It’s a very solid Week 9 of college football with four matchups of ranked teams. One clearly stands alone, however, and that’s No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 6-point favorites in a game they have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
It’s not often you will hear a head coach say publicly that payback is a big motivating factor for his team, but Urban Meyer has been playing that card for his Buckeyes. Last year, Ohio State was ranked No. 2 and lost at unranked Penn State 24-21 on a blocked field goal that was returned 60 yards for a touchdown with less than five minutes left. That win did a couple of things for Coach James Franklin’s Nittany Lions – it started them on the road to the Big Ten title, and it showed that they were back among the nation’s elite.
If Penn State (7-0) takes this game, it will be favored to win out, repeat as Big Ten champion (most likely playing Wisconsin again in the conference title game) and reach the College Football Playoff. Last year, the CFP committee chose Ohio State over Penn State for the playoff despite that head-to-head Nittany Lions win and the fact they were conference champions.
Ohio State (6-1) can’t afford a second loss and make the playoff. The Buckeyes have a good shot to get in with a victory, though, as they would be favored to win out in the regular season and beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The home team has covered the past four between PSU-OSU.
There’s a playoff elimination matchup in South Bend as No. 14 N.C. State plays its first-ever game at No. 9 Notre Dame, which is a 7-point betting favorite. Both teams have a loss, and we all know two-loss teams don’t make the playoff. The matchup to watch there is the Wolfpack’s sixth-ranked run defense (91.3 yards allowed per game) against the Irish’s No. 6 rushing offense (317.9 ypg).
The other Top-25 matchups are both from the Big 12: No. 4 TCU at surprising No. 25 Iowa State, and No. 11 Oklahoma State at No. 22 West Virginia.
TCU, a 6.5-point favorite, is the only Big 12 team without a loss (7-0 overall, 4-0 Big 12), while the other three schools above each have one Big 12 defeat. The Cyclones – in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 12 years – already have a signature win at Oklahoma earlier this season. Oklahoma State is -7.5 in Morgantown, never an easy place to play. The Cowboys have won the past two in what is usually a high-scoring series.
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