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2020 College Football Picks: Week Nine


Chris Olave, Ohio State

Current Picks Record: 18-6 (2-1 Upset)

(#3) Ohio State Buckeyes @ (#18) Penn State Nittany Lions

Line: Ohio State -11

Over/Under: 68.5

Penn State's loss last weekend to Indiana dampened the hype surrounding this game, but PSU-OSU is always a critical one in the Big Ten Title chase. Things have quickly gone downhill for a Nittany Lion offense that looked ready for a big year under new coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. Quarterback Sean Clifford played well against Indiana, throwing for 238 yards and leading the team in rushing. He'll have even more on his shoulders due to injuries to running backs Journey Brown and Noah Cain. Those two were expected to lead perhaps the league's best rushing offense, but now all the duties fall to Devyn Ford. On the outside, wide out Jahan Dotson and tight end Pat Freiermuth will test an inexperienced Buckeye secondary but who else will step up alongside them? Sophomore Daniel George is a potential deep threat who caught three passes last week. He'll need to open things up for Freiermuth to operate underneath. It will also be fascinating to see how Penn State handles the Buckeye pass rush. Although there's no Chase Young out there this year, guys like Jonathon Cooper and Zach Harrison can still get after it.

The Ohio State offense is led by Heisman candidate Justin Fields, who looked strong in their opener. The dual threat continues to make impressive throws, but his legs might be the big issue for this Nittany Lion defense. Fields and the now-departed J.K. Dobbins notched over 200 yards against PSU last year, and that was with Micah Parsons on the field. There is no Dobbins to worry about this year, but the backfield pair of Master Teague and Trey Sermon can still cause damage. Sermon is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, which gives OSU another playmaker. But, it isn't like the Buckeyes have any shortage of playmakers at receiver, as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson run the show. In addition, true freshman Jaxon Smith-Njigba made an insane catch last week, and will also be featured. This Penn State defense is very susceptible to big plays through the air. You really have to wonder if they will be able to hold up over four quarters defending the likes of Olave, Wilson and Smith-Njigba.

Penn State gave Ohio State their toughest test of the regular season last year, and they might give them the hardest challenge out of anyone in the conference once again. They are one of the few teams in the Big Ten that has the athletes that can run with Ohio State, even if that doesn't necessarily mean they'll beat them. It's just too difficult to pick against the Buckeyes here, particularly with the fact that there won't be fans in the stands. In a normal year, a late night game in Happy Valley this time of year might sway me to the Nittany Lions. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case in 2020.

Ohio State, 31 Penn State, 20

Arkansas Razorbacks @ (#8) Texas A&M Aggies

Line: A&M -13.5

Over/Under: 54.5

While Penn State-Ohio State will capture most people's attention primetime Saturday, you shouldn't overlook this SEC West clash. Texas A&M followed up their massive win over Florida by getting past Mississippi State, but Arkansas is a different challenge. The Razorback defense is one of the best in the entire country, led by a physical group of linebackers that includes Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan. That means that Kellen Mond is going to have to make some plays over the top, as Isaiah Spiller is likely to have less opportunities. Mond has had a good start to the season, but these are the types of games he struggles in. We will see who steps up to help him on the outside, most likely do-it-all Ainias Smith. However, the Aggies need a more traditional receiver to also make some plays. After a hot start to the year Caleb Chapman has cooled down, but he could be in store for a lot of targets in this one. I will be interested to see how Jimbo Fisher chooses to attack this Arkansas defense. Fisher is not known as being a very innovative offensive play-caller, but he might try and switch some things up here.

