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College Football Week 14 Picks

Deshaun Watson
ACC Championship: 1 Clemson Tigers vs. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels 7:00 pm (CT) on ABC
For the last three years, the ACC has been ruled with an iron fist by Florida State. The Seminoles had won the league all three seasons, including a dominant win over Duke in 2013 en route to a National Title. But, their reign over the league has ended, as the nation's top-ranked Clemson Tigers hope to keep their perfect season hopes alive against a flaming hot North Carolina team. The Tigers have made huge strides this season under the leadership of sophomore Deshaun Watson. Watson, a mobile quarterback with a huge arm, is well known for playing great in big games. He will be joined by Wayne Gallman, a powerful back who has ran for over 1,000 yards on the year. Also huge for the Tigers this season has been their defensive play. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables leads a hungry unit that includes studs like defensive end Shaq Lawson and shutdown corner Mackenzie Alexander. Alexander especially will play an important role, as he will hope to contain the Tar Heels' plethora of deep threats. As a whole, it has been a magical year in Chapel Hill for Larry Fedora and UNC. A team coming off a 6-7 year that had put significant pressure on the former Southern Miss coach, the Tar Heels lost their opener to South Carolina in heartbreaking fashion. Now, they've responded by pulling off 11 straight victories and going flawless in ACC play. Senior quarterback Marquise Williams leads an explosive offense that can score in a hurry. He'll be joined by sophomore back Elijah Hood, who has been unstoppable in the season's second half, along with dangerous receiver Mack Hollins. Also critical to UNC's play this year has been their vast improvement defensively. A team that couldn't stop anyone a year ago, Fedora brought in former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. Chizik has quickly transformed the unit from an undisciplined, inexperienced unit, into a strong, smart and athletic defense. They will certainly have their hands full with Deshaun Watson, but even if they can relatively contain him, they'll be in okay position. Another factor to watch? Ryan Switzer in the return game for North Carolina. In a game that could turn into a shootout with the talent both teams possess offensively, having another weapon in a different part of the game, could only help the Tar Heels' upset bid. Out of all the games this Championship Week, this one may go down as the most interesting. Clemson is the nation's hottest team and a win would most likely lock them down as the No. 1 team in the Playoff. But, if UNC can contain Watson and have some magic offensively they could very well pull an upset here. A win, all the way down at 10 by UNC, could very well plunge the Playoff picture into complete craziness. But, I think Clemson is the better team all-around and they should be able to preserve their top ranking.
Clemson, 34 North Carolina, 27

Big Ten Championship: 4 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. 5 Michigan State Spartans 7:00 pm (CT) on FOX
Outside of Clemson, there remains only one other undefeated team in the entire nation: the Iowa Hawkeyes. Despite not being flashy, the Hawkeyes have ran out to a 12-0 mark behind a powerful, run-driven offense and a gritty, stout defense. While many have been quick to criticize their record, it is still impressive to reel off 12 wins no matter the conference. Now, all Iowa has to do is take down Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, in what appears to be a Playoff play-in game. The Hawkeyes will bring QB C.J. Beathard to the equation, who will be facing perhaps the toughest defense he has seen all year. Beathard, who stole the quarterback job from Jake Rudock (who subsequently transferred to Michigan) has put together a great year. He has a great feel for the game, has a very accurate arm and has also proven to bring something as a runner. Beathard will be be joined by a deep stable of backs, that is led by Jordan Canzeri. Canzeri is the perfect symbol of the Hawkeyes' offense; he isn't very explosive, but he has great vision and finds ways to move the chains. Michigan State's rush defense is good, but even they will be hard-pressed against the huge and powerful Iowa rushing attack. LeShun Daniels Jr., along with Akrum Wadley, offer two change-of-pace backs to Canzeri, who have put together big years. On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeyes have missed their premier pass-rusher, defensive end Drew Ott, but have still played extremely well. It certainly helps when you have a player like cornerback Desmond King on your team. The senior will pick off any pass that isn't thrown with direct precision; he has eight on the year along with 11 pass deflections. King will be matched up against Aaron Burbidge, the top receiver for MSU, in a matchup that should have a huge impact on the game. Michigan State has been pretty up-and-down on the offensive side of the ball, but overall, it's an effective unit that can score in bunches when needed. Senior Connor Cook hopes to add another Big Ten Championship to his ever-growing resume as MSU starter. Already a big name in NFL Draft circles, Cook's arm strength and dual threat abilities have made him even more dangerous on the year. Other than Burbidge, Cook will lean on the Spartan's two backs, true freshman L.J. Scott and sophomore Gerald Holmes. After a hot start to his MSU career, Scott has slowed down significantly, while Holmes has had a great second half to the campaign. Much like the Spartans, Iowa does possess rush defense, but the Hawkeyes don't possess the type of aerial passing game that MSU does. Overall, this game has all the looks of a classic, Big Ten battle. Both teams will run the ball, heavily and rely on stout, hard-hitting defenses. Though, Michigan State is the better team in my opinion. They bring a more balanced offense to the table and have proven themselves in a number of close games. I'm actually a bigger believer of Iowa than most, but I still believe MSU is the pick in this one.
Michigan State, 28 Iowa, 20

