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Georgia-Alabama headlines this week’s college football picks

All eyes will be on Tuscaloosa on Saturday night when the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide battle in college football’s biggest game so far this year.

Alabama vs Ole Miss Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 3-4

Season ATS: 20-14

Last week MC&J came back down to earth a little bit, but it was really close to being another winning week. Florida was in control of Texas A&M but fell apart late. Texas should have gone for two either at the end of regulation when they scored or in one of the first couple overtimes. Notre Dame was down to the two-yard-line with less than two minutes to go before turning the ball over on downs. The only game where it was truly a big miss was the Clemson-Miami game.

This week’s picks has had to go through a bit of a makeover. Had it not been for postponements, Cincinnati-Tulsa and LSU-Florida would be a part of this week’s picks. 2020 just can’t refuses to take a week off from being awful.

No. 15 Auburn (-3.5) v. South Carolina - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN

Was Auburn ranked higher than they likely would have been to start the season had their not been a pandemic? Probably. The Tigers opened up the season ranked eighth in the country, but they certainly haven’t looked like a top-10 team. Auburn did open up the season with a win before getting throttled by Georgia in Athens. The Tigers then barely escaped Arkansas with a win last week.

South Carolina’s defense has been greatly improved this year, ranking third in the conference after finishing 12th last year. What has been critical for the Gamecocks is getting off the field on third down. Add in the Colin Hill to Shi Smith connection on the offensive side of the football, and the Gamecocks could pull a few upsets this year.

This will be one of those upsets for South Carolina. Auburn doesn’t impress me as much as Tennessee and Florida on offense, so I think the Gamecocks could cause some problems for the Tigers by getting a lot of heat on Bo Nix. Gus Malzahn’s team isn’t playing well enough for me to back them right now, and certainly not when they are giving points on the road.

South Carolina 27, Auburn 24

Kentucky v. No. 18 Tennessee (-6) - 12:00 PM EST - SEC Network

Tennessee always has to be happy whenever it turns to Kentucky week. The Volunteers have dominated the Wildcats for nearly four decades, winning 33 of the last 35 meetings with Kentucky, including the last 17 in Knoxville. This year’s meeting with the Wildcats is especially need after the Volunteers were clubbed by Georgia last Saturday, 44-21. At least Jeremy Pruitt can take a little solace in the fact that Tennessee actually led the Bulldogs at halftime before falling apart in the second half.

Kentucky has put up some big rushing stats in their first two games of the year, but a lot of that is because they rushed for over 400 yards against Ole Miss, and we’ve seen just how awful the Ole Miss defense is. Quarterback Terry Wilson is a dual-threat quarterback, so he has the ability to keep the Tennessee defense on their toes. Wilson might have do a little more through the air this week, as the Volunteers have been pretty stout against the run.

If Kentucky can force turnovers this week like they did against Mississippi State last week, they have a chance at an outright upset. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, I don’t see them picking off Jarrett Guarantano six times. Tennessee is a more complete team right now and they continue their dominance over the Wildcats.

Tennessee 31, Kentucky 20

Louisville v. No. 4 Notre Dame (-17) - 2:30 PM EST - NBC

Louisville should really be better than 1-3 right now. The Cardinals have some playmakers on offense. Javian Hawkins has rushed for 468 yards and three touchdowns this year, already eclipsing 150 yards on the ground in two games this season, while Micale Cunningham has tossed nine touchdowns. The problem is the defense of the Cardinals has been awful, failing to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The Fighting Irish has certainly enjoyed some home cookin’ to start the season, with Saturday’s contest being their fourth straight game at Notre Dame Stadium. Brian Kelly’s team hasn’t really been tested this year, and it’s hard to see that changing this week. Maybe we see Ian Book breakout since he’ll probably have all the time in the world to throw the football. Even if Book doesn’t put up big numbers, at least he can rely on freshman running back Kylen Williams, who ran for 185 yards and two scores last week against Florida State.

With two straight road games to follow this week’s contest, expect Notre Dame to want to finish their home stand with a dominating performance. I’d say 17 points is a lot to be laying here, but look at what Georgia Tech was able to do against Louisville last week. The Fighting Irish are a much better team than the Yellow Jackets. If this is a close game, it’s because Notre Dame made some mistakes to keep Louisville in the game.

Notre Dame 45, Louisville 24

UCF (-3) v. Memphis - 3:30 PM EST - ABC

Memphis always has to cringe when they see UCF on the schedule. The Golden Knights have won 13 straight against the Tigers, with the only Memphis win over UCF coming all the way back in 1990. This will be the first meeting between the schools since 2018, when UCF swept both games.

