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College Football Picks 2021: Week Two

Ty Goodson, Iowa
Current Picks Record: 8-1

Upset: 1-0

Superdog: 1-0

(#12) Oregon Ducks @ (#3) Ohio State Buckeyes

Without a CFB Playoff participant in a half-decade, the Pac-12 is eager they still belong among the rest of the Power Five. Having the league's favorite, Oregon, go on the road and beat a top three Ohio State team in Columbus would go along way in showing that West Coast football deserves more respect. Of course, it's easier said than done, as the Ducks will have to find some way to slow down a Buckeye offense that has an abundance of weapons.

Ohio State's offense started slightly slow in their season opener against Minnesota last Thursday, but turned on the jets in the second half. Quarterback C.J. Stroud was okay; good enough to put his team in position to win, but not the reason the Buckeyes came out on top. Stroud's role will likely remain the same for much of the season, as he just has to get the ball to OSU's playmakers. Those playmakers include the best 1-2 wide receiver combo in college football in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, both who had superb showings against the Gophers. It will be interesting to see whether Oregon's secondary will be able to keep up, as this was a shaky pass defense a season ago, but there's enough talent to keep them in the game. The more important question for Oregon's defense is the status of stud defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was knocked out of the Fresno State game with a sprained ankle. Thibodeaux and the Duck pass rush has to apply pressure on Stroud, or else he'll sit back and pick them apart, like he was able to do for most of the night against Minnesota.

Oregon's offense also looked slightly out-of-sync in the opener against Fresno, which isn't much of a surprise considering it was the season's first live action. Quarterback Anthony Brown has become the full-fledged starter now that Tyler Shough is at Texas Tech, but his play last weekend was underwhelming. He's accurate and can make things happen with his legs, but his inability to throw the deep ball really limits what this offense can do. Fans have already begun calling for highly touted true freshman Ty Thompson, but I'd be shocked if his first action in his collegiate career is against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Brown does give them a fighting chance, but Oregon will also need more from a ground game that took a long time to get going a weekend ago. C.J. Verdell and Travis Dye are a load to handle when they get going but the offensive line didn't open up holes the way they needed to succeed. Ohio State's rush defense is susceptible, considering all the pieces they lost at linebacker this off-season, so Oregon will need to take advantage. 

It's hard to know exactly what we're getting from these two after just one regular season game against solid, but not elite, opponents. Oregon's more than talented enough on both sides of the ball to not just compete against OSU, but beat them. However, they haven't seen an offense with this many weapons in years, and I'm just not sure Brown and company can keep up. Perhaps if this game was in Autzen Stadium I'd think differently, but the Buckeyes are definitely the better bet at this point.

The Pick: Ohio State, 35 Oregon, 24

(#10) Iowa Hawkeyes @ (#9) Iowa State Cyclones

The Cy-Hawk rivalry is among the most heated in college football, but it's rare that the game has much relevance on a national scale. That is not the case in 2021, as the matchup will have major ramifications beyond just the state of Iowa and may even impact the Playoff race.

Iowa State was a media darling for much of the off-season, and for good reason. They return nearly everyone from a team that won the Fiesta Bowl a year ago, including a potential Heisman candidate in tailback Breece Hall. However, they didn't exactly blow the doors off of their FCS foe in Week One, as they beat Northern Iowa by less than a touchdown. It shouldn't be a reason to worry, as UNI is a tough FCS team that always plays the Iowa schools tight and the Cyclones are known as a program that oftentimes starts off the season slow. With that being said, the offense has to kick it into a different gear against an Iowa defense that has proven they can force turnovers. Hall provides them with a proven weapon to move the ball, but the real X-factor is Brock Purdy. Purdy's had a tremendous Iowa State career but too often, he's been prone to the big turnover, or has struggled in important games. The Cyclones need him to take care of the ball and make the right reads against a Hawkeye defense that is going to throw everything they have at him. Considering how much Michael Penix, an All-Big Ten QB, struggled against Iowa last Saturday, I'm definitely worried about the success of the ISU aerial attack here. The Cyclones do have a possible advantage in the trenches with a veteran O-Line, which will be huge in the field position battle.

Iowa's offense will be the same scheme we've seen for years now under Kirk Ferentz: control the ball and the line of scrimmage, and run the football. With that being said, it's been awhile since we've seen a Hawkeye back with the natural talent of Ty Goodson. Goodson's an explosive open field runner and decent pass-catcher out of the backfield, which could potentially open up this Iowa offense in ways we haven't seen in the past. The Cyclones have to be wary of the different ways the Hawkeyes can use him, but having the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Mike Rose to help out in coverage and run support is a huge benefit. For Iowa, the X-factor is their own quarterback, Spencer Petras, who plays like a typical Hawkeye QB but has struggled with accuracy. For this offense to be successful he doesn't need to be throwing the ball all over the field, but he has missed big throws in key points at times. The Cyclone secondary isn't easy to throw against, but Nico Ragiani, Tyrone Tracy, and tight end Sam LaPorta could put some pressure on them. The Hawkeyes also have to find a way to win out in the trenches on their own side; they have a strong O-Line led by anchor Tyler Linderbaum, but ISU has an impressive pass rush, headlined by Will McDonald. 

