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Friday, 12 September 2014

College Football Week 3 Picks 2014 (September 12-13)

There weren't a lot of marquee games in Week 2 of the College Football season, but the Big Ten would have been wishing there were even fewer as their teams lost in three of the biggest games of the week.

Outside of the Stanford-USC game, the focus really was on the Michigan State Spartans, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines who faced the Oregon Ducks, Virginia Tech Hokies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish respectively.

All of those teams were beaten by double digits and only Michigan State can really hold their head up, results which also means the Big Ten could be the power Conference looking in when the four teams are picked for the Play Offs.

The only way that may change is if the Michigan State Spartans can run the Conference table and win the Big Ten Championship Game, but I already think the losses for Ohio State and Michigan are going to be too hurtful to overcome.

Of course that could change if the other Conferences don't have clear winners, but the SEC winner is unlikely to lose more than one game on the season and there is also a feeling that two teams could be picked from that Conference. The Pac-12 winner is likely to take one spot and Florida State will be tabbed for another place as long as they remain unbeaten this season on their way to winning the ACC (arguably Florida State get in even with one loss as long as they win the ACC).

The Big 12 may be hurt by a lack of a Championship Game, but the Oklahoma Sooners or the Baylor Bears will feel they have a huge chance of making the final four as long as they can win that Conference and not be beaten by any team outside of the other.

There are even fewer 'big' games on the schedule in Week 3 than there was last week and that can sometimes make it more difficult to find the right picks as teams rest starters in non-Conference play when up by big numbers. This is also the time of the season when you have to start focusing on schedules and see the motivation for teams in games and that is a big factor that has to be considered.

Last week saw one play change the momentum from a winning week to a losing one- I had some poor picks too, so it wasn't all bad fortune, but Michigan State and Arizona were a couple of plays away from finding a cover.

The Spartans allowed Oregon to score a late touchdown to put the exclamation point on their win after Michigan State were 25 points ahead of the spread when leading by 12 at the beginning of the third quarter. Arizona allowed UTSA to convert a fourth and long when up by 10 and that eventual Touchdown led to a three point win and failure to cover.

It means Week 2 produced a slight loss, although I am still in the positive for the season, but I would like to see a bit of a kick on from here.

Toledo Rockets @ Cincinnati Bearcats Pick: How frustrating must it have been for the Cincinnati Bearcats to have watched teams starting their season, yet having to wait not one, but two weeks before they can ready for game week? Cincinnati won't have to worry about another break for the next 8 weeks and will be itching to go against a State rival that has lost a key part of their Offense.

There isn't any pure game video or performances to analyse for the Bearcats, but their Defense figures to be one of the stronger ones around following last season and bringing back enough experience. They are tough to run the ball against and that might be a problem for Toledo this week with a back up Quarter Back taking over from Philipp Ely.

That should allow Cincinnati's Defense to focus on slowing down Kareem Hunt who has started the season very strongly, especially as the Bearcats haven't given up 4 yards a carry in a number of years.

Logan Woodside would then be forced to make plays with his arm against a strong Linebacker corps and an experienced Secondary which could make it tough work for Toledo to move the chains.

Gunner Kiel is making his first start for Cincinnati since transferring from Notre Dame, although Tommy Tuberville is also planning on giving Munchie Legaux some work behind Center after he recovered from an injury suffered last season. Kiel should have some joy against a Toledo Secondary that is giving up over 330 passing yards per game, especially if the Offensive Line can maintain their protection against a decent pass rush generated by the Rockets.

Cincinnati may also have some trouble running the ball, but Toledo could be looking ahead to the big game with the Ball State Cardinals next week and the Bearcats may move away with the win and cover.

West Virginia Mountaineers @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: In the early stage of a new season, it can be easy to overreact to one or two results and the performance the West Virginia Mountaineers produced against the Alabama Crimson Tide may have boosted they hype surrounding the Big 12 school.

