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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:01 PM

Burning Questions - Week 9

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A look at the biggest variables facing teams entering this week's college football action:

Saturday

Central Michigan at Akron (-5/45.5), 12 p.m. ET: Will the Chippewas go full “youth movement” and start looking at how the true freshmen have progressed over the past few months? Will QB George Pearson be among those who will get their first college snaps on the road at Akron this weekend, replacing banged up starter Tommy Lazzaro? Can the Chips generate pressure without top DT Nathan Brisson-Fast, who was lost for the season with a leg injury on Saturday? Can sophomore Robi Stuart be a suitable replacement? Will CMU’s Lazzaro, RB Jonathan Ward, center Steve Epper and defensive ends Mike Danna and Mitch Stanitzek make it back from ailments that have their status in question? Can Akron QB Kato Nelson build on his third career game with over 300 yards of total offense? Can he avoid throwing an interception for a fifth straight game?

Wake Forest at Louisville (-2.5/66), 12 p.m. ET: Who gets their first ACC win? Can the Demon Deacons overcome injuries throughout their offensive line to keep their bowl hopes alive by getting back to .500 after being soundly defeated at Florida State? Can Louisville hold serve at home against the lone team with a losing record left on its schedule since remaining opponents after this one enter the weekend a combined 23-4? Will Wake WR Greg Dortch be back to his normal self after being cleared to play following an ankle injury that contributed to him finishing with a career-low 24 receiving yards vs. FSU? Can Deacs LBs Jake Simpson and Ryan Smenda, Jr. return to action or will safety Ryan Masterson continue playing out of position due to no depth at the position? Will the fresher Cardinals, coming off a bye, rise up to wear down a Wake team they had never lost to prior to last season’s 42-32 setback in Winston-Salem?

Wisconsin (-4/52.5) at Northwestern, 12 p.m. ET: Can the Wildcats overcome their 1-3 start with an upset here that would give it control of their own Big Ten West entering November games against Notre Dame and fellow division frontrunner Iowa? Will Wisconsin, having already defeated the Hawkeye, take control of a race for a third straight West title and conference championship g ame berth? Is Badgers’ QB Alex Hornibrook going to get out of concussion protocol prior to kickoff or will Jack Coan get his first career start? Will national leading rusher Jonathan Taylor dominate against a Northwestern run defense that has been sturdy, ranking fourth in the Big Ten in rushing? Can Wildcats QB Clayton Thorson find a way to be more consistent after struggling last week against lowly Rutgers? Will he and superback Cam Green be able to trouble a banged up Badgers defense still down multiple starters?

Army at Eastern Michigan (-1/47.5), 12 p.m. ET: With steady rain expected throughout this game, can Army handle the ball cleanly given how often they’re pitching it? Will QB Kelvin Hopkins require an adjustment period after missing last week’s 31-30 double-OT win over Miami (Ohio) with a hip injury? If sophomore Cam Thomas is pressed into action again, can he be as effective on the road as he was in rushing for 137 yards while not turning it over last weekend in West Point? Will safety James Gibson, who sat out with an upper body injury, return to help shore up the Black Knights’ secondary? Can Eastern’s suspect run defense contain RB Darnell Woolfolk and the nation’s second-most prolific rushing attack to keep from having time of possession used as a weapon against them on Homecoming? Who will EMU trust more, passer Tyler Wiegers or runner Mike Glass, whose elusiveness may provide more of an advantage in wet weather?

UMass (-4.5/64) at UConn, 12 p.m. ET: Can the Huskies pick up a win over an FBS squad in what will likely be their best opportunity to do so? Awful weather is expected, so who will the driving rain affect most? Will the UConn offensive line and speedy QB David Pindell victimize a UMass defense that's allowing a generous 273 rushing yards per game? Now that starting QB Andrew Ford is done for the season, can Ross Comis consistently find Andy Isabella and Sadiq Palmer despite the weather conditions to keep HC Mark Whipple's passing attack humming? With UConn fielding arguably the nation's worst defense, will it be able to build on holding a quality opponent like South Florida to 38 points, the first time it allowed fewer than 49 in a game this season?

