Cougars are seventh in the country in rushing at 291.6 yards per game.

Fox’s prediction: Houston 28–10

Syracuse at Florida State

Florida State’s 28-game ACC win streak ended on a blocked field goal for a touchdown against Georgia Tech, but a new win streak should start anew. The Seminoles haven’t lost back-to-back games since a three-game losing streak early in 2011. Syracuse has been competitive against LSU and Pitt, but the Orange are riding a four-game losing streak that includes defeats to Virginia and USF.

Fox’s prediction: Florida State 42–14

Oregon State at Utah

Utah is coming off its first loss, a humble 42–24 defeat at USC, but truthfully, the Utes perhaps were never as good as their No. 3 ranking indicated. That said, Utah was undone by four interceptions in a road game against more talented if streaky team. After 17–13 home loss to Colorado, Oregon State has clinched a spot as the worst team in the Pac-12.

Fox’s prediction: Utah 35–10

South Carolina at Texas A&M

Texas A&M is a team in turmoil after managing just a field goal in a loss to Ole Miss. Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen has thrown four interceptions and completed just 43.2 percent of his passes in the last two weeks. The benching of backup Kyler Murray, though, has been puzzling and has hinted at dysfunction in College Station. Facing South Carolina won’t cure everything, but the Aggies should be able to end their losing streak.

Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 31–13

Clemson at NC State

NC State’s four FBS wins are over Troy (2–5), Old Dominion (3–4), South Alabama (3–4) and Wake Forest (3–5). Clemson has shown no signs of a team aching for a let down, and the Wolfpack have shown no signs of being able to challenge an above-average team.

Fox’s prediction: Clemson 41–14

Texas at Iowa State

The Longhorns have found the answer for their beleaguered offense, and that’s run, run and run some more. Texas has thrown only 28 passes the last two weeks while rushing for 587 yards against Oklahoma and Kansas State. Meanwhile, throw out Northern Iowa and Kansas, and Iowa State is 228 rushing yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry.

Fox’s prediction: Texas 35–10

Notre Dame at Temple

This is the biggest game for Temple football … ever? The Owls are 7–0 and ranked facing a one-loss Notre Dame team that still fashions itself a playoff contender. Unlike the other American Athletic Conference undefeateds Memphis and Houston, Temple is doing it with defense, leading the AAC in rush defense and pass efficiency defense. This will be strength-on-strength against the Notre Dame offense. Receiver Will Fuller and running back C.J. Prosise may be the best Temple has faced this season at either position.

Fox’s prediction: Notre Dame 28–14

Oklahoma at Kansas

The Sooners have scored 44, 55 and 63 points in its last three Big 12 wins. The only reason Oklahoma won’t hit 70 against Kansas is if the Sooners don’t want to.

Fox’s prediction: Oklahoma 63–10

Colorado at UCLA

The Buffaloes have an above-average pass defense (10 interceptions) to go with the worst rush defense in the Pac-12. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was brilliant last week against Cal, but, as with all freshmen, his consistency is always in question.

Fox’s prediction: UCLA 31–17

Maryland at Iowa

An off week gave Iowa a chance to heal, but not completely. Defensive end Drew Ott is still out for the season, and running back Jordan Canzeri is not expected back. Maryland put up a spirited performance against Penn State, but the matchup of the Terrapins passing game (a national-high 20 interceptions) against Desmond King (second nationally with six interceptions) is a nightmare for Maryland.

Fox’s prediction: Iowa 35–10

Georgia Tech at Virginia

The Yellow Jackets should be thrilled to be facing an opponent with more than one loss. Georgia Tech’s last six opponents are a combined 37–5 this season, and only a wild finish against Florida State prevented the Jackets from a six-game losing streak. Virginia is 2–5 and may soon join team like Miami, USC, South Carolina and Maryland in the coaching carousel. The Yellow Jackets’ run game got back on track against Florida State and now face a team that’s giving up 4.6 yards per carry.

Fox’s prediction: Georgia Tech 38–17

Tennessee at Kentucky

Tennessee played well against Alabama, containing the Crimson Tide’s run game enough that the Vols had a chance to win. In a vacuum, a near-miss against Alabama on the road would be signs of progress for the Volunteers, but Tennessee fans are getting tired of near-misses. Kentucky can get big plays in the run game, but the Wildcats need more from the passing game if they hope to match up with a more talented Tennessee squad.

Fox’s prediction: Tennessee 27–21

Miami at Duke

David Cutcliffe rightfully has the reputation of an offensive guru, but Duke is winning with defense this season. The Blue Devils are one of three teams in the country holding opponents to fewer than four yards per play. Miami is wounded with an interim coach and a potential concussion for quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Fox’s prediction: Duke 31–21

USC at Cal

USC showed Utah what can happen when the Trojans are playing to their potential in a 42–24 rout. The defense had four interceptions and three sacks while the passing game was efficient once again. Plus, USC is two weeks removed from a 590-yard effort at Notre Dame. Cal’s hot start cooled in two matchups with Pac-12 South contenders on the road. Most concerning is the play of Jared Goff and the offense. Goff threw five interceptions against Utah, and the offense averaged a season-low 4.8 yards per play against UCLA.

Fox’s prediction: USC 38–28

Stanford at Washington State

Washington State has quietly become a contender in the Pac-12 North at 3–1. It’s not a surprise how: The Cougars are throwing the ball all over the place and playing limited defense. Stanford’s defense is shorthanded with injuries and not very deep, but the Cardinal’s physicality might be too much for a team that already has trouble stopping the run.

Fox’s prediction: Stanford 42–21

Arizona at Washington

Washington expects freshman quarterback Jake Browning to return from injury against Arizona. That should be as much of a lift to the Huskies’ offense as facing Arizona’s lackluster pass defense. Throw out a game against Oregon State, and Arizona is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 73 percent of their passes for 8.9 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Fox’s prediction: Washington 28–21

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech

The Cowboys are getting it done with defense, holding opponents to 53.6 percent passing with six touchdowns and eight interceptions and a Big 12-best four sacks per game. Texas Tech can move the ball, as usual, and Patrick Mahomes mobility cuts down on sacks. With the Pokes facing Texas Tech’s defense, this game could be the Big 12 shootout of the week.

Fox’s prediction: Texas Tech 45–41

Ole Miss at Auburn

The Rebels defense had its best game of the season, holding Texas A&M to a field goal. Perhaps that’s as much a reflection of the Aggies dysfunction as anything else. Auburn’s Sean White continues to play safe football, but he’s not getting a ton of help from his receivers. The Tigers are still desperate for an SEC win while the Rebels’ SEC title hopes have been rejuvenated. Auburn’s defense is just as bad as it was a year ago.

Fox’s prediction: Ole Miss 38–24

Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)

The Cocktail Party has a way giving us the unexpected, usually with Florida spoiling Georgia’s hopes for a championship of some kind. This time, Florida is the team with hopes winning the East. The Gators proved at LSU that they can still be competitive with the best despite the shocking suspension of quarterback Will Grier. Georgia is trying to find its way on offense without Nick Chubb.

Fox’s prediction: Florida 28–21

Michigan at Minnesota

The Gophers have the Little Brown Jug and the Floyd of Rosedale in their trophy case right now, but both might be finding new homes with the way Minnesota has played of late. Michigan has had an extra week to get over its loss to Michigan State. On paper, this could get ugly with the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten (Minnesota at 20.4 points per game) against the best scoring defense (Michigan at 9.3 points per game).

Fox’s prediction: Michigan 28–3

Last week: 15–5

Season to date: 119–41