That performance in Week 1 was impressive, but West Virginia have another tough test in their first true road game of the season at the unbeaten Maryland Terrapins. This a revenge game for the Mountaineers after a 37-0 beatdown here last season that was described as being 'whipped on all three sides of the ball' by Dana Holgorsen.

As well as West Virginia have played, they have struggled to run the ball and that will mean this game could come down to the arm of Clint Trickett who has yet to throw an Interception for the Mountaineers. However, he could be under pressure by the Maryland pass rush, especially in third and long situations and that could lead to the mistakes he has avoided so far.

On the other side of the ball, Maryland have been able to run the ball and that is an area where they can hurt West Virginia, especially with dual-threat Quarter Back CJ Brown behind Center. Maryland should have enough to take advantage of a Defense that was heavily punished by Alabama on the ground and that will keep Brown in third and manageable situations.

The West Virginia pass Defense has been in good shape to open the season, earning pressure on the Quarter Backs, while Maryland have given up too many turnovers which almost cost them at USF last week. Maryland have the experience and West Virginia could be caught looking ahead to the big Conference game against Oklahoma next week and that may all lead to a Maryland win and cover.

Kansas Jayhawks @ Duke Blue Devils Pick: There won't be too many people rushing to back the Duke Blue Devils to win another ACC Coastal Division after reaching the Championship Game last season, but this is still a team that has a lot experience from 2013 and could be a dangerous one through the season.

Duke have won their opening two games and now David Cutcliffe will be going against a friend in Charlie Weis as the Blue Devils welcome an improved Kansas Jayhawks team to Durham.

However, Kansas have won just 6 games over the last three seasons and barely beating an FCS school isn't the best preparation to go into this game. I have little doubt that Duke will be able to move the chains both through the air and on the ground in this game, while the Offensive Line has protected Anthony Boone.

Boone has avoided the mistakes that tainted his performances last season, although the Kansas Jayhawks Defense could be a much improved unit despite the performance last week against SE Missouri State.

On the other side of the ball, Kansas may be more reliant on their passing game than they would have wanted after losing James Sims and then the top two Running Backs left on the depth chart in the off-season. Montell Cozart was effective at Quarter Back as he threw for a little under 200 yards with 3 Touchdown passes, but he could be under pressure from the pass rush that Duke have been able to generate so far.

The Blue Devils have improved to 7-1-1 against the spread as a home favourite over the last two seasons and they are strong in non-Conference games. Kansas dropped to 1-6 against the spread against non-Conference teams under Charlie Weis last week and I think they may find it hard to stay with Duke in this one.

Arkansas Razorbacks @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: This is the second biggest Big 12 versus SEC games of the week and I think it is one that the Big 12 can win, although it certainly is expected to be as tight as the layers believe.

It hasn't been a great start to the season for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but they have found enough Offense to come through two games they were expected to win easily. They should have real success against Arkansas too when they have the ball as the Razorbacks have struggled against the run and the pass.

Even an FCS school managed to move the ball through the air against Arkansas last week and I do believe Davis Webb will have a big game at Quarter Back considering the protection he has been afforded by the Offensive Line.

The bigger issue for Texas Tech is on the other side of the ball and how they are going to slow down an Arkansas rushing Offense that has averaged 324 yards per game at 9.4 yards per carry. It was the UTEP Miners that battered the Red Raiders on the ground last week and the likes of Alex Collins should have another big game here.

There is little doubt that the Red Raiders will be gashed at times, which is a problem in terms of time of possession, but they are playing an Arkansas team that are 1-9 on the road over the last two seasons. The Razorbacks have also lost their last 3 road games at non-Conference opponents over the last ten years and I think Texas Tech can find enough points to see off Arkansas.

However, I will be hoping the Red Raiders have cleaned up some of their mistakes from the first two weeks which will give them a real opportunity to move to 3-0.

Iowa State Cyclones @ Iowa Hawkeyes Pick: Last week I thought the Iowa State Cyclones would have struggled against the Kansas State Wildcats, but they were so very close to a surprise win.

