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College Football Picks 2019: Week Fifteen (Championship Week)

Charlie Brewer, Baylor
Current Picks Record: 80-32 (7-8 Upset)
SEC Championship: (#4) Georgia Bulldogs vs. (#2) LSU Tigers
Playoff hopes are on the line down in Atlanta for both of these SEC teams. LSU probably is in even with a loss, but they'd love to take back the No. 1 spot they held for so many weeks. On the other hand, the Bulldogs will need to win to find their way into the four-team field. It will be fascinating to watch Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow and the rest of the explosive Tiger offense go up against one of the nation's premier defenses. Burrow has been so good all season long, and his receiver group is tough to handle for any secondary. They can hit you with speed and downfield potential (Ja'Marr Chase) as well as size and excellent route running (Justin Jefferson), so the Georgia secondary is going to need to be prepared. They have a lot of proven veterans in the back-end, with J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte, so this is going to be a really competitive showdown. LSU can also throw in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who proved just how important he is to this Tiger offense with his play in the Alabama game. He faces one of the best rush defenses anywhere, in a Bulldog group that plays with a lot of ferocity and speed. I still think LSU is going to be able to move the ball, but it isn't crazy to think this is the best defensive group they've seen all year, so it won't be easy. The bigger questions for Georgia are on the offensive side. Jake Fromm has been up-and-down at times in 2019, but he is a guy who plays his best in big moments, and I think he will be ready for the big stage. He was terrific in last year's SEC Championship, but can he get things going in this one? This LSU defense has unquestionable talent, but it hasn't always showed up on the field. The secondary is particularly strong, so it should be confident. Georgia is still waiting for a real No. 1 guy to emerge on the outside, and it hurts that impressive freshman George Pickens will miss the first half. He can really add an interesting element on the perimeter, but was ejected in the Georgia Tech game for fighting. The Bulldogs will need someone like Lawrence Cager or Demtris Robertson to open things up. What is also concerning for UGA is the health of running back D'Andre Swift. He really has been a consistent weapon for much of 2019 for the 'Dawgs, but was beat up in the Tech win. He is currently listed as questionable, so it wouldn't be surprising if Georgia turns to Zamir White or Brian Herrien often. They should be able to find success, because this is a real questionable Tiger defensive front, that got smoked by Ole Miss a few weeks ago. The Bulldogs have to be hopeful they can get things going there, and Fromm has a successful afternoon. Yet, the absences could be notable, and they are going to have to play their "A" game to overcome the top-ranked Tigers. I also have some questions about the sideline for UGA. Kirby Smart has won a lot of games in Athens, but he hasn't coached the best in the brightest lights. I just don't know if there is enough there for the Bulldogs to take this one.
The Pick: LSU, 34 Georgia, 27

