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Which pigskin to pick

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

If you know about our Pigskin Picks that we do every week in the Hartselle Enquirer during football season then you know that everybody wants to win the prize that IS given each week to the winner of the picks. So, lets break down the games and see which teams you should pick to give you the best chance of winning. The first game will be the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. the Wisconsin Badgers in Dallas, Texas. Usually this would be a no brainer pick as most would pick Alabama, but there are a few hiccups this time that might make you rethink this one a little bit. Alabama will have to replace nine starters on their offense including leading receiver Amari Cooper who accounted for 124 catches for 1,727 yards last season which was over 60% of the Tide’s receiving yards. The Tide will also have to start a new quarterback that still has yet to be decided as the competition is still a three-way race right now between Jacob Coker, Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris. However, the Tide will return two stud running backs in Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake who both look to have increased roles with the departure of T.J. Yeldon. Wisconsin will have a few bumps as well as they will be breaking in a new head coach as well as having to replace Heisman runner up Melvin Gordon. The Badgers will return quarterback Joel Stave and running back Corey Clement who accounted for over 1,000 yards last season as Gordon’s backup. Both teams will feature stout defenses with Alabama’s front seven being arguably the best in the country so look for this game to be a low scoring slugfest. Alabama should take the win without too much trouble but don’t be surprised if the Badgers put some pressure on the young Tide team especially early on. The Auburn Tigers will also be in a tough battle as they battle Bobby Petrino’s Louisville Cardinals in Atlanta. Auburn will have to replace quarterback Nic Marshall and last year’s SEC leading rusher Cameron Artis-Payne. However, that should not be a problem as Jeremy Johnson, who is already receiving Heisman talk, will take over Auburn’s high-powered offense and he will still have the Tiger’s leading receiver from last season Duke Williams to throw too. Auburn will go with a running back by committee look early on as they look to decide who will be the top back between Roc Thomas, Peyton Barber, and Jovon Robinson. Will Muschamp’s new defense will be put to the test early as they go against offensive guru Bobby Petrino. Petrino has kept his quarterback situation a secret, as it could be either pro style guy Will Gardner or dual threat option Reggie Bonnafon. Auburn’s defense should be improved but not fixed. Louisville’s problem will be trying to keep up with Auburn’s offense. Look for this game to be a high scoring shootout.

Another SEC west team will have a tough battle Saturday, as the Texas A&M Aggies will play the Arizona State Sun Devils in Houston. A&M, much like Auburn, comes in with a high scoring offense and a poor defense. The difference though is A&M’s run game. Last season the Aggies lack of run game put a lot of pressure on freshmen, quarterback Kyle Allen to deliver with his arm. Allen will still have 3 of the country’s best receivers to throw too including Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil but the Aggies will still need to get a running game going to balance their already high octane offense. John Chavis is surely the man for the job to fix the Aggies very poor defense but it will not be an overnight fix. Todd Graham’s Sun Devils will have to replace Jaelen Strong at receiver but they will return almost every key player on offense. The Sun Devils come in with a mountain of hype as College Gameday analyst Kirk Herbstreit picked them to make it to the college football playoff. The Sun Devils are the favorite but they will have to adjust to playing a foe out of the SEC. This game will be a high scoring shootout as well that could go either way. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to get back on track this season after stumbling in the last half of the season last year. The Irish will be one of the most experienced teams in the country as they return playmakers on both sides of the ball including Will Fuller and Corey Robinson on offense along with Sheldon Day and Jaylon Smith on defense. The Texas Longhorns should be much improved in year two of the Charlie Strong era but they probably wont be able to withstand the Irish just yet especially with the game being in South Bend which is the home of the Irish. The Longhorns should put up a strong fight early but look for the Irish to take the lead comfortably going into the fourth quarter.

Last but not least, the defending national champions the Ohio State Buckeyes will travel to Blacksburg to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. This game could be the toughest on the Buckeyes regular season schedule due to the circumstances. The champs come in with four starters suspended including stand out defensive end Joey Bosa and three starting wide receivers. To make matters worse wide receiver Noah Brown broke his leg last week and is out for the season. So, the Buckeyes will come in without four of their top five receivers. Whoever lines up at quarterback, whether its JT Barrett or Cardale Jones, will have a tough task going up against one of football’s best defensive minds in Bud Foster with a crippled offense. Luckily, the Buckeyes will still have Heisman contender Ezekial Elliot to hand the ball to. It may sound crazy to say that Virginia Tech could beat Ohio state, but the Hokies were the only one to beat the champs last season and they did it at Ohio State. This time they have them at home. However, Ohio State has a very underrated defense and the Hokies were a very hot and cold team on offense last year so the Buckeyes will look to take advantage of that. The Buckeyes should manage to pull out the win based on their overall talent but don’t be surprised if the Hokies shock the handicapped Buckeyes and the world on Labor Day night. Final predictions: Alabama over Wisconsin 28-14, Auburn over Louisville 42-35, Texas A&M over Arizona State 45-42, Notre Dame over Texas 31-14, and Ohio State over Virginia Tech 28-21.