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2022 College Football Picks: Week Thirteen

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Current Picks Record: 65-43

Upset: 5-7

Superdogs: 5-7

(#3) Michigan Wolverines @ (#2) Ohio State Buckeyes

Line: Ohio State -7.5

O/U: 56

One of the greatest rivalries in sports once again takes center stage in the final week of the 2022 regular season. It may be the most anticipated Michigan-Ohio State game in nearly two decades, with both teams undefeated and battling for both the Big Ten and CFB Playoff. 

Michigan's decision to move on from Cade McNamara and roll with J.J. McCarthy at quarterback was all about opening up their offense and passing attack, but at the end of the day it's been their ground game that has ignited the offense all season. Tailback Blake Corum has led a rushing attack that is ranked fourth nationally, with over 243 yards per game. Corum is a legit Heisman contender, with 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns to his credit, including eight straight games of at least 100 yards. However, Corum left the Illinois game with a knee injury, casting concern for the Wolverines entering this crucial matchup. He's listed as questionable, but even if he does play, it's fair to assume it may be in a limited capacity. Unfortunately, his capable backup, Donovan Edwards, missed the Illinois game and his status for Saturday is up in the air. That puts even more pressure on McCarthy ahead of what is likely the biggest game of his young career up to this point. He's had an impressive season and his ability to make plays with his legs has made this Michigan offense much more dangerous, but he is facing a fearsome Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes are long and athletic up front and have improved in a major way on the back-end. McCarthy will need his offensive line to be up to the task and also hope for ample help from a talented, but inconsistent, receiver corps.

Few teams in college football, if any, boast the immense of offensive talent as the Ohio State Buckeyes. Quarterback C.J. Stroud commands a group that includes TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams out of the backfield, plus Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Jaxon Smith-Njigba out wide. It's not much of a surprise that the Buckeyes are averaging 46.5 points per game, although it hasn't always been smooth sailing. Henderson and Smith-Njigba have battled through injury-plagued seasons, which hasn't allowed them to build on huge 2021 campaigns, and the ground game in general has lacked the usual punch it usually has. That's not a knock against either Henderson or Williams, but you do wonder if the lack of balance offensively is going to hurt the Buckeyes once they begin facing elite competition, such as Michigan. Stroud is also a bit of a conundrum; he's had another year of monster numbers, but he's struggled against some of the better defenses he's faced. And, he does face quite the defense in Michigan, who seems to have improved on this side of the ball despite heavy losses over the offseason. There's not the usually cache of big names like Aidan Hutchinson or Daxton Hill, but the Wolverines are particularly physical and instinctive this fall. This is not going to be a game where Ohio State runs away with things offensively; they are going to have to work for every inch and every yard, and I'm curious to see whether they're up for it.

Nobody can doubt how impressive of seasons these two have put together, but both are still hoping they can pad their resume a bit before the CFB Playoff. Michigan may have taken this game a season ago, but Ohio State feels like the safer pick, for several reasons. The most important surrounds Corum, as his injury throws a major wrench into this matchup. Additionally, the Buckeyes have the advantage of getting this game back in Columbus this year after being shredded in Ann Arbor last fall. That is enough to help put them over the edge in a closely contested matchup.

The Pick: Ohio State, 30 Michigan, 24 (Michigan cover)

(#15) Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ (#6) USC Trojans

Line: USC -5

O/U: 64.5

After beating crosstown rival UCLA in a thriller a week ago, USC has serious CFB Playoff hopes in Year One of the Lincoln Riley. However, they still sit on the outside looking in, and will need to stick the landing to earn a spot in the four-team field. That includes not only taking the Pac-12, but taking care of business in their rivalry game with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team that's had a rocky year but is finishing strong.

