Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

College Football Picks 2021: Week Ten

Zach Calzada, Texas A&M

Current Picks Record: 55-26

Upset: 6-3

Superdogs: 7-2

(#13) Auburn Tigers @ (#14) Texas A&M Aggies

With a relatively weak slate of games this weekend, Auburn-Texas A&M takes the cake as the only ranked matchup of Week Ten. A&M is hoping to continue their recent hot streak, which began by beating Alabama and then adding two more to their win column over Missouri and South Carolina. Auburn could be heading towards a collision with Alabama in the Iron Bowl for the SEC West crown, but must go into College Station and beat the Aggies first.

Zach Calzada was thrown into a very difficult situation when A&M starting QB Haynes King went down with a season-ending injury, but Calzada has acclimated to the role nicely. He is not going to be a quarterback that is going to throw for 500 yards a game, but he's shown increased confidence and decisiveness since taking down 'Bama. He leads an Aggie offense that isn't super explosive, but has found a way to move the ball. Of course, it helps that they still have a potent combination in the backfield, with Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane, plus one of the nation's best tight ends in Jalen Wydermyer. Spiller and Achane have both topped 100 yards in consecutive weeks, and will be a load to handle for this Auburn rush defense. With that being said, Auburn does have a strong pass defense and will be creative in how they operate against Calzada. Does A&M have the weapons they need to have some semblance of balance in this game? Beyond Wydermyer and and do-it-all Ainias Smith, this offense desperately needs a playmaker or two to really get rolling.

On the flip side, Bo Nix entered this season with serious questions about him and his future leading the Tigers, but has had a better year than most expected. Although his numbers don't jump out the page at you, he's been much better on the road than in the past and has improved his decision-making. Sure, it helps that Auburn has leaned more on a ground-and-pound approach under Bryan Harsin than they did under Gus Malzahn, but Nix has displayed real growth as a quarterback. He's also aided by a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield, as Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter pave the way. Bigsby hasn't been 100 percent for most of the season, but has built on his impressive 2020 freshman campaign, while Hunter has come out of nowhere to run for 530 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. The passing attack has lagged behind for most of the year, but seems to be hitting their stride. Former Georgia transfer Demetris Robertson in particular has emerged as a go-to deep threat. My most important question for the Tigers actually has to do with their offensive line. This group has had a strong 2021 and handled two great pass rushing teams in consecutive weeks, but Texas A&M is a stiff challenge. Their front seven is loaded with future NFL Draftees, and Mike Elko is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. There's no way they go into A&M and win if the O-Line can't keep Nix upright and comfortable in the pocket.

Both of these teams have been great stories in 2021. A&M could have folded after starting off 0-2 in conference, but they've rebounded and still own the biggest win of the year so far by beating the Crimson Tide. Auburn was breaking in a new head coach and faced serious offensive questions, but are now 6-2 on the season. I've been a Tiger doubter for most of the year, but there's little denying the fact they've beaten two quality ranked foes in consecutive weeks. Making it three is a tough ask, even with the way they've been playing on both sides of the ball. Auburn still has a real shot to play for an SEC Championship Game, but a loss in College Station here would likely doom that.

The Pick: Texas A&M, 28 Auburn, 24

LSU Tigers @ (#2) Alabama Crimson Tide

Since LSU beat Alabama in 2019, the two programs have gone in opposite directions. The Tide keep chugging along and just put out one of their most dominant teams in program history last fall en route to another National Title. LSU won the 2019 National Title and then has proceeded to 9-9 over their next 18 games. Although Ed Orgeron is officially not coming back in 2022, does he have one more magical upset left in the tank?

It's pretty apparent that this Alabama offense is not quite as good as the 2020 group, but it's still an awfully elite unit. Quarterback Bryce Young doesn't put up crazy numbers, but he's one of the most efficient and accurate signal-callers in college football. He remains a Heisman favorite as we push into November, and will likely be invited to New York at the very least. He's helped out by an offense full of veterans, including workhorse tailback Brian Robinson Jr. and wide outs John Metchie and Jameson Williams. That group has been more than enough to overpower most opponents this season, but I am curious to see whether another younger playmaker or two starts to emerge. The Tide have a load of talented young freshmen offensively, but are still waiting for them to adjust. One name to keep an eye on is Traeshon Holden, a sophomore who has seen his role expand in recent weeks and appears to be ready for more. Additionally, we still aren't sure what we're getting from the Alabama O-Line week-in, week-out. It's a unit that is full of future NFL players, but hasn't always played up to their talent in 2021. They have an advantage in the trenches against LSU, but not a particularly huge one.

