Each Friday, theScore will preview the week's best matchups on the college football calendar. Here are the top games to watch in Week 9.
The latest edition of the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy goes down in Ann Arbor this Saturday with a noon kickoff. While it may not have the prestige of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, this one can get just as spicy from time to time. Michigan State dominated this rivalry from 2008-2015, but the Wolverines have turned the tables in recent years under Jim Harbaugh.
If the opening weekend of Big Ten play is any indication, this matchup could be ugly for the Spartans. Mel Tucker's Michigan State head coaching debut was a dud, as Rutgers was able to notch its first Big Ten win since 2017. Michigan hammered Minnesota on the road with a rushing attack that looked unstoppable throughout.
No. 7 Cincinnati, fresh off an incredibly impressive win at SMU, returns home to host Memphis in a marquee AAC matchup. Points have been hard to come by against Luke Fickell's outfit, which boasts the 10th-best defense in the country. The Bearcats smothered Mustangs' star quarterback Shane Buechele last time out, holding him to just 216 yards through the air.
Cincinnati will need a similar effort to slow the Tigers' high-powered attack and Brady White. Memphis averages a whopping 548 yards per contest and is coming off two straight games with at least 40 points. If the Bearcats can score another impressive win, they have a serious chance at being in the top 5 of next week's AP Poll.
Only one Big 12 squad has allowed under 20 points per contest in 2020, and it's Oklahoma State with just 12 per game. The Cowboys' high-powered offense gets the headlines in Stillwater, but the defense is the main reason they have risen to No. 6 in the country. The unit faces another tough task this weekend in the form of Sam Ehlinger and Texas. The Longhorns' passing attack ranks second in the conference behind Oklahoma and will look to pop off a couple of big plays on the road. An Oklahoma State victory should place the team firmly in the conversation for College Football Playoff slots.
A night contest between Ohio State and Penn State would usually feature over 100,000 screaming fans wearing white at Beaver Stadium, but that won't be the scene this time around. While the COVID-19 pandemic will drastically change the atmosphere in Happy Valley on Saturday, this one is still potentially one of the best games on the slate.
Ohio State, behind Justin Fields' near-perfect efforts, once again looked borderline unstoppable in last week's win over Nebraska. The Nittany Lions got bit by the turnover bug in a dramatic overtime loss to Indiana but showed flashes of a solid offense throughout the contest. The shorthanded Penn State defense's ability to slow Fields down will likely decide this one.
After going more than two years without a conference win, Arkansas heads to Texas A&M looking for its third in the last four contests. The Sam Pittman era is off to a flying start for the Razorbacks, with an entertaining brand of football finally coming to Fayetteville. The next roadblock is an Aggies squad that has made its bones winning close games this year. The game within the game will see the Aggies' impressive rushing attack take on one of the SEC's worst defenses against the run. Texas A&M is definitely the better side here, but Arkansas has shown no problem playing spoiler so far in 2020.