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Gridiron Players Club CFB (9/15/23)

CFB (3 Picks)

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12:00PM Est: Wisconsin -19.5 (3 Units)


This is a good get right spot for the Badgers. They haven't played their best football yet this season but they're close. HC Luke Fickell is in his first year with Wisconsin and still putting the pieces together. He did a phenomenal job at Cincinnati, leading them to a College Football Playoff Berth. QB Tanner Mordacai transferred from SMU after leading the Mustangs 6th ranked passing attack.


They lost in Washington State 31-22 last week. They trailed 24-9 at the half and got it to 24-22 before WSU put them away with a late touchdown. They outgained them, had more first downs, even had just 4 penalties for 30 yards. They just had 3 turnovers, one of which was a sack fumble for 6. The Badgers defense only let up 24 points to a good WSU offense and that final touchdown came courtesy of a Badgers fumble at midfield.


Mordacai completed 62.5% of his passes for 278 yards and a TD, no interceptions. The ground game never really got going as they fell behind early but Mellusi ran for 49 yards on 12 attempts. They ran all over Buffalo in week 1, gaining 314 yards on the ground on route to a 38-17 win. A couple costly turnovers made that game closer than it ought to be as well.


We trust Fickell to clean that up, this Wisconsin roster is loaded with talent and they're playing at Home. They played a very good 2nd half of football last week and showed some resilience along the way. We expect that to roll over at home against a lesser opponent.


That Buffalo team they dominated did beat Georgia Southern in last years bowl game. The Eagles defense isn't going to provide much resistance for the Badgers, UAB scored 35 on them last week. Georgia Sothern hasn't run the ball too well, totaling just 118 yards against UAB. 55 of Which came on just 2 of their 23 carries. They're going to struggle if their one dimensional, especially playing on the road in a packed Wisconsin house.


12:00PM Est: Illinois +14.5 (3 Units)


There's just something about Big 10 conference games that always turn out to be a grind. Take a look at this match-up last year, an Illinois win 20-18 in Overtime at Penn State. These of course aren't the same teams but Vegas is expecting another grind with a 48.5 point total. A Total that hasn't budged despite 75% of action coming in on the Over. Some books actually have it at 48 now.


The Fighting Illini didn't look good in week 1. Playing against Toledo it was a much closer game than anticipated but the Rockets are one of the better mid major programs. It was also Luke Altmyer's first career game for Illinois after transferring from Ole Miss. Things don't just gel overnight. They did pull out the win but they proceeded to lose to a good Kansas team at Kansas last week.


Altmyer's dual threat ability is crucial in this one. Through 2 games he's completed 68.5% of his passes for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns, in addition to 22 rushes for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns. This Penn State defense is good and it's an aggressive defense that's coming for the QB. With that they lose rush integrity and lanes open up. We're not talking about pre-designed runs but the ability to take green grass when it presents himself when he drops back to pass. The off-schedule play. Altmyer will need to make those plays with his legs if they're to compete.


Defensively Illinois can get a bit more creative this week. After fielding one of the best defenses in College Football a season ago, they've looked nowhere near as dominant. The All-American DL Johnny Newton has played extremely well but the secondary hasn't held up. They have been conservative with the defensive play-calling through their first two games though.


Toledo starting QB Dequan Finn and Kansas's Jalon Daniels are both excellent runners. They've opted to contain them and haven't been able to bring much pressure. Those two Quarterbacks combined for 31 carries and 99 yards (3.2 YPC). Technically it worked but it left their back end exposed as you can't cover forever.


That changes this week with Penn State's Drew Allar under center. He has 27 carries in his career for 80 yards. Through 2 games this season he has 9 rushes for 28 yards. He's a typical pocket passer which will enable Illinois to dial up the heat. Their defensive coaching staff is plenty good. They did lose their DC last season but their defensive backs coach took over. The Defensive Backs coach that's produced 5 NFL draft picks the past 3 years.


They also brought in Jim Leonard as Senior defensive analyst. He was the Wisconsin DC for years and led some very good Badger defenses. In his last full season as DC in 2021 he led Wisconsin to the 3rd ranked scoring defense in CFB. He took over as Interim HC in 2022 and led the team to a 4-3 record and Bowl Game victory. They were the 24th ranked scoring defense. He played 10 seasons in the NFL as well and was a primary signal caller for the New York Jets dominant defenses of the Rex Ryan era.


This Illinois defense is going to put it together. They did play a strong second half against Kansas last week. They held them to 6 second half points and turned them over twice.


Penn State's Drew Allar hasn't faced much adversity yet either. The Sophmore QB only threw 59 passes in 2022 and he's faced a bad West Virginia team and FCS opponent Delaware at home in 2023. This is his first true road game as a starter. With Penn State as a pre-season darling, a Big 10 Rival, the bad blood after last years upset, the Illini faithful will be fired up.


7:00PM EST: Florida +6 (3 Units)


It's never easy to go into the swamp and pull out a win. It's even harder when your offense lost it's starting QB, top 2 pass catchers, and one of the best OT's to the NFL last year. Joe Milton is in at QB and getting his first taste of starting on the road inside the SEC conference. So far the results have been mixed for TN. Milton's completed 66.7% of his passes for 429 yards and 4 touchdowns but that's come against a bad Virginia team and the FCS's Austin Peay. He's also only added 40 yards rushing on 12 carries. Last week Tennessee scored just 30 points against that FCS opponent.


They attacked the portal to fill the void at wide receiver but for this Air Raid offense, the loss of Tillman and Hyatt are massive. Tillman did miss time with injury last year but Hyatt had 67 catches for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns. He wasn't just College Football fast, he was recorded faster than any other player in NFL history in Giants training camp. You can't replace a guy like him.


The Florida defense looks improved under new DC Austin Armstrong. They played a good Utah team to open the season and allowed 24 points. They only allowed 270 yards of total offense and deserved to put up a lower number. One of Utah's TD drives was extended courtesy of Florida's punt return team. There were two guys with the same number on Florida's punt return so instead of getting the ball, Utah got a first down and eventually scored.


Another TD came courtesy of an interception that set Utah up on the 11 yard line going in. Utah also started the game with a 70 yard touchdown on it's very first play. It was an odd game but Florida's defense looked vastly improved from a season ago. That game was also played in Utah against a very well coached team. They'll have the swamp behind them today against an SEC rival.


Offensively the Gators look much different in 2023 than they did in 2022. With Anthony Richardson off to the NFL they replaced him with Wisconsin transfer QB Graham Mertz. He's a pocket passer that doesn't run very often. That will be an issue at times for Florida but Tennessee has one of the worst defensive lines in the conference. Playing at Home will also allow Mertz to get his guys into the right protection up front. He has plenty of experience, throwing for nearly 6K yards on 834 pass attempts throughout his career.


Tennessee hasn't won in the swamp since 2003. That can end for all we care as long as it's by 5 points or less. These two battled it out last season with TN coming out on top 38-33 in Tennessee last season. That ended a 5 game losing streak for the Volunteers against Florida. Expect another battle today and the Swamp to be rocking.

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