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2020 College Football Picks: Week Seven

Brian Robinson, Alabama

Current Picks Record: 5-3 (0-1 Upset)

 (#3) Georgia Bulldogs @ (#2) Alabama Crimson Tide

Line: Alabama -6.5

Over/Under: 57

It will be hard to find a more consequential regular season game in 2020 than Georgia-Alabama. Both teams are ranked in the Top 3, and have serious aspirations that go beyond SEC Title contention. Plus, long-time Nick Saban assistant Kirby Smart is still looking for his first win against his former mentor, despite coming close on multiple occasions. In fact, Smart is looking to become the first former Saban assistant to beat the man himself, as Saban is 20-0 against former assistants. Georgia is coming off a Top-15 victory over Tennessee, where a dominating defensive performance helped put them over the top. That defense will be obviously be instrumental in the Bulldogs pulling off the win over the Crimson Tide. It's a group that can attack you in so many ways, and has speed and strength all over the field. This front seven is stocked to the brim with playmakers, including Nakobe Dean, Monty Rice, Adam Anderson, Nolan Smith, and Azeez Olujari. It is almost certain to be the toughest pass rush Alabama has seen all season long, although I'm sure the Tide offensive line will be up to the task. The bigger concern for Georgia lies on offense, where they've been solid, but far from great. Former walk-on Stetson Bennett has been a great story starting the last two games for UGA, but is he really the guy to lead Georgia past Alabama? Perhaps, but that will take an extra effort from his supporting cast. Zamir White and Kenny McIntosh have impressed me so far this season and will put pressure on the 'Bama defense, one that is coming off their worst performance of the Saban era. However, the Bulldogs still need to open things up on the perimeter to keep pace with a Tide offense that is still going to put up points. Kearis Jackson has been a pleasant surprise for the 'Dawgs and has big-play potential, but can Bennett get him the ball? George Pickens is also a nightmare matchup on the outside for UGA, but has a knack for dumb penalties and childish acts. Alabama's secondary is talented, but the numbers simply haven't been very good so far in 2020. I'm curious to see how aggressive UGA play-caller Todd Monken is in attacking this group.

Even though they face what could be the country's best defense, I don't question that Alabama will score. They simply have too many weapons not to, and QB Mac Jones has asserted himself as an early Heisman frontrunner with his play so far this season. Brian Robinson and Najee Harris have proven to be a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield and the Tide probably have the best collection of pass-catchers in the country, led by Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, John Metchie III and Miller Foristall. Georgia's defense simply has not seen a group of playmakers that pound between the tackles and also stretch the field vertically quite like this. I'm sure defensive coordinator Dan Lanning will have them ready, but I still think the Tide are going to be tough to keep up with for sixty minutes.

In the past, this game has been often been an old-school, punishing SEC game. It's sure to still be a physical game in the trenches with the bulk that will be out there, but don't be surprised if there is a lot more points scored than usual. Alabama is equipped with possibly their best offense under Saban, but also equipped with what looks like their worst defense, even with a lot of adjustments coming this week. On the flip side, the Bulldogs look questionable on offense right now, but their defense has been incredibly impressive. It leaves us with an intriguing clash of strengths against strengths and weaknesses against weaknesses, which will help make it a close one. I've been more impressed with Georgia than 'Bama so far in 2020, but there are still enough factors working in Alabama's favor for me to pick them. First off, Saban's track record against former assistants speaks for itself; not only is he undefeated, he's beaten them by a margin of 841-308. Secondly, Alabama gets the 'Dawgs in the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Lastly, I trust Alabama's quarterback play more, which is an obvious tiebreaker. Bennett may be a great story, but I don't think UGA is a legit National Title contender with him under center.

Alabama, 35 Georgia, 31

(Note: At the time of publishing, Nick Saban had not tested for COVID-19, changing his status for Saturday's game).

(#11) Texas A&M Aggies @ Mississippi State Bulldogs

Line: A&M -6.5

Over/Under: 54

The SEC slate beyond Georgia-Alabama is pretty underwhelming this week and that's with Florida-LSU still slated to play (status of the game up in the air due to COVID-19 positives). However, the mid-afternoon matchup between Texas A&M and Mississippi State interests me. On one side, the Aggies are coming off their biggest win of the Jimbo Fisher era, and are back as SEC West contenders. The other side includes Mississippi State, who opened the season with a huge win against LSU then has followed it up with two deflating losses. It's a question week-in, week-out what you're getting from Mike Leach-coached teams, and this year's Miss. State will be no different. After that record-setting day against the Tigers, they've scored a total of 16 points. K.J. Costello earned Heisman hype after the first game, but now has a 6-9 TD-INT ratio. Leach is still going to pass the ball either way, but I'm curious if he can get Kylin Hill more involved. Hill currently leads the team in catches, but they should try and find more creative ways to get him in space. Costello simply has to be better; yes he throws the ball so much that interceptions are bound to happen, but some of them have been real head-scratchers for a veteran QB. The A&M secondary is solid, but could still make some mistakes. He needs to be aggressive throwing the ball down the field still, but a whole lot smarter.

