Week 9 picks: USC, ASU both lose as Pac-12 South is up for grabs
Editor's note: Every Thursday during the season, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel will present their picks for the week.
Below are Week 9's selections (all times ET). Enjoy.
TEXAS (+10) at KANSAS STATE (Noon, ESPN)
Mandel: Texas has found an offense the past couple games, with QB Tyrone Swoopes completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 300-plus yards against both Oklahoma and Iowa State, with 416 total yards in last week’s 48-45 win over the Cyclones. Kansas State’s D will likely cool him down, but who knows what to expect from Texas’ defense, which has been dominant at times, invisible at others. Kansas State 27, Texas 20.
Feldman: Tyrone Swoopes and the Horns have started to grow up of late. He's run for almost 200 yards in the past three games after rushing for 25 yards in the three games before that. But this is still a K-State home game and Bill Snyder's QB (Jake Waters) is playing very well of late, too, as a dual-threat guy and has more seasoning than his UT counterpart. Kansas State 20, Texas 14.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (-13.5) at KENTUCKY (3:30, CBS)
Mandel: How crazy is the 2014 college football season that Mississippi State-Kentucky got the SEC Game of the Week pick over LSU-Ole Miss, South Carolina-Auburn and others? The Wildcats, 5-2, have made nice strides in Mark Stoops’ second season, but last week’s 41-3 loss to LSU showed how far they still have to go. Patrick Towles might throw for some yards on the Bulldogs, but Kentucky’s not slowing down Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson. Mississippi State 50, Kentucky 20.
Feldman: The Cats have to be reeling from last week's ugly rout at the hands of LSU. Now they'll face a Bulldog team that is better and more polished on both sides of the ball than the Tigers. Plus, Dan Mullen's squad has had a bye week to get re-focused. Mississippi State 30, Kentucky 10.
MICHIGAN (+17) at MICHIGAN STATE (3:30, ABC)
Mandel: Michigan had an extra week to prepare for the Spartans. I don’t think it’s going to help much. Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has held Brady Hoke’s teams to 14, 12 and six points, respectively, in their first three meetings and this year’s Wolverines offense has been worse than any of those. Meanwhile, Michigan State QB Connor Cook boasts the nation’s No. 8 passer rating (164.0), one spot below Heisman candidate Prescott. Michigan State 34, Michigan 10.
Feldman: Brady Hoke's young team has shown some signs of life in its last two games, but they're still averaging just 13 ppg against teams from the Power 5 and none of those teams are tough defensively or as well-coached as arch-rival Michigan State. Michigan St. 17, Michigan 9.
WEST VIRGINIA (+1) at OKLAHOMA STATE (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Mandel: The shine is off Oklahoma State, which is not nearly as good as its 5-2 overall and 3-1 Big 12 records indicate. The Cowboys check in at 44th in the F/+ efficiency ratings, 22 spots lower than the Mountaineers. Granted, Oklahoma State plays better at home, and West Virginia may have a post-Baylor hangover. But Kevin White and the Mountaineers are going to score points, and the Cowboys just don’t have the firepower to keep up. West Virginia 35, Oklahoma State 20.
Feldman: There's a temptation to call this a letdown game for the Mountaineers, especially since they stunned OSU last year in Morgantown, but WVU is playing very well on both sides of the ball and I think Dana Holgorsen's team, led by QB Clint Trickett, has the maturity to handle some prosperity. West Virginia 28, Oklahoma State 20.
OLE MISS (-3.5) at LSU (7:15 p.m., ESPN)
Mandel: LSU has run the ball 50 or more times in each of its recent wins over Florida and Kentucky, taking the onus off thus-far unproductive quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris. But that strategy’s not likely to work against the Rebels’ Top 10 rushing defense (2.87 yards per carry). The Tigers’ best hope is for their defense to pressure Bo Wallace and force turnovers, but after some earl-season issues, Wallace hasn’t thrown a pick in his last three games. Ole Miss 26, LSU 17.
Feldman: The Tigers showed some bite last week against an upstart Kentucky team, but Hugh Freeze has a lot more athletes and a lot better D than UK has. I think the young LSU team, playing at home, will give the Rebels a big scare but the hunch here is that Ole Miss survives it. Ole Miss 14, LSU 13.
OHIO STATE (-13.5) at PENN STATE (8 p.m., ABC)
Mandel: Buckeyes redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett will face his toughest test since the Sept. 6 Virginia Tech game under the lights at sold-out Beaver Stadium. Penn State leads the nation in rushing defense, so Barrett will have to make plays through the air. Ohio State is unlikely to approach its recent 50-point outings, but the Nittany Lions’ offensive line won’t be able to establish a running game or protect QB Christian Hackenberg. Ohio State 27, Penn State 9.
