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College Football Picks 2023: Week Six

Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma

Current Picks Record: 31-14

Upsets: 2-3

Superdogs: 4-1

Locks: 4-1

(#12) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (#3) Texas Longhorns (Dallas)

Line: Texas -6.5

O/U: 60.5

The 119th installment of the Red River Rivalry takes center stage in Week Six of the 2023 college football season, and this year's contest feels like it takes on extra weight. Not only is it the final regular season game between the two before they make their move to the SEC, both enter the game undefeated and eyeing a College Football Playoff berth. With so much on the line and the rivalry as fierce as ever, there's plenty of reason to tune in this Saturday in Dallas.

Texas has looked in complete control over the season's first five weeks, putting together their most impressive month since Colt McCoy was under center and Mack Brown was patrolling the sidelines. Not only are they 5-0, but they've built an impressive resume that includes victories over two ranked opponents in Alabama and Kansas. At the helm has been quarterback Quinn Ewers, who has asserted himself into the Heisman conversation with 15 total touchdowns over his first five games. Ewers isn't just stuffing the stat sheet with underneath stuff, either. He's shown a real willingness to take his chances down the field, and the 1-2 punch of Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy on the outside can overwhelm even the most well-built secondaries. Just as important for the Longhorns is the fact the ground game and offensive line seem to be improving each and every week, with Jonathon Brooks emerging as the go-to guy in the backfield. The sophomore is fresh off a 218-yard, two touchdown performance against Kansas and looks ready to put his stamp on this rivalry. The balance Texas features is difficult to game-plan against, and this should pose quite the challenge for the Oklahoma defense. The Sooners have been playing lights out on this side of the ball, a complete turnaround from last fall, but not a single offense they've faced comes close to this group from Texas. I'll be curious to see what Brent Venables and Ted Roof draw up to try and counter it. One would assume they'll look to be aggressive and get after Ewers with relentless blitzes, but Ewers has shown he can make defenses pay when they do so - just watch the Alabama tape. 

The Sooners have feasted on a soft non-conference and early Big 12 slate, riding the arm of Dillon Gabriel to a flawless start. Gabriel did not play in this one last season and will be eager to get his first taste of the rivalry, but should also be prepared to play one of the best Texas defenses we've seen in a long time. It's a stout Longhorn defensive front, headlined by nose tackle T'Vondre Sweat and while Texas is still prone to the big play, the secondary is solid. That shouldn't deter the Sooners from playing their usual, fast-paced style of offense, but the key for this offense is finding some semblance of balance. The ground attack has completely disappeared, with the trio of Marcus Major, Tee Walker, and Jovantae Barnes struggling to get into a rhythm. Major is their leading rusher, with 199 yards, but simply has not been able to find many holes to run through, averaging under four yards per carry. That's a huge concern for this Sooner offense, even with Gabriel's huge arm and the weapons this team can through at you on the outside. My worry if I'm Oklahoma is, if they fall behind early, this becomes an offensive attack solely predicated on Gabriel standing back in the pocket and trying to make things happen with his arm. That's not to say Gabriel isn't a good quarterback or can't create plays, but this isn't Kyler Murray back there; he needs help. The ground game is going to need to find some bite, which also means the offensive line will need to get more push. That's a tough ask against this Longhorn defense, a battle that could be a deciding factor this weekend.

Motivation is never hard to find in this rivalry, but you would assume Oklahoma is feeling extra pressure after a humiliating 49-0 loss to Texas a season ago. It would be quite the response if they were able to derail the most hyped Longhorn team we've seen in a long time, but I just don't feel a lot of confidence in this Sooner team at it stands today. Even if their defense is able to make stops, I have real questions about this offense, which feels remarkably strange to say about an Oklahoma team. We just haven't seen enough for me to take the upset pick and as the more proven team, Texas remains the selection.

The Pick: Texas, 38 Oklahoma, 28

(#20) Kentucky Wildcats @ (#1) Georgia Bulldogs

Line: Georgia -15

O/U: 48

After five weeks, there's one huge question the college football world is grappling with: Are the Georgia Bulldogs beatable? We've become so accustomed to Georgia shredding their competition, but this year's team has had an underwhelming start, even as they remain perched at No. 1. Just last weekend, the Bulldogs got all they could handle from an Auburn team in the first year of the Hugh Freeze era, with Georgia needing late heroics to stay undefeated. Now, Kentucky comes to town with an upset on their mind and a goal of beating UGA for the first time since 2009.

