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Saturday, 20 September 2014

College Football Week 4 Picks 2014 (September 20)

Last week may have been a difficult one for the picks, the second poor week in a row, but sometimes you have to look at some of the things that happen in College Football and laugh. For example, this:

What a brilliant idea, despite the fact that Booker T Mays fails to fool a single person and the fake punt was Intercepted before May was subsequently hammered by a Defender.

I'd recommend reading this article to get a little more insight into the kid from Arkansas State that has become a minor celebrity for this move. The article was written by Gregg Doyel from CBS Sports and can be read here.

Week 3 wasn't one that featured a lot of huge games, but that didn't stop the likes of Virginia Tech and USC from failing to back up big road wins from Week 2 and both were beaten by the East Carolina Pirates and Boston College Eagles respectively.

That would have been hugely disappointing for both teams considering their wins at Ohio State and Stanford in Week 2 and will be a huge burden to overcome if either is going to be considered for the National Championship final four Play Off.

Week 4 looks much stronger in terms of games to be played with Alabama's opening SEC game against Florida and Florida State hosting Clemson in a huge ACC game. It all begins with a decent looking game between the Auburn Tigers and the Kansas State Wildcats on Thursday which could potentially have some big Play Off implications.

Hopefully the picks will improve in Week 4 after some poor ones from me- I had a shortlist of a few teams but didn't break it down properly from there and was punished with too many losses. I will be looking for a bounce back week this time around as last week was simply bad capping and nothing to do with bad breaks which was arguably the case in Week 2.

Tulane Green Wave @ Duke Blue Devils Pick: Anyone who thought the Duke Blue Devils wouldn't be able to back up their performance in 2013 have been surprised at the beginning of 2014 and I think they can continue their strong start with a convincing win over the Tulane Green Wave.

The one concern for the Blue Devils is that they lose focus and look past Tulane at the big game they have against Miami in Week 5, but they have been a strong favourite over the last couple of years as they have gone 9-1 against the spread.

I do think Duke will be able to move the ball effectively when they have it in their hands, but their run Defense might have a few problems to contend with. If they can get Tulane into obvious passing situations, Duke should be able to get off the field, but the Green Wave have a chance of controlling the clock at times.

The Blue Devils have generally taken non-Conference opponents seriously and they have dominated those opponents over last two years as they have gone 6-0 with a win by an average of 27 points per game.

Marshall Thundering Herd @ Akron Zips Pick: The Marshall Thundering Herd are considered the best team outside of the power 5 Conferences and three straight wins to open the 2014 season hasn't changed that opinion of most experts.

This is probably the biggest challenge they have faced this season to this point as the Akron Zips have the passing ability to give the Herd plenty of problems, although they could be made a one-dimensional Offense if Marshall's run Defense continues playing to a high level.

The Akron Defense has played well, but this arguably the toughest Offense they have played this season and I do think Marshall will find a way to move the chains thanks to their dual-threat Quarter Back Rakeem Cato.

I have a concern in the fact that Marshall haven't played well as a road favourite, going 1-9-1 against the spread in that situation from their last 10 games. The Zips have also had additional time to prepare for this game, but I like Marshall to prove themselves in another tough road game.

Texas A&M Aggies @ SMU Mustangs Pick: June Jones has left his role as Head Coach of the SMU Mustangs and the team have had an extra week to prepare but it is a big ask for them to take on the Texas A&M Aggies.

The Mustangs have been blasted in their opening two games of 2014 as they have been outscored by 82 points in those games against Baylor, which is understandable, and North Texas, which is not.

My biggest concern for backing the Texas A&M Aggies is that they might rest starters once they get far ahead, but I don't know how the Mustangs can pick themselves up and surpass what they have produced this season. They are at home, which will help, but Texas A&M should be able to get close to the margin that Baylor produced and I think the Aggies cover despite the big SEC game against Arkansas in Jerry's House next week.

Florida Gators @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: The opening game against the West Virginia Mountaineers has put a seed of doubt about how good this year's Alabama Crimson Tide actually are, but they may just put a few of those doubts away with a big win over the Florida Gators in their opening SEC game.

Alabama haven't play any school of note in the last two weeks, but they would have been inspired by the struggles Florida had against the Kentucky Wildcats last week. How much of that was because the Gators were looking ahead to this one is yet to be known, but the Crimson Tide will feel they can move the ball effectively against the Gators.

However, it has to be said that the Crimson Tide's Offensive strength may not match up that well against the Florida Defensive strength. Like many SEC teams, the Gators are a tough team to run the ball against, although I think Alabama are the most ready to do that with their Offensive Line and the Running Backs they have including TJ Yeldon.

If Alabama can get into third and manageable positions, I think Blake Sims/Jake Coker can make enough plays with their arms to keep the chains moving just as long as they don't overly focus on getting the ball to Amari Cooper. The Wide Receiver is exceptional, but he will be faced by Vernon Hargreaves and Alabama have to keep the Gator Defense honest.

