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College Football Picks 2019: Week Eleven

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Current Picks Record: 56-24 (5-6 Upset)
(#2) LSU Tigers @ (#3) Alabama Crimson Tide
LSU's new-look offense and Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow face their toughest test of the 2019 season: an Alabama team that they haven't beat since 2011. Its a tall task for the Tigers, but this is not your typical LSU team. Burrow leads an explosive offense that can hit you with speed on the perimeter, and yet still pound the ball behind tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Wide outs Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase really open things up on the outside, and they have an interesting matchup with this Alabama secondary. That secondary currently ranks 12th nationally in passing yards allowed, headlined by future NFL contributors such as Patrick Surtain and Xavier McKinney. Another interesting battle will be in the trenches, which is always ultra-important in these kinds of SEC slugfests. The Tiger offensive line is rock-solid, but I expect the Tide to hit with a lot of different looks and blitzes. Linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis really know how to get after the opposing QB, combining for ten sacks on the season. Burrow has looked poised and in control all season, but will he be the same after taking a few shots from these hungry 'Bama linebackers? It could determine his Heisman candidacy. The Alabama offense has some question marks as they enter this one. Star signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa suffered an ankle injury in the Tennessee win, and has had two weeks to try and get it right. According to most sources, Tua is expected to play, but it isn't unreasonable to think he might be a little bit limited. Fellow offensive weapons Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith also enter this game with injury concerns, but both are listed as probable. Harris will be especially huge as the real fuel in this Tide ground attack. His powerful running really opens up things downfield for 'Bama, as well as the play-action game. The Crimson Tide are also going to feature a collection of other playmakers to throw at the Tigers, namely Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle. Much like LSU, they'll go up against possibly the toughest secondary they've seen on the season. The return of Grant Delpit will be huge for the Tigers, as one of the best defenders in the entire country has been beat up. He'll join up with freshman Derek Stingley Jr. and Kristian Fulton to form a ball-hawking back-end ready to get their vengeance after a weak showing against Tua last fall. It is still important to note LSU is still missing an important piece to this defense, as linebacker Michael Divinity recently announced he was taking a leave of absence from this team. A skilled tackler who really cleaned up opposing running games, Divinity might be a more important loss than most realize. Another important thing to watch is going to be special teams play. Missed field goals and field position has decided games in this rivalry before and with both teams so evenly matched on paper, it could again in 2019. I've gone back and forth on who I think will come out on top Saturday afternoon. I think that this LSU team is legit, and this could certainly be the year they are finally able to overcome Alabama. However, recent history remains on the 'Bama side, and playing in Tuscaloosca keeps them a distinct advantage.
The Pick: Alabama, 37 LSU, 34

(#4) Penn State @ (#17) Minnesota Golden Gophers
I'll admit some personal bias, as a Minnesota Gopher fan my entire life, I'm cheering for them to get what will be their biggest win in my lifetime. With that being said, I'd be silly not to recognize the team coming to Minneapolis, a Penn State team that looks like a full-fledged Playoff contender. The Nittany Lions are led by a stingy defense that knows how to get after the quarterback. A D-Line comprised of Yetur Gross-Matos, Shaka Toney and Robert Windsor will go up against a Minnesota offensive line that is talented, but wildly inconsistent. Are the Gophers going to be able to carve out any space running the football either? The Gopher offense all season has leaned on the inside zone to get them moving, but not only does PSU feature a good D-Line, they have loads of talent at linebacker as well. It is hard to imagine Minnesota being able to move the ball very effectively if they can't get their ground game going behind veteran Rodney Smith. Now, it is important to realize that Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan has been playing really good football. He has put together the best season for a Gopher QB in some time, tossing for 1,761 yards and 18 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. It has helped that he has two star playmakers on the outside, in senior Tyler Johnson and sophomore Rashod Bateman. Bateman in particular has had a breakthrough season, and going up against a good, but far from great, Nittany Lion secondary he could have a real coming-out party. Morgan is still going to have to take care of the football, because this is a Penn State team that knows how to force turnovers and convert them into points. On the other side of the ball, PSU can attack in a lot of different ways. They have a deep stable of running backs, namely freshman Noah Cain, and a 1-2 punch at wide out with K.J. Hamler and Jahan Dotson. Leading the way is quarterback Sean Clifford, who seems to be getting better each and every week. This Gopher defense doesn't get much national attention, but the secondary is Top 10 nationally. It helps that they've faced weak pass offenses, so it will be fascinating to see how they handle things. The Gopher rush defense is also going to have to step up, especially with stud linebacker Kamal Martin still likely out with a knee injury. This is an obvious golden opportunity for Minnesota to prove the detractors wrong with a huge win in front of their home fans. I think the Gophers manage to do just enough offensively to keep things competitive, but in the end, Penn State just has too much.
The Pick: Penn State, 30 Minnesota, 23

(#18) Iowa Hawkeyes @ (#13) Wisconsin Badgers
While Minnesota still leads the Big Ten West, Wisconsin and Iowa battle it out over the weekend to take control of second place in the division. Both teams feature dominant defenses and physical offensive lines, but whoever is able to make plays will come out victorious. Wisconsin has a clear advantage in this department, with a superstar in Jonathan Taylor, who has done serious damage against Iowa in his career. Even going up against a quality Iowa rush defense, Taylor will have holes to work with and should make things happen. The Badgers also have a QB who is far from perfect, but has still proven he can open up this offense when needed. Jack Coan showed what he could do against good defenses in wins over Michigan and Michigan State. The real strength of this Wisconsin team remains on the other side of the ball, where they feature an experienced, well-run unit. They are especially strong at linebacker, where Zack Baun, Jack Sanborn and Chris Orr clean up opposing offenses. Iowa does feature a nice three-person committee at running back, but they're still going to have a tough time running against the linebacker group. At quarterback, Nate Stanley is a proven winner in the Big Ten, but he is going to have to make some difficult throws. Stanley also has struggled to make plays against quality defenses, including rough times against both Michigan and Penn State. He had three interceptions against that Wolverine defense, and the Badger secondary is similar in a number of ways. Stanley is going to need some help from an Iowa receiver corps that has talent, but won't get anything easy here. With the way they've struggled against good defenses, it's hard to see Iowa really having much success here. Going into Madison and coming out with a win seems unlikely for the Hawkeyes.
The Pick: Wisconsin, 24 Iowa, 16

Other Picks
(#5) Clemson @ NC State: Clemson, 40 NC State, 20
(#15) Notre Dame @ Duke: Notre Dame, 27 Duke, 17
(#12) Baylor @ TCU: Baylor, 35 TCU, 31
Vanderbilt @ (#10) Florida: Florida, 33 Vanderbilt, 14
Upset: Texas, 38 Kansas State, 34

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