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2020 College Football Picks: Week Ten


D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson

Current Picks Record: 25-7 (3-2 Upset)

(#1) Clemson Tigers @ (#4) Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Line: Clemson -5.5

Over/Under: 50.5

Clemson and Notre Dame have played each other a total of four teams in their history, but this is their first ever meeting as ACC foes. Both teams head into this weekend flawless, although they've both had their scares. Clemson got all they could handle last week from Boston College and while they survived, they will have to go another week without Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. On the Notre Dame side, they had relatively tight wins over Louisville and Duke but remain 6-0.

Sure Clemson will be without Lawrence, but true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei looked awfully comfortable in his first career start last Saturday. He tallied over 350 yards of total offense and three scores, while also showing poise and crisp decision-making. He adds a different element to this Clemson offense because of his speed, as he has a little bit more natural mobility than Lawrence. Granted, this matchup against the Irish will be just a bit tougher than the Eagles. He'll face a solid secondary, but the bigger concern will be an ND pass rush that can be very fierce. Whether he's able to keep his cool over the course of four quarters may end up deciding whether the Tigers stay atop the ACC. The good news is that Uiagalelei has ample help, notably Travis Etienne at running back and Amari Rodgers outside. Etienne become the league's all-time leading rusher last week and he'll remain a vital part of this offense going forward. You would like to see somebody else emerge consistently behind Rodgers at receiver. Cornell Powell stepped up this past week and tight end Braden Galloway is a weapon, but Clemson could use all the offensive punch they can get against this Irish defense.

The big questions for Notre Dame are primarily on offense. Their numbers across the board are pretty good, but the offense has been extremely streaky in 2020 and the passing game has been fairly underwhelming. Veteran QB Ian Book is in his third full season as starter and yet the downfield passing attack has been nearly non-existent. That isn't all on Book, as he needs more help from the receivers on this roster, but is there any chance ND wins this game without getting the ball down the field? The Irish aren't naturally a super aggressive offense, but they need to be to come out victorious. Clemson is just too good and the offense will be tough to keep up with, even with Uiagalelei starting. It's fair to question who will be able to step up at wide out against a Clemson secondary that is good, but got exposed last week. Javon McKinley is technically the leading receiver, but keep an eye on former Northwestern transfer Ben Skowronek, who eclipsed 100 yards last week. The Irish ground game should still be able to move the ball, but the offensive line is in line for a major test with this Tiger front. There are future NFL guys on both sides, and the battle in the trenches should be a fun watch.

Brian Kelly has consistently said that Notre Dame is just a step or two away from being a true National Title contender. It's not a crazy argument when you consider their success over the last three seasons and how many players they've sent to the NFL. But, if the Irish really are ready to take that next leap these are the games they shouldn't just compete in, but win. They have a real advantage of having Lawrence out, and ND actually does match up really well with the Tigers in some spots. However, I just think Clemson has too many athletes on both sides of the ball for the Irish to come out on top. Uiagalelei is definitely not your average freshman, and the rest of the offense weapons will be able to put up points. Unless Book has the game of his life, Clemson jumps to 8-0 on the year.

Clemson, 34 Notre Dame, 21

(#8) Georgia Bulldogs vs. (#5) Florida Gators (Jacksonville)

Line: Georgia -3

Over/Under: 52.5

The SEC East may well be decided this Saturday with Georgia and Florida's annual rivalry game. Florida recovered from a close loss to Texas A&M by rolling past Missouri on Halloween, improving their record to 3-1 on the year. In contrast to past Gator teams this past decade, this team is explosive on offense, but prone to the big-play defensively. On offense Kyle Trask has asserted himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country, throwing for 18 touchdowns on the season. He has an abundance of weapons to work with on the perimeter, namely one of the nation's best tight ends Kyle Pitts and do-it-all Kadarius Toney. The Florida ground game has been significantly less potent, with Dameon Pierce's 169 yards leading the team. It will be interesting to see whether this offense looks at becoming more balanced against this Georgia defense, or sticks to the aerial attack. Georgia is particularly good against the run, but their pass defense could be susceptible, with one of their top cover guys Richard LeCounte likely out for this one. That puts more pressure on the UGA defensive front to create pressure, which they shouldn't have much trouble doing. While the Gator offensive line has been decent this year, the Bulldog pass rush is relentless.

