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2016 College Football Picks: Week Eleven

Sam Darnold, USC
2016 College Football Picks: Week Eleven
Current Record: 62-18

4 Washington Huskies vs. 20 USC Trojans
Right now, the path to the College Football Playoff is pretty clear for Washington: win out. Now fourth in the poll after being ranked behind Texas A&M in the first Playoff rankings of the season, the Huskies know any loss this late in the year could knock them out of the field, so every game is very critical. They take on the flaming hot USC Trojans, who have recovered from a 1-3 start (that included a 52-6 loss to Alabama to begin the year) to become a serious contender for the Pac-12 South crown. The Huskies' offense is led by star quarterback Jake Browning, a Heisman candidate, elusive tailback Myles Gaskin and receivers John Ross III and Dante Pettis (25 combined receiving touchdowns). They will also bring an energetic and athletic defense to the table, a group that will be eager to show what they can do against one of the conference's elite offenses. However, that unit will be without one of their leaders, as top pass rusher Joe Mathis was ruled out for the season earlier this week. One of the main reasons for USC's rapid improvement has been the play of QB Sam Darnold. Darnold took over full-time for Max Browne after that 1-3 skid, and has perhaps saved head coach Clay Helton's job. Darnold not only possesses a great arm, his dual threat ability should be able to give Washington something to think about. Underrated back Ronald Jones II and JuJu Smith-Schuster give the Trojans' offense plenty of pop. Smith-Schuster has disappointed some this season, but the athletic wide out is still among the nation's best, and it will be an interesting battle between him and UW's top cornerback Sidney Jones. Another important aspect to USC's success has been an offensive line that has found some confidence. The group was mauled by Alabama, but has been able to find some consistency and stability. Even though Washington won't have Mathis, the war in the trenches will play a key role in the outcome of this one. USC is among the nation's hottest teams, winning five straight and they look motivated to ruin Washington's perfect season. However, USC's defense still leaves me with questions. The group has been wonderful since that poor start, but they haven't faced an offense with the weapons and versatility that the Huskies' group has. I think USC can give UW quite a challenge but going on the road with an inexperienced QB and head coach and winning may just be a little bit too much to ask for.
Washington, 35 USC, 27

9 Auburn Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs
After their 1-2 start to the season, who would have thought that in November we would be talking about Auburn and the College Football Playoff? But, the Tigers are winners of six straight (including victories against LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss) as they head into an interesting battle with Georgia. The main reason for Auburn's success has been their diverse rushing attack, that has taken off. The fact it has is pretty amazing, considering expected top rusher Jovon Robinson was kicked off the team just days before the season. Sophomore Kamryn Pettway has seemingly emerged out of nowhere as a star, rushing for 1,106 yards and seven scores. However, Pettway is listed as questionable for this one, and his status is really up in the air. No matter whether he will be able to play or not, Auburn will bring plenty of other options to the table, namely Stanton Truitt (182 yards) and Kerryon Johnson (616 yards). The Tigers have also been able to find some stability at QB, as Sean White has played very well, spreading the ball and making the right decisions. Defensively, Georgia has plenty of talent, but the group has not produced in quite the way they hoped. Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter is a difference-maker, and there is talent in the secondary, but the group could still have troubles against the up-tempo Gus Malzahn-orientated attack of Auburn. So far in 2016, Georgia as a whole has had some moments, but haven't really produced the way many had hoped. A big win over Kentucky last weekend helped them climb to 5-4, but they still have yet to establish much consistency. True freshman Jacob Eason still has his growing pains at QB, but continues to learn and improve, while the ground attack could still be dangerous, led by Sony Michel and powerful Nick Chubb. Auburn is banged up in many areas on defense, but the unit has still looked greatly improved under first-year DC Kevin Steele. Georgia may not have the explosiveness of other teams, but they can get be often with power and grit. Even though they were killed by Ole Miss and lost to lowly Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs could have enough to stun Auburn, who may be caught looking ahead to their huge Iron Bowl clash with 'Bama. If Georgia doesn't turn the ball over and keeps the Tigers' ground attack from breaking off big gains, they have a chance. However, I'm going to stick with ninth-ranked Auburn. They are on fire, and look to end their regular season playing with the same type of passion and fire.
Auburn, 28 Georgia, 17

11 Oklahoma Sooners vs. Baylor Bears
Much like Auburn and USC, Oklahoma had a poor start to the 2016 campaign. The Sooners, a popular preseason Playoff pick, lost to Houston and Ohio State early, leaving them at 1-2 before they were set to hit Big 12 play. They've responded in a big way, winning their last six and going flawless in the conference. They are in prime position to win the conference and perhaps sneak into the Playoff conversation, but they have to get past Baylor first. The Bears started off the opposite; they won their first six against minimal competition but then have been seriously exposed in bad losses the past two weeks. They may be out of Big 12 title contention, but beating a serious rival would still give them plenty to play for. For both these teams, offense should come very, very easy. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield has been chucking the ball all over the place, now with nearly 3,000 yards on the campaign. He'll be joined by Samaje Perine in the backfield, along with rising receiver Dede Westbrook on the outside. Baylor also brings their usual, high-octane group to the table, led by senior quarterback Seth Russell and plenty of options on the outside at wide out. These offenses average 39.8 points per game (Baylor) and 44.1 (OU) so it is obvious the scoreboard operators will keep pretty busy. The key will be who can play the best on the other side of the ball, and at least come up with a few stops. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has gotten a lot of negative attention this year for the Sooners' struggles on that side of the ball, but the group still has a ton of talent. Linebacker Jordan Evans is the team's leading tackler and will play a huge role in stopping the Baylor ground game, while the secondary is led by corner Ahmad Thomas, who will have to help force some turnovers. Baylor's defense has potential as well but the group looked absolutely dreadful this past weekend, allowing 60-plus to TCU. Unless the Bears can drastically change their ways in a week, they are going to have a tough time being able to contend against the Sooners. It may not be a blowout, but Oklahoma should comfortably get their seventh straight victory.
Oklahoma, 49 Baylor, 35

Other Picks
1 Alabama, 31 Mississippi State, 14
16 West Virginia, 35 Texas, 33
5 Ohio State, 38 Maryland, 21
24 LSU, 27 25 Arkansas, 23
12 Colorado, 34 Arizona, 22

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