College football Week 9 primer: Heisman watch, upset picks, predictions and more

Week 9 of the college football season is here — the last week before the first College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled Oct. 31.

The 3:30 p.m. ET slot is where it’s at this weekend, with four matchups that will shape that first set of rankings. There’s No. 2 Georgia and Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. No. 14 N.C. State travels to No. 9 Notre Dame. No. 4 TCU travels to No. 25 Iowa State, the surprise team of the 2017 season. There’s also the main event between No. 2 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State at Ohio Stadium. 

WEEK 9 PICKS: S/U | ATS

Those are the highlights on the schedule. Get ready for that first set of rankings: 

Heisman Watch

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett are the headliners for Saturday’s Big Ten East showdown in Columbus, Ohio, and the winner will have the inside track on the Heisman Trophy. 

MORE: Barrett’s big-game stage arrives 

Barkley might win it no matter what. He has compiled 1,205 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage, and Penn State can take control of the division with a victory. Barrett, meanwhile, has compiled 2,197 yards of total offense with 26 touchdowns, and he’s been in the mix before. There’s a good chance both players could end up in the top five of the Heisman voting.

Here is a look at years in which the Big Ten had two players finish in the top five in the voting since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993:

YEAR PLAYER PLACE PLAYER PLACE
1994 Ki-Jana Carter 2nd Kerry Collins 4th
1995 Eddie George 1st Darnell Autry 4th
1997 Charles Woodson 1st Curtis Enis 5th
1999 Ron Dayne 1st Drew Brees 4th
2000 Drew Brees 3rd Damien Anderson 5th
2002 Brad Banks 2nd Larry Johnson 3rd
2006 Troy Smith 1st Mike Hart 5th
2014 Melvin Gordon 2nd J.T. Barrett 5th

That’s part of what’s at stake Saturday. 

Coach on the Spot  

N.C. State coach Dave Doeren knows where the game at Notre Dame will be won on Saturday. 

“Offensive line for them with four seniors and our D-line with four seniors,” Doeren said on the ACC teleconference Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be a great match-up to watch for fans, and look forward to competing in this game.”

This is a huge statement game for the Wolfpack, who can launch into a much bigger conversation by beating the Irish this week. That would set up a potential GameDay party against Clemson in Raleigh on Nov. 4 in a winner-take-ACC Atlantic-type game. Doeren was just 25-26 entering his fifth season at N.C. State, but this victory would signify that the patience paid off. 

Doeren is right about this matchup, too. How N.C. State’s defensive line can limit a Notre Dame offense that averages 317.9 rushing yards per game is the key here. That all starts with Bradley Chubb, who ranks second in the nation with 14 tackles for loss. This is a game where you’ll want to watch that matchup on the interior first. 

Upset alert  

Pick a team outside the top 10 that could make the College Football Playoff. You picked No. 11 Oklahoma State, right? That’s a good choice. 

The Cowboys, however, must get through a tricky test at No. 22 West Virginia. The Mountaineers have a hot quarterback in Will Grier, who has five touchdowns in each of his last two games. Oklahoma State can match that with Mason Rudolph, but the Cowboys better look a little better than last week’s 13-10 escape at Texas. 

MORE: The man who guards most-important Sooners

Of course, there is another Big 12 game on the schedule worth looking at … 

Looking forward to a shootout here on Saturday. 

Over/under

Iowa State’s win total over/under entering the 2017 season was 5.5 games. That’s a testament to the turnaround second-year coach Matt Campbell engineered in Ames, and now the Cyclones face No. 4 TCU on Saturday in a game that has major Big 12 implications. Who saw that coming at the beginning of the season? 

TCU is 7-1 in the series, including victories in the last four Big 12 meetings. That includes two victories at Jack Trice Stadium. Can the Cyclones really knock off two top-five teams in the same season? 

Think about it … 

If Penn State loses to Ohio State, then brace yourselves for it.

What are we talking about? Alabama and Georgia will hold the top two spots in the College Football Playoff rankings as long as the Bulldogs take care of business against Florida in Jacksonville. 

It makes sense, too. If the Nittany Lions lose, then the other remaining Power 5 unbeatens would be TCU, Wisconsin and Miami, assuming those three teams win. Putting the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs in the top two spots will cause all kinds of overreactions from SEC supporters and haters, but it would be the right move.

After all, there’s a lot of football left to play. And that line of one-loss teams is very, very interesting. 

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