Purdue (-1/48) at Michigan State, 12 p.m. ET: Can the Boilermakers come off the high of beating the Buckeyes for the first time since 2011 enough to be trusted on the road? Do the Spartans have much left after a physical, emotionally taxing loss to rival Michigan? Can Brian Lewerke make it back from a shoulder injury that has him listed as doubtful? Who steps up at receiver with top target Felton Davis now lost to a torn ACL and fellow WR Cody While sidelined? Can Lewerke's injured shoulder hold up if he goes or is it next man up with backup Rocky Lombardi? Does Sparty have the depth to overcome missing so many injured starters? Will key Boilers' DT Lorenzo Neal and CB Kenneth Major make it through four quarters since both come in banged up?


Vanderbilt(-1/53.5) at Arkansas, 12 p.m. ET: Which of the SEC's winless teams can put together a more consistent 60 minutes to earn their first league win? Can "Last Chance U's" Rakeem Boyd continue his ascent after ascending up the depth chart at running back? Will a 23-0 over Tulsa to earn its first FBS victory under Chad Morris help catapault the Hogs to a strong finish with LSU and MIssissippi State still on deck? Can the Commodores post just their second win in 11 chances against an SEC West opponent since 2013? Will getting RB KeShawn Vaughn back from injury help the 'Dores run the ball effectively against an Arkansas defense that has stopped the run effectively despite their struggles? Will QB Kyle Shurmur be able to take advantage of a secondary that has been victimized by injuries that may include safety Montari Brown and CB Jarques McClellion missing today's contest?

Texas Tech at Iowa State (-6/57), 12 p.m. ET: WIll Cyclones freshman QB Brock Purdy continue his rapid rise, having completed 75 percent of his passes and accounting for eight TDs over his first three games that have produced wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia? Weather should cooperate in Ames to allow the pass-happy Red Raiders from performing effectively, so can prolific freshman QB Alan Bowman continue his assault on Big 12 defenses? After retruning from a collapsed lung last week and throwing for over 400 yards against KU, can Bowman hold up against a formidable Cyclones defense? Will a Red Raiders secondary that has struggled in ranking last in the Big 12 in pass defense hold up on the road against physical receivers like Hakeem Butler?

Clemson (-17/50) at Florida State, 12 p.m. ET: Will Travis Etienne extend an unprecedented school-record by scoring three TDs in his fourth consecutive game? Can the Tigers respect the 'Noles in spite of how down the program is this season, understanding this was supposed to be perhaps their toughest test of the season? Does an FSU offensive line that has been a disaster most of the season have a prayer against a Clemson defensive front featuring future pros? Will the Tigers become the first ACC team to beat Florida State four stragiht times by feasting on the league's worst run defense due to that aforementioned awful line play? Will the absence of all-league center Justin Falcinelli throw off the offensive rhythm since replacement Gage Cervenka will now be counted on to call out protections on the road against a talented defensive front?

Bethune-Cookman at Nebraska (-13.5/65.5), 12 p.m. ET: Will 'Huskers RB Devine Ozigbo live up to Scott Frost calling him a "Sunday guy?" Can freshman QB Adrian Martinez impose his will on a lesser opponent after punching out of his weight class over his first few starts?

North Carolina at Virginia (-9/50), 12:20 p.m. ET: Having gotten help from Georgia Tech earlier this week, will the Cavs avoid an upset at the hands of the disappointing 'Heels to remain in the mix for the ACC Coastal title? Will Larry Fedora be able to keep his young team together on the heels of consecutive three-point losses to the Hokies and 'Cuse that they appeared to be in control of? Will Virginia continue to effectively stop the run to force UNC to beat it through the air? Will Virginia hold serve to earn its first home win over UNC in a decade?