The Aggies' offense had quite the explosion against Florida, and they'll hope to ride that momentum into Starkville. The ground attack has been really fun to watch, as Isaiah Spiller has had no troubles being the lead guy, with versatile Ainias Smith helping out. The bigger question is what the passing game will look like each week. Kellen Mond threw for 338 yards and three scores against Florida, but he tends to play better in big games and worse against lesser foes. Can he continue that against a Bulldog defense that is fairly mediocre? I'd like to see one more Aggie step up on the perimeter to complement Caleb Chapman and Chase Lane, while tight end Jalen Wydermeyer works the inside routes. Possibly a bigger question will be whether A&M's offensive line can hold up against an underrated Mississippi State pass rush. The unit has played pretty well for the Aggies, but it will still be worth a watch.

With A&M coming off such a major victory, it wouldn't be a shock if they experience a let-down to Mike Leach and the sneaky Bulldogs. Starkville might not be the toughest place to play in all of the SEC, but it's always loud, and Leach has an affinity for pulling wild upsets. With that being said, the formula for beating Mississippi State is there for A&M. They'll drop most of their defense in deep zones and force underneath throws, with the occasional exotic blitz. Kentucky and Arkansas have done it to perfection, and they don't have the athletes A&M can put on the field. In short, an upset certainly could happen, but this is not my upset pick in Week Seven.

Texas A&M, 28 Mississippi State, 20

UCF Knights @ Memphis Tigers

Line: UCF -3.5

Over/Under: 75

While it may be lost in the grand scheme of Week Seven, you shouldn't overlook this one between UCF and Memphis. These two teams have established themselves as not just two of the best in the AAC annually, but Group of Five in general. Yes they both have lost so a Playoff run may be out of the question, but an AAC Title is definitely still in play. After blowing out East Carolina and Georgia Tech to begin the season, UCF found themselves on the wrong side against a sneaky Tulsa team. They got a bye this past week to recover, and there's plenty of room for growth. QB Dillon Gabriel didn't play terrible in the loss, but he wasn't as efficient as he normally was. Memphis could be an opportunity for him to get back on track against a defense that is okay, but prone to the big play. Gabriel and UCF will also need more help from a ground game that has disappeared at times this season. However, my biggest concern for UCF is on the defensive side. This is a defense with some playmakers, but they tend to let up plenty of yardage and they face an experienced quarterback on the other side. They certainly don't have to be perfect for the Knights to land in the win territory, but need to play better for the entire four quarters.

Memphis lost last week to SMU two weeks ago, but there are a few things to consider. They were playing their first game in a month due to scheduling problems, and also had the game tied at 27 until the final seconds of the game. They're still going to be a tough out this year in the AAC with Brady White running the show. White has played in some big games in his Memphis career, and he should have a big day against an inconsistent UCF pass defense. The playmakers surrounding White have suffered without do-it-all back Kenneth Gainwell, but watch out for tight end Sean Dykes. He's proven to be a fairly athletic pass-catcher that could be a real matchup problem for the Knights. Memphis can't turn the ball over the way they did against SMU; four turnovers with a skilled offense on the other side isn't going to work out.

I've gone back and forth on who I like in this matchup. Both these offenses are going to find a way to light up the scoreboard, but it's the defense that makes the most plays that is going to help their team come out on top. I trust the Memphis defense slightly more, even if the last time we saw them they were getting shredded by Shane Buechele and SMU. I think they'll shut down the UCF rushing attack and get enough pressure on Gabriel to make a few mistakes. Plus, playing in front of the home "crowd" will help put them over the top.

Memphis, 37 UCF, 34

Other Picks

(#1) Clemson @ Georgia Tech -- Clemson, 49 Georgia Tech, 13

Pittsburgh @ (#13) Miami -- Miami, 31 Pittsburgh, 21

Kentucky @ (#18) Tennessee -- Tennessee, 20 Kentucky, 17

Louisville @ (#4) Notre Dame -- Notre Dame, 38 Louisville, 24

Upset Pick: South Carolina, 28 Auburn, 27

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