LSU will be exposed by Alabama; Presidential winning streak rolls on – AL.com

Joseph Goodman, the sports columnist for AL.com, and Lee Sterling, a professional college football handicapper, are back for the 11th season of Joe vs. the Pro.

What is Joe vs. the Pro? Consider it a service to society.

What happens when a sportswriter picks some of the toughest games of the week and goes head-to-head against a sharp? So far, the Pro has beaten Joe every year except two. The Pro features his best picks on his website, ParamountSports.com, but he fearlessly picks the most difficult college games of the week against Joe. There’s an old saying around these parts: fade Joe for dough.

WEEK 11 IS UPON US

It’s the Presidential Edition of Joe vs. the Pro, which will be celebrated with red, white and blue bunting draped around Joe’s picks, and also obscure facts about former President Gerald Ford, who played for the Michigan Wolverines back before players did things like sprain their ankles. Fun fact: Like everyone in this country, President Ford hated Ohio State. Fun fact No.2: President Ford once appeared on Saturday Night Live, and played along with Chevy Chase’s gags about him. What a sport. President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend Saturday’s athletic contest between No.2 LSU and No.3 Alabama, but he’s just a sideshow for the Game of the Century. It’s a big game for sure, but will the loser be knocked out the College Football Playoff picture? Maybe not. In fact, Joe can easily envision a scenario where Alabama, LSU and Georgia each have one loss at the end of the season. What then, College Football Playoff committee? We know what President Ford would do if he were in charge. He’d pardon Joe for all his bad picks. Check out last week!

Gerald Ford

Former President Gerald Ford played for the Michigan Wolverines. Like everyone else, he hated Ohio State.

LAST WEEK

Joe: 4-2 straight up, 2-4 against the spread

Pro: 4-2 straight up, 2-4 against the spread

Notes: Joe stopped watching the UAB game after all the first-half turnovers, and started lubricating his senses accordingly. He needs help, people, and he’s not above a little Quid Joe Quo.

OVERALL

Joe: 51-11 straight up, 24-36-2 against the spread

Pro: 51-11 straight up, 30-30-2 against the spread

Notes: The Pro nailed Miami’s upset of Florida State, but no one could have predicted the ‘Noles firing Willie Taggart after the loss. Joe is firing from the hip from here on out. On to the picks!

Jalen Hurts vs. Kansas

AP

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts is back in action this week against Iowa State. Too bad he can’t play defense, too. Wait…can he? (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Iowa State (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) at No.9 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12)

When: 7 p.m., Sat.

Where: Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.

TV: Fox

Series: Oklahoma leads 75-6-2.

Spread: Oklahoma by 14.5.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK: According to OU, Jalen Hurts is one of two players nationally since at least 1996 to average over 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards through the first eight games of a season (the other was Lamar Jackson in 2016 and 2017).

Joe says: It’s the Sooners’ first game since that unexpected loss to Kansas State, which means Oklahoma needs to make a statement here to the College Football Playoff committee. Has OU already missed its chance at the CFP? It’s difficult right now envisioning the Sooners getting in on one loss, but there is still time for chaos. Jalen Hurts will do his part to keep his new team in contention. Did you see a video clip of the sarcastic question someone asked Hurts recently? Clown question, bro. Hurts isn’t the problem on this team. OU’s defense still isn’t where it needs to be. Iowa State has led or been tied in the fourth quarters of all three of its losses this season, so this one could be closer than expected.

Joe’s pick: Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 28

Pro says: Conventional wisdom is to take the Sooners and lay the two touchdowns as they should rebound off that loss in their last game to Kansas State. The problem is Iowa State coach Matt Campbell has had the upper-hand in the two games against Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, winning in Norman two years ago 38-31 as an incredible 31-point underdog, and then covering last season at home as an 18.5-point dog. The Cyclones’ defense is underrated allowing only one FBS opponent to score over 24 points against them. They employ a unique three-safety high defense which I doubt Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts has seen in his career at either Alabama or Oklahoma. Iowa State quarterback threw three interceptions last week and I doubt he has two bad outings in a row. To the wire!

Pro’s pick: Oklahoma 37, Iowa State 30

Baylor vs. Oklahoma State

AP

Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer prepares to throw a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt) AP

No.12 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) at TCU (4-4, 2-3 Big 12)

When: 11 a.m., Sat.

Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

TV: FS1

Series: TCU leads 55-52-7.

Spread: Baylor by 2.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK: Baylor is only the second FBS program since 1937 to start 8-0 within two seasons of going 0-8 to begin a campaign. UCF did it in 2015 and 2017.

Joe says: Baylor’s great turnaround will be put the test in Fort Worth, site of the Horned Frogs’ upset of Texas two weeks ago. TCU lost a close game at Oklahoma State last week, and this is just the second home game for the Texas Toads over an eight-week stretch. Baylor’s defense showed up last week against West Virginia. The Bears held WVU to 219 yards of total offense. In the month of October, Baylor’s defense had 14 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. They have the personnel to limit TCU, who suffered a potential setback last week when freshman quarterback Max Duggan injured the middle finger on his right hand in TCU’s final offensive series of the game.

