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College Football Picks 2019: Week Nine

Current Picks Record: 45-19 (4-5 Upset)
(#13) Wisconsin Badgers @ (#3) Ohio State Buckeyes
Jack Coan, Wisconsin
One week removed from a stunning road loss to Illinois, Wisconsin hopes to get back into the Playoff conversation by taking down the Big Ten favorite, Ohio State. It is certainly easier said than done, as the Badgers will have to beat a Buckeye squad whose closest game at this point in the season was a 34-10 drubbing of Michigan State. There isn't any secret how Wisconsin will aim to move the ball in this one: using Jonathan Taylor. Even with their loss last Saturday, Taylor added 132 yards, bumping him up to 957 in total this year. He has had no troubles running through gaping holes this offensive line leaves him, but this Ohio State rush defense is no joke. Once a real problem in 2018, the Buckeyes' defense as a whole has looked vastly improved. They have speed at every level, experience, and a number of future All-Americans. If they're able to slow down Taylor even a little bit, the Buckeyes have to feel confident they can stop Jack Coan. Coan remains a smart, methodical signal-caller who rarely turns the ball over, but can he really make big throws against this OSU secondary? I think Wisconsin is going to have to use screens and short-passes creatively to manufacture yards in the aerial attack. The good news is that the Badger defense remains one of the best in the entire nation, and well-suited to slow down this Ohio State offense. Linebackers Chris Orr, Zack Baun and Jack Sanborn really set the tone for the entire group, and they will be tasked with slowing down a flaming hot OSU ground game. Junior tailback J.K. Dobbins has asserted himself as a legitimate Heisman contender for his play in 2019, and he can form a potent 1-2 punch with QB Justin Fields, an always-dangerous dual threat. Add in Fields' deep ball ability, paired with home run hitter Binjimen Victor and consistent K.J. Hill, this Buckeye offense has so many different ways they can hurt you. It will be fascinating to watch this Badger secondary handle this passing attack, as they haven't really seen much quality passing teams so far this season. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is still going to have his guys ready. Even though Wisconsin doesn't appear to have the offensive options Ohio State has, that hard-nosed, well-coached defense should be able to keep them competitive deep into the second half. However, I just don't see the Badgers being able to keep up for all sixty minutes. There is just not enough they can do enough offensively, unless Taylor has an absolute signature outing, which seems doubtful against this OSU defensive front.
The Pick: Ohio State, 30 Wisconsin, 21

(#9) Auburn Tigers @ (#2) LSU Tigers
Already equipped with two massive wins, over Florida and Texas, LSU will have an opportunity to further strengthen their resume against Auburn. Auburn remains a dark horse Playoff threat, although they'd have to find a way to run the table against a remaining schedule of LSU, Alabama and Georgia. That's a tall order, even for a team equipped with a strong defense and a fabulous, versatile rushing attack. The key for this LSU game will be finding a way to slow down Joe Burrow, who has locked himself down as the Heisman favorite at this point in the campaign. Burrow has flourished behind a quality O-Line, and with loads of playmakers on the perimeter, namely Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase. This Auburn pass rush has proven it can get after the QB,  thanks to Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe. However, somebody in the secondary is going to have to step up and make plays. Coordinator Kevin Steele has his work cut out for him, but this is a talented group ready for a challenge. On offense, Bo Nix continues to have the ups-and-downs to be expected of a true freshman quarterback playing in the unforgiving SEC. He responded admirably after a rough game against Florida by tossing for three scores against Arkansas, but now he faces a secondary that could easily claim to be the country's best. Not only does safety Grant Delpit remain a Jim Thorpe Award favorite, true freshman corner Derek Stingley Jr. looks like the best freshman in the entire nation. I expect the Tigers to keep Nix away from throwing too much, and instead lean on a ground game that is really hitting its stride. "Boobie" Whitlow leads as the feature back, but Gus Malzahn can also throw in Kam Martin, Nix, Shaun Sivers and even wide out Anthony Schwartz, who is an absolute demon on jet sweeps. The LSU defense has not seen an offense that can hit you in so many ways, which could give them some troubles. They'll need a physical defensive line to get into the backfield, while also making some difficult tackles in space. This matchup has proven to be very low-scoring in year's past, but I don't see that being the case in 2019. Both offenses are going make plays against these defenses, but limiting turnovers and maintaining possession will be key. While I think Auburn should able to keep up with Burrow and company, I'm less confident that they will be able to slow them down. Even though they may get caught looking ahead towards their possible 1-2 matchup with Alabama, I'm taking LSU to win in front of the home folks in Baton Rouge.
The Pick: LSU, 38 Auburn, 34

(#8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ (#19) Michigan Wolverines
With their Playoff hopes now in the drain following their second loss of the season, Michigan now plays the role as spoiler as they play Notre Dame in Ann Arbor Saturday. The Irish remain on the outside looking in, but if they win here, they have a very good shot to run the table, staring down a favorable remaining schedule. The hope for Notre Dame here is that they can finally get their aerial attack going, as it has been slow to start all season. Veteran QB Ian Book remains effective, but the lack of a downfield passing attack has really limited what this offense can do. They have been aided by the play of Tony Jones at running back. Jones has rushed for 100 or more yards their last three games, and shouldn't be slowing down anytime soon. While the Wolverine defense has been solid against the run, he should still be able to find opportunities. Michigan must also find a good matchup to cover top ND wide out Chase Claypool. At 6'4", 230 pounds with a massive catch radius, Claypool can be a real matchup problem for defenses, and this is already a UM secondary that has struggled to find any consistency. On the other side of the ball, the Irish feature an attacking defensive style that utilizes their athletic defensive front. They have to feel confident going up against a Michigan offense that continues to struggle. While Shea Patterson didn't play bad against Penn State last weekend, he continues to be erratic and doesn't feel pressure very well. It would be very helpful if he had a quality rushing attack to take some of the pressure off of him, but surprisingly, this Michigan team just hasn't been able to run the ball. True freshman Zach Charbonnet remains their go-to guy, but somebody else really needs to step up in the backfield. The Irish secondary doesn't appear as strong as their front seven, so perhaps there will be some chances for Patterson and this UM offense downfield. Even though he wasn't able to reel in the game-tying catch against PSU, Ronnie Bell remains their most consistent weapon, although Michigan would love to get other guys involved, namely Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. However, the ultimate X-factor is the Wolverine offensive line, which could ultimately decide this game. I thought they did a good job against the Nittany Lions, but if they struggle to contain this relentless ND pass rush, I don't see any chance that this offense has success. Going into the Big House and coming out with a victory is a tall order for any team, but I actually like the chances for the Irish here. The offense seems to be slowing getting its act together, and there are just too many questions for Michigan at this point.
The Pick: Notre Dame, 27 Michigan, 20

Other Picks
(#5) Oklahoma @ Kansas State: Oklahoma, 44 Kansas State, 23
(#6) Penn State @ Michigan State: Penn State, 24 Michigan State, 17
Oklahoma State @ (#23) Iowa State: Iowa State, 38 Oklahoma State, 30
Duke @ UNC: UNC, 28 Duke, 27
Upset: UCLA, 35 Arizona State, 31

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