College Football Week Eight Picks
With a very weak slate of games this week, this Top 25 battle in the SEC West qualifies as the marquee matchup on the schedule. Texas A&M is licking it's hounds from a poor performance at home against Alabama, while Ole Miss is coming off a disappointing loss to Memphis. Both teams will bring explosive offenses to the table, particularly the Aggies. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen had far from his best showing against the Crimson Tide, but he appears ready to recover this week. Tra Carson is an explosive back who will hope to add some punch to the A&M running game, while true freshman Christian Kirk has been a revelation at receiver, joining underrated Josh Reynolds. Plus, they will face an Ole Miss defense that could be without one of their best players, defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche, who is still recovering from a concussion. Without him, Texas A&M should be able to have some major success against the Rebels on the ground. Meanwhile, the Rebels' offense is trying to get back on track after a poor week against Memphis. Chad Kelly continues to impress with his rocket of an arm, but he has made some terrible throws in key situations for Ole Miss and he continues to have his ups-and-downs. Laquon Treadwell, Quincy Adeboyejo and Cody Core give him plenty of weapons to work with, especially against an Aggies' secondary that is not known as a particular strong unit. Although the defense as a whole has not been exactly dominant for Texas A&M it still has been a major upgrade from previous years under first-year John Chavis, who arrived from LSU. Myles Garrett continues to dominate at defensive end, and the sophomore should be active in taking down Kelly. Overall, this should be a very intriguing game. Both teams are crazy talented, but have underachieved in some key areas. With the loser dropping two games in the conference, it essentially an elimination game for SEC West contention. While Ole Miss has all the talent to get the job done, they haven't performed very well in second halves all season. I think Texas A&M should be able to come out of the Alabama matchup and attack the Rebels and win, even on the road.
Texas A&M, 34 Ole Miss, 24
8 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Tennessee Volunteers 2:30 pm (CT) on CBS
Entering the season, this could very well have been a preview of the SEC Championship and could have serious Playoff implications. Unfortunately, Tennessee has underachieved a lot this season and enter this game 3-3 against an Alabama team that has punished Georgia and Texas A&M. The Tide are getting impressive production on the offensive end, helped by the fact Florida State transfer Jake Coker seems to have figured out after being benched in favor of Cooper Bateman. It helps that Coker has found a lethal weapon in freshman Calvin Ridley, who has taken over Amari Cooper's spot. Ridley isn't huge, but he has incredible speed and explosiveness and the Tennessee defense will have to work very hard to stop him. The Tide will also bring two great backs, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drkae, to the equation. The Tennessee rush defense took a major hit when linebacker Curt Maggit was lost for the season. Unless someone steps up, Henry could very well run all over the Volunteers' defense. The Tide will also bring plenty of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, countering a Tennessee offense that has had their ups-and-downs. Josh Dobbs has played well for Tennessee at quarterback but he will have to be very smart against the Tide. Cornerback Eddie Jackson and a number of other future NFL defensive backs dominated Kyle Allen a week ago, and if Dobbs isn't smart they will do much the same. After a hot start, Jalen Hurd has somewhat slowed down, and he will not have an easier matchup this week. Led by massive A'Shawn Robinson and linebacker Reggie Ragland, Alabama has proven that their rush defense is stingy. That will force Dobbs and the Vols' plethora of playmakers at receiver to step up in a big way. Tennessee has had a very disappointing season, highlighted by tough losses to Florida and Oklahoma. But, Butch Jones took some major heat off his seat when Tennessee beat Georgia last week and he has an opportunity for his truly signature win for the Volunteers. Unfortunately, I have serious questions about their rush defense holding up against Henry and Drake, and their own rushing game having much success. Unless Tennessee can create some crazy magic on the road, the Tide should continue rolling on.
Alabama, 28 Tennessee, 17
3 Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans 6:30 pm (CT) on FOX
Even sitting at 3-3 and with an intern head coach, USC is actually favored to beat Utah. That should serve as extra motivation for the third-ranked Utes, who will hope to continue building their strong resume. Talent is no problem for the Trojans and they will bring a number of weapon on both sides of the ball to the table against the Utes. Cody Kessler has not been as good as expected, and struggled mightily against Washington. Though, there is no denying how great of a player Kessler is when he is on his game, and he has exciting JuJu Smith to work with on the outside. On defense, do-it-all linebacker/safety Su'a Cravens will lead a Trojans defense that has been solid all year. Though, that USC defense hasn't faced an offense likes Utah. Sure, the Utes aren't exactly very explosive and don't have a lot of big names but they are extremely methodical and they know how to move the ball effectively. Senior back Devontae Booker has put himself in the Heisman conversation with his play so far this season. Booker isn't going to break open games every time he touches the ball, at least not usually, but he is a workhorse with excellent vision. Paired with senior quarterback Travis Wilson, who is having a resurgent season, the Utes should be able to move the ball with success. The key for Utah in this one will be forcing turnovers and limiting big plays. Kessler has struggled with interceptions mightily all year, and it doesn't help that Utah defensive back Marcus Williams is one of the NCAA's leaders in picks. The Utes will also have to contain the number of USC playmakers. When the Trojans can't produce big plays, their explosive offense becomes a lot more average and one-dimensional, too lenient on the pass. If Utah can force turnovers and limit the big plays, while also getting enough contributions from Booker and Wilson offensively, they should roll past 'SC even playing on the road.
Utah, 35 USC, 23
1 Ohio State, 30 Rutgers, 17
Texas Tech, 44 17 Oklahoma, 42
9 Florida State, 27 Georgia Tech, 14
5 LSU, 38 Western Kentucky, 30
6 Clemson, 34 Miami, 20
Current Picks Record: 41-15