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Gridiron Players Club (10/21/23)

CFB

(5 Picks)


12:00PM EST: Penn State +4.5 (3 Units)


This Penn State defense is very good. They were one of the best Units in College Football last year and are right back up there again. The Ohio State offense is a shell of what it was last year when CJ Stroud was leading the offense. The biggest change is OSU's inability to run the football. Despite facing just 1 Elite defense (Notre Dame) they're averaging just 4.2 yards per carry against FBS opponents. That ranks 59th in CFB. They were 9th last season averaging 5.4.


Ohio State ran for 126 yards against Notre Dame but 61 of those yards came on 1 carry. Excluding Treveyon's big run OSU averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Treveyon's also banged up and a game time decision today. It makes offense quite difficult when you're 1 dimensional. Penn State also ranks 2nd allowing just 2.1 YPC and 2nd at 67.4 rushing yards allowed per game.


Penn State also boasts an elite pass rush. They average 4.6 sacks per game, 2nd best in CFB and they get it from everywhere. It's a combination of talent and scheme. Starting with Edge Rusher Chop Robinson who will be selected in the first round this year. There are 15 different players that have registered a sack on this Lions roster. That healthy rotation allows them to keep their front fresh and drop in coverage. Often times they're getting pressure with just a 4 man rush, even 3 at times.


Ohio State's going to find themselves in 3rd and long situations if they can't run the football on early downs. That's turnover territory, especially against a strong pass rush. Penn State was tied for 8th averaging 2 takeaways per game last year and they're currently tied at 9th with 2.2 this season.


Penn State may have the best CB in College Football in Kalen King. Toss up between him and Kool-Aid McKinstry from Alabama at the moment. If there's a DB in College Football that can cover Marvin Harrison JR, it's him. And if he can't they'll just double Marvin and he'll be locking down the #2. Penn State's defense matches up very well against this Ohio State offense.


Offensively Penn State needs to take care of the football. Ohio State only ranks 79th in takeaways per game but going into Columbus is a different monster. The Penn State offensive line has done a phenomenal job keeping Drew Allar upright. He's only been sacked 4 times and while OSU has been known for their edge rushers in recent years, they average just 1.6 sacks per game (95th). They didn't register a sack against Notre Dame.


Penn State also runs the ball well behind that talented OL, averaging 203.3 rushing yards per game. It's one of the best Offensive Lines in College Football. Notre Dame did a decent enough job against OSU running for 176 yards on 4.63 yards per carry. Penn State QB Drew Allar is much more mobile than Notre Dame's Sam Hartman too. Not a true runner but he's going to be asked to make some plays with his legs in this game.


Allar has yet to turn the ball over in his College Career. That's over 241 pass attempts and 52 carries. If he can continue that streak Penn State will have a chance to cover this game the entire way.


3:30PM EST: Alabama -8.5 (3 Units)


Alabama has yet to play a real clean 60 minutes but it's coming. Last week they looked ready to pull away after a strong first half against Arkansas but they let them back in the game. If there was 1 game you're getting 125% out of Alabama, it's this one. Tennessee handed Alabama it's first loss last year 52-49 at Neyland stadium. It was like winning the Superbowl for Tennessee, fans stormed the field and madness ensued as they ended a 15 game losing streak to the Tide. Coach, Player, Fanbase, you don't forget that in Alabama.


Now they get a shot for revenge as Tuscaloosa and they'll be ready. These two teams are quite different than they were last year and Bama matches up well. This is one of the best rush defenses in the country going up against a good Vols rushing attack. The deep balls that were there all season long for Tennessee in 2022 just aren't there this year. Joe Milton is not Hendon Hooker and there was no replacing Jaylin Hyatt's speed.


Hooker completed just 11 of 22 passes for 100 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT against Texas A&M last week. That game was played at Home where Tennessee has been significantly better in the Josh Heupel era. Alabama is just as tough defensively as A&M but boasts a better secondary. A secondary that's getting Safety Malachi Moore back this week. He missed last weeks game against Arkansas and was sorely missed. Bama will be able to sell out to stop the run and if the Vols can't run they're in trouble. They certainly won't stop trying to run the football as they did against A&M. They've played on the road just once this season and it was when we cashed on Florida +5.5. They ran for just 100 yards and averaged 3.4 yards per carry that day.


