We’ve got a lot of weeknight football this week and weeknight football will be a thing as we go forward here with the start of MACtion on Thursday night. Those beloved Tuesday and Wednesday games return next week.
As mentioned in this week’s Power Ratings articles, those numbers, while still important, mean a little bit less at this point in the season. The markets have gotten extremely efficient and hopefully your lines are efficient as well. That’s why we need to rely on the situational and technical handicapping elements to help us out even more.
There are always reasons why a team will step up or step back. This time of the year is no different, but now that we’re over a month and a half into the college football season, you really want to weigh the things that matter to you.
With that, here are some Week 9 situational spots to consider:
Toledo at Western Michigan – The changing of the guard has officially happened in the MAC. Toledo, a perennial contender, has taken a step back and last week’s loss to Buffalo was the proof that we needed. After such an eye-opening game for the Rockets, they’re up in Kalamazoo against another team that smells blood in the water. This has been a pretty one-sided series, with Toledo winning six of the last eight games. The Broncos are in search of getting one back this year.
Appalachian State at Georgia Southern – Facing the option on a short week is never a good thing. That’s what the Mountaineers have to do here against the Eagles. App State has been the class of the Sun Belt for a while, but Troy and Georgia Southern are formidable contenders. The Mountaineers have been bet up in the market, but this spot isn’t nearly as easy as it looks.
Indiana at Minnesota – The Hoosiers had a close call at home against Penn State last week, while the Golden Gophers got embarrassed by Nebraska. The Cornhuskers hadn’t won a game until last week. This feels like a watershed moment for both teams as far as the 2018 season goes. Minnesota has to show some backbone and win a game, which hasn’t been done in Big Ten play. Indiana has to travel on a short week coming off of a tough loss. Something has to give.
Utah at UCLA – The Utes are really rolling right now, but this feels like the kind of game that could be a tough spot for them. Since losing back-to-back weeks to the Washington schools, Utah has blown out Stanford on the road and won in lopsided fashion over Arizona and USC. One of the next two games will be too close for comfort for the Utes. We’ve seen teams set up like this before. With an improving UCLA team that has taken a big step since the bye, don’t be surprised if it’s this one.
Middle Tennessee at Old Dominion – This one may be a little bit of a reach, but it was the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders that kept Old Dominion from a bowl game last year. Sitting at 5-6, Old Dominion went into Murfreesboro in need of a big upset win, but got trounced 41-10. Maybe the upperclassmen remember that and will have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders this week.
Army at Eastern Michigan – Arguably the most complex handicap of the weekend is this one. Army is on the road in Ypsilanti, as the Knights travel outside the state of New York for the first time since losing to Oklahoma in Norman. Service academies are usually too disciplined for this, but the Knights play Air Force at home next week. On the Eastern Michigan side, they won a close game and then won a rare blowout in MAC play. Now, as a team that hasn’t had a bye week yet, they draw Army’s option attack in a non-conference matchup. There may not be any edges or advantages either way here, except for the travel for Army and the impact it may have.
Northern Illinois at BYU – What a horrible spot for the Huskies here. NIU faces BYU off of a bye. The Huskies are off of a bye as well, but they’re traveling to Provo for a non-conference game in altitude right before playing MACtion on Thursday night. In fact, NIU will play three games in 11 days starting Saturday. It’s hard to see them fully invested for this one.
Washington State at Stanford – The spots in the Pac-12 have been brutal this year. You would think that conference officials would try to help out the team with the most promise, but that hasn’t happened at all. After all, the conference is mired in a slump that has lasted a few seasons. Washington State is the league’s best hope, but the schedule, which was made months ago, has done them no favors. After a huge home win with College Gameday and all the pomp and circumstance, the boys from Pullman are in Palo Alto against Stanford, who has new life after a well-timed bye week. As good as last week’s spot was for the Cougs, this spot may be just as bad.