SEC Championship: 2 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. 18 Florida Gators 3:00 pm (CT) on CBS
The interest of an Alabama-Florida SEC Championship Game took a turn for the worst last weekend when the Gators were thoroughly dominated by a two-loss Florida State team. Even so, the conference has had some great Championship games over the years, and this one still has interesting implications. Alabama is on an absolute tear, ever since their loss to Ole Miss earlier in the year. Behind Heisman frontrunner Derrick Henry, the offense has been moving the ball in a smart, methodical way. And the defense has been absolutely dominant, evidenced by their complete dismantling of Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Quarterback Jake Coker is playing great football, not turning the ball over and letting the game come to him. The play of receiver Calvin Ridley, and the Tide's punishing offensive line has certainly helped, but he has still been great. Though, he will get tested by Florida in this one. As a whole, the Gators' defense has been great all year long and they have perhaps the nation's top defensive back, Vernon Hargreaves. The cornerback is a great athlete who could capitalize on Coker's mistakes. Linebacker Antonio Morrison also brings a tackling machine with pass rushing abilities to the equation; he will hope to maybe not completely stop Henry and Kenyan Drake, but at least contain them. Florida's offense has faltered since the suspension of redshirt freshman Will Grier. Grier was on a tear before earning a year-long suspension for taking a banned substance. In his place, Treon Harris has had some troubles. Harris is a fun quarterback to watch, a guy that can make some dazzling plays with his legs and make some crazy throws. But, he turns the ball over way too much and the offense just has not had the same flow with him. Alabama will hope to force Harris into plenty of mistakes in this one. Eddie Jackson leads a hungry secondary that has been forcing turnovers left and right in the year's second half. With that in mind, Florida will almost certainly rely on their rushing attack, particularly Kelvin Taylor. Taylor (977 yards, 13 touchdowns) is a great running back, but the Alabama front seven is as physical and powerful as you can get, he will not have it easy. Florida has truly had a wonderful first year to the Jim McElwain (a former offensive coordinator at Alabama, by the way) era, going 10-2 and claiming the SEC East. But, the fact of the matter is, they are no match for this Tide team. Perhaps with Grier it would be very competitive, but unless Harris starts feeling it, they should struggle to score. For the Tide, it could another nice win to their resume, which they hope helps push them to a No. 1 Playoff ranking.
Alabama, 27 Florida, 14

Other Picks
7 Stanford, 30 20 USC, 21
19 Houston, 35 22 Temple, 28
12 Baylor, 38 Texas, 24
Bowling Green, 33 Northern Illinois, 21
West Virginia, 28 Kansas State, 17
Current Picks Record: 76-28

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