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College Football Picks 2017: Week Four

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
College Football Picks 2017: Week Four
Current Record: 16-8

(3-0) 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. (3-0) 16 TCU Horned Frogs
@ Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater), 2:30 PM Saturday on ESPN

Criticized for their struggles over the past few years, it has been a resurgent 2017 for the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma dominated Ohio State in the non-conference, Oklahoma State has looked terrific, and others, such as TCU and West Virginia, have looked good. The conference title shape is still wide-open, but this battle between the Cowboys and Horned Frogs should give us a better indication on how things will shape up. Oklahoma State is led by one of the nation's most explosive passing attacks, with Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph at QB spreading the ball to a variety of playmakers, namely James Washington Jr., Jalen McCleskey and Dillon Stoner. They do a terrific job of using the entire field, and no matter what defense they face, they find ways to attack. Add in underrated running back Justice Hill, and this is an offense that can keep scoreboard operators very busy, as they have over the first three weeks of the season. They present quite the challenge for a TCU defense that has looked very good so far in 2017, but is still prone to the big play, which the Cowboys specialize in. On the other side, the Horned Frogs have an offense that certainly can keep pace with Oklahoma State, particularly when Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill is playing well. Hill still has issues with turnovers that the 'Pokes will certainly try to exploit, but when he plays under control he is a real difference-maker. He doesn't quite have the elite weapons at his disposal that Rudolph is blessed with, but running back Darius Anderson (262 yards, three touchdowns) and receivers Desmon White and KaVontae Turpin can still open up games. Much like TCU, Oklahoma State has played well on the defensive side of the ball so far in '17, but TCU has the most explosive offense they've seen all season long. That makes me believe that the game will likely turn into a typical Big 12 shootout, where defense is optional and the stats read more like a videogame than real life. There is a very good chance we good see 100-plus points, 1,000-plus total yardage and plenty of fireworks, especially with how unproven these defenses are. If it does turn into a shootout, Oklahoma State is the smarter pick. While Rudolph has occasionally struggled in big games, he has a ton of talent to throw to and will make another impressive Heisman statement in front of the home folks.

The Pick: Oklahoma State, 52 TCU, 42

(3-0) 11 Georgia Bulldogs vs. (3-0) 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs
@ Sanford Stadium (Athens), 6 PM Saturday on ESPN

Before last week this cross-division duel between Mississippi State and Georgia looked like a relatively unimportant game in the SEC Title race. That was before Mississippi State went out and absolutely dominated LSU, running past the Tigers 37-7. Now, the Bulldogs appear to perhaps be the biggest threat to Alabama in the SEC West, while Georgia is the early favorite in an interesting SEC East chase. Leading the way for Miss. State has been one of the country's most underrated quarterbacks in Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is not a great passer, but he does most of his damage running the ball, where his speed and big-play ability are consistent threats. When paired with dynamic running back Aeris Williams, the Bulldogs have one of the country's most dangerous ground games. Georgia is a great defensive football team, but they have been susceptible against the run, so we will see how they handle this one. On offense, UGA will likely turn to true freshman Jake Fromm once more, as sophomore Jacob Eason is likely to miss his third straight game. Fromm is still learning the ropes as a youngster, but he's shown impressive poise and confidence so far, and gets to play in front of his home crowd. Georgia should continue to keep it on the ground, however, as they feature one of the country's premier backfields. Senior Nick Chubb is the workhorse (290 yards, four touchdowns), while Sony Michel and D'Andre Swift bring interesting change of pace. They should have plenty of success running behind UGA's veteran offensive line, even against a Bulldogs' front seven that is very talented and has impressive athleticism. On the outside, Georgia hopes to have big days from receiver Terry Godwin and tight end Isaac Nauta, their two best pass-catchers. Mississippi State has defended the pass very well so far in 2017, but if UGA can soften up the defense first with the run then hit them with the pass, they could be very successful. It's hard to say Mississippi State's win over LSU last week was a signature win, but it certainly proved this team is a very real SEC threat. With Fitzgerald leading a dangerous offense and a solid defense, I think this team could definitely be a Playoff dark horse. Georgia's a good football team, but I worry about them stopping the run against a team like Miss. State. Even on the road, I like Mississippi State to be able to pull the upset.

The Pick: Mississippi State, 34 Georgia, 27

(3-0) 4 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. (3-0) Iowa Hawkeyes
@ Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City), 6:30 PM Saturday on ABC

Big-time upsets have been a staple of Iowa football under Kirk Ferentz, and the Hawkeyes hope that holds true once again in 2017. Iowa beat third-ranked Penn State in 2008, and second-ranked Michigan last season, and they are playing well enough to do even more damage. They are led by their usual, conservative, run-heavy offense. Backs Akrum Wadley and Nevada transfer James Butler have been quite the 1-2 punch this year, and it should be an interesting battle between them and a great Penn State front seven, headed by All-Conference linebacker Jason Cabinda. Sophomore signal-caller Nate Stanley has done a very fine job taking over for the departed C.J. Beathard. The Hawkeyes won't ask him to pass to much in this one, especially against a ball-hawking PSU secondary, but having him is still obviously a luxury. The key for Iowa will be on the other side of the ball, where they'll have to contain one of the country's most explosive offenses. QB Trace McSorley continues to make home run throws, running back Saquon Barkley is a very serious Heisman candidate, and at receiver, the Nittany Lions lean on tight end Mike Gesicki and wide outs DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins. Iowa is a very sound defensive team, especially in the linebacker corps where Josey Jewell and company make quite the impact. It will be interesting to see how two different football philosophies clash. Penn State tries to run their offense as quick and as up-tempo as possible, while the Hawkeyes want to control the ball and force it down their throats. Going on the road will also be quite a challenge for the Nittany Lions, particularly at a place like Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa always plays so much better and the fans make it such a hostile environment. I think it should really be a good game. Penn State is probably the more talented football team and can certainly light up the scoreboard, but there is something about night games against Iowa that are worrying. I think the Nittany Lions should be able to pull off the upset, but don't be surprised if see another magical Hawkeyes' upset?

The Pick: Penn State, 38 Iowa, 32

Other Picks
(#7) Washington, 33 Colorado, 24
(#1) Alabama, 35 Vanderbilt, 21
(#8) Michigan, 30 Purdue, 20
Kentucky, 28 (#20) Florida, 27
Notre Dame, 23 Michigan State, 20

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