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2022 College Football Picks: Week Two

Blake Shapen, Baylor
Current Picks Record: 7-2

Upsets: 1-0

Superdogs: 1-0

Locks: 0-1

(#1) Alabama Crimson Tide @ Texas Longhorns

Line: Alabama -20.5

O/U: 65.5

After beating up on a pair of Group of Five schools during the first weekend, two of the sport's most significant brands collide in Austin. Of course, both programs enter at different points; Alabama has been one of the most dominant dynasties in college football and doesn't look to be slowing anytime soon, while Texas is hopeful Year Two of the Steve Sarkisian era can finally be the breakthrough they've been waiting for the last decade.

It's hard to take too much away from Alabama's throttling of Utah State last Saturday, as most of their top players didn't see much action in the second half. Reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young was unsurprisingly dominant, showcasing his running ability with 100 yards and a touchdown. Jahmyr Gibbs added 93 more yards on the ground, while Young's top two receivers were Traeshon Holden and Kobe Prentice. The Longhorns will be more of a challenge, forcing Bill O'Brien to dive deeper into his playbook this week. I suspect the ground game will be featured heavily, with Gibbs, Jace McClellan, and Trey Sanders all set to play a role, but the passing attack will be interesting to watch. All offseason, we've wondered who was going to step up at receiver now that Jameson Williams and John Metchie are gone, but the opening week didn't give a clear indication. I suspect Jermaine Burton will be a factor, but don't be shocked if former Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell is the breakout star of the game, assuming he's ready to go. Harrell missed the opener with a nagging foot injury, but his home-run ability is the type of thing that should open up this Tide offense. Whoever does step up out wide for the Tide on the perimeter, my greater concern if I'm Texas is at the line of scrimmage. This is a talented defensive line, but it didn't play up to that level last fall, and now faces an Alabama O-Line that absolutely mauls folks. If it's not competitive at the line of scrimmage, there's no way Texas hangs around in this game, no matter what magic they're able to engineer on the other side of the ball.

After coming out of the gates a bit slow to begin last week, the Longhorn offense seemed to find their groove in the second half, helping them hang 52 on UTEP. The Longhorns feature one of, if not the, nation's best backs in Bijan Robinson, who totaled 71 yards on 10 rushes a season ago. Robinson is the heart and soul of the offense, a workhorse tailback who can open up games. Even though he faces a Tide defense with a knack for shutting down elite rushing attacks, I have a feeling he'll still have strong production, particularly with a nice change-of-pace alongside him in Roschon Johnson. Quarterback Quinn Ewers is the wild card here; he arrived in Austin with plenty of hype after a one-year stint in Columbus, but he's thrown a total of 24 passes at the collegiate level. How does he handle a Tide defense that is not only loaded with talent, but will throw plenty of complex concepts at him? Texas does have a receiver corps that should have alleviate some of the pressure, with Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington, and tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders, but decision-making will be the key for Ewers. This is a defense that knows how to bait you into turnovers and once they smell blood in the water, they attack. However, my primary concern here for Texas once again is at the line of scrimmage. This is a super young offensive line facing off against a loaded Alabama defensive front, which includes superstar edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. How does the line handle a relentless 'Bama pass rush for the entire four quarters? No matter what type of weapons you boast on the outside, the Tide have a way of making these games all about the line of scrimmage.

If you decided this game based slowly off pure talent or how many blue-chip recruits each side featured, it would be a competitive game. Unfortunately, on-the-field these two teams are far, far apart, and I don't envision this one being particularly close. The Tide are simply too good, too strong, and too well-coached to lose this game, especially against a Texas program very much in transition. Frankly, if Steve Sarkisian is able to lead the Longhorns to a cover here, they should take that as a success.

The Pick: Alabama, 42 Texas, 17

(#9) Baylor Bears @ (#21) BYU Cougars

Line: BYU -3

O/U: 54

Considering kickoff is set for 9:15 PM ET, BYU-Baylor is not getting much national attention, but it is probably the best game of the weekend. The Bears have aspirations to repeat as Big 12 Champions and they could also be a CFB Playoff dark horse, while BYU is always a formidable foe and welcomes Baylor into Provo.

Both teams looked awfully impressive during the season's first week, with Baylor shredding Albany 69-10. Quarterback Blake Shapen looks like he will be an upgrade over the departed Gerry Bohanon, but the real story for the Bears was their dominance on the ground. They pushed around the Great Danes to the tune of 259 yards of rushing, averaging over six yards per carry. That will likely not be the case against BYU, a team that's always physical up front and tackles very well in open space. I suspect Baylor will look to open up the offense, but it will be curious to see who emerges on the outside. Monaray Baldwin was the big performer in Week One, with four catches for 84 yards and a score, but keep an eye on Hal Presley and sure-handed tight end Ben Sims. The strategic battle in this one is also going to be a fun watch, as Baylor OC Jeff Grimes was at BYU from 2017-2020. He knows BYU and head coach Kalani Sitake, which will set up a fun little chess match between the two teams.

