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Most compelling matchups in college football Week 9

Who will you be rooting for come Week 9?

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Several of the top teams in college football, including top-ranked Alabama, won’t take the field in Week 9. There are still a number of compelling matchups to monitor on this weekend’s slate, though.

High-stakes conference duels dominate the overall narrative. Within those are fascinating battles to behold, not to mention the palpable possibility of an upset befalling any team in playoff contention.

Read on for more on the tastiest matchups to dig into from Saturday’s forthcoming attractions.


No. 2 Clemson at Florida State

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A rather soft schedule of late has the Seminoles entering this 3-1 in their last four. Unfortunately, Clemson could kill their newfound swagger in swift fashion.

Trevor Lawrence has lived up to the hype for the Tigers, enhancing the offense over departed incumbent starter Kelly Bryant. The freshman phenom provides Clemson a greater margin for error in its bid to remain undefeated.

It’s hard to envision Seminoles running back Cam Akers finding a lot of running room against the stupendous Clemson defensive front, headlined by probable first-round picks in end Clelin Ferrell and tackle Dexter Lawrence.

Akers is a talented back but just doesn’t have good enough blocking in front of him. Barring an epic, one-man-show-esque performance by Akers, Florida State has no chance in Tallahassee.


No. 7 Georgia vs. No. 9 Florida

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Two of the top 15 pass defenses in the country square off in this epic SEC showdown on a natural site at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

If it comes down to which quarterback flinches first, the instinct would be to go with Florida’s Feleipe Franks. Under the tutelage of first-year coach Dan Mullen, Franks is taking far fewer sacks, forcing fewer throws and being more proficient overall.

Franks is still only completing 56.6 percent of his passes in spite of all that.

Georgia’s Jake Fromm led the Bulldogs to a national title game appearance as a true freshman last year. He’s coming off the worst game of his young college career against LSU. No time like Saturday to bounce back in a massive way.


No. 12 Kentucky at Missouri

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Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. continues to deliver as one of college football’s best playmakers. He ran for 169 yards on 32 carries and a score in a 14-7 win over Vanderbilt.

Tigers quarterback Drew Lock overcame a few poor starts against the SEC with an eruption of four touchdowns and 350 yards in Week 8’s 65-33 romp over Memphis.

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The discouraging part of that score is Mizzou’s lackluster defense, which could get torched by Kentucky if last week was any indication. Good news for the Tigers: they held phenomenal Memphis ball-carrier Darrell Henderson to 15 yards on four carries.

Some of that can be attributed to Memphis playing from behind, yet it’s also evidence Mizzou could give Snell and Kentucky problems and potentially pull the upset.


No. 16 Texas A&M at Mississippi State

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The Aggies are better than their ranking. Their two losses are to Alabama and Clemson, with the latter being by only two points. They are the only team to beat Kentucky thus far, so that says something too.

Mississippi State put up a good fight in last Saturday’s 19-3 loss to LSU, yet is offense is too one-dimensional. That was evident as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw four interceptions. Now it could mean the Bulldogs drop two straight and four of five overall against another high-quality SEC foe.

Jimbo Fisher gives the Aggies a huge coaching edge over Joe Moorhead, who’s in his first year at the helm for Mississippi State. Look for this one to result in more growing pains for the renovating Bulldogs program.


No. 22 NC State at Syracuse

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Highly touted quarterback Ryan Finley and the Wolfpack had a bit of a reality check this past weekend, getting dominated at Clemson 41-7.

The Orange aren’t exactly a cakewalk, particularly at home, where they haven’t lost this season. That said, Syracuse’s defense has allowed 81 points over the past two games.

One element of surprise is the Orange’s quarterback situation. Tenured senior Eric Dungey is the usual starter, but Tommy DeVito relieved him against UNC last week, rallying from a 20-7 deficit to secure the double-overtime thriller.

Finley gives NC State the edge at that all-important position no matter who lines up under center for the hosts. Look for the savvy Wolfpack leader to bounce back from the Clemson debacle with a proficient, winning performance.


Penn State rushing attack vs. Iowa front seven

MIchael Hill Ohio State Buckeyes

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The No. 17 Nittany Lions average 240.7 yards per game on the ground. The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes boast the nation’s second-best run defense, yielding only three touchdowns and 2.72 yards per carry.

But Iowa hasn’t faced a dual-threat quarterback like Trace McSorley all season. This figures to be the Hawkeyes’ toughest road trip of the year, so the front seven’s ability to contain McSorley and explosive running back Miles Sanders will be of utmost importance.

The good news is the Hawkeyes just blanked Maryland 23-0 last week. Momentum of a shutout should only fortify coach Kirk Ferentz’s defense.

With great line depth between Parker Hesse, Anthony Nelson and A.J. Epenesa, along with middle linebacker and lead tackler Kristian Welch, Iowa has the chops up front to slow the Nittany Lions’ ground game.


Gardner Minshew vs. Stanford secondary

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Washington State’s signal-caller acquitted himself well in a duel last week with top NFL draft prospect Justin Herbert. Minshew threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns in a decisive, 34-20 win over Oregon, boosting the Cougars to an AP No. 14 ranking.

Gilbert carved up this same Stanford defensive backfield in September for 346 yards. It stands to reason Minshew can inflict similar damage despite this contest being held at Stanford Stadium.

Perhaps the 24th-ranked Cardinal will dial up more blitzes to counteract their dubious coverages, but Minshew is a maestro at up-tempo offense and could be on his way to monster numbers.

For Stanford to have any chance, star tailback Bryce Love and the ground game must play keep-away from Minshew and Co.


Alan Bowman vs. Brock Purdy

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Two of the best quarterbacks in the country no one is talking about are true freshmen for Texas Tech and Iowa State respectively.

Purdy came off the bench to spark a rousing Iowa State comeback over Oklahoma State and backed it up by outdueling West Virginia’s Will Grier in Week 7’s upset, statement win.

Bowman suffered through a poor outing versus West Virginia and an injury-induced absence the following week versus TCU. However, he came back in Week 8, throwing for over 400 yards in a rout of Kansas.

Purdy and the Cyclones have an edge in the backfield thanks to David Montgomery, who ran for 189 yards against the Mountaineers. Iowa State therefore has a great chance to hold down home-field advantage and continue a surprising run with Purdy at the controls.


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