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

2022 College Football Picks: Week Four

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
Current Picks Record: 14-13

Upset: 1-2

Superdogs: 2-1

Locks: 0-3

(#20) Florida Gators @ (#11) Tennessee Volunteers

Line: Tennessee -10.5

O/U: 62

The next edition of Florida and Tennessee's long-standing rivalry takes center stage in late September, with College GameDay in town. Both have had their highlights to begin 2022, with Florida upsetting Utah and Tennessee taking down Pittsburgh, but both certainly still have their flaws. Either way, whoever wins this game puts themselves on the fast track towards battling Georgia for an SEC East crown.

It's no surprise Tennessee's offense has been dominant to begin the year, averaging 52 points per game and chucking the ball all over the field. Head coach Josh Heupel has long been known as an offensive genius and has the perfect personnel on this team. Quarterback Hendon Hooker has a huge arm and can make things happen with his legs, wide outs Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman stretch the field vertically and side-to-side, while tailback Jaylen Wright softens things up underneath. It's a group racking up yardage and points at an impressive rate, but there is an important caveat here. Two of their first three opponents have been MAC schools, one in the midst of a major rebuild (Akron). The other foe was Pitt, who looks strong up front but has been susceptible through the air, especially against this type of offense. The Gators have certainly improved on this side of the ball and are going to present a different challenge for the Volunteers. They've been particularly effective at getting after the quarterback, playing a more aggressive and ferocious style under new coordinator Patrick Toney, the past Gator defenses. The Volunteer O-Line has been strong so far this fall, but will have to be prepared for a typical SEC battle in the trenches.

Florida's offense, namely QB Anthony Richardson, was the story of the season's first week. Richardson was a thrill to watch, providing us with multiple Johnny Manziel-esque plays and carving up a quality Ute defense. The last two weeks have shown that performance was more of a fluke than the norm, with Richardson falling back to Earth against Kentucky and South Florida. That doesn't mean Richardson isn't awfully talented, but he seems to be trying to force plays over the last two weeks. He's currently completing just over 50 percent of his passes and has an 0-4 TD-INT ratio over the last two, including a shaky showing against a South Florida defense that is not supposed to be very good. He needs to calm down and let the game come to him, because there are pieces around him. The backfield has been a pleasant surprise, with Montrell Johnson and true frosh Trevor Etienne providing a nice spark to the offense. Johnson was the player of the week a year ago, with 103 yards over USF and is currently averaging over nine yards per carry, but Florida has to look for more ways to get him involved. The receiver corps could also be more consistent; the trio of Ricky Pearsall, Xzavier Henderson, and Justin Shorter have had their flashes, but none have been able to put it together over multiple weeks. Tennessee could be the perfect defense to get this aerial attack back on track, as the Volunteers have been incredibly vulnerable through the air. In fact, it's tough to get a read on this Tennessee defense as a whole. They've been great against the run all season, but have played terrible offensive lines they've been able to push around. That's not going to the case, and I wonder if the same defensive struggles we saw last year are going to begin to show here.

Even though Tennessee has significant momentum entering this game, I'm always a bit wary about picking the Volunteers in big games. The program has a tradition of losing these types of matchups in heartbreaking fashion. Hesitantly, I will take the Volunteers, solely because the game is in Knoxville and Florida's last two performances have been so underwhelming. I wouldn't be rushing to bet this game, as this rivalry seems to always create some wacky moments.

The Pick: Tennessee, 37 Florida, 24

(#5) Clemson Tigers @ (#21) Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Line: Clemson -7.5

O/U: 55.5

The ACC Atlantic is having a moment to begin 2022, with Clemson, Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State, and Syracuse all off to undefeated starts. However, that won't be the case for long, as Clemson travels to Winston-Salem for a clash with the 21st-ranked Demon Deacons. It presents a superb opportunity for these programs to prove themselves, albeit they have different goals. The Tigers are eager to show they're still a CFB Playoff frontrunner despite an underwhelming start to 2022, while Wake Forest has struggled for years against Clemson and is hoping this win can put them on a path towards a second straight Atlantic Title.

Clemson was hoping their 2021 offensive woes wouldn't survive the offseason, but they seem to have transitioned into the fall. The numbers aren't terrible, but this unit hasn't been able to get into any type of rhythm all season despite facing a weak schedule up to this point. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei remains the guy under center, but it's not crazy to think true freshman Cade Klubnik's time could be coming. He's played in each of their first three games and the offense has seemed to flow better, although the staff is sticking with D.J. for now. No matter who starts at quarterback, Clemson is going to need better play from their receiver corps, a strength of the program throughout the Dabo era. Beaux Collins has been productive and the rest have had their moments, but this is simply not the same group we've seen in the past. Fortunately, Wake Forest has been extremely porous through the air for several years now and could be in for a rude awakening agains their toughest opponent of the season. This is a defense fresh off allowing 428 yards to Liberty, despite managing four turnovers. If they don't get the same type of turnover luck against the Tigers, any hopes of an upset could be dashed.

The Demon Deacons are going to be fine letting this one turn into a shootout, as they can counter with their own explosive offense. This is a unit that had a special 2021 campaign, but things looked worrying when veteran QB Sam Hartman was ruled out indefinitely right before the season. Fortunately, Hartman only had to miss one game and he's come back firing, notching 625 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two starts. He has the luxury of a deep and talented receiver corps to throw to, with A.T. Perry, Donavon Greene, and more. They'll be quite a test for a Clemson defense that seems to still be figuring it out under new coordinator Wes Goodwin. The Tigers are still incredibly talented on this side of the ball, but they've been a bit underwhelming over their first three games. However, the defensive line still remains the strength of the roster and gives Clemson a major edge in the trenches. Add to that the return of star Bryan Bresee, who missed last week due to the tragic passing of his sister. Bresee and this whole defensive front should play extremely motivated, a huge advantage here.

