The Runningbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Class

A little while back I scouted the quarterbacks class and I’m going to do something similar for the runningbacks. This is me highlighting a few of my favorites where I talk about what I think they do well and what I think they need to work on as well as where I would take them in the Draft as well as what current or former NFL players I think their game most resembles. These can run a bit long so without further ado, let’s get into my backs. These are going to be in alphabetical order, so don’t think of these like rankings. I’ll have a whole blog for that in the future.

Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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I say these aren’t rankings, yet I put Barkley first. That’s just a coincidence, settle down. But yeah, Barkley is the best runningback in this Draft class and I’ve seen many people suggest that the Browns should take him #1 overall. Barkley’s good, really good, but I wouldn’t go that far. He was destroying college football for the first half of the year, then started fading down the stretch a bit. But there are a lot of things to love about the junior out of Penn State.

Strengths: Size, Explosiveness, Versatility

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Saquon Barkley is thick in the legs, which he should be when you’re 5’11 and 230 pounds like he is. He doesn’t really have the reputation of a bruiser, but he’s built like one and he can cut on a dime about as efficiently as LeSean McCoy. He’s also fast as Hell. One report has clocked him running as fast as a 4.33 40-yard dash. A guy at that size should not be anywhere near that fast. So here’s a 230-pound back who runs a 4.3 40 and is as elusive as they come. Oh and did I mention he’s a pretty good receiver and return man as well? Because he can do those things, too. Last year Barkley rushed for 1271 yards and had 632 yards receiving as well and even took a kick to the house against Indiana. So with all that, what weaknesses are there?

Weaknesses: Route Running, Hop Step

I mentioned that Barkley was a good receiver. However when he has to run actual routes out of the backfield, not just drifting towards the flat, he tends to get a little lax in his route running. This kind of surprised me because when he’s running with the football, his cuts are so sharp. But when he’s running routes, he tends to kind of bend on his turns instead of planting his foot and turning. Also, when he’s about to be handed the football, he does this little hop. This can be both beneficial and detrimental. On the one hand, it looks like that hop gives him an extra burst of speed. On the other, it’s costing him a split second that allows defenders to close in on him at the start of the handoff. But that’s really all I could come up with for weaknesses, I was really digging to be honest, Barkley’s great.

Draft Thoughts: I think Barkley is worthy of going in the top 5 picks. I’m not so sure I’d take him number 1 just because I think that spot should be reserved for the more crucial positions such as quarterback, left tackle, and edge rusher and in many offenses it doesn’t matter who is at runningback. But when you’re this freaky an athlete with so few flaws, it’s hard not to at least consider it, especially considering this year’s class as so many question marks and Barkley feels like one of the safest picks in the draft. He would be EXTREMELY beneficial to a team like the Giants, who do have other weapons on offense like ODell Beckham Jr and Evan Engram that could have their play elevated by there actually being a threat in the backfield.

Pro Comparison: 

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Ezekiel Elliott. He and Barkley both have similar frames and were damn near perfect draft prospects at the runningback position. I think a lot of the reason that Barkley kind of faded down the stretch was that opposing teams were gearing more resources towards stopping him, which allowed quarterback Trace McSorley to shine through.

Derrius Guice-LSU

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Derrius Guice burst on the scene last year when Leonard Fournette spent much of the season injured and really came into his own. 2017 was expected to be a huge year for Guice but he really didn’t explode the way I hoped. However, he was still the most important piece of the LSU offense and still managed to put together some solid numbers despite a decline in overall performance (his yards per carry dropped over 2 whole yards between 2016 and 17). However I still think he can be an excellent back in this league.

Strengths: Running Style, Speed, Receiving Ability

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When I looked up Guice’s measurables, I was SHOCKED to learn that he plays at just 212 pounds. He plays like he’s so much bigger than that. His running style is so aggressive, too. It’s almost as if he enjoys getting hit and punishes any defender who is brave enough to try and tackle him. He’s also a lot faster than you might expect. He’s just as fast as Barkley, as he was clocked at 4.32 seconds in his 40 yard dash during LSU minicamp. He’s also a decent receiver, as he had 18 catches for 124 yards on the season. Not nearly as good as Barkley but there was better quarterback play at Penn State than there was at LSU.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Running Style

Yes I included Guice’s running style as both a positive and a negative. This is because the manner in which he invites contact at his size is a recipe for injury. The defenders are a Hell of a lot bigger at the next level and if Guice is throwing his body around at them, that could lead to some IR trips if he’s not careful. He also kind of brings his aggressive running style into play when he’s blocking. Instead of absorbing defenders, he tends to go for the knockout block on seemingly every play. When he lands it, he de-cleats the defender. However if the defender puts on a slight move, Guice is lying facedown in the dirt and the rusher is disrupting the pass. He needs to play more disciplined when he’s back in protection.

Draft Thoughts: I wouldn’t mind taking Guice in the first round as long as I was comfortable in my stable of backs behind him. He has all the makings of a feature back but his running style can kind of scare me at times. While I love his aggression, he’s a lot more valuable to me on the field than in the training room.

Pro Comparison: 

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Tevin Coleman. Coleman is a guy who is kind of stuck behind DeVonta Freeman in Atlanta but I feel if he is given the reigns to be the man, he could be a really electrifying back in this league, like Guice. Both have great athleticism and can shine as a receiver when given an opportunity. However both have pretty violent running styles that could result in potential injury. Coleman played on a broken foot at Indiana.

Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

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Kerryon Johnson was an intriguing prospect for much of the year but very few scouts really entertained the thought of him being a potential first rounder until he took over the Iron Bowl in Auburn’s victory over eventual national champion Alabama. Johnson was all over the place and was a part of seemingly every impactful play in that game. Scouts started taking notice and as a result, Johnson’s stock has skyrocketed.

Strengths: Vision, Agility, Patience

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Johnson can hit some holes that I didn’t even know were there. His peripherals are a marvel to behold. He’s also pretty slippery and it’s almost like he’s covered in grease when guys try and tackle him because of the way he kind of slips through people. He also clearly models his running style after Le’Veon Bell because he’s definitely waiting for his blocks to develop before attacking.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Hitting the Hole, General Explosiveness

I wouldn’t say Johnson is a bad blocker, just an inconsistent one. There are some plays where he makes really nice blocks that bought quarterback Jarrett Stidham at least another second or two to throw. There are others where he’s an absolute turnstile. There really wasn’t any in-between. Also, I mentioned his patience as a strength, but at times it appears to be a weakness because I think he’s so caught up in trying to be patient and waiting for his blocks to set up that he forgets he’s got to blast through them. He kind of hits the hole like a dainty butterfly and he lacks that one-step explosion that a lot of teams like to see out of their backs.

Draft Thoughts: Quite frankly, I think Johnson is getting a bit overhyped. He seems like an instinctive player, sure, but he’s the same size as Derrius Guice but seems so much slower despite the generally leaner frame. It’s more his intangibles that I think are the real positive rather than what he really brings to the table physically because watching some film on him, I wasn’t particularly blown away by anything he did. I’d probably wait until the 4th round before I started thinking about taking him.

Pro Comparison: 

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Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon is versatile kind of like Johnson and both have experience running out of some sort of wildcat formation. However neither really blows anybody away with their overall athleticism and in the grand scheme of things, I think they’re just decent backs.

Ronald Jones II-USC

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Ronald Jones II was a guy I hadn’t heard a whole lot about coming into this season, but I watched the Texas-USC game and was blown away by what this kid can bring to the table. I was watching that game looking to see what Sam Darnold can do, I left the game thinking about how great a back Ronald Jones is.

Strengths: Athleticism, Receiving, Blocking, Ability in Space

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Ronald Jones is at his best when he’s in space. He’s shifty and a great athlete and sometimes his cuts are so brutal he leaves defenders on skates. He’s also a good receiver, though I don’t think USC utilized him enough in this fashion. His blocking is an odd type of good. I thought he was decent as a blocker in the backfield, but in formations where USC had him line up out wide then throw a screen to a receiver, I thought he was fantastic. Again, Jones is at his best when he’s got space around him.

Weaknesses: Running Between the Tackles, Power

Jones was very unimpressive to me when he had to run up the middle. It seemed like he isn’t totally looking for the holes when asked to run straight. When he is running stretch plays outside the tackles to the edge, his vision seems to be great, but it’s when he’s forced to run into traffic where he tends to struggle. He’s also not going to knock anyone over with his 200-pound frame, but that’s not really his game anyway so it’s not TOO much of an issue, I just have a preference towards power backs.

Draft Thoughts: Ronald Jones could be downright dynamite when put in an offense that allows him to play to his strengths. I don’t think he fits in with everybody, which I think will hurt his draft stock. However if the right team picks him, look out because when this guy gets the ball in space, good luck. I think a team like the Lions would be perfect for him, as they’ve shown with Theo Riddick that they’re willing to play to each individual’s strengths, which is where I think he could shine. I think he could be worth a late first round pick as long as you have a specific plan set for how you want to use him because he’s not going to plug into just any system.

Pro Comparison: 

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Alvin Kamara. Both guys excel in their own systems and are at their best when in space as well as being talented receivers. Jones is a little bigger than Kamara but they both play similar games.

Bryce Love-Stanford

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Out of all the guys on this list, Bryce Love was the big breakout star. After backing up Christian McCaffrey for the last couple of years, Love was phenomenal upon being thrust into the starting role after McCaffrey was drafted 8th by the Panthers in the 2017 Draft, rushing for over 2000 yards and finishing 2nd in the Heisman voting. A lot of scouts are curious as to how well he will transition to the NFL and are wondering if his breakout season was a fluke.

Strengths: Speed, Shiftiness

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I don’t know if anybody in this draft class changes direction better than Love. Maybe Barkley. But when Love plants that foot in the dirt and cuts the other way, good luck catching him. And he’s fast, too. He’s been clocked at a 4.35 40 but there have been times where he was looked even faster. Once he gets to the second level, you’re done. He’s hard to tackle in open space and you’re going to need some serious athletes if you’re going to keep him in check. In fact, the one game where he was kept in check was the game where he was coming off an ankle injury. And even then he ran for 69 yards (it was the one time all year where he was held under 100).

