Week 9 of the College Football season includes several exciting conference matchups with key implications for the playoff picture. Get your Week 9 college football best bets for this week’s action including TCU vs. West Virginia, Ohio State vs. Penn State, Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State, and Kentucky vs. Tennessee.
Week 9 College Football Best Bets & Predictions
Week 9 of the college football season has arrived, and I have you covered with my best bets for the Saturday slate. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for further analysis on all of the biggest games on Saturday. With a massive slate of games, I have plenty of picks that don’t make it into this article, and you can find all of those on my Twitter page @wayne_sports_. You can also check out my full board of picks here. Let’s get to work.
College Football 2022 Record: 93-63.5-3 (59.4%)
TCU Horned Frogs at West Virginia Mountaineers
Game Info: Saturday, October 29, 12:00 PM EST
I’ve had so much fun riding the momentum with this TCU program this season, but part of handicapping is not falling too far in love with one team and knowing when to sell. It’s time to sell on the Horned Frogs after five straight gruelling games. It started with the Sonny Dykes bowl against SMU before conference games against Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State.
I backed Kansas State last week against TCU, and they held a 28-10 second-quarter lead before their starting and backup quarterbacks got hurt. Ironically, it was consistent in a recurring pattern for TCU in facing teams with quarterback injuries as Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel and Kansas’s Jalon Daniels left those respective games while Spencer Sanders was hampered by a shoulder injury against the Horned Frogs.
Even still, TCU’s defensive numbers have been poor. They rank 75th in EPA per play allowed, 126th in explosiveness allowed, and 108th in finishing drives. That last one is particularly damning against a West Virginia offense that ranks 38th in finishing drives on offense. When J.T. Daniels and company get into enemy territory, expect them to finish with touchdowns more often than not.
Daniels has had an up and down season, but his splits when passing from a clean pocket or under pressure are drastic. Under pressure, he’s completing just 38.5% of his passes, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, and has a passer rating of 44.2 per PFF. However, from a clean pocket, he’s completing 70.3% of his passes, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt, and has a passer rating of 97.0. That sets him up for success against a TCU defense that ranks 90th in sack rate and 114th in PFF’s pass-rush grades.
— The Voice of Morgantown (@voicemorgantown) September 23, 2022
The counterpoint to all of this is West Virginia’s defense being terrible. They rank 118th in EPA per play allowed, and the TCU offense ranks eighth in EPA. Everywhere you look, the Horned Frogs’ offense has a big advantage. However, we’re not asking the Mountaineers to win this game. We’re asking a team that has played once since October 13 to keep this thing within a touchdown against a team gasping for air. When ranked in his career, Sonny Dykes is 1-10 ATS (9.1%) on the road against an unranked opponent, and I’ll bet that drops to 1-11.
Best Bet: West Virginia +7.5 (play to +7)
Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions
Game Info: Saturday, October 29, 12:00 PM EST
After a trepidatious outing against Notre Dame in Week 1, Ohio State simply hasn’t been tested – they have won every game since by an average of 38.6 points. However, they head into University Park this weekend and are set to be tested for the first time since that game against the Fighting Irish. Penn State hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 2016, but they’ve kept it close with an average margin of nine points.
C.J. Stroud is the Heisman favorite, and rightfully so, but the advanced numbers aren’t as kind to him as you’d expect. Despite having 28 touchdowns to four interceptions, he only has 13 big-time throws to 10 turnover-worthy plays per PFF. He only had 12 TWPs all of last season, and his TWP rate is almost double last year despite the soft schedule. Last week, he had three turnover-worthy plays against Iowa.
Penn State has one of the most talented secondaries in the country, headlined by Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown, and they should be able to limit Stroud somewhat. The Nittany Lions rank 14th in pass defense EPA and lead the country by far in pass breakups. My biggest concern is their lack of pass rush – they rank just 101st in sack rate – and that should be an issue as the game goes on.
On the other side, the Nittany Lions should be able to find some offensive explosiveness. They rank 11th in explosiveness this year while Ohio State ranks just 72nd despite facing their easy schedule thus far. However, Penn State’s rushing offense has struggled as they rank just 102nd in rushing EPA and 83rd in average line yards. It’s difficult to imagine them finding rushing consistency in this game.
Over the course of the game, Penn State’s lack of pass rush and rushing offense should hamper their ability to hang around in this game. However, I like their talented secondary and explosive offense to give them an advantage in the first half, particularly with their raucous home crowd. I’m taking the Nittany Lions to keep this game within a touchdown, and I’d play their first half spread down to +7.
Best Bet: Penn State First Half +8.5 (play to +7)
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Kansas State Wildcats
Game Info: Saturday, October 29, 3:30 PM EST
After unsuccessfully backing Kansas State last week, I’m going back to the well here. As I discussed above, the Wildcats held a 28-10 lead over the Horned Frogs last week and it appeared as though they were headed for a monumental conference win. However, injuries to quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Will Howard all but sealed their fate, and TCU came back to win the game.
Still, I was impressed with the effort of Howard last week, who will likely start for Kansas State here. I don’t believe TCU has a great defense like I mentioned above, but Howard was poised on the road and completed 13 of 20 passes for 225 yards and a couple of scores. With a full week of preparation as the starter before a home game, he should be even more effective this week. More importantly, the Wildcats can lean heavily on All-Conference running back Deuce Vaughn, one of the best rushers in the country.
Deuce Vaughn moved into 5th place all time in K-State history with 35 overall TDs
He also became the only player in school history with over 1000 receiving yards (1014) & 1000 rushing yards (2790) pic.twitter.com/Jq6GZZP0D2
— Clint The K-State Fan (@Thekstatefan2) October 24, 2022
The Cowboys’ defense has also struggled as they rank 88th in EPA per play allowed and 104th in overall explosiveness allowed, so Kansas State should find offensive success. When Oklahoma State has been successful on defense, it’s largely been smoke and mirrors. They’re due for significant regression as they rank bottom ten in the country in EPA on early downs but top-ten on late downs and fourth in third-down conversion rate allowed.
