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2022 College Football Picks: Week Three

Jaren Hall, BYU

Current Picks Record: 10-8

Upsets: 1-1

Superdogs: 2-0

Locks: 0-2

(#13) Miami Hurricanes @ (#24) Texas A&M Aggies

Line: Texas A&M -5

O/U: 44.5

Fresh off a frustrating loss at home to Appalachian State, the pressure is on for Jimbo Fisher and the entire Texas A&M coaching staff. Despite bringing in historical recruiting classes, the program is still awaiting its true breakthrough, and now has the luxury of facing off with the 13th-ranked Miami Hurricanes. While we're still unsure just how good Mario Cristobal's crew is, it's never facing such a talented team after a deflating loss, which could threaten to drop the Aggies below .500.

It's time for a real reckoning for Jimbo Fisher and the rest of the offensive staff. They faced down an Appalachian State defense that had surrendered 60-plus points on the season's first weekend, and managed just 180 yards and 14 points against it. Some of that can be credited to the fact Appalachian State held on to the ball for long stretches of their upset win, but the reality is that the Aggies have looked atrocious offensively in 2022. Haynes King won the quarterback job out of camp and earned rave reviews for his deep ball and ability to make plays with his legs, but he's been underwhelming and turnover-prone. Devon Achane has been a solid tailback, but the offense remains incredibly one-dimensional, forcing him into tough situations. Jimbo and company need to find a way to open things up and get their playmakers more involved in creative ways. There's no shortage of talent here, but they won't have it easy against a Hurricane defense that has looked stout over the fall's first two weeks. The offensive line will have their hands full with an aggressive Miami pass rush and the Hurricane secondary should be eager to show off as well. It's not an ideal matchup for the Aggies fresh-off the frustrations of last weekend and you almost wonder if a quarterback change, to veteran Max Johnson, could be just what they need. Jimbo is unlikely to do that so early on in the season, but something drastic needs to happen.

After punishing Bethune-Cookman 70-13 in Week One, Miami came out of the gates a bit slow last Saturday against Southern Miss. They still won handily, 30-7, but it's clear they are still figuring things out with a brand new coaching staff. Fortunately, they have the clear advantage at QB in this one with Tyler Van Dyke under center, and the ground attack has been surprisingly strong, headlined by Henry Parrish Jr. and Thaddius Franklin Jr. Of course, it helps that they've had the obvious edge along the lines to open up running lanes, but Parrish and Franklin have been reeling off chunks of yardage and stretching defenses thin. On the outside, Xavier Restrepo has been the top pass-catcher over the first two weeks, but we just learned he will miss time with injury. That could mean that it's about time that Miami gets the tight ends more involved. Will Mallory is one of the ACC's best, and youngsters Jaleel Skinner and Elijah Arroyo could cause headaches if used correctly. You get the feeling this trio is going to have opportunities in the play-action passing game with A&M defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin known for bringing an aggressive rush. Appalachian State did write a nice playbook on how to attack this A&M defense, even if they didn't blow the doors off the Aggies. They ran the ball all day and tired out the Aggies and were able to hit a big play or two through the air. If the Hurricanes can get the job done on the other side, that could be enough for the victory.

This is a particularly tough game to pick so early on in the season with A&M coming off such a bad loss and Miami still being such a mystery. It could certainly be the case where Jimbo and the Aggies respond in a big way, especially when you consider this one is at Kyle Field, but they just haven't given me reason to believe just yet. Facing a quality foe like the Hurricanes is terrible timing, and has me believing in a 3-0 Miami start.

The Pick: Miami, 27 Texas A&M, 21

(#11) Michigan State Spartans @ Washington Huskies

Line: Washington -3.5

O/U: 56.5

It's not too often we see Big Ten teams schedule true road games in mid-September, so kudos to Michigan State for having the guts to add a road tilt with Washington to their schedule. Unfortunately for them, this year's Washington looks significantly improved from last season's 4-8 edition, providing Mel Tucker's team their first real test of the 2022 campaign.

After looking a bit underwhelming in their opener against Western Michigan, Michigan State seemed to unleash some fury against Akron last Saturday, with a 52-0 victory. Through the first several weeks, it looks clear what the Spartans are going to look like in 2022; they will lean on a big-play passing attack once more, while Jalen Berger pounds the rock on the ground, much in the same way Kenneth Walker III did a year ago. Payton Thorne has been solid at quarterback to begin the year, although he'll have to cut down on the turnovers if MSU is to hit their ceiling, while Keon Coleman looks like the breakout star at receiver many thought he could be. Berger, however, has to be the story of the season up to this very early point in the season. We saw his potential at Wisconsin and he is going to face tougher defenses than Western Michigan and Akron, but he's still averaging nearly seven yards per carry and has been a touchdown machine. It should be an interesting battle against this Husky defense, which has been strong against the run so far this season, but hasn't faced elite competition either. 

The Washington offense was among the worst in Power Five football last fall, but new head man Kalen DeBoer has engineered a quick turnaround in Seattle. He has an offensive philosophy that is able to use the whole field and open things up in a way that the past staff simply couldn't. It also helps that he brought in a transfer quarterback he was comfortability with, in former Indiana signal-caller Michael Penix Jr. Penix has always had a big arm, but he's displayed better decision-making so far in 2022 and has formed a quick relationship with star wide out Jalen McMillan. The ground game has benefitted from quality play on the O-Line and defenses having to respect the aerial attack, opening up lanes for Wayne Taulapapa and Cameron Davis. I am very curious to see whether this quick turnaround is going to continue, or whether it had more to do with playing weak competition than anything else. It's no secret that Michigan State had the worst pass defense in FBS football last season and while we've seen modest improvement, this is the first passing attack that should really scare them. However, they feature a formidable pass rush that includes Jacoby Windmon, the former UNLV transfer who has been one of the best players in college football over the first two weeks. How do the Huskies handle that rush? Is Penix able to stay upright and not get flustered? I'm very curious to see these two units battle it out on this side of the ball.

