2016 College Football Picks: Week Nine
|Corey Clement, Wisconsin|
Current Record: 48-16
7 Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. 11 Wisconsin Badgers
While the headlines in the Big Ten have been dominated by Eastern Division powers Ohio State and Michigan (along with Michigan State's struggles), the conference still has plenty of talented teams out West that can still win the conference, mainly these two set to meet up in this battle. Nebraska has jumped out to a 7-0 overall record, including a 4-0 mark in the Big Ten. Even though they are ranked seventh in the nation, it is still hard to know how good they really are. The 'Huskers have only beaten two teams over .500 currently (Northwestern and Wyoming) and could be in store for a rough awakening against a tough Wisconsin squad. The Badgers are 5-2, but have proven they are legit, beating LSU while giving Michigan and OSU plenty of trouble. Wisconsin will rely on their fabulous rushing attack and methodical offense. Senior Corey Clement has been terrific this season after a down 2015, and looks to strike against a Nebraska rush defense that is definitely untested. They will also hope for a strong showing from solid quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Despite being very young, Hornibrook has looked very good against three very tough defenses (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State) and not intimidated at all. On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin has won games behind their stifling defense. Despite the fact the unit has broken in plenty of new pieces and is operating under a new defensive coordinator, it has been absolutely shutdown. Defensive end Chikwe Obasih is a veteran that brings chaos on the D-Line, while T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel are two of the most disciplined and insightful linebackers in the entire country. They will have to have a big day to contain the number of playmakers that Nebraska possesses in the backfield. Back Terrell Newby is rock-solid, and particularly dangerous in the red zone and short yardage situations. They will also have to contain senior QB Tommy Armstrong Jr., a dynamic dual threat. Over the years, Armstrong has played Wisconsin numerous times and has played well on the season. However, having much success against the Badgers' experienced secondary will not be easy. Nebraska very well could be one of the best teams in the nation, or still a pretender at this point. Going on the road in a tough environment will be a brutal test for Nebraska but they should be able to keep it close. Even so, the Badgers' powerful rushing attack and terrific defense should be enough to guide them to a victory.
Wisconsin, 28 Nebraska, 17
4 Washington Huskies vs. 17 Utah Utes
After missing out on the Playoff last season, the Pac-12 hopes to place a team in the four-team field this season, and they have a serious contender in undefeated Washington. The Huskies have been dominant all season long, but they are also a team lacking a clear, signature win. They blew out Stanford, but the Cardinal aren't as good as we once thought, evidenced by their recent slide to 4-3 and nobody else UW has beaten has been very good. They have a chance to prove themselves against the 7-1 Utah Utes, who are the favorite in the conference's South Division. Utah is far from flashy, but they win games with a familiar formula: running the ball and great defense. Running back Joe Williams is back after running all over UCLA to the tune of 332 yards and four touchdowns (while averaging a whooping 11.4 yards per carry). Williams isn't extremely explosive but his vision and elusiveness are wonderful, and while Washington's defense should be more prepared, they could have a tough test ahead of them. The Utes will need a good day from QB Troy Williams, a junior who has thrown for 1,725 yards on the season. Williams has been pretty good throughout much of 2016, but his play recently has been concerning. His completion percentage over the past four games has been a lowly 45%. Things won't get easier against a Huskies' secondary that is absolutely terrific, spearheaded by veterans Sidney Jones and Budda Baker. If neither Williams can get Utah's offense rolling, the defense will have to play an even larger role. They'll be tasked with stopping a Washington offense that is averaging 48.3 points per game, the fourth best in the nation. Much of that success can be contributed to sophomore QB Jake Browning, who is very much in the Heisman mix. Browning's big arm has accounted for 1,709 yards and 30 total touchdowns, while distributing it to the abundance of weapons UW has on the perimeter. If that isn't enough for Utah to have some issues with, back Myles Gaskin can break the game open with his electric speed. In order for the Utes to position themselves for a win they will have to have big showings from defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei and defensive back Marcus Williams. If not, Washington could do what they have been doing for much of the season: getting a big lead early and piling it on. Going into Salt Lake City is never easy for opponents, and it will be especially tough for the Huskies. Also working in Utah's favor will be their recent success over UW and the fact they have one of the nation's hottest backs. This game has all the makings of a trap game for the Huskies, but it is hard to pick against them considering what they've done this season. Huskies in a very close, thrilling one.
Washington, 33 Utah, 31
3 Clemson Tigers vs. 12 Florida State Seminoles
Entering the season, Clemson versus Florida State appeared to be the de-facto ACC Championship Game, with the talent level on both teams off the charts. Now two months into the season, that doesn't quite appear to be the case, but this game still has very important implications. Clemson is still undefeated and very much in Playoff contention but it is no secret they haven't been blowing the doors off opponents. Just two weeks ago they survived a major scare against NC State then watched ACC Atlantic foe Louisville beat the Wolfpack by six touchdowns this past Saturday. However, Clemson did beat Louisville earlier this season, and has a roster that can be scary good when clicking. Junior QB Deshaun Watson is still one of the nation's top signal-callers and has so many diverse weapons at his disposal. Back Wayne Gallman is back healthy and ready to go, and Watson also has receivers Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Jordan Leggett to work with. Only helping Watson out is the fact that Florida State's top defensive back, Derwin James, is most likely out in this one. James is a ball-hawking, game-changing safety who has missed significant after tearing a meniscus (there is hope he will be back sometime in 2016-2017). Much of that has been true all year long for Clemson, and they haven't really clicked all season long. If their offense doesn't produce, they could be in store for one tough meeting. On the other hand, Florida State has lost two games but their ACC nor Playoff hopes are completely dead, especially if they win this one. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois has had some growing pains, and it hasn't helped that his offensive line has been inconsistent. However, the young quarterback still has played very admirably and has proven he can lead the charge against good defenses. He will be joined by star back Dalvin Cook, who leads all Power Five-conference backs in rushing yards, with 900. With Clemson so concerned about Cook, it would not be surprising to see Florida State move the ball through the air, particularly against a Tigers' defensive backfield still reeling from a ton of NFL departures this past spring. However, the Tigers defense did a very good job of containing electric Lamar Jackson earlier in the season, thanks in large part to linebacker Ben Boulware and defensive linemen Carlos Watkins, so they should be able to keep up with the Seminoles. Much like Washington-Utah this game could be a thriller. On paper, one may lean to Clemson, especially considering they beat Louisville well Florida State was dominated by the Cardinals. This game will also be in Tallahassee, a place where the Tigers have really struggled over the years. Even so, Clemson is my pick in this one. The program has reached the Alabama level of strength and depth where you have to play nearly a perfect game against them to beat them. Florida State is a much better team than 5-2, but I'm still not entirely confident they have what it takes to overpower Clemson in this one.
Clemson, 35 Florida State, 30
2 Michigan, 37 Michigan State, 20
5 Louisville, 45 Virginia, 23
8 Baylor, 42 Texas, 38
16 Oklahoma, 48 Kansas, 17
Notre Dame, 28 Miami, 24