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Week 9 college football viewers guide: Compelling matchups on ‘Showdown Saturday’

The schedule is highlighted by No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State, featuring two of the best rushing offenses in the country.

Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III is the nation’s second-leading rusher with 997 yards.
Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III is the nation’s second-leading rusher with 997 yards.Read moreAl Goldis / AP

With a name like “Showdown Saturday,” Week 9 of the college football season has its share of exciting and impactful games. What’s even more exciting for fans is the College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first rankings on Tuesday to give an early indication of which teams it feels are worthy of contention.

No. 6 Michigan (minus-4.5) at No. 8 Michigan State, noon, Fox29

This is the 114th meeting of the intrastate rivals and it might be the best one yet. The teams are 7-0 (4-0 in the Big Ten) for the first time in the series, and are matching up as top-10 teams for the first time since 1964.

This game likely will be won on the ground. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten in rushing at 253.3 yards per game behind the one-two punch of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins. The Spartans’ Kenneth Walker III is the nation’s second-leading rusher with 997 yards and has scored nine touchdowns.

Michigan has the better defense, allowing 14.3 points and 298 total yards per game. But Michigan State and quarterback Payton Thorne have had success with the passing game and could hit a big one if the Wolverines focus on Walker.

Prediction: Michigan State 23, Michigan 20

No. 9 Iowa (plus-3.5) at Wisconsin, noon, ESPN

The Badgers (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) did something that the Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1) couldn’t do earlier this month — beat Purdue — and now can make their case for contending in the Big Ten West with a home victory.

Both teams are known for their running games and ability to stop the run. That could be the reason the over-under of 36.5 points is the lowest in FBS this season, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Wisconsin attempted just eight passes last week, but running backs Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen each rushed for at least 140 yards.

Something to watch: Iowa leads FBS with 21 takeaways. Wisconsin has committed 17 turnovers.

Prediction: Wisconsin 19, Iowa 17

No. 1 Georgia (minus-14.5) vs. Florida at Jacksonville, Fla., 3:30 p.m., CBS3

“The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” has had some lopsided games recently, with seven of the last eight being decided by at least two touchdowns. The Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0 SEC) have won 11 straight overall since being thumped, 44-28, by the Gators last year.

Neither team has announced a starting quarterback for Saturday. For Georgia, Stetson Bennett started the last three games while JT Daniels recovered from a lat injury, but Daniels practiced this week. Emory Jones may start over Anthony Richardson for Florida (4-3, 2-3), but Richardson has ended recent games with more snaps.

The Bulldogs defense has been dominant, allowing an FBS-best 208.4 yards per game, and 6-foot-6, 340-pound nose tackle Jordan Davis has joined the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Prediction: Georgia 35, Florida 17

No. 10 Mississippi (plus-2.5) at No. 18 Auburn, 7 p.m., ESPN

While there’s a lot of football still to be played, two of the three teams with one loss in SEC West competition will try to position themselves as Alabama’s No. 1 challenger for the division’s berth in the conference championship game.

The Rebels (6-1, 3-1 SEC) already have lost to the Crimson Tide, but the Tigers (5-2, 2-1) don’t get them until their traditional rivalry game at the end of the regular season. Mississippi is a tough out with quarterback Matt Corral (1,913 yards, 15 touchdowns, one interception), but Auburn’s Bo Nix is coming off a 21-of-26, 292-yard, two-touchdown-pass performance against Arkansas.

Prediction: Auburn 37, Mississippi 31

No. 19 Southern Methodist (plus-0.5) at Houston, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Cincinnati gets all the attention in the AAC, but the Mustangs (7-0, 3-0) and the Cougars (6-1, 4-0) are lurking in the wings, waiting for their shot to upend the Bearcats and stake their claim for the Group of Five berth in the College Football Playoff.

SMU will play Cincinnati in three weeks. Houston does not play the Bearcats in the regular season, so its only hope would be to draw them in the conference championship game.

The Mustangs’ Tanner Mordecai leads the nation with 29 touchdown passes and averages 331 passing yards per game. The Cougars allow just 173.4 passing yards on average, 12th in the nation.

Prediction: Houston 30, SMU 27

North Carolina (plus-3.5) at No. 11 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC10

The season began with the Fighting Irish (6-1) actually trailing the Tar Heels (4-3) by one spot in the preseason poll. But they’ve gotten themselves into a position for a New Year’s Six bowl; they would need plenty of help to have a chance to make the College Football Playoff.

The Notre Dame defense will have its hands full with a Carolina attack that averages 36.9 points per game and 471.1 yards of total offense. Sam Howell, an early Heisman Trophy contender, has thrown 18 TD passes and is ninth in FBS in total offense at 334.9 yards per game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, North Carolina 24