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2020 College Football Picks: Week Fourteen


C.J. Marable, Coastal Carolina

Current Picks Record: 32-15 (3-5 Upset)

(#13) BYU Cougars @ (#18) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Line: BYU -10

Over/Under: 61.5

2020 was always going to be a weird football season, but consider this reality of the times: BYU-Coastal Carolina are squaring on College GameDay with both teams undefeated, in a matchup that came together just over 24 hours ago. Both of these teams have faced unique challenges all season but sit in early December a combined 18-0, squaring off in the biggest game of Week 14. While this important for both teams, it seems like a particularly huge game for the Cougars. They still hold an outside shot at Playoff contention and desperately need to improve their strength of schedule. 

BYU has the fourth best scoring offense in the nation, averaging nearly 48 points per game. They are led by a Heisman contender at quarterback in Zach Wilson, but the offense is much more balanced than most realize. The Cougars run the ball very well, and they also have plenty of playmakers that don't get much national attention. Of course, Wilson is the main piece to the puzzle, throwing for 26 touchdowns while completing 74 percent of his passes. What's so impressive about him is that he not only puts up great numbers, but he simply doesn't make mistakes. Wilson's TD-INT ratio remains among the country's best, and it will be very important against a Chanticleer defense that thrives off forcing turnovers. Wilson is aided by tailback Tyler Allgeier, who is averaging over seven yards per carry, along with an explosive receiver corps. Wide outs Dax Milne and Gunner Romney will force this Coastal defense to play the whole field vertically and horizontally, while tight end Isaac Rex is a red zone machine, with a third of his catches going for touchdowns. Up front, the BYU offensive line has also been terrific, and they should hold an advantage in the trenches. With that being said, Coastal's defense has performed admirably all season. They don't have much NFL talent but they play hard and force mistakes. It could definitely be the toughest defense BYU has seen all year.

On the other side of the ball the Chanticleers are very fun to watch, doing a lot of creative things to get their playmakers in space. Quarterback Grayson McCall is a slippery dual threat, but he's a much better passer than people give him credit for. Much like Wilson, he's extremely efficient, completing 67% of his passes and tossing for 20 touchdowns compared to just one interception. He doesn't quite have the weapons around him that Wilson does, but this Coastal offense still finds ways to put up points. The backfield combo of C.J. Marable and Reese White has kept them humming all year, and Marable is also a dangerous pass-catcher. I am curious to see how successful Coastal is able to run the ball in this matchup. The Cougar front seven has a size advantage and their numbers are very good, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll have a good game. The uniqueness of the Chanticleer offense should allow them to manufacture yards, and BYU has not had a lot of time to prepare for it. It shouldn't be shocking if this one ends up being a little of a shootout because this game came together so late.

With both teams having so little time to prepare, it's difficult to get a serious read on who should be favored here. BYU has just been so dominant all season long, but Coastal Carolina is a very interesting challenge. They play with an energy and passion of an underdog, but there is legit star power on this roster. The key will be creating turnovers; if the Cougars win the turnover battle, they're strong enough top to bottom to take the win. If not, I think Coastal not only has a shot to cover the 10-point spread, but win outright.

The Pick: BYU, 38 Coastal Carolina, 30

(#12) Indiana Hoosiers @ (#16) Wisconsin Badgers

Line: Wisconsin -14

Over/Under: 45

With Ohio State's next game against Michigan in jeopardy due to COVID, there remains a possibility Indiana is the representative of the East Division in the Big Ten Championship. But first the Hoosiers must get past a Badger team eager to get back on the field, as they've played just three games in 2020. Indiana will be short-handed, as starting QB Michael Penix Jr. came down with a torn ACL in their win last week over Maryland. That leaves the Hoosiers turning to former Utah transfer Jack Tuttle as their starting signal-caller for this one. Tuttle is a former highly touted recruit who has a talented arm, but making you first collegiate start against this Wisconsin defense is not ideal. Not only will he face creative blitzes from Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard, but he has to go up against a Badger secondary that is deep and experienced. That could leave the Hoosiers leaning more on their ground game than ever before this season. Running back Stevie Scott III is coming off a 1,000-yard 2019, but he's averaging just 3.4 yards per carry so far this year. The Indiana offensive line just hasn't got the push they need to give him opportunities, and Scott has struggled. If they once again struggle to run the ball, it's hard to see how they move the ball successfully.