Joe’s pick: Baylor 35, TCU 24

Pro says: The bottom line is Baylor played scared last week. In their first four possessions they had three possessions where they didn’t even get a first down. I’m hoping they come out more aggressive in this game or they could be in trouble. Bears junior quarterback Charlie Brewer is a true dual-threat quarterback as he’s passed for 14 touchdowns and run for six. He’ll look to atone for his worst game of the season last year. In that 16-9 loss to TCU, it was the only game of the season he didn’t complete 50 percent of his passes. Bears head coach Matt Rhule is also trying to get his first victory in four tries against TCU. Baylor will be focused and stay undefeated.

Pro’s pick: Baylor 24, TCU 20

Penn State vs Iowa

The Penn State Nittany Lion mascot is happy its team is ranked No.4 by the College Football Playoff committee.
Joe Hermitt | jhermitt@pennlive.com

No.4 Penn State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) at No.17 Minnesota (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten)

When: 11 a.m., Sat.

Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.

TV: ABC

Series: Penn State leads 9-5.

Spread: Penn State by 7.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK: Penn State’s rushing defense is allowing an FBS-best 1.99 yards per rush.

Joe says: The defensive stats were too good to keep Penn State out of the initial Top 4 of the College Football Playoff rankings. In addition to that impressive super stat of the week, the defense is allowing 9.6 points per game, which ranks second nationally in scoring defense. The Nittany Lions are ninth in total defense (280.0 yards per game). Minnesota, meanwhile, is just rowing the boat. That’s coach P.J. Fleck’s mantra, and it means “never give up.” The Gophers have scored at least 34 points in each of its last seven games. Minnesota is 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1961. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is excellent. He set a Big Ten record earlier this season against Purdue, completing 94.45 percent of his passes. He was 21-of-22 passing for 396 yards and four touchdowns. I like the Golden Gophers to at least cover here, and maybe even win outright.

Joe’s pick: Minnesota 21, Penn State 18

Pro says: Most people feel the Cinderella season for the Golden Gophers ends on Saturday afternoon. While they haven’t played a tough schedule, they do have the No.13-rated total defense and No.5 pass defense. Minnesota doesn’t have a fancy playbook, or have many well-known players, but coach P.J. Fleck gets the most out of his talent. Underrated sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan has thrown for 18 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. Senior running back Rodney Smith has returned from a knee injury last season, and gained 889 yards averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Minnesota also plays their best ball as an underdog, winning all four of their last four in that role. The Penn State offense isn’t the same as early in the season, averaging just 293 yards per game the last three games. The clock hasn’t struck midnight yet for Cinderella.

Pro’s pick: Minnesota 24, Penn State 23

Mark Stoops

AP

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops didn’t have fun in the rain against Georgia. Will a loss this week to Tennessee wash away those rumors about FSU? (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 in SEC) at Kentucky (4-4, 2-4)

When: 6:30 p.m., Sat.

Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Ky.

TV: SEC Network

Series: Tennessee leads 80-25-9.

Spread: Kentucky by 1.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK: Tennessee sophomore cornerback Bryce Thompson, an FWAA Freshman All-American in 2018, tied the Tennessee school-record with three picks against UAB.

Joe says: This is going to sound crazy, but Tennessee might be the most improved team in the SEC this season. I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I can hear you laughing, but the Vols are only two games away from bowl eligibility, and they’ve won two in a row. Granted those two wins were against South Carolina and UAB, but the Gamecocks did beat Georgia this season and the Blazers are 6-2 and have a quality defense. Tennessee is still a team in flux on offense, but coach Jeremy Pruitt is finally getting some consistency out of his defense. The Vols’ are about to play their best game of the season against Kentucky no matter who starts at quarterback. The Wildcats have a wild card, though. Lynn Bowden, Jr., has moved from receiver to quarterback due to injuries at the position and he has been great at times. Bowden rushed for 204 yards against Missouri last week in a 29-7 ‘Cats victory. This is going to be an excellent game between two teams still showing some fight and guts in November. I like Tennessee’s defense in the fourth quarter.

Joe’s pick: Tennessee 23, Kentucky 20

Pro says: The goals for the Vols have changed in just the last couple weeks from salvaging the season to winning two of the last three games and getting to play in a bowl game. The problem with possibly getting a win in this game is they face a running quarterback for the first time since opening week when Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington ran 14 times for 61 yards and a touchdown. Now they’ll face Kentucky wide receiver turned quarterback Lynn Bowden, Jr., who has run the ball a combined 62 times in the last three games for 499 yards and four touchdowns. Give credit to the Vols for turning things around, but they’re playing a team that is better than them who is coming off of a bye week.