With this being a local rivalry, there is little doubt they will be fired up to produce a surprise at the Iowa Hawkeyes, but emotionally it will be tough to pick themselves up after coming so close to a win in Week 2.

Iowa will be moving into Conference play next week, but they won't want to let go of local bragging rights after losing this game in 2011 and 2012 before winning on the road last season.

Games between these teams have been close the last three years, but the Hawkeyes may have an easier time this time around as they should be able to run the ball very effectively which will open up the passing lanes. Iowa are moving the chains at 6.3 yards per carry and should be able to find holes against this Offensive Line who have given up 267 yards per game on the ground.

Jake Rudock will then have the chance to make plays at Quarter Back with the protection he has had and I do think the Hawkeyes can move up and down the field.

The difference maker in the game is the fact that Iowa have been able to shut down the rushing Offense and that will leave Sam Richardson in a tough place to make plays. Third and long will leave the door open for the Iowa Defensive Line to penetrate the Offensive Line and get after Richardson and I can see them picking up a couple of key sacks and Interceptions to turn the momentum in their favour.

ULM Warhawks @ LSU Tigers Pick: The problem with big spreads like this is that they can be covered by the lesser team in two different ways- the first is that the game is far more competitive than I imagined it would be; the second is that the 'better' team goes up very big and then rotates the line up to give their starters some rest and test the back ups in a live game.

That is the fear for the LSU Tigers who are moving into their first Conference game next week, but this is also a school that has hammered home the point of their dominance in this State when playing the ULM Warhawks in the past.

The Warhawks also got beaten badly by the two top 25 teams they played last season, losing by 34 in Oklahoma and 63 in Baylor. However, ULM have made a decent start to the season on both sides of the ball and could be a little more competitive early in the game.

In saying that, I expect the LSU Tigers Running Back by committee approach to wear down the Warhawks who are coming off a close win in a Conference game and know the talent they are going up against has increased by a few levels.

The Warhawks are a decent road underdog in the Todd Berry era, but they have struggled in Death Valley and I think the Tigers will wear them down and eventually come through with the cover of this near five Touchdown spread.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons @ Utah State Aggies Pick: Both Offenses look like they will be the weaker unit in the battle with the opposite Defense, but the Utah State Aggies might be able to take advantage of their ability to run the ball to take control of the game.

Chuckie Keeton has the experience at Quarter Back to lead the Aggies to the win, but he has to cut out the mistakes he has made in the first two games if Utah State are to cover the spread. On the other hand, John Wolford looks like he will be in more difficult situations behind an Offensive Line that has struggled in pass protection.

Unlike Keeton, Wolford can't rely on an effective running game to at least keep him in third and manageable situations and that could lead to more mistakes and the chance for Utah State to create short fields for the Offense.

Utah State have also been strong in non-Conference games in recent seasons, while they are 8-3 against the spread as the home favourite in their last 11 games in that situation. Contrast that to a Wake Forest team that is one of the most inexperienced in the nation and one that has shown little in the way of Offense to open the season and I like Utah State to find the cover.

Tennessee Volunteers @ Oklahoma Sooners Pick: The Oklahoma Sooners and Tennessee Volunteers will feel their Defensive Lines can make all the difference in this game and it is the edge on the Offensive Line that the Sooners have that can help them pull away from their visitors.

The Oklahoma Offensive Line has been solid in pass protection, but has been very good at opening up running lanes which should keep the Sooners in manageable situations to move the chains with some consistency. As well as Tennessee have done in penetrating the backfield in their first two games, they could be worn down by the rushing ability of this Sooners team.

On the other hand, Tennessee's Offensive Line doesn't have the same experience and have struggled both in opening rushing lanes and protecting Justin Worley. As well as the Quarter Back has played, he could find himself under pressure from the Sooner pass rush and forced into the mistakes that have blighted him in the past.

That should lead to giving Oklahoma the chance to pull away in this home game, especially as Bob Stoops will not let off the gas against the 'hated' SEC where he will want to really cause some shockwaves with a big win.

