- Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.
Odds always hint at chaos. Week 9 of the college football season seems pretty straightforward on paper — four teams in the AP top five are playing, and they’re all favored by healthy margins as they gear up for bigger games, with greater College Football Playoff consequences, on the horizon.
Tennessee (69% win probability vs. Kentucky, per SP+), Ohio State (74% at Penn State), Georgia (86% vs. Florida) and Michigan (90% vs. Michigan State) each have healthy odds of surviving the weekend with their unbeaten records intact, but the cumulative odds of an upset are still pretty high. Mash those four odds together, and there is only a 40% chance of all four teams winning. Add unbeaten TCU’s trip to West Virginia into the mix, and those odds shrink to 28%.
We don’t know where Week 9 is going to strike, but the odds of at least one big name slipping up are solid. Throw in the latest round of potentially incredible Big 12 games, the beginning of Illinois’ life as Big Ten West favorite, the latest episode of “As Texas A&M Turns,” bounce-back opportunities for Syracuse, USC and UCLA, and games with huge Group of 5 title consequences (Cincinnati-UCF, Toledo-Eastern Michigan, Coastal Carolina-Marshall), and you’ve got yourself an entertaining Saturday.
Here’s everything you need to follow in Week 9.
A test of Tennessee’s well-roundedness
No. 19 Kentucky at No. 3 Tennessee (7 p.m., ESPN/ESPN app)
Tennessee has proven its top-five bona fides. The Volunteers’ offense is either the best or second-best in the country, depending on how heavily one leans on the “ain’t played nobody” factor with Ohio State. The run defense is legit, holding Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs to 4.3 yards per carry and hemming in both efficient LSU and explosive Florida attacks. They’re fifth in both SP+ and FPI. They’re CFP contenders by any definition.
From a matchups perspective, however, they’ve got their hands full this weekend. Mark Stoops’ Kentucky Wildcats play some of the most physical football in the country, and they’re as close to full strength as they’ve been all year. If the Vols are even slightly looking ahead to next week’s titanic battle at Georgia, they’re going to get popped in the mouth.
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