Expect this game to have many of the normal hallmarks of a Cy-Hawk rivalry game. Even though both offenses are talented, it could easily turn into a ball control, field position slugfest. There is no question the motivation levels for both programs after the rivalry was cancelled in 2020. Iowa is out to prove they are still the elite program in the state, while ISU is attempting to defeat the Hawkeyes for the first time in the Matt Campbell era. The Cyclones are favored, primarily because they are the home team here, but I'm actually leaning towards the Hawkeyes. Their performance last Saturday should have put the world on notice that this is an effective, methodical offense with a hungry, ball-hawking defense. They've owned this rivalry for some time now, and should add another victory to their win total here.

The Pick: Iowa, 24 Iowa State, 20

(#15) Texas Longhorns @ Arkansas Razorbacks

Old Southwest Conference foes collide in Fayetteville on Saturday, with the 15th-ranked Longhorns taking on a tough Arkansas squad. Texas had an impressive debut under Steve Sarkisian and the new coaching staff, rolling past a sneaky Louisiana-Lafayette team at home. However, the Razorbacks offer different challenges than the Ragin' Cajuns, and will be eager to offer the Longhorns a glimpse of what their future will be like in the SEC.

Both sides of the ball looked crisp and well-coached in the Longhorn season-opening victory. On offense, quarterback Hudson Card made the right reads, took care of the ball, and looked to be in complete control of the offense. It also helps that he has pieces like tailback Bijan Robinson and wide out Jordan Whittington to support him, both who had huge days last week. I do expect Texas to be more aggressive through the air this week, simply based on their opponent. Arkansas is a team with elite linebackers, Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool, who love to punish opposing rushing attacks. The Longhorns will still use Robinson in a variety of ways, but Card may also be asked to get the ball downfield more. He will need more help from this receiver corps beyond just Whittington and veteran Joshua Moore, so keep an eye on names like Xavier Worthy. Arkansas is a team that knows how to force turnovers, so while Card should be more aggressive, there are going to be plenty of situations where he'll check it down or throw the ball away.

We still aren't sure what the Arkansas offense will look like in 2021, but it could be an interesting challenge. They were slow out of the gate last Saturday against Rice, before turning it on in the fourth quarter. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson still leaves something to be desired as a passer, but his dual-threat abilities make things difficult. He'll help lead a Razorback rushing attack that should be their main fuel of their offense, as backs Trelon Smith and Raheim Sanders are intriguing playmakers. They could present a real challenge to a talented, but inexperienced, Texas defensive front. With that being said, Arkansas is going to need to pass the ball better in order to pull off an upset. The Longhorns never feared Louisiana's aerial attack a week ago, which helped them hold the veteran-led offense to just 18 points. Simply put, Jefferson is going to have to make some big throws, and he does have some pieces on the perimeter that can help him do so.

I'm not sure if we should overreact to Texas and their big victory last weekend. They looked great, but Arkansas is a pretty tough matchup for the second week of the season. The Razorbacks are a physical football team that plays hard for the entire sixty minutes, and Razorback Stadium is one of the more underrated venues in college football. Texas remains the smarter pick here based on their talent and what we've seen so far this fall, but don't be surprised if Arkansas seriously pushes them. This is a Razorback team and program with serious potential to cause chaos this fall.

The Pick: Texas, 30 Arkansas, 21

Other Picks

(#5) Texas A&M, 27 @ Colorado, 16 -- Former Big 12 rivals match up here in an interesting one in Denver. The Buffaloes don't have an answer for Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane on the ground, but the Aggies need more from Haynes King.

Michigan, 30 Washington, 20 -- After a shocking upset loss to Montana in Week One, it's a tall task for Washington to go into the Big House and take down a stingy Michigan squad.

(#21) Utah, 28 BYU, 21 -- The Utes have absolutely dominated "The Holy War" as of late and their superior defense helps them hold off the Cougars.

(#14) USC, 34 Stanford, 17 -- Stanford's offense looked terrible last week, and even with Tanner McKee set to take over full-time at quarterback, they don't have the legs to compete with USC for an entire four quarters.

Upset: Appalachian State, 37 Miami, 31 -- Miami may be slightly unfocused after their bad showing against Alabama last Saturday, and the last two Power Five teams App. State has met they've beaten.

Superdog (covers > 21 spread): Indiana State (+26.5) @ Northwestern -- Indiana State is a mediocre FCS program, but Northwestern looked really bad last week and I'm not sure if the offense will be able to score 26 on their own.

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