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College Football Picks 2023: Week Ten

Jayden Daniels, LSU

Current Picks Record: 56-25

Upsets: 5-4

Superdogs: 6-3

Locks: 6-3

(#14) LSU Tigers @ (#8) Alabama Crimson Tide

Line: Alabama -3

O/U: 61.5

Last season's LSU-Alabama game was one of the most exciting of the fall, punctuated by Brian Kelly's gutsy decision to go for two to beat the mighty Crimson Tide. A year later, the two are in the driver's seat in the SEC West race and both appear evenly matched, meaning we could see another thriller this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Jayden Daniels is putting together one of the most impressive quarterback seasons we've ever seen from a LSU quarterback, leading a passing attack that is third nationally. It's quite the departure from what we saw last year from the former Arizona State transfer, who did most of his damage with his legs in 2022. Daniels can still extend plays, but it's his growth as a passer that has been one of the most surprising storylines of the 2023 campaign. He's notched 2,573 yards and 25 touchdowns over LSU's first eight games, and he likely would be the Heisman favorite if there wasn't a two in the "L" column for the Tigers. Helping him out has been a potent 1-2 punch at receiver in Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas, who have combined for over 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year. Nabers is the deep threat, the speed demon who can take the top off the defense, while Thomas' large frame makes him a real matchup nightmare anywhere on the field. It feels eerily similar to 2019 LSU, with Joe Burrow slinging it to Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson on the outside. Sure, this year's trio may not be quite at that level, but the productivity remains the same, and should give the Tide problems. We've seen real growth on this side of the ball from Alabama in 2023, but the pass defense is still prone to the big play. Kool-Aid McKinstry may be able to take out one of the duo, but fellow corner Terrion Arnold feels like he could be an X-factor. The young DB had an up-and-down game in the Texas loss and you never quite can be sure what you're getting from him, but he has also had numerous bright moments on the year. Expect Alabama DC Kevin Steele to try and ramp up the pressure to throw Daniels off his game, with Dallas Turner and company set to play at a relentless pace. LSU's offensive line has held up most of the season, but this provides a unique challenge in a hostile environment.

Alabama's quarterback quandary was one of the most fascinating aspects of the early 2023 season, but it appears as though they've found their guy in Jalen Milroe. The sophomore is a rollercoaster ride; his running ability makes him a thrill to watch, but as a passer, he's chaotic. There are typically one or two throws a drive that look like an NFL throw, but he'll follow it up with a wild one. The good news is that it looks like Milroe has found an ability to reel it in, and this offense is starting to find a rhythm around him. The ground game hasn't been up to its typical Alabama ways, but remains reliable, and the receiver corps is good enough to get this team where they want to go. If Milroe can play the way he has the last several weeks, where he's making smart reads and taking care of the ball, I have little doubt the Tide can move the ball against a soft Tiger defense. Of course, that relies on Alabama's offensive line being up to par, which has been the most consistent problem for the team in 2023. This group does seem to be trending upwards, but they're up for a challenge this weekend. If these blockers can give Milroe just a bit of breathing room, he should have real opportunities against one of the worst secondaries in the SEC. It isn't like this group is trending in the right direction, either. All four of the corner transfers the Tigers brought in over the offseason are unlikely to play Saturday, namely No. 1 guy Zy Alexander, who left the Army game with an ankle injury. Matt House and this defensive staff are going to have to counter with something special, even against one of the most underwhelming Alabama offenses we've seen in some time.

After a long Alabama win streak throughout the 2010s, this has been a fun and competitive rivalry series once again. I expect that to remain the case this weekend, as both come in with notable flaws, even with rosters filled to the brim with NFL talent. Jayden Daniels gives LSU an edge in every game he plays, but the defense is extremely concerning to me. It's not just the pass defense, but the group just doesn't have the same energy or discipline they seemed to have throughout 2022. If Milroe can keep rolling and the Tide take care of the ball, I think they leave Bryant-Denny with a slim victory.

