Some of the top contenders for spots in the College Football Playoff will face serious challenges on Saturday, as they face off against rivals with realistic chances of derailing their seasons in Week 9.
Ohio State, LSU, and Notre Dame are all favored in their matchups this weekend according to DraftKings Sportsbook, but none of them can afford to take their opponents lightly.
Buckeyes Remain Wary of Wisconsin
No. 3 Ohio State (7-0) is at home against No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1), which is coming off of a stunning 24-23 loss to Illinois. Before that defeat, the Badgers looked like a serious contender in the Big Ten, and the loss has taken some of the luster off of this matchup. But with the Buckeyes looking like a national title contender, and Wisconsin still potentially in the playoff mix, there’s plenty to play for on both sides of this matchup.
No matter what happened to Wisconsin last weekend, Ohio State coach Ryan Day says he knows his team can’t overlook the Badgers.
We know how good they are on both sides of the ball, all three phases,” Day told reporters. “They have great players on both sides of the ball – NFL players. Last week is what it is.”
At home, the Buckeyes are widely expected to find a way to win. DraftKings has Ohio State listed as a 14.5-point favorite in the contest, which kicks off at noon Eastern on Saturday.
Week 9 Tests: LSU, Notre Dame Favored vs. Ranked Opponents
Down in SEC country, perhaps the best game of Week 9 sees No. 2 LSU (7-0) play host to No. 9 Auburn (6-1). While LSU comes in as a 10.5-point favorite, Auburn still has a real shot at making the College Football Playoff even after a loss to Florida earlier this month. Any team that manages to get through the SEC with only one loss is always a contender, meaning that the Auburn Tigers have to feel like they can stay in the race if they can win out for the rest of the season.
That will be a difficult task, however, against an LSU team that is anchored by a stifling secondary on defense. Corners Kristian Fulton and Derek Stingley Jr. have shut down virtually every wide receiver that has been thrown at them this year, and Auburn will likely have to find a way to target at least one of them to score enough to pull off an upset.
“I like both of our corners,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron told The Athletic. “Most of the time they’re going to win their one-on-one matchups. That’s what enables us to go man free most of the time.”
Of the big games in Week 9, none is expected to be more competitive than the clash between No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1) and No. 19 Michigan (5-2). Despite being on the road, the Fighting Irish are a one-point favorite in a game they absolutely must win if they want to remain in playoff contention.
“Playing at Michigan is always a great challenge and one that our guys are excited about being on national television,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters. “But it’ll be one where we’ll have to execute at a high level, play a physical game certainly, and handle the elements.”