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Saturday, 27 September 2014

College Football Week 5 Picks 2014 (September 27)

We are starting to get a real picture of what teams are going to potentially make up the final four in the first ever National Championship Play Off, but there are still plenty of twists and turns to come you would feel.

College Football is never straight-forward, but the Florida State Seminoles, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks all came through tough games last week to remain unbeaten.

Three of the teams did that on the road against other teams rom the Power 5 Conferences which can only improve their standing in the eye of the voters, but all will have much bigger challenges to face in the remaining weeks of the season.

The reigning Champion Seminoles had to overcome the suspension to starting Quarter Back Jameis Winston and then the battling Clemson Tigers in overtime before securing an important win that likely sees them win the ACC Atlantic Division.

Speaking of Winston, can someone become any more of a bonehead? He has everything set up for his future if he can keep his nose clean, but was suspended after standing on a table in the Student Union to shout vulgarities. Add that to the allegations of sexual assault, which were dismissed, and the taking of crab legs without paying and Winston, who was considered a hot chance to become the first pick in the NFL Draft, is now considered a huge-risk for teams.

Some draft experts, Mel Kiper Jr for instance, has dropped Winston down to 25 on his Big Board, while Tony Dungy said he wouldn't draft Winston as the face of a franchise with all the off-field issues that need to be resolved.

It is maddening that Winston could throw away his big chance to make it in the NFL because he has little self-control and the suggestion from his father that he could return to school for another year after this one isn't as outrageous as it seemed two months ago.

There are people out there suggesting Winston should show his maturity by going through another College season without getting into any trouble to prove himself to the NFL teams, but the feeling is that Florida State may also have had enough of him. I still think some team will take a chance on Winston who is desperate for a Quarter Back to turn things around, but the guy really needs to get his head straight if he is to fulfil the potential he clearly has.

Week 4 produced a winning week, although it could have been so much better if the evening games had gone the way I wanted them to. This has been a mixed start to the season, but the last two seasons have produced much more positive results after the fourth week of the seasons. Hopefully that trend will continue this time around, but I need to be a little better with the picks for that to happen.

Wyoming Cowboys @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: The Michigan State Spartans are desperate to get into the final four Play Off this season and they have to use games like this as a chance to impress the voters, especially as Oregon have recorded a 34 point win over the Wyoming Cowboys already this season.

The Spartans have every chance of matching that kind of score even if Mark Dantonio has said that he doesn't like 'running up the score' on opponents, especially if Michigan State want to keep the defeat to the Ducks as their one poor result this season.

Michigan State should have their way with the Cowboys when they have the ball in their hands, but the key is whether they can make enough stops. I would expect the Spartans to shut down the ground game that Wyoming will want to establish and that could leave Colin Kirkegaard pushing too much to make plays for his team, which invariably can lead to Interceptions and turnovers.

With Jeremy Langford back at Running Back, Michigan State shouldn't have the problem of establishing their own rushing Offense and that should give Connor Cook the chance to thrown enough passes to keep the team moving in the right direction.

My one big concern in this game is that Michigan State allow a backdoor cover late with their attention turned to the game against Nebraska next week, but I think they can cover this big spread.

Tulane Green Wave @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick: In my opinion, the biggest question from this game is whether Gary Nova is going to avoid the mistakes at Quarter Back which sometimes puts Rutgers in a difficult position.

If Nova can avoid the Interceptions that have blighted him at times, Rutgers should prove too good for the Tulane Green Wave.

Nova will have his chance to make plays against this Secondary, although Tulane have gotten a fairly effective pass rush early in the season and the Rutgers Offensive Line is far from the best. They can have a hard time protecting Nova, but I expect the Scarlet Knights to have a decent ground game established that should open things up for Nova.

It won't be easy for Tulane to run the ball against Rutgers which means Tanner Lee is asked to make plays from Quarter Back the week after being handled by the Duke Blue Devils. Lee has been a mixed bag but he is more likely to make a couple of errant throws that Rutgers can pick off which could help them move clear of the Green Wave.

Rutgers do have Michigan on deck to cause a distraction, but they will want to have some momentum behind them and I like them to come through this one by a couple of Touchdowns.

Northwestern Wildcats @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: There are some similarities with these teams as both the Penn State Nittany Lions and Northwestern Wildcats will feel their Defensive Line can set the tone of the game by shutting down the opposition rushing ability, while also being able to get to the Quarter Back.

