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College football picks and predictions against the spread for Week 9

These college football predictions ahead of Week 9 feature some intriguing road-underdog picks that can bring value to your pockets.

The college football season was anything but a letdown last weekend, and Week 9 is looking even more promising. From a historic nine-overtime game with 38 total points scored to a slugfest between Oklahoma and Kansas, Week 8 had it all. Looking back is the only way to continue to look forward, as we do that now, with our first look at the picks and predictions ahead of Week 9.

College football predictions, picks, and odds for Week 9

Our favorite bets had a rough week despite starting out incredibly hot. Let’s strike while the iron’s hot. Here are the early lines for all the NCAAF games as of Monday, October 25 at 11:30 AM ET.

ThursdayFridaySaturday
  • Troy @ Coastal Carolina (-18)
  • South Florida @ East Carolina (-9.5)
  • Navy @ Tulsa (-11)
  • UNLV @ Nevada (-20.5)
  • Iowa @ Wisconsin (-3)
  • Michigan @ Michigan State (+4.5)
  • Cincinnati @ Tulane (+24.5)
  • Miami (FL) @ Pittsburgh (-11)
  • Texas @ Baylor (-2.5)
  • Texas State @ Louisiana (-20.5)
  • Indiana @ Maryland (-3)
  • Bowling Green @ Buffalo (-13)
  • Rutgers @ Illinois (+1)
  • UCF @ Temple (+10.5)
  • Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (-4.5)
  • UMass @ Liberty (-36.5)
  • Iowa State @ West Virginia (+7)
  • North Texas @ Rice (-3)
  • Missouri @ Vanderbilt (+16)
  • Washington State @ Arizona State (-15)
  • Hawaii @ Utah State (-6)
  • Georgia @ Florida (+14)
  • Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (-17.5)
  • Colorado @ Oregon (-24.5)
  • Purdue @ Nebraska (-7)
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Appalachian State (-27.5)
  • Florida State @ Clemson (-10)
  • FIU @ Marshall (-21.5)
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern (+7.5)
  • Boston College @ Syracuse (-5.5)
  • Southern Miss @ Middle Tennessee State (-14)
  • TCU @ Kansas State (+3.5)
  • Louisiana Tech @ Old Dominion (+5.5)
  • Duke @ Wake Forest (-16.5)
  • Charlotte @ Western Kentucky (-18)
  • Wyoming @ San Jose State (-3)
  • Arkansas State @ South Alabama (-10)
  • UTEP @ FAU (+12)
  • Georgia State @ Georgia Southern (+4.5)
  • Ole Miss @ Auburn (+2)
  • Kentucky @ Mississippi State (+1)
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma State (-30)
  • Arizona @ USC (-21)
  • Oregon State @ Cal (+1.5)
  • SMU @ Houston (-1)
  • Boise State @ Colorado State (+2.5)
  • Penn State @ Ohio State (-17.5)
  • North Carolina @ Notre Dame (-3.5)
  • Louisville @ NC State (-7)
  • UCLA @ Utah (-4.5)
  • Virginia @ BYU (-2.5)
  • Fresno State @ San Diego State (-1)
  • Washington @ Stanford (-2)

Early Week 9 college football picks and predictions

Let’s break down some of my favorite early lines for Week 9, including South Florida vs. East Carolina, Navy vs. Tulsa, Iowa vs. Wisconsin, and Arkansas State vs. South Alabama.

South Florida (+9.5) @ East Carolina

Time: Thursday, October 28, 7:30 PM ET

The Bulls finally put four full quarters together and got their running game going in their defeat of Temple last week. USF saw Colorado transfer Jaren Mangham go for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns while Kelley Joiner ran for another 126 and a score. They’re not a passing attack that’s flying by anyone at the current moment, but they certainly can move the ball on the ground well enough to win games.

As a team, USF ran the ball 73 times for 421 yards against Temple. The offensive line was dominant against the Owls’ defensive front while their defensive line dominated Temple’s offensive line for the majority of the game.

Despite waiting to kick off against Houston for what felt like the entire day, ECU still put up quite a fight against the Cougars late on Saturday. Still, the Pirates have allowed an average of over 6 yards per carry this season. They’ve allowed 6.9 yards per carry or more in three games this season as well.

Run defense is not their strongest suit, while it apparently is USF’s area of expertise. That’s a mismatch, as shocking as it may seem with USF’s recent trajectory.

