WEEK 7 PICKS
S: UCLA at Stanford (-6)
I think UCLA's loss of defensive talent (and depth) will bite them here. Stanford has rediscovered the formula that led them to national prominence: play smash-mouth defense, run the dang ball, pass efficiently, and control the clock. UCLA has shown flashes of brilliance this year, but still have a freshman quarterback at the helm. Stanford by 10.
R: UCLA (+6) at Stanford
I picked UCLA to win the south and they were off last week. Even if UCLA was a small favorite I would still pick them to win. Stanford has a few good wins such as the game against USC and Arizona. UCLA had to ditch the run when they got down big and fast against Arizona State. Stanford will not get as big of a lead of as quickly as Arizona State did so UCLA will be able to keep feeding Paul Perkins and let him run behind an experienced offensive line. I just think this is a great matchup for UCLA.
S: Alabama at Texas A&M (+4.5)
'Bama has looked good these past two weeks. Elite, even. But this is a matchup problem for the Tide. Alabama's weaknesses are twofold: the secondary, and Jake Coker at quarterback. A&M, with a beastly pass-rush and excellent downfield passing offense, can exploit those two things. I'm taking the Aggies to keep it tight in College Station.
R: Alabama at Texas A&M (+4.5)
Alabama absolutely crushed TAMU last year. But TAMU is the type of team that has stretched the Tide defense. A spread offense with an athletic quarterback and amazing receivers have always given Alabama problems. The real 12th fan in College Station is going to be absolutely rocking when Alabama comes in. A&M's defense is now also being led by one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. Even look at the last weekend. Alabama played a physical Arkansas team and Coker struggled. Texas A&M was off. With a rested team, an athletic offense, a well-coached defense, and the home field advantage I like the Aggies to win.
S: Florida (+6) at LSU
Even without Will Grier at quarterback (who all of a sudden looks pretty solid for Florida) for the rest of the year, I still think this Florida team can compete in the SEC, if not nationally. Specifically, I think the Florida defense is the best unit in the country: offense, or defense. Leonard Fournette will get some yards, but not as many has he's used to. The only decent defense LSU has played this year is Mississippi State in Week 2, and since then Fournette has been running through creampuff defenses: Auburn, Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, and South Carolina. Not sure how Florida scores points without Will Grier, but also not sure how LSU scores points against that terrifying Gator defense, either. Take the points. This feels like 21-17 either way.
R: Florida (+6) at LSU
Grier may be out due to a PED, which was probably a small ingredient in a supplement he bought but didn't clear, but that loss doesn't really impact my pick. McElwain has shown that he can take average quarterbacks and get above average performances. Florida has won because of their defense in every game. They are athletic and can make plays. Now they go against a one-dimensional team that has played a weak schedule. Fournette will make some plays and get on Sportscenter but this is going to be a game where LSU really struggles.
S: Oklahoma (-4.5) at Kansas State
This was the toughest game to pick this week. K-State looked really solid last week, forcing TCU into a corner with an 18-point lead early and almost hanging on to win. But you also have to remember that K-State bled away the lead in large part because they have very substandard quarterback play. Oklahoma is coming off an inexplicable loss to Texas, but at least Texas has some explosive offense in its repertoire. K-State is a tough out, and playing in Manhattan is a challenge, but I think Oklahoma bounces back and out-talents the Wildcats. 4.5 are not that many points to lay on a superior team, and so I'll lay 'em.
R: Oklahoma at Kansas State (+4.5)
What the hell happened last week? Oklahoma was surging and people were wondering if Charlie Strong was really the man for the job with just how awful Texas looked. There's no way around it other than saying Texas looked like one of the worst teams in the country during the first quarter of the TCU game. If you're really that good of a team there is really no scenario where you drop a game to Texas. Kansas State pushed TCU to the brink with a terrible passing performance and convert third downs almost half the time. Kansas State is going to get to the quarterback
S: Michigan State (+6.5) at Michigan
Everyone is buying Michigan, and for good reason. But I still have a soft spot for Sparty. Yes, they have been underwhelming in pretty much every game so far. Yes, Michigan's defense looks incredible. But let me remind you who Michigan's defense has actually shut down: Oregon State, UNLV, BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern. Quick: name a quarterback not named Tanner Mangum on that schedule. Still waiting.
