College Football Week Ten Picks
The SEC West and Playoff race will continue to take shape, as two legit contenders square off in Oxford this weekend. Ole Miss, coming off their first loss of the year against LSU, will try to find their offensive spark once more, following a weak performance against the Tigers. Quarterback Bo Wallace struggled mightily against LSU and they will need him to be on his A game. The good news is that he will face an Auburn defense that isn't particularly strong. This is a pass defense that allowed 402 yards last Saturday to Dylan Thompson and South Carolina. Wallace will have his favorite target, sophomore Laquon Treadwell, ready to go along with sure-handed Vince Sanders. Along with the 1-2 punch of Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers, along with an O-Line that is playing well, Ole Miss will challenge the Tigers' defense in a variety of ways. Their defense did not play bad at all against LSU, holding those Tigers to just ten points. They did look soft against the run though occasionally and they received terrible news this past week: linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is done for the year. That isn't good news against Auburn, who averages around 280 yards on the ground per game, tenth in the nation. Nick Marshall continues to have his ups-and-downs through the air, but JUCO transfer Duke Williams has proven to be quite dangerous when Marshall can hit him down the field, with Sammie Coates making plays underneath. Cameron Artis-Payne continues to impress, while Auburn will also bring true freshman Roc Thomas and Corey Grant to the equation, testing that Rebels' run defense. Robert (Denzel's brother) will have to get penetration up the middle, while linebacker Serderius Bryant will have to be flying all over the place. This game is essentially an elimination game for Playoff and SEC West title hopes: the loser is out, while the winner has a big win down the stretch. Even coming off a pretty ugly loss last week, Ole Miss has the defense to get the job done at home, especially if Wallace rediscovers his big arm.
Ole Miss, 34 Auburn, 24
7 TCU vs. 20 West Virginia
West Virginia, who firmly put themselves on the nation's radar with an upset victory over Baylor, will try to get a huge victory in Morgantown against the Big 12's frontrunner, TCU. Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs are rolling on all cylinders, absolutely shredding Texas Tech's defense last week to the tune of 82 points. No, not a misprint, 82. QB Trevone Boykin continues to improve, week after week, throwing for seven scores against the Red Raiders last Saturday. Along with B.J. Catalon and wide receiver Josh Doctson, who could easily say the Horned Frogs' have the Big 12's best offense (even in a conference that includes Baylor, Oklahoma and yes, West Virginia) and possibly even the nation's. Their defense also appears up to the challenge against Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers. Trickett, an FSU transfer, who constantly struggled to make the big throws in his early career, has been absolutely spectacular this season. While having a Heisman candidate at receiver like Kevin White certainly helps, Trickett's poise and comfort in Dana Holgorsen's scheme has seen him turn into an All-Big 12 caliber QB. White, continues to shred defenses without much problems. After a big day in the opener against Alabama, White has only improved, already eclipsing 1,000 yards on the year, with eight touchdowns. Another transfer, Pitt castoff Rushell Shell, leadings a vastly improved run game that will keep defenses honest. The TCU defense has had a great year (especially if you ignore their second half against Baylor) and has an absolute run stuffer in legit All-American candidate Chucky Hunter. Paul Dawson is a superb linebacker, while defensive back Sam Carter will certainly be leaned on to help defend White and the other dangerous West Virginia receivers. Quietly, Mario Alford has had a superb year for West Virginia at receiver, and he could have a huge day if TCU focuses too much on White. If the Big 12 is to put a team into the Playoff the most likely case it is going to be one of these two teams, or possibly Kansas State. While both offenses are certain to put up points, it is really hard to pick against TCU, the way they are rolling.
TCU, 47 West Virginia, 35
5 Oregon vs. Stanford
While the Pac-12 South has two huge games this weekend (ASU vs. Utah, UCLA vs. Arizona) the Pac-12 North is far from decided, although Oregon has clearly emerged as the favorite. While the Ducks have been superb this year, they have been absolutely shut down against Stanford the last two years and the Cardinal defense is once more fantastic. They will bring a physical front seven to the table, one that includes A.J. Tarpley, along with a ton of disciplined, good open field tacklers. The Cardinal's discipline, and great tackling have made it very tough for Oregon to get anything going for the Ducks on the ground the last two years. Freshman Royce Freeman is coming off a great week but he has not faced a defense like Stanford's since Michigan State, where he wasn't used much. While the Stanford defense is once again great, they haven't seen a Marcus Mariota like this. The junior has grown into a better leader, better athlete and smarter quarterback. Now, the Heisman candidate will hope to push himself into the frontrunner position with another impressive victory. He will be aided by explosive athlete Devon Allen, along with a now relatively healthy offensive line, which didn't help him at all in the Ducks' loss to 'Zona. The Oregon defense has had its up-and-downs but it will get an opportunity to prove itself against the inconsistent Stanford offense. At times, Stanford's offense has been absolutely terrible but when QB Kevin Hogan plays well, they are usually in a good position. He does have explosive Michael Rector and Ty Montgomery, who can make plays down the field, to hopefully help him out. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has struggled at times this year, but there is no better cornerback in the entire nation than the senior when healthy and on his game. If he can make some plays and Oregon can play strong and physical against the Stanford O-Line they have a real chance to avenge the last two seasons' losses.
Oregon, 30 Stanford, 17
14 Arizona State, 42 17 Utah, 28
22 UCLA, 34 12 Arizona, 31
1 Mississippi State, 35 Arkansas, 20
11 Georgia, 27 Florida, 13
10 Notre Dame, 28 Navy, 22
Current Picks Record: 51-21