The Pick: Alabama, 31 LSU, 28

(#12) Missouri Tigers @ (#2) Georgia Bulldogs

Line: Georgia -15.5

O/U: 55.5

Surprise, surprise, Georgia entered November undefeated and looking to close in on yet another CFB Playoff appearance, but at least one more division obstacle stands in their way. It's the 7-1 Missouri Tigers, one of the best stories in college football this fall. Eli Drinkwitz has a team that not only plays great football, but is genuinely fun. They play hard, put up lots of points, and have one of the nation's best players in Luther Burden at receiver. But, can they really go into Sanford Stadium and shock the 'Dawgs?

I'm not sure there's been a more impressive offensive turnaround in the nation this year than the one that has unfolded at Missouri. A season ago, the Tigers averaged a measly 24.8 PPG, which finished 86th nationally. This year, nearly 33, with real balance and consistency throughout the unit. Quarterback Brady Cook has been a revelation, totaling 2,259 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season, with tailback Cody Schrader and wide outs Burden and Theo Wease providing plenty of complementary support. Burden in particular is the player Georgia is keying in on; the sophomore had reeled off five straight games of 100 receiving yards before being held in check by a physical Kentucky defense. He responded by going for 97 yards against South Carolina and it's clear the Tigers are trying to get him the ball in a multitude of ways. Georgia does have an elite back-end, but Burden will provide a stiff challenge, while Wease may be able to take advantage of their added focus on the other side. My big question for Missouri's offense isn't at the skill positions - I firmly believe they will still move the ball. No, it's up front, where the offensive line faces your usual elite Bulldog front seven. Drinkwitz is still working to build Missouri to an SEC-caliber program in the trenches, but I'm not sure they are there just yet.

Throughout the Kirby Smart years, Georgia has played a similar brand of offensive football: pounding the rock and taking occasional chances through the air. The 2023 group is different - they are going to sling it, and QB Carson Beck has been superb in his first full season as starter. He's in control of the nation's fourth-best passing offense, a far departure from what we've known a typical Bulldog attack. Those numbers are made even more impressive when you consider that tight end Brock Bowers, who was building to a John Mackey season, has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season. Sophomore Oscar Delp is going to try and step up and fill his shoes, but the absence of Bowers has given this receiver corps a chance to shine, namely a healthy Ladd McConkey and Dominic Lovett. McConkey is one of my favorite players in college football; on a team full of players that look like they were built in a lab, McConkey is a fairly average six foot, 185 pounds. But, the junior really energizes this offense, and burned Florida to the tune of 135 yards last weekend. This passing game has taken pressure off a Bulldog ground attack that has been less than spectacular. Although to be fair, the backfield has been dealing with injuries all year long and also appears to be getting healthy at the right time. Missouri has shown they can contain the run, but if the Bulldogs can show balance and mix up play-calling, there are going to be real mismatches on the perimeter.

I've been a firm believer in Missouri all year long, but this has the feel of a Georgia game where they just come out, physically overpower and pummel you into the dirt. Add in a much more explosive offense than we are used to for the Bulldogs, I expect them to not have too much difficulties with the upstart Tigers. As much as I would like to pull the upset, that feels like a shot in the dark with this game taking place in Athens.

The Pick: Georgia, 38 Missouri, 24

(#9) Oklahoma Sooners @ (#22) Oklahoma State Cowboys

Line: Oklahoma -6

O/U: 61.5

As hard as it is to believe, there's a very real possibility this is the final Bedlam game... potentially ever. With Oklahoma off to the SEC and the two programs yet to come to an agreement as to when they will play again, at the very least it's likely to be awhile before we see them square off on the gridiron. That should add another layer of intrigue to a rivalry that always ends up getting a bit weird.

Was last Saturday the wakeup call Oklahoma needed? The Sooners were riding high at 7-0 and with a big win over Texas to their credit, but then they went on the road and were subsequently shocked by the Kansas Jayhawks. The offense ended up putting up 33 points in a losing effort, but confusing play-calling at the end of the game led Sooner fans to be frustrated, and could provide additional motivation here. QB Dillon Gabiel continues to play great football, but the supporting cast around him has not lived up to expectations. The ground game has been nearly nonexistent all season and although Jalil Farooq and Drake Stoops have put up fine numbers, they aren't the typical type of playmakers Oklahoma has featured on the outside. To make matters worse, Farooq was arrested late Thursday night, which could put his status for Saturday in jeopardy. Expect Nick Anderson, who has one of the breakout stars of the Big 12 this year, to be leaned on heavily once more. The good news for the Sooners is that the defense they're facing isn't exactly a shutdown group. Although the Cowboys don't have dreadful numbers, they've been frightfully inconsistent, and have struggled against some of the top units they've faced.

