This is a weekend of last legs for several teams that have enjoyed some prime spots in the top 25, but after critical losses, are teetering on the brink of irrelevance. Wisconsin, Auburn and Michigan could be out of the running for both a conference title and playoff berth when all is said and done, despite each spending multiple weeks inside the top 10 this season. Look out for teams on the edge of destruction in week nine.
Maryland Terrapins vs. (17) Minnesota Golden Gophers - Gophers favored by 17
I have written this column for three years, and never have I put my hometown Golden Gophers in the mix. But they are actually good this year! The 7-0 Minnesota squad is compelling Big Ten football.
Minnesota is allowing just 15.5 points per game against conference opponents. Quarterback Tanner Morgan and a flashy passing attack supply the highlights, but running back Rodney Smith is the crucial balance to the Gopher attack, averaging a ridiculous 144 rushing yards against Big Ten foes.
Minnesota is finally cracking the spotlight and plays a Maryland team that maybe isn’t a group of world-beaters, but still averages 35.6 points per game. This is the week to show out before the real meat of the schedule.
Taking: Gophers minus 17
Washington Cougars vs. (11) Oregon Ducks - Oregon favored by 14
These types of games are why we love the PAC-12. Despite some terrible teams, some truly despicable defenses and the annoying habit of always shooting each other out of New Years Six contention, but oh boy, does this conference have quarterbacks.
And this game features two of the best: Cougars’ Anthony Gordon leads the country with 2,981 passing yards, while Justin Herbert has thrown 21 scores to just one pick. This game has all the making os a classic, PAC-12 shootout, and despite the Ducks being far better as a team, WSU touts an elite quarterback and six receivers with 25 plus receptions. The Cougars will manage to hang around, thanks to a wealth of offense explosion.
Taking: Washington State plus 14
(13) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (3) Ohio State Buckeyes - Ohio State favored by 14
What a turnaround for the Badgers. Following a gut-wrenching upset loss at the hands of Illinois, Wisconsin now has to take on Justin Fields and the Buckeyes on the road.
Wisconsin is about to drop two consecutive games.
The Buckeyes are as close to a perfect team as college football has to offer, with a defense that allows a scant 8.6 points per game, a balanced offense averaging over 230 yards per game on the ground and through the air and a turnover ratio of zero.
This will end badly for a team probably still bewildered by how Illinois found victory last weekend.
Taking Ohio State by 14
(9) Auburn Tigers vs. (2) LSU Tigers - LSU favored by 11.5
Auburn has vaulted yet again into the top of the SEC, amongst the Alabamas, LSUs and Georgias. But as good as Auburn has been, quarterback Bo Nix still has freshman moments. He showed his youth against Florida, with a disastrous pick in the end zone. He started groggy against both the Ducks and Texas A&M.
Now, Nix is asked to duel with Joe Burrow, one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Burrow leads all passers in completion percentage (79%), is second in yards (2,484) and owns the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (29-to-3). Burrow is also averaging 11.4 yards per attempt and a 216.22 passer rating. In short, he is playing out of his mind.
Against Florida, the Auburn secondary gave up some big plays (most notably passes of 64 and 32 yards), expect some big throws from Burrow as Auburn tries to keep up.
Taking: LSU minus 11.5
(8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (19) Michigan Wolverines - Michigan favored by 1.5
At home against the Irish will be the final nail in the decrepit coffin that is Michigan football in 2019. Michigan received a lashing from the Badgers, nearly biffed against Army and boast a statement victory over (checks notes) Rutgers.
Notre Dame ‘s quarterback, Ian Book, has gotten better every season, and already has almost eclipsed last season’s touchdown mark (19 last year and 14 this year). And the Notre Dame defense is an underrated group, ranking 22nd in tackles for loss (53), 18 sacks and 39th in total defense.
Notre Dame is going to pressure quarterback Shea Patterson, force sloppy football and give Book plenty of chances to score.
Taking: Notre Dame plus 1.5