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College Football Picks 2018: Week Four

Justin Herbert, Oregon
(#7) Stanford Cardinal @ (#20) Oregon Ducks
Two undefeated teams clash in Eugene this Saturday, as the seventh-ranked Cardinal travel to Oregon to deal with the Ducks. Both of these teams have serious Pac-12 Title hopes, and possibly even Playoff aspirations, but there is little margin for error in this conference. Stanford has played quality football over the first three weeks, even without star running back Bryce Love being up to his usual tricks (165 yards over the first two weeks, missed last week's game). K.J. Costello has stepped up in a big way at quarterback, looking more confident and poised than a season ago. He could take advantage of an Oregon secondary that is very talented, but still prone to letting up the big play. Love should also be 100 percent in this game, so there is still plenty of hope he could have a big day, considering what he did to the Oregon defense last season. The real strength of this Stanford team has to be their defense, which is allowing just 7.7 PPG, albeit against relatively weak competition. It will be interesting to see how the Ducks choose to attack that defense, likely through the air. The Cardinal have experience in the secondary, but they haven't faced a quarterback like Oregon's Justin Herbert, who has attracted tons of attention from NFL scouts. Herbert has not been incredibly efficient over the first three games of the season, but his numbers have been strong (840 yards, 12 touchdowns) and he has a ton of weapons to work with on this Oregon offense. At running back, the Ducks feature a three-headed monster that includes C.J. Verdell, Tony Brooks-James and Travis Dye, all who have different strengths. Stanford has long had a stifling rush defense under David Shaw, but they are the least experienced and thinnest they've been on the defensive front in some time. If the Ducks' O-Line can get some serious push, this offense is going to have success. This is going to be a very interesting game for Oregon because it is their first serious test of the season. They have the talent and home field advantage to come out on top, but their defense still worries me. This Stanford offense is the most versatile and most explosive it has been in years, and the Ducks' defense looked flat last week against San Jose State. I like the Cardinal to go on the road and contain Oregon's explosive weapons enough to come away with an important victory in the crowded Pac-12 North.
The Pick: Stanford, 30 Oregon, 24

(#22) Texas A&M Aggies @ (#1) Alabama Crimson Tide
After missing out on their first opportunity to take down a Top 5 team by losing to Clemson, Texas A&M hopes to go on the road and shock the nation's No. 1 team. The Aggies are going to have to find a way to contain Alabama's explosive offense, which is headed by the nation's Heisman favorite, Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa has been nearly unstoppable over the season's first three weeks, and he has weapons to work with everywhere. Wide outs Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs open things up on the outside, but Alabama can always hit you hard with their ground game, namely workhorse Damien Harris. Texas A&M has made huge strides defensively under new coordinator Mike Elko, but this Tide offense is as balanced and explosive as you can get, the Aggies are going to have to play great. They are also are going to have a find way to put up points against Alabama's stingy defense, which has been a big problem for A&M in their last few meetings with 'Bama. Quarterback Kellen Mond has played very well early on, but Alabama is always a different beast. How will Mond handle the defensive pressure the Tide consistently apply? Mond will be aided by veteran running back Trayveon Williams, who has had a great start to 2018. With that being said, its a much different story facing the Alabama defensive front than some of the other defenses he has seen to this point. Will the Aggies' offensive line, which has talent but is still pretty inexperienced, be able to hold up against Raekwon Davis and company? It is going to be their stiffest challenge of the entire season, but Jimbo Fisher should be creative in handling that pressure with screens and differing blocking packages. This Texas A&M team is significantly improved from the one that ran out of steam against 'Bama in this matchup, but it is a different beast going into Bryant-Denny Stadium then getting the Tide in the friendly confines of Kyle Field. Mond and Williams should do enough to keep the offense chugging, but the real worry is the defense, which has been very improved, but faces one of the top offenses in the nation here. The Aggies should be able to give the Tide a run for their money, but its hard to imagine them overtaking the Tide in the debut season of Fisher.
The Pick: Alabama, 41 Texas A&M, 30

(#2) Georgia Bulldogs @ Missouri Tigers
Over the first three weeks of the season, Georgia has looked like the overwhelmingly favorite in the weak SEC East, but they aren't just a lock to win the division just yet. They face a very interesting test this Saturday, as they travel to Columbia to take on the undefeated Missouri Tigers. Missouri is guided by their NFL prospect quarterback, Drew Lock, who has put on a show in 2018, with 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns so far on the season. Lock has a huge arm, and a top notch target to throw to in senior Emanuel Hall, with 460 yards on the season. Lock will be the biggest challenge this Georgia defense has faced since last year's Rose Bowl, when they struggled to contain Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma. Even so, this Bulldogs defense should be up to the task, with a number of physical defenders in the front seven and a number of veterans on the back-end, headed by shutdown corner Deandre Baker. Lock has proven to be turnover prone throughout his career, which could be especially concerning for Mizzou against a UGA defense that knows how to force turnovers and capitalize on them. The Tigers' defense will also be up for a tall order against a Georgia offense that looks even better than it was in 2017. Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm has been able to get the ball down the field more effectively this season, and he has some really potent playmakers, namely Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin. With those weapons on the outside opening things up, and backs D'Andre Swift and Brian Herrien punching up the middle, Missouri's defense is going to be stretched very thin. Missouri head coach Barry Odom was a former linebacker for the Tigers, but he still has yet to rebuild on that side of the ball, as they are letting up 380 yards per game against meager competition. Georgia is going to put up points here, even in such a difficult environment. Lock may be able to keep Mizzou in the mix here, but I just don't smell an upset coming. I like the Bulldogs to continue their push towards another division title.
The Pick: Georgia, 35 Missouri, 21

Other Picks
(#17) TCU @ Texas: Texas, 28 TCU, 27
(#14) Mississippi State @ Kentucky: Mississippi State, 37 Kentucky, 28
Arkansas @ (#9) Auburn: Auburn, 42 Arkansas, 20
Florida @ Tennessee: Florida, 24 Tennessee, 21
(#18) Wisconsin @ Iowa: Wisconsin, 34 Iowa, 28

Current Picks Record: 17-7

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