Weaknesses: Size, Receiving

Out of all the backs I’m scouting in this blog, Love is easily the smallest. He’s 5’10 196 pounds, so he’s not built to handle the bulk of the carries in an NFL offense. And for a guy as quick as he is, I’m surprised to see that he’s not very involved in the passing game. He only had 6 catches for 33 yards on the season, which really works against you when you’re a smaller back. A lot of coaches like using their scat backs as receivers out of the backfield and Love hasn’t shown that he’s capable of doing that.

Draft Thoughts: I like Love a lot, but he has his limitations. He may be the most athletic runningback in this class, rivaling even Barkley, but his lack of size and receiving ability is a big knock against his draft status. I think if he were to add 10 pounds of muscle and work on his routes, he could be a DANGEROUS player in this league. But as things stand right now I think we’re looking at a third rounder.

Pro Comparison: 

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Dion Lewis. Lewis was drafted in the 6th round by the Eagles a few years back and was used mainly on kick returns before bouncing around the league and finally finding a home in New England, where they were able to use his skillset in a way that allowed him to thrive. This year he added on some muscle and he’s become a complete back, which is a similar path I think Love could find himself going down if he works at it.

Sony Michel-Georgia

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Sony Michel was part of arguably the deadliest runningback duo of all time with Nick Chubb (who I thought about including in this blog, but his injury history scares me so much I wouldn’t touch him until round 5). Michel was particularly dominant during the playoff, as he nearly led Georgia to a national championship single handedly. He scored the walkoff touchdown against Oklahoma and was the only consistently good member of Georgia’s offense in their championship loss to Alabama.

Strengths: Size-Speed Combination, Explosiveness, Shiftiness, Vision

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I was surprised to see that Sony Michel is 215 pounds because he runs like a gazelle. Granted, he only runs a 4.45, but he plays a lot faster than that. He hits the hole so hard that if you don’t square him up, he’s going to blow right by you. And when he’s in the open field you stand no chance. He does a great job of reading blocks as well. There’s a lot of untapped ability with this kid and I think sharing a backfield with Chubb kind of held back what he can really do when given the reigns.

Weaknesses: Power, Blocking, Receiving, Running Style

I put receiving down as a weakness mainly because he was barely utilized as a receiver throughout most of the season. He was used a lot more as a receiver in the Rose Bowl, as he got 4 out of his 9 catches on the season in that game, and I think he did pretty well so I think there’s some untapped potential there. But as it stands, we just don’t know enough about his abilities as a receiver to justify listing it as a strength. Also, he’s not a power runner in any sense of the word. He’s not going to barrel over anybody and he might struggle against NFL-caliber pass rushers. He also runs very upright, which might hinder his speed some and can cause injury if hit a certain way.

Draft Thoughts: I think Sony Michel could creep into the first round depending on how his combine goes. If he can run a sub 4.4 40, then I think he’s automatically in the discussion. He’s very good in space and I think there is so much untapped potential with this kid that I think we could have something really special here.

Pro Comparison: 

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David Johnson. Johnson is a guy that had a lot of raw and untapped potential at Northern Iowa that was unlocked when the Cardinals were able to utilize what he does best and got him involved in the passing game. I think Michel could have similar success if given similar attention.

That’s a wrap on my scouting report on some of my favorite runningbacks in this year’s draft class. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

 

College Football Bowl Picks

Regular Season Record: 86-34       Conference Title Record: 8-0        Army-Navy: 0-1

This is going to get interesting. Bowl season is totally unpredictable but I’m going to do my damndest to try. I nailed the conference championship games but the task is a little more daunting this time around, as I’ve got about 40 games to do. For that reason, I’m going to keep this intro short. Let’s get to it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-6) vs North Texas

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Troy is best remembered this season for beating LSU at their Homecoming but they really were a lot better than just that. These guys won the Sun Belt Conference this year and while that’s probably the least impressive conference in all of college football, it still says a lot about the success you’ve had this season. They face a tough offense in North Texas, led by quarterback Mason Fine, who could eclipse 4000 yards passing on the season in this game, which would be the first time in school history that has happened. He’s already CRUSHED the previous school record set back in 1994. I’m going with Troy in this one. They’ve shown they’re capable of winning the big game, North Texas hasn’t (their only win that can be deemed as quality is Army).

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

Autonation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-4.5) vs Georgia State

Despite losing former head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue before the start of the season, Western Kentucky hasn’t lost much of a step in terms of the passing game. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White should eclipse 4000 yards on the season barring an unbelievable performance from the Georgia State defense, which has been pretty inconsistent this season. They shut out Charlotte for their first win of the season but that came a week after losing to Penn State 56-0. Now yes, it’s Penn State, but that’s still not a good look to have a score like that on your resume. They also only barely beat god-awful Georgia Southern 21-17 towards the end of the season. I’ve got Western Kentucky big in this.

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs Oregon (-6.5)

I find the Las Vegas Bowl often has some pretty good matchups and this year is no exception. Boise State is the first ranked team to play their bowl game this year and they’re playing an Oregon team that’s just a couple years removed from appearing in the National Championship game. Now granted, a LOT has changed for the Ducks in that time, but there are still some players from that team on the current roster. However, not on the roster is head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired away by Florida State. His interim will be Mario Cristobal, who does have some head coaching experience, as he was the head man at FIU from 2007-2012. I don’t think it will help a whole lot, though, I think Boise State is going to come away with this one.

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State (-5.5)

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If you do manage to catch this game, look out for Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He’s among the best there is in the country and doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the fact he plays for Colorado State. 94 catches for 1345 yards and 7 TDs on the year for the senior from Monroe, GA. I don’t care what your level of competition was, that’s impressive. They face a Marshall team that is ice cold right now, losing 4 of their last 5 games, though 3 of those 4 games were decided by 5 or fewer points and the one that wasn’t was decided by 11. I’m giving the edge to Colorado State, I just think they have too many weapons on offense for Marshall to keep up with.

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs Arkansas State (-4)

What’s Camellia? I’ve never heard that word in my life, but my autocorrect seems to think it’s fine. Seems like an odd thing to name your bowl game, but I’m sure Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State aren’t complaining, as MTSU had to win their final game of the season to become bowl eligible while Arkansas State had their game against Miami (FL) cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and were put at a slight disadvantage in having to reach the required 6 wins in 11 games. Well they got 7 and will try and carry that season-long success into back-to-back bowl wins. I think they’ll do it, too. They’ve had a lot of success throwing the ball this season and I think MTSU will have some problems defending the plethora of receivers they have.

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs Florida Atlantic (-18.5)

I’m not going to get too deep into this one. Akron is a team that kind of lucked into a bowl appearance while Florida Atlantic has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I think they’re going to stampeded the Zips. This is one of the few bowl lines that is in double digits and there’s a reason for that, Lane Kiffin’s ground attack is too dominant.

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs SMU (-5.5)

Louisiana Tech is a pretty average team and that’s going to be a problem when you face an offense as potent as SMU’s. Not only can quarterback Ben Hicks sling it, but he’s got two of the best receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn and potential first round draft pick Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs are going to score a ton of points as they also have an effective ground game, as Xavier Jones is over 1000 yards rushing on the season. I’ve actually got SMU in a blowout.

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. What a name for a bowl game. I’d argue it’s an even better name than the now-defunct Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. This game will also be played at my least favorite baseball stadium in Tropicana Field, so that’s about as perfect a combination of complete crap as you could ask for. Classic random-ass bowl games. Oh and there’s a football game that’s going to be played between Temple and Florida International. Temple has very little going for them offensively and defensively they’re not much better. Looking at their overall stats, I’m amazed they made it to 6-6. I think Florida International is going to come away with this one relatively handily.

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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What a journey it’s been for UAB. A few years back they got their football program cut despite going 6-6, which resulted in an exodus from many top players, including Jordan Howard to my Indiana Hoosiers, who as you may know is currently tearing it up in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. There was enough backlash from the UAB faithful that the school brought the program back. Now, in their first year back after a 2-year hiatus, the Blazers are bowl eligible for only the second time in school history. This is probably going to wind up being my favorite storyline of the college football season when the Blazers lift that Bahamas Bowl trophy in their victory over Ohio. Also UAB’s logo is a fire-breathing dragon and that’s awesome. Can’t not subconsciously root for them.

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (pick ’em)

This is going to be a battle between two talented quarterbacks. Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris showed all the talent in the world at Michigan but just couldn’t put it together before transferring to the Chippewas while Wyoming features potential top-10 draft pick Josh Allen. Despite being as talented as he is, Allen didn’t really have that great of a season. That can be due in part to a lack of real talent around him and in part due to the fact that Wyoming didn’t throw it a whole lot. But it is also most likely due to the fact that Allen has been playing on a bum shoulder for much of the season, which of course is a pretty big deal for a quarterback. I’m still looking for that one big performance that tells me that Allen is going to be a successful NFL QB but I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards. That shoulder injury is going to hurt Wyoming’s chances.

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs South Florida (-2)

This could be the highest-scoring game of the bowl season. We all know how much Texas Tech likes to throw the ball, it’s been pretty well-documented, but USF’s Quinten Flowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and has the ability to score on anybody at any time. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders can’t defend for shit and you’ve got the makings of a 5-hour game that ends with both teams over 50 points. I think that’s what we’re going to get and I’ve got South Florida taking home the trophy.

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (no line)

If Army’s going to have any shot at this game, they need to keep Rashaad Penny off the field. Penny is a monster with the ball in his hands and Army will need to dominate the time of possession if they’re going to stop him. If any team can do it, though, it’s the men at West Point. Their offense is built around the ground game and controlling the tempo. I think they’ll have some success early, but I think they will struggle to contain Penny and the Aztecs will pull away late.