There may not be a better tailback in college football right now than Ollie Gordon II, who is playing his way into the Heisman conversation with a dominant month. After just 109 yards over his first three games, the sophomore has reeled off five straight games of at least 100 rushing yards, including back-to-back performances of 282 and 271 against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Needless to say, he will be the focal point of Oklahoma State's offensive attack once again, and faces a Sooner defense that has improved defensively, but is still a work in progress under Brent Venables. How the Oklahoma front seven fares against Gordon could be the deciding factor this Saturday, and that may end up coming down to the status of linebacker Danny Stutsman, who is expected to be a game-time decision. It sounds like things are trending in the direction of him playing, which would be a much-needed boost after OU's pronounced defensive struggles in the Kansas loss. Even with Gordon, I do believe the Cowboys will need to generate some form of a passing attack, which is going to fall on the shoulders of veteran QB Alan Bowman. Bowman isn't the same gunslinger we saw back at Texas Tech back in the day, as he's more of an underneath passer nowadays, but that can work for this Oklahoma State team if Gordon is softening things from side to side. The Cowboys don't exactly boast an elite receiver, but they've developed an effective trio in Jaden Bray, Brennan Presley, and Rashod Owens, and Gordon can also make things happen as a pass-catcher. It could be enough to at least keep the Sooners honest, but this Oklahoma pass defense has really taken off in 2023. It feels like they'll be eager to show what they can do in a rivalry game like this.

The chaotic nature of Bedlam always makes it a difficult game to predict, and this year feels particularly tricky. Oklahoma is the much better team top-to-bottom, but they're fresh off a loss, and the Cowboys are one of the hottest teams anywhere in the country, and they get OU in Stillwater. Even so, I'm still going to go with the favorite, and pick the Sooners to come out victorious. Perhaps the Kansas loss was the perfect wakeup call the team needed, and in these types of close games, I always lean on the team with the superior quarterback.

The Pick: Oklahoma, 42 Oklahoma State, 31

Other Picks

(#23) Kansas State Wildcats @ (#7) Texas Longhorns -- No Quinn Ewers and a flaming hot Kansas State team playing their best football of the season? I'm taking the upset, and placing my bets on a Wildcats team that has been a reliable thorn in the side of UT over the years.

The Pick: Kansas State, 28 Texas, 23

(#5) Washington Huskies @ (#20) USC Trojans -- Washington has looked very beatable since the massive Oregon win, but this isn't a Trojan team lighting the world on fire, either. I shudder to think about Michael Penix Jr. is about to do to this soft USC pass defense.

The Pick: Washington, 52 USC, 41

(#15) Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Clemson Tigers -- Could we really see a sub-.500 Clemson team in early November? Getting Notre Dame at home is huge, but there's no reason to feel confident in this Tiger team right now. 

The Pick: Notre Dame, 31 Clemson, 21

Upset: (#19) UCLA Bruins @ Arizona Wildcats -- Arizona is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, and helped me nail my upset pick a week ago. I'll double-dip this Saturday, as they get UCLA at home late at night, perfect grounds for another upset opportunity.

The Pick: Arizona, 38 UCLA, 28

Superdog (covers > 21 point spread): UConn Huskies (+36) @ Tennessee Volunteers -- It's been a rough Year Two for Jim Mora in charge in Storrs, but could they cover this wide spread in Knoxville? You can never be sure what you're getting from the Volunteer offense, so there's a chance.

The Pick: Tennessee, 45 UConn, 10

Lock of the Week: New Mexico State Aggies (-3) vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders -- Jerry Kill continues to do a remarkable job at New Mexico State, as he has the Aggies bowling again in early November. Now, they welcome an overmatched 2-6 Middle Tennessee team to Las Cruces. 

The Pick: New Mexico State, 30 Middle Tennessee, 17

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