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Mark Edwards' picks: While Auburn, JSU face tough competition, Tide should roll

JSU teaser

JSU cheerleaders runs with flags during a Gamecock football game. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Alabama, Auburn and Jacksonville State face important conference games Saturday, and all three are favored.

Auburn and JSU aren’t facing easy games. The Alabama/Ole Miss game, on the other hand, probably will get out of hand.

Let’s get to the picks:

Mississippi State (3-1) at No. 7 Auburn (4-0): We keep hearing about how Bo Nix is a “concern” and that he needs to develop more “consistency,” but for now, he’s consistently winning. Certainly, he’ll get better. Anyway, he’s not bad at all at the moment — he’s winning games.

It helps to have a defense that has allowed only seven touchdowns in four games. … Auburn 26, Mississippi State 14.

Ole Miss (2-2) at No. 2 Alabama (4-0): So far, Alabama appears to have solved its biggest problem from a year ago — turnover margin.

The Crimson Tide has forced eight more than it has given up this year, which ranks second nationally. Boston College, with plus-9 in four games, is the only team doing better.

Alabama has recovered five fumbles, intercepted five passes, lost one fumble and thrown one interception (by backup Mac Jones late in a game).

Ole Miss is plus-2 and ranks 31st in the country. ... Alabama 49, Ole Miss 10.

Jacksonville State (3-1) at Austin Peay (2-2): This won’t be an easy one for JSU and its offense, which has been dependable the last three games.

Austin Peay is ranked first in the league in total defense and against the run. The Govs have allowed 10 touchdowns in four games, while JSU has scored 17 in the last three.

If nothing else, the Gamecocks have a big edge at quarterback, as Zerrick Cooper ranks first in the league in passing efficiency while Austin Peay’s JaVaughn Craig is 10th.

Craig trails the starting quarterback from seven of the other eight OVC teams and two of the backups. Only Eastern Illinois (Johnathan Brantley) has a starting quarterback who ranks behind Craig. ... Jacksonville State 31, Austin Peay 24.

No. 5 Ohio State (4-0) at Nebraska (3-1): This is another of those “at one time ...” games. At one time, this matchup would’ve been at home in the national title game. Nebraska hasn’t finished a season in the Associated Press Top 25 since 2012 and hasn’t finished in the top 10 since back-to-back No. 8 finishes in 2000 and ’01.

Worth noting: Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, the Georgia transfer, has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions. ... Ohio State 37, Nebraska 20.

No. 18 Virginia (4-0) at No. 10 Notre Dame (2-1): Sports Illustrated has predicted Virginia will face Auburn in the Orange Bowl at the end of the season. Keep an eye on Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, a heck of a pass-catching tight end. He had nine against Georgia for 108 yards. … Notre Dame 30, Virginia 17.

No. 21 Southern California (3-1) at No. 17 Washington (3-1): USC already has wins over Utah and Stanford, and getting another over Washington would put the Trojans in good shape in the Pac-12 South Division. Washington already is 0-1 in the league and needs this one badly. … Washington 31, USC 21.

No. 1 Clemson (4-0) at North Carolina (2-2): Clemson is just fine, even though Trevor Lawrence is only 54th nationally in passing efficiency. He has five interceptions in 106 passes. Only three other FBS quarterbacks have thrown more: Hawaii’s Cole McDonald (nine in 106 passes), Arkansas’ Nick Starkel (six in 114) and New Mexico State’s Josh Adkins (six in 160). … Clemson 38, North Carolina 13.

Kentucky (2-2) at South Carolina (1-3): Kentucky’s wins have come over Toledo and Eastern Michigan, while South Carolina’s lone victory came over Charleston Southern. … South Carolina 24, Kentucky 23.

No. 23 Texas A&M (2-2) at Arkansas (2-2): Arkansas has won one SEC game in the last two years and hasn’t beaten A&M since 2011. … Texas A&M 44, Arkansas 20.

Washington State (3-1) at No. 19 Utah (3-1): It’s hard to say a game is must-win when it’s only the fifth one of the year. Even so, both teams are 0-1 in the league, and it’s going to be awfully tough for the loser to qualify for the Pac-12 Championship Game. ... Utah 32, Washington State 21.

Last week: 8-2. Missed on Auburn’s win over Texas A&M and Cal’s win over Ole Miss.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.

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