Although they ended up coming out on top and actually put together decent numbers, Georgia's last two wins over SEC foes showcased an offense still in transition. Carson Beck has been rock-solid since taking over for Stetson Bennett, but the longtime backup is still working to develop chemistry with all the weapons the Bulldogs feature. Just as important, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo seems to also be in the process of learning his personnel, resulting in a more conservative approach than what we saw from Todd Monken in 2022. Georgia can still succeed in that way, but the margin for error becomes thin when the running game struggles to get things going, as has been the case for much of the fall so far. Daijun Edwards has remained a force, but the Bulldogs have struggled to identify difference-makers beyond him. The preseason injury to Branson Robinson is magnified now, but even more shocking to me has been the play of Kendall Milton. To be fair to Milton, he has been banged up with a sprained MCL, but are we ever going to see the former blue-chip recruit put it together over an extended period of time? Sophomore receiver Dillon Bell has also been seeing carries, which seems to put into perspective just how lethargic this ground attack has been. Going up against a disciplined and always tough Kentucky defensive front doesn't seem like the ideal scenario to turn things around, which in turn applies more pressure to Beck and tight end Brock Bowers. Bowers has been terrific, the true MVP of the team so far, but he needs others on this supporting cast to emerge. Getting reliable Ladd McConkey back healthy will be huge, but the Bulldogs are still looking for more from transfers Dominic Lovett and Rara Thomas. Florida and Graham Mertz moved the ball against this Kentucky offense last Saturday, so perhaps there will be opportunities here for the 'Dawgs.

Much like Georgia, Kentucky has spent most of their early season attempting to figure out their offense, but last weekend looked like a turning point. The ground game exploded, with former Vanderbilt transfer Ray Davis punishing Florida to the tune of 280 yards and three touchdowns. It felt like a game where Kentucky stopped trying to open things up through the air and just accepted their strength as a ground-and-pound team. Doing so against Georgia will be more difficult, but this is not the same Bulldog defensive front we've seen the last several years. Sure, there remains an abundance of future NFL Draft selections, but a lack of a Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, or Nakobe Dean. The lack of an alpha has made them more susceptible and the Wildcats should look to attack. Still, they are going to need the aerial attack to find itself at some point, as Devin Leary has been a bit of a disappointment since coming over from NC State. Leary is learning a new scheme under Liam Coen, but last weekend was the ugliest start he's had in his collegiate career. Leary went just 9-19 for 69 yards, even against a Florida secondary not considered to be among the SEC's best. He has weapons to throw to, even with both Barion Brown and Tayvion Robinson banged up, but there seems to be a lack of confidence right now. Just as concerning, Leary's decision-making, long considered to be a strength, has taken a hit after five interceptions over his first five games. If he's not up for this one, it's hard to imagine Kentucky strolling into Sanford Stadium and coming away with a win.

Georgia may not look invincible, as they did throughout all of 2021 and 2022, but that doesn't mean this is an easy football team to beat. Kirby Smart will have his boys ready to go for this one and playing "Between the Hedges" seems to always add points to the Bulldog total. Kentucky is the type of team nobody wants to play, a tough, well-coached football team that leaves you bruised and sore after, but they have their flaws, too. Unless Leary comes on and has the game of his life, I don't see No. 1 going down this weekend.

The Pick: Georgia, 27 Kentucky, 16

(#10) Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ (#25) Louisville Cardinals

Line: Notre Dame -6.5

O/U: 54

The Fighting Irish survived a thriller last weekend on the road against Duke and remain in the College Football Playoff mix, but the schedule still contains numerous landmines, including Louisville this Saturday. The Cardinals are off to a surprising 5-0 start under Jeff Brohm and looking to boost their resume with a Top 10 win at home.