Connor Cook is a bona-fide star. He has won three bowl games, including a Rose Bowl (against Stanford) and a Cotton Bowl (against Baylor). The defense is experienced and savvy. I think they can put up enough points to keep it close, and play smart enough on defense to fluster Michigan's still-unproven offense. Take the points, and look for Sparty to break some Blue hearts in the Big House.
R: Michigan State (+6.5) at Michigan
The Spartans have yet to cover this year but they have the quarterback advantage and it's pretty big. Connor Cook has played solid this year and Michigan's QB has been average. Michigan hasn't really beaten anyone this year. BYU was at the end of a bunch of close games and Northwestern who might not be that good. So many people will be riding Michigan because of Harbaugh. This game is going to be extremely close and with the line at 6.5 I think that's a great value play. Michigan State's defense gives me pause only because they have had so many injuries. But the MSU defense will take advantage of the Michigan offense and put the Michigan defense in tough spots. I like Michigan State to win straight up.
S: Oregon State at Washington State (-8)
Wazzu has always had the points-scoring ability, now they have some swag to go along with it. I haven't been paying any attention to Oregon State this year, largely because they don't have anything notable going on. Not sure Washington State can "crush" the Beavers, but they can certainly win by 10.
R: Oregon State (+8) at Washington State
Classic hangover game. Maybe it was too much Fireball (the official drink of Washington State football!) or congratulating themselves for the win at Oregon but I think WSU will come out a little flat. Seth Collins is a very dynamic player who in two years is going to be one of the best players in the conference if he stays on his current trajectory. Mix Oregon State's fast start and Washington State's slow start I think Washington State will pull out a win at the end but Oregon State will still cover.
S: Arizona State (+7) at Utah
I think this is a matchup problem for Arizona State. I think Utah is building a swagger, and their defense can handle any type of offense. They just make plays on defense. And I think their home-field advantage is huge. But remember that Utah beat Cal by just 6 with FIVE JARED GOFF INTERCEPTIONS.
Arizona State has found a nice groove both offensively and defensively. I think Utah is clearly the better team, but I just think it's more likely that Arizona State keeps it close than Utah wins by more than a touchdown. Take the points. Because you can't trust anyone in the Pac-12 to hold a lead right now, as much love as Utah is getting nationally.
R: Arizona State at Utah (-7)
Utah is clearly one of the best teams in the country. I probably wouldn't pick them over TAMU, Bama, LSU, or Clemson but against the PAC-12 they are money. They have no clear weaknesses and have a fantastic defense that can play against anybody.
Arizona State has really struggled except for one win over UCLA, which is a #PAC12AfterDark game. Utah's front seven is going to get to the quarterback, limiting the Sun Devil offense. I think the Utah running game is just going to roll through the Sun Devil defense. I'd probably take Utah at -7 against anyone not named UCLA.
S: USC at Notre Dame (-4)
If this were a home game, I'd take the points. But I think USC is just so messy right now. Debilitating loss to Washington. The Sarkisian circus. And now they go on the road to South Bend to face an athletic, nasty Notre Dame defense. Lay the points on the more steady quantity this week. Notre Dame smells blood in the water, and will attack early.
R: USC (+4) at Notre Dame
It was ten years ago that we saw the Bush Push. This is a great time for USC to show up. They lost a coach who literally was drunk during the last game (wish him the best because addiction is terrible) and they've got a new guy to be the interim. The first game under a new coach mid-season is always fire. Clay Helton will lead, objectively, one of the most talented teams in the country despite their play as a team. They've shown the potential of being a team that can shred anybody.
S: Oregon (+1) at Washington
You know what, F it. F it all. Oregon is winning this game. I still believe that if the secondary was as talented as the front seven, Ducks would be at least 5-1 right now. Washington is not a dynamic passing team, and beat USC because they forced turnovers and ran the ball and controlled the clock. I think Oregon's defense has a good chance to play well against the ground game. And I hope that Frost can call the game at least competently to put 31+ on the board. If the Ducks can score 31 or more, they win.
S: Oregon (+1) at Washington
I WILL NOT BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT THIS