Offensively, the Pokes have been solid across the board, particularly as they rank sixth in finishing drives. However, this Kansas State defense has been excellent, and they rank 13th in finishing drives allowed. They also rank eighth in passing defense EPA, making them the best pass defense Spencer Sanders has faced this year. With Sanders still working through a shoulder injury, this could wind up a tough game for him, particularly with other injuries on offense.
Will Howard started against the Pokes two years ago as a freshman and lost a tight two-point game that ended on a late fumble that was returned 85 yards for a touchdown. He’s left with unfinished business, and he’s a sharper, more polished passer than he was at that point in time. While Martinez likely won’t play, the handicap here is more about the Kansas State run game and defense winning out against an overrated Oklahoma State team. In the Pokes’ fifth Big 12 game of the month, look for them to finally relent.
Best Bet: Kansas State -1.5 (bet to -2.5)
Cincinnati Bearcats at UCF Knights
Game Info: Saturday, October 29, 3:30 PM EST
Last week, we faded UCF as they traveled to face East Carolina in an obvious letdown spot for them – the Pirates upset them as five-point home underdogs. However, that game was rather misleading. UCF actually had a higher offensive success rate, but East Carolina thrived with 15 havoc plays, won the turnover margin 4-0, and converted nine of their 14 third-down attempts. As a result, the final score was more lopsided than it should have been.
However, I love this as a bounceback spot for UCF at home. The Knights will have revenge in mind here after the Bearcats beat them 56-21 last year, but Cincinnati lost a ton of talent from their successful 2021 season. They’ve particularly struggled to replace their talent in the front seven as they rank just 76th in rushing EPA allowed. That’s a massive problem against this UCF run game that ranks 16th in EPA and 11th in average line yards. UCF also ranks 11th in rushing success rate, and Cincinnati ranks 95th in success rate allowed.
My biggest concern with taking UCF is Cincinnati’s success with offensive explosiveness. They rank 11th in standard down explosiveness, and UCF ranks 97th in explosiveness allowed. However, their schedule is filled with poor defensive teams to this point, and they still rank outside the top 50 in offensive EPA in both rushing and passing. Meanwhile, UCF has the 14th-best run defense by EPA, so Cincinnati will need to rely on Ben Bryant.
Bryant has 16 big-time throws to just six turnover-worthy plays to this point, but he struggled against SMU last week with just a 50% completion rate and 6.0 yards per attempt. In addition, UCF ranks 36th in pass play explosiveness allowed, so don’t expect a ton of big throws from Bryant here. Finally, when Cincinnati does work their way into enemy territory, they’ll struggle to finish drives – they rank just 88th in that respect, and UCF’s defense ranks 9th.
The Bearcats have won 19 straight games against AAC opponents, which ties the Knights’ old record that was ended three years ago by Cincinnati. However, they have struggled to put away SMU’s backup quarterback, South Florida, and Indiana in recent weeks. The Knights are 6-0 in conference home games under Gus Malzahn, and Cincinnati’s streak will be snapped in the Bounce House this week.
Best Bet: UCF ML (bet to -2.5)
Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers
Game Info: Saturday, October 29, 7:00 PM EST
I adore this Tennessee football team. I played their spread and Moneyline against Alabama and I have a Hendon Hooker Heisman ticket. However, I believe they’re reaching the point of being overvalued in the market, and this is a difficult spot for the Volunteers. Will Levis is 4-2 outright and 6-0 ATS as the Kentucky quarterback with three of those outright wins coming against ranked teams.
Levis is getting healthier by the week after his shoulder injury earlier in the season, and this matchup sets up wonderfully for him to put his talents on full display. The Vols rank 75th in passing EPA per play allowed and the Wildcats rank 19th on offense. The weakness of the Kentucky offense has been their line, as they rank 129th in sack rate allowed, but Tennessee’s defense doesn’t get pressure – they rank 101st in havoc.
Will Levis is 3rd on the PFF board & very strong candidate to be the #1 pick
– Tier 1 NFL arm talent
– Compact release
– Twitchy runner/pocket manipulator
– Experience w/ 2 NFL OCs
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 21, 2022
The Kentucky defense can also put Tennessee in a bind this week. Defensive coordinator Brad White has done an excellent job this season, and his unit ranks 20th in overall EPA per play allowed. By some metrics, they’re the best defense the Vols have faced all season as they rank sixth in success rate allowed and sixth in finishing drives. They’re one of the only teams that can challenge Tennessee’s ranking of sixth and seventh in those respective categories.
Most importantly, Kentucky can handle Hendon Hooker as a rusher. The Vols average 42.6 rushing yards on scrambles, which ranks fifth in the FBS, and that puts defenses in a bind. However, Kentucky allows just 12.7 yards per game on scrambles. Florida ranks 3rd in that respect with dual-threat quarterback Anthony Richardson, but Kentucky held him to just six carries for four yards. The Wildcats are so technically sound and defensively proficient, and they can limit Hooker’s ability to pick up big plays with his legs.
After beating Alabama and bludgeoning UT Martin, the Volunteers have a monumental game against Georgia next week. It wouldn’t be shocking if Tennessee is overlooking this game. Meanwhile, we can trust Mark Stoops to have Kentucky fully locked in for this game. I bet this at Kentucky +13 earlier in the week, but I’d be willing to take it all the way down to +10. This thing has Tennessee by one score written all over it.
Best Bet: Kentucky +13 (bet to +10)