This is yet another early-season game between two teams we don't have a great read on right now. Neither have faced elite competition and have impressed in their own ways, but that doesn't mean they aren't without their flaws. I'm thinking this could come down to quarterback play, in particular which signal-caller takes better care of the ball. Both Thorne and Penix are gunslingers who love the big play, but at times they haven't dialed it back in important moments. I think Washington matches up well against a porous MSU secondary, but I'm just not sure I trust Penix to be the one to take advantage of it. There have been too many times where his carelessness with the ball has doomed his team, and the Spartans are talented enough to take advantage. I remain wary picking this team to go across the country and come away with a win over an improved team, but I'm hesitantly taking Michigan State.

The Pick: Michigan State, 35 Washington, 31

(#12) BYU Cougars @ (#25) Oregon Ducks

Line: Oregon -3.5

O/U: 58

BYU began a brutal early-season stretch of games (which includes Oregon, Notre Dame, and Arkansas in the coming weeks) by beating Baylor last weekend, helping them jump to No. 12 polls. Now, the Cougars are hoping to continue their momentum against 25th-ranked Oregon, who recovered from a brutal opener to dominate Eastern Washington, 70-14.

BYU was a run-first team in 2021, but quarterback Jaren Hall has taken up the mantle as the fuel of this offense so far in 2022. He's thrown for exactly 261 yards in both outings and looked crisp and confident while doing so. His performances have been especially impressive when you consider he did so last week without his top two wide outs, Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua. As of right now, both Romney's and Nacua's status for this weekend are up in the air, which complicates things for the Cougar offense. Chase Roberts has stepped up in a big way without them, but he's just one player, and BYU is pretty unproven beyond him. Tailbacks Christopher Brooks and Lopini Katoa have been able to take some of the pressure off Hall and the passing game, but both were held in check by Baylor and face a formidable defensive front in Oregon. Linebacker Noah Sewell is the big name leading Oregon's rush defense, but Justin Flowe's emergence over the first two weeks, finally healthy after two consecutive season-ending injuries, makes the Ducks very scary. This feels like a game where a lot of the weight is going to once again fall on Hall's shoulders. He has proven he can handle the load, but will have to do so in a hostile environment this weekend.

There's still plenty of questions for this Duck offense, but dropping 70 last week, even against an FCS team, seemed to answer some of them. For better or worse, Bo Nix remains the man in charge, although Ty Thompson did see some action last week and could be in line for an increased role. There's plenty of talent around him, but it's still a bit unclear who will take over at both running back and receiver. It looks like a committee approach for the backfield this fall, which should keep these backs fresh and ready to go, but you wonder if it will impact their ability to get into a rhythm. At receiver, Troy Franklin has emerged as the go-to guy early on, but I still have high hopes for sophomore Kris Hutson. He didn't do anything against Georgia and was fairly quiet against Eastern Washington, but I still believe he has the ceiling to one of their top contributors in the passing game. One other thing to note about Oregon's offense is the line, which was decimated by Georgia, but should have an advantage against BYU. While the Cougars are a physical team still, they simply do not have the athletes Georgia does (who does?) and were pushed around a bit by Baylor.

I picked against BYU last weekend and they made me pay, but the smart money feels like Oregon in Week Three. Although they won without Nacua and Romney, I'm still wary about their absence, and the Cougars are also fresh off an emotional, hard-fought victory. Plus, they get the Ducks in Autzen Stadium, which will be a special test for this Cougar team.

The Pick: Oregon, 24 BYU, 20

Other Picks

(#6) Oklahoma @ Nebraska -- Can Mickey Joseph galvanize the Cornhuskers and pull off a home upset? I will admit, this has serious upset potential, but I fear Dillon Gabriel and company are going to carve up this Nebraska defense.

The Pick: Oklahoma, 40 Nebraska, 28

(#1) Georgia @ South Carolina -- South Carolina has pulled off upsets over high-ranking Georgia teams before, but the offensive line has been terrible so far in 2022 and now faces off against Jalen Carter and the 'Dawgs.

The Pick: Georgia, 30 South Carolina, 16

Texas Tech @ (#16) NC State -- Texas Tech has demonstrated real fight in Joey McGuire's first season at the helm, but I still have plenty of questions about this defense and they have to face off against NC State in Raleigh.

The Pick: NC State, 34 Texas Tech, 24

Upset: Auburn over (#22) Penn State -- This was an awfully competitive game in "Happy Valley" last fall and now the Nittany Lions have to go to the Plains. I wouldn't be shocked if Manny Diaz and this PSU defense have difficulties containing Tank Bigsby and Auburn's ground game.

The Pick: Auburn, 21 Penn State, 20

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): Nevada (+23) @ Iowa -- This is in no way an endorsement for Nevada, who may be among the worst teams in FBS football this year, but a reality of just how atrocious this Iowa offense has been. Are we sure they'll be able to score 23?

The Pick: Iowa, 20 Nevada, 3

Lock of the Week (has to be a favorite): Kansas State (-14) vs. Tulane -- My "locks" have had bad luck to begin the year, but I feel good about this one. Kansas State demolished Missouri last Saturday and shouldn't have too many problems with Tulane at home.

The Pick: Kansas State, 30 Tulane, 13

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