I also do think Jeff Driskel can make plays for the Florida Offense in this game as the Alabama Secondary is still fairly inexperienced and not been at their best to open the season. Driskel tries to avoid the big mistake and the Crimson Tide are yet to have an Interception so Florida could have more success than some think.

The problem is that the Gators may need Driskel to push a little more from third and long situations and that could lead to the mistakes and three and outs that allow Alabama to dictate the field position game.

Florida have struggled in Tuscaloosa with 4 consecutive defeats here and they haven't had more than 13 points in any of those games. The Crimson Tide have also won 3 in a row in the series by 24 points per game and they have covered the spread in their last 5 home games as the favourite against a SEC opponent.

It is a big number, but I think Alabama are going to cover the two Touchdown spread.

North Carolina Tar Heels @ East Carolina Pirates Pick: A week ago, you could have gotten the East Carolina Pirates as a home underdog against North Carolina, but the win over Virginia Tech on the road as well as the bye week the Tar Heels have been on has shifted the favourite.

It is not a big surprise considering I believed the Pirates are a better team than North Carolina and have every chance of winning back to back games against the Tar Heels for the first time in their history.

Shane Carden looks set to have another big game against the Tar Heels after his 376 yard, three Touchdown day last season, especially off the back of a big win over the Hokies on the road. Carden was impressive last week and ran in the winning score with 16 seconds remaining on the clock and he should have every chance of hurting this Tar Heels Secondary.

The Quarter Back will be helped by a ground Offense that should keep the Pirates in third and manageable situations and I feel East Carolina also have an edge in the trenches on the other side of the ball.

With a young and inexperienced Offensive Line, North Carolina may struggle to get their own ground Offense going against an East Carolina Defensive Line that has held teams to 3.3 yards per carry. That will only put more pressure on Marquise Williams who has the ability to make plays with his arm and legs, but who could be facing pressure he hasn't seen before so far this season.

If North Carolina are stuck in third and long, Williams has shown he has made mistakes already this season and East Carolina could win the turnover battle to move away from the Tar Heels for the second year in a row.

The Tar Heels are 0-4 against the spread as a road underdog under Larry Fedora and they have lost their last 2 road games in non-Conference play. Add the fact that they are playing a big Conference road game at the Clemson Tigers next week and East Carolina are now 7-1 against the spread in their last 8 non-Conference games and I like the Pirates to win this week.

Indiana Hoosiers @ Missouri Tigers Pick: The Hoosiers had a disappointing loss to the Bowling Green Falcons a week ago and they could have a big problem against the Missouri Tigers even if they will be looking for revenge after last season's home loss to the same team.

The Tigers have an ability to force turnovers though and that is going to be a key to helping them cover this number on Saturday and they have been very strong the last two weeks.

Missouri get a heavy pass rush which should help them earn more mistakes from the Indiana Offense and I think Maty Mauk can make enough plays to keep the Tigers moving. If Mauk is given short yards to score Touchdowns thanks to his Defense, Missouri could pull away in a similar manner to last season.

The home team are 8-5 against the spread as the favourite, while Missouri have also improved to 12-4 against the spread in their last 16 games against non-Conference opponents. Indiana are also 3-6 against the spread as the road underdog over the last couple of seasons, while they could be looking ahead to their Conference home game against Maryland which takes place next week.

Idaho Vandals @ Ohio Bobcats Pick: The Ohio Bobcats are coming off a battering at the hands of the Marshall Thundering Herd, but I think they can get back on track with a win over the Idaho Vandals.

The Defense should be able to get plenty of pressure on this Offensive Line which could slow down the Idaho passing Offense and may also help Ohio turn the ball over. On the other side of the ball, Ohio may finally have a chance to make some serious plays against the Vandals Defense which has struggled to get off the field in their opening games.

The Bobcats have enjoyed their home openers as they have won 4 in a row by an average of 21 points per game, while Ohio are also 9-0 hosting non-Conference opponents. Idaho are also 4-11 against the spread in their last 15 games as the road underdog and this might be another loss for them as I expect Ohio to cover the almost two Touchdown spread.

Mississippi State Bulldogs @ LSU Tigers Pick: When teams are spending their time playing overmatched non-Conference opponents, it is hard to know exactly how good a team is and that is the position the Mississippi State Bulldogs find themselves coming into Death Valley.

This has proven to be a difficult school for the Bulldogs to play as they have lost 14 straight to the LSU Tigers while the last four games have been easy enough for the Tigers once they have been able to get away from Mississippi State.

However, the Bulldogs have to be confident behind the performances of Dak Prescott who gives them a dual-threat to attack a LSU Defense that is amongst the best in the nation to this point. A ground game should be established for Mississippi State, but they are also facing an aggressive Defense that can pressure the Quarter Back and we will really get to see how good the Bulldogs Offense actually is.