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-8)

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Toledo is among the best mid-major teams in all of college football. Quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated passers in the game today and while the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a pretty good defense, they’re going to struggle to contain all of Toledo’s weapons. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy and it was on the strength of an effective ground game. They’re going to struggle to keep up with Toledo, though.

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

I don’t know why this game is a Christmas Eve tradition, but it is. Usually it’s kind of a shitty matchup but this year it pits two of the best mid-major teams in the country. Fresno State nearly won the Mountain West a year after going 1-11 and Houston has continued to play well despite losing Tom Herman to (arguably) greener pastures in Texas. It’s going to be a defensive battle as Fresno State has one of the toughest defenses in the nation while Houston features perhaps the nation’s best overall defensive player in defensive tackle Ed Oliver. I’m going to give the edge to Houston in this one, as it’s more of a gut feeling than anything at this point.

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-5) vs West Virginia

Utah started out the season so nicely but then face-planted so hard. They started the year 4-0 but finished the season losing 6 of their last 8 and had to win the season finale over Colorado in order to even be bowl eligible. Normally, I would say they’re screwed for their game, but West Virginia isn’t sure if they will have quarterback Will Grier, who is nursing a broken finger on his throwing hand. Had it been his left hand, you could probably wrap it up with another finger and have him go out there, but not when it’s on your right hand where it will directly affect how you throw. But to be honest, his replacement, Chris Chugunov (what a name) didn’t play that badly against Oklahoma in his start. Was he particularly good? No, but he kept West Virginia reasonably in the game. They still ended up losing by 28, but that’s because Oklahoma scored 59 points. Leading your team to 31 points against the second best team in the country isn’t half bad. That’s why I’m going with the Mountaineers in this game, with or without Grier.

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) vs Northern Illinois

Duke’s offensive line is going to have their hands full with Northern Illinois. The Huskies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in Sutton Smith, who led all of college football with 14 sacks to go along with 28 tackles for loss. Duke started the year 4-0 before losing 6 straight and had to win their last two in order to become bowl eligible, but they were able to pull it off, beating two pretty good teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. But I think Duke is going to struggle to protect quarterback Daniel Jones in this one. They were 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and they go up against the team that led the nation in sacks. I’ve got Northern Illinois taking this one.

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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Kansas State is going to struggle to throw the football in this one. They used three different quarterbacks this year and none of them were particularly successful. Despite this, they have one of the better defenses in the Big 12, which is saying nothing.  This team is going to get eaten alive by Josh Rosen, though. They simply can’t keep up with him on offense and I think this is going to be the game that solidifies him as the number 1 pick in the Draft.

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

Walk On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-15)

Normally, I would wonder how in the Hell this matchup is even legal. But losing Deondre Francois in Week 1 derailed Florida State’s season so hard, Jimbo Fisher skipped town for Texas A&M. They’ve still managed to become bowl eligible, though and will look to try and pick up the win against Southern Miss. Southern Miss has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, led by Ito Smith and his 1300 yards on the ground. The defense has also been solid this year, as they’ve pitched two shutouts. But I’m going with Florida State here, but I don’t think it will be nearly as big a blowout as the line might suggest.

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) vs Boston College

This is the one bowl I’ve ever attended, when Indiana played Duke and Indiana lost in OT after a Griffin Oakes field goal was incorrectly called no good. It traditionally has some pretty good games in their Big Ten-ACC matchup. Iowa has perhaps one of the most damaging victories all season in that their 31-point win over Ohio State most certainly knocked the Big Ten out of the playoff picture. Boston College, meanwhile, has been one of the more up-and-down teams I’ve seen in a while. One week they’ll absolutely DESTROY Florida State and then the next they’ll lose to NC State (not a knock against the Wolfpack, but BC’s offense in particular can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm). I’m going with Boston College for this one, as aside from that one performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa hasn’t been that impressive this year.

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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So as you may have read, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is my favorite to win the Heisman next season because of the dominant stretches he displayed. However he does need to improve as a passer if he’s going to reach those heights. Purdue is a pretty solid run defense, especially with Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker. Tate might need to whip out that passing ability if Arizona is going to keep pace, but I think they will. Tate is such a talented runner that I think overall he’s going to overpower Purdue and Arizona will get the win.

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-1)

Both teams were quietly pretty solid this season mainly because it was below their traditional standards, but definitely better than the last couple years. Texas showed some promise under Tom Herman but it may be a couple of years before they return to the Longhorns of old. Missouri’s Drew Lock had a fantastic season throwing the football, as he led the nation in passing touchdowns this season. I’m going to give the edge to Texas in this one. It’s a toss up but the game is being played in Houston, where the Longhorns will essentially have a home field advantage, which is big in college sports.

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

Virginia actually had a pretty good season this year. After going 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at the helm, the Cavaliers turned it around nicely and find themselves in a bowl game. Also, quarterback Kurt Benkert is getting some looks from the NFL as a result of his successful season. They face a Navy team that lost a heart breaker to Army in the snow and I just don’t know if they have what it takes to take down this surprisingly talented Virginia squad. I’ve got the other Cavs in this one.

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech vs #19 Oklahoma State (-6.5)

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This is too good a matchup to be relegated to the likes of the Camping World Bowl, but at least in most cases by the time the game actually kicks off, you kind of forget which bowl you’re playing in. The number 3 scoring offense in Oklahoma State vs the number 5 scoring defense in Virginia Tech. Something’s gotta give. I think I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma State here. Yes, I know, a matchup of this type usually ends up favoring the defense, but the Cowboys have far too many weapons that the Hokies have to compete with.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

Valero Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU (-2.5)

This is going to be a really close game as both teams have the ability to be really explosive on offense while also featuring some of the best defenses in their respective conferences. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love leads the Cardinal to face TCU and their duo of talented defensive ends in Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. While I do think Love is going to have a big game for the Cardinal, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the TCU offense. Kenny Hill’s been having a tremendous season for the Horned Frogs and I think he leads them to an Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford.

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State (-2.5) vs #16 Michigan State

Like the Oklahoma State-Virginia Tech matchup, this game features one of the top offenses in the country in Washington State vs one of the top defenses in Michigan State. The Cougars are the second best passing offense in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Oklahoma State while the Spartans allowed under 200 passing yards per game this season. It’s going to be a tough matchup but I think Washington State is going to come out on top. Michigan State has been too careless with the football offensively, as they’ve fumbled it more than any team in the country that doesn’t run a run-only offense, which I think the Cougars will find ways to capitalize on.

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M

Wake Forest was quietly a pretty good team this season, as they went 7-5 this season, including wins over a Lamar Jackson-led Louisville team and a late-season win over then-#19 NC State. They take on a Texas A&M team that is getting a major face lift, as they fired Kevin Sumlin only to turn around and hire Jimbo Fisher away from the Florida State Seminoles. Fisher, however, will not be leading the Aggies in this game, as that task will fall on Jeff Banks. I’m actually going to go with the Demon Deacons in this game. There’s too much turmoil going on with the Aggies in this game and I think it could become a distraction, which is the last thing you want when you face a pesky team like this.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: #24 NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State

Like Texas A&M, Arizona State also hired a new head coach in Herm Edwards, who has previously coached in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs. It’s an odd situation because despite firing the incumbent Todd Graham, Graham will still be coaching this game for the Sun Devils. This could go one of two ways: Graham could be salty and sabotage this game for his former employer, or he could try and go out with a bang and give his best performance. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot what he ends up doing because I think NC State’s Bradley Chubb is going to give a similar performance to what we saw Solomon Thomas give for Stanford in their bowl game last year: a performance that will solidify him in the Top-5 pick discussion. I’ve got the Wolfpack in this game.

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs #21 Northwestern (-8.5)

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Kentucky is quietly a pretty good team this year as they went 7-5, including wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has done a Hell of a job with his team this year, but I think they’re going to run into some problems against Northwestern. The Wildcats had one of the best seasons in school history, as they went 9-3, including winning each of their last 7 games, including an OT win over Michigan State. Northwestern plays some really sound and fundamental football and I think they’re going to frustrate this Kentucky offense that is predicated on being able to run the football. I’ve got Northwestern in this game.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs Utah State (-3)

The battle of the Aggies, this game might slip under the radar a bit because it’s not a matchup of household names. Which is a shame, because when they’re on, they can be two of the most exciting offenses in college football. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers ranked among the best passers in the game with his 3825 passing yards this season while Utah State preferred a more balanced attack that spreads the ball around to various different options. I’m going to go with New Mexico State for this game. Utah State’s defense has had its struggles this season and I think Rogers is going to have a field day.

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs #5 Ohio State (-7)

So in an 8-team playoff format, this would be the 4 vs 5 matchup and dammit if I’m not pumped for it. Getting a chance to watch Ohio State live twice this season, I was able to see firsthand just how much better this team got over the course of the season. Their defense, which struggled to contain Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs, were lights out in the Big Ten championship, absolutely shutting down Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. Their defense will put potential top pick Sam Darnold to the test, as this will be by far the toughest defense he faces all year. How he performs in this game will go a long way in determining whether he really is the top quarterback everybody projected him to be. I think he will have his struggles, though I don’t think it will necessarily be because of him. I think USC’s offensive line will struggle to protect him against the monster of a front that Ohio State has and they will wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6) vs #23 Mississippi State

Lamar Jackson may have finished third in the Heisman voting this year, but I would argue that he actually played better in 2017 than he did in his banner 2016 season. Louisville wasn’t quite as good as they were last year and that’s really what hurt Jackson’s Heisman chances. They face a Mississippi State team that can be very dangerous, as they came the closest to beating Alabama before Auburn was able to pull it off in the Iron Bowl. But I think they will struggle to contain Lamar Jackson. Limiting Jalen Hurts is one thing, but Jackson is so much better a passer that it’s going to be too much for the Bulldogs to keep track of.

