Tailgate Pick ‘Em Week 7 College Football Predictions Including Utah-USC

Although there aren’t ranked matchups in our pick ’em contest this week, there are still some intriguing games that John Bava, Mike Loveall, Yesh Ginsburg, Steen Kirby, and Brett Margolies will take you through. Big 12 leaders TCU travel to Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas renew their Red River Rivalry, SEC West bluebloods LSU and Auburn square off, USC takes on Utah, and surprise ACC standouts Miami and Georgia Tech clash.

#6 TCU at Kansas State (Saturday at 12:00 in Manhattan, KS)
Line: TCU by 6

Steen: TCU has a solid offense and thus things look good against a tough but not explosive Wildcats team. Kansas State will hang tough in this one, but TCU has proven themselves as legitimate contenders this season. TCU 28, Kansas State 17

John: TCU has suddenly emerged as the Big 12’s best hope to make the CFP. Combined with wins against Arkansas and Oklahoma State along with Oklahoma’s shock defeat to Iowa State last week, the Horned Frogs find themselves as the highest ranked team in the conference. This week, they face a Kansas State team that began the nation in the top 25 but is now unranked.

Against the Wildcats, TCU needs to establish the run on offense and limit it on the other side of the ball. That shouldn’t be much of a problem with Darius Anderson currently fourth in the conference in rushing yards and the Horned Frogs defense ranked 15th nationally against the run. But K-State has some weapons themselves in dual threat quarterback Jesse Ertz and running back Alex Barnes.

K-State actually won big on the road when these two teams played last year, so an improved Horned Frogs team might be out for revenge. TCU 34, Kansas State 20

Mike: Raise your hand if you had TCU in the Big 12 driver’s seat at Week 7. <Crickets>. Well, here they are, in first place in the Big 12, getting consistent play from Kenny Hill at quarterback, and a typically sound Gary Patterson defense. And they still find themselves as only a slight favorite against Kansas State. The Wildcats have losses against Vanderbilt and Texas this season. Now, neither of those teams are bad per se, but neither of those teams have an offense in the same zip code as the Horned Frogs. I’ve taken the road team for every game this weekend, might as well add TCU to that list. TCU 38, Kansas State 24

Brett: Kenny Hill and TCU have now won back to back games over top 25 teams. They seem to be legitimate contenders to reach the CFB playoff and will once again be tested on the road at Kansas State. They gave up 40 points to Texas which doesn’t make me think they have much of a chance to slow down TCU and their high powered offense. TCU 35, Kansas State 17

Yesh: This line feels really weird. One the one hand, TCU just has way more talent, especially at the skill positions. On the other hand, this is one of Bill Snyder’s best teams in a while, and you have to figure that it will rise up to bite someone this year. I just don’t think it will be TCU. TCU 31, Kansas State 17

#10 Auburn at LSU (Saturday at 3:30 in Baton Rouge, LA)
Line: Auburn by 7

Steen: This game won’t be close, LSU is poor this season and Auburn is (probably) better than advertised. The Auburn rushing attack should rack up yards and LSU simply can’t get their offense going again this season. Auburn has one of the best defenses in the nation. Auburn 35, LSU 10

John: It’s difficult to gauge where Auburn stands in the grand scheme of the SEC title picture. Yes, they played defending national champion Clemson fairly close and are unbeaten in conference play. But those wins came against Missouri, Ole Miss and Mississippi State who are a combined 1-7 in SEC games.

LSU is likewise an enigma. The Tigers suffered an embarrassing loss at home to Troy only to go into “The Swamp” and upend Florida a week later. They come into Saturday’s all-Tiger tussle boasting an eight-game home win streak against Auburn dating back to 1999. So intrigue abounds heading into this SEC West showdown. In the end, Auburn has just too many weapons on offense for LSU to contain. Auburn 27, LSU 24

Mike: With all due respect to Troy, if the Trojans can come into Death Valley on a Saturday night and beat the Tigers, then Auburn should do some serious damage on Saturday afternoon. Auburn has probably the best loss of any one-loss team in the nation, and their offense seems to be getting in rhythm. Meanwhile, LSU is in a freefall after embarrassing losses to Mississippi State and Troy and a boinked extra point save against a Florida team that has more suspended players than offensive touchdowns this season. Auburn, big. Auburn 42, LSU 13