Tennessee's defense has some decent stats but they've had some fortunate scheduling. Their toughest test came in Florida and they allowed 29 points. Florida jumped out to a 26-7 first half lead and took their foot off the gas pedal in the 2nd half. Again, just 1 game on the road so far. Playing defense at Home, especially in the SEC is entirely different then the road. You need a truly Elite defense if you want it to travel.


Alabama's defense is poised to make some game changing plays. They rank 6th nationally averaging 3.7 sacks per game but are tied for 74th with 1.3 takeaways per game. This is a very talented group and one of the best defenses in the country. The takeaways are coming. The Nick Saban defenses of the part are known for those back breaking takeaways that go the other way for points.


This secondary plays fast and downhill. The Tide have had multiple defensive touchdowns in 8 straight seasons heading into this one. Non to mention countless other takeaways that set the offense up to score. They have 1 defensive TD so far this season. Outside of that 1 play against Mississippi State the Tide defense hasn't made another game changing play this season. It's coming and TN QB Joe Milton hasn't shown he can play in the big game or on the road. He lost his job at Michigan years ago for that reason and got smoked in his 1 road game this year.


Of the respectable teams they've played, the TN pass rush has just 3 sacks. 2 Against A&M and 1 against Florida. That's been Alabama's achilles heel on offense thus far. Still they find ways to score. The Jalen Milroe led Alabama offense has yet to score less than 24 points in a game this season and they've played some tough defenses. The offense played very well in the first half last week but went quiet in the 2nd. 2 weeks go it was the other way. With the extra motivation as Alabama looks for revenge, we like them to put a full 60 minutes together.


3:30PM EST: Washington State +20.5 (4 Units)


The sweet story that was Cameron Ward and the Cougars Air Raid offense has cooled off the last 2 weeks. Ward threw for 1,394 yards and 13 touchdowns without an interception through WSU's first 4 games. In his last two, 389, 1 TD, 3 interceptions. It was a tough couple weeks though.


The Cougars went into UCLA 2 weeks ago. The Bruins pass defense has been elite this year and it was Washington State's first true road game. Going into the Rose Bowl stadium is never easy. Especially with a first year offensive coordinator. They could have won that game anyway. They had 4 turnovers, 5 if you include the 4th down stop at UCLA's 40 yard line with just 1:39 to go in the 4th. They lost 25-17 and it was the first hiccup for the offense. Fumbling on the goal-line certainly didn't help.


Then last week they got stymied by an Arizona team that's much better than their 4-3 record suggests. Arizona lost 31-24 to Washington and Penix may have thrown for 363 yards but he didn't have a single touchdown pass. He has 20 in the 5 other games he's played. Arizona also went down to the wire against USC, losing in Triple Overtime. They held future #1 overall pick Caleb Williams to just 219 yards passing and 1 touchdown. That was also in USC. Those are two of the best passing attacks in College Football.


This week Washington State plays an Oregon team coming off an emotional loss. They needed 2 yards with 2 plays to win the game (and our Under) and they couldn't secure the first down. They turned it over on downs and Washington went down the field and took the go ahead score and that was it. Easily Oregon's biggest game of the season and their may be a bit of a hangover. That level of intensity in that rivalry game is hard to match, especially when the following week is against a lesser opponent. I'm sure Dan Lanning will have his boys ready to rebound but that defense has holes.


Penix threw for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns against them. Washington's starting RB Dillon Johnson also ran for 100 yards. Washington State isn't Washington but they can move the football. Offensive Coordinator Ben Arbuckle was the QB Coach for Western Kentucky when they averaged 430 passing yards per game in 2021. Now Patriots QB Bailey Zappe had that Monster Season. He was the OC there last year and WKU ranked 2nd in CFB averaging 357.9 passing yards per game. Austin Reed and that WKU passing offense is lost without him this year.


