Burning questions for CFB’s biggest Week 9 games

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off consecutive weeks with stunning top-10 upsets, college football fans should be enthusiastic about the action happening in Week 9.

It begins on Saturday morning with No. 13 Wisconsin cleaning its wounds after a loss to Illinois and with its focus now set on taking down No. 3 Ohio State. If that huge clash weren’t enough, it will be followed by an SEC battle when No. 9 Auburn takes on No. 2 LSU at Tiger Stadium.

While those are the headliners of Saturday’s action, this weekend will offer plenty of compelling matchups for fans to enjoy. Now let’s take a look at the burning questions that will capture Week 9’s most prominent college football games.

Can Wisconsin’s defense rebound against Buckeyes’ offense?

Wisconsin’s defense took the field in Week 8 with a sterling reputation, and everyone was excited for its matchup against Ohio State’s high-powered offense. The luster is gone after the Badgers allowed 315 yards to the Fighting Illini. Now Wisconsin faces a far superior opponent.

Ohio State will establish the run early. After seeing Illinois rush for 141 yards against the Badgers, the Buckeyes will unleash J.K. Dobbins from the jump on Saturday. Wisconsin must find a way to stop the explosive plays and limit Fields’ rocket arm and rare athleticism. If the Badgers’ defense doesn’t execute, Ohio State will roll in Week 9.

Will Bo Nix make enough plays to keep up with LSU’s offense

Auburn’s defense will try and do everything in its power to keep Saturday’s game close early. Even if it can create some early pressure, none of it will matter if Nix doesn’t have the game of his life.

The problem is Nix hasn’t shown that dominant ability yet. He completed 40.7 percent of his passes in a loss to Florida with three interceptions and 41.9 percent of his attempts in the season-opening win against Oregon. LSU’s defense is loaded with talent, which makes this even more challenging for Nix. He must show the abilities that made him a top recruit for Auburn to have any chance in this game.

Can the Horned Frogs contain Sam Ehlinger?

Despite entering Saturday’s game with a 3-3 record and facing No. 15 Texas, the Horned Frogs are only 1.5-point underdogs. There’s a real opportunity for TCU to pull off the in-state upset, but it must reverse its woes against dual-threat quarterbacks.

TCU’s defense allowed 200 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in its three losses this year. Texas will gladly use Ehlinger as its primary runner in this matchup if the Horned Frogs allow it. Keeping the Longhorns’ star quarterback out of the end zone and under 50 rushing yards will be crucial for TCU to win this weekend.

Is this the last straw for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan?

Michigan enters Saturday with a 1-10 record against top-10 teams since Harbaugh joined the program. While the 28-21 loss to No. 6 Penn State in Week 8 finished close, the Wolverines also trailed 21-0 midway through the second quarter. Now the Wolverines welcome in No. 8 Notre Dame to Michigan Stadium.

It could be Harbaugh’s penultimate chance to turn things around. Michigan’s offense is fortunate that Notre Dame is struggling on the defensive end and quarterback Ian Book looked pedestrian against USC. This is a winnable game for the Wolverines with home-field advantage, but a loss in front of the home fans could be the final nail in Harbaugh’s coffin at Michigan.

Will Jayden Daniels or Dorian Thompson-Robinson shine in clash of young quarterbacks?

Many started to question if Thompson-Robinson should be UCLA’s future after throwing three interceptions in his first four contests. The sophomore then exploded for a seven-touchdown performance against Washington State and is now coming off a three-touchdown game in UCLA’s win over Stanford. Now he’ll be riding a hot streak in a potential shootout against another young, promising quarterback.

After a hot start to the season for Arizona State, Daniels failed miserably against Utah. He completed 4-of-18 passes for 25 passing yards and accounted for eight rushing yards on 16 carries. Now fans get to see how Daniels bounces back from one of the worst performances a quarterback can have. Given he’s facing a defense that allows the third-most passing yards per game (312.4) in the country, it could be the perfect moment for Daniels to reclaim his swagger for the rest of the season.