No matter the outcome, this should be an entertaining game to watch. The quarterback battle between Dillon Gabriel and Brady White is going to be *chef kiss*. In five games this season, the two quarterbacks have combined to throw 16 touchdown passes. Passing isn’t all these offenses can do, as UCF is averaging 197 yards on the ground, while Memphis is averaging 213 yards rushing per game.

At some point Memphis has to snap their losing streak to UCF, right? This seems like the best year to end the dominance of the Golden Knights. Both teams have had a bye week to chew on a loss to start the month, so expect to see some crisp play. I’ll take the slight underdog at home.

Memphis 38, UCF 35

No. 11 Texas A&M (-4.5) v. Mississippi State - 4:00 PM EST - ESPN

Welcome to the SEC, Mike Leach. After everything looked great in Mississippi State’s season-opening win over LSU, the Bulldogs have really stepped in it their last two games, losing to Arkansas and Kentucky. For as good as K.J. Costello looked against LSU, he has looked just as bad over the last two games. The Stanford transfer quarterback already has thrown nine interceptions this season.

One quarterback who isn’t struggling is Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. The senior had one of the best performances of his career last week, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the upset win over Florida. Along with Mond, the Aggies also have running back Isaiah Spiller to lean on. Spiller rushed for 174 yards against the Gators, leading a rushing attack this is averaging 167 yards per game.

This feels like a trap game, and it looks like I’m dumb enough to fall into the trap. Right now it’s hard to trust Mississippi State. We knew there were going to be growing pains for Mike Leach in Starkville, but I don’t know if we expected it to be this rough. If Mond, Spiller, and the rest of the Aggies can put together some long drives, it’s going to be hard for the Bulldogs to get into the rhythm that is necessary to successful run Leach’s offense.

Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 24

No. 5 North Carolina (-13.5) v. Florida State - 7:30 PM EST - ABC

Even though these two teams are in the same conference, they don’t play each other that much. Since 2000, the Tar Heels and Seminoles have only met eight times, with North Carolina winning the last two meetings by a score of 37-35. The most recent of those meetings came in 2016 in Tallahassee.

After struggling in their first two games of the season, North Carolina put together a strong performance on Saturday against a short-handed Virginia Tech team last week, defeating the Hokies 56-45. Quarterback Sam Howell threw for three touchdowns, while Michael Carter rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia Tech. There is a little concern with the Tar Heels allowing 45 points, but I’m not sure Florida State has the weapons to take advantage of any defensive issues North Carolina might have.

How is Florida State going to be able to keep pace with North Carolina in this one? I just can’t see it happening. Jordan Travis wasn’t terrible against Notre Dame last week, but it’s not the type of performance that is going to keep the Seminoles within shouting distance of North Carolina. The Tar Heels build off last week’s performance, continuing to gain momentum ahead of showdowns later in the season against Notre Dame and Miami.

North Carolina 44, Florida State 21

No. 3 Georgia v. No. 2 Alabama (-4.5) - 8:00 PM EST - CBS

The biggest game of the college football season so far was thrown for a loop earlier this week when it was announced that Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19. I’m sure Alabama is trying to figure out a way to allow for Saban to coach in this game. Alabama should just get one of those hamster bubbles and let Saban run up and down the sidelines in it.

Now the question is, who did Kirby Smart send to Tuscaloosa to infect Saban? It sounds crazy, but you know what they say about SEC football.....It just means more. Georgia shook off a terrible first half in the season-opener against Arkansas, and has been dominant since Stetson Bennett started taking snaps at quarterback. So far this year, Bennett has attempted 84 passes and hasn’t thrown an interception yet. That streak could come to an end on Saturday night, though. Even though Alabama has had defensive issues this year, their defensive unit still has loads of talent.

For as bad as Alabama’s defense has been this year, Georgia’s has been that good. It’ll be interesting to see what gives first. Alabama’s offense or Georgia’s defense. Najee Harris has already rushed for 10 touchdowns this year, but he’ll be going up against a Bulldog rush defense that is allowing less than 40 yards per game.

This game is going to come down to the quarterbacks and who doesn’t make the big mistake. For as well as Bennett has played this year, I’m still not sold on him. On the other hand, Mac Jones hasn’t missed a beat in replacing Tua Tagovailoa. The Crimson Tide win one for SabanBot2000 on Saturday night, earning their sixth straight win over the Bulldogs.

Alabama 31, Georgia 21