It's been two consecutive down weeks for the Irish offense, albeit against strong defenses, but this unit remains a strength. Quarterback Sam Hartman has been a difference-maker, not only unlocking a downfield passing game that has often eluded Notre Dame, but making smart decisions and completing clutch throws. Yet, I still wonder if we are going to see more consistency from the receivers, which have shown flashes throughout the year, but haven't put it together over a long period of time. Both Jayden Thomas and Jadon Greathouse, the two most talented pass-catchers on the roster, missed the Duke game and remain questionable as the Irish prep for Week Six. Even getting one back would add some much-needed explosiveness to this roster and give Notre Dame a real weapon against a Louisville pass defense susceptible to the big play. Fortunately, Notre Dame can still lean on a ferocious ground game when needed, as Audric Estime continues to asset himself as a Doak Walker Award frontrunner. He has been held in check by both Duke and Ohio State, but this feels like the week that he gets back on track, especially if the offensive line can establish some consistency after going through their own ups-and-downs in recent weeks.

Brohm has brought his high-powered offense to Louisville, overseeing a unit that is averaging 37 points per game. Jack Plummer reunited with his former head coach after a quick pit stop last fall at California and is having his best season yet, with 1,406 passing yards over the first five games. With that being said, he faces the toughest pass defense he's seen so far in 2023, and I do worry about the turnovers. Six interceptions over the first five games when you're passing as much as Plummer does may not be terrible, but it's a real concern against an opportunistic Irish secondary. This looks like one of the best defensive backfields anywhere in the country and I suspect they'll be aggressive against Plummer and company. Louisville is able to counter with an explosive supporting cast, notably wide out Jamari Thrash and tailback Jawhar Jordan, who has been a revelation so far this fall. Both Jordan and Thrash are threats to take the ball to the house every time they touch it; Jordan averages nearly eight yards per run, while Thrash over 20 yards per catch. But, the thing about this Notre Dame defense is they simply don't allow many big plays. It's always been a remarkably disciplined group, one that makes you fight for every yard. There may not be as much star-power or as many future NFL pieces, but this remains a stout group, one that may force Brohm to reach into his bag of tricks to keep the Cardinal offense humming along.

Louisville has been a great story, but the reality is that they've been feasting on a soft schedule up to this point in the season. Notre Dame is a whole different ball game and even on the road, they hold a distinct advantage. If they're able to get Thomas and Greathouse back, that's another reason to pick the Irish, who still have plenty of opportunities to build their resume as they remain in the Playoff hunt.

The Pick: Notre Dame, 31 Louisville, 20

Other Picks

(#23) LSU Tigers @ (#21) Missouri Tigers -- After a slow start to the season, Missouri's offense has been blazing hot in recent weeks, with wide out Luther Burden putting together a Biletnikoff-esque year. Burden, and this entire Mizzou offense, should feast at home against a LSU defense going through a rough year.

The Pick: Missouri, 35 LSU, 31

(#11) Alabama Crimson Tide @ Texas A&M Aggies -- Could this be the de-facto SEC West Championship Game, even so early on in the fall? Perhaps, and it should be a good one, but I'm leaning Tide over a Connor Weigman-less A&M team.

The Pick: Alabama, 24 Texas A&M, 20

Maryland Terrapins @ (#4) Ohio State Buckeyes -- Maryland has been absolutely decimating their competition throughout 2023 and I think they give the Buckeyes a game. But, what are the chances they go into Columbus and come out victorious?

The Pick: Ohio State, 38 Maryland, 30

Upset: (#24) Fresno State Bulldogs @ Wyoming Cowboys -- Few Group of Five teams are as upset-minded as the Wyoming Cowboys, and Laramie at night is an incredibly tough place to play. I like their chances to pull off a shocker against the 5-0 Bulldogs.

The Pick: Wyoming, 28 Fresno State, 27

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): Arizona Wildcats (+23) @ USC Trojans -- Despite their undefeated record, USC's struggles on defense have been one of the enduring storylines of the fall so far. They'll put enough points to win, but can they get enough stops?

The Pick: USC, 49 Arizona, 34

Lock of the Week: NC State Wolfpack (-6) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd -- Marshall is among the top Group of Five teams in the country, but Raleigh is a much tougher place to play than most give it credit for. I think Brennan Armstrong and the Wolfpack put up enough points to lock this one in.

The Pick: NC State, 31 Marshall, 21

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