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College football Week 9 viewing guide: Florida vs. Georgia, FSU vs Clemson and beyond

Keep an eye on Kenny Pickett, James Franklin and a Berkeley Prep alumnus this weekend.
The Florida-Georgia game will be back to its usual half-and-half stadium look Saturday in Jacksonville.
The Florida-Georgia game will be back to its usual half-and-half stadium look Saturday in Jacksonville. [ Times (2019) ]
Published Oct. 29, 2021

Viewing guide

Lamest window: Mid-afternoon, if you must choose. When the worst window includes Florida-Georgia, you know it’s a big weekend.

Noon: It’s the first time No. 6 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State have met as top-10 teams since 1964.

3:30: If No. 1 Georgia pulls away from Florida, see if Florida State can hang with a shockingly average Clemson team.

Related: 2 clues about how Florida’s Dan Mullen will use Anthony Richardson, Emory Jones

4: No. 13 Wake Forest is a fun team to watch and worth checking out against Duke, if the other games aren’t interesting.

7: No. 10 Mississippi at No. 18 Auburn should be wildly entertaining.

7:30: I don’t think No. 20 Penn State will hang with No. 5 Ohio State, but I do think North Carolina can keep it close (or perhaps upset) No. 11 Notre Dame.

10:15: Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall faces his former team at No. 25 BYU in an underrated contest.

10:30: Fresno State’s very good offense will test No. 21 San Diego State’s great defense in a strong nightcap.

Bulldogs’ D

Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis is, arguably, the best player in college football.
Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis is, arguably, the best player in college football. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]

Led by superstar Jordan Davis, No. 1 Georgia has allowed only 46 points through seven games — its best mark since 1971. The Bulldogs’ scoring average (6.6 points) is on track to be the best figure of any team since at least 2000.

In the last two decades, the only team that finished allowing fewer yards per game than Georgia’s current rate (208.4) was 2011 Alabama. The defensive coordinator for that Crimson Tide team? Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

Keep this in mind, too: The Bulldogs’ rotation would be even deeper had end Jermaine Johnson not transferred to Florida State to get more playing time. He’s an all-ACC, if not All-American, candidate.

Related: Florida coach Dan Mullen’s job isn’t at stake Saturday. His approach should be.

UCF back on track

Isaiah Bowser's Knights are in a mini-scoring rut.
Isaiah Bowser's Knights are in a mini-scoring rut.

From 2017-19, the Knights had a historic scoring streak of 31 games with at least 30 points. Which makes this drought shocking. UCF has failed to hit that mark in three consecutive games for the first time since 2016. Expect that to change Saturday against a Temple defense allowing 33.9 points per game (tied for No. 114 nationally).

Eye on the NFL draft

Kenny Pickett upset Miami in his first career start and will try to beat the Hurricanes again this weekend.
Kenny Pickett upset Miami in his first career start and will try to beat the Hurricanes again this weekend. [ KEITH SRAKOCIC | AP ]

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has come a long way since upsetting No. 2 Miami in his first career start four years ago. He needs only two touchdowns to pass the legendary Dan Marino (82) for the most in Panthers history. His breakout season has earned Heisman Trophy consideration and drawn first-round buzz. Pickett can continue to impress scouts — and continue heating up Manny Diaz’s seat at Miami — with another strong showing for No. 17 Pitt.

Clemson honoring Bowdens

Dabo Swinney replaced FSU legend Bobby Bowden's son as the head coach at Clemson.
Dabo Swinney replaced FSU legend Bobby Bowden's son as the head coach at Clemson. [ Times (2008) ]

The Tigers will have a special guest Saturday as they honor Florida State legend Bobby Bowden: his son, Tommy. Tommy Bowden went 72-45 as Clemson’s coach from 1999 until he left midway through the 2008 season. According to The Athletic, he has not been back since then. But after Clemson coach Dabo Swinney invited him back for the tribute to his late father at the FSU game, Tommy Bowden agreed to return.

Related: 5 thoughts on FSU vs. Clemson: We’re saying there’s a chance ...

Local of the week

Ohio State tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is a player to watch this weekend against Penn State.
Ohio State tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is a player to watch this weekend against Penn State.

Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (Berkeley Prep)

The former five-star recruit and future early-round draft pick is in line for his 16th career start against a stingy Penn State defense. Look for Petit-Frere to have a big game if the Buckeyes are going to keep their College Football Playoff hopes on track in their toughest conference game so far.

GameDay breakdown

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker is a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker is a Heisman Trophy candidate. [ ADAM HUNGER | AP ]

Michigan-Michigan State looks like a quintessential Big Ten run game. The Spartans’ Kenneth Walker is arguably the best back in the nation, while Michigan has two of the top 40 rushers (Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins). Both defenses also rank in the top 35 nationally in yards allowed per rush. The key will be whether the Wolverines’ depth wins out over Walker’s explosiveness.

Why Tulane matters

Tulane, believe it or not, will have a say in who makes the College Football Playoff.
Tulane, believe it or not, will have a say in who makes the College Football Playoff. [ ALONZO ADAMS | AP ]

The College Football Playoff selection committee is supposed to consider many factors while deciding the semifinalists. One of the factors: common opponents. No. 4 Oklahoma let Tulane hang around in a 40-35 season-opening win. If No. 2 Cincinnati blows out the Green Wave today, that will be a nice metric in the Bearcats’ favor. And considering how the committee has treated Group of Five teams in the past, Cincinnati needs all the help it can get.

Coaching carousel

Penn State coach James Franklin is, as usual, a name to keep an eye on during this coaching cycle.
Penn State coach James Franklin is, as usual, a name to keep an eye on during this coaching cycle. [ BARRY REEGER | AP ]

Five coaches to watch this week, with an eye toward hiring/firing season:

Penn State coach James Franklin gets brought up with seemingly every major opening. If he gets loss No. 3 to Ohio State, how attractive would he be to LSU or USC?

Mississippi offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby — a one-time UCF staffer — is one of the nation’s top assistants and could draw head coaching looks. How will he fare against Auburn’s solid defense?

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente is in hot water with a 3-4 start. A loss at Georgia Tech might be the point of no return (if that hasn’t already been reached).

Florida International coach Butch Davis heads into Marshall with a 1-6 record and speculation over his potential retirement.

SMU coach Sonny Dykes has his undefeated Mustangs ranked 19th and in great position leading into a big game at Houston. His name has already been linked to the vacant Texas Tech job.

By the numbers: Week 9

Miami running back Jaylan Knighton has put up big games in back-to-back weeks.
Miami running back Jaylan Knighton has put up big games in back-to-back weeks. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]

331 — Yards for Miami running back Jaylan Knighton over the past two games (175 rushing, 156 receiving).

4 — Consecutive games with five or fewer penalties for FSU. The last time the Seminoles did that against four consecutive Division I-A opponents was 1995.

0 — Times the Gators have previously faced the No. 1 team twice in the same season. Florida lost to then-No. 1 Alabama 31-29 last month.

6.3 — Yards per rush by Florida. That leads the nation and is on track to break the school record (5.9 in 2008 and 1976).

1944 — The last time Wake Forest started 7-0 before this year. Those Demon Deacons lost their eighth game to … Duke, this week’s opponent.

Related: How much closer is USF to a breakthrough after ECU loss?

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