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College Football Picks 2018: Week Two

Jake Fromm, Georgia
(#3) Georgia Bulldogs @ (#24) South Carolina Gamecocks
The SEC East race takes center stage as the division's favorite, Georgia, goes on the road against their biggest challenger, South Carolina. The Bulldogs had no troubles in their opener, rolling to a 45-0 victory over an FCS foe, Austin Peay. South Carolina will obviously present quite a different challenge, as their physical defensive front and swarming secondary will be difficult to put up points on. Georgia will need a big game from quarterback Jake Fromm to open up this offense, because the Gamecocks' defense will likely stuff the box because of their fear of back D'Andre Swift. Fromm has plenty of help on the outside in the form of receivers Mecole Hardman and Demetris Robertson, but South Carolina knows how to turn the ball over and it is never easy to run an offense in a hostile environment on the road in the SEC. On the other side of the ball, the Georgia defense, which is still rebuilding from their losses in the off-sesason, will face a tough test. South Carolina has a gunslinger of their own in Jake Bentley, and one of the best playmakers in the conference, wide out Deebo Samuel. Samuel's explosiveness is detrimental to any defense, but the Bulldogs should be able to counter him with superb corner Deandre Baker and a number of other weapons on the back-end. The real important part of this game is going to be how South Carolina can run the football, something they have struggled with for a long time. The Bulldogs have proven they can stop the run, but they will have to stop back Rico Dowdle, who managed over 100 yards in the opener. This has a chance to be a huge trap game for a Georgia team with National Title aspirations, as going on the road in this conference is tough for anybody, let alone facing a Top 25 team. With that being said, I think UGA has enough to find a way to overcome the 'Cocks here. As long as they can stretch the field with some passing plays and open things up and not turn the ball over, they have the tools to take down South Carolina in what should be a very competitive game.
The Pick: Georgia, 28 South Carolina, 24

(#17) USC Trojans @ (#10) Stanford Cardinal
Conference play also heats up in the Pac-12, as one of the favorites in the North Division, Stanford, gets the favorite in the South, USC, at home. The Trojans were far from perfect in their season-opening victory against UNLV, but that was to be expected, as they break in a number of youngsters on both sides of the ball. True freshman J.T. Daniels is the most notable new face, as the talented young signal-caller faces off against an experienced and deep Stanford defense. Daniels will need a good showing from an inconsistent offensive line, which will have to deal with an aggressive Cardinal pass rush. USC is also hopeful they can open things up with the help of young wide out Amon-Ra St. Brown. A consensus five-star recruit, St. Brown had 98 receiving yards and a touchdown, and he could be in store for a big game without any Stanford corner that appears able to cover him. However, the big X-factor for this USC team will be a defense that was very underwhelming in the first week. The Trojans allowed 308 yards on the ground to a UNLV offense not known for being the most explosive. That porous rush defense will now have to deal with the reigning Heisman runner-up Bryce Love. Love struggled to find lanes in the opener, but he still is a player that absolutely gash defenses when he gets it going. Unless USC's rush defense suddenly turns it completely around in the span of a week, they could be in store for a really tough game. The Trojans must also find a way to get in the face of Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello. After a rocky first season as starter, Costello looked poised and confident in the Cardinal's win over San Diego State. Costello could be absolutely potent running the play action with how much USC will have to focus on what Love can do. By the end of the season, once they mature and grow, I think USC is going to be clearly the best team in the Pac-12 South. With that being said, they still have a ton of issues they have to figure out, and Daniels could be in store for a rude awakening in his conference debut. I just don't see this youthful team going on the road and beating a really strong Stanford squad.
The Pick: Stanford, 31 USC, 21

(#2) Clemson Tigers @ Texas A&M Aggies
UGA is not the only top team that has to go on the road this weekend against a sneaky SEC opponent, as the second-ranked Clemson Tigers have to travel to College Station and go up against Texas A&M. This is the first real test for a Clemson team with lofty expectations after they rolled through Furman 48-7 in the opener. Kelly Bryant is set to be the starter at quarterback, even though highly touted true freshman Trevor Lawrence saw a ton of snaps. There is a good chance we could see both again; Bryant utilized for his mobility and Lawrence for his huge arm. The two quarterback system could keep the Aggies' defense, led by former Notre Dame DC Mike Elko, off balance and work out in the Tigers favor. A&M will also have to find a way to contain speedy running back Travis Entienne and a host of dynamic receivers Clemson has to offer. However, the greatest challenge for this Aggies team will be dealing with Clemson's other-worldly defensive line. Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant are all primed and ready to cause chaos against an A&M offensive line that is inexperienced and still figuring out some starting spots. That line will also have to open up running lanes for star back Trayveon Williams, who had a splashing start to 2018 with 240 yards in their win over Northwestern State. Clemson's rush defense is good, but not great, so there are opportunities for Williams to carry on that momentum here. Though, the biggest hope for an upset is a huge performance from Kellen Mond at quarterback. He will have the home crowd behind him, and be playing a Clemson secondary still retooling in some spots. If he can stay on his feet and make some big throws, the Aggies certainly have a good chance at pulling off a big upset. Another thing to watch is the coaching factor here. Jimbo Fisher is now on the sidelines in College Station, and he knows plenty about Clemson and Dabo Swinney. It will be interesting if the Tigers try to be creative and change things up, or just stick with what has been working. I don't see the probability of an upset here being as high as the UGA-South Carolina duel, but this Aggies team looked superb in the opener (granted, against an FCS school). If they can keep the momentum going, I would not completely rule out the No. 2 team in the country faltering here.
The Pick: Clemson, 34 Texas A&M, 23

Other Picks
(#15) Michigan State @ Arizona State: Arizona State, 28 Michigan State, 27
(#13) Penn State @ Pittsburgh: Penn State, 38 Pittsburgh, 24
Kentucky @ (#25) Florida: Florida, 24 Kentucky, 21
Rutgers @ (#4) Ohio State: Ohio State, 52 Rutgers, 20
(#18) Mississippi State @ Kansas State: Mississippi State, 31 Kansas State, 17

Current Picks Record: 4-4

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