College football is eight weeks into what is shaping up to be a great season. Now that more is known about all teams involved, fans can know what to watch for in the coming weeks. This list will narrow it down to five things to watch for in week 9.
1. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
The world’s largest outdoor cocktail party is happening this weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. Most years one team ends up being way more talented than the other, but this season it is a top 10 matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators.
Florida comes into this game sporting a 6-1 record, with their only loss coming at the hands of Kentucky. Since that point they have been lights out, beating two ranked teams, including LSU, and a rival in Tennessee. The defense allows 16.6 points per game, good enough for 15th in the country, but the offense is really coming around under Dan Mullen. Florida is averaging 34.1 points per game, which is vastly improved from the last two seasons. With one big upset already on the year, can the Gators knock off Georgia and really shake up the SEC East race?
Georgia also has a 6-1 record and lost to the same LSU team that Florida was able to beat. Before that loss, the Bulldogs didn’t have one close game. They have a good offense at 39.6 points per game and their defense has been great too, allowing 16.3 points per game. They are favored in this game and a win would keep them on a good track to make their second straight SEC Championship.
This one will be a tough fought, physical game with the winner feeling good about their chances for the SEC East.
2. Washington State follow up performance
Washington State were the darlings of the college football world with ESPN’s College Gameday going to Pullman for their game against Oregon. The Cougars were able to pull off the upset, which helped them shoot up the rankings to number 14 in the country. After a big win, can Washington State avoid a letdown performance this week?
The opponent this week for Washington State is Stanford, in a hard road game. The Cardinal just got back into the rankings at number 24. Stanford has failed to get the run game going this year, but can move the ball through the air by targeting wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Their defense is solid allowing 20.7 points per game. The Cardinal will be a stiff test for Washington State and will want to stay alive in the Pac-12 North with a win.
The Cougars will be relying on quarterback Gardner Minshew once again in this game. He has 2,745 passing yards and 27 touchdowns this season, which has helped Washington State have the best passing attack in the country at 400.7 passing yards per game. The defense stepped up big time for Washington State against Oregon and will have to do the same against Stanford for the Cougars to get their fourth straight win.
With the win, Washington State may be able to jump into the top 10, but with the loss, every team in the Pac-12 will already have at least two losses on the season.
3. Can Iowa stay alive in the Big Ten West?
The Big Ten West may have been decided earlier this season when Wisconsin beat Iowa. With the tiebreaker in hand, Wisconsin is still favored to win the Big Ten West even after losing to Michigan two Saturdays ago. Iowa needs to keep winning and hope for a Wisconsin loss in order to take over the top spot in the division.
Iowa is 6-1 and enters the game ranked 18th. With their lone loss being to Wisconsin, it is hard to get a good read on how good this team can be. Their defense is ranked fifth in the country, which helps them grind out games. Quarterback Nate Stanley and the offense are often able to get enough done to get them the win. They’ll have a stiff test this week on the road in Happy Valley.
It appears Penn State isn’t as good of a team as many originally thought. They are 5-2 with losses to Ohio State and Michigan State and in their last game, they barely squeaked away with a win over Indiana. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Miles Sanders are doing their best to keep this team competitive, but things have not gone as planned. Against Iowa’s defense, they’ll be tested.
4. Mississippi State fading into mediocrity
A lot of national media members thought that Mississippi State could make some noise in the SEC this season. They clearly have talent, but have not been able to live up to the expectations this season. They are 4-3 with their biggest win coming over Auburn, who is also struggling. This week the Bulldogs will play Texas A&M.
The Aggies are 5-2 under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, with a win over a solid Kentucky team. Their only two losses are to Clemson and Alabama. Fisher has clearly changed things for the better so far, as the Aggies are in the top 50 in points per game and top 30 in points allowed per game. With a win this week they could realistically achieve a 9-3 record, which isn’t too bad for Fisher’s first year.
Mississippi State has a quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald who has already had success in the SEC. Freshman running back Kaylin Hill has been solid and they have NFL talent on the defense. They should be playing better, but have lost to three pretty good teams in Kentucky, LSU and Florida. A loss this week will put them at four losses for the season with games against Ole Miss and Alabama left on the schedule.
5. Sun Belt Clash
Sun Belt football is fun to watch, but rarely ends up on the top five of things to watch for in college football. This week though, two of the best programs in the conference will be meeting up on a Friday game. There is a logjam at the top of the Sun Belt East between and Georgia Southern and Appalachian State will break it up this week.
Appalachian State broke into the top 25 this week and has only lost to Penn State, a game in which they took the Nittany Lions into overtime. They are a very formidable team ranking as the fifth best scoring offense and the eleventh best scoring defense in the country. Although UCF fans may not like to hear it, Appalachian State could be the best group of five conference team in the country.
Georiga Southern is 6-1 this season with a loss to Clemson. The Eagles run the ball well ranking fifth in the country, but also sport a good defense at 24th. Quarterback Shai Werts will need to have a great game operating the triple option offense.
The winner will still have Troy to deal with, but this game is equally important.
Make sure to check out our college football page for more updates and rankings.