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College football Week 9 predictions, odds, picks against spread

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College football Week 9 predictions, odds, picks against spread

Ohio State may be the best team in the country. The undefeated Buckeyes lead FBS in margin of victory (34.7). Their offense is averaging nearly 50 points per game, led by quarterback C.J. Stroud, the Heisman Trophy front-runner. The Buckeyes just became the first Big Ten team in 119 years to score at least 45 points in six straight games. The defense is ranked second in the nation, graded among the top five against both the run and the pass.

The No. 2 Buckeyes are deservedly the co-favorites for the national title. But they also have walked the easiest path of any contender.

Their lone game against a ranked team was an ugly 21-10 home win over currently unranked Notre Dame. Their opponents are a combined 25-27. And Ohio State has played just one road game this season — until now.

While No. 13 Penn State is unlikely to pull off the upset, coach James Franklin historically gets the most out of his team against the Big Ten’s best.

The past six meetings (five of which were won by Ohio State) were decided by an average of fewer than seven points. None were won by more than 13 points.

The Nittany Lions (+15.5) could make it interesting again, with a standout secondary, an experienced quarterback — Sean Clifford threw for 361 yards last year in a 33-24 loss to the Buckeyes — and a red-zone offense that ranks sixth in the nation. The 100,000-plus who pack into Beaver Stadium will make their presence felt, too.

Penn State coach James Franklin
Penn State coach James Franklin
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Virginia Tech (+13.5) over NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Even when quarterback Devin Leary was healthy, the Wolfpack — who haven’t covered the spread in four straight games — struggled to meet their lofty preseason expectations. Without him, the nation’s 110th-ranked offense will continue to struggle.

WASHINGTON STATE (+7.5) over Utah

The Cougars’ only home defeat in the past year came in a crushing three-point loss to the Pac-12’s only unbeaten team. The conference’s top-scoring defense will be ready after back-to-back losses and a week off.

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The Horned Frogs’ sleeper playoff campaign would be much more impressive if they beat a worthy opponent with a healthy starting quarterback. TCU is riding high, but is vulnerable to an upset on the road, sporting the 105th-ranked pass defense in the nation.

SYRACUSE (-2.5) over Notre Dame

The Orange earned immense respect for their near-upset of Clemson in Death Valley last week. Syracuse — 6-1 against the spread this season — features the 20th-ranked defense in the country. The Fighting Irish and their lackluster offense haven’t beaten a top-70 unit this season.

Oklahoma State (+1.5) over KANSAS STATE

Even if quarterback Adrian Martinez plays, how exactly will the Wildcats’ 82nd-ranked pass defense slow down Spencer Sanders, who leads the Big 12 in passing and leads an offense averaging nearly 42 points per game. The Cowboys have covered seven straight road games.

Spencer Sanders
Spencer Sanders

Florida (+22.5) over Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.)

The Gators have fared well in three tough tests this season, beating Utah before falling short to Tennessee and Kentucky. Quarterback Anthony Richardson could make it interesting against a Bulldogs defense that has taken a step back from the title campaign last season.

CALIFORNIA (+17.5) over Oregon

The ascent of Ducks quarterback Bo Nix has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, making Oregon the favorite to claim the Pac-12. Still, his shaky road splits leave me unwilling to lay such a large number. Cal has also covered three straight games as a double-digit home dog.

CENTRAL FLORIDA (-1) over Cincinnati

The Knights got caught looking ahead last week in a loss to East Carolina, but their most anticipated game of the season has arrived. The Bearcats’ 19-game winning streak streak in the AAC will come to an end in the Bounce House.

Central Florida coach Gus Malzahn
Central Florida coach Gus Malzahn

Wake Forest (-4) over LOUISVILLE

The Demon Deacons’ Sam Hartman has no chance to win the Heisman Trophy. Only one player in the playoff era (Lamar Jackson) has won the award without leading his team to the playoff. But the junior quarterback, who has thrown for 21 touchdowns and three interceptions this season, along with 292.5 yards passing per game, could put himself in the conversation.

Usc (-15.5) over ARIZONA

The Trojans needed the week off after suffering a crushing first loss of the season at Utah. Joy will be easy to rediscover in a matchup with the nation’s 115th-ranked defense.

Kentucky (+12.5) over TENNESSEE

The Wildcats haven’t allowed more than 24 points in the past 11 games, and they were last lit up in a 45-42 loss to the Volunteers last year. Quarterback Will Levis, who soon will be a top-five draft pick, could easily repeat his effort from last year — 372 yards passing, five total touchdowns — against Tennessee’s worst pass defense in the nation. Kentucky has also covered its three games against ranked teams this season.

Michigan State (+22.5) over MICHIGAN

The Spartans have won back-to-back battles as the less-talented little brother. The streak will end in this mismatch, but the Wolverines’ mediocre passing attack will limit their ability to exploit State’s greatest weakness.

TEXAS A&M (+2.5) over Mississippi

The Rebels have been exposed by their early soft schedule. They have struggled to move the ball through the air, while allowing 553 yards rushing, over the past two weeks. The Aggies’ reeling offense has hope, in their first home game since Sept. 17.

Stanford (+16.5) over UCLA

Longtime Cardinal coach David Shaw isn’t going down without a fight. He has led Stanford to back-to-back wins with an improved defense and consistent effort. Previous battles with USC (a 13-point loss) and Oregon will have Stanford prepared for the trip to Pasadena.

Best bets: Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, Kentucky
This season: 57-60-3
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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