The Indiana defense should still give them a fighting chance no matter what the offense looks like. This is a group that has been prone to giving up big yardage, but they are one of the best in forcing turnovers and capitalizing off them. Simply look at the Ohio State game from two weeks ago; they forced Heisman-contending QB Justin Fields into the worst game of his entire career. This defense represents a stiff challenge for young QB Graham Mertz, who had a big first two games for the Badgers but was brought back to Earth against the Northwestern Wildcats. To be fair, Mertz was without a few of his top targets in that Northwestern game, including Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. Pryor is expected to be back, while the status of Davis is up in the air. Can other pieces in this passing attack get involved, such as tight end Jake Ferguson and Chimere Dike? Of course, this is Wisconsin, so I expect them to have success running the ball. Obviously there is no Jonathan Taylor on this roster, but the backfield committee of Jalen Berger, Nakia Watson, and Garrett Groshek has still been successful. I'll be interested to see whether Berger starts to really become the go-to guy; the true freshman is the most talented back on this roster and still managed 93 yards against NW. The major key for the Badgers is that their O-Line is as healthy and fresh as you can be this late in the season. They hold a serious advantage in the trenches, one that becomes even more crucial in what could be a low-scoring affair.

I truly believe a fully healthy Indiana is a Top 10 team in college football this year. They went toe-to-toe with Ohio State for the full 60 minutes and have done everything asked of them so far in 2020. However, they're in a tough spot without Penix. Wisconsin is always a tough matchup but breaking in a young quarterback against them raises the challenge level exponentially. Unless the Hoosier defense can play the game of the season and get enough help from Scott offensively, the Badgers remain the smart bet in this one.

The Pick: Wisconsin, 27 Indiana, 17

(#1) Alabama Crimson Tide @ LSU Tigers

Line: Alabama -29.5

Over/Under: 66.5

Alabama-LSU resume their annual rivalry matchup a little bit later than expected, as their first matchup was delayed due to COVID issues. This 2020 battle is going to be quite a bit different than the 2019 edition, as the Tigers have slogged through a rough campaign. In addition to the mass defections they saw over the off-season, LSU has lost two critical offensive pieces over the last couple weeks in the form of QB Myles Brennan and wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. Brennan is out for the rest of the season due to injury, but neither backup T.J. Finley or Max Johnson has seized the job. Finley has shown flashes but was dreadful against Texas A&M, while Johnson has only played in relief. Finley will start this one, but even coach Ed Orgeron accepts that Johnson is likely to play. Replacing Marshall is the real tough one, as he was leading LSU in every receiving category before opting out. His departure means names like Jaray Jenkins and Kayshon Boutte are going to have to step up on the perimeter, as well as stud true freshman tight end Arik Gilbert. There isn't much relief from the LSU ground game either, as this rushing attack has been really disappointing. Struggles from the Tiger offensive line have made things more difficult, as Tiger tailbacks are averaging just three yards per rush. 

While the defending National Champs limp to the season's conclusion, Alabama looks almost unbeatable at this point. Heisman candidate Mac Jones is running the offense to near perfection, and it may be the best offense the Tide have put on the field under Nick Saban. Najee Harris is a touchdown machine at running back who is particularly lethal late in games, while DeVonta Smith is the overwhelming favorite to go home with the Biletnikoff Award. In addition, it seems like there is a new face making plays for Alabama every single week, such as youngsters Trey Sanders and Jase McClellan in the backfield or Slade Bolden and Jahleel Billingsley on the outside. This is an offense that is efficient, well-coached, and balanced, with speed that blow open games at any point. It's a terrible matchup for any defense, but one especially concerning for an LSU defense that has been historically bad in 2020. This Tiger defense still has plenty of talent, but the numbers speak for themselves. They're allowing 30.3 points per game and 443.3 yards per game, which both rank near the bottom of the SEC. To be fair, they did play well last week against Kellen Mond and Texas A&M, but the Crimson Tide are a different animal altogether.

The 29.5 spread in this game is the largest for a defending National Champion in decades, and yet I still don't think LSU covers. While the Tigers are just playing to finish off the 2020 season, Alabama looks like a buzzsaw destroying everything in its path. They also have motivation to dominate this rivalry game; LSU won last year for the first time since 2011, and they weren't quiet about it. You better believe Nick Saban and the rest of the Tide coaching staff talked that up in the week leading up to this game. To add insult to injury, Saban is back on the sideline after missing the Iron Bowl while quarantining. LSU fans, I don't think there's much reason to watch this one. Find something else to do Saturday night, because it is going to get messy.

The Pick: Alabama, 49 LSU, 14

Other Picks

(#4) Ohio State @ Michigan State: Ohio State, 35 Michigan State, 16

(#5) Texas A&M @ Auburn: Texas A&M, 31 Auburn, 21

West Virginia @ (#9) Iowa State: Iowa State, 27 West Virginia, 23

(#3) Clemson @ Virginia Tech: Clemson, 44 Virginia Tech, 28

Upset: Navy, 24 Tulsa, 20

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