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2022 College Football Picks: Week Six

Max Duggan, TCU

Current Picks Record: 27-18

Upset: 3-2

Superdogs: 2-3

Locks: 2-3

(#17) TCU Horned Frogs @ (#19) Kansas Jayhawks

Line: TCU -7

O/U: 68

Imagine prior to the season, someone had told you that the biggest game this weekend wasn't Alabama-Texas A&M. Nor was it Ohio State-Michigan State, or even the latest edition of the Red River Showdown. No, it was the battle between undefeated TCU and undefeated Kansas, with the winner set to take the inside track in the Big 12 race. Such is the nature of college football, and part of what makes this sport so endearing to the masses.

The Jayhawks 5-0 start has been one of the greatest stories of the 2022 college football season. The program has been in college football purgatory for well over a decade before this incredible start. It wasn't been just fluke wins against terrible opponents either, as KU has beaten Houston, Duke, and Iowa State. At the helm has been an explosive rushing attack, spearheaded by QB Jalon Daniels and tailback Devin Neal. Daniels probably won't end up in New York for the Heisman ceremony, but he should certainly be in consideration at this point in the season. He's racked up over 1,200 yards of total offense, 16 total touchdowns, and has just one interception. He faces an interesting battle in this TCU defense, which has been okay this season, but susceptible to the big play. Behind Daniels and Neal, there aren't a ton of big names, but this is still an incredibly fun offense to watch. They'll do some unique things and trickery, but it's not just for show, there's a clear game-plan behind it. I expect them to air it out down the field against a porous Horned Frog secondary, even if their strength is underneath with Neal and support back Daniel Hishaw Jr.

It's been an incredibly quick turnaround for Sonny Dykes at TCU after the team flopped in closing 2021. He's done so mainly without his starting QB, Chandler Morris, who exited the opener against Colorado and has yet to see game action since. With that being said, Max Duggan is not your typical backup, as the former multiyear starter has caught back up to speed with ease. Although Dykes is known as an Air Raid disciple, it's been mainly about the run for TCU on the season, with Kendre Miller, Emari Demercado, Duggan, and Emani Bailey. It's a ground attack that schemes themselves into explosive plays, with all four of their top rushers averaging at least 6.5 yards per carry. To be fair, this TCU hasn't exactly played elite defensive competition in Colorado, Tarleton State, SMU, and Oklahoma, but it's clear that they have found a rhythm and know how to move the ball. The success of the ground game shouldn't overshadow the talent in this receiver corps too much, either. Taye Barber is one of the most versatile and fun players to watch anywhere in college football, and Quentin Johnston and Savion Williams can hit the home-run ball over-the-top. Add in Sam Jackson, a dynamic quarterback who will see the field in some fashion, and it shouldn't surprise that the Horned Frogs are off to such a hot start. 

Are either of these teams going to on a magical CFB Playoff run? Highly unlikely, and even a Big 12 Title would be a lot to ask considering the preseason expectations. That shouldn't diminish what they've accomplished so far this season and how fun of a game this should be. Two explosive offenses squaring off, with a pair of accomplished signal-callers running the show. Even though the game is in Lawrence, I think the TCU pick is a smarter one. Kansas has had a tremendous season, but they're going to get caught sometime, and the Horned Frogs have more weapons on both sides of the ball.

The Pick: TCU, 36 Kansas, 28

(#11) Utah Utes @ (#18) UCLA Bruins

Line: Utah -4

O/U: 65

Most of the college football world seems to have forgotten about Utah following their season-opening loss to Florida, but the Utes have won four straight and are back into CFB Playoff contention. They now enter a pivotal stretch of the season, playing both LA schools in consecutive weeks. First up is UCLA, who is off to a 5-0 start and beat Washington last Friday to rise to 18th in the polls. 

The Utes look much like they have the last several years; they run a balanced, methodical offense and pound opponents defensively. Quarterback Cam Rising has had an impressive season, with over 1,000 yards through the air, 13 touchdowns, and a 69% completion percentage. He's shown more of a willingness to take shots down the field, and has also demonstrated underrated rushing ability, going for over 70 yards against Oregon State last week. He'll be ready to go against an up-and-down Bruin pass defense, but the key for Utah will be getting their ground game back on track. This has long been the strength of the Ute offense, but they haven't been having the same success as past years. Tavion Thomas is way-too-good to be putting up the meager numbers he has so far in 2022, and this could be the week he gets rolling. Micah Bernard has been more efficient in a lesser role and adds more speed to the equation, but I think Thomas matches up better against UCLA. He's a hard-nosed, fearless runner that should be able to produce against a Bruin defense that has not traditionally been very physical, although they do seem to be tougher up front this fall. The pass-catchers took a massive hit when star tight end Brant Kuithe was lost for the season, but Dalton Kincaid has looked more than capable, and Devaughn Vele has been tremendous. It's a receiver group short on star power, but that doesn't stopped Utah from being effective through the air all season.

UCLA's offense has been terrific to start the 2022 campaign, operating at a top-notch rate both on the air and on the ground. Veteran QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been elite and is fresh off his best performance of the season, going for 315 yards and four touchdowns against Washington. In the past, "DTR" has occasionally been inconsistent or loose with the ball, but he looks mature, focused, and at a different level this fall. Joining him in the backfield is hard-running Zach Charbonnet, who has 417 yards on the season and is averaging over six yards per rush. Charbonnet is the type of back defenses hate playing; he's a relentless runner between the tackles, but has real burst in the open field and can break open any game. Former Duke transfer Jake Bobo has been the go-to guy out-wide, but versatile Kaz Allen could be one of the team's most dangerous weapons, even though he's been held-in-check the last several weeks. Add to that a strong offensive line, and this a very good offense top-to-bottom. Sure, it's not quite at peak-Chip Kelly-at-Oregon levels, but it's balanced and productive. With that being said, this is a brutal matchup against a great Utah defense. They're good at all three levels and simply don't allow an inch; they'll stop the run, but it's the pass defense that has been dominant in 2022. Clark Phillips was my preseason Jim Thorpe Award winner, and he's lived up to it, with three interceptions last weekend against Oregon State.