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

Autozona Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs #20 Memphis (-3)

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Memphis’ Riley Ferguson can sling it with the best of them, as he showed in Memphis’ early-season win over Josh Rosen’s UCLA Bruins, where Ferguson was able to outduel the potential top draft pick. He’s also got a lot of weapons on offense that will cause Iowa State a lot of problems, however if anybody is up to the task, it’s the Cyclones. Iowa State is the only team to beat Oklahoma this season and they also were able to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Both teams ended up playing in the Big 12 title game, so Iowa State does a great job of playing up to their competition. However I think the combination of Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller is going to be too much for Iowa State to handle and I think Memphis will come away with this one.

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington vs #9 Penn State (-3)

This is a matchup made in heaven. Two teams that boast not only talented offenses, but talented defenses as well. They each had a couple of rough goes, Penn State likely would have played for the Big Ten Title game had JT Barrett not pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off the then-second-ranked Nittany Lions. Then they lost to Michigan State after a 3-and-a-half-hour storm delay midway through the contest that likely threw off their groove. Washington also had a couple of ugly defeats, as they were upset by Arizona State midway through the season, then a loss to Stanford that effectively eliminated them from Pac 12 title contention. Both teams will be looking for a bit of redemption for their once promising seasons and I think this will go down to the wire. I’m going to go with Penn State to get the win, though. I think their offense is too explosive for Washington to keep up with for four quarters.

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin (-6.5) vs #10 Miami (FL)

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

The Hurricanes are suddenly ice cold as they’ve delivered back-to-back duds to close out their schedule. They lost in embarrassing fashion to Pittsburgh, then got obliterated by Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff berth on the line. Then Dabo Swinney’s bunch destroyed what had been the emblem of the Hurricanes’ season in the Turnover Chain and Miami fans can’t be feeling much lower right now. They take on a Wisconsin team that may have been exposed a little bit in their loss to Ohio State. While the Badgers did manage to keep the game close, it was mainly because Ohio State shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions. That being said, I think this defense is going to cause a lot of problems for Malik Rosier and company and Wisconsin will come away with the victory.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

However South Carolina doesn’t have anybody who evenly remotely resembles JaDeveon Clowney this year. Michigan has had their struggles at the quarterback position this year but if they can get the ground game working, then I think they will be okay. Defensively they’re so good they can practically take over games. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 UCF vs #7 Auburn (-10)

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Why Auburn is ranked 7th despite being a 3-loss team is beyond me, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as long as they aren’t in the playoff. They looked good to start the SEC Championship game, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Then Georgia unraveled them and scored 28 unanswered. They face the lone unbeaten team in college football in UCF. Despite being hired by Nebraska, UCF head coach Scott Frost will coach the Knights in this game to close out the season, which I wish more coaches would do. It is for that reason that I think UCF will compete with Auburn, even give them a scare for most of the game, but I think the Tigers will outlast them. Eventually, talent often wins out, though if any team were to be on upset alert for this bowl season, I’d say it’s Auburn.

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame vs #17 LSU (-2.5)

These are two teams that like to run the ball and play physical defense and on paper are pretty evenly matched. LSU has recovered really well after their homecoming debacle against Troy, as they’ve won 6 of 7 games since that loss, their one defeat being Alabama. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, ended the season rather meekly, losing 2 of their last 3 after having been in the playoff hunt for much of the season. Granted, those two losses were Miami and Stanford, but both teams ended up getting beaten in their conference title games, Miami pretty soundly while Stanford kept it close. Notre Dame is capable of beating up on good teams, though, and I think the difference is going to be quarterback play. I trust Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush more than I do LSU’s Danny Etling and for that reason, I’m picking the Irish.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Oklahoma (-1)

The first of the two playoff games, this will be Baker Mayfield’s first game after winning the Heisman Trophy. It will also be an opportunity for him to increase his draft stock even further, as he goes up against a really tough Georgia defense. If he can have a big game, then I think NFL teams will be far more intrigued by the possibility of drafting him high. As for Georgia, they look to break the 3-seed curse, as the team in that slot has yet to win a playoff game (Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State have all failed to get the job done). It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, as they will have to ask Jake Fromm to outduel the Heisman-winning Mayfield. It won’t be impossible, as Oklahoma will likely be without stud runningback Rodney Anderson as he faces domestic assault charges, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m picking the Sooners reaching the National Championship for the first time since the 2008 season, when Sam Bradford was outplayed by Tim Tebow.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

All State Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama (-2) vs #1 Clemson

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Part 3 of this CFP rivalry, though it’s the first matchup in this series that won’t be taking place with the National Championship on the line. Alabama will be very thankful it’s not Deshaun Watson under center for Clemson, as he absolutely lit them up in each of the previous matchups. Kelly Bryant will be tasked with taking on the Crimson Tide defense. He’s not Watson, but he has proven capable of winning big games, as he led Clemson to wins over the likes of Auburn, Virginia Tech, and a blowout of Miami for the ACC title. Offensively, Alabama will have to compete with the most efficient defense in the country in Clemson, as their defensive front that includes the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clellin Ferrell will make it tough to move the ball. Having seen eachother each of the last few years, I think both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney will have made the adjustments they will need to come away with the victory. In the end, I think Clemson will come away as the winner of this best-of-3 series and will take on Oklahoma for the National Championship.

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

*Exhales.* Finally, I’ve made all the picks and it only took me 5530 words, more than doubling my previous high word count (which I think was an NFL picks segment). I’m going to wait to do the National Championship game until the night before, as I don’t want to predict a matchup that hasn’t been set up yet. But based on what I’ve predicted, I think that Clemson will beat Oklahoma to win back-to-back championships. I just think they’re more well-rounded than Oklahoma is and I think the Sooners’ deficiencies on defense will come back to haunt them in this one. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

College Football Picks: Rivalry Week

Last Week: 10-2                  Season Record: 79-29

My misses last week were Texas against West Virginia and Kansas State against Oklahoma State, though my upset pick of Wake Forest over NC State came through (even though Wake was favored by 1.5, I still consider it an upset because the Wolfpack were ranked). Miami (FL) losing to Pitt is HUGE and I’m going to have an interesting playoff blog for Tuesday. So for the last time in the regular season, let’s get picking.

Indiana vs Purdue (-2.5)

As an Indiana student, I’m a little nervous for this one. Purdue isn’t the pushover of years’ past and even when they did suck, they still played the Hoosiers tough. For that reason, I’m not surprised the Boilermakers are favored at home. Both teams are 5-6 so the winner of this game goes bowling and the loser’s season is over. Naturally I’m going to be pretty anxious. I am going to go with Indiana, the Hoosiers have won 4 in a row in this matchup and Purdue will be without gunslinging quarterback David Blough. If Blough were playing, I’d likely give the edge to Purdue, but I think the Boilermakers will struggle to score on this tough Indiana defense.

Projected Score: Indiana 24 Purdue 20

#7 Georgia (-10.5) vs Georgia Tech

Georgia still controls their own destiny if they want to make it to the playoff for the first time in school history. They have to beat Georgia Tech and the winner of the Iron Bowl. I think for that reason, head coach Kirby Smart is going to have his guys ready and it wouldn’t shock me if the Bulldogs come out guns blazing for this game against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is always a tricky team to play against, given their wishbone offense and their highly-ranked defense this season, but they’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games and need this win if they are to become bowl eligible. To me, that type of cold play does not bode well if you’re trying to beat a potentially playoff-bound team. I’ve got the Bulldogs winning this pretty handily.

Projected Score: Georgia 38 Georgia Tech 17

Louisville (-10.5) vs Kentucky

Things haven’t gone the way Louisville would’ve liked, while Kentucky has exceeded all expectations this season. Last year, the Cardinals were 26.5-point favorites, yet still lost to the Wildcats despite Lamar Jackson being in the midst of his Heisman trophy-winning campaign. I think this game will be close, Mark Stoops’ bunch have been tough beats this season and both teams enter the game at 7-4. The one thing about Kentucky is that they seem to let bad teams stay close, as they’ve had tight contests with the likes of Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky. But I don’t know. I’ve got a feeling about this one. I think the Kentucky Wildcats will make it two in a row for no reason. Because that’s rivalry week.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Kentucky

Can Stephen Johnson lead Kentucky to back-to-back upset wins over Louisville? (photo credit: Gridiron Now)

Projected Score: Kentucky 38 Louisville 35

#9 Ohio State (-12) vs Michigan

Ohio State has already won the Big Ten East and the only time they’ve lost to Michigan since 2003 was in 2011 after Jim Tressel was fired over that whole tattoos thing and Luke Fickell was interim head coach. And even then the Wolverines only won by 6. So being a Michigan fan hasn’t been fun for a while. The game is in Ann Arbor this year but I don’t expect that to matter a whole lot. Last time this game was at Michigan, Ohio State won 42-13. To the chagrin of Michigan fans, I don’t expect a whole lot to change. Michigan lacks consistency on offense and JT Barrett is playing too well right now for Michigan’s all-world defense to hold him down for too long.

Projected Score: Ohio State 29 Michigan 16

#1 Alabama (-4.5) vs #6 Auburn

This is probably the matchup of the day right here. Amazingly enough, Alabama misses the SEC championship game and possibly the playoff if they lose this game to Auburn. Interesting tidbit, the winner of this game in every year since 2008 was ranked in the top 4 at the time of their victory. This is probably the biggest rivalry in college football right now as both teams are fantastic and this year in particular, the stakes are very high. Auburn could get into the college football playoff if they win this game and the SEC title. I laid out their path earlier this week, which you can read here. I really am torn about who I have winning this. My brain is telling me Alabama, but my heart is telling me Auburn. Both are wrong just as often as the other, so I’m going to trust the number 1 ranking and go the route that would cause the least amount of chaos and pick Alabama here. But Auburn winning would be pandemonium for the CFP.