Pro’s pick: Kentucky 24, Tennessee 17

Missouri 34, South Carolina 14

AP

Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant loses the ball after hitting the ground against South Carolina. Bryant’s senior season has been upended by a hamstring injury. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Missouri (5-3, 2-2) at No.6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1)

When: 6 p.m., Sat.

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.

TV: ESPN

Series: Georgia leads 7-1.

Spread: UGA by 17.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK: Georgia went 12 of 18 on third downs against Florida.

Joe says: Georgia can recover from its three-turnover blunder against South Carolina and make the College Football Playoff if it can run the table. The path isn’t easy with Auburn and the SEC West champion still waiting, but it appears like the Dawgs are figuring things out offensively at the right time. Quarterback Jake Fromm is now 3-0 for his career against the Gators, and Georgia is 2-0 against teams currently ranked in the Top 25. This is a trap-game scenario against Missouri, but the Tigers are awful right now. They’ve lost back-to-back games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, which historically is the kiss of death for any coach in the SEC. Mizzou’s offense has struggled in rainy and cold conditions, and it will be chilly on Saturday in Athens. Missouri’s defense has the potential to create some havoc, but don’t expect another shocking loss by Georgia this season.

Joe’s pick: Georgia 35, Missouri 21

Pro says: The Tigers have faced three run-first teams all on the road this season, and gave up 297, 204 and 297 rushing yards to Wyoming, Mississippi and Kentucky, respectively. Georgia is far superior to any of those three opponents. I’m looking for any good news coming out of Columbia, Mo., and can’t find anything. They are 0-4 against the spread on the road this season. If quarterback Kelly Bryant is able to play, then he isn’t close to 100 percent. He is nursing a hamstring injury and those are possibly the easiest injuries to aggravate in a game. Backup quarterback Taylor Powell isn’t ready for this type of challenge. The Bulldogs are back on track after their win over Florida and on a roll.

Pro’s pick: Georgia 38, Missouri 14

Tua Tagovailoa

AP Photo/Richard Shiro

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passes during an SEC game against South Carolina. Tua is a game-time decision against LSU, but all signs point to him playing in the important game.

No.2 LSU (8-0, 4-0) at No.3 Alabama (8-0, 5-0)

When: 2:39 p.m., Sat.

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TV: CBS

Series: Alabama leads 53-25-5.

Spread: Alabama by 6.5.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK: A victory would give Nick Saban 25 wins against teams ranked in Top 10 of the AP Poll, or the most in the history of college football. Bobby Bowden is second in wins (18) against teams ranked in the Top 10. Saban is 24-13 for his career against Top 10 teams for a winning percentage of .649. That’s also a college football record.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK II: Alabama is 2-0 when Presidents of the United States attend games. The first victory came in 1963 (17-0 in the Orange Bowl) with President John F. Kennedy in attendance. The second victory was in the 2017 national championship game with President Donald Trump on hand for the first half.

SUPER STAT OF THE WEEK III: Through eight games played during the 2019 season, Alabama leads the nation in turnover margin, averaging plus-1.63 per game. The Crimson Tide is also tied for fourth in turnovers lost (five), and tied for sixth in turnovers gained (18).

Joe says: It’s finally here, and this time somehow the circus for Alabama and LSU is even bigger than last year. In 2018, the only thing anyone cared about were some stupid billboards about SEC officials peppered throughout Birmingham and James Carville complaining about Greg Sankey. Such innocent times. Now it’s like DEFCON 3 around here with President Donald Trump and all his kinfolk in town. Oh, yeah, there’s a game. That kid named Tua Tagovailoa. His ankle and such. Almost forget about all that amid this madness. Can we just play a football game, please? Everyone is saying all the right things about Tua and his recovery, which of course means he’s playing, right? I’m not sure how healthy he’s going to be, though. If LSU can apply pressure, it could be a tough day for Alabama’s passing game. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow is facing a defense with some flaws. LSU is going to spread Alabama out, and actually score some points this time. Here’s the thing. I’m not sold on LSU. Auburn exposed some things two weeks ago, but just couldn’t kick the door down because that offense is so bad. Alabama will have enough even with a limited quarterback.

Joe’s pick: Alabama 35, LSU 24

Pro says: It seems like both teams were destined to come into this game undefeated. Even the President is attending. That’s how big this game is. While the public thinks of LSU as the better offense, I feel Alabama has the advantage because they possess the better running game. Alabama is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and has more dangerous wide receivers. While Joe Burrow is having a season for the ages, throwing 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions, the Tigers’ running game checks in at only No.76 out of 130 FBS teams. The Crimson Tide defense is also ranked No.2 in pass efficiency with 11 interceptions and is No.1 in the country in turnover margin. If it comes to coaching then Nick Saban has to be worth a field goal over Ed Orgeron. Alabama will continue their mastery over LSU in the biggest game of college football this season.

Pro’s pick: Alabama 37, LSU 27