The Razorback defense has fueled their surprising success so far in 2020, but this offense shouldn't be completely underestimated. Florida transfer Feleipe Franks has played well, playing smarter football at a controlled pace. He's not the type of weapon that can change games every snap, but Arkansas does have an underrated cast of characters. Back Rakeem Boyd is among the best in the SEC when fully healthy, while junior Trelon Smith has also added a notable spark. Treylon Burks and De'Vion Warren gets thing going at receiver. Warren has been a breakout performer as a senior, thanks in large part to big games against both Auburn and Mississippi State. I also expect to see some K.J. Jefferson sprinkled into this offense, as the speedy quarterback can do things with his legs Franks cannot. He won't see extended action, but Arkansas likes to utilize him to get them a different look offensively. This Aggie defense is decent, but I actually think the Razorbacks match up really well with them.

The upset is a real possibility in this one, and I seriously considered it. Arkansas always plays A&M tougher than the rest of the SEC, and this Razorback team could easily be 3-1 entering the weekend. Their physical brand of football is an absolute challenge for any team they square off against, and it will be interesting to see how A&M responds. I still lean the Aggies primarily because of Kyle Field, and the factor it brings into each game. 

Texas A&M, 24 Arkansas, 21

Boston College Eagles @ (#1) Clemson Tigers

Line: Clemson -24.5

Over/Under: 59

This game was not considered a major one primarily because the assumption has been that Clemson will roll at home. However, things got a lot more interesting last night when it was announced that Heisman frontrunner Trevor Lawrence has COVID-19. His absence means that true freshman D.J. Uigalelei will make his first start of his collegiate career. Uiagalelei is certainly no scrub, rated as a five-star recruit by nearly every recruiting service, and he has looked crisp in his action so far in 2020. With that being said, he does face a pretty tough challenge against an aggressive Boston College defense. The expectation is that tailback Travis Etienne will get a lot of usage early and often. Etienne is a Heisman contender himself, totaling 522 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. He continues to show his improvement as a ballcarrier between the tackles, which wasn't the case early in his collegiate career. I am still curious whether somebody emerges behind him, as Lyn-J Dixon has been fairly quiet in 2020. At receiver, Amari Rodgers leads the way, with plenty of support from Frank Ladson and tight end Braden Galloway. Galloway is going to a tough cover for the Eagles; he's an absolute matchup nightmare.

The BC offense deserves a lot of credit for their improvement in 2020. They've gone from a ground and pound, smash-mouth unit into one that can legitimately put up points. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec has been a revelation in his first season with the Eagles, tossing for 1,671 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's been blessed with a very capable group of receivers, namely Zay Flowers and tight end Hunter Long. Of course, Jurkovec will face his toughest test of the entire season. The Clemson secondary has been excellent all season long, and Jurkovec will have to face down a terrifying pass rush. We'll learn a lot about just how good the former Notre Dame transfer is by the way he handles it. It would really help if David Bailey could get things going on the ground. Bailey has been held in check pretty much all year, and it's a tough bet to think Clemson is the team he'll get going against. The BC O-Line also has to keep Jurkovec upright. They are facing a relentless Clemson pass rush that has so many names that can hurt you. True freshman Myles Murphy is leading the team in sacks, but Justin Mascoll, Bryan Bresee and potential even Xavier Thomas can get in on the fun, and that's just the D-Line. Thomas is still working his way back to full health but is an absolute menace when 100 percent.

The Lawrence absence might make this game slightly more intriguing, but it shouldn't change the result. Clemson is simply too athletic, skilled and deep to lose to Boston College, even a vastly improved Eagles team. Etienne will be overwhelming for this BC defense, and the offense doesn't have the guns to keep up. Perhaps Clemson won't be putting in their backups in the second quarter like past Tiger victories, but they should roll comfortably.

Clemson, 41 Boston College, 17

Other Picks

(#5) Georgia @ Kentucky -- Georgia, 34 Kentucky, 21

(#4) Notre Dame @ Georgia Tech -- Notre Dame, 23 Georgia Tech, 21

(#25) Boise State @ Air Force -- Boise State, 27 Air Force, 16

Upset: Texas, 38 Oklahoma State, 31

Double Upset: Georgia State, 30 Coastal Carolina, 27

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