With all due respect to UCLA, I am hammering Utah -4 if this line stays where it is. I firmly believe this is the Pac-12's best team and I think they match up well with UCLA. This is a defense that allows control the lines of scrimmage and baits opponents into turnovers as well as anybody. While "DTR" has been impressive this year, this is the type of team I could really see him struggling with. It's just not a good opponent for the Bruins, and even in their friendly confines, I have Utah comfortably.

The Pick: Utah, 30 UCLA, 17

Texas Longhorns @ Oklahoma Sooners

Line: Texas -7

O/U: 65.5

The 118th edition of the "Red River Showdown" is on this Saturday, and for the first time in decades, neither team is ranked. Oklahoma's poor showings against TCU and Kansas State knocked them out of the polls, and the Longhorns also have two losses to their credit. Despite the frustrating beginnings, both could set themselves up for a better second half with a crucial rivalry win.

There are questions on both sides of the ball for the Oklahoma Sooners. Their defensive woes are pronounced, allowing 96 points and over 1,100 yards of total offense over the last two weeks. The offense has been able to keep them afloat at times, but there's questions here as well, as QB Dillon Gabriel left the TCU game with a concussion. Gabriel's status for the weekend is completely up-in-the-air, and there seems to be a fair chance he won't be good to go for Red River. If not, the Sooners turn to either Pitt transfer Davis Beville or former JUCO transplant General Booty to run the show. Neither are very comforting options, although it does help that the Sooners have so many weapons around them. Wide out Marvin Mims has looked like one of the best pass-catchers anywhere in the country, while the 1-2 punch of Eric Gray and Jovantae Barnes has been overwhelming. The question is, just how different will Jeff Lebby's offense look like if Gabriel isn't able to go? Beville is a significantly different quarterback and different fit in this offense. There's just so many questions with this unit right now, and that doesn't even touch on the porous defense.

Texas recovered from an upset loss on the road to Texas Tech by beating West Virginia soundly, jolting them to 3-2 on the season. They've made do without their own quarterback, as Quinn Ewers has not been able to go the last several weeks. Fortunately, Ewers is expected to return for this game, giving the Longhorns a dynamic, talented signal-caller to run the show. There's a chance there could be some rust as he returns to action, but fortunately, there's plenty of offensive weapons joining him. That includes superstar tailback Bijan Robinson, who has accounted for 633 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns up to his point. After his costly fumble led to the Longhorn loss against Tech, Robinson came out with a fury against West Virginia and now faces a Sooner defense that has been run all over the last several weeks. Even though he's already established, this could be an opportunity for Robinson to have a career day and put his stamp on this rivalry. Texas has the pieces to challenge Oklahoma through the air in a way that their previous foes couldn't, with the trio of Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington, Ja'Tavion Sanders. Plus, the offensive line has been decent enough, albeit far from great, giving the Longhorns a well-rounded attack against OU.

This game may not have the important implications it usually does, but Red River is always significant. There's still a chance one of these two puts it together and becomes a serious threat down the stretch, especially with the top of this league still relatively wide-open. With so much uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma right now, Texas feels like the smarter selection. We've seen what they can do with Card running the show and the defense has less questions, even if it isn't very good itself. Oklahoma has shown nothing these last two weeks to think they can turn it around in short order, and without Gabriel? I'm rolling with the 'Horns here.

The Pick: Texas, 42 Oklahoma, 31

Other Picks

(#8) Tennessee @ (#25) LSU -- This feels like a prime look-ahead spot for Tennessee with Alabama next on the docket, but I'm not sold on LSU. They've recovered nicely from the season-opening loss to Florida State, but the offense still has major questions.

The Pick: Tennessee, 38 LSU, 28

Texas A&M @ (#1) Alabama -- A&M's defense may be able to keep this one competitive, but have we seen anything from the offense to believe they can keep up with the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa? Even if Bryce Young can't go, Jalen Milroe looks more than capable of running the show.

The Pick: Alabama, 35 Texas A&M, 14

(#3) Ohio State @ Michigan State -- In the preseason, this looked like a potential Top 10 battle. Now? With all of Ohio State's weapons and Michigan State's atrocious pass defense, it's hard to see how this game stays close.

The Pick: Ohio State, 49 Michigan State, 20

Upset: Iowa State over (#20) Kansas State -- Kansas State has looked terrific in early Big 12 play, but I do wonder if Adrian Martinez is going to have a game where he falls back down to Earth. Facing a stingy Iowa State defense in Ames, this could be the week.

The Pick: Iowa State, 24 Kansas State, 21

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): UMass (+25) vs. Liberty -- Another bad week for superdogs, without any good lines to choose from. UMass is terrible, but the defense has played with more passion in the last several weeks. Can they keep things close enough with Liberty to cover at home?

The Pick: Liberty, 28 UMass, 7

Lock of the Week (has to be a favorite): Air Force (-10) @ Utah State -- I would lock up Utah, but for the sake of making another pick here, I'll go with Air Force. They should shred a weak Utah State rush defense, even in Logan.

The Pick: Air Force, 26 Utah State, 10

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