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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | October 26, 2021

The college football fan's guide to Week 9 games

College football rankings: Alabama jumps Oklahoma; Penn State dips

It's Halloween weekend and college football teams across the country hope to avoid a Week 9 scare before entering the final month of the regular season. With exciting games that can have postseason implications, Week 9 is sure to keep up the exciting pace of the 2021 season.

Three games feature two ranked opponents this week: No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State, No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn, and No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State.

Week 9 preview: Games to watch

No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State | 12 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 30 (FOX)

The Paul Bunyan Trophy is on the line when No. 6 Michigan takes on No. 8 Michigan State. The in-state rivalry has increased stakes in Week 9 as both the Wolverines and Spartans enter the game undefeated. 

A key focus for each team this week will be on the rushing attack. The Wolverines use a two-headed approach, led by running backs Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins. The two give Michigan the fifth-best rushing offense in the FBS. Elsewhere, the Spartans rely on Heisman Trophy candidate running back Kenneth Walker III to be a bell-cow on offense. Walker is second in the nation in rushing yards and has been a big reason why Michigan State is off to its best start since 2015. Expect a run-heavy Saturday in the latest edition of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry.

Players to watch: QB Cade McNamara (MICH), RB Blake Corum (MICH), RB Hassan Haskins (MICH), DL Aidan Hutchinson (MICH), LB David Ojabo (MICH), DB Daxton Hill (MICH), RB Kenneth Walker (MSU), WR Jalen Nailor (MSU), DE Jacub Panasiuk (MSU), S Xavier Henderson (MSU)

FIRST LOSS: Predicting when the remaining undefeated FBS teams are most likely to lose

No. 1 Georgia vs Florida (Jacksonville, Florida) | 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 30 (CBS)

The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party returns this week as No. 1 Georgia battles Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida enters the rivalry game having gone 2-3 in its last five games. The Gators still have a quarterback controversy between Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson and have struggled to close games offensively. Should these struggles go unfixed, Week 9 figures to be a rough week against the nation's best defense.

To put Georgia's defense in perspective, it is the only FBS defense yet to allow 100 points this season, allowing just 46 points in seven games. The Bulldogs allow just 6.6 points per game; the average College Football Playoff national champion has allowed 17.3 points per game. The dominant Georgia defense has the Bulldogs at the top of the national championship conversation. However, the defense doesn't do it alone; quarterback Stetson Bennett has led the offense to success, filling in from a backup role. If Georgia's offense and defense can defeat Florida for another win, it will clinch a spot in the SEC Championship game with a Kentucky loss. 

Players to watch: QB Stetson Bennett (UGA), RB Zamir White (UGA), DT Jordan Davis (UGA), LB Nakobe Dean (UGA), QB Emory Jones (FLA), QB Anthony Richardson (FLA), DE Zachary Carter (FLA), CB Kaiir Elam (FLA)

UNDEFEATED TRACKER: Here's every undefeated college football team in 2021

No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn | 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 30 (ESPN)

It will be a battle for positioning in the SEC West when No. 10 Ole Miss visits No. 18 Auburn. The two programs are a part of three in the division with one loss, joining No. 3 Alabama. The winner between the Rebels and Tigers keep their SEC Championship hopes alive.

Ole Miss will turn to Heisman contending quarterback Matt Corral as he looks to continue an electrifying season where he's gained 2,409 total yards and scored 24 total touchdowns. 

The opposing quarterback, Auburn's Bo Nix will look to build off a 334-total yard, three-total touchdown performance in his last outing. Nix and crew will try to avoid becoming the sixth-consecutive team ranked 18th in the AP poll to lose.
 
Players to watch:
QB Matt Corral (MISS), WR Dontario Drummond (MISS), LB Chance Campbell (MISS), QB Bo Nix (AUB), RB Tank Bigsby (AUB), S Smoke Monday (AUB)

RANKINGS: All major college football polls

No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State | 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 30 (ABC)

The second top-25 Big Ten East game this weekend is No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State. Last week, Penn State suffered its second loss in historic fashion, falling to Illinois 20-18 in nine overtimes. Despite the loss, the Nittany Lions have one of the best defenses in the country, led by a strong front-seven. The sixth-best scoring defense will now face the challenge of stopping Ohio State's top-ranked scoring offense

The Buckeyes average 49.3 points per game, scoring 40-plus points in every game since a Week 2 loss to Oregon. Led by quarterback CJ Stroud and a dynamic group of skill position players, Ohio State once again looks like a national power. This week against Penn State, the Buckeyes will try and add to a dominant stretch.

Players to watch: QB Sean Clifford (PSU), RB Noah Cain (PSU), WR Jahan Dotson (PSU), DT Derrick Tangelo (PSU), LB Ellis Brooks (PSU), S Jaquan Brisker (PSU), QB CJ Stroud (OSU), RB TreVeyon Henderson (OSU), WR Chris Olave (OSU), WR Garrett Wilson (OSU), DT Haskell Garrett (OSU)

Big Week 9 questions

What's next for preseason Heisman frontrunners?

When Clemson benched quarterback DJ Uiagalelei against Pittsburgh, he became another quarterback to struggle after preseason hype. Despite Uiagalelei returning to finish the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was noncommittal to the quarterback's starting status in the future.

Uiagalelei joins Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler as both quarterbacks have been benched over the last few weeks. It's a drastic fall for the men under center after the two were arguably the top two quarterbacks in college football entering the season.

SCHEDULE: Full FBS TV schedule and times

How will a Week 9 full of big-time matchups impact the initial College Football Playoff rankings?

The first College Football Playoff rankings of 2021 will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 2, making Week 9 the last before the reveal. While there have been AP Polls, Coaches' Polls, and more, the College Football Playoff rankings will have the final say. 

Week 9's games should impact the Playoff race as top teams face off. With selection factors like strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, and victories over common opponents all in play, Week 9 could be the week with the greatest impact on this year's Playoff.

AP Poll Ranking Coaches Poll
Georgia 1 Georgia
Cincinnati 2 Cincinnati
Alabama 3 Alabama
Oklahoma 4 Oklahoma
Ohio State 5 Ohio State
Michigan 6 Michigan
Oregon 7 Michigan State
Michigan State 8 Oregon
Iowa 9 Ole Miss
Ole Miss 10 Iowa
Notre Dame 11 Notre Dame
Kentucky 12 Kentucky
Wake Forest 13 Wake Forest
Texas A&M 14 Texas A&M
Oklahoma State 15 Oklahoma State
Baylor 16 SMU
Pittsburgh 17 Penn State
Auburn 18 Baylor
SMU 19 Pittsburgh
Penn State 20 San Diego State
San Diego State 21 Auburn
Iowa State 22 UTSA
UTSA 23 Iowa State
Coastal Carolina 24 Coastal Carolina
BYU 25 NC State

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