While I do think that could be the case, Penn State may have the edge at the Quarter Back position in the form of Christian Hackenberg over Trevor Siemian and that edge may be enough for them to move to 2-0 in the Big Ten.

Both Hackenberg and Siemian have made their mistakes by throwing too many Interceptions, but I think it is the former that will be given a little more time in the pocket to make his plays. Hackenberg has carved up a few Defenses already this season and this Northwestern Secondary has sometimes struggled to get off the field.

Penn State should use Hackenberg's arm to win their seventh in a row in this series and they have won the previous six games by 15 points per game. James Franklin has this team believing in themselves and the Nittany Lions can go into a bye week in great heart, while Northwestern may find themselves looking ahead to the big Division game against Wisconsin which is next on deck.

Franklin has also seen his teams improve to 11-3 against the spread as the home favourite over the last three and a bit seasons, while Northwestern were just 1-7 against the spread against Conference teams last season. I like the Nittany Lions to come up with another home win that will send them into their bye with plenty of momentum.

TCU Horned Frogs @ SMU Mustangs Pick: It can be difficult for a team to keep the focus against an overmatched foe when Conference play is about to kick off against the favourite to win the Conference, but I still like the TCU Horned Frogs to give the SMU Mustangs another long day in the office.

The less said about the Mustangs the better as they have been crushed in all three games they have played this season, have lost June Jones as Head Coach and now face a rested in-State rival.

The Mustangs have lost by a combined 140 points in their first four games and are unlikely to have an easier time scoring points in this one against a solid Defense that the Horned Frogs generally run.  The Offensive Line has struggled in protection and the Horned Frogs Defense shouldn't be spending a long time out on the field.

On the other side of the ball, Trevone Boykin and the Offense should have their way whether they run the ball or pass the ball and the biggest concern would be that the second string players that are likely to come in at some point take their foot off the gas. Still, the Mustangs look a team in a very bad position mentally and TCU should be able to step up and put them away fairly early.

Arkansas Razorbacks v Texas A&M Aggies Pick: This is a very important SEC West game for both the Texas A&M Aggies and the Arkansas Razorbacks which is going to be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams will feel their Offensive Line can set the tone for the game by being able to set up running the ball and the likes of Alex Collins for Arkansas and Trey Williams for Texas A&M will believe they can put up big numbers for both teams.

However, out of the two teams, it has been the Aggies Defense that has shown they are able to at least slow down the ground and pound a little which could be one of the keys to this entire game.

Kenny Hill looks like a player that can deal with the pressure of having the Offense rely on his arm, but Brandon Allen hasn't really had to do that just yet. That is another factor of slowing down the Razorbacks rushing Offense as they could put a lot of pressure on the young Quarter Back to keep up in an environment where a lot of Aggies should be in the stands.

The Aggies are starting a tough four game stretch in their season while Arkansas are going to go into a bye after this one, but I expect Texas A&M will focus to the point of winning this game by double digits.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs @ Auburn Tigers Pick: They might still be unbeaten, but there was a lot of disappointment with the way the Offense played in the Auburn Tigers win at the Kansas State Wildcats on Thursday night in Week 4. I expect Gus Malzahn would have been working with the Offensive Co-Ordinator Rhett Lashlee to figure out the kinks before the SEC play resumes next week.

This looks a good chance for them to do that against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs who have been beaten comfortably at the Oklahoma Sooners already this season and coming off a surprise loss to Northwestern State. The Bulldogs are going to have a tough time running the ball in this one which means Cody Sokol is going to be under more pressure to make plays at the Quarter Back position which could lead to mistakes.

He won't be helped by the Auburn pass rush which has set the Secondary up with Interceptions and short fields may be a key to overcoming this large spread.

Auburn are also going to run their Offense a little more efficiently you would feel with the Coaches focusing on that aspect of their game and Nick Marshall gives the Bulldogs a dual-threat to deal with behind Center. They would have seen the Sooners beat up on the Bulldogs earlier this season and the Tigers will be looking to surpass the 32 point win Oklahoma had over Louisiana Tech for voters to compare later in the season.

The Tigers have improved to 6-2 against the spread as the home favourite under Gus Malzahn over the last season and a bit, although the biggest concern is the Tigers allowing a backdoor cover with the game firmly in hand.