Navy (+11) @ Tulsa

Time: Friday, October 29, 7:30 PM ET

Happy to go back to another non-Saturday AAC game here as the Midshipmen are considerable dogs, despite taking Cincinnati to the brink last week. Tulsa comes in off a bye week and a dramatic victory over USF in Week 7. QB Davis Brin has thrown 10 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions this season.

They’ve won three of their last four games and famously gave both Oklahoma State and Ohio State a hard time at the beginning of the season. All of this being said, it doesn’t quite explain an 11-point swing in favor of the Golden Hurricane.

Tulsa’s rush defense has given up 11 touchdowns on the ground this season without facing an option attack like Navy’s. Their offense has been sporadic and erratic, something the Navy defense thrives on creating. They forced Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder into errant throws left and right while controlling the ball and not allowing the Bearcats to get in rhythm.

Tulsa is the better team but needs an A+ performance from their quarterback. Anything less than perfect will not equal a cover.

Iowa (+3) @ Wisconsin

Time: Saturday, October 30, 12:00 PM ET

Starting to sense a theme? Back the road dogs this weekend! Iowa is coming off a bye week after a humiliating loss to Purdue and playing a team historically known for being tough to beat at home. It’s a tough position to be in for sure, but not one that isn’t at the very least “coverable.”

Despite their lackluster offensive performance two weeks ago, the Iowa defense carried the team to their No. 2 overall ranking and 6-0 start. Even with the loss to Purdue, Iowa has allowed just one team (Penn State) to rush for more than 100 yards this year. Additionally, Purdue became the first team since Iowa State to throw for more than 185 yards against Iowa.

This is a team with 16 interceptions compared to just 7 passing touchdowns allowed against a Wisconsin team with an incredibly turnover-prone quarterback in Graham Mertz. You can bet Camp Randall will be “Jumping Around,” but you can also bet Iowa is jonesing to get back in the victory column.

It’s strength vs. strength when Wisconsin attempts to run against Iowa. Iowa has just been stronger this season.

Arkansas State @ South Alabama (-10)

Time: Saturday, October 30, 5:00 PM ET

The Jaguars were on the wrong end of the stick against an upstart Louisiana-Monroe team this past weekend, making us happy we didn’t go to bat for them in Week 8. However, Week 9 presents a unique challenge for them. South Alabama just allowed Louisiana-Monroe to throw for 369 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air.

Arkansas State is averaging 348.6 passing yards per game to go along with 20 passing touchdowns this season. Layne Hatcher has once again been thrust into a two-QB system with FSU transfer James Blackman, faring much better than his counterpart. They sit 1-6 but did push Louisiana to the brink a week ago, thanks to their rush defense.

Against teams with a pass-happy approach, the Red Wolves have not been able to stop anyone. They’ve given up at least 41 points in five of their last six games. Against pass-happy teams, they have allowed opposing passers to torch them through the air:

  • Central Arkansas QB Breylin Smith
    23-42, 296 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
  • Memphis QB Seth Henigan
    22-33, 417 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Washington QB Dylan Morris
    23-39, 367 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
  • Tulsa QB Davis Brin
    17-25, 355 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
  • Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall
    18-23, 365 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs

Each of these teams’ top targets also had a field day against Arkansas State’s defense:

  • Tyler Hudson, Central Arkansas
    7 receptions, 118 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Calvin Austin III, Memphis
    6 receptions, 239 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Jalen McMillan, Washington
    10 receptions, 175 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Josh Johnson, Tulsa
    9 receptions, 127 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
    8 receptions, 232 yards, 4 touchdowns

Watch out for Jalen Tolbert on Saturday

Sure, South Alabama is going to score — a lot. But even better, WR Jalen Tolbert is in line to pop off. Consider this as well: Tolbert’s last two games against Arkansas State have yielded an average of 7.5 receptions, 198 receiving yards, and 3.5 receiving touchdowns.

Tolbert hauled in 10 receptions for 252 yards and 3 scores in their 2020 meeting after hauling in 5 receptions for 144 yards and 4 TDs in the 2019 season finale.

With Jake Bentley tossing the pigskin, look for Tolbert to have an even bigger day against a depleted secondary. If that happens, it won’t matter if South Alabama can’t stop Arkansas State’s offense. They’ll score enough to win and cover with ease.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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