Caleb Williams enters the final weekend of the year as the betting favorite to take home the 2022 Heisman Trophy. He has built on an impressive freshman season by taking it to a completely new level in Los Angeles, with 3,480 passing yards and 40 total touchdowns. His performance last Saturday against UCLA felt like a Heisman moment, as he threw all over a pretty good Bruins defense to the tune of 470 yards. Williams helms a potent Riley-led offense that includes loads of playmakers at both running back and receiver. Travis Dye, the team's leading rusher, may be done for the remainder of the year, but Austin Jones and Raleek Brown are more than capable of handling the load. Out wide, Jordan Addison remains one of the toughest man-to-man covers in college football, while Mario Williams, Tahj Washington, and Brenden Rice add plenty of pop. It's an offense that looks an awfully like the Riley-coached teams throughout his time at Oklahoma, unsurprisingly. They're exceptional at getting their most dangerous players out in space and finding mismatches to exploit. With that being said, Notre Dame's defense should be a good test, perhaps one of the most difficult USC has seen this fall. They're a stout defensive team up front, but the secondary is the real concern for Riley and company. Corner Benjamin Morrison has five interceptions on the season and would love an opportunity to add to that in the regular season finale. Alongside Morrison, there's plenty of talent and experience in this secondary, so don't expect them to allow Williams to sling it all over with ease.

Notre Dame's offense has been mostly pedestrian this fall, although they've turned things up a notch over the last month-and-half. Since a 16-14 stinker against Stanford, the Irish have hit or crossed the 35-point threshold in every single game, including going for 44 in a pummeling of Boston College last week. The ground game has really found its rhythm, with tailbacks Audric Estime and Logan Diggs running over everything in their paths. Both backs will be handle similar work loads week-in, week-out, but it either one can fuel this offense. The Irish do still need something from their passing game to spring an upset, and Drew Pyne has proven to be serviceable. In reality, Pyne isn't asked to do too much, outside of take care of the football and control the offense. In their last two wins over ranked foes, Clemson and Syracuse, Pyne threw the ball just 36 times, with 18 completions. Notre Dame will likely keep a similar approach with this one; pound the rock offensively and let their defense make plays. It could be an effective formula, as this is a bad matchup for this defense. Beyond sack machine Tuli Tuipulotu, USC's defense has been leaky all season long and has really struggled against the better teams they've faced. Notre Dame is going to move the ball against them, but can they keep up with this offense over four quarters?

This feels like a prime upset opportunity, with USC under immense pressure and ND merely playing spoiler. Notre Dame is flaming hot and I do think their clear advantage in the trenches gives reason to believe in them, I still lean 'SC at the end of the day. Maybe it's boring to go with the home favorite here, but we know what we're getting each week with USC, the same is not true of Notre Dame. One week, the Irish can look like the fearsome group that beat Clemson and North Carolina, the other it can performances like the Stanford loss.

The Pick: USC, 34 Notre Dame, 26

Auburn Tigers @ (#7) Alabama Crimson Tide

Line: Alabama -22

O/U: 50

The 87th edition of the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama doesn't have the importance it usually does in the grand scheme of college football, but there's always a reason to tune in when these two get together. Despite Alabama's dominance the past decade-and-a-half, Auburn has regularly played the Tide tough, and would love nothing more than to completely kill any Alabama Playoff hopes, which are on life support already.

Injuries have kept Bryce Young from defending his Heisman Trophy quite the way he would have hoped, but the junior remains one of the sport's brightest stars. Even with poor health and a very abnormal supporting cast for Alabama, Young has notched 27 total touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards of total offense. He remains the primary source of offense in Tuscaloosa and everything the Tide do on this side of the ball runs through him. In the backfield, Jahmyr Gibbs and Jase McClellan have proven to be great complementary pieces. Gibbs and McClellan are both dangerous weapons as receivers out of the backfield, and they should give this Auburn defense real trouble. Gibbs isn't 100 percent, missing out last week against Austin Peay, but he practiced earlier in the week, so it's likely we see him on the field in some capacity. At receiver, it's anybody's guess who is going to show up every week for the Tide. Ja'Corey Brooks has been their most consistent weapon on the perimeter, but this has been one of the nation's most disappointing position groups. Jermaine Burton seems to have found another gear in the season's second half, and there's potential elsewhere, but this receiver corps doesn't strike fear into defenses the way past Alabama groups have. Auburn has not been a very good defensive team this fall, but this isn't your prototypical Tide offense. They should be able to manufacture points, but I don't envision 'Bama lighting up the scoreboard, unless Gibbs and McClellan run wild.