Feldman: J.T. Barrett has settled down and blossomed quite a bit since the Buckeyes’ dreadful showing against Va. Tech. OSU has scored 224 points in its past four games, while PSU has been held to 13 points or fewer in three of its past four games. This one is at home for the Nittany Lions but so was the Northwestern game (a 29-6 PSU defeat), and I just don't think James Franklin has enough athletes yet to take down the Buckeyes. Ohio State 20, Penn State 10.
USC (-1) at UTAH (10 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
Mandel: The Trojans are the more talented team, but this is not the most favorable matchup for them. RB Buck Allen has sprung for at least 115 yards in all but one game but the Utes boast the nation’s sixth-best rushing defense. And Utah star Devontae Booker is fully capable of exploiting an average USC rushing defense. The Trojans admittedly have a huge edge at quarterback with Cody Kessler, but if Utah prevents too many long throws downfield, it should survive. Utah 27, USC 20.
Feldman: Devontae Booker is no secret anymore, having averaged 188 rushing yards in Pac-12 play. But since the Trojans’ debacle at BC, no opposing back has gone for more than 62 yards. I'll pick the Trojans here since I have more faith in their QB, Kessler, who is quietly having a superb season (18 TDs, 1 INT). USC 24, Utah 20.
ARIZONA STATE (-3.5) at WASHINGTON (10:45, ESPN)
Mandel: The Sun Devils have managed to rise back up to No. 14 in the AP poll a month after losing a game 62-27 to UCLA. Now they’re throwing a new wrinkle into the mix by bringing back star QB Taylor Kelly, who missed the past three games to injury. ASU is not as bad as it looked that Thursday night against the Bruins, but they’re nowhere near the 14th-best team in the country. Washington, behind national sack leader Hau’oli Kikaha (12.5), is capable of pulling the upset. Washington 34, Arizona State 31.
Feldman: No matter who plays QB for the Sun Devils they're in very good shape on offense, and their D has made some nice strides since the disaster against UCLA. U-Dub, on the other hand, has struggled in its only two games against decent opponents, losing both. ASU 27, Washington 21.
NEVADA (-2.5) at HAWAII (Midnight)
Mandel: Nevada came through for me last week as my Upset Special against BYU. This week I’m picking against the Wolf Pack. Hawaii may be 2-5 but it’s been much more competitive this season, including one-score home losses to Washington and Oregon State and a 38-28 victory over Wyoming. This would be a big one. Hawaii 31, Nevada 23.
Feldman: The Pack is coming off a strong rally to beat BYU, but now they have a long road trip to face a Hawaii team that is much, much tougher at home, having won both its games at UH and also given Oregon State and Washington major scares on the island. Hawaii 23, Nevada 21.
Mandel through Week 8: 56-33 straight-up, 47-42 vs. spread
Feldman through Week 8: 54-34 straight-up, 37-51 vs. spread
MIAMI (-2.5) at VIRGINIA TECH
Result: Miami 30, Virginia Tech 6
Mandel: After showing some early promise Virginia Tech’s injury-ravaged offense is proving as unimposing as usual, with the 93rd-ranked rushing offense (3.89 yards per carry). Miami, meanwhile, is quietly producing an explosive offense that averages 7.03 yards per play, No. 5 nationally. The Hokies are tough to beat in these Thursday night home games (they’re 11-4 all-time), but if Miami can handle the atmosphere it should handle the Hokies. Miami 24, Virginia Tech 14.
Feldman: The Hokies’ offense is sputtering with QB Michael Brewer having thrown 11 TDs and 11 INTs. Eight of those 11 INTs have actually come at home. The Canes have lost all three of their road games and all of them by double-digits, but true freshman Brad Kaaya has gotten much better as the season has worn on and the hunch here is that he's ready for Lane Stadium. Miami 20, Virginia Tech 14.
OREGON (-17.5) vs. CAL
Result: Oregon 59, Cal 41
Mandel: No power-conference team has improved more this season than Cal, which has gone from 1-11 to 4-3 and lost by four and two points to Arizona and UCLA, respectively. This game, being played at Levi’s Stadium, could be a shootout, as Bears QB Jared Goff sits just four spots behind Marcus Mariota among pass efficiency leaders. Turnovers could swing it, though. Oregon is No. 3 in turnover margin, Cal at No. 76. Oregon 43, Cal 30.
Feldman: Sonny Dykes' D is allowing over 46 ppg in Pac-12 play and now they'll face the best offense in the league led by the great Marcus Mariota and rampaging freshman RB Royce Freeman, who has run for 290 yards and six TDs in the past two games. Oregon 44, Cal 24.