Even with a Conference game next on the deck, Oklahoma are unlikely to let up and they are 10-4 against the spread in their last 14 games against non-Conference opponents. The Sooners have also been a strong home favourite under Bob Stoops and they take on a Volunteers team that was 1-3 against the spread as the road underdog under Butch Jones last season.

I imagine this will be close for a half, but the better talent is on the Oklahoma Sooners sideline and they should pull away for the win and cover thanks to a couple of key turnovers.

Texas Longhorns v UCLA Bruins Pick: I wasn’t sure about getting involved in this game to be honest, but I think the UCLA Bruins have enough going for them to put together a statement win. The game may be played on a neutral site, but Dallas, Texas should be full of Longhorn fans so this is a tough road environment for the Bruins to be heading into.

However, the Texas Longhorns are going to need more from Tyrone Swoopes as the back up Quarter Back and are missing a number of key pieces on the Offensive Line and Wide Receiver positions which suggests another Offensive struggle is possible.

I do think the Longhorns Defense is going to get plenty of pressure on Brett Hundley against an Offensive Line that has struggled to open the season. It’ll be tough for the Quarter Back if the UCLA team can’t find some better running lanes too, especially moving into Conference play, but the Bruins should find enough passing from Hundley to win this game.

Both teams will move into a bye week following this game and then enter Conference play so I expect both to give it their all- I just feel Texas are still in a transition under the new guidance of Charlie Strong and UCLA can take advantage with a couple of big plays leading to a double digit win.

Rice Owls @ Texas A&M Aggies Pick: This is another very big number for a team to cover with the exact same problems that could affect the LSU Tigers- teams will start giving their back ups the chance if they are in a big lead and that means Rice could have the chance for a backdoor cover with such a huge head-start.

However, the Texas A&M Aggies are still getting their new Offense in full sync and are using the next two weeks to do just that before they renew SEC play.

They should be able to move up and down the field all day in this one against a Rice Defense that may have a few new looks with two weeks to prepare for this game, but also one that was gashed by Notre Dame both through the air and on the ground.

On the other hand, I imagine the Aggies Defense can force Driphus Jackson into awkward third down situations by shutting down the rushing Offense and then use their pass rush to force turnovers.

The extra preparation time for the Rice Owls is a concern, but I think they made the game last season more competitive than Kevin Sumlin would have wanted and I expect the Head Coach to have his team ready to make this an 'easier' night.

Nevada Wolf Pack @ Arizona Wildcats Pick: Only a crucial fourth down conversion has prevented the Arizona Wildcats from winning both games while covering the spread, but I think they will cover against the Nevada Wolf Pack at home.

Arizona have shown they are able to run the ball and pass the ball effectively and I think their Offense will move the chains with consistency through the day against Nevada. While the Wolf Pack have only allowed 97 yards per game, they did face the one-dimensional Washington State Cougars last week and the Wildcats are far more balanced to take advantage of the 4.8 yards per carry the Wolf Pack have allowed.

That will open up the passing lanes against this Secondary, although Arizona must stay in third and manageable situations to keep the pass rush off of the Quarter Back.

With the Wildcats playing the run effectively from a Defensive standpoint, they could make Nevada rely heavily on the pass and that should play into Arizona's hands as the game develops.

There is more experience on the Nevada side of the field, but they have struggled as a road underdog under Brian Polian and I think the Wildcats have too much scoring for them to deal with.

MY PICKS: Cincinnati Bearcats - 10 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Maryland Terrapins - 3 Points @ 1.92 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Duke Blue Devils - 14 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas Tech Red Raiders - 1 Point @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Iowa Hawkeyes - 12.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 31 Points @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Utah State Aggies - 15 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 21 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 7 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies - 31.5 Points @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Arizona Wildcats - 18 Points @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Week 2: 5-6, - 1.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 10.72% Yield)
Week 16-4, + 1.77 Units (10 Units Staked, + 11.7% Yield)

Season 201411-10, + 0.59 Units (21 Units Staked, + 2.81% Yield)
Season 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)
Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

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