Clemson has been slightly disappointing to begin 2022, but they remain the ACC's Goliath. Anybody hoping to make a run at a conference title still have to go past Dabo and the Tigers, who will be ready to go for this Top 25 duel. It will be a fascinating watch to see how opposing strengths collide, with the Demon Deacons leaning on an explosive offense, while Clemson looks to their defense. The game may be at Wake Forest, but Clemson remains the smarter pick, despite what they've done this fall. They're the more talented team, deeper, more physical, and always play up for their big in-conference games. 

The Pick: Clemson, 31 Wake Forest, 22 

(#10) Arkansas Razorbacks @ (#23) Texas A&M Aggies

Line: Texas A&M -1.5

O/U: 48

Florida-Tennessee may be the most hyped rivalry game of the weekend, but the SEC West features quite a good one too, with Arkansas and Texas A&M duking it out for the Southwest Classic Trophy. With both teams staring down brutal October stretches, the pressure is on to come out on top this Saturday.

Texas A&M made a quarterback change before their Miami victory, turning to former LSU transfer Max Johnson. He didn't prove to much of a difference-maker, going 10-20 with 140 yards and a touchdown, but provided enough of a spark to lift the Aggies over the Hurricanes. Facing off against Arkansas, he's going to need to do more, with a tough, physical defense on the other side. The greater question is whether someone can finally emerge at receiver, with A&M lacking a true game-changer to open things up. Ainias Smith has been their most consistent pass-catcher but is more of a hybrid slot option than a true boundary receiver, which has restricted this offense. Tailback Devon Achane has been the heart and soul of the offense up to this point, but will face one of the toughest rush defenses in the country. Led by Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool, the 'Hogs will punish you for every yard. The fact of the matter is that Johnson and company are going to have to do something through the air. Missouri State moved the ball against this Razorback secondary, which is a bit banged up, so there's a game-plan there. This has to do with whether Jimbo Fisher is willing to make the most out of it and travel out of his comfort zone. This offense needs something to shake things up if they are to overcome the Razorbacks.

Arkansas' offense has had a strong start to the 2022 campaign, thanks to a balanced, efficient unit. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson has asserted himself as one of the best in the SEC, a dual-threat who takes care of the ball but can still make plays down the field. He's demonstrated real growth as a passer this year, completing 71% of his passes and averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt. On the ground, what looked like it may be a committee has instead been all Raheim Sanders, who has totaled 440 yards over the first three games. He's racked up more yardage each week so far in 2022 and despite facing a stiff challenge in A&M, should be bound for another impressive performance. As much as the skill position players will impact the game, it could be the Razorback O-Line that is the deciding factor. They've had an impressive start to the season, pushing around their first three opponents, but A&M is a whole different test. This is a front seven with a bunch of future NFL talent, and athletic linebackers. Whether Arkansas is able to get enough push up front, while keeping Jefferson upright, will determine this game.

Appalachian State demonstrated the game-plan for defeating A&M a few weeks ago, as they wore down the Aggie defense and kept everything in front of them defensively. Arkansas has the personnel to match this plan to perfection; they're physical on both sides of the ball and have a hard-nosed rushing attack. Jefferson gives them another edge to win the game, and could even push himself into the early Heisman discussion by going into College Station and taking this victory. Top to bottom, I trust the 'Hogs more at this point in the year and feel confident they can go on the road and take home the rivalry win.

The Pick: Arkansas, 24 Texas A&M, 17

Other Picks

(#7) USC @ Oregon State -- The most underrated game of the weekend, it would not shock me in the slightest if this is a Pac-12 Championship Game preview. Beavers have the pieces to win this game at home, but the Trojan offense is just too overwhelming.

The Pick: USC, 35 Oregon State, 31

Maryland @ (#4) Michigan -- The first real test of the season for Michigan this game has upset potential. But, the Wolverine offense with J.J. McCarthy under center proves too much for Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terps.

The Pick: Michigan, 30 Maryland, 21

Wisconsin @ (#3) Ohio State -- Wisconsin has traditionally been able to play Ohio State tough, but their secondary is banged up and simply doesn't have the athletes to compete with the Buckeyes. Add to the fact this game is in "The Shoe" and I got OSU comfortably.

The Pick: Ohio State, 38 Wisconsin, 17

Upset: Texas Tech over (#22) Texas -- Texas Tech has not beaten UT in Lubbock since 2008, when Michael Crabtree made his heroic last second touchdown catch, but I have a feeling about this one. This is a decent Texas Tech team and the Longhorns remain without Quinn Ewers.

The Pick: Texas Tech, 24 Texas, 21

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): Vanderbilt (+41) @ Alabama -- These two programs are about as different as you can get in the same conference, but Vanderbilt has been at least respectable this year and the Tide offense is still figuring things out. The Tide should roll, but 41 seems like enough for the Commodores to cover.

The Pick: Alabama, 40 Vanderbilt, 10

Lock of the Week (has to be a favorite): Syracuse (-9) vs. Virginia -- I'm starting to wonder if my locks are cursed, with all three losing straight up over the first three weeks. Can Syracuse end this dismal streak? They come off an emotional win over Purdue, but get a mediocre-to-bad Virginia team at home.

The Pick: Syracuse, 28 Virginia, 14

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.