Duke Blue Devils @ Miami Hurricanes Pick: One of the more under-rated teams in College Football remain the Duke Blue Devils who are still not afforded the respect that would come to a programme that was an ACC Runner Up last season.

It's not as if they have been beaten to open 2014 either, but I will admit I loved them a lot more with a Touchdown spread rather than this one which has come down just slightly.

This is a revenge spot for the Hurricanes after losing to Duke last season, but they are also coming off an emotional defeat to the Nebraska Cornhuskers and they also have a Conference loss already this season. Brad Kaaya has shown why so many are high on the young Miami Quarter Back, but he is also making the mistakes that comes with being a Freshman and he faces a Duke team that can turn the ball over as well as get pressure up front.

To be perfectly honest, the Miami Defense has actually played well for much of the season and this is clearly the biggest test that the Blue Devils Offense will have faced this season. Miami can also get plenty of pressure up front and they have been strong against the run which could pose problems for Duke, but this looks a much more competitive game than the spread would indicate and I think the Blue Devils keep it close at least.

Baylor Bears @ Iowa State Cyclones Pick: I hate making what looks like a really square pick, but I am going to back the Baylor Bears to get their Big 12 season off to a flyer by crushing the Iowa State Cyclones.

Baylor and Iowa State have both had a week to prepare for this game as they come off their bye, but the Bears have been a terrible road favourite to back in recent years as they are just 2-6 against the spread in that spot, while they also have Texas on deck.

This is also a big revenge spot for the Cyclones who were beaten 71-7 on the road last season and they showed against Kansas State and Iowa that they are not going to roll over as a big underdog.

So why am I backing the Bears to cover a spread larger than three Touchdowns? Simply because of the eye test and not based on those statistics I mentioned. Baylor should be able to run all over Iowa State and that will only make life very comfortable for Bryce Petty to make big plays with his arm as any pass rush will be negated by Iowa State concentrating on stopping the ground attack.

On the other side of the ball, Baylor can shut down the Cyclones rushing Offense which will mean Sam Richardson has to prove he can back up his big throwing day that he had against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Richardson is likely to be under immense pressure from the Baylor pass rush when in obvious passing situations and drives could be stalled which will give this fast Baylor Offense the chance to put up big points.

The spread is a big one and there are factors that suggest it is too big a number, but I will back Baylor to go into the big game at Texas with big momentum behind them.

Syracuse Orange v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: This looks to be one of the more fascinating games in Week 5 which doesn't provide a lot of marquee match ups. The Syracuse Orange have been such a mixed bag that it is hard to know which team will turn up on Saturday, but they will need to bring their 'A' game if they are to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame are dealing with the toughest schedule in College Football, but they have passed their examinations with flying colours, although the next four weeks are tough. They have at least been able to prepare for this game against the option with a bye week and Brian Kelly is 15-5 when coming off a bye as a Head Coach.

Kelly also led his Cincinnati Bearcat team to three straight wins over Syracuse by 20 points per game and he should have the Fighting Irish ready for this game.

It will be down to Everett Golson to make the big plays for Notre Dame after he has really played well to open the season- he is capable of running the ball as well as throwing it from the Quarter Back position and it might be tough for Syracuse to contain him. However, the Orange are likely to get a lot of pressure on Golson if the Offensive Line hasn't made improvements over the last couple of weeks.

The Fighting Irish Defense has played very well to open the season and may force a couple of turnovers that proves to be the key for them in this game. The run Defense will be tested by Terrel Hunt and the Syracuse Running Backs, but eventually the Fighting Irish should be able to pull away.

Syracuse are a strong team in neutral venue games as they are 4-0 against the spread in that spot, but I think Notre Dame end that here and come through with a double digits win.

MY PICKS: Michigan State Spartans - 28.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 13 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions - 11 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs - 32 Points @ 2.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies - 9.5 Points @ 1.95 BoyleSports (1 Unit)
Auburn Tigers - 32.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Duke Blue Devils + 6.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears - 21.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 9 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)

Week 4: 6-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)
Week 3: 3-7-1, - 4.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 38% Yield)
Week 25-6, - 1.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 10.72% Yield)
Week 16-4, + 1.77 Units (10 Units Staked, + 11.7% Yield)

Season 2014: 20-22-1, - 3.01 Units (43 Units Staked, - 7% 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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