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College Football Picks 2017: Week Seven

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
College Football Picks 2017: Week Seven
Current Record: 33-15

(4-1) 12 Oklahoma Sooners vs. (3-2) Texas Longhorns
@Cotton Bowl (Dallas), 2:30 PM Saturday on ESPN

While their loss last week to Iowa State may have significantly hurt their Playoff chances, Oklahoma hopes to recover in a big way in the newest edition of the Red River Rivalry. This will be the first time on the sidelines for both Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma and Tom Herman at Texas in this hard-fought rivalry. The Sooners' plan of attack should be simple: let star quarterback Baker Mayfield attack a Texas defense that is known for their inconsistency. The loss last week hurt Mayfield's Heisman Trophy odds, but the veteran QB is still a major difference-maker, and seems to come alive in the biggest of games. Mayfield would certainly love to beat UT for the second time in his career. He'll be helped offensively by an underrated Sooners' ground game, led by speedsters Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon, along with one of the country's best offensive lines. The Longhorns strength on the defensive side of the ball is up front, where they bring impressive size and solid experience. However, that D-Line will be in store for quite a battle, and it is hard to imagine UT having much of a chance at containing Oklahoma if the Sooners are able to control the line of scrimmage. On offense, Texas has taken big steps forward after an uneven start. Sam Ehlinger was forced into action as true freshman when starter Shane Buechele went down with injury, and Ehlinger has seemingly stolen the job. Despite his youth, Ehlinger has shown excellent command of the offense, and this is a unit that can still put up points in a hurry. Running back Chris Warren has dealt with injuries throughout his career but he's a real load to handle when healthy, and on the outside, Texas has enough that they should be able to challenge an Oklahoma secondary that still struggles to defend the long ball. The key could be how Texas' O-Line holds up against a relentless OU pass rush. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is one of the best pass rushers in the conference (9 tackles for loss, five sacks so far this year) and Oklahoma loves to play aggressive defensively. The Longhorns will have to keep Ehlinger upright, or the offense will struggle to find its rhythm, which has been an issue at times this season for UT. This game might have the major National Title implications it once had, but it is still a pretty big conference battle. The Sooners are probably the most talented team in the Big 12, but that loss to Iowa State was a real back-breaker. On the other side, the Longhorns are playing very good football right now, and have jumped out to a 2-0 conference start. That momentum they've built might be able to keep this one very competitive, but I'm just not confident that Texas will be able to slow down Mayfield enough.

The Pick: Oklahoma, 38 Texas, 30

(5-1) 13 USC Trojans vs. (4-1) Utah Utes
@Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles), 7 PM on ABC

Both Washington schools might be the teams to beat in the Pac-12 as a whole right now, but the conference's South Division is still wide open. USC and Utah will battle in this one to see who can take control of the South, and put themselves in position to play for the Pac-12 title. The Trojans looked great this past Saturday in their first game since losing to Washington State, as they handled Oregon State by four touchdowns. Sam Darnold hasn't exactly been the preseason Heisman favorite so far this year, but he still is a masterful signal-caller who should be in store for another big day. The Trojans' ground game should also continue to improve as they are the healthiest they've been since the start of the season. Going up against Utah's stingy defense is not an easy task. The Utes rarely are stocked with superstars on that side of the ball, but they are very disciplined and cover their assignments as well as anybody. Even so, this USC offense has enough weapons that the scoreboard operators should be awfully busy in this one. The Utes reinvented their offense this off-season and for most of 2017, it has been a major success. Tyler Huntley beat out a number of others to win the quarterback job and played well early on, before hurting his ankle. He is doubtful in this one, so expect head coach Kyle Whittingham to turn to veteran Troy Williams. Williams is a proven veteran who can move the ball down the field, but he doesn't quite have Huntley's arm strength. Williams will be in store for quite the battle against a fiery USC defense. The Trojans are very strong in the back, and cornerback Iman Marshall is always ready to make a big play. Up front, 'SC is led by linebacker Cameron Smith, one of the premier rush defenders in the country, and Porter Gustin, a powerful pass rusher off the edge. In order for the Utes to find success on offense in this one, not only will Williams have to play well, Utah will need some other offensive weapons to contribute in a big way. Back Zack Moss is solid but isn't a major difference-maker. Former Oregon wide out Darren Carrington II (kicked off the team this past off-season) has emerged as the team's top receiver, and he'll need to play well in this one. Utah is a very tough team, and one that knows how to pull off upsets. However, with Huntley out, on the road and playing a USC team that seems very motivated, I just don't see them winning here.

The Pick: USC, 34 Utah, 21

(5-1) 10 Auburn Tigers vs. (4-2) LSU Tigers
@Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge), 2:30 PM on CBS

Early on this season, things were not looking good for Auburn. The Tigers were absolutely slammed by defending National Champ Clemson and allowed ten sacks. They then followed that up with a number of lethargic performances, including a close victory over FCS foe Mercer. However, the Tigers have been able to climb back into the Playoff picture, and now look like the clear-cut biggest threat to Alabama in the SEC West. Former Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham has come back from a shaky start to play like very well, and his huge arm presents a major challenge to any defense he goes up against. Add in running back Kerryon Johnson, who is quietly putting together a Heisman-level season, and an offensive line that is starting to play a lot better, and Auburn looks pretty scary. On the other side, LSU is looking to get back on track, now two weeks removed from an embarrassing Homecoming loss to Sun Belt opponent Troy. LSU played a lot better this past week in a big victory over Florida, and the defense was a big part of the reason. The unit still is prone to allowing big plays (which is concerning, playing an offense that loves the home run throw), but it is starting to figure things out once again under coordinator Dave Aranda, and still has one of the nation's most feared pass rushers in Arden Key. The key for LSU will be getting their offense going, which has been a notorious issue for this team for years. New OC Matt Canada promised an improved passing attack, but so far that has not been the case in 2017. QB Danny Etling can run the offense well and knows how to make the right read, but he just doesn't have the arm to make this offense very scary. True freshman Myles Brennan has seen significant action so far this year, and I wouldn't rule out seeing him in this game. The Tigers are going to have to hope for a big day from running back Derrius Guice, a fearless runner who excels through contact (and was my preseason Heisman pick). Guice hasn't been 100 percent the past few weeks, but he should still be able to find some success against a very inconsistent Auburn rush defense. LSU doesn't appear to be a serious SEC West title threat especially with their offense still being amazingly one-dimensional, but this team is always going to compete and the players will run through a wall for head coach Ed Orgeron. Guice would have to have a career day and the defense would have to be absolutely superb, but I wouldn't rule out an LSU victory. Even so, with the way they are playing right now and the weapons they have on offense, Auburn is my pick in this one.

The Pick: Auburn, 31 LSU, 20

Other Picks
(#11) Miami, 35 Georgia Tech, 28
(#6) TCU, 28 Kansas State, 17
West Virginia, 40 (#24) Texas Tech, 34
(#7) Wisconsin, 28 Purdue, 23
(#9) Ohio State, 33 Nebraska, 21

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