With former No. 2 Ohio State's surprising loss at Penn State on Saturday night, the Buckeyes' first-ever true road loss under Coach Urban Meyer (that's amazing), and No. 6 Texas A&M's defeat at Alabama, there are now seven unbeaten Power 5 teams left in the country.
What's really interesting in Week 9 is that six of those schools play on the road (Alabama is off), and five lost to their Saturday opponent in their last meeting. New No. 2 Michigan and No. 7 Nebraska are on three-game losing streaks to Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively.
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I think you can rule out Texas A&M from the College Football Playoff because the Aggies now aren't even going to win the SEC West Division as there's no chance that the Crimson Tide will lose twice. The Aggies, who dropped to No. 9 in the AP Top 25, are the biggest favorites on the board for Week 9 at -42.5 against New Mexico State. Ohio State only slipped to No. 6, and as long as the Buckeyes win out, including the Big Ten title game, they should get into the playoff because that would include a victory over Nebraska (next week) and unbeaten (presumably) Michigan to close the regular season. OSU is -24.5 this week at home vs. Northwestern. Urban Meyer's teams have proven resilient, losing consecutive games just four times during his 15-year career. The Buckeyes have done that once since he arrived, losing to Michigan State and Clemson at the end of the 2013 season.
There are still two unbeaten Group of 5 schools as they battle for the highest ranking and that automatic berth in the New Year's Six bowl game, this year the Cotton. They are No. 13 Boise State and No. 20 Western Michigan. The blue Broncos are at Wyoming on and the brown Broncos are off this week.
We also had another coach fired over the weekend, the fourth in the FBS since the season began: Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter with a 1-7 record. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has been named the interim head coach. The Bulldogs host Air Force on Friday. Former California head coach Jeff Tedford is the top candidate to eventually land the Fresno State job. But if I'm FSU I aim higher: Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. FSU is his alma mater. But I think Kiffin will be offered a very good Power 5 head coaching job this offseason.
Here are a few Week 9 opening lines that caught my eye. Rankings from AP poll and games Saturday unless noted.
No. 25 Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (+3.5), Thursday: Big game in the ACC Coastal Division as both teams are tied with North Carolina with one conference loss; the Hokies already hold the tiebreaker with UNC so a win here has them in great shape to play in the conference championship game. It's the second Thursday game in a row for Virginia Tech as it took care of visiting Miami 37-16 last week. Pitt's only two losses came by a combined eight points, at Oklahoma State out of conference and at North Carolina. The Panthers still have to visit Clemson, however. Last week in a 45-31 win at Virginia, Pittsburgh played James Conner and Jordan Whitehead on both offense and defense. Conner, one of the ACC's best running backs and the 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, took some snaps at defensive end. Whitehead, a safety, had three carries for 28 yards at running back. The pick: Virginia Tech.
No. 22 Navy at South Florida (-8), Friday: This could be a preview of the AAC Championship Game, especially if South Florida wins Friday. The Bulls are tied for first in the East Division with Temple and lost at the Owls 46-30 last weekend in a result I didn't see coming. USF's excellent dual-threat QB, Quinton Flowers, threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score, but he was shaken up late in the fourth quarter trying to dive for a first down. Flowers has a hamstring injury, but Coach Willie Taggart thinks he will play here. Navy has a two-game lead in the loss column over Houston in the AAC West Division. QB Will Worth accounted for five touchdowns (two passing, three rushing) and 286 yards in Saturday's 42-28 win over Memphis. The Midshipmen gained a season-high 447 yards on the ground. Worth is from Tampa. These schools have met just once, a 29-17 Navy home win last year. The pick: Navy.
No. 2 Michigan at Michigan State (+21.5): These two had one of the most memorable endings in college football history a year ago. All the Wolverines had to do was get a punt off in the final seconds and they win. But the snap was flubbed by the punter and MSU ran back the fumble as time expired for a 27-23 absolute stunner. It truly was a miracle. If the punter had simply fallen on the ball, UM still wins. MSU has won seven of the past eight in the series, but these programs are on different levels this year. Sparty is on a shocking five-game losing streak and probably won't reach a bowl game after winning last season's Big Ten title and playing in the national semifinals. Michigan has looked as dominant as Alabama thus far. Will the Wolverines have freshman running back Chris Evans here? He suffered a concussion in Saturday's easy win over Illinois. He has rushed for 416 yards and three touchdowns. The pick: No way I'm not taking that many points in East Lansing. MSU can't win this game but will keep it reasonable.
No. 3 Clemson at No. 12 Florida State (+4): It's only the fourth time this century (last in 2011 vs. Oklahoma) that FSU has been at least a 4-point home dog; it lost all of the previous four. Clemson has looked really shaky at times this year, with close wins over Troy and NC State (should have lost that one), but the Tigers are going to finish the regular season unbeaten and return to the ACC title game if they win this game. Their only road game left is at Wake Forest. Because the Tigers have a win over Louisville, which is one game back in the Atlantic Division, they are probably going to the title game even with a loss here. How interesting would it be, however, if Clemson is in the ACC title game with one loss and Louisville is not with one loss but the Cards perhaps go to the College Football Playoff over Clemson? We shall have to wait and see. FSU is two games back of Clemson so it can only play spoiler and perhaps earn a major bowl bid. Clemson hasn't won at FSU in 10 years. Tigers leading rusher Wayne Gallman said he expects to play after going through a concussion protocol during last week's bye. The pick: Clemson.
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