While Baylor beat up on Albany, BYU cruised past a slightly stiffer opponent in South Florida, 50-21. While quarterback Jaren Hall played well, the Cougars also used their advantage at the line to punish USF, notching 312 yards themselves. Cal transfer Christopher Brooks looks like he's going to be a valuable addition to the Cougar lineup, averaging over 10 yards per rush, while receiver Puka Nacua also made some big plays on the ground. It won't come as easy against the Bears; this is a team with one of the nation's most underrated defensive lines, plus a terrific leader in the middle in linebacker Dillon Doyle. BYU is going to be forced to do more through the air in this one, but they learned some unfortunate news earlier in the week, when Nacua and fellow wideout Gunner Romney were ruled out for the contest. Those are important losses; Nacua is the most electrifying piece on this offense and Romney is their most sure-handed pass-catcher. BYU is hopeful names like Chase Roberts and tight end Isaac Rex can step up and contribute more in the playmaking category, but they do find themselves at a disadvantage here.

This feels like a true coin flip game. Prior to learning about the absence of Nacua and Romney, I was probably going with BYU at home, as LaVell Edwards Stadium is a brutal place to play a night game. Now however, Baylor seems like the smarter pick, especially considering they have a slight advantage at the line of scrimmage. Certainly not a game I'd be rushing to bet, but I think the Bears are the safer bet right now.

The Pick: Baylor, 24 BYU, 20

(#24) Tennessee Volunteers @ (#17) Pittsburgh Panthers

Line: Tennessee -6

O/U: 65

Pittsburgh started off life post-Kenny Pickett with a bang, defeating West Virginia in the thrilling return of the "Backyard Brawl". Their reward? Welcoming 24th-ranked Tennessee to town, a team fresh off a scintillating Week One performance.

Tennessee's recipe for success this season is no secret. They are going to roll with an explosive, up-tempo offense that chucks the ball all over the field, and hope their defense can make enough stops to win them games. The strategy certainly worked in Week One with a 59-10 throttling of Ball State, but not every team on their schedule is going to be Ball State. Even so, there's no denying how impressive they looked in the opener, with QB Hendon Hooker pulled from the game early after a casual 221 yards and two touchdowns. Hooker is one of my favorite players in college football, an electrifying quarterback who is absolutely fearless with the football. This could be the game where he sets himself up as a legit Heisman candidate and he knows Pitt well, facing off against them when he was at Virginia Tech. On the outside, names like Cedric Tillman, Jalin Hyatt, and Ramel Keyton will give Pittsburgh fits, but don't overlook this Vol backfield, which includes capable pieces like Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. This is a tough matchup for the Panther defense; while they have a capable front seven, I have real concerns about how this secondary is going to hold up. They did a solid job in Week One against J.T. Daniels and WVU, but Hooker and this Vol offense is a whole different animal. They are going to play at breakneck speed and get the ball down the field, it's not crazy to think Pitt is going to have some real troubles in this one.

Pittsburgh deserves credit for overcoming West Virginia in the opener, but they are going to need more from this offense if they want to come away with a victory. Kedon Slovis had an impressive debut in his first game with the Panthers after transferring from USC, as he went for over 300 yards and completed 67% of his throws. He's not a quarterback that will take many risks, but is incredibly accurate and puts his team in a position to win. His receiver corps may not have a star like Jordan Addison this year, but Jerod Wayne and Konata Mumpfield are more than capable to handle the load. Add in hard-running back Rodney Hammond and this offense should have a good year, even if they aren't quite able to reach 2021's heights. The concern is the offensive line, which allowed five sacks to West Virginia and will face an aggressive Volunteer pass rush. Tennessee DC Tim Banks is going to bring the heat early and often; he will let up plenty of big plays, but is willing to take the risk considering what the Vols feature on the other side of the ball. Slovis is a fairly athletic quarterback, but even he isn't able to create with the defense breathing down his neck, such as the case often in Week One. 

This is another game I've gone back-and-forth on, because we simply don't know a ton about these two teams just yet. Pittsburgh may have beaten a better team in Week One and gets the Volunteers at home, but I'm going to go Tennessee here. Perhaps I'm foolish for being into the hype for a program that has regularly burned me, but they match up very well against Pitt and I trust Hooker more than Slovis.

The Pick: Tennessee, 41 Pittsburgh, 31

Other Picks

(#20) Kentucky @ (#12) Florida -- This was going to be my original upset pick considering a possible Florida hangover, but the absence of Christopher Rodriguez Jr. and several others make me wary going with the 'Cats.

The Pick: Florida, 28 Kentucky, 23

Washington State @ (#19) Wisconsin -- The Cougars were one of my dark horses heading into 2022 but they looked very underwhelming during the first weekend and now have to travel to Madison.

The Pick: Wisconsin, 30 Washington State, 17

Iowa State @ Iowa -- Iowa's horrific offensive showing was one of the stories of the season's first week and yet, they are still a much safer pick in the "Cy-Hawk" game, particularly in Iowa City.

The Pick: Iowa, 14 Iowa State, 10

Upset: Stanford over (#10) USC -- USC enjoyed so much hype over the offseason and I have little doubt Lincoln Riley will turn the program around but the reality is that this team is still figuring it out, and Stanford has had their number early in the season in the past.

The Pick: Stanford, 31 USC, 27

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): Southern Mississippi (+25) @ Miami (FL) -- Miami shouldn't have too much difficulties with the Golden Eagles, but this is another team breaking in a bunch of new pieces and a brand new coaching staff early on in the season.

The Pick: Miami, 38 Southern Miss, 17

Lock of the Week (has to be a favorite): UCF (-5.5) vs. Louisville -- Perhaps Louisville's atrocious Week One performance was merely a fluke, but I still believe UCF is the better team and they welcome the Cardinals to Orlando.

The Pick: UCF, 35 Louisville, 21

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