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Week Nine Viewer's Guide: Spooky Games on Tap

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The Irish are back in action, and there's other interesting options around the country in week nine's college football slate. Hopefully some underdogs can give top teams a scare this Halloween.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Night

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
North Carolina Tar Heels Pittsburgh Panthers Heinz Field (Pitt) 7:00 ESPN -3
TCU Horned Frogs West Virginia Mountaineers Amon Carter Stadium (TCU) 7:30 FS1 -14
Oregon Ducks Arizona State Sun Devils Sun Devil Stadium 10:30 ESPN -2.5

There's a few nice matchups on Thursday night this week, so make plans to head to work Friday on very little sleep. First, future Irish opponent, one loss, and top-25 Pitt hosts fellow one loss North Carolina. The Panthers are undefeated in the ACC, but should face a tough test against the Heels. UNC QB Marquise Williams has been putting up big numbers in Larry Fedora's offense, but Pitt's defense has been solid all season. Look for Pitt to try and establish the running game behind Qadree Ollison and control the tempo. West Virginia could do the Irish a solid, and knock off TCU. The 'Eers have lost three straight, but they've all been to the top of the Big 12. The schedulers at the Big 12 offices did WVU no favors by giving them Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and TCU in consecutive weeks. West Virginia has been able to score against these teams, but needs to generate more stops to pull an upset. Trevone Boykin will make this difficult, however, as the TCU Heisman candidate hasn't been slowed down by anyone this year. To close out the night, Oregon travels to Tempe to face the Sun Devils. The Ducks need to figure out their QB situation, but RB Royce Freeman has been fantastic all season long. The sophomore running back is three yards shy of 1000 yards rushing, has 11 total TDs, and is a receiving threat out of the backfield. Mike Bercovici, ASU's QB, has been a great passer this season. Both of these teams have been very inconsistent, but if the good versions of each team shows up, we could be in for a treat.

Friday Night

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Louisville Cardinals Wake Forest Demon Deacons BB&T Field (Wake) 7:00 ESPN2 -12
East Carolina Pirates Connecticut Huskies Pratt and Whitney Stadium (UC) 7:00 ESPNU -7

Friday has a couple games that may be worth watching on the ESPN networks. In the ACC, Louisville will travel to Winston-Salem to face a struggling Wake Forest team. While the Deacons probably won't stay competitive with the Cardinals for too long, the Irish do host Wake in a few weeks, so it might be worth checking them out. Bob Diaco's UConn team will travel to one of the top teams in the AAC, ECU. The Huskies have an outside shot at making a bowl game, but they need to go 3-1 in their last four games. If they lose this one, they'll probably be staying at home in December for another season.

Noon Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Ole Miss Rebels Auburn Tigers Jordan-Hare Stadium (AU) Noon ESPN -7.5
Nebraska Cornhuskers Purdue Boilermakers Ross-Ade Stadium (PU) Noon ESPNU -10.5
Florida State Seminoles Syracuse Orange Doak Campbell Stadium (FSU) Noon ABC -20
Penn State Nittany Lions Illinois Illini Beaver Stadium Noon ESPN2 -6

The early slate has a number of games featuring some disappointing and surprising teams from around the country. First, Ole Miss travels to Auburn in a game with some interesting implications for the rest of the country. Ole Miss controls their own destiny in the SEC West. If the Rebs win out, they'll keep both LSU and Alabama from making the trip to Atlanta. Auburn, on the other hand, sits at 4-3, but four of their five remaining games are against ranked or teams also receiving votes. Assuming they handle late season cupcake Idaho, they'll need to beat either Ole Miss, A&M, Georgia, or Alabama if they hope to make a bowl game. A struggling Nebraska team travels to Purdue in a game that probably have to win if they hope to make a bowl. The Huskers sit at 3-5, and have games against Iowa and Michigan State left on the schedule. Last week, the Huskers chose "failed game tying two-point conversion" in their weekly "how can we lose this game" sweepstakes after holding a lead in the fourth quarter. Purdue has been mostly terrible this year, but Mike Riley's Nebraska seems capable of losing to anyone. Florida State will look to bounce back from their crazy loss to Georgia Tech when they host Syracuse this week. The Orange are probably outmatched, but it could be interesting to see how the Noles respond. Everett Golson threw his first INT of the season last week, and if the Orange are to have a chance against FSU, they'll probably need him to throw a few more. Penn State quietly sits at 6-2, and has only lost to Ohio State in Big Ten play. PSU QB Christian Hackenberg still needs better protection from his offensive line, but the junior has thrown just two picks on the season. Illinois was expected to be a tire fire after firing their head coach the week before the season, but sits at 4-3. If Penn State is able to comfortably handle Illinois, they may be able to provide a tough test for Michigan and Michigan State at the end of the season.

Afternoon Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Southern Cal Trojans California Golden Bears California Memorial Stadium 3:00 FOX -6
Clemson Tigers NC State Wolfpack Carter-Findley Stadium (NCSU) 3:30 ESPN2/ABC -10
Florida Gators Georgia Bulldogs Everbank Field (Neutral) 3:30 CBS -2.5
Iowa Hawkeyes Maryland Terrapins Kinnick Stadium (Iowa) 3:30 ESPN2/ABC -17

Southern Cal kicks off the afternoon with a trip up to Berkeley. The Trojans destroyed previously undefeated Utah last week, and they still have a chance to win the PAC-12 South. After a hot start, Cal has struggled since losing to Utah three weeks ago. If the Trojans can keep up their winning ways, they could give the Irish strength of schedule a nice boost. Clemson has another road game this week, this time against NC State. The Tigers gave Miami their worst loss in school history, and it ultimately led to Al Golden's firing. NC State has been solid on defense this season, but has had trouble scoring against better competition. If Clemson gets caught looking ahead to Florida State, they could be in for a fight. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party kicks off in Jacksonville on CBS. Georgia failed to live up to expectations for what feels like the 12th straight season while Jim McElwain has Florida's rebuilding project ahead of schedule. The winner of this game should represent the SEC East in Atlanta at the end of the year. Since the SEC East hasn't made any sense up to this point, look for Georgia to win a shootout after beating Mizzou 9-6 in their last game. Undefeated Iowa hosts Maryland to round out the afternoon slate. The Hawkeyes shouldn't have too much trouble with the Terps, but the game gives you a chance to teach life lessons by talking to your loved ones about Iowa.

Primetime

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Temple Owls Lincoln Financial Field 8:00 ABC -9.5
Michigan Wolverines Minnesota Golden Gophers TCF Bank Stadium (Minn) 7:00 ESPN -13.5
Stanford Cardinal Washington State Cougars Martin Stadium (WSU) 10:30 ESPN -12

The Irish trip to Philly highlights this week's primetime games, but there's still a couple other options. Before the Irish kickoff against Temple, Michigan travels to Minneapolis to face the Gophers. Minnesota has been plagued by injuries this year, and might be outmatched by the Wolverines. This game is Michigan's first game since the "Fail to the Victors" punt return, so it may be interesting to see how Jim Harbaugh's team responds to such a heartbreaking (more like heartwarming, amirite) loss to Sparty. To finish up the night, Stanford continues their death march through the PAC-12 in Pullman. The Cougars have just one conference loss and sit at second in the North behind the Cardinal. Christian McCaffery has emerged as a Heisman contender, and the shaky Cougars defense will be tested by the punishing Cardinal offensive line.