Brett: After LSU lost to Troy it seemed as if the sky was falling in Baton Rouge, but after their win in Gainesville on Saturday things might’ve calmed down just a little bit as Auburn comes to town. Auburn hasn’t won in Baton Rouge since 1999 and if there was ever a time to break the streak it would be now. After losing to Clemson, Jarrett Stidham has responded well but going in to Death Valley might give him issues again. I think LSU carry’s the momentum from last week and upsets Auburn at home. LSU 27, Auburn 24

Yesh: LSU has been horrendous on offense and the defense has been porous this year. Beating Florida was doable because the Gators have no semblance of offense, so they couldn’t capitalize on LSU’s weakness. Auburn can. Auburn 41, LSU 7

Georgia Tech at #11 Miami (Saturday at 3:30 in Miami, FL)
Line: Miami by 6

Steen: Miami is a solid team but it’s never easy to face the option rush attack and Georgia Tech has looked lethal with their ground game this season. The Miami offense can compete, but I’m not sure the Miami defense can slow down the Yellow Jackets. Look for an upset in this one. Georgia Tech 31, Miami 24

John: Ten seasons into Paul Johnson’s tenure as Georgia Tech head coach, his vaunted triple option is as potent as ever. The Yellow Jackets trail only Navy in rushing offense, averaging 396 yards on the ground per game. Quarterback Taquon Marshall leads the ACC in rush yards and only three players in the nation have more rushing touchdowns than his nine.

In order for Miami to avoid the upset, they have to play gap and assignment disciplined football on defense. They also need balance on the other side of the ball. Mark Walton leads the ACC in yards per carry among running backs with a minimum of 50 carries. And quarterback Malik Rosier’s 11/3 touchdown to interception ratio is respectable. But GT defends the pass really well and the Canes are a tad suspect in run defense. That could be a perfect recipe for an upset. Georgia Tech 31, Miami 28

Mike: Miami is winning people over after their 4-0 start and last week’s win against Florida State. Georgia Tech dropped an opening weekend game against Tennessee and hasn’t drawn much attention since then. But I like Georgia Tech in this game. I think Miami’s success this season is somewhat hollow – FSU and Duke aren’t as good of a win as the seem. Additionally, look for Miami to struggle to match last week’s emotional intensity. Combine that with the soul-crushing triple option offense, and it’s a lethal combination. Is this the week that Miami fans feel the pain of Mark Richt? Georgia Tech, their fourth quarter melt-down of Tennessee notwithstanding, is a quality team that can compete for the Division Title. They make a statement this week. Georgia Tech 31, Miami 30

Brett: In previous years, Miami’s season would fall apart after FSU losses. This year they’ll try and carry the momentum after defeating the noles for the first time since 2009. Miami generally plays well against Georgia Tech and the triple option including two straight double digit wins. Losing Mark Walton might be a big problem for the hurricanes though, I like Georgia Tech’s chances to pull off the upset in Miami. Georgia Tech 31, Miami 21

Yesh: Miami’s offense might be a little one-dimensional while adjusting to the loss of Mark Walton. Georgia Tech has one of its best offenses ever under Paul Johnson, and is flying way too low under the radar right now. That will change this weekend. Georgia Tech 38, Miami 31

#12 Oklahoma vs. Texas (Saturday at 3:30 P.M. in Dallas, TX)
Line: Oklahoma by 7.5

Steen: Oklahoma has had a bad two weeks after a strong start to the season. Texas will be primed and ready to make a real push in this one, but this is still a somewhat flawed Longhorns team. Texas can win this, but Oklahoma should break down their defense often enough to escape with a victory. Oklahoma 35, Texas 28

John: For the first time since 1947, Oklahoma and Texas face off in the Red River Rivalry with with first-year head coaches on opposite sidelines. Both the Sooners’ Lincoln Riley and the Longhorns’ Tom Herman are hoping to get off to a good start in this storied series which dates back to 1903. Texas owns more wins overall but Oklahoma has won six of the last eight.