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The Crimson Tide will have their hands full with Auburn in the Iron Bowl (photo credit: Roll ‘Bama Roll)

Projected Score: Alabama 31 Auburn 30

#5 Wisconsin (-17.5) vs Minnesota

Every game is about as must-win as they come if Wisconsin wants to stay alive in the playoff hunt. One slip-up and its over, given how easy their schedule is. Minnesota has been pretty inconsistent this season. There are some weeks where they look like they can compete with the Badgers in the Big Ten West, then there are others where they look like the worst team in the conference. Wisconsin’s defense has a tendency to make good teams look painfully average and the Golden Gophers don’t have the weapons to overcome that dominance. I’ve got the Badgers entering their Big Ten title date with Ohio State at 12-0.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 35 Minnesota 17

West Virginia vs #4 Oklahoma (-22.5)

Baker Mayfield is on fire right now, but because the camera caught him yelling obscenities while grabbing his nuts at the Kansas bench last week, he will be suspended for an unknown amount of time in this game, but he will play. I wonder if he gets suspended had the camera not caught him. Quite frankly, I love the intensity, but since you can’t exactly fine the kid because he has no money, you kind of have to keep him out for a few plays. Even without Mayfield for a small portion of this game, Oklahoma is still heavily favored, and that’s pretty well justified. Will Grier being injured is going to be fatal for the Mountaineers’ chances of pulling off the upset. Were he healthy, I’d give them a much better shot at winning. But without him, this line seems a little low.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 49 West Virginia 21

Arizona (-2.5) vs Arizona State

This game could get really exciting. Arizona’s Khalil Tate might be leading the Heisman race had it not taken him until October to earn the starting job. He’s been a MONSTER this season, especially on the ground. He was on the bench for the first month and he still has 1325 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Did I mention he’s the quarterback? Arizona State isn’t going to stop him, so they’re going to just have to try and outscore him, something they’re very capable of. The Sun Devils have scored at least 30 points in each of their last 3 games this season and they’re going to need more of the same if they want to keep pace with Tate and the Wildcats. I’m going with Arizona to win this game. Tate is too explosive for the Sun Devils to keep up with.

Projected Score: Arizona 45 Arizona State 38

#3 Clemson (-13.5) vs #24 South Carolina

Miami losing really doesn’t affect the ACC picture, only now it’s pretty much a guarantee we won’t get two ACC teams in the playoff, just so long as Clemson wins this game. The Gamecocks are no slouches. They’re 8-3 this season, including a win over NC State and they’ve played good teams like Georgia and Texas A&M close. I think the Tigers will be okay for this one, though. They’re just too talented for South Carolina to keep up with for 60 minutes, but I wouldn’t put it past South Carolina to make this game interesting. They’re a very balanced team that could create some issues.

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Deon Cain is one of the most explosive receivers in the nation (photo credit: Athlon Sports)

Projected Score: Clemson 34 South Carolina 24

Texas A&M vs #18 LSU (-9.5)

I wouldn’t necessarily call this a big rivalry game, but it’s a matchup that will be worth watching as these are two quality teams that can hang with the best of them. Hell, these are probably the two teams that gave Alabama their best fights of the season (along with Mississippi State). Kevin Sumlin might be coaching for his job at this point as the expectations at A&M have been pretty high the last few seasons and a loss here would drop the Aggies to a 7-5 finish and a mediocre bowl game. Amazing how different 7-5 and 8-4 really look. I’m going to give the edge to LSU. Texas A&M is too inconsistent at quarterback and LSU’s defense feeds on those types of teams.

Projected Score: LSU 24 Texas A&M 14

#8 Notre Dame (-2.5) vs #21 Stanford

Notre Dame has some slim odds if they want to make the playoff, which I detailed in the link in my Iron Bowl pick. But they still have a chance and they have to beat Stanford to stay alive. This is pretty much guaranteed to be a close game, as this matchup has been decided by 1 score every year starting in 2012. Stanford has won 3 of those 5 games. The key to this game for Notre Dame is going to be stopping Bryce Love. Yes that’s pretty damn obvious, but Stanford is so unsettled at quarterback that the passing game can never seem to get in a consistent rhythm. Honestly, if they hold Love to 120 yards of total offense, they should be fine. I’m taking Notre Dame to win this game. Defensively I trust them to find ways to limit Love.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 28 Stanford 21

#13 Washington State vs #17 Washington (-10.5)

The winner of this game likely faces USC for the Pac-12 title, adding a little more incentive to an already intense rivalry. Both teams have had their ups and downs this season and have spent time in the Top 10. Both offenses have the ability to light up the scoreboard, but that could be limited because it is expected to rain in this game. For that reason, I’m going to give the edge to the Washington Huskies. A weapon like Myles Gaskin in the run game will be huge against the elements and I think he’s going to be in for a heck of a game.

Projected Score: Washington 30 Washington State 27

Those are the final picks of the regular season, I want to thank everyone for reading these every week. Fret not, I’m not done doing these, but my regular season is over upon the conclusion of these games. I will still be doing conference championship games, Army-Navy, and bowl games so I’ve still got plenty of material on the way. Are there any other rivalry games you want my thoughts on? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

College Football Picks: Week 12

Last Week: 9-3                    Season Record: 69-27

I may end up sabotaging my own picks segment because I enter the week at exactly 69 wins. This is going to hurt to try and pick winners. Last week my misses were NC State against Boston College (so damn close to picking that upset), Auburn over Georgia, and Miami (FL) over Notre Dame. This is the second to last week of the college football regular season, but do not fret, I will keep doing this segment. I’m going to do an expansive picks blog for the Army-Navy game, every conference title game, and every bowl game. So with that, let’s get picking.

Rutgers vs Indiana (-11)

Indiana needs this win if they are going to have any chance of remaining bowl eligible, as they currently sit at 4-6. Rutgers has given the Hoosiers problems in the past, as they’re 2-1 against Indiana since joining the Big Ten, including a 55-52 victory in 2015 where the Hoosiers held a 20-point lead late in the game. The Scarlet Knights are definitely better than they were last season, which isn’t saying much because they were easily the worst team in the Big Ten in 2016. Hell, Indiana played their worst game of the season last year against Rutgers and still won 33-27. I have the Hoosiers again though it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Rutgers beat the spread.

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Tegray Scales has been the leader of a resurgent Hoosiers defense (photo credit: Indiana Daily Student)

Projected Score: Indiana 31 Rutgers 24

#24 Michigan vs #5 Wisconsin (-7.5)

This game is huge in terms of Big Ten postseason implications. Not only could Michigan set itself up for a shot at the Big Ten Championship game with a win, but a Wolverines win would likely eliminate Wisconsin from CFP contention given how weak their schedule is. These are two pretty evenly matched teams as they play the same style of classic Big Ten football, in which offense is predicated on the run game and the defense is stingy and physical. Michigan has looked like their old selves again since switching from John O’Korn to Brandon Peters and I think they give Wisconsin a run for their money, but I think the Badgers escape this one and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Michigan 20

Texas vs West Virginia (-3)

Texas isn’t back yet, but they’ve shown some good things under Tom Herman, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, as they are probably the only Big 12 team that actually plays defense. Malik Jefferson has been as advertised and they will need to be at their best if they hope to top Will Grier’s West Virginia squad. The Mountaineers have been a tough offense to stop and that’s thanks in large part to Grier’s comfort in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s system. The Mountaineers are coming off two of their worst offensive performances of the season in their last two games, however both resulted in victories, showing that the defense can step up when needed. I’m taking West Virginia in this one.

Projected Score: West Virginia 30 Texas 21

Minnesota vs #23 Northwestern (-7)

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have struggled in Big Ten play this season, as they’re only 2-5 in conference play, their two wins being lowly Illinois and Nebraska. Defensively they’ve been decent, however, as aside from being unable to tackle Michigan runningbacks, they’ve held their own. It’s on the offensive side of the ball where they’ve struggled, though they are coming off a 54-21 drubbing of Nebraska last time out. Northwestern has had similar success on the defensive side of the ball but they’ve been a lot more consistent offensively and that is thanks in large part to the growth of quarterback Clayton Thorson and the continued dominance of runningback Justin Jackson. I do think Northwestern wins this game, they just have more weapons on offense than Minnesota does.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Minnesota 17

SMU vs #21 Memphis (-12.5)

A rare non-Power 5 game in my picks, but this game intrigues me mainly because this is probably the best matchup of wide receivers we’re going to get all season. SMU receiver Courtland Sutton is my top receiver in the upcoming draft and Memphis’ Anthony Miller is my number 5 pass catcher. SMU’s Trey Quinn has also been extremely impressive this season, as he is approaching 100 catches on the year and is already over 1000 yards. So this may not look like much on paper, but if you like wide receivers, turn this game on. I do see this game being high scoring but I’m going to give the edge to Memphis. Quarterback Riley Ferguson has outdueled the likes of Josh Rosen this season and I would certainly give him the edge over SMU’s Ben Hicks.

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Anthony Miller is arguably the best player you’ve never heard of (photo credit: NDT Scouting)

Projected Score: Memphis 45 SMU 41

Kentucky vs #7 Georgia (-21.5)

Tough loss for Georgia. They went into Jordan-Hare Stadium and got ROCKED by the Auburn Tigers last week, dropping in the rankings from #1 to #7. Their playoff hopes are definitely still alive and well, but they will have to win out in order to become one of the final four. Their first test will be the Kentucky Wildcats, who have quietly been pretty good this season. They’re 7-3 and have beaten the likes of Vanderbilt and Tennessee this season so this won’t be a cake walk for Georgia. However I think Kirby Smart will have his guys ready after the beatdown they suffered at the hands of Auburn and they will get themselves back on track this week.