In contrast to Florida, Georgia's offense has lacked much punch in 2020. They've still been able to move the ball effectively on the ground behind Zamir White and James Cook, but the quarterback position has been a major weakness. Former walk-on Stetson Bennett IV came in during the opener and has started every game since. While he has performed admirably given the circumstances, he has begun to struggle with turnovers and getting the ball down the field. Although the Bulldog offense has still been able to survive, you wonder how high their ceiling is with him under center. Even so, he'll once again lead the offense against a Gator defense that has really struggled. The Gators' primary concern at receiver should be Kearis Jackson, although UGA's true freshman Jermaine Burton has also been a revelation. The status for George Pickens is up in the air heading into the weekend, as he did not make the trip to Kentucky last Saturday. The big thing to watch in this battle is how both of these units perform on third down; in UF's loss to A&M they couldn't stop anyone on third down. If Georgia is able to make the plays when they count, they certainly are in a good spot.

Despite Georgia's continued offensive questions, they head to Jacksonville as a slight favorite. The Bulldogs should be able to put some points on the scoreboard, but they will need their defense to play very well to come out on top. That certainly is not impossible when we consider the talent this UGA defense possesses, but it becomes more difficult without LeCounte. The more likely scenario is that the Gators are just too much with their own offense, propelling them to their first win in the series since 2016.

Florida, 38 Georgia, 28

Arizona State Sun Devils @ (#20) USC Trojans

Line: USC -10.5

Over/Under: 59.5

The Pac-12 finally is back this weekend, and their slate of games gets going early on. In fact so early that this is a 9 A.M. kickoff locally! It's a game that may be overshadowed by some of the other headliners, but this battle between Arizona State and USC may decide the South Division. The Trojans and head coach Clay Helton have a ton of pressure on them heading into 2020, but the good news is that they are led by a Heisman-level QB under center and an elite group of receivers. That QB is none other than Kedon Slovis, who threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns in relief of the injured J.T. Daniels. Slovis is a natural fit in the Graham Harrell offense, and he has a proven trio to throw to in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, and Drake London. This offense is going to be able to stretch the Arizona State defense vertically, but it also has to play smart. The Sun Devil defense has long been known as a group that knows how to create turnovers, and the reality of this heavy pass USC offense is that it's prone to turnovers. Slovis appeared to be a really good decision-maker in his action last fall but rust could be an issue.

The Arizona State offense is led by their own star quarterback, sophomore Jayden Daniels. Daniels really impressed me last year; not only did he put up terrific numbers, but he showed a maturity and clutch gene that you don't often see from true freshman. He has a real opportunity against a Trojan secondary that was far from great in 2019. There is also likely to be a lot of youth around Daniels on this Arizona State offense, with the main exception being senior Frank Darby at receiver. Expect youngsters like Johnny Wilson and Daniyel Ngata to be featured in this offense from the get-go, even if they may need some time to adjust to the speed of the collegiate level. Ngata in particular could be in store for a heavy dosage of snaps, as he was competing for first team snaps at tailback throughout much of fall camp. This offense squares up against an 'SC defense that has plenty of fresh faces, and that includes the coaching staff. Todd Orlando was long considered a rising defensive mind in the coaching ranks, but things went south at Texas. Taking over for Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator, he is looking to help a Trojan defense that lacked much fight towards the end of '19. Orlando loves to draw up exotic blitzes which should present an interesting challenge for Daniels.

Year-in, year-out it's become almost common place among a large segment of college football media to buy into the "USC is back" hype. This year is no different, as the return of Slovis and a new-look defense may just be the answer the program needed to get back on track. However, all this hype going USC's way leaves Arizona State underrated. The Sun Devils have legit NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and Daniels should be eager to prove that he's the best of the best in the Pac-12. I also trust the Arizona State defense slightly more and Herm Edwards has to have the advantage on the sideline. This feels to me like a Trojan letdown spot, especially in the Coliseum. 

Arizona State, 30 USC, 28

Other Picks

(#23) Michigan @ (#13) Indiana: Indiana, 24 Michigan, 21

West Virginia @ (#22) Texas: Texas, 37 West Virginia, 27

(#25) Liberty @ Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech, 42 Liberty, 28

(#14) Oklahoma State @ Kansas State: Oklahoma State, 38 Kansas State, 21

Upset: Temple, 34 SMU, 31

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