Obviously much different levels to coach at but he was able to dismantle both Wisconsin and Oregon State's defenses this year. Both more than respectable Units. Getting 20 points against Oregon, he won't need to be perfect. Oregon would have to take a serious lead to totally take the Cougars out of this game. Washington State will be able to score on the Ducks 2nd string should they take a commanding lead and will have backdoor potential. Cougars should be able to hang around against a Ducks pass defense that looks eerily similar to years past. HC Dan Lanning doesn't have the horses over there just yet.


7:00PM EST: Auburn +6.5 (4 Units)


Everyone's ridding this Lane Kiffin train and Ole Miss but going on the road in the SEC is tough. They've played well but nothing special. They've trailed in the 4th quarter in each of their last two wins. Arkansas was up 20-17 in the 4th before Ole Miss took a 24-20 lead and eventually won 27-20 a week ago. They outscored LSU 21-7 in the 4th quarter to win 55-49 a couple weeks back courtesy of a terrible Tigers defense. Other than that they've lost to Alabama in conference play 24-10. That's the SEC, tight ball games and losses to Alabama.


This is one of those "spot" games. Auburn's struggling, starting conference play 0-3. Granted they went into A&M, had Georgia at Home, then got smoked in LSU last week. Death Valley is a tough place to go into at least. However they gave Georgia a run for their money at Home. They lost 27-20 and that was a tie ball game up until 3 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. They ran for 219 yards against the bulldogs and dual threat QB Payton Thorne had a lot to do with that.


Ole Miss really struggled against LSU with QB Jayden Daniel's rushing ability. He ran for 99 yards (114 if you exclude the yardage lost from sacks) on just 15 carries. Auburn had some success running against a very talented A&M front 7 and that was on the road. Georgia couldn't stop Auburn's rushing attack. LSU didn't stop them either, they just took such a commanding lead Auburn had to abandon it. With the Home crowd behind them we have them keeping this game tight.


This is SEC football, you don't just go into someone's house and get a lay down. Auburn's hunting for their first in conference win. They were on a 6 game win streak against Ole Miss before falling to them in Mississippi last year. They're 8-2 head to head last 10 and 8-1-1 ATS too. Never hurts to see the entire country betting Ole Miss either. Auburn has to hear the noise around their program right now and what better way to show out by upsetting the 13th ranked team in the Country. Those boys will be ready.


8:00PM EST: USC -6.5 (4 Units)


Unfortunately for Utah QB Cam Rising hasn't been able to get on the field. They were hopeful at one point to get him back earlier this season but it looks like a wash. More and more likely he redshirts and comes back for next season. Without him this Utes Offense is just plain terrible. They rank 112th in the Nation averaging just 19.8 points per game against FBS opponents. The last time they went on the road they lost to Oregon State 7-21 and scored their lone touchdown on a 41 yard pass with 5 minutes to go in the 4th.


Their defense is very good but it's a tough spot here. USC and the trojans just got embarrassed in Notre Dame last week getting punched in the mouth. Caleb played very poorly for the first time in his career. Under pressure he just made way too many sloppy decisions. He cleaned it up in the 2nd half but by then it was too late. He's not going to make the same mistakes. He was able to course correct halfway through the game last week. The Trojans had 5 turnovers last week, 3 picks and 2 fumbles. It was a pretty thorough ass whooping.


They're going to respond at Home. It's one thing when you lose playing your best ball but it's another when you feel like you didn't give yourself a chance to win. That shit stings as a team and you can't wait to play again. They aren't going to get jumped early or come out flat in this game we can promise you that. Losing to Notre Dame doesn't change much for them. A Pac-12 championship and Playoff berth are still right there if they take care of business.


All things considered their defense actually played quite well last week. Notre Dame only had 251 yards of total offense. ND didn't have to do too much on offense but they were forced to punt 5 times in that game. As stated earlier this Utah offense is atrocious and the Coliseum will be rocking for a Prime Time game against the repeat Pac-12 Champs who have beaten you 3 straight times.


The Common Denominator in those 3 losses was QB Cam Rising though. He threw for over 300 yards in 2 of the 3 wins and over 400 in the other. USC's scored at least 24 points against the Utes defense in each of those games. USC is going to find ways to score and without Rising Utah just doesn't have the offensive firepower to keep up. If USC gets ahead early, this one can get real ugly real fast.

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