LSU's offense has been strange all season, and now faces their toughest test against Alabama. It looked like they might be turning a corner when the Tigers went out and dropped 49 on Florida, but they followed that up with a 17-point showing against the lowly Ole Miss defense. QB Max Johnson continues to show potential, but turnovers continue to be a problem, and he simply doesn't have a ton of proven pieces around him. Star wide out Kayshon Boutte is done for the year and the list of receivers behind him is fairly underwhelming for a school with the talent of LSU. At least the ground game has shown improvement in recent weeks after a disastrous showing to begin the year, but how productive will they be against the Tide? While Alabama's rush defense hasn't always played up to their talent level, this may be the most talented linebacker corps anywhere in America. Without too much to worry about over-the-top, they shouldn't fear stacking the box.

A fully healthy 2021 LSU team would have trouble going into Bryan-Denny Stadium and pulling off this upset? But, an injured team with little reason to play hard the rest of the year? I don't see any chance of the Tigers winning this game, or even keeping it close. Perhaps we could see the Tide backups in by early second half.

The Pick: Alabama, 45 LSU, 14

(#9) Wake Forest @ North Carolina

Although this weekend slate is weak in comparison to others, Wake Forest-North Carolina may be one of the more intriguing ACC games of 2021. Wake Forest has been a tremendous story, jumping off to an 8-0 start and their highest ranking in program history. North Carolina, on the other hand, might be the most disappointing team in the nation, as the preseason Top 10 team is just .500. Even so, the Tar Heels enter this one as slight favorites, as they get the Demon Deacons in Chapel Hill.

If you haven't got a chance to watch this Wake Forest offense this fall, tune into this game. It's an explosive group that spreads defenses thin and attacks for an entire sixty minutes. They're averaging 43.4 points per game but offer great balance, with a potent passing attack and effective ground game. Quarterback Sam Hartman runs the show, but he's far from the only Demon Deacon that can hurt you. The trio of Christian Beal-Smith, Justice Ellison, and Christian Turner lead the rushing attack, while wide outs Jaquarii Roberson and A.T. Perry may be two of the best in the ACC. No team has been able to slow down this Wake attack for an entire game, and it doesn't seem likely that the Tar Heels are the ones to do it. While this is an awfully talented defense, it's one that has struggled to tackle and stop the big play all season long. I have a hard time believing that this flaming hot Wake Forest offense is the offense that North Carolina figures it out against. 

While their offense might be one of the best in the nation, Wake Forest's defense is certainly susceptible against the Tar Heels. The question is, can Sam Howell and the Heels take advantage? Howell has done the best he can on the season, but he's been well short of what we expected heading into 2021. The offense as a whole doesn't seem to have the same rhythm or flow that it had the last two seasons. Much of that can be accredited to the lack of experience at both running back and receiver, as well as the fact the offensive line has not lived up to expectations. Wide out Josh Downs has been a superstar on the perimeter for the Heels, but beyond him, UNC lacks any proven commodities. In the backfield, former Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler has had a strong campaign, but is not the same type as 2020, when the Tar Heels could turn to the pairing of Javonte' Williams and Michael Carter. I do expect UNC to try and attack Wake aggressively through the air; Howell still has a huge arm, but there just isn't enough beyond Downs to get the job done. The Demon Deacons have also done a fairly good job all season forcing turnovers, and they'll be ready for Howell.

Vegas doesn't seem to have a ton of respect for Wake Forest just yet, but I was still surprised at this line. I certainly don't think the Demon Deacons are Playoff good, but there's no denying how impressive this team has been en route to the 8-0 start. There's nothing I've seen from North Carolina in 2021 that inspires a lot of confidence, even if they are at home. I like the Demon Deacons to keep on rolling, taking down a big in-state rival at this spot.

The Pick: Wake Forest, 40 UNC, 28

Other Picks

(#6) Cincinnati, 28 Tulsa, 13 -- The Bearcats take out their frustrations over their CFB Playoff ranking on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, who are a shell of the team that was the greatest challenge to Cincy in the AAC in 2020.

(#5) Ohio State, 41 Nebraska, 27 -- After so many close losses does Nebraska have a chance to finally finish the job this time around? Winning in Lincoln is never easy, but the Buckeyes are too hot to slip up here.

(#3) Michigan State, 24 Purdue, 21 -- Serious upset potential here, but I think Michigan State keeps their magical season rolling for at least one more week. The Boilermaker rush defense has absolutely no response for Kenneth Walker III, who might just be the Heisman favorite.

(#4) Oregon, 34 Washington, 21 -- Another game that has primetime upset potential right here, but Washington's offense just hasn't been good enough to believe they can compete with the Ducks for four quarters.

Upset: West Virginia, 27 (#11) Oklahoma State, 20 -- Oklahoma State may hope to enter the "Bedlam" game with just one loss, but West Virginia is a tough place to enter and win. The Mountaineers are fresh off two impressive wins over TCU and Iowa State and should do just enough offensively to win.

Superdog (covers > 21 spread): Kansas +24 vs. Kansas State -- I haven't had much luck picking Kansas as a "Superdog" so far in 2021, but this matchup is a nice one. The Jayhawks are a feistier group than past KU editions and rivalry games are always tight.

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.