It's Wednesday, it's time to make some college football picks, and I'm just going to be honest: I kind of hate this week's board.
That's not an excuse after a 3-4 week last week, but reality. The bottom line is that it's now Week 7, and at this point, we kind of know these teams. So there aren't any amazing nuggets to dig up, or lines that are totally off base. Everything kind of feels about right, and instead when making these picks, we're stuck trying to figure things out like "Which team coming off a loss bounces back better" and "which team has quit on its coach less than the other."
Add in a bunch of good teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan) being on byes, and while there are a lot of intriguing games, there just aren't a ton I love.
Still, the show must go on.
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Now, to the picks:
Clemson at Syracuse (UNDER 45): Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
One, as bad as Clemson has stunk this year - and boy oh boy do they stink - it's still weird typing out a preview without a ranking next to their name. What a strange season.
And two, I know the smart bet is probably to just take Syracuse and the points here. After all, Clemson is one of only a handful of teams in college football that has yet to cover the spread in a single game this season.
Still, to me the smarter bet is the UNDER.
One, here are the total points scored in Clemson's games against FBS opponents this season: 13 (Georgia), 22 (Georgia Tech), 49 (NC State - in double overtime) and 34 (Boston College). Basically, their games haven't gone over 34 points in regulation all year, which is just an absolutely absurd stat.
Two, with Clemson coming off a bye I expect their defense to be refreshed, but I'm not sure how much it helped the offense all that much. Their leading rusher Will Shipley is still out, and I just don't think that DJ Uiagalelei will suddenly become a super efficient passer with one week off.
I could see Clemson winning this game 20-3, or losing it outright.
The one thing I can't see is either team scoring a million points in this one.
No. 21 Texas A&M at Missouri (+8.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Throughout the season, a few narratives have popped up that have kind of left me scratching my head. When Alabama came out of Week 1 dominating a bad Miami team and everyone said "It's Alabama and everyone else" I kind of said, "Huh? I don't know if I see that." Same with When UCLA beat LSU and everyone deemed them a savior in the Pac-12 because of one victory.
And we got another one last week. When Texas A&M beat Alabama, I was kind of shocked how many media members deemed it to be some sort of season-altering win, that will somehow propel Texas A&M back to the top of the sport.
Yes, it was a great performance and awesome moment. But I don't buy that A&M's problems were somehow all fixed over the course of a three-hour period at Kyle Field.
Look, the win was obviously incredible, and credit to Jimbo Fisher for having his guys locked in. At the same time, Alabama still comfortably outgained the Aggies (522 yards to 379) and Zach Calzada had the game of his life, a game that seems very unlikely that he'll replicate ever again. Sorry, but after throwing for 286 yards combined against Arkansas and Mississippi State, and then going for 285 against Alabama, I find it hard to believe that he's going to hit that number again this week.
Ultimately I'm a bit worried about Missouri's defense, a program which actually has the worst run defense in all of college football.
But the Tigers can put up points in a hurry (they're averaging nearly 38 per game on the season). And add in the fact that the Aggies have to go on the road, in a noon kick-off, off the biggest win of the season, I could see the scenario where they come out flat here.
The Aggies played the game of their lives last week against Alabama. But I don't see them as a fundamentally different team than who they were the rest of the season.
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 1 Georgia (-23): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
So I'm just going to put it out there: This game is giving me big, "Arkansas vs. Georgia from a few weeks ago vibes." You know, the upstart team comes in, we look at the line and say "how can the number be that high?" Then Georgia steamrolls to victory.
Look, I love what Kentucky has done this season, and Mark Stoops' rebuild of the 'Cats is one of the best stories in recent college football history. That should never be taken away from this team and program.
But can we have a real conversation about this team?
One, after an off-season of hearing how revamped this Kentucky offense would be under new coordinator Liam Coen (who came in from the NFL), here's where we are seven weeks into the season: Kentucky ranks 115th nationally in pass attempts this season. Will Levis has attempted more than 20 passes just once in four SEC games this season. Can't lie, for all the hype, the offense looks awfully familiar to what it was in previous years under former coordinator Eddie Gran.
Beyond let's dig a little deeper into Kentucky's SEC wins this season: Three of the four came at home. The one road win was by six points at South Carolina, in which they turned the ball over three times. The others were Missouri, where UK held on for dear life after jumping out to a big lead. The Florida game they were comfortably outgained. And then there was last week against LSU, which was by far, their best performance of the season.
