2016 College Football Picks: Week Three
|Lamar Jackson, Louisvlle|
Current Record: 10-6
2 Florida State Seminoles vs. 10 Louisville Cardinals
Before the 2016 season began, Florida State and Clemson were widely considered the ACC powers, and it seemed nobody was picking anybody but either the Tigers or 'Noles to win the league. Through the first couple weeks, both FSU and Clemson are still in the driver's seat, but Louisville is attempting to make things interesting. The Cardinals have opened up the season on fire behind Heisman candidate Lamar Jackson. Jackson, a true sophomore QB, has a staggering 13 touchdowns on the year after just two games, which is more than 115 FBS teams have in total. Those are insane numbers, but he will get a much bigger test in the Florida State defense than either Charlotte or Syracuse. The Seminoles bring a defense stocked to the brim with speed and athleticism, and are especially dangerous in back, where safeties Nate Andrews and Derwin James are so versatile. Jackson is a great passer but is particularly dangerous with his legs, where he can break open games. Florida State will need to play contain often up front and their defenders have to be able to tackle the quarterback in space or else he is going to wreak havoc. Jackson is one special talent, but he will also need some support around him. That means that receiver James Quick and the Cardinals' ground game will need to emerge, which could be an issue considering the Seminoles have been stout against the run all year. On the other side, FSU also has a young quarterback putting on a clinic, but not quite at the volume of Jackson. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois has shown great toughness and resiliency early on in his career, and will be supported by Travis Rudolph and speedsters Kermit Whitfield and Jesus "Bobo" Wilson on the outside. After pounding defenses last season, Dalvin Cook hasn't quite put up the same numbers although he has got less opportunities as FSU has tried to save his legs. He is still one of the most dominant players in college football, and will face an interesting battle against a great Louisville linebacker corps led by Stacy Thomas. I have wavered back and forth on my pick in this game, which will kick off right away noon eastern time. On one hand, FSU is probably more talented up and down their roster and has beaten a proven team in Ole Miss already this season. However, Louisville is riding a wave of momentum, and gets the Seminoles on the road. Jackson probably won't put up 600 yards of total offense in this one, but I think he can do enough to help the Cards sneak away with a huge victory.
Louisville, 31 Florida State, 27
1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. 19 Ole Miss Rebels
The past two years, Ole Miss has beaten Alabama, in games that seemingly turned the college football world upside down. Alabama has recovered both times to charge into the College Football Playoff, but the wins by the Rebels were still important in showing that the bully that is Alabama could be beaten, and that Ole Miss was continuing to rise. The Rebels will try to win once more against the feared Tide, who have shown no mercy early in 2016. Ole Miss will have a quarterback who knows how to beat 'Bama in senior Chad Kelly, who played great in the matchup a season ago. The strong-armed signal-caller can make all the throws and his playmaking ability can test the Tide's defense. However, he will need some more help around him to succeed, as the Rebels' ground attack has been nonexistent early and the offensive line will have to face a terrifying Tide pass rush that includes likely All-Americans Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen. A big key for Kelly will be playing smart and under control; he has so much talent he sometimes gets lazy and makes dumb throws. He got some lucky bounces against the Tide last season but Alabama could be even better defensively, so don't expect that to happen again. Ole Miss' defense will try to rattle true freshman Jalen Hurts, who has looked good early but still has some flaws. He is a great runner and playmaker, but has gotten a ton of help from his supporting cast. In order to beat great teams on the road, he will need to make some huge throws and handle the environment, which he doesn't done just yet. Having All-American receiver Calvin Ridley and dynamic tight end O.J. Howard will help, as will having a punishing ground attack. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough have looked like they can handle the load early and will look to feast on a Rebels' defense that isn't very deep, which is important because Alabama has their most offensive success running the ball later in games when the defense is tired. If Alabama pounds the ball against the Rebels and doesn't get flashy like they did last year (which contributed to their five turnovers), they should be in prime position to wear down Ole Miss. The past two seasons I've picked Alabama to win this matchup, and have watched as the Rebels have looked like the better team (only to fall apart a few weeks later, while 'Bama rolls to an SEC title). That shouldn't be the case this year; Nick Saban is too good of a coach and 'Bama is too disciplined to lose to the same opponent three years in a row, no matter how talented.
Alabama, 34 Ole Miss, 23
3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. 14 Oklahoma Sooners
Few programs in college football have the history and tradition of both Ohio State and Oklahoma. The two schools have produced some amazing talent and won a ton of big games, and now get a chance to prove which one is better in an intriguing non-conference battle. Ohio State has looked terrific early on, but it is hard to get a read on them, considering the fact they've beaten down Bowling Green and Tulsa. We know senior QB J.T. Barrett can put on a show, but he didn't dominate Tulsa last week and will face an interesting matchup with the Sooners' D. Oklahoma didn't contain the pass very well in their opening-loss to Houston, but they have had time to prepare for Barrett and will try to pressure him in different ways. Barrett will be helped by an underrated Ohio State rushing attack, which is led by powerful Mike Weber and explosive Curtis Samuel, who can hurt defenses in so many different ways. Ohio State's offensive line has also played well early, which will be critical against OU's dynamic defensive end Charles Walker, who will play a key role. Big news was made this week when Oklahoma backup quarterback Austin Kendall called Ohio State's defense "basic" and bet that Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield would throw and run all over it. The Buckeyes have looked wonderful early on that side of the ball, and will try to prove Kendall wrong in a big way. The front seven is headlined by Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis, two terrific pass rushers, while do-it-all linebacker Raekwon McMillan can take over games. Mayfield's elusiveness and talent will help him evade those Buckeyes, but he could still feel plenty of pressure. He'll look to expose Ohio State over the top, where they are still reloading from many NFL Draft losses. Oklahoma's ground attack hasn't been the beast many expected prior to the season, so the Sooners will be hoping Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon can get it going. Hoping to keep themselves in the Playoff mix, Oklahoma should go all out in this one, especially playing in front of the home folks. While Kendall may believe Mayfield can dominate OSU, I'm not as convinced with what the Buckeyes possess on that side of the ball. It could be a very tight game, but Ohio State has looked better early, and should be able to claim a victory on the road.
Ohio State, 35 Oklahoma, 30
18 Notre Dame, 28 12 Michigan State, 24
7 Stanford, 27 USC, 17
17 Texas A&M, 34 Auburn, 24
11 Texas, 33 California, 26
24 Arkansas, 23 Texas State, 10