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College Football Week Seven Picks

Desmond Morgan, Michigan
6 LSU Tigers vs. 8 Florida Gators 6:00 pm (CT) on ESPN
Entering the season, who could've predicted the state of these two teams? Both teams entered the season with relatively modest expectations, especially Florida who was beginning the new Jim McElwain era with questions at quarterback and questions throughout their offense. Though, the winner of this pivotal matchup will position themselves as the clear cut favorite in the SEC and a serious Playoff contender. The Gators put themselves on the map a couple weeks ago, with their spanking of then-No. 3 Ole Miss, 38-10. They then proved they were legit by suffocating Missouri in a 21-3 victory. Much of that had to do with a defense that has been absolutely dominant this season, but also the play of redshirt freshman QB Will Grier. Despite being young, Grier's poise and arm strength were off the chains. Unfortunately, he was suspended just days ago for the rest of the season after testing positive for performance-enhancers. That leaves Florida looking to Treon Harris, a dual threat with potential and experience, but with problems with consistency and turnovers. The LSU defense has been terrific all year, headed by an aggressive front seven and secondary. Jamal Adams, a ball hawking defensive back, had a big game against Auburn earlier in the year and can do it all. He will attempt to make big plays off of Harris in this one. Linebacker Kendall Beckwith will be just one of the Tigers tasked with controlling the Florida run game which has been solid, led by junior Kelvin Taylor. Harris is a great player who has proven that he can make some big plays at quarterback. But, this LSU defense knows how to shutdown dual threats, and it certainly is no easy time being a backup QB heading into Death Valley. For LSU, their story on offense has been all about Leonard Fournette, who has emerged as the clear favorite for the Heisman trophy. Whether it is around or over people, Fournette has been running like crazy all season. Though, he hasn't exactly faced a dominant defense yet, and Florida's defense could certainly qualify as one. Led by hard-hitting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison, the Gators have proven they are legit time and time again. Their performance in that Ole Miss game proved just how strong they were, holding an offense that was averaging over 40 points to just ten. Vernon Hargreaves is a monster at cornerback and will give sophomore QB Brandon Harris even more problems, as he has a had an up-and-down year. Even so, the LSU offense will lean heavily on Harris. They know in this one, they can't just hand the ball off to Fournette 40 times a game and win. Harris has to make some big throws and it remains to be seen if he can. This game is a complete toss up to me. Florida has a more versatile offense, even with Harris at the helm, but I do obviously have questions about this team going on the road and winning with a backup quarterback. Meanwhile, LSU may have a tough time moving the ball, particularly if Harris struggles. Though, without it being in Baton Rouge and having Fournette, I have to go with LSU in this one in what should be a classic SEC slugfest.
LSU, 14 Florida, 10

7 Michigan State Spartans vs. 12 Michigan Wolverines 2:30 pm (CT) on Big Ten Network
When Jim Harbaugh was hired a few months ago, the task was clear. Restore Michigan to their glory days after a long span of fruitless years under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez. Nobody thought it was going to be quick, and certainly nobody expected this. After a loss to Utah to begin the year, Michigan has been on absolute fire. They have won five straight games, and have scored 97 unanswered points in their last three games. Now, the Wolverines get a chance to rise into the Top 10 and put themselves in serious Playoff contention against their archrival Michigan State. The Spartans appeared poised for a big year following a win against Oregon. Since then, things have gone downhill. Sure, they sit undefeated but they have won a number of close games against unimpressive foes (Purdue, Rutgers) and Oregon's struggles have hurt their resume. Still, the Spartans have a proven quarterback in senior Connor Cook, who continues to play well and impress NFL scouts. Receiver Aaron Burbidge has given MSU a deep threat to work with, while the ground attack has been solid. Though, the Spartans just have not been able to separate from weaker teams and the defense has been inconsistent without defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi leading the way (now the head man at Pitt). That gives the Michigan offense quite a fighting chance, even going up against a number of future NFL players, including defensive end Shilique Calhoun. Iowa transfer Jake Rudock started the year slow but has been wonderful since. He isn't going to beat you with his big arm but he plays smart and he knows this Michigan State defense very well, having faced it on numerous occasions. Running back De'Veon Smith has been very good as well and should have some success against an inconsistent MSU rush defense. Though, obviously the big story for Michigan has been their defense. Headed by a number of veterans and upstarts (including exciting Jabrill Peppers who is sure to make some huge plays in this one) the Wolverines have been absolutely dominant on this side of the ball. If they can contain the Cook-Burbidge connection and force the veteran quarterback into some mistakes, they have a great shot. This defense is incredibly disciplined, and they shouldn't allow many big plays at all, meaning the Michigan State offense will have to be on top of their game, as they won't get anything easy. After the Oregon win, I would definitely have picked Michigan State in this one. But, the way the Wolverines are playing and the way the Spartans are trending in the opposite direction, I have to go with Michigan. If their defense continues to play the way it has been, they should take down a rival in front of Gameday and maybe just prove they are back.
Michigan, 30 Michigan State, 20

