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College Football Picks 2017: Week Twelve

Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin
College Football Picks 2017: Week Twelve
Current Record: 61-27

(10-0) 5 Wisconsin Badgers vs. (8-2) 24 Michigan Wolverines
@Camp Randall Stadium (Madison), 11 AM Saturday on FOX

Despite the fact they sit undefeated deep into the season, Wisconsin hasn't got a lot of national respect because of one glaring issue: the lack of a signature win. The Badgers did play terrific last week against an Iowa team that pummeled Ohio State but they still lack a win that really jumps out at you. That could change this week as they square off against Michigan, a team that has a frustrating year at times but is still 8-2 and has looked much improved behind the arm of QB Brandon Peters. Peters, a redshirt freshman, has played with impressive confidence and composure despite his youth, but he will have to deal with one of the nation's premier defenses. Even though the Badgers have lost a big chunk of their defense to injury, it is still an incredibly stingy and hungry group. Linebacker T.J. Edwards is one of the best in the conference, while defensive backs D'Cota Dixon and Derrick Tindal ensure this is not an easy team to pass on. The Wolverines will likely run the ball early and often, particularly with underrated rusher Karan Higdon having such a good year. But, it remains to be seen whether the UM offensive line has enough to open up some holes for Higdon against this Wisconsin front. On defense, the Wolverines' defense has improved as the season has gone on, as the nine new starters this group has continue to improve. They are particularly strong up front, where defensive linemen Chase Winovich, Mo Hurst and Rashan Gary know how to create chaos and should be able to apply plenty of pressure to Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook. There should be no doubt what Michigan's defensive strategy will be in this one: stack the box and force Hornibrook to throw the ball. The redshirt sophomore has made some strides this year, but still struggles to get the ball down the field and will face a defense that has plenty of ball-hawking playmakers. However, that strategy has been used by more than a few teams this season, and they've been unable to contain true frosh Jonathan Taylor. Taylor, who wasn't even projected to be the starter prior to the season, has broken out thanks to impressive vision and burst. He is a real problem for any defense, and is especially potent when operating behind the Badgers' massive O-Line. It will be interesting to see what Michigan DC Don Brown does to counter the power and impressive efficiency of the Wisconsin offensive attack. Overall, this one has all the looks of a Big Ten slugfest where there will be a lot of big hits and not a ton of big plays. Michigan has looked much improved with Peters under center, but this is still a team that lacks the weapons Wisconsin has, on both sides of the ball. Things should be competitive, but at home in deafening Camp Randall, the Badgers should be able to come out 11-0.

The Pick: Wisconsin, 27 Michigan, 21

(9-1) 7 Georgia Bulldogs vs. (7-3) Kentucky Wildcats
@Sanford Stadium (Athens), 2:30 PM on CBS

While Georgia has dominated the SEC East for much of the season here is a crazy thought: if Kentucky had not missed a late field goal against Florida early on, this game would decide the division. Georgia now does have the division on lock, but the Wildcats are a tough opponent, and will look to attack this UGA much team the same way Auburn did last week when they pounded the Bulldogs 40-17. For the Wildcats to pull off an upset, they will need their rushing attack to be as lethal as it has all year long, and for QB Stephen Johnson to make some big throws. Johnson isn't an elite-level QB but he has proven he can run this offense and move the ball. With that being said, Georgia has one of the best secondaries in college football and will be very motivated after Auburn's Jarrett Stidham carved them up last Saturday. Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. is extremely explosive and can also contribute as a receiving option, but he will also be in for a tough test against a strong Georgia rush defense, that is particularly good at linebacker. Kentucky's defense is vastly underrated, although it is a group that lacks much consistency, and struggles to contain the big play. They will be in store for an interesting battle against a Georgia offense that looked lost for much of last week. The Bulldogs will need true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm to regain his rhythm after last week's struggles. Fromm won't beat you deep too often, but he very good at intermediate throws and doesn't make many mistakes. His top receiving weapons, Terry Godwin and Ryan Ridley, both can break open games at any moment, which could be concerning for this Kentucky defense. The Wildcats must also find a way to contain the 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at tailback. Neither are known as speedsters but they are both workhorses who are deadly in the second half, when their fresh legs feast on tired defenses. However, Auburn found a way to keep them both contained and they showed that if you can get Fromm uncomfortable, he can really struggle. Kentucky should be very aggressive if their pass rush and lean on top linebacker Jordan Jones to stop Chubb and company. After their flawless season came to a crashing halt a week ago, keeping their focus is the top priority for Georgia. They won't go undefeated, but their Playoff path is still clear if they can win out and beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. They should be able to overcome some of the difficulties from the Auburn game and recover enough to avoid an upset at the hands of UK.

The Pick: Georgia, 34 Kentucky, 20

(9-2) 11 USC Trojans vs. (5-5) UCLA Bruins
@Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles), 7 PM Saturday on ABC

Neither USC or UCLA has any shot at making the College Football Playoff, but that doesn't mean there is nothing to play for in this LA rivalry. For the Trojans, a win here would lock down the Pac-12 South, and reassert them as the clear power program in the city. On the other side, UCLA needs a win to secure a bowl bid after missing out in 2016, and head coach Jim Mora could very well be coaching for his job. After a fabulous start to 2017, Josh Rosen has disappeared from the national radar, but that doesn't mean the junior isn't putting together a fine year. He has tossed for 3,094 yards and 21 touchdowns and came in clutch on more than one occasion. Unfortunately though, Rosen has not got much support. The Bruins' ground game has continued to be an issue, and the offensive line is not playing very well either. Expect UCLA to let Rosen once more throw as much as he wants, but it is hard to find a way to beat this USC defense by being too one-dimensional. The Trojans meanwhile, haven't quite been the offensive juggernaut some expected and the preseason Heisman frontrunner, Sam Darnold, hasn't absolutely dominated like some expected. Even so, they've found a way to have a successful season and Darnold has still played very well. After struggling with turnovers early on in the year the redshirt sophomore has played a lot smarter and let the game come to him, which has led to some good results. He also has found some serious chemistry with a receiver corps that doesn't have a clear-cut superstar, but has a ton of talent. UCLA's secondary has been very porous throughout much of the year, so expect Darnold to put on a show. He is also supported by running back Ronald Jones II, who has put together a marvelous season. Jones was banged up early in the season but has been terrific since getting healthy. UCLA still has yet to find a new group of defenders to replace a number of departed defensive linemen and linebackers, which leaves them susceptible on the ground. The only way this defense finds success is if they are able to find their pass rush against a USC offensive line that lacks much experience and has had an up-and-down season. Considering this is a rivalry game expect both teams to fight hard and play with a chip on their shoulder. Rosen gives UCLA a fighting chance and this defense could have success if they can get some turnovers, but I won't bet on it. The Trojans should be able to finish the job and clinch the South Division.

The Pick: USC, 38 UCLA, 34

Other Picks
(#20) LSU, 24 Tennessee, 14
(#10) Penn State, 35 Nebraska, 20
(#8) Notre Dame, 30 Navy, 24
(#3) Miami, 38 Virginia, 24
Kansas State, 33 (#13) Oklahoma State, 31

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