Games to Watch: Week Nine

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No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU

Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Saturday, 6:15 p.m.

ESPN

Ole Miss has been one of the surprise teams in the SEC West, upsetting Alabama three weeks ago. Now, the Rebels will get another challenge as they go into Death Valley at night to face a Tiger team trying to hang on in the SEC West race. Ole Miss has benefitted from a much improved Bo Wallace. The senior quarterback has thrown for 1,899 yards and 17 touchdowns so far this season, averaging 9.1 yards per attempt, the highest of his career. On the other side, freshman running back Leonard Fournette is leading the Tigers with 544 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. But, he did not score in either of the two LSU losses this season. Although the Tigers are having a down year, this is by no means an easy game for the Rebels, especially in Baton Rouge with major playoff implications at stake.

No. 20 USC at No. 19 Utah

Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Saturday, 9:00 p.m.

Fox Sports 1

The only other matchup between ranked teams comes way off the beaten path. While they both come in ranked in the Top 20, neither USC nor Utah are in any serious contention for the playoffs. But, that doesn’t mean this game won’t be intriguing. The Trojans are on their way back to some relevancy after a horrendous couple of years under former head coach Lane Kiffin. Redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler has been fairly impressive this season, throwing for 1,884 yards, 18 touchdowns and only one interception so far. But the Trojan defense is only 47th in the country, surrendering 23.1 points per game. The Utes, on the other hand, have seemingly come out of nowhere to earn their ranking. After two years of being an afterthought in the Pac-12, Utah pulled off an upset over then-No. 8 UCLA two weeks ago and beat Oregon State in double overtime last week. Yes, this is a late kickoff, but it ought to be well worth the wait to see these Pac-12 teams go at it.

No. 22 West Virginia at Oklahoma State

Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

ESPN

The most intriguing game in the Big 12 this week comes between two teams that have had their share of ups and downs this season. West Virginia has been a bit of Jekyll and Hyde, almost pulling off an upset over Alabama and beating Baylor last week but losing to Oklahoma and needing a last-second field goal to beat Texas Tech. Senior quarterback Clint Trickett has been masterful for the Mountaineers, passing for 2,525 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. On the other side, Oklahoma State has struggled since junior quarterback J.W. Walsh went down in week two with an injury. Fellow junior quarterback Daxx Garman has played decently in his place, but the Cowboys look like a far cry from the team that almost beat Florida State to start the season, having just edged out Kansas by seven points and losing 42-9 to TCU last week. If both teams show up this week as Dr. Jekyll, we could be in for a heck of a game.

No. 13 Ohio State at Penn State

Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

ABC

Since top teams Ohio State and Michigan State each lost big out-of-conference games back in September, the Big Ten has flown under the radar. But, this showdown of perennial conference powers will put the conference back on the map, even if it’s just for one week. Other than the loss to Virginia Tech in the second week of the season, the Buckeyes have been dominant this year, winning their two conference games by a combined score of 108-41. Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has been great in place of the injured Braxton Miller, throwing for 1,615 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. Penn State, on the other hand, has fallen off, losing their last two games after winning their first four. In those two losses, sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg has only thrown one touchdown pass and two interceptions. While this might seem like a cakewalk for an Ohio State team with an outside chance of getting into the playoff, anything can happen in Happy Valley.