The college football season rolls into Week 9 with the SEC having a particularly big game in Knoxville, due to the changed landscape in the conference. Two other games carry significant national importance in the national championship picture or the race for New Year’s Six bowl berths.
Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers
Odds: Tennessee -12.5
This is a bigger game than many people expected at the start of the season, due to the fact that Tennessee upset Alabama and is unbeaten heading into the final weekend of October. Tennessee is now a major player in the race for the SEC championship, the College Football Playoff, and the national championship. The pressure on the Vols is intense, but it’s a kind of pressure they will want, since the program has taken a clear step up on the national map and is competing for prizes the program hasn’t seriously contended for since 2001. That’s the last time Tennessee had a realistic shot at playing for the national championship in early December.
Editors' choice: top sportsbook.
Tennessee is probably the better team, but Kentucky has the better defense. The Wildcats might not be able to score enough to win this game outright, but their defense can throw a monkey wrench into Tennessee’s offense and force the Volunteers to play an ugly, physical, close game which is competitive deep into the fourth quarter. It might not go right down to the wire, but Tennessee won’t pull away decisively.
Pick: Kentucky +12.5
Ole Miss Rebels at Texas A&M Aggies
Odds: Ole Miss -2
The big story here is that Texas A&M has a new quarterback. After injuries to Max Johnson and then Haynes King, the Aggies have to turn to their freshman quarterback, Conner Weigman. While he is a five-star recruit, Weigman is nevertheless a quarterback who was third on the depth chart before Johnson got hurt a few weeks ago. He moved up to No. 2 after the Johnson injury. With King hurt, it’s Weigman’s game. He threw 15 passes against the South Carolina Gamecocks this past weekend in relief of King, completing eight but for a very small amount of yards. He showed no ability to throw the ball down the field or put pressure on an opposing defense.
It’s hard to see how Weigman is developed enough at this point in his college career to seriously threaten the Ole Miss defense. The Rebels should have a significant advantage in this game, and they should be able to parlay that into a victory.
Pick: Ole Miss -2
Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs (In Jacksonville)
Odds: Georgia -23.5
This is one of the few remaining neutral-site rivalries in College Football, joining Texas-Oklahoma in Dallas every year. And while the rest of the country is starting to feel the fall and winter weather, they won't have to worry about that in Jacksonville where it's expected to be 75 degrees.
Florida is struggling under first-year head coach Billy Napier, while Georgia is still unbeaten in its defense of the 2021 national championship. Georgia is going to win this game, but the Bulldogs have not been as dominant this year as they were last year. Florida has had two weeks to prepare for this game. The Gators beat a nationally-ranked Utah team earlier this season. They were competitive against Tennessee earlier this year. They can probably keep the margin of defeat under 20 points.