Big Ten Championship: (#1) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (#8) Wisconsin Badgers
Nobody has been able to stop Ohio State in their dominant 2019 campaign so far, but the Wisconsin Badgers hope to change that in Indianapolis. Stopping all the pieces the Buckeye offense can throw at you is a stiff challenge for any defense, even one that is traditionally as strong as the Badgers. Wisconsin does have a stacked linebacker corps that includes Jack Sanborn, Chris Orr and Zack Baun, but they must find a way to slow down J.K. Dobbins. Michigan learned this past weekend just how difficult that is, as Dobbins ran all over them to the tune of four touchdowns. The way the star tailback is playing, it would be crazy if he was left away from New York as a Heisman finalist. Ohio State also flaunts a stud QB in Justin Fields, although his health is a little bit of a concern. He took a scary shot in the Michigan game, and while he recovered, it has to be a little bit concerning. I expect Ohio State is going to have him a little bit less aggressive as a runner, which is when he is playing his best. Fields is still an excellent decision-maker with the football, which is going to be vital against a Wisconsin defense that knows how to create turnovers. As notable as the question of Dobbins is for Wisconsin, I have bigger questions about whether they can contain all these Buckeye wide outs. Chris Olave, K.J. Hill, and Binjamin Victor can all hurt you in a variety of ways, and the Badger secondary has struggled with consistency. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers have to find a way to move the ball against an OSU defense that has been really good itself. They are an experienced, athletic and aggressive group, and they feature the best defender in the country, Chase Young. The defensive end has been basically unstoppable this year, and he should demand plenty of attention. This is a good Wisconsin O-Line, per usual, but they aren't used to seeing the type of athletes the Buckeyes can throw at you. Beyond Young, linebackers Malik Harrison and Baron Browning can really get after the quarterback. I expect that Jack Coan is going to have to make throws under pressure, or get it out quick. Coan has been real solid all season for the Badgers, but this is the fastest defense he has seen all season. It helps to have Jonathan Taylor to give the ball off to, and the Doak Walker Award finalist has been humming along. This won't be a defense that gives up much opportunities on the ground, but I still have confidence Taylor will be able to do something. The major question I have for Wisconsin is whether they can create enough explosive plays to keep up with OSU for sixty minutes. Guys like Aaron Cruickshank and A.J. Taylor can make things happen, but will it be enough? I like Wisconsin to be competitive, but this is another situation where I just don't think they quite have enough to come out victorious. The Buckeyes look like the best all-around team in the country, and they are just playing too well to pick against.
The Pick: Ohio State, 30 Wisconsin, 21

Big 12 Championship: (#6) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (#7) Baylor Bears
Even though both teams sit on the outside looking in when it comes to the CFB Playoff, things could work out where one is able to find a way into the field. Oklahoma won this matchup the first time, although they had to come back from a 28-3 deficit. They haven't been playing great football as of late, but having quarterback Jalen Hurts is still an advantage. Hurts has 50 total touchdowns in his final collegiate season, and a whole host of options to work with. He was tremendous down the stretch in their previous battle and Baylor has to find a way to slow him down for the entire sixty minutes. Beyond Hurts, the Sooners can trot out a host of options at running back and at receiver. In the backfield, Kennedy Brooks and Rhamondre Stevenson are an absolute load to handle, while Biletnikoff Award finalist CeeDee Lamb opens things up on the perimeter. This is a Bears team that should be able to stop the run with their defensive front, but their secondary is more of a concern. Do they have the pieces necessary to contain Lamb? The good news is that the Baylor offense should be able to keep up, even if they don't have Hurts under center. Charlie Brewer is one heck of a quarterback himself, but he has to stay consistent through the entire game. After a hot start to the last game with the Sooners, he really struggled down the stretch. The Bears don't have quite the offensive weapons Oklahoma does, but backs John Lovett and JaMychal Hasty can still make plays, as well as wideout Denzel Mims. On defense, Oklahoma began the year with significant improvement, but they've had real issues as of late. The secondary remains incredibly streaky from week to week, and the pass rush is hit-or-miss. Coordinator Alex Grinch has helped, and he devised a gameplan last time against Baylor that worked as well as it needed to. I think the Bears will try to be more creative in what they do to mix things up. I think this game is going to end up in a similar manner as last matchup. It should be a very close one, but I still think Hurts gives OU the edge. Even with the defensive issues, I'm rolling with the four-time (soon to be five) reigning Big 12 Champs.
The Pick: Oklahoma, 40 Baylor, 35

Other Picks
ACC Championship: (#3) Clemson, 38 (#23) Virginia, 24
American Athletic Championship: (#17) Memphis, 34 (#20) Cincinnati, 28
Conference USA Championship: Florida Atlantic, 27 UAB, 23
MAC Championship: Central Michigan, 26 Miami (Ohio), 20
Mountain West Championship: (#19) Boise State, 31 Hawaii, 21
Pac-12 Championship: (#5) Utah, 28 (#13) Oregon, 24
Sun Belt Championship: (#21) Appalachian State, 35 Louisiana, 27

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