Projected Score: Georgia 35 Kentucky 21

Kansas State vs #13 Oklahoma State (-20)

Oklahoma State is still alive to get a rematch with Oklahoma in the first ever Big 12 title game, but they will need to win out and they need TCU to lose one of their next two games (TCU faces Texas Tech and Baylor). The Cowboys offensively have been an absolute juggernaut with Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Justice Hill leading the way. Kansas State has had their share of struggles this year but they were competitive to the very end against Oklahoma and their defense held tough in their loss to TCU. I think Oklahoma State will win, but I don’t think it will be by nearly as much as the spread might indicate.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Kansas State 24

Navy vs #8 Notre Dame (-18)

Notre Dame is pretty much eliminated from playoff contention after getting shellacked by Miami (FL), handing them their second loss of the season. With no conference title game to play for, that pretty much spells the end for the playoff hopes of the Fighting Irish, barring complete insanity. They face an always scrappy Navy team that has given Notre Dame a lot of problems over the years and I actually think this game will come down to the wire. I do think the Irish will pull away and win this game, but the Midshipmen will give them quite the scare.

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The Notre Dame ground game has caused opposing defenses lots of problems this season (photo credit: UHND.com)

Projected Score: Notre Dame 27 Navy 24

#19 NC State vs Wake Forest (-1.5)

NC State narrowly escaped Boston College last week with a 17-14 victory despite the fact that the Eagles were without star edge rusher Harold Landry (whom I had hyped up for that matchup without knowing he was dealing with a bum ankle. Such is life.). Wake Forest is a scrappy team, as they have kept the game close in all of their losses this season, which includes Clemson and Notre Dame. I’m actually going to go on a limb and say Wake Forest takes this game. It’s a gut feeling for this one because they’ve come close to beating ranked teams on multiple occasions this season, I think this is the week they get it done.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 20 NC State 17

UCLA vs #11 USC (-16)

All the eyes of NFL scouts will be on this game. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold could be the top 2 picks in the draft this season and they’ve both played some stellar quarterback. Both quarterbacks rank in the top 10 in the nation in passing yards and this is despite Rosen missing the Utah game due to injury. He is very healthy now, coming off a 381-yard showing against Arizona State last time out. Darnold has struggled with turnovers this season, he leads all of college football in that category, but that hasn’t kept him from being a top-tier quarterback this season. I really hope this game ends in a shootout and I think we’ll get it. These quarterbacks are too gifted for it not to end as such. I have USC winning because they have more weapons on defense to get a stop against Rosen.

Projected Score: USC 49 UCLA 42

California vs #22 Stanford (-15.5)

Another edition of the rivalry most famous for that time Stanford’s band was on the field during Cal’s game-winning run. Both squads have been pretty inconsistent this season, with Cal blowing out a top-10 Washington State team one week, then losing to Arizona the following week (though it has since been discovered that Arizona is actually pretty good). Bryce Love had a bounceback game in the win over Washington last week, rushing for 166 yards after being limited to just 69 (nice) the week prior against Washington State. I think Love carves up the Cal defense and Stanford wins handily.

Projected Score: Stanford 42 California 21

Utah vs #18 Washington (-18)

Utah has been ice cold since beginning Pac 12 play, as they’ve lost 5 of their last 6 and their one victory was over a UCLA team that was without superstar quarterback Josh Rosen. Washington is pretty healthy and I think Myles Gaskin will have a field day with this Utes defense. He is at 1038 yards on the season on just 166 carries (6.3 YPC) and Utah has just been okay against the run this season. Jake Browning hasn’t been the stud he was last season, but he won’t need to be in order for Washington to get the victory over Utah.

Projected Score: Washington 35 Utah 17

Those are my picks for this week in my second-to-last shot at a perfect week. Agree? Disagree? Are there other games you want my thoughts on? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 10

Last Week: 7-5                   Season Record: 52-20

Ouch, rough week for my college football picks. 7-5 might not look so bad but it was my worst week since I started doing this segment. The games I missed were Indiana against Maryland, Washington State against Arizona, Ohio State against Penn State, Iowa State against TCU, and Mississippi State against Texas A&M. Rough week. So before I drown my sadness in candy, let’s get picking. The rankings on this blog no longer represent the AP Poll, but now the CFP Rankings since those are the only rankings that matter.

#9 Wisconsin (-13.5) vs Indiana

I’m a little surprised Wisconsin is ranked this low despite being undefeated, but it just goes to show how a weak schedule can really hurt in the eyes of the voters. Indiana’s one of the better teams Wisconsin will face, even though their 3-5 record might suggest otherwise, but the Hoosiers play good opponents tough. They were hanging with Ohio State for most of the game, they held their own against Penn State after falling behind big early, and they nearly beat Michigan and Michigan State. The one bad loss for Indiana is Maryland and in that game they just repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. I think Wisconsin will win again, but this has the potential to be a trap game for the Badgers coming into Bloomington.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 27 Indiana 20

#7 Penn State (-10) vs #24 Michigan State

Penn State’s loss to Ohio State could be a killer. Despite both teams having the same records, OSU’s loss was to a non-conference opponent, which doesn’t hurt their chances at the Big Ten championship. Penn State, on the other hand, will need Ohio State to lose twice as well as win out themselves in order to have a crack at a repeat title. But they’re as good as any team in the country and it took an amazing performance by JT Barrett to beat them. Michigan State doesn’t have anyone near Barrett’s caliber so I don’t think their stingy defense will be enough to stop the Nittany Lions.

Projected Score: Penn State 35 Michigan State 20

#14 Auburn (-15) vs Texas A&M

Texas A&M really let me down last week against Mississippi State. I had high hopes for them in that game and they got throttled by the Bulldogs. Now they face a dangerous Auburn team that can not only score on anybody, but stop anybody as well. The Aggies are going to have their work cut out for them and I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t beat the spread in this one.

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Kerryon Johnson is part of a prolific backfield duo with Kamryn Pettway (photo credit: AL.com)

Projected Score: Auburn 45 Texas A&M 21

South Carolina vs #1 Georgia (-23.5)

I was a little surprised to see Georgia take the number 1 spot in the initial playoff rankings, even though I will admit they have the most impressive resume. But I thought Alabama passed the eye test better and I feel like if these two teams were to meet, Alabama would win 8 times out of 10. That’s not a knock against Georgia, that’s just how good I think the Crimson Tide are. They face a South Carolina team that I think is underrated. They beat NC State at the start of the season (a win that looks REALLY good right now) and I think Jake Bentley is one of the more underrated passers in the country. They won’t beat Georgia, but I do think they beat the spread (a rather large one at that).

Projected Score: Georgia 28 South Carolina 17

Wake Forest vs #3 Notre Dame (-14)

Notre Dame at #3 doesn’t really shock me. They have an impressive resume to go with their good record. My reasoning for putting them at #4 behind Ohio State in my playoff projections was because I felt that the Buckeyes would win in a head-to-head matchup. The voters felt differently, obviously, because Notre Dame is 3 and OSU is 6. The Fighting Irish take on a Wake Forest team that is pretty scrappy. They’ve been competitive in their three losses to Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech and are coming off a 10-point victory over Louisville. I have Notre Dame in this, but I think the Demon Deacons make it interesting for a while.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 34 Wake Forest 20

#4 Clemson (-8.5) vs #20 NC State

I was a little surprised to see Clemson crack the playoff in the first rankings at #4. I figured their loss to a team like Syracuse and Kelly Bryant’s questionable health would scare the committee. But they seem to be okay with it because if the season ended today, Clemson would be facing Georgia in the first round of the Playoff. They have an opportunity to boost that resume this week against a good NC State team, who is coming off a tough loss to Notre Dame. Bradley Chubb continues to be a menace for the Wolfpack and I think he will give the Tigers a lot of problems. But Clemson’s also got some beasts on defense and I think theirs win out.

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If Kelly Bryant can return to full health, Clemson is a DANGEROUS team (photo credit: The State)

Projected Score: Clemson 38 NC State 30

#21 Stanford vs #25 Washington State (-1)

The key for this game is going to be the health of Bryce Love for Stanford. He missed last week’s game against Oregon State with an ankle injury and the Cardinal narrowly escaped with a 15-14 victory. Washington State is coming off a rough loss to Arizona in which the Cougars were TORCHED on the ground by Arizona dual-threat QB Khalil Tate. It has been announced that Love will be able to play in this game. It will be interesting to see how well he is able to make his cuts on that ankle. But I think he will be at enough strength where he will be able to do damage to the Wazzu defense.

Projected Score: Stanford 42 Washington State 35

#5 Oklahoma vs #11 Oklahoma State (-1.5)

The Bedlam Game has a lot more on the line this week than usual. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are 1-loss Big 12 teams vying for a playoff spot, the loser likely being eliminated. Oklahoma’s loss was to Iowa State (which looks better and better each week) and OK State got burned by TCU, whom Iowa State recently topped. It’s going to be a battle between two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph and I think whichever defense can make a stop will be the winner. I have more faith in the Sooners to get this done.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 49 Oklahoma State 45

Minnesota vs Michigan (-15)

Michigan is in a weird position right now. Sure the defense is terrific, but Wilton Speight won’t be seeing the field anytime soon and they just had to bench John O’Korn for their third string quarterback Brandon Peters. Sure, Peters looked good last week, but it was against Rutgers. That’s like saying he played well against folding chairs. Minnesota’s defense isn’t exactly the ’85 Bears, but they’ve been decent, not allowing more than 31 points this season. I think this will be a close game for 3 quarters but I think Michigan’s talented ground game will pull away in the fourth.

Projected Score: Michigan 31 Minnesota 24

#19 LSU vs #2 Alabama (-21.5)

Alabama head coach Nick Saban (whom I consider to be the greatest college football coach of all time) has often stated that he doesn’t care about the polls, but that’s easy for him to say because he’s always #1. However, the first CFP polls came out and Alabama is #2 for the first time in the regular season since 2015. Considering how badly they’ve beaten some teams, I’m sure the Crimson Tide players have to be asking themselves “what more do you want from us?” Well, decimating this LSU team would be a start. The Tigers have been playing well since getting embarrassed by Troy but I think they ran into Alabama at the worst possible time. We could be seeing Bama’s reserves long before this game ends.