I guess all of this is me trying to say that Kentucky's offense is becoming increasingly one-dimensional, and in the one road game they played this season, crowd noise was clearly a factor.
Georgia comes into this one a little bit banged up, but I believe their defense will keep doing what it's continued to do. I'm thinking something like a 31-6 final score here.
No. 5 Alabama at Mississippi State (+17.5): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Shame on me. I'm seriously mad at myself. Two weeks ago after the Tide beat Ole Miss, on the same day that Georgia crushed Arkansas, a narrative came out that it was clearly "Alabama, Georgia and everyone else."
In my head, I said "Was Alabama really that impressive? Or did Lane Kiffin gift the Tide 21 points by going for it three times on fourth down in Alabama territory? I knew what the answer was, but continued to sell myself the narrative that Alabama was elite.
Well they're not - a point proven in the loss to Texas A&M Saturday, and my theory is this: I believe that the attrition Alabama has from losing so many elite players the last two years (including four first round wide receivers, two first round QB's and two first round offensive tackles in the last two years) has finally caught up with them. Again, this is a very talented Alabama team. I'm not sure it's elite though.
Finally, let me throw one more crazy stat at you: Know how Zach Calzada had the game of his life last Saturday in College Station. It's secretly a pretty recurring trend for Alabama this year.
I looked it up, and Bama is giving up a 68 percent completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks in SEC games this year.
Mississippi State comes into this one off of a bye, and in Alabama's two SEC road games this year, they've won by two points (Florida) and lost to A&M.
But Mike Leach, Will Rogers and the cowbells do enough to keep things close.
I'm thinking something like a 34-24 final score.
No. 13 Ole Miss at Tennessee (+3): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
So this is kind of the perfect example of the game I'm talking about above: At this point, we know plenty about both of these teams. You can pore over stats and box scores, but there really isn't anything you're going to learn that you don't already know.
So while I'd love to have some kind of great, detailed analytical analysis on why I think Tennessee is going to keep things close this week, instead this pick is more based on feel.
The feel is a few things:
One, Tennessee is actually playing great ball the last few weeks. Yes, I know that they "only" played Missouri and South Carolina, but when you put up 35+ points in the first half of each game, you're humming.
More importantly, the good play has led to what will be an absolutely insane scene at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
Yes, by now we all know that Lane Kiffin was once the head coach at Tennessee. And yes, he has returned to Neyland Stadium before as Alabama's offensive coordinator.
But this game feels much, much different.
One, he's the head coach on the other sideline for the first time. And two, Tennessee is playing well and the fans want to win. This isn't Kiffin coming in with Alabama in a game that everyone knows will be a blowout. This is Kiffin coming into town with UT playing great ball, and looking for a three-game win streak.
Because of it, I think there will be real venom in the air, and the one thing has been indisputable in college football this season is this: Home field advantage matters this season more than ever.
We saw Florida basically unable to snap the ball at Kentucky two weeks ago because the crowd was so loud. We saw Alabama a jumbled mess along the offensive line thanks to crowd noise as well.
Now we get the first sellout at Tennessee in four years, for a night game against their former coach? That place is going to bonkers.
And Tennessee does enough to get the cover.
No. 20 Florida (-10.5) at LSU: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN - History tells us LSU won't get blown out here. They've won eight of 11 against Florida, and the three losses were all by one score or less. Oh, and LSU won last year outright as a 24.5-point underdog in the Swamp. But this week, LSU lost its best offensive player (Kayshon Boutte) and best remaining defensive player (Eli Ricks) to season-ending injuries, and that's on top of the loss of Derek Stingley Jr. If I had to pick, I'd take LSU to keep it close, but with those injuries, I can't, in good conscience do it.
Auburn at No. 17 Arkansas (-3.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, CBS - To pick this game, I need to decide who is less beat up - Auburn after a physically draining game against Georgia? Or Arkansas after a second straight loss. The Hogs returning home, and Bo Nix likely doing something weird to cost his team points make me think "take the Hogs." But again, I'd rather just stay away and enjoy.
No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 25 Texas (-5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX - For the 3000th time this article, let me ask: How does a team handle coming off a devastating, emotional loss like Texas did last Saturday? I don't want to find out with my hard-earned money on the line here.
TCU at No. 4 Oklahoma (-13.5): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC - TCU stinks, and Lincoln Riley is going to do whatever he can to get both Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler reps, keep them happy and both on the roster. If you have a great feel for this one, good for you. But it simply feels like lighting money on fire to me.
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