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2020 College Football Picks: Week Six

Stetson Bennett, Georgia

 I've held off on my usual "College Football Picks" this year due to the uncertainty of the 2020 college football season and the delayed/postponement factor. But, with our strongest slate of games ahead this weekend, I felt that it was time to once again start up my picks this year. 

Current Picks Record: 0-0

(#14) Tennessee Volunteers @ (#3) Georgia Bulldogs

Line: UGA -12

O/U: 43

With both teams 2-0 and sitting at the top of the SEC East along with Florida, this Tennessee-Georgia game will be a major one on the docket this weekend. The Bulldogs are coming off a dominant showing against Auburn, building a big lead early and suffocating the Tigers over the next few quarters. It hasn't been surprising at all to see the dominant UGA defense play so well, but it has been surprising to see who is playing QB for them. Former walk-on Stetson Bennett started the first game of his career last Saturday and played poised and confident, engineering a Bulldog offense that moved the ball very effectively. It sounds like he'll start this one, even with USC transfer J.T. Daniels now cleared to play. I do believe Tennessee might be a slightly tougher challenge than Auburn, at least in the secondary. I expect Todd Monken to pound the ball early for the Bulldogs and get this ground attack rolling again. After an off Week One, UGA ran the ball very easily last Saturday, and the line played well. The Vols don't have a star-studded defensive line but it's solid, and I'm curious to see how they handle one of the league's best run-blocking units. 

On the Tennessee side of things, the Volunteer offense hasn't been super explosive but it has been effective. Veteran QB Jarrett Guarantano survived a quarterback competition over the off-season to hold onto the job, and he's looked good. Despite not having a huge arm, he's looked more comfortable in the pocket this year and he's always a running threat. The Bulldog front seven might end up being the scariest he's seen all season, but I think he'll be ready. Guarantano also has the luxury of operating behind one of the country's best O-Lines, a group that is stocked with four and five-star talent. The two-headed monster backfield has been what has really got Tennessee going over the first couple weeks, and they are the real playmakers in this offense. The Vols got just 70 yards of rushing in this matchup last season, which may gave them a little extra motivation in this one.

It's been a long time since Tennessee had this much hype around them, coming into this game with an eight-game win streak that continues from the end of 2019. Their performance last weekend gives confidence that they'll be ready for this challenge, but I still like the 'Dawgs comfortably here. The defense is probably the nation's best, and the offense is capable enough to provide some separation. Playing in Sanford Stadium also gives them a distinct advantage, even though it won't be as raucous as usual this season.

Georgia, 28 Tennessee, 17

(#7) Miami Hurricanes @ (#1) Clemson Tigers

Line: Clemson -14

O/U: 63.5

In this weird, untraditional college football season, no team is receiving more hype than the Miami Hurricanes. They've opened their 2020 by beating a good UAB team, running past Louisville, and then pummeling rival Florida State. The story has been the offense, where new OC Rhett Lashlee has leaned on transfer QB D'Eriq King and a no-huddle, breakneck speed. I had my doubts about how King would respond to the jump to Power Five, but he's had no problems. The dual threat hasn't lacked confidence, and he's proven to be a good decision-maker. That's going to be crucial against a Clemson defense that knows how to produce takeaways, and capitalize off of them. This offense has also shown the capability to vary their attack based on opponent's weaknesses. They can pass and run, while mixing in some creative looks and schemes. They should be able to move the ball, but I am concerned about how the line is able to hold up against Clemson. They simply have not seen the athletes that the Tigers have, and Clemson comes at you for all sixty minutes. King might be an effective playmaker, but he can't play all night with Tigers barreling down on him.

