Week 9 games to watch:
No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1) at No. 3 Ohio State (7-0), Saturday, Fox, 9 a.m. PDT
Buckeyes and Badgers. Brutus and Bucky. This would have been a top-six showdown for the ages if Wisconsin hadn’t been trapped looking ahead at Illinois, where it took an inexcusable loss after looking like one of the most dominant teams in the nation. Maybe inexcusable is a strong word. Think Wisconsin would receive forgiveness if it went to Columbus and upended an Ohio State team that has appeared even more unbeatable than Wisconsin appeared before its trip to Champaign? The whole nation would rejoice. Champagne bottles would pop from Baton Rouge to State College to Athens to Eugene. But is it feasible? Can Wisconsin’s offensive line create enough room for Jonathan Taylor to control the clock for four quarters? That’s the only scenario in which Ohio State doesn’t assert its talent advantage.
No. 6 Penn State (7-0) at Michigan State (4-3), Saturday, ABC, 12:30 p.m. PDT
The forecast for Saturday in East Lansing is 53 degrees and gray with scattered showers. Ideally, it would be colder, but Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio will take it. The Spartans need this game to be ugly. If it’s sunny, Penn State may win by four touchdowns. If it rains, anything could happen. Penn State has most of the best players on the field, certainly at quarterback with dual-threat Sean Clifford. But the Nittany Lions haven’t dealt with an angry mob of Spartans, who are trying to prove that all the momentum built with their College Football Playoff appearance in 2015 hasn’t been lost.
No. 9 Auburn (6-1) at No. 2 Louisiana State (7-0), Saturday, CBS, 12:30 p.m. PDT
Who would have ever thought that in a matchup of teams coached by Gus Malzahn and Ed Orgeron, Orgeron would have the more explosive offense? Orgeron’s hiring of Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to coordinate LSU’s passing game has revolutionized the Tigers’ offense in 2019, but much of the credit should go to senior quarterback Joe Burrow. He is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, in the top group with Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Burrow put up huge numbers against an elite defense against Florida on Oct. 12, and another outing like that against Auburn would make him the front-runner. Hurts would be the third straight Oklahoma quarterback to win the Heisman, so there’s nothing new brewing in Norman. What Burrow’s doing in Baton Rouge is unheard of.
No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1) at No. 19 Michigan (5-2), Saturday, ABC, 4:30 p.m. PDT
How big of rivals are Michigan and Notre Dame? It depends on whom you ask. The Wolverines have their hands plenty full with Ohio State and Michigan State, and the Fighting Irish have USC, Stanford and Navy as annual rivalry games. That said, Michigan-Notre Dame games usually have an epic feel based on the history of the programs and the iconic uniforms, helmets and fight songs. ABC’s ratings are going to challenge for the biggest of the year, even though Michigan’s season has been a disappointment thus far. The big difference in the 2019 installment is the timing. Usually, when Michigan and Notre Dame meet, it’s in the first few weeks of the season, and the winner leaves with an over-inflated sense of destiny while the loser is so crushed it wonders if it should bother showing up the next week. Saturday offers this year’s winner a late-season pick-me-up.
Washington State (4-3) at No. 11 Oregon (6-1), Saturday, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
The Ducks notched a massive victory last week at Washington, coming back from down 14 points to beat the Huskies. But if they allowed themselves too much enjoyment in the aftermath, they’ll be in trouble against Washington State in what could be a classic trap game leading into their trip to USC. The Cougars’ season shockingly fell apart beginning in the second half of UCLA’s historic comeback in Pullman, but Washington State has the offensive firepower to put a scare into Oregon. Mike Leach is most terrifying as a true underdog. While Washington was technically a bigger game, this is a major test of the mentality of Mario Cristobal’s program in Year 2. If the Ducks roll, it shows that they’re capable of moving on quickly from one successful outing to the next.