Projected Score: Alabama 52 LSU 21

#13 Virginia Tech (-1) vs #10 Miami (FL)

Like Wisconsin, Miami (FL) is also undefeated yet finds itself barely within the top 10. This is mainly because not only have they not beaten anybody good (Florida State does not count as a good team this season), but they’ve barely beaten these not good teams. They face their first real test in Virginia Tech, whose only loss was to Clemson a few weeks ago. Since then, their defense has been absolutely DOMINANT, not allowing more than 10 points in any of their last 3 games (which includes a 59-7 drubbing of North Carolina). I think Virginia Tech wins this one and I think they’ll expose the Hurricanes’ shortcomings.

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Tremaine Edmunds and the Hokies defense have been unstoppable in their last 3 games (photo credit: 247 Sports)

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 48 Miami (FL) 24

#22 Arizona vs #17 USC (-7)

Khalil Tate was a MONSTER against Washington State, rushing for 146 yards and throwing for 275 more. He’s approaching 1000 yards on the ground this season and he has the Arizona Wildcats looking their best since 2014. They face a USC team that has been really inconsistent this season. Sam Darnold has been pretty good but he has underwhelmed given the expectations set for him at the beginning of the year (which were unfairly high, but 10 interceptions at this stage of the season isn’t where a top draft pick wants to be). Speaking of Darnold, he reportedly will return to school if the Cleveland Browns end up with the #1 overall pick, that’s how badly he doesn’t want to play for them. Hard to blame him, but I’m also not so sure he would be the top pick anyway at this point. But anyways, back to the game, I think Khalil Tate puts on another show and leads Arizona to the big win over USC.

Projected Score: Arizona 42 USC 39

Those are my picks for this week. If there are any other games you want my thoughts on, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 7

Last Week: 9-3                       Season Record: 27-9

So my misses last week were Michigan, Oregon, and Florida. The Oregon pick was more of my upset pick, my Michigan pick I honestly didn’t feel great about because of how non-existent the offense has been and the Florida pick was mainly because they couldn’t hit a damn extra point. So I like to think I’m 12-0 every week. That being said, last week was the season average for me so I’m going to try and beat that this week. And one of these days, I will accurately predict a score and when I do, I will never shut up about it for as long as I live. Without further ado, let’s get picking.

#17 Michigan (-8) vs Indiana

Michigan is coming off a heartbreaking loss to in-state rival Michigan State that came down to the final play of the game. Indiana shut out FCS opponent Charleston Southern 27-0 and didn’t let up a single completed pass. It’s Indiana’s homecoming game this Saturday and you can bet the Hoosiers are going to bring it. New quarterback Peyton Ramsey will get his first real chance at a major college defense, as he torched Charleston Southern for 321 yards on a rainy afternoon. Michigan has struggled to move the ball this year and it’s been their defense that has kept them in games. I’m actually going to make a bold call here, I think Indiana is going to win this. Last time a 17th ranked team came into Bloomington was Michigan State last year and Indiana won in OT 24-21. I think the field is going to be stormed by the fans, just as it was against the Spartans last year.

Projected Score: Indiana 28 Michigan 24

#6 TCU (-6.5) vs Kansas State

TCU has looked like the best team in the Big 12 this year and that was reaffirmed after Oklahoma lost a stunner to Iowa State last week (thank God I didn’t do that game for my picks!). Kenny Hill has been a star for the Horned Frogs as they look to enter the playoff mix for the first time in school history. Kansas State spent some time this year ranked but they haven’t beaten anyone good. Their victories are against Central Arkansas, Charlotte, and a winless Baylor team while their losses have come against Vanderbilt and Texas. TCU is going to be the first big test for Bill Snyder’s Wildcats team but I don’t think they will keep it super close. TCU wins this one.

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Kenny Hill has done it all for TCU this season (photo credit: Sporting News)

Projected Score: TCU 42 Kansas State 20

#24 Texas Tech vs West Virginia

Texas Tech doesn’t seem to have missed a step in replacing Pat Mahomes. Nic Shimonek has kept this offense moving at a prolific rate, which includes an impressive performance in a close loss to what is on paper a far superior Oklahoma State team. They dropped 65 on Kansas last week and find themselves in the rankings for the first time this season. West Virginia has quietly been just as impressive as Texas Tech. They’re actually scoring over 40 points a game and their only losses this year have been by identical scores of 31-24 against TCU and Virginia Tech, two highly ranked teams. This is going to be a close game, as Will Grier has looked very comfortable in this Mountaineers’ attack. I think West Virginia wins it and may find themselves back in the rankings next week.

Projected Score: West Virginia 45 Texas Tech 41

South Carolina vs Tennessee (-3)

South Carolina is coming off a blowout win over Arkansas 48-22 and have looked pretty solid this season. Jake Bentley has been the best passer the team has had since Connor Shaw and defensively they’ve quietly been one of the better teams in the country, allowing only 21 points per game on the season, 4th best in the SEC. Tennessee has been a frustrating team. Ever since an impressive win over a good Georgia Tech team, these guys have just looked lost and it culminated by getting embarrassed on their home field by Georgia 41-0 a couple of weeks ago. This will be their first game since that thrashing and while I definitely think they will play better (can’t do much worse), I think South Carolina leaves Knoxville with a W.

Projected Score: South Carolina 38 Tennessee 27

#10 Auburn (-7.5) vs LSU

LSU may have saved their season in their victory over Florida last week, after having been embarrassed by Troy the week prior. They just haven’t been able to get a passing game going with Danny Etling and come to think of it, LSU hasn’t really had a good passing QB since Zach Mettenberger and even he had his hiccups. It puts a lot of pressure on running back Derrius Guice, who is a tremendous talent but only has 364 yards on the season through 6 games. It won’t get any easier against an Auburn team that has been throttling the SEC this year. They’ve crushed Missouri and both Mississippi schools in their last three games and their only loss on the season was against the team that currently sits at #2 in the country, Clemson (thought they are most certainly falling after losing to Syracuse last night), and they only lost that game 14-6. I think Auburn is going to win this one and they’re going to win it big. People will once again question whether Ed Orgeron is the man for the job at LSU.

Projected Score: Auburn 35 LSU 10

Georgia Tech vs #11 Miami (FL) (-6.5)

This is a makeup game from the hurricanes that hit South Florida. Georgia Tech has actually been the #1 yards against defense in the nation this season as well as having the nation’s second best rushing attack on offense. Their only loss was Tennessee on opening night and that was because they went for 2 to win it instead of kicking the extra point to send the game to another OT. Their last game was a 33-7 beatdown of North Carolina as they come into Miami to square off with the Hurricanes, who are coming off a thrilling last second victory over Florida State. I think this is a trap game for Miami and the Yellow Jackets will sneak a win out of this one.

Projected Score: Georgia Tech 30 Miami (FL) 21

#12 Oklahoma (-9) vs Texas

Ah, the Red River Rivalry. This is probably the biggest rivalry game in college football that isn’t played on the regular season’s final week. It hasn’t quite been the same since Colt McCoy left Texas but that hasn’t stopped the Longhorns from competing in these games. They catch Oklahoma at the perfect time because they are reeling right now, having lost to Iowa State last week. Baker Mayfield was terrific despite the loss, throwing for 306 yards on 24-33 passing. The Sooners defense just couldn’t stop the Cyclones. Texas was able to beat Iowa State a couple of weeks ago 17-7 and are coming off a 40-34 victory over Kansas State while also playing USC really tough a few weeks back. I don’t think Texas is quite back just yet under Tom Herman, but they will compete with Oklahoma, though a win will elude them.

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Baker Mayfield has been one of the most exciting QBs in college football since arriving in Norman (photo credit: The Ringer)

Projected Score: Oklahoma 45 Texas 38

#25 Navy vs Memphis (-3.5)

Navy is once again a quietly good team despite running possibly the single most boring offense in college football. It’s efficient, though, as it has Navy 5-0 to start the year. Zach Abey leads the way for the Midshipmen as he ranks among the leaders in the NCAA with 870 rushing yards on the season. They face off against a really good Memphis team and a quarterback in Riley Ferguson that managed to outduel Josh Rosen earlier this year. Memphis is 4-1, their only loss being a bad defeat to a good UCF team 40-13, however they rebounded nicely last week against UConn, dropping 70 points on the Huskies. This will be an interesting game, but I think Navy will win it for two reasons: number 1, you don’t pick against the Midshipmen. Number 2, I think Navy will control the clock all game and Memphis won’t have enough opportunities to give Ferguson a chance to make plays.

Projected Score: Navy 24 Memphis 14

Texas A&M vs Florida (-3)

Both teams are coming off heartbreaking losses against SEC blue bloods. Texas A&M was the first team all season to give Alabama a challenge as they lost 27-19 while Florida was a missed extra point away from taking LSU into OT. A&M has looked really good since I bashed them in my first ever picks segment and they look to carry that momentum into Gainesville where the Gators offensively just seem to always take one step forward then go two steps back. Just when I think Feleipe Franks is going to have a big day and prove himself as a passer, he goes and lays an egg, throwing for only 108 yards against the Tigers. I think the Aggies will win this but it will be a tight, low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Texas A&M 17 Florida 10

Utah vs #13 USC (-13)

I predicted last week that the Utes would get blown out by Stanford as their 4 victories on the year have been pretty unimpressive. They kept it a LOT closer than I anticipated, losing the game on a late field goal, but I was really impressed by their defense. USC is coming off the stunning loss against Washington State and have had a couple extra days to prepare for Utah. While Sam Darnold hasn’t put together the Heisman campaign people were expecting of him coming into the season, he has still been pretty solid and a lot of his problems have to do with factors out of his control, whether that be a missed block by a lineman or a pass that goes through a receiver’s hands. I think Darnold will throw a pick or two in this game, but I have USC prevailing nonetheless.

