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2022 College Football Picks: Week Seven

Blake Corum, Michigan
Current Picks Record: 33-21

Upset: 3-3

Superdogs: 3-3

Locks: 2-4

(#3) Alabama Crimson Tide @ (#6) Tennessee Volunteers

Line: Alabama -8

O/U: 66

A 5-0 start and No. 6 ranking has Tennessee fans believing in the program again after a long decade-plus, but now comes the ultimate test. They welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide into Neyland Stadium in the latest edition of the "Third Saturday in October" rivalry, a series that has been owned by the Tide since Nick Saban came to town.

The Tide may be undefeated, but that doesn't mean Saban's team isn't without flaws or questions. The most pressing question is at quarterback, with the status of reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young up in the air. Young was injured in the win over Arkansas and missed the Texas A&M game, prompting Jalen Milroe into action. Milroe has been solid considering he was a backup thrust into the limelight against two strong defenses, but he's an obvious downgrade. He doesn't have Young's arm strength down the field nor his playmaking ability, although Milroe can make things happen with his legs. Recent reports suggest Young should be able to return, but he is not operating at full strength either way. Beyond the status of Young, Alabama's entire offense seems to be working out some kinks. Jahmyr Gibbs has had flashes of brilliance since arriving from Georgia Tech but has yet to show it week-to-week, and the receiver corps doesn't have much proven commodities, yet. Kobe Prentice and Traeshon Holden have been their top two pass-catchers, but Ja'Corey Brooks is starting to emerge and I'm still waiting on dynamic downfield threat Tyler Harrell, a former Louisville transfer who has yet to see the field. Even though this offense isn't at full-go just yet, they face a great opportunity against the Volunteers. Tennessee has made significant strides on this side of the ball, but they still are prone to the big play and haven't seen an offense quite like this in 2022. If the Tide can withstand an aggressive Volunteer pass rush, they should be able to move the ball effectively, regardless of who is under center.

We knew Tennessee's offense was going to put up numbers this season, but they've exceeded expectations so far this fall. Quarterback Hendon Hooker is considered a Heisman frontrunner, super-charging an offense averaging nearly 47 points per game. His rushing ability was a known commodity prior to the season, but it's his passing that has been particularly impressive. Hooker has been efficient, accurate and incredibly smart with the ball; despite 140 attempts over the first six weeks, he has zero interceptions. He will be the focal point of this up-tempo Volunteer attack, but expect a heavy dose of tailbacks Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. The pair splits carries fairly evenly and are able to stay fresh, which often is the issue late in games when teams face off against well-conditioned Alabama teams. On the perimeter, Cedric Tillman's status is a major storyline. The senior is Tennessee's best receiver, but he's missed the last several weeks with an ankle injury. Others have stepped up in his absence, namely Bru McCoy and Jalin Hyatt, but Tennessee still needs him to be at full go in order to pull off the upset. Even if he isn't, I don't suspect Josh Heupel's game-plan to change too much here. They'll continue to play incredibly fast and take their shots down the field. Alabama is a talented defensive team that has put up good overall numbers, but they've been susceptible on the back-end. If Tennessee can neutralize Will Anderson, Dallas Turner, and company and continue to take care of the ball, I like their chances to put up plenty of points.

This wouldn't be the first time in recent memory Tennessee has garnered significant hype at this point in the season and fallen flat on their face in a big moment. However, something about this team feels different. It hasn't just been their execution, but the energy and vibe of the program; they believe they're a top-tier team nationally and are at the level to beat elite foes like Alabama. This isn't your typical overpowering 'Bama team, either. Not only do they have injury concerns, the offense has been inconsistent and the defense has been known to struggle against Hooker-esque quarterbacks in the past. All of this leads me to make my bold prediction: picking Tennessee not just to cover, but win outright. I've been burned picking against Alabama in the past, but what's life without a little risk? 

The Pick: Tennessee, 34 Alabama, 31

(#10) Penn State Nittany Lions @ (#5) Michigan Wolverines

Line: Michigan -7

O/U: 50

Over the first six weeks of the 2022 season, the top of the Big Ten East has managed to stay above the fray, with Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan all undefeated. Now, two of the top contenders for the division crown are forced to square off in Ann Arbor, kicking off a loaded Week Seven.

Since entering Big Ten play, Michigan hasn't put up as illustrious numbers as they did over the season's first month. Of course, that's to be expected when you are facing stiffer competition than the likes of Colorado State, UConn, and Hawai'i. J.J. McCarthy has taken over as the full-time starting quarterback and offers more playmaking than Cade McNamara, although his decision-making has been questionable at times. His ability to use his legs adds an interesting element to this offense, but the main focus for Penn State defensively will be containing Blake Corum. The junior has been decimating opposing defenses all season to the tune of 733 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he's seemed to turn it up a level in Big Ten play. PSU is a program known for its history of producing elite linebackers, and they've got two great ones this year in Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs. They'll help the Nittany Lions contain Corum, but don't be surprised if the Wolverines still find a way to move the ball, especially when you add in change-of-pace weapon Donovan Edwards. Michigan still has a tough, physical offensive line that should set up a fun matchup with the Nittany Lions, and be able to contain the pass rush. 

After having one of the worst ground games in the Big Ten the last several years, Penn State's offense has found two sparks in the form of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. The two true freshmen have been dominant to begin the season, with Singleton averaging over seven yards per carry. Their success has helped the Nittany Lions become much more balanced on this side of the ball, something that was sorely lacking. In the end, however, Penn State will go as Sean Clifford goes, and you never know which Sean Clifford is going to come out on a Saturday. There's no denying the veteran signal-caller has had bright moments and he's had an effective campaign up to this point, but he does face a stiff challenge. Despite significant turnover on the defensive side of the ball, Michigan remains especially stingy. Linebacker Junior Colson has taken on a leadership role, guiding one of the nation's top rush defenses. Although the front seven isn't quite as loaded as last year's group, it's been just as physical and should be ready for Singleton and Allen. The larger question for Michigan may be whether they can contain this group of Nittany Lion pass-catchers. Although UM has been great at stopping the pass, names like Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert Smith, and Mitchell Tinsley are a challenge for any secondary.