Georgia (-6.5/52) vs. Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET: Can Jake Fromm's leadership make him invaluable regardless of whether he's struggling to move it or is it inevitable that the more elusive Justin Fields replaces him since he can be an asset against the stingy Gators? Will counterpart Feleipe Franks’ second showing against the Dawgs go much better than the first, which featured him throwing for 30 yards on 7-for-19 passing before he was benched? Will Dan Mullen's influence continue to make a huge difference? Will Kirby Smart be able to follow up last season's 42-7 rout in this game that made him the toast of Athens with another emphatic victory?

South Florida at Houston (-8.5/75), 3:30 p.m. ET: Will Ed Oliver play despite missing multiple practices this week or will the possible No. 1 overall pick be absent from the lineup after suffering a bruised right knee against Navy? Can the Bulls flourish in an underdog role they'll have to get used to over the next few weeks? Will South Florida be able to snap a three-game losing streak at the hands of U of H by getting more consistent play at QB from Blake Barnett?

Iowa at Penn State (-6/52), 3:30 p.m. ET: Can the Hawkeyes snap a losing streak against Penn State dating back to 2011? Will James Franklin be proven right that Iowa employs the best defensive front his team has seen in two years? Will Miles Sanders score the first rushing touchdown the stingy Hawkeyes have given up all season? Will the Nittany Lions avoid their first three-game home losing streak since Franklin's first season (2014)? Will Penn State WRs Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins play after injuries last week or will Iowa be able to key on the electric KJ Hamler?

Kentucky at Missouri (-7/55), 4 p.m. ET: Can SEC rushing leader Tony Snell excel in helping Kentucky control possession, keeping his defense fresh to go chasing Missouri QB Drew Lock? Will top Mizzou WR Emanuel Hall, still statistically the team's most effective target despite missing four of seven games, be able to make it back for this one? Can Nate Brown, also sidelined by a groin injury the past few weeks, join him in the mix? Who lines up under center for the 'Cats?

Texas (-3/62) at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET: Will Texas win a seventh straight game for the first time since they logged 17 consecutive victories from ’08 to ’09? How will Sam Ehlinger look after being limited by a shoulder injury? Will the deep ball still be a part of the Longhorns offense? Can Stillwater help an inconsistent Oklahoma State produced its top performance since an impressive win over Boise State? Will WRs Tyron Johnson and Tylan Wallace raise their level of play with Texas' future pros Collin Johnson and Lil'Jordan Humphrey in town to try and show them up?

Navy at Notre Dame (-10.5/61.5), 8 p.m. ET: Will a heavy Navy presence in San Diego make for a difficult atmosphere for Notre Dame? Can an offense that has scored 39.5 points under Ian Book after managing just 23.3 with Brandon Wimbush at QB continue to thrive thanks to improved passing accuracy? Is electric Navy playmaker Malcolm Perry healthy enough to give the Midshipmen a little turbo in order to keep things interesting? Can a Navy team that has dropped four straight games for the first time since 2011 use this game as a rallying point or find the challenge too formidable?

Oregon (-9.5/65) at Arizona, 10:30 p.m. ET: With earning bowl eligibility in Kevin Sumlin hinging on wins in three of the last four, can the 'Cats find a way to pull off the upset here to make for a memorable Homecoming? Is Khalil Tate's ankle healthy enough to go or will we see ex-head coach Rich Rodriquez's son Rhett start another game? Can Justin Herbert defeat Arizona for a second straight season to rebound from last week's tough loss at Washington State?

Hawai'i at Fresno State (-26/60), 10:30 p.m. ET: Will the Bulldogs end the Warriors' hopes of a West Division title by continuing to suffocate opponents defensively, having surrendered just 13 points through their first three Mountain West wins? Will national receiving leader John Ursua help QB Cole McDonald solve a defense that no one has had many answers for in October? Standout LB Jeffrey Allison being unable to play would go a long way in weakening Fresno State since he's a pro. Will he play?


Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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