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College Football Picks 2019: Week Three

Nate Stanley, Iowa
Current Picks Record: 11-5 (1-2 Upset)
(#19) Iowa Hawkeyes @ Iowa State Cyclones
College GameDay makes its first trip to Ames in school history, as the 2019 Cy-Hawk Rivalry takes center stage in Week Three. Both teams entered the season with significant expectations and even though neither has played a very daunting schedule, the excitement surrounding this game is palpable. Iowa State began the year with a tough FCS foe in Northern Iowa, who played them right down to the wire in an OT victory for the Cyclones. QB Brock Purdy looked terrific in his first start of the new campaign, with 278 yards and two touchdowns. Along with budding wide out Deshaunte Jones and former Arkansas transfer La'Michael Pettway, this aerial attack could be dangerous, particularly going against an Iowa secondary with some lingering question marks. With that being said, ISU is going to need more production from their ground game, which really struggled to get things going in the opener and certainly misses departed David Montgomery. On defense, the Hawkeyes may have some questions in the back-end, but their front seven appears to be among the Big Ten's best. If the Cyclones can't block A.J. Epenesa, one of the premier pass rushers in all of the land, they could be in store for a long afternoon. Iowa has a quality quarterback of their own who has won this rivalry game twice now, in senior Nate Stanley. Stanley isn't a guy who is going to burn defenses with his arm talent, but he's a steady veteran who has proven he can run this Iowa offense with excellent command. Even with a pair of tight ends off to the NFL, the Hawkeyes still have playmakers that can open things up, such as back Mekhi Sargent and receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. They also seem to have a significant advantage in the trenches, although they will sorely miss left tackle Alaric Jackson, who is out for a couple weeks with a knee sprain. That could give ISU more chances to cause some pressure off the edge and make Stanley uncomfortable. JaQuan Bailey, Marcel Spears and Ray Lima form the Cyclones' defensive front, which has improved rapidly under the leadership of Matt Campbell, and could be crucial in pulling off a victory. However, the ISU secondary also needs to answer some questions themselves, as they surrendered a number of big plays against UNI and will be facing a much tougher foe here. The fact that College GameDay decided to head to the state of Iowa for a rivalry that is typically more regional than national, just shows how much they respect the growth of both programs, particularly the Cyclones. Campbell has done a superb job developing and growing a talent base in Ames, but one of the most significant things missing from his resume? A victory over their archrival Hawkeyes. Iowa State's offense will need the ground attack to play better, but they have the advantage through the air and appear to have more defensive playmakers. Playing in front of a raucous home crowd that should be especially fired up, the time is now for the Cyclones to end a four-year Hawkeye winning streak in impressive fashion.
The Pick: Iowa State, 28 Iowa, 20

(#1) Clemson Tigers @ Syracuse Orange
Before the Orange went out and lost by 43 to Maryland, it looked like the most important game of the weekend wasn't going to be in Iowa, but instead in upstate New York. Sure, that loss does damper how important this game is on the national scene, but Syracuse has been Clemson's toughest ACC opponent the last two seasons and they get the Tigers at home during their homecoming festivities. Syracuse has to figure what went wrong against the Terrapins on defense, where they gave up 63 points and 650 yards. What was particularly concerning about the defensive performance was how bad they looked stopping the pass, despite the fact they returned all four starters to their secondary in 2019. The Orange now get an even tougher aerial attack to try and contend with, trying to find some way to get in the way of Trevor Lawrence and a receiver corps that includes Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and now back from injury, Amari Rodgers. Syracuse does have a pretty good pass rush, headlined by Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson, but will it get enough pressure on Lawrence to make a difference? This is, after all, the QB who scorched an Alabama defense full of future NFL defenders as a true freshman. Containing the two-headed monster Clemson can boast at running back is another tall order, with Travis Etienne's game-breaking speed and Lyn-J Dixon providing a nice change-of-pace. Now, for how bad the defense played against the Terrapins, Syracuse's offense was quietly solid, managing 400 yards despite two turnovers. Can Tommy DeVito figure out a way to move the ball against this Tiger defense? If you're a 'Cuse fan, you have to feel a lot less confident after watching that Clemson defense absolutely shut down the Texas A&M offense this past Saturday. Clemson is especially loaded in their pass defense, where they can throw A.J. Terrell, Tanner Muse and K'Von Wallace all at opponents. Syracuse head coach Dino Babers is going to have to be creative to get the ball to his playmakers, and will not get anything easy from opposing coordinator Brent Venables. Sure, Syracuse beat this Clemson team in 2017 and came agonizingly close to doing it again last year on the road, but things seem a little bit different here. The Tigers are playing like an unstoppable force dominating anything in their path, while the Orange have been a disappointment early on. Perhaps the Orange will be able to cover the four-touchdown spread, but picking them to pull off a huge upset here just seems totally unrealistic.
The Pick: Clemson, 49 Syracuse, 17

(#9) Florida Gators @ Kentucky Wildcats
One of the most surprising moments of the 2018 college football season came courtesy of Florida-Kentucky, as the Wildcats were able to beat the Gators for the first time in three decades. Can they make it two years in a row? Kentucky will get Florida in Lexington, but they will have to make do without their starting QB, as Terry Wilson was recently ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Wilson is a huge loss for Kentucky, as a veteran signal-caller who played an important role in taking down UF last fall. The Wildcats will now turn to Arkansas State transfer Sawyer Smith, who will have to go up against a skilled and aggressive Gators' defense. After a dominant performance in their Week 0 victory over Miami when they recorded ten sacks, the Gators looked just as strong this past weekend, although UT-Martin isn't exactly a super difficult opponent. They are physical up front, featuring pass rushing specialist Jabari Zuniga, but also are extremely talented in the defensive backfield, with corners C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson. The Gators are going to want to force Smith and this Kentucky offense to throw as much as possible, which means stacking the box up front. Kentucky is still going to give opportunities to Asim Rose & Kavosiey Smoke in the ground game, but if Florida doesn't respect Smith, they're going to have a very tough time. On the other side of the ball, Florida is hoping they can be more consistent, after an up-and-down first few weekends. Quarterback Feliepe Franks has looked solid, but he didn't play well in this matchup last season and loses one of his top playmakers, Kadarius Toney, who plays the Percy Harvin role in this offense. While the Kentucky defense sorely misses linebacker Josh Allen, this is still going to be a group difficult to move the ball on, particularly for a Gator offense that has really struggled to find balance overall. Despite this, it's hard to imagine the Kentucky offense having much success, unless Sawyer Smith is an absolute revelation at the sport's most important position. Playing on the road presents another challenge for the Gators, but I'll stick with them in a close one.
The Pick: Florida, 30 Kentucky, 24

Other Picks
Pittsburgh @ (#13) Penn State: Penn State, 42 Pittsburgh, 28
(#21) Maryland @ Temple: Maryland, 49 Temple, 21
(#2) Alabama @ South Carolina: Alabama, 38 South Carolina, 17
Stanford @ (#17) UCF: UCF, 35 Stanford, 27
Upset Pick: Houston, 38 Washington State, 31

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