Despite the college football schedule in Week 9 not being the best we’ve seen so far this 2020 season — tune in next week for a stellar slate — there are some compelling games on the card Saturday, especially for those who are a bit more focused on picking games against the spread. Namely, one of the most important Big Ten games of the year is set for Saturday evening as No. 3 Ohio State travels to No. 18 Penn State as a 12-point favorite. The Nittany Lions are hoping to avoid an 0-2 start after an upset loss to Indiana last week, while the Buckeyes are trying to make a statement to the rest of the college football world.
This weekend also gives fans their first opportunity to watch Mike Leach coach against Nick Saban as Alabama plays host to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs enter the matchup reeling and are massive underdogs because of it. The Tide, meanwhile, are clicking on all cylinders despite losing Jaylen Waddle for the season after he suffered a broken ankle last week.
Our experts at CBS Sports are here to help you navigate what game to play with expert picks both straight up and against the spread. Let’s take a look at four key games this weekend. Be sure to stick with CBS Sports throughout the day for college football coverage from the opening kickoff at noon to the final whistle of day.
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook | All times Eastern
No. 5 Georgia (-17) at Kentucky — noon on SEC Network: Expect a low-scoring game thanks to the scheme of these two teams and the first cold weather game of the season. That will play right into the hands of the Bulldogs, who not only want to do that every game but will also want to open the playbook to let Stetson Bennett IV get more comfortable heading into next week’s rivalry game with Florida. Give me the Bulldogs, and give them to me big. Pick: Georgia (-17) — Barrett Sallee
No. 13 Michigan (-25) at Michigan State — noon on Fox: Listen, you’re not going to be excited to do it, nor will you be all that comfortable watching, but this line is an overreaction to last week. Michigan State turned the ball over seven times and lost, while Michigan took advantage of fantastic field position and a Minnesota team missing a host of starters. The Wolverines are the better team and will win this game far more often than they lose it, but this spread should not be near this large. I’d take Michigan State +17, so if you want to give me 25 points, I’ll take them. Pick: Michigan State (+25) — Tom Fornelli
Texas at No. 6 Oklahoma State (-3.5) — 4 p.m. on Fox: This is a big game for both teams. Texas needs to turn a corner and Oklahoma State could pad its lead in the conference race. The Pokes’ defense is going to be key, again, particularly in their downfield coverage against Texas’ wide receivers. If Oklahoma State wins that battle, that gives them a big leg up. I’ll never count out Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger from making plays when he needs to, but Oklahoma State has been the more well-rounded team. Pick: Oklahoma State -3.5 — Ben Kercheval
Mississippi State at No. 2 Alabama (-31) — 7 p.m. on ESPN: We’ve hit that point where I’m going to consider the Crimson Tide covering these spreads like a check that arrives in the mail with regularity. Even the absence of Jaylen Waddle does not steer me off the idea that Alabama is operating at a level above the rest of the SEC. I just don’t think there’s a number against a team like Mississippi State, with all its woes, that would have me wanting to back the underdog. Pick: Alabama (-31) — Chip Patterson
No. 3 Ohio State (-12) at No. 18 Penn State — 7:30 p.m. on ABC: I don’t think this line would be so large had Penn State not lost to Indiana, but even so, I can’t pull the trigger on the Nittany Lions here. It’s pretty simple for me. While Penn State has a talented roster, it’s short at the running back spot, and the difference between these teams at the quarterback position is too vast. Sean Clifford is a perfectly suitable player for Penn State, but Justin Fields is in a different stratosphere, and that advantage will play out over 60 minutes. Lay the points. Pick: Ohio State (-12) — Tom Fornelli