Clemson has breezed through a relatively soft schedule so far this year, winning their first two conference games against Wake Forest and Virginia. The Tigers feature two Heisman finalists on offense in QB Trevor Lawrence and back Travis Etienne, two guys who can absolutely change games. Lawrence has really impressed me; his stats aren't exactly gaudy (mainly because he doesn't often play much in the second half) but he's limited turnovers and looks locked in. This is important, because as much as Clemson creates takeaways, the 'Canes do it even better. No team in college football has created more turnovers than Miami since they started donning the "Turnover Chain" back in 2017. Stopping Etienne may be the most difficult part of the night for the Miami defense. His speed and big-play ability are already legendary, but his improvement as a pass-catcher has been one of the things I've noticed about him. Last week against Virginia he caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Miami's rush defense has been okay so far this season (41st nationally) but they did struggle when facing an All-ACC caliber back in Javian Hawkins a few weeks ago. If they allow Etienne to really get going, the Tigers are nearly impossible to stop. 

This is a big game not only for the programs, but also the ACC as a whole. Clemson has absolutely ran the league the last half-decade, and they haven't even had much of a challenge a few of those years. Outside of possibly Notre Dame, the Hurricanes are their greatest threat in an untraditional season. The offense has enough playmakers to make Brent Venables job difficult, and the defense has the type of aggressive, ball-hawking athletes that are an absolute necessity in taking down Clemson. With that being said, I think it would still be unwise to pick against the Tigers. They are the gold standard in college football right now, and they just have too many ways to hurt you.

Clemson, 34 Miami, 23

(#19) Virginia Tech Hokies @ (#8) North Carolina Tar Heels

Line: UNC -5

Over/Under: 59

Although this game will almost surely be overshadowed by Clemson-Miami later in the evening, it's still a pretty important game in the ACC. Both of these teams have jumped out to 2-0 starts, but neither has faced much of a challenge just yet. This matchup will give them an opportunity to show what they can do against a ranked foe. North Carolina is still shaking off a little rust, as they went nearly a month without playing in between their first two games due to COVID-19 postponements. The offense is still working on hitting its stride, but there's no denying it has the potential to be really special. Quarterback Sam Howell has asserted himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country, and he's shown the ability to use his legs a little bit more in 2020. Virginia Tech will have their hands full stopping Howell and an aerial attack that has an abundance of options, namely Dyami Brown. On the ground, Michael Carter doesn't get a ton of attention playing with Howell but he's another guy that can break open games. It will be a fascinating watch to see how the VT defense fares. This is their first season in two decades without Bud Foster calling plays and while things have gone well so far, they have yet to face an offense with the weapons that UNC can throw at you.

The Virginia Tech offense has leaned on their ground game over the first few weeks of the season, thanks in large part to the absence of starting QB Hendon Hooker. Hooker missed the first two games of the season due to a COVID diagnosis, but head coach Justin Fuente has indicated he'll be a "full go" for this one. With Hooker back, the VT offense should be at full strength for the first time in the 2020 campaign. He's aided by talented receivers Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson, and former Kansas transfer Khalil Herbert has guided the improving rushing attack. They face a North Carolina defense that has plenty of talent, but has struggled to stop the pass throughout Mack Brown's return. I would expect the Hokies to be aggressive in attacking the Heels, and look for some big plays early to gain momentum. They'll have to find a way to get the ball away from UNC linebacker Chazz Surratt, who has emerged as one of the best in the ACC. 

Well this game is a perfect opportunity for one of these teams to rise up the ACC pecking order, I wouldn't be shocked if it's a little bit of a sloppy game. UNC is still working their way back into game action, and the Hokies have not played this season with Hooker under center. Although crowds aren't as big of a factor in 2020 as most years, the Heels still playing on their home field gives them a distinct advantage. They also have an advantage at quarterback with Howell, even if Hooker is able to suit up. For that reason, I have to roll with the Heels in this one.

UNC, 38 Virginia Tech, 30

Other Picks

(#22) Texas vs. Oklahoma -- Texas, 42 Oklahoma, 34

(#4) Florida @ (#21) Texas A&M -- Florida, 31 Texas A&M, 21

(#2) Alabama @ Ole Miss -- Alabama, 45 Ole Miss, 24

Florida State @ (#5) Notre Dame -- Notre Dame, 35 Florida State, 10

Upset Pick: Arkansas, 28 (#13) Auburn, 24

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