On the other side of the ball, LSU will look to pound the ball all day and wear down Mississippi State, but they haven't been at their best so far this season with the ball in their hands. They haven't made the mistakes that have put the Defense in a difficult position, but Anthony Jennings needs to do more at Quarter Back if the Tigers are a legitimate threat in the SEC West.

He has thrown 5 Touchdown passes with just 1 Interception, but could be under pressure by the Mississippi State pass rush if the Tigers can't move the ball effectively on the ground. That will be tough for Kenny Hilliard and the Running Backs as the Bulldogs have given up just 80 yards per game on the ground, although this is by far the biggest challenge they would have faced.

LSU are incredibly tough to beat at home in the evening though and they are 43-3 in night games under Les Miles in Death Valley. The Tigers have also dominated the Mississippi State Bulldogs with four straight wins coming by 22 points per game and they have forced the mistakes to move away from the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State are only 5-10 against the spread under Dan Mullen as the road underdog and I think the LSU Tigers will make a couple of really big Defensive plays that sees them get over the number and win another game against Mississippi State.

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks @ Cincinnati Bearcats Pick: With only one game played so far, it is hard to get a real read on what the Cincinnati Bearcats are able to produce this season. One thing that was noticeable was how well Gunner Kiel played and I think the Quarter Back has every chance of fulfilling his potential in Cincinnati after transferring from Notre Dame.

He should have some real success against the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks Secondary despite that unit playing effectively in their big games so far. However, the Defensive Line has given up large numbers on the ground and getting Kiel into third and manageable spots should pay dividends for them.

The big question this week is whether Tommy Tuberville has fixed some of the Defensive problems they displayed against the Toledo Rockets in their opening game. However, I am not convinced Miami can expose those issues because they have struggled to run the ball and that will mean Andrew Hendrix is in third and long and being asked to make big plays from tough positions.

Hendrix has seen his Offensive Line struggle to protect him at times and has also made too many mistakes with 5 Touchdown passes coupled with 5 Interceptions. Cincinnati found a pass rush last week at least and could make enough plays to keep Miami from ticking the scoreboard over and surpass the big spread they have been asked to this week.

Cincinnati have won their last 2 home games against the Redhawks by 42 and 38 points respectively and Gunner Kiel could punish them this week. Miami are also 3-11 against the spread as the road underdog over the last two and a bit seasons while they are 3-8 against the spread in non-Conference games.

The Bearcats have won their last 5 home games against Miami by an average of 27 points per game, but I can see them getting a little clearer in this one with a couple of big turnovers and surpass the 28 points being asked of them.

Oklahoma Sooners @ West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: I have been impressed with the way the West Virginia Mountaineers have begun this season, but this is a real chance for Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners to lay down a marker. After the Alabama Crimson Tide struggled to see off the Mountaineers in Week 1 on a neutral venue, the Sooners can show their own credentials to play for the National Championship by matching that win in a true road game.

Both games over the last two seasons have been close, tight battles, but I think the key to the game will be the fact that I believe Oklahoma are more likely to create turnovers which should see them move clear.

The Mountaineers can make enough plays to keep the pressure on the Sooners and they have moved the ball well through the air, while Tennessee showed last week that it is possible to do that against Oklahoma. However, I also can see the Sooners scoring plenty of points and those turnovers being the difference between the teams.

Last season saw Oklahoma win by 9 points despite both teams turning the ball over four times, but I will look for the Sooners to be more efficient with the ball in their hands and win this one by double digits.

Oregon Ducks @ Washington State Cougars Pick: As much as the 'Air Raid' Offense is fun to watch for the fans, the Washington State Cougars have not been winning games and that is less enjoyable.

They will have a tough time dealing with the Oregon Ducks because the latter have simply the tools to keep the chains moving up and down the field all day and that will build pressure. Connor Halliday might then push a little too much and, faced with the pressure that Oregon will bring with their pass rush, could make one too many mistakes.

We all know what Marcus Mariota is about at Quarter Back, but he might not need to have a huge game with the expectation that Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall will be able to rip large gains on the ground.

The Ducks have won the last 6 games in the series by an average of 32 points per game, while their last 3 road wins at Washington State have come by 25, 20 and 49 points.

With the extra possessions they are likely to get, Oregon could dominate this game too and pull away from Washington State as the game gets on. The Ducks are now 10-2 against the spread in their last 12 games as the road favourite, and I think they can improve on that by covering what looks a big spread.

MY PICKS: Duke Blue Devils - 16.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Marshall Thundering Herd - 9 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies - 34 Points @ 1.92 Stan James (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 14 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
East Carolina Pirates - 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Missouri Tigers - 13 Points @ 1.92 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Ohio Bobcats - 13.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 9.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bearcats - 28 Points @ 1.89 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 William Hill (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 23 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

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