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Despite heavy interception numbers, Sam Darnold is still projected to be a high pick in next year’s NFL Draft (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Score: USC 28 Utah 17

#21 Michigan State (-4.5) vs Minnesota

The Spartans defensively have looked really good all season, though some really bad late penalties against Michigan nearly doomed them. They managed to hold on and win in the Big House 14-10 but they will need to keep that up against another good defense in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers lost to Purdue last time out and will be looking to get back on track against the Spartans. It’s expected to rain with a temperature in the 50’s in Minnesota so prepare for a classic Big Ten defensive slugfest. I have Michigan State winning in a low-scoring game.

Projected Score: Michigan State 13 Minnesota 7

Oregon vs #23 Stanford (10)

My upset pick of Oregon over Washington State did NOT go well last week, as the Cougars trounced the Ducks 33-10. It doesn’t get any easier for Oregon this week as they face Bryce Love and the Stanford Cardinal. Love leads the nation in rushing at 1240 yards. At the rate he’s going, he will be approaching Barry Sanders’ single season record of 2628 set back in 1988 during Stanford’s bowl game. Last week was his lowest rushing output of the season at 152 yards on 20 carries. Now that’s saying something when that’s your worst performance. It came right after his best game against Arizona State where he ran for 301 on 25 carries. The guy has been insane this year and is a leading candidate for the Hesiman Trophy. I have Stanford winning on Love’s back.

Projected Score: Stanford 35 Oregon 24

Those are my picks for Week 7. There isn’t a single matchup between ranked teams this week so that kind of hurt the overall matchups but I think we’ll still get plenty of excitement come noon on Saturday. Let me know if you want any other games talked about in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 6

Last Week: 10-2                    Season Record: 18-6

Good week last time out, though I should also mention that both of my losses came when I picked the team that wasn’t favored (Mississippi State and Iowa). Turns out I may not have given Michigan State enough credit. I also damn near picked the exact score of the Clemson-VA Tech game (the score was 31-17, I said it would be 38-17). Anyway, enough tooting my own horn, on to the picks.

Wake Forest vs #2 Clemson (-21.5)

Wake Forest took Florida State to the brink last week. It took a beautiful touchdown throw by James Blackman for the Seminoles to escape the Demon Deacons. It is also worth noting that Wake had SEVENTEEN tackles for loss last week. That’s just incredible. Clemson has looked untouchable to start the season, which is amazing to me given how much talent they lost last season. I’m going to go with Clemson on this one. I don’t know if they cover that massive spread, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. Wake Forest doesn’t have enough offense to keep up.

Projected Score: Clemson 45 Wake Forest 17

#4 Penn State (-13.5) vs Northwestern

Northwestern hung in tight with a really good Wisconsin team and they actually led at the half. Penn State’s a different beast altogether, however. Despite the fact that Indiana once again limited Saquon Barkley’s rushing yards (56 yards on 20 carries), Barkley was able to find other ways to have a huge impact on the game, as he returned a kick to the house, threw a touchdown pass, and had 51 receiving yards. Trace McSorley and Dasean Hamilton also had big games for the Nittany Lions against the Hoosiers, which shows that Penn State is more than just their Heisman frontrunner. They’ll win this one relatively handily.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Penn State

Saquon Barkley has been the Heisman frontrunner as we approach the season’s halfway point (photo credit: Big Ten Network)

Projected Score: Penn State 48 Northwestern 27

#5 Georgia (-17.5) vs Vanderbilt 

After getting absolutely slaughtered by Alabama in Week 4, Vanderbilt had a nice bounceback performance against the #21 Florida Gators, hanging with them until the very end.  Georgia, on the other hand, perhaps turned in the performance of the year, going into Knoxville and abusing Tennessee 41-0 despite Jake Fromm’s very mediocre passing performance (7-15 for 84 yards with a TD and a pick). Georgia’s defense has also been wildly impressive, as displayed by the shutout of a previously-ranked Tennessee squad. Roquan Smith has been flying to the ball and has Georgia primed for a big win over Vanderbilt to further entrench themselves as the second-best team in the SEC.

Projected Score: Georgia 38 Vanderbilt 17

#23 West Virginia vs #8 TCU (-13)

Will Grier has been excellent for the Mountaineers to start the season, throwing for over 1300 yards and 13 TDS in the team’s first four games. Their one loss on the season was against a very good Virginia Tech squad that hung in tough with Clemson. TCU seems to have completely bounced back from a wildly underwhelming 2016 season as Kenny Hill has been a machine at quarterback. TCU has impressive double-digit wins over Oklahoma State and Arkansas and will look to do it again against West Virginia. They will, but West Virginia will make it a lot closer than the rest of the FBS has.

Projected Score: TCU 31 West Virginia 21

#13 Miami (FL) (-3) vs Florida State

Florida State has looked COMPLETELY lost without Deondre Francois. They did finally manage to get into the win column against Wake Forest, but it took a last minute TD pass by James Blackman to do it. They go up against a Miami squad that is coming off a beatdown of Duke in a revenge game from that lateral game a couple of years back. Malik Rozier has been very efficient for the U, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes and only tossing 2 INTs on the year. But the big star of this game is going to be Hurricanes runningback Mark Walton, who is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry on the season. Miami wins big.

Projected Score: Miami (FL) 49 Florida State 20

#22 Notre Dame (-15.5) vs North Carolina

Josh Adams was a monster against an overmatched Miami (OH) team, rushing for 159 yards on just 8 carries. He won’t be quite that good against a lackluster North Carolina defense that has allowed 30.6 points per game this season. The UNC offense has also been wildly inconsistent as they were only able to muster 7 points against Georgia Tech last week yet dropped 30 on a very good Louisville squad and 53 in their win over Old Dominion. Notre Dame’s defense will be the toughest they face yet and UNC won’t be too big an issue for the Fighting Irish.

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Josh Adams has had some of the more impressive rushing performances on the season (photo credit: One Foot Down)

Projected Score: Notre Dame 38 North Carolina 14

LSU vs #21 Florida (-2.5)

Ouch. Does it get any worse than losing to Troy for LSU? Actually, it does.

Troy spoils LSU’s homecoming and it doesn’t get any easier as they take on a Florida Gators team that seems to be starting to figure out their offense. Despite losing Luke del Rio for the season, Feleipe Franks looked like he had a fire lit under him after losing his starting job and played well in relief against Vanderbilt. For LSU, after absolutely dominating BYU in Week 1 (BYU’s offense never crossed midfield, and LSU was without star pass rusher Arden Key), the Tigers have looked lost, getting blown out by Mississippi State, narrowly beating an underwhelming Syracuse team, and culminating with an embarrassing loss to Troy. Their struggles will continue, as Florida takes this one in the Swamp.

Projected Score: Florida 30 LSU 10

Minnesota vs Purdue (-4)

Minnesota had been stuffing their non-conference schedule, allowing a grand total of 24 points in their 3-game slate. Then they take on conference foe Maryland and let up 31 points in a 31-24 loss. They look to right the ship (or “Row the Boat,” as head coach PJ Fleck likes to say) against a Purdue team that seems to have new life. They’ve trounced Ohio and Missouri for their two wins and competed from start to finish in their two losses to Louisville and Michigan. Jeff Brohm has been working wonders for the Boilermakers and I think this game ends up being a defensive slugfest, with Purdue pulling away late.

Projected Score: Purdue 20 Minnesota 17

#1 Alabama (-26.5) vs Texas A&M

The Aggies came very close to starting the season 1-3 yet find themselves 4-1 through their first five. They’ve been tested all year and aside from a Week 1 choke job for the ages, they’ve passed them all. Their greatest test will come against a juggernaut in Alabama that has just been unfair to start conference play. Against SEC opponents, they beat Vanderbilt 59-0 and Ole Miss 66-3. Alabama is so far ahead of everyone else it’s not even worth watching their games. Alabama wins a snooze-fest.

Projected Score: Alabama 52 Texas A&M 10

Michigan State vs #7 Michigan (-10.5)

The last time these two teams were at the big house was that famous botched punt that MSU took to the house for the victory. The Spartans were awful last season yet they were still competitive against an excellent Wolverines squad. Michigan will be starting John O’Korn at quarterback this week in place of the injured Wilton Speight as Michigan will look to shake their offensive woes on the season. I think Michigan wins, but it’s a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 Michigan State 17

#11 Washington State (-3) vs Oregon 

This is going to be a fun game if you love offense. Washington State pulled off the shocking upset over then-#5 USC last week and Luke Falk has put himself into the thick of the Heisman race. Oregon is coming off a big win over California and are an Arizona State late field goal away from being 5-0 on the season. This is going to be a shootout in Eugene and I think Oregon is going to take this one, but Luke Falk will still put up big numbers and stay in the Heisman race.

Projected Score: Oregon 49 Washington State 45

Stanford (-4) vs #20 Utah 

I never thought I would say this, but Stanford has been able to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Christian McCaffrey. Bryce Love has been an absolute MONSTER for the Cardinal through their first 5 games, already over 1000 yards rushing on the season and Stanford hasn’t even played half their games yet. Love is averaging 11.1 yards per carry and one could make a strong argument that he ought to be the Heisman frontrunner at this stage in the year. Utah will have the unenviable task in trying to stop him. Utah is 4-0 on the season but it’s an unimpressive 4-0 for me. Their wins come against North Dakota, BYU, San Jose State, and Arizona and only the San Jose State game was a truly convincing victory for me. I think Stanford knocks off the 20th ranked Utes and I think they do it big.

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Bryce Love has done the unthinkable this season: replace Christian McCaffrey (photo credit: Rule of Tree)

Projected Score: Stanford 55 Utah 20

Those are my picks this week. I didn’t do Indiana’s game because they’re facing FCS opponent Charleston Southern and I can’t in good conscious do an FBS-FCS game unless it involves North Dakota State (who always seems to beat FBS teams) or Washington State (who always seems to lose to FCS teams). It just wouldn’t be very sporting of me. So if you have any other games you want me to do, let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook and Twitter @jimwyman10.