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Week 9 College Football Picks: Challenge the Athlon Sports Experts in 2016

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This week's headliner is Clemson at Florida State, but that's just one of several compelling matchups as the season roars past its midway point.

The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club 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 editor Rob Doster:

West Virginia at Oklahoma State

The surprising Mountaineers face possibly their toughest test thus far in an Oklahoma State team that is scoring points at its typical clip. Remember, though, that WVU held Texas Tech to 17 points — the same Tech team that scored 59 points and rolled up 854 yards on Oklahoma. Dana Holgorsen's known for his offensive acumen, but his defense can play.

Doster's pick: West Virginia 28–24

Louisville at Virginia

The Cardinals showed just what they're capable of with a breathtaking 44–0 first-half whitewash of a tough NC State team. Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall needs time to build his program, and until he does, games like this will build character. 

Doster’s pick: Lousville 44–17

Kentucky at Missouri

The Wildcats awoke Sunday morning to find themselves second in the SEC East at 3–2. That should turn down the heat on Mike Stoops, although a loss to a struggling Mizzou team would turn it right up again. The Cats need this one badly to reach their goal of bowl eligibility. 

Doster’s pick: Kentucky 24–14

Michigan at Michigan State

Is Michigan the best team in the country? They'll have a chance to prove it in the coming weeks. This matchup with a shockingly bad Michigan State team is a mere tune-up for what's to come. The Spartans are riding a five-game losing streak that is about to stretch to six.

Doster’s pick: Michigan 42–14

Penn State at Purdue

James Franklin finally got his signature win in Happy Valley — a 24–21 upset of Ohio State on a blocked field goal return for a touchdown. Purdue played a more-than-respectable game against Nebraska and could catch the Lions napping as they come off their prime-time high, keeping this one closer than expected.  

Doster's pick: Penn State 27–17

Baylor at Texas

Four FBS coaches have fallen victim to the midseason axe; will Texas coach Charlie Strong be No. 5? Despite a lack of national love, Baylor is its usual self, playing a typically explosive brand of offense that could make for another long afternoon for a suspect Longhorns defense.

Doster’s pick: Baylor 45–31

Washington at Utah

No quarterback has posted better numbers this season than the Huskies’ Jake Browning, who has the Huskies positioned for a playoff run. A trip to Salt Lake City is fraught with peril, though. The Utes haven’t blown anyone out this season, but they have a knack for winning ugly, and if they can force the Huskies into a few mistakes, they could keep this one close into the fourth quarter. 

Doster's pick: Washington 31–17

Georgia vs. Florida

The Gators arrive at the annual Cocktail Party rested and relatively healthy with the SEC East title very much within their grasp. The Dawgs limp in having lost three of four, reaching a low point with a home loss to Vanderbilt in which Georgia showed an alarming inability to run the football. Unless the Dawgs can make plays in the run game, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason will be forced to the air — not a recipe for success against the Florida defense.  

Doster's pick: Florida 24–16

Northwestern at Ohio State

There's an opening here for Northwestern, which has won three in a row to make its struggling start a distant memory. Ohio State's loss to Penn State exposed serious flaws on special teams and in the offensive line, and the hangover from that heartbreaking defeat could extend into this week. The Buckeyes are still in the playoff picture, though, and Urban Meyer will find a way to win in the Horseshoe.

Doster's pick: Ohio State 28–17

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Miami at Notre Dame

The glory days of "Catholics vs. Convicts" are a distant memory for both programs at the moment. The "Miami is back" talk has cooled considerably following three consecutive losses, and Notre Dame has found creative ways to lose all season long. If the 2–5 Irish are to cling to their hopes of bowl eligibility, this game is a must win.  

Doster's pick: Notre Dame 21–19

Arizona State at Oregon

Two teams in desperate need of a win, any win, meet in Eugene. Oregon has lost a once-unthinkable five games in a row, and during that stretch, the Ducks have surrendered 49.8 points per game. The Devils have lost three of four following a 4–0 start and are also struggling on defense. The Ducks may have finally found a team they can outscore.

Doster's pick: Oregon 45–42

Kansas at Oklahoma

The Sooners' shocking defensive deficiencies, on display in a 66–59 win over Texas Tech, won't prevent OU from cruising against the outmanned Jayhawks. But Bob Stoops has to address a defense that is, in his words, "unacceptable at every level."   

Doster's pick: Oklahoma 51–17

Nebraska at Wisconsin

The Badgers may well be the nation’s best two-loss team. Their defeats have come by a combined 14 points against Big Ten powers Michigan and Ohio State. Undefeated Nebraska is about to enter a critical two-week test; after feasting on lesser opponents, Nebraska faces Wisconsin and Ohio State back to back. We’ll know a lot more about the Huskers after that intimidating two-fer. 

Doster’s pick: Wisconsin 21–20

Boise State at Wyoming

You might not have noticed, but Wyoming sits atop the MW Mountain Division right alongside Boise State at 3–0. The Broncos would be well served not to sleep on a Cowboys team that thrashed Colorado State, a club that Boise struggled to beat.

Doster's pick: Boise State 31–21

Auburn at Ole Miss

The Tigers are looking like a legitimate threat to Alabama's dominance in the SEC West. Auburn's shocking 56–3 demolition of Arkansas was a warning shot that had to get the Tide's attention. The Tigers should roll on against an Ole Miss team that is specializing in frustrating, demoralizing losses.  

Doster's pick: Auburn 35–24

Tennessee at South Carolina

The Vols have fallen back to earth with back-to-back losses, but Tennessee can still claim the SEC East and meet most of their preseason goals. The Gamecocks will keep it respectable thanks to the Vols' injury woes, but Butch Jones' team should get back on track in this one.

Doster’s pick: Tennessee 24–14

New Mexico State at Texas A&M

This battle of Aggies shouldn't be much of a battle. Texas A&M should find the end zone with regularity against a New Mexico State team that gave up 62 points to Kentucky and 55 points to Idaho earlier this season.

Doster’s pick: Texas A&M 52–14

Clemson at Florida State

The Noles have righted the defensive ship after a couple of suspect performances, and preseason Heisman contender Dalvin Cook has found his groove after a slow start. The Tigers are unbeaten, but their close calls outnumber their blowouts this season, the latest coming in an overtime escape against NC State. Like Cook, Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson is surging after a middling start to the season; he’s produced 12 touchdowns in the last three weeks. This one could be a classic. 

Doster's pick: Clemson 35–31

Tulsa at Memphis

An entertaining shootout could be in store between a couple of offensively minded clubs that no mid-level Power 5 team will want to face come bowl season. Hurricane QB Dane Evans threw three touchdowns and no interceptions against Tulane and will need a similar performance in this one.

Doster's pick: Tulsa 38–35

Stanford at Arizona

These two are seemingly just playing out the string at this point. Stanford reached a new low in a 10–5 loss to Colorado in a game in which the Buffaloes defenders claimed to know what was coming. Of course, the Cardinal could broadcast their playcalls over the loudspeaker, and Arizona would struggle to stop them. 

Doster's pick: Stanford 24–17

Last Week: 16–4