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College Football Week Nine Picks

Anthony Jennings
3 Ole Miss vs. 24 LSU
It won't be an easy ride to the Egg Bowl for Ole Miss, who still has a tough meeting with Auburn after this road test against LSU and Les Miles. The Rebels' defense will hope to stop a Tigers' offense that is starting to find its groove after scoring an embarrassing seven points against Auburn earlier this month. A big reason for that is the play of the running backs, including true freshman Leonard Fournette, who is finally starting to consistently show the talent many expected him to show when the season began. Along with Fournette, Miles and LSU bring powerful Kenny Hilliard to the table along with workhorse Terrence Magee, who ran for 127 in LSU's victory over Kentucky. While the ground attack should certainly help the Tigers move the ball, they need to find more success passing if they are to have any success against this Ole Miss defense. Whether it has been the slightly more experienced sophomore Anthony Jennings or true freshman Brandon Harris, the Tigers' offense has struggled to find anything proven through the air. While both ran run and extend plays, they don't have the arm strength to beat Ole Miss' quick defenders over the top, even possessing some of the deep threats they do have. Safeties Cody Prewitt and Trae Elston and cornerback Senquez Golson form one of the nation's best secondaries in the nation and they will give LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron absolute fits. While their offense has clearly had its up and downs, the LSU defense has been among the stingiest in the entire nation, holding opponents to just 17 points per game, good enough for eighth in the nation. They must get Bo Wallace uncomfortable and stop the quarterback, who has been on absolute fire lately. They must also contain underrated running back Jaylen Walton, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and get past a strong offensive line. Even if their defense can do all that, the Tigers will almost certainly struggle to move the ball against the Rebels. Even on the road, Ole Miss should prove their superiority.
Ole Miss, 31 LSU, 17

19 Utah vs. 20 USC
The crowded Pac-12 will hope to figure itself out somewhat this week, as two South contenders battle late night. The Utes have surprised, moving to a 5-1 start with a victory over UCLA, thanks to a superb defense and breakout running back Devontae Booker, who now has 742 yards on the year. Head coach Kyle Whittingham has announced gritty Travis Wilson will start at quarterback for the Utes. He will hope to get a pass offense going that has been extremely subpar, while the Trojans will not help him, bringing safety Su'a Cravens and defensive tackle Leonard Williams to the table. That will force the Utes to rely even more on Booker and a defense that will almost certainly get tested against Cody Kessler and the Trojans. Although he also has had some tough weeks, Kessler is having a huge year under new head coach Steve Sarkisian. In fact, tons of Trojans are, because Sarkisian's system utilizes the vast amount of weapons USC has at their disposal much better than Kiffin's ever did. Running back Buck Allen has catapulted himself into Heisman talks after yet another great week, while receivers Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith have emerged as Kessler's favorite targets through the air. Utah defensive end Nate Orchard has had a huge year, racking up 10.5 sacks already, good enough for No. 2 in the nation. He will have to have another great game if the Utes are going to slow down Kessler and the Trojans' explosive offense. While nobody should count on the crazy inconsistent Trojans this year, they are riding a wave of momentum, one that should carry them past a Utes team that has been barely sneaking past opponents. Unless Utah's offense somehow finds a way to keep up with USC, the Trojans should become bowl eligible after a win.
USC, 38 Utah, 27

1 Mississippi State vs. Kentucky
While their Magnolia state rivals prepare for a tough road test against LSU, Mississippi State will hope to improve to 7-0 on the year and preserve their No. 1 ranking against Kentucky, who was improved in big ways this season and is 5-2. A big reason for the Wildcats sudden turnaround (they could easily be 6-1 if not for a botched call against Florida) has not only been the positive spirit of head coach Mark Stoops but the superb play of QB Patrick Towles. Towles, who was barely hanging on to the starting gig when the year began, has thrown 10 touchdowns and has also run for two more. The sophomore has also been helped out by the great play of running back Jojo Kemp and a defense that has been led by superb defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree. Though, Kentucky struggled mightily to do anything last week against LSU, in which they were absolutely demolished 41-3 and they haven't seen a team anywhere close to the level of Mississippi State. QB Dak Prescott continues to put up Heisman numbers while the defense continues to shut down some explosive offenses. The ground game has been led by bruiser Josh Robinson and De'Runnya Wilson has clearly established himself as one of the SEC's best receivers. Add to that the fact the Bulldogs are coming off a bye and should be well rested and well prepared, and Kentucky will have an awfully tough job trying to keep up with the nation's top team.
Mississippi State, 45 Kentucky, 24

Other Picks
22 West Virginia, 35 Oklahoma State, 33
14 Arizona State, 28 Washington, 14
4 Alabama, 37 Tennessee, 13
5 Auburn, 34 South Carolina, 26
13 Ohio State, 30 Penn State, 20

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