It hasn't been a banner year on "The Plains" for Auburn, with Bryan Harsin's future as head coach swirling over their heads most of the season. Harsin was eventually dismissed, and Auburn has turned to former star back Cadillac Williams to run the program for the time being. The Tigers have played hard under Williams, but the offense remains a work in progress. Running back Tank Bigsby has been able to provide some fireworks during a frustrating season, and the Tigers will likely turn to him early and often. Instead of mailing it in during a lost season, Bigsby has turned it up a notch, with a pair of 100-yard performances heading into this one. Sophomore Jarquez Hunter and quarterback Robby Ashford will also see plenty of action on the ground. Williams has made it clear this will be a run-first team, and despite the advantage Alabama does enjoy in the trenches, the Tigers will still pound the ball. The Tide are much more susceptible through the air, as they've been smoked by any strong passing offense they've seen this fall, but it's hard to know is Auburn can take advantage. Ashford is currently completing under 50% of his passes, with a horrendous 6-7 TD-INT ratio to go along with it. Even against poor defenses, the Tigers have not been able to anything through the air, and it's hard to imagine that changing during the final week of the regular season.

You can always throw out the record books when these two get together, as the underdog always seems to play the favorite tough. The Tide are hefty favorites despite their struggles this fall, but I think Auburn can give them a game. However, I don't see them going into Bryant-Denny and beating this Alabama team, particularly with a healthy Bryce Young.

The Pick: Alabama, 38 Auburn, 20 (Auburn cover)

Other Picks

(#19) Tulane @ (#24) Cincinnati -- A game that could a long way in deciding who gets the Group of Five bid in the New Year's Six, Cincinnati feels like the smart bet. They're a better team top-to-bottom than Tulane, and get the Green Wave at home.

The Pick: Cincinnati, 24 Tulane, 20

(#9) Oregon @ (#21) Oregon State -- It's rare these two collide as ranked foes, but both Oregon schools have had great seasons. The Beavers feature a strong rushing attack and quality defense, but the Ducks have a clear edge with Bo Nix under center.

The Pick: Oregon, 31 Oregon State, 21

Georgia Tech @ (#1) Georgia -- Georgia Tech has been a pleasant surprise down the stretch since moving on from Geoff Collins, but it's hard to imagine any scenario in which they go into Sanford Stadium and come out victorious.

The Pick: Georgia, 40 Georgia Tech, 14

South Carolina @ (#8) Clemson -- Clemson seems to have righted the ship since their shocking blowout loss to Notre Dame. They should be able to get the job done at home against a feisty South Carolina team potentially due for a hangover after beating Tennessee.

The Pick: Clemson, 28 South Carolina, 20

Upset: Washington State over (#13) Washington -- Washington has owned this series as of late, with just two Washington State wins since 2009. Even with Washington flaming hot, I like the Cougars to pull an upset. The defense should be able to confuse Michael Penix and force a few turnovers, while Cam Ward leads a capable Cougar offense.

The Pick: Washington State, 34 Washington, 31

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): UMass (+21) vs. Army -- Either Auburn or Georgia Tech covering could work, but let's go out on a limb and take UMass + 21 as this week's superdog. The Minutemen are clearly the weaker team, but Army's triple-option attack makes it hard for them to cover these types of spreads.

The Pick: Army, 27 UMass, 10

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