Opening Lines: Critical games highlight Week 9 slate

Here's the first look at point spreads for Week 9 of college football, which is highlighted by a pair of games that are likely to impact the four-team playoff.

 

The Week 9 college football slate is highlighted by a pair of games that have significant impact on the four-team playoff, as Clemson faces Florida State and Utah hosts Washington.

There are a handful of other intriguing matchups, and spreads were posted late Sunday afternoon.

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We took an initial look at the lineup with input from Bookmaker.eu spokesman Scott Cooley:

Washington at Utah (+10.5), Sat., 3:30 p.m. ET

This game is of paramount importance for the Huskies, who likely need an undefeated regular-season run and Pac-12 title to reach the playoffs.

They will face serious resistance from a Utah team that is historically tough at home and is coming off a 52-45 road win over UCLA to improve to 7-1. Washington predictably rolled to a 41-17 win over Oregon State but failed to cover the massive 37-point spread.

"This is a massive game for Washington regarding playoff implications, because this and the conference championship may be the only ones left to impress the committee," Cooley said. "That said, Kyle Whittingham will have his guys ready to go, and sharper bettors don't usually shy away from getting double digits in Salt Lake City."

Florida vs. Georgia (+6) in Jacksonville, Fla., Sat., 3:30 p.m. ET

Once dubbed the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Florida-Georgia rivalry used to also be noted for offering an intoxicating football game.

But both programs appear to be in transitional modes, as Georgia is 4-3 after a solid start and Florida is 5-1 but lost to Tennessee, the only quality team on its schedule thus far.

"We felt good making the Gators around a touchdown favorite on a neutral field against a vastly overrated Georgia bunch," Cooley said. "It's a big rivalry, but these teams have a big gap between them in terms of our power ratings. This number could climb."

Auburn at Ole Miss (+2), Sat., 7:15 p.m. ET

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was on the proverbial hot seat just a few weeks ago. Now, his team is on fire, as the Tigers have won four straight, including Saturday?s 56-3 thumping of Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss dropped to 3-4 on the heels of its second straight loss. The Rebels led for much of the first half and were tied with LSU at intermission, before their signature second-half implosion helped the Tigers take a 38-21 win.

"Gus Malzahn is one of the hottest play-callers in college right now, and the job that the defense has done recently is impressive," Cooley said. "But let's see how they look against a quality team with absolutely no pressure on its shoulders."

Clemson at Florida State (+3.5), Sat., 8 p.m. ET

Losses to Louisville and North Carolina likely knocked the Seminoles out of the playoff picture, but they can make life difficult for rival Clemson if they pull an upset Saturday.

Both teams will come in off byes after Florida State held off Wake Forest and the Tigers beat N.C. State 24-17 in overtime after the Wolfpack missed a short field-goal attempt in regulation that would have given them the win as a 20-pioint underdog.  

This line opened at Clemson -2.5 but already had reached 3.5 by Sunday evening.

"Neither team has been overly impressive in the eyes of the public, so it's hard to say where the square wagers will go, but they?ll likely side with the undefeated squad," Cooley said. "We saw the wiseguys fade Clemson in that Louisville matchup, and they may do the same here. No telling where this spread will head."