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College Football Picks 2017: Week Six

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
College Football Picks 2017: Week Six
Current Record: 27-13

(4-0) 8 TCU Horned Frogs vs. (3-1) 23 West Virginia Mountaineers
@Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth), 2:30 PM Saturday on FS1

While Oklahoma has jumped out to an impressive start so far in 2017, the Big 12 title race is still far from over. After a superb win over Oklahoma State two weeks ago, TCU looks like they are now a serious Playoff threat, but they face a team that is playing very well right now, West Virginia. The Mountaineers recovered from a season-opening loss to Virginia Tech to win their next three, led by Florida transfer Will Grier at quarterback. Grier has quietly put together a Heisman-level season, with 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions early on, and the West Virginia offense overall has looked efficient and methodical. However, TCU may bring the conference's best defense, as head coach Gary Patterson has long been known as an innovative defensive mind. Versatile defender Travin Howard (the team's leading tackler, with 26) and D-Linemen Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen will be tasked with getting pressure on Grier, well also containing a very underrated WVU rushing attack. It should be very interesting to see how Dana Holgorsen chooses to attack a TCU defense that has talent and experience at all three levels. On the other side of the ball, the Horned Frogs are led by QB Kenny Hill and a quality ground game. Hill had an up-and-down 2016 in his first season since transferring from Texas A&M, but he has taken big steps forward this year, with 965 yards and nine touchdowns early on, but more importantly, just three picks (he led the conference last year). Sophomore running back Darius Anderson has picked up the TCU's rushing attack after veteran Kyle Hicks dealt with injuries. Anderson's speed and explosiveness gives the Horned Frogs' another dynamic weapon to work with, along with home run threat KaVontae Turpin, who has had a great start to 2017 after missing most of last season. The Mountaineers have taken big steps defensively over the past few years, and the unit is very turnover-hungry. Unfortunately, the defense is full of injuries, as safety Kyzir White and cornerback Mike Daniels are just two of a number of Mountaineers questionable for this weekend. The hope for TCU is that Hill's huge arm can exploit some of the weaknesses in the back and really open up the game. It should be an interesting battle in Fort Worth between these Top 25 opponents, and very competitive. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mountaineers come out and pull an upset, but the Horned Frogs look like one of the nation's most complete teams, although it's still early. If Hill can stay under control and the defense can play the way they did against Oklahoma State, TCU should stay undefeated.

The Pick: TCU, 34 West Virginia, 24

(5-0) 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. (4-1) Texas A&M Aggies
@ Kyle Field (College Station), 6:15 PM Saturday on ESPN

If not for the team's epic choke-job at the hands of UCLA in their opener, Texas A&M would enter this game undefeated with a decent chance at an SEC West title. Even so, the Aggies are 4-1 and seem to have found their rhythm behind the play of young quarterback Kellen Mond and a big-play offense. Mond, a true freshman, has displayed impressive accuracy and the ability to run the ball very well, but there is no denying that Alabama is the best defense he has seen in his collegiate career. He will have to deal with a swarming front seven, and an opportunistic secondary that includes turnover-machine Minkah Fitzpatrick, shutdown corner Anthony Averett and underrated Levi Wallace. Mond will be supported by superstar wide out Christian Kirk, who is also a special teams demon, but it should still be quite the challenge for the youthful signal-caller. On defense, Texas A&M will have to deal with one of the nation's most efficient and balanced units. The Tide continue to improve through the air with the play of sophomore QB Jalen Hurts and receivers Calvin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy, but their main source of offense is still on the ground. There, they feature probably the nation's premier backfield, which includes Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs and newcomer Najee Harris. That foursome, plus the running ability of Hurts, is almost sure to give the Aggies' defense, certainly not known for their rush defense abilities, plenty of issues. It will be interesting to see how aggressive A&M D-coordinator John Chavis is going up against the Crimson Tide, considering how much his units have struggled against them in the past. Will he bring the heat (which must go up against Alabama's top-botch offensive line) or play more conservative? Whatever he chooses to do, he'll have to deal with a Tide unit that has been absolutely unstoppable over the past few weeks and is playing with ultra confidence. The good news for Texas A&M is that they will be playing at Kyle Field, which is obviously one of the toughest places in the entire nation to walk into and come away with a win. Hurts has shown impressive poise and composure even in hostile environments, but it's not unreasonable to think he could be slightly overwhelmed by what College Station has to offer. However, even if the crowd can keep the Aggies in the game, it will take somewhat of a miracle for a team this young to overtake an Alabama team playing insanely good football right now. I don't think this will be a blowout, but the Tide should be able to roll to a 6-0 start.

The Pick: Alabama, 38 Texas A&M, 21

(4-0) 7 Michigan Wolverines vs. (3-1) Michigan State Spartans
@Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor), 6:30 PM Saturday on ABC

So far, it has been an interesting year in the Big Ten East. Penn State looks very good but has yet to beat a signature opponent, Ohio State lost to Oklahoma but is still extremely talented, Michigan beat Florida but still has their issues, and Michigan State has looked solid but their offense is still figuring things out. This week should help figure some things out, as the Michigan rivals square off in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines' offense has had a tough 2017, and to make matters worse, they will be without starting quarterback Wilton Speight, who will be out for a couple weeks. Former Houston transfer John O'Korn has seen action last year and early this season, and he should take over the offense. Expect Michigan to keep it on the ground heavily, as they've done often early on. Sophomore Chris Evans, Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon should lead the charge, but must go up against a very solid MSU rush defense. In the passing game, the Wolverines will hope O'Korn can simply not turn the ball over and possibly hit wide out Grant Perry or tight end Sean McKeon for a big gain. For the Spartans, they are hoping their offense can hit its stride after an inconsistent start to the year. Sophomore QB Brian Lewerke has quietly had a pretty good year, leading the team in passing and rushing. He isn't going to be a player that can single-handily win football games, but he has proven that he can make plays. He will be helped by running back L.J. Scott and underrated receiver Felton Davis (21 receptions, 256 yards). Unfortunately for Michigan State, they'll have to deal with perhaps one of the nation's top defenses. The Wolverines have astounding speed and depth throughout the D, and coordinator Don Brown is great at dialing up exotic blitzes and getting after opponents. Michigan also has the advantage of going up against an unproven MSU offensive line, with a defensive line that includes studs Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich and Mo Hurst. Another name to watch is aggressive outside linebacker Devin Bush, one of the nation's best pass rushers off the edge. This rivalry doesn't quite have the bad blood of the Michigan-Ohio State game, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of motivation for both these squads. UM still is a Playoff threat and as long as their defense continues to play well, they'll be tough to beat. On the other side, the Spartans are trying to climb back into Big Ten relevancy after their dreadful 2016. I am tempted to pick an upset here because the conditions are there: a hard-fought rivalry game with Michigan's starting QB out, but going on the road and doing that is just too much to ask for of a still very-unproven MSU team.

The Pick: Michigan, 24 Michigan State, 20

Other Picks
(#2) Clemson, 35 Wake Forest, 20
(#12) Auburn, 44 Ole Miss, 27
(#21) Florida, 23 LSU, 14
(#11) Washington State, 37 Oregon, 33
Stanford, 30 (#20) Utah, 24

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