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2015 College Football Picks: Week Two

Larry Scott
5 Michigan State Spartans vs. 7 Oregon Ducks 7:00 pm (CT) on ABC
After losing to Oregon in Eugene a year ago, Michigan State will hope to gain revenge against the Ducks on their home turf in a game that will have a huge early impact on the Playoff race. Both teams didn't have too much problems in their openers last week; though Western Michigan and Eastern Washington aren't exactly super tough opponents. The Ducks will bring their high-powered offense to the table led by transfer quarterback Vernon Adams. Despite only official being on the Oregon roster for a couple weeks, Adams shined in the opener. His strong arm and impressive athleticism when scrambling is sure to give the Michigan State defense plenty of fits. He will be joined by Royce Freeman at tailback (who had three touchdowns against EWU) and a number of explosive weapons at receiver, including Bralon Addison and Byron Marshall. Though, the questions for the Ducks come on the defensive side of the ball. The Oregon defense not only surrendered 42 points to the Eagles but also allowed a jaw-dropping 549 yards of total offense. They struggled that much against an FCS team, it will not get any easier against Connor Cook and the Spartans. DeForest Buckner, the leader of the Oregon defense, will have to get pressure on the quarterback, while someone in the secondary will have to step up in a big way after allowing 438 yards through the air. Michigan State has never really been a scary offensive team in the Mark Dantonio era, but they control the ball well and don't turn it over. Cook engineers a strong-willed offense, one that can make the big play when it comes to them. Michigan State does a great job controlling the line of scrimmage, they get excellent push from their offensive line that is led by All-American candidate Jack Conklin. Larry Scott played very well in his debut with the Spartans and Dantonio will once more by looking for the young back to help lead the ground attack behind that line. Oregon has traditionally not been a good team when you run the ball down their throats, and that will definitely be a goal for the Spartans. Though, the team's real opportunities should come through the air; Cook has a plethora of weapons to pass to, including leading receiver Aaron Burbidge and he should punish the Oregon pass defense. Unless the Ducks' offense absolutely dominates and the defense can get some pressure on Cook and force some turnovers, this is the Spartans game. A thing to watch; MSU had the lead for much of the game last season before a brutal second half. They will hope to close things out better this time around.
Michigan State, 34 Oregon, 28

14 LSU Tigers vs. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs 8:15 pm (CT) on ESPN
The race for the SEC West crown is always exciting, and it will start early this year, when LSU travels to Starkville to get revenge for last year's home loss against Mississippi State. The hero of that victory for the Bulldogs, senior QB Dak Prescott, will once more hope to lead MSU to a thrilling upset. LSU's defense has never been a weakness, but it was a problem in this one a year ago. They simply had no answer for Prescott's dual threat ability, and MSU was able to jump out to an early lead, and LSU just didn't have the offensive firepower to get back in it. The Tigers will need to get more pressure on Prescott this time around and also get off their blocks. Another Bulldog they will have to prioritize: De'Runnya Wilson. The 6'5" receiver is an absolute matchup nightmare, and there remain questions about the youth in the defensive backfield for LSU. The Tigers will have to play much better on the defensive side of the ball this year, but the key for the team still remains their offense. Since the team's opener was cancelled due to weather, the new look offense did not get a warmup game. That is worrying for a unit that is still searching for an identity. Sophomore Brandon Harris has taken over the reigns of the offense at quarterback. He had some moments a year ago but still slumped heavily throughout the year. He does give defenses some problems with his abilities to run but he will still need to make plays through the air for LSU to have a shot at winning this one. The real problem for Mississippi State will be containing powerful runner Leonard Fournette. The highly touted back is expected to have a breakout year after rushing for over 1,000 yards a season ago, and simple arm tackles won't bring him down. It will be interesting to see how Mississippi State's defense plays in this one. It's strength a year ago lied in it's front seven, but that wasn't a particular strength in their opening win over Southern Miss. The secondary is still a strength, where senior cornerback Will Redmond lurks, hoping to make some big plays off of Harris. This one is sure to be an interesting one. LSU on paper appears to be the better team, and Les Miles and his staff will most likely be more prepared for Prescott this time around. But, traveling to Mississippi State is no easy task, and the team will go from practice to SEC football without any other games. That will be a rough adjustment. But, my bet is on the Tigers, especially if Fournette can break through with some big holes on the ground.
LSU, 24 Mississippi State, 21

19 Oklahoma Sooners vs. 23 Tennessee Volunteers 5:00 pm (CT) on ESPN
The revenge theme continues in this one, where Tennessee will look to avenge last year's defeat at the hands of the Sooners, a game that wasn't very close. A year later, things are a lot different for Tennessee. Expectations are incredibly high, and there is no denying the talent on this team. The Vols used their great ground attack to beat a decent Bowling Green team in their opener, they ran for a total of six touchdowns. That included big days from backs Jalen Hurd and long awaited Alvin Kamara. Hurd, who led the team in rushing a year ago, had three scores, using his punishing rushing to put up big numbers. Meanwhile, Kamara, who was at Alabama before leaving and dominating at the junior college level, ran for 144 yards, and nearly 10 yards per carry. That two-headed monster should give Oklahoma fits, even for a defense that should be pretty good. At quarterback, Butch Jones' team will lean on the services of Joshua Dobbs who looked good in the opener and who ended last year on fire. He has a number of weapons that should also challenge the Sooners' defense vertically. Though, the questions for Tennessee (much like Oregon) begin on the defensive side of the ball. The Volunteers did not play well defensively against Bowling Green, and the secondary struggled mightily. Jones and the Vols will look for stud cornerback Cam Sutton to step up in a big way, and also will look for other young defensive backs to make plays. Having issues in the secondary is not favorable for Tennessee, considering Oklahoma's new look offense. New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has installed an up-tempo, air raid system in Norman and the results were good in their respective season opener. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield looked extremely confident in the scheme and played spectacular. His huge arm fits the offense perfectly and as long as he can play smart and not turn the ball over, Oklahoma should move the ball very well. Back Samaje Perine is also going to put together a big game. Still a popular name in the Heisman conversation, Perine's power and burst can give defenses some real issues. Overall, though, it seems like a pretty even game. While unproven, Tennessee has all the tools to pull out what would be a huge resume booster for them, especially if they run the ball as well as they did in the opener. Oklahoma has less questions defensively, but considering they go on the road and their offensive system is still brand new, I have to go with Tennessee in another thriller.
Tennessee, 28 Oklahoma, 24

Other Picks
9 Notre Dame, 38 Virginia, 20
20 Boise State, 31 BYU, 21
Michigan, 27 Oregon State, 17
13 UCLA, 35 UNLV, 13
10 Georgia, 41 Vanderbilt, 14
Current Picks Record: 7-1

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