9 Texas A&M Aggies vs. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide 2:30 pm (CT) on CBS
Last season, the Aggies were coming off consecutive losses to both Mississippi schools and desperately needed some momentum, heading into a matchup with Alabama. Although just two years removed from Johnny Manziel's magical victory in Tuscaloosca, that one never really came for the Aggies. They were dominated, 59-0, in a game that indicated the Aggies still had a lot of work to do under Kevin Sumlin. Now, a year later Texas A&M is undefeated and ranked higher and out to prove just how far they have come. Quarterback Kyle Allen has led an explosive Aggies' offense that also includes exciting Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds and a number of other playmakers. But, Texas A&M had an explosive offense a year ago, and that offense put up exactly zero points against the Tide. That should put more pressure on the Aggies' defense, which is much better than it was last year, led by new defensive coordinator John Chavis. Sophomore end Myles Garrett has been on absolute fire and he will have to play a big role in rushing Alabama's Jake Coker. Coker leads an Alabama offense that has been inconsistent, but certainly is not devoid of talent. Derrick Henry is still among the best backs in the nation and the Aggies are notorious for struggling to tackle bigger backs. Kenyan Drake is a nice change of pace to Henry in the backfield and the Tide have found a number of impact playmakers at receiver. These include true freshman Calvin Ridley, who is always ready for a big play, and Oregon State transfer Richard Mullaney. The Tide will also lean on their massive offensive line, particularly tackle Cam Robinson, to stop Garrett and the rest of the Texas A&M front seven. The entire Alabama defense will be tasked with shutting down Allen and the rest of the Aggies. It has had some big moments and overall the defense has looked terrific all year. A'Shawn Robinson wrecks havoc in the trenches, Reggie Ragland makes play after play at linebacker and the secondary is led by cornerback Eddie Jackson and a number of other future NFL contributors. Allen has been great so far this season for the Aggies, but he has also struggled with consistency throughout his career. Though, it will help that the young quarterback will have the entirety of the Texas A&M faitful supporting him in Kyle Field in this one. One thing should be clear: Texas A&M is not losing by nearly sixty in this one. In fact, they should give Alabama plenty of problems in this one, particularly if Garrett and the defense play well. I've stuck with Alabama consistently throughout my picks this year because Nick Saban manages close wins like few do. But, on the road with Coker not playing terrific and Texas A&M, I'm going to go with the Aggies, which almost seems like an upset pick.
Texas A&M, 35 Alabama, 27

Other Picks
17 Iowa, 21 20 Northwestern, 17
13 Ole Miss, 31 Memphis, 21
1 Ohio State, 28 Penn State, 24
4 Utah, 33 Arizona State, 28
3 TCU, 52 Iowa State, 10
Current Picks Record: 36-12

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