It’s Friday, and you know what that means: another edition of the single best college football picks column on the internet! You’re welcome, America!
The picks have been solid the last few weeks and have given you a few big wins that others haven’t (Miami over Florida State, Washington State over USC two weeks ago), but this week we’re going to pick it up a notch and go 5-0.
So what are the games you should watch, and what should be the picks? Here ya go:
No. 10 Auburn at LSU: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
College football is a funny sport. After losing to Troy two weeks ago – a Troy team which lost to South Alabama on Wednesday night, by the way – everyone was crushing LSU and calling for Ed Orgeron’s head. Then the Tigers went to Florida last week, picked up a win, and all of a sudden Coach O is off the hook and all the focus is on the struggling Gators (more on them coming).
However: Are we sure the Tigers picked up a solid win last week? Or are LSU and Florida both bad, and LSU just happened to be less bad last Saturday? That’s what I think it is. I also think it will rear its ugly head this weekend.
That’s because as bad as LSU has been this year, Auburn has been quietly just as good. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers are 5-1, with their sole loss coming at Clemson in a one-possession game. Considering how well Clemson has played since then, that loss doesn’t look so bad. Keep in mind that Auburn has played its best football of late, winning its last three SEC games by an average of 30 points. An average of 30!
Most importantly, on Saturday, their strength (the run attack) will go directly against LSU’s weakness (run defense). For all the hype that Bryce Love and Saquon Barkley have gotten this year, Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson leads the FBS with 12 rushing touchdowns. He has tallied at least 100 yards in three of the four games he’s played this season. Meanwhile, LSU ranks just 52nd nationally in run defense, a sad reality for how far (and how fast) this program has fallen.
Auburn hasn’t won at LSU since 1999. That will change Saturday.
The pick: Auburn 24, LSU 16
Texas vs. No. 12 Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
One of college football’s greatest rivalries has taken on extra intrigue this Saturday after Oklahoma’s stunning loss to Iowa State last week. Now this game is no longer just about the Sooners trying to roll over their rivals, but instead fighting for their College Football Playoff lives. A loss here and Oklahoma is out of the playoff picture, just weeks after being a presumed favorite to get in.
It probably doesn’t help that the Sooners are facing an improved Texas team, with a coach who thrives in big games.
That’s right, remember that before the Texas-USC game weeks ago I told you to look out for the Longhorns, specifically because of Tom Herman, who is already one of college football’s best big-game coaches. He went 6-0 against ranked opponents at Houston (including wins over Florida State, Oklahoma and Louisville). His one loss to a ranked team at Texas came in double overtime, on the road at USC.
Now the Longhorns have a couple additional weeks of seasoning. Their defense has been much improved under coordinator Todd Orlando (even if they struggled last week against Kansas State) and Sam Ehlinger has quietly wrangled the starting quarterback job from Shane Buechele.
With Oklahoma’s backs against the wall, I believe the Sooners will win. But against an improved rival, they will have to fight right down to the wire, in a game that will turn into a surprising defensive slugfest.
The Pick: Oklahoma 31, Texas 28
Texas A&M at Florida: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Although this game has no College Football Playoff or even SEC title significance, it sure is important. For Kevin Sumlin, it ultimately might decide his job; if he can win here, he’s probably looking at a 9-3 or (at worst) 8-4 season. If he loses, the wheels could fall off quickly. On the opposite sideline, would a loss here would turn up the heat on Jim McElwain? If the Gators were to fall, they would be 3-3 with back-to-back losses at home. Not exactly a way to endear yourself to a fan base, huh?
So yeah, this game is massive. Because both teams have been so up and down it’s hard to know exactly where to lean. My hunch tells me Texas A&M.
That’s because while Florida has been inconsistent all year, A&M has seemingly gotten better each and every week. For lack of a better term, the Aggies “know who they are”: a team which plays great defense, runs the ball, and tries to mask the fact that Kellen Mond is limited in the passing game. As for Florida, do we have any idea who the Gators are seven weeks into the season? To me, they still don’t have an identity or a quarterback.
Maybe that has magically changed in the last few days, but I doubt it. The Aggies get a win on the road.
The Pick: Texas A&M 24, Florida 20
Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama: Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
While it’s a little unfair to say that “Arkansas has quit on Bret Bielema,” a legitimate case could be made that the Razorbacks are the lousiest team in college football that no one actually realizes is lousy. Because so much of the focus in the SEC is on Tennessee, LSU and Florida, what few realize is that the Hogs are now 2-3, and their best win is against, gulp… New Mexico State. Woof.
What’s concerning isn’t just that Arkansas is playing poorly, but seemingly getting worse by the week. It’s one thing to lose to TCU or even A&M as Arkansas did earlier in the year, but what about last week’s 48-22 loss to South Carolina? How do you give up 48 points to a team which hadn’t scored more than 17 in its previous three games? That’s absolutely inexcusable.
That’s the scary part: Take a group which isn’t playing all that well, add in the fact that quarterback Austin Allen is banged up with a shoulder injury, and now you have to go to Tuscaloosa on a Saturday night? Even worse, you have to go to Tuscaloosa after the Crimson Tide are coming off a tough road win, which got Nick Saban pissed off and fired up afterward?
This is going to be a bloodbath. Alabama wins huge.
The Pick: Alabama 42, Arkansas 10
No. 9 Ohio State at Nebraska: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FS1
While so much of college football is focused on the top few teams (Alabama, Clemson, Penn State), what most people have failed to realize is that Ohio State might be the hottest team in college football over the last month.
Want some crazy stats? Too bad, I’m going to give them to you anyway. In their four games since Ohio State lost to Oklahoma, the Buckeyes have beaten the opposition by an average of 42 points. An AVERAGE of 42! In the last two games, they’ve been up by an average score of 38-0 at halftime. Wait, what!?!
By the way, did I mention that they held Maryland to 66 yards of total offense last weekend? Sixty-Six. Wait, WHAT!?!? That’s right — Ohio State is rolling, and I don’t expect it to slow down Saturday.
It will be an emotional night in Lincoln, where Nebraska is honoring its 1997 national championship team, but emotion will only take the Cornhuskers so far. This game might be close for a quarter, or even two, but Ohio State will run away with it in the end.
The Pick: Ohio State 41, Nebraska 7