The Sooners are looking to avoid a hangover after a hugely surprising loss at home to Iowa State. Baker Mayfield certainly wasn’t at fault. He remains FBS’ most efficient passer and is one of three who’ve thrown for over 1,000 yards without an interception. That number might get challenged against the Longhorns who lead the Big 12 with eight picks. Still, Mayfield is too good to allow Oklahoma to lose consecutive regular season games for the first time since 1999. Oklahoma 45, Texas 27

Mike: These are two teams that can’t be trusted. Oklahoma looked like a legitimate title contender in taking down Ohio State, and then ends up almost losing to Baylor in Week 4 and dropping a game to Iowa State last week. Texas, meanwhile, lost to Maryland in Week 1, then took USC to overtime, and then won in overtime against Kansas State last week. The talent and numbers are with Oklahoma, but there seems to be some mental lapses with the Sooners. And the Red River Rivalry is always entertaining. I think this a “buck the trend game.” I think Baker Mayfield’s mobility makes the difference here. Oklahoma 35, Texas 24

Brett: It’ll be interesting to see how Oklahoma responds after the upset loss to Iowa State. Going in to the Red River Rivalry it’s typically a game where you can throw the records away as both teams desperately want to beat each other. Each team having first year head coaches creates an interesting dynamic, but I think Oklahoma led by Baker Mayfield has a little more experience, and will win a close one. Oklahoma 35, Texas 31

Yesh: Oklahoma is incredibly talented, but they are playing some unmotivated football, especially on defense. Baker Mayfield does incredible things while scrambling, but he can’t beat an entire team by himself. Tom Herman has a history of getting his teams up for the biggest of games, and he’ll show that again here. Give me the Red River upset. Texas 35, Oklahoma 31

Utah at #13 USC (Saturday at 8:00 P.M. in Los Angeles, CA)
Line: USC by 12.5

Steen: I don’t doubt USC’s talent but I do doubt their consistency, especially on offense. The Trojans could win the national title, but they seem to be lacking an “it” factor despite a strong running game and NFL caliber QB. Utah isn’t the most exciting team but they have solid chemistry and generate a lot of turnovers. USC’s offense will cough it up too much and an upset is in the cards. Utah 27, USC 20

John: Saturday’s looming battle at the LA Memorial Coliseum pits two teams with dynamic defenses that force a bunch of turnovers. Both are tied for sixth best in FBS with nine interceptions and have combined for a total of 29 turnovers as a whole. Players to watch on that side of the ball include Trojan’s corner Jack Jones, one of eight players in the nation with at least four picks.

On offense, the big name to keep an eye on is obviously USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Heralded as a Heisman frontrunner heading into the season, things haven’t quite gone to plan. Darnold’s 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions is a major concern, and he currently ranks 46th nationally in passing efficiency. Though he could have issues in this game, Utah has too many questions on offense to mount an effective upset bid. USC 34, Utah 17

Mike: Look for Utah to focus on shutting down USC’s rushing attack and force Sam Darnold to win the game. USC 2017 seems to be the opposite of USC 2016: Instead of getting better as the season progresses, they’ve been regression since that impressive win against Stanford in Week 2. This will also be USC’s seventh straight week of games; fatigue could be setting in. While Utah dropped the game against Stanford last week, Kyle Willingham is still one of the better coaches in the game. Look for the Utes to be ready to shine under the glitzy L.A. lights. They may not win, but it should be closer than double digits. USC 24, Utah 17

Brett: It seems like Sam Darnold and USC are playing in big games every week. This will be no different as whoever wins will have the upper hand in the Pac 12 south and play in the conference championship. This just doesn’t bode well for Utah, going to USC after losing a home game to Stanford. This has the potential to get ugly, look for the USC to put up points once again in a win. USC 38, Utah 17

Yesh: USC has looked a bit listless all season, really (except against Stanford), which could spell trouble against the Utes. USC has more talent, but Utah has been the far more consistent team this season. If Sam Darnold turns the ball over–he has thrown at least one interception every game this season–the Utes will make him pay. Utah 31, USC 30

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