Georgia vs. Florida – Cocktails, anyone? Both teams are off of a bye for this week’s neutral-site game in Jacksonville. Georgia got exposed two weeks ago by LSU and Dan Mullen is exceptional in the underdog role. Georgia snapped a three-game losing streak in this series with last year’s blowout win, but things are different for the Gators in a revenge spot.
UNLV at San Jose State – There isn’t anything ridiculous about this spot on the surface, but San Jose State is favored. The Spartans were not favored against an FBS opponent at all last year. They also got destroyed by UNLV in Las Vegas. Two years ago, they did win 30-24 at home over the Rebels and are hoping to replicate that feat with some rare expectations.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State – Texas A&M is off of a bye and Mississippi State is off of another loss that left a lot more questions than answers. The Bulldogs are just 1-3 in SEC play on the season and it really does feel like they need to start planning for next season. Texas A&M did lose to Alabama, and won’t get any help in the SEC standings, but a New Year’s bowl game is hardly out of the question right now and Jimbo Fisher’s team should definitely look better off of a bye.
Iowa at Penn State – How will the Nittany Lions respond to nearly losing last week at Indiana? The players had to be questioning some of the decisions made by coach James Franklin. At this point, Penn State’s focus is beating Michigan in Ann Arbor next week. That will define the season because goals like winning the Big Ten or going to the Rose Bowl or College Football Playoff are gone. Will we get a full effort from Penn State this week?
Purdue at Michigan State – Well, this is a bad spot for both teams. Purdue blew out Ohio State for the biggest win in the modern era for the program. Michigan State was held under 100 yards by Michigan just one week after stunning Penn State on the road. Big Brother slapped Little Brother pretty hard last week. For Purdue, though, new heights and new expectations are visible. How will they respond?
New Mexico State at Texas State – Speaking of teams that haven’t been favored in a while, the Texas State Bobcats are favored this week. Texas State’s only favorite roles the last two years have been Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word. The Bobcats haven’t been favored over an FBS team since beating ULM 16-3 late in the 2015 season. This is definitely a rare spot for Everett Withers and his team, but they are the rightful favorite.
Texas Tech at Iowa State – Texas Tech has had a lot of problems with Iowa State. The Cyclones held the Red Raiders to 13 points last year and 10 points the previous year. This will also be the third straight opponent coming off of a bye week for Texas Tech, who has its bye before the short week game against TCU. Matt Campbell with a bye in a matchup that already hasn’t worked for Texas Tech seems bad.
Clemson at Florida State – Remember when this game meant something? Now Clemson is a 17-point road favorite. We saw Florida State get up for the game against Miami. They should get up for this one, too, but based on the betting action we’ve seen, it won’t be enough. Clemson seems to have hit a second gear with Trevor Lawrence the unquestioned starter.
Navy vs. Notre Dame – This isn’t an ideal situation for either team. This is a neutral-site game in San Diego. With a big military presence on the west coast, Navy should have a bit of a crowd edge, but Notre Dame always travels well. The Fighting Irish are off of a bye. Navy is not. Navy’s bye week came in late September. Since then, they’ve played in Colorado Springs and twice at home. The next two games are on the road at Cincinnati and at UCF. Navy is a long-term fade with this schedule.
Oregon at Arizona – This spot isn’t all that rad for the Ducks. They just lost last week in Pullman, a tough place to go, and now they’ll be down in Tucson against the Wildcats. Arizona is a mess of a team, but the spot could be a great equalizer. That’s about the only thing Arizona has going for it this week.
Two bonus games this week…
Kent State at Bowling Green – It seems unlikely that I’ll be able to write this article on Monday or early Tuesday, so we’ll have to mention MACtion next week. Kent State faces Bowling Green, but it will be extra prep for both.
Miami OH at Buffalo – The same situation applies here, as both teams have extra prep. This is a battle for first place in the MAC East Division, so this one means a bit more than the other Tuesday night matchup.