#3 Alabama (-9) at #6 Tennessee Saturday, October 15th 2:30 pm CBS
For the second time this season, Gameday will travel to Knoxville, this time for a top-10 matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Volunteers. Alabama has been without Heisman winner Bryce Young for the last game and a half due to injury and have had to turn to Jalen Milroe. The offense is not nearly as explosive with Milroe at the helm and the fact that Vegas has Alabama as 9 point favorites suggests that they believe Young will play on Saturday. Young playing is obviously very important to Alabama’s chances at winning this game especially since they are facing a very explosive Tennessee offense led by Hendon Hooker. The passing attack for the Crimson Tide needs Young to make plays happen as the wide receiver corps for Bama is not nearly as strong as it has been in years past. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs is arguably the most dynamic receiving threat for Alabama with 22 receptions for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. Gibbs catches passes out of the backfield, lines up as a true wide receiver for some snaps and is electric with the ball in his hands. Gibbs is the leading rusher for the Tide as well with 64 carries for 532 yards and 2 touchdowns. He and fellow running back Jase McClellan make up a very scary rushing attack that could be used to keep the ball away from the Tennessee offense on Saturday. With Young coming back from injury and probably not being 100% yet, look for Jalen Milroe to see a few designed quarterback runs or zone reads on short yardage situations. Milroe is a dynamic ball carrier in his own right and is averaging a staggering 8.4 yards per carry this season. The defense for Alabama will face a very tough task in slowing down one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The key for Alabama on Saturday will be to win on early downs. This will set up obvious passing scenarios for the Tennessee offense where the pass rush for Alabama can pin its ears back and get after Hendon Hooker. Will Anderson and Dallas Turner make up a terrifying pass rush that has the ability to cause major problems for the Volunteers.
The quarterback tasked with avoiding this pass rush and keeping up with Bryce Young is Hendon Hooker. Hooker is having an excellent season in 2022 and has firmly planted himself in the Heisman conversation with over 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns to no interceptions. Hooker has a completion percentage of 70% and has been explosive as well as efficient passing the ball. He will be without top target Cedric Tillman for the third straight game due to an ankle injury suffered in a game agaisnt Akron. Jaylin Hyatt and Bru McCoy have stepped up in Tillman’s absence as Hooker still has a plethora of weapons at his disposal. Hyatt has seen a high target share with a team leading 27 receptions for 388 yards and 5 touchdowns. McCoy has seen a higher dosage of targets in the last few weeks with over 100 yards receiving in each of the past two games. The Tennessee passing attack has been excellent regardless of who is catching passes as Hooker is averaging 286 yards per game through the air. The ground game has been solid for the Volunteers with two very capable running backs in Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small. Wright has 315 yards and 4 touchdowns on 67 attempts and Small has 311 yards and 6 touchdowns on 66 attempts. Hooker is a threat on the ground too as he is averaging over 5 yards per carry and totaling 231 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. The Volunteer defense could struggle agaisnt the Crimson Tide on Saturday and the offense will need to find success against a very talented defense. I think this will be a very close game especially considering how loud Neyland Stadium is going to be.
My pick: Alabama wins (-335) Tennessee covers (+9) Full game over (66)
#10 Penn State at #5 Michigan (-7) Saturday, October 15th 11:00 am Fox
JJ McCarthy and the Wolverines faces off against Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lions in a meeting between top 10, undefeated Big-10 teams. Both teams have had very easy schedules up to this point in the season as neither team has a win over a current top 25 team this season. Both teams have taken care of business against those easier schedules with the only close game between the two teams being a 4 point win by Penn State at Purdue. Michigan is coming off of its first ever college football playoff appearance last year and are looking to defend their Big 10 crown. Jim Harbaugh finally settled on a quarterback, going with JJ McCarthy over last years starter Cade McNamara. McCarthy provides the Wolverines with a higher upside at the quarterback position and the decision to start him over McNamara could have been partially in response to the blow out loss to Georgia in the playoff and the recognition by Harbaugh of the need to take a significant step forward in the passing game. Sean Clifford leads the offense for Penn State and he is off to a decent start to the season with just over 1000 yards passing and 9 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. Both defenses have been excellent to start the year, both letting up under 15 points per game. I think Michigan is the better overall team and that they win by two scores on Saturday at home.
My pick: Michigan wins (-285) Michigan covers (-7) Full game under (49)
Other Top Games:
#7 USC at #20 Utah (-3.5) Saturday, October 15th 7:00 pm Fox
The Trojans face their first big test under Lincoln Riley with a trip to face Cam Rising and the Utes in Salt Lake City. USC has had a fairly easy schedule so far but has struggled at times putting teams away with a one score win over Oregon State and the Arizona State and Washington State games being closer than they probably should have been. Utah, on the other hand, lost their second game of the season last week to a very physical UCLA team. Caleb Williams will face a tough task going up against a tough Utah defense that has held opponents to under 20 points per game this season.
#15 NC State at #18 Syracuse (-3) Saturday, October 15th 2:30 ACCN
Devin Leary and the Wolfpack travel to the Carrier Dome to face Sean Tucker and Syracuse. Syracuse is off to a 5-0 start this season after a few thrilling victories including wins over Virginia and Purdue. The combined margin of victory from those two games is 5 points and this game projects to be another tight one with NC State sitting at 5-1 with their only loss coming at Clemson.
#16 Mississippi State (-4) at #22 Kentucky Saturday, October 15th 6:30 SECN
Mike Leach and the Bulldogs are set to take on Mark Stoops’s Wildcats in Lexington Saturday night in a matchup between two very prolific quarterbacks. Will Rogers is having a great season with over 2000 yards and 22 touchdowns to just 3 interceptiosn this season. Will Levis is also having a strong 2022 with over 1400 yards and 12 touchdowns to 4 interceptions this season.