Even though Michigan is the higher ranked team, Penn State has looked better over the season's first six weeks. With that being said, it's an awful lot to ask for any team to go into The Big House and come away with a road win. The Wolverines seem to slowly be getting more comfortable with their offense each and every week, and there's little denying how elite this defense is. That should be enough for them to overcome the Nittany Lions here.

The Pick: Michigan, 27 Penn State, 21 (Penn State cover)

(#8) Oklahoma State Cowboys @ (#13) TCU Horned Frogs

Line: TCU -4

O/U: 68.5

TCU managed to stay undefeated last weekend after coming out on top in a thriller against Kansas. Their reward? None other than the undefeated, eighth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have survived difficult challenges each of the last two weeks against Baylor and Texas Tech. The winner here cements themselves as the midseason Big 12 frontrunner, while the loser joins a crowded tier that includes Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas.

It's fascinating watching how Oklahoma State's program has transformed over two decades of Mike Gundy. They once were an air-it-out, explosive offensive team who played absolutely no defense. Now, they're a ball-control, methodical offensive team with a stellar defense. At the controls of that offense is veteran Spencer Sanders, who is having yet another good, but not great, season. He has played well against Oklahoma State's lesser opponents, but continues to be inconsistent. Fortunately, the offense is not short on weapons, as Dominic Richardson has emerged out of the backfield and the receiver corps is stocked with talent. Braydon Johnson has emerged as the top guy, but Brennan Presley is the security blanket, while youngster Bryson Green oozes with potential. Add to that a solid offensive line and it's a unit you can feel good about. Is it similar to the peak Gundy years with Brandon Weeden or Justin Blackmon? Certainly not, but when you combine it with this well-coached defense, it's easy to see why the 'Pokes are a tough out in the league.

Sonny Dykes has done a superb job in Year One with the TCU Horned Frogs, leading them to an impressive 5-0 start. He's done so despite losing the Week One starting quarterback, Chandler Morris, although veteran Max Duggan is certainly no slouch. He's gone for over 300 yards in three of his four starts, including 308 against Kansas. Plus, he's a tremendous, hard-nosed runner who is extremely difficult to bring down. Duggan is a challenge even for the best defenses the country has to offer, and I guarantee he has been the focus of Oklahoma State DC Derek Mason this week. With that being said, TCU has plenty of other pieces that can hurt you. The ground game has been effective all season long, with Kendre Miller and Emari Demarcado complementing Duggan. The trio is all averaging over six yards per carry and can burst the game wide open every time they get an inch of space. However, considering Oklahoma State's defensive front is loaded, TCU may choose to try their hand through the air more often in this one. That's good news for Quentin Johnston, who was one of the best players in the country last weekend. He racked up 14 receptions for 206 yards and a touchdown. Add in dynamic Taye Barber and Savion Williams and the Horned Frogs should be able attack OSU vertically. The Cowboys were rebuilding on the back-end prior to the season and have still had concerns there, so this is a major concern.

I don't think either one of these teams are serious CFB Playoff contenders, but whoever wins here will put themselves in that conversation. Oklahoma State seems a bit more balanced on both sides of the ball, but I really like what Dykes and TCU have cooking. The offense is fun to watch and explosive and defensively, they find ways to make stops. Add in the fact that they are playing in their friendly confines at Amon G. Carter Stadium, and I'm taking the Frogs.

The Pick: TCU, 30 Oklahoma State, 24

Other Picks

(#15) NC State @ (#18) Syracuse -- Clemson is the obvious ACC Atlantic favorite, but Syracuse could apply some pressure with a win here. Even so, I actually like the Wolfpack, even with questions surrounding Devin Leary's health.

The Pick: NC State, 24 Syracuse, 21

(#7) USC @ (#20) Utah -- I was all set to pick Utah here prior to last weekend, when they looked incredibly flat against UCLA. This defense has more questions than I can remember a Utah defense having in a long time, and Lincoln Riley should take advantage.

The Pick: USC, 35 Utah, 26

(#16) Mississippi State @ (#22) Kentucky -- Kentucky was clearly overrated as a Top 10 team and now Will Levis' status for Saturday is up in the air. Even on the road, the flaming hot Mississippi State Bulldogs are the right pick.

The Pick: Mississippi State, 31 Kentucky, 20

Upset: Georgia Southern over (#25) James Madison -- Georgia Southern has gone 1-3 since their shocking upset of Nebraska, but they're always dangerous in Statesboro. James Madison remains a great story, but one of these Sun Belt schools are going to get them.

The Pick: Georgia Southern, 28 James Madison, 27

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): Vanderbilt (+38.5) @ Georgia -- There are only two superdogs to choose from this weekend, Vanderbilt and Charlotte. I have no faith in the 49ers, so let's try our luck with Vandy, who has a chance to cover against a Georgia team that has been underwhelming in recent weeks.

The Pick: Georgia, 40 Vanderbilt, 7

Lock of the Week: Wisconsin (-7) @ Michigan State -- As shocking as the decision was to fire Paul Chryst, it feels like the right one. Jim Leonhard should have the Badgers ready to go in this one against a very bad Michigan State team.

The Pick: Wisconsin, 24 Michigan State, 13

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