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Thursday, 27 November 2014

College Football Week 14 Picks 2014 (November 27-29)

The final week of the regular season for those Conferences that have a Championship Game takes place over the holiday season in the United States and also means Week 14 is split over three days.

It is an important week where teams are coming down to the final chances to impress the Committee deciding the College Football Play Off which saw no changes to the top four teams on Tuesday evening. However, the likes of Mississippi State and Alabama have big rivalry games this week as they compete in the Egg and Iron Bowl respectively, while one of those teams won't be involved in the SEC Championship Game next week.

Florida State continue escaping from the clutches of a loss and Oregon remain ahead of them in the Ranking, although both have tough games to play this week ahead of their own Championship Game in the ACC and Pac-12 next week.

Teams like the Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes remain on the outside of the Play Off picture but all three should be ready to pounce if one, or more, of the top four teams falter in the remaining two weeks. Of those teams, the Buckeyes may have the best opportunity to impress as they take on Michigan in a huge rivalry game and potentially have to play an improving Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game, but it will be interesting to see if they have enough to overtake Mississippi State if the Bulldogs knock off Ole Miss and fail to win the SEC West with an Alabama win.

Some have spoken about the UCLA Bruins potentially being a dark horse to take a place in the final four, but they have two losses on their slate and I am not sure even a win over Stanford and Oregon in back to back weeks would be enough for them to move above three other teams.

Week 14 is the last full schedule of the College Football season and there are plenty of games to be played through the next three days, including a pretty full Friday slate taking advantage of the holiday season in the States.

TCU Horned Frogs @ Texas Longhorns Pick: Over the last few weeks, the Texas Longhorns have improved dramatically from the opening weeks of the season and secured their Bowl eligibility in Charlie Strong's first season when beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Defense has been a strength of this Longhorns team all season, but the Offense is finally producing enough to win games and that might actually be good news for the TCU Horned Frogs.

At this stage of the season, winning big games is very important and I think Texas have improved enough for this to carry some weight for the Horned Frogs as they go on the road.

The TCU Defense is perhaps a little under-rated and I think they will give Tyrone Swoopes some problems to deal with especially if they can play the run effectively. That might make it difficult for the Longhorns to move the ball consistently, although their own Defense has played well enough to give Trevone Boykin and the Horned Frogs Offense some issues.

Texas have made life tough for the Baylor Bears and the Kansas State Wildcats this season, although TCU might have a better balance on Offense to keep Texas guessing. Boykin is a real dual-threat from the Quarter Back position and the Horned Frogs have run the ball effectively enough to open the passing lanes, although this game is going to be close.

Both teams have been well prepared coming off a bye, although I am wary of TCU's poor 1-6 record against the spread as the road favourite in the last three seasons. However, I think Texas exhale a touch after becoming Bowl eligible and TCU have so much to earn by winning this game and that is why I like the Horned Frogs.

Houston Cougars @ SMU Mustangs Pick: Any rivalry game does bring in its own issues to resolve, but it is hard to see how the Houston Cougars fail to dismiss the awful SMU Mustangs who have yet to win a game this season.

The Mustangs have barely been competitive in those losses which has to be the bigger disappointment and they have suffered too many big defeats through the season. Houston should have a lot of success running and throwing the ball against this SMU Defense and the bigger question is whether the Mustangs can score enough points to stay within a three Touchdown number Houston are being asked to cover.

Unfortunately for SMU, the Cougars Defense has played very well all season and they have limited teams on the ground which should allow them to get after a porous Offensive Line that has struggled to protect whoever lines up behind Center for SMU. Houston have turned the ball over and are giving up fewer than 190 passing yards per game and those extra possessions may see them get over this number they are being asked to lay.

SMU are just 1-4 against the spread at home this season and they are just 3-7 against the spread as the underdog, both numbers I expect Houston to increase.

Stanford Cardinal @ UCLA Bruins Pick: For all the success Brett Hundley has had against USC in his career as the UCLA Quarter Back, he is yet to beat Stanford and the Cardinal have won 6 in a row against the Bruins.

However, this Stanford team have struggled this season and UCLA have a huge motivation of getting themselves into the Pac-12 Championship Game. This isn't the Cardinal team that the UCLA Bruins may have been a little intimidated of playing in the past as they are just 4-4 in Pac-12 play this season, while Stanford are just 1-4 against the spread on the road, losing 3 of those games outright.

On the other hand, UCLA have improved in each passing week and looked so good in dismantling the Trojans last week, while some Bruins fans may be hoping a late push for a Play Off place is not out of the question despite the 2 losses on their schedule. UCLA won't have it easy against this Stanford Defense, but there is no doubt that unit hasn't played as well on the road and that is where the Bruins hosting the game could make a real difference.

Add the Offensive struggles that Stanford have faced and the fact they are coming up against a Bruins Defense that has also been improving on a weekly basis and it could be a tough time for David Shaw and his team.

UCLA have improved to 2-0 as the home favourite laying between 3.5 and 7 points this season and Stanford are missing a huge playmaker in Ty Montgomery which suggests the Bruins reach the Championship Game with a lot of momentum behind them.

East Carolina Pirates @ Tulsa Golden Hurricane Pick: I do respect the fact that the Tulsa Golden Hurricane should have success passing the ball against this Pirates Secondary, but I still believe the East Carolina team can keep their slim ACC title hopes alive with a win.

In reality, the best they can hope for is getting a share of the title this season, but they should have the balance Offensively to move the ball up and down the field without too many problems in this one. East Carolina have been guilty of shooting themselves in the foot at times with ill-timed penalties, but making Tulsa's Offense one-dimensional will give them the edge in this game.

One concern is how bad the East Carolina team has been as a road favourite this season, especially when it comes to clearing the spread as they are currently just 1-4 in that spot. However, this Tulsa team lost by 20 plus points against Memphis and UCF, albeit both on the road, and who are more likely to lose the turnover battle which could lead to the Pirates pulling away to also win this one by at least 20 points.

Michigan Wolverines @ Ohio State Buckeyes Pick: This is one of the most intense rivalries in College Football which makes the points that Ohio State are being asked to lay look very large indeed.

Don't get me wrong- Ohio State are likely going to be far too good for the Wolverines with a chance to push into the College Football Play Off, but they also have to take notice of leaving something in the tank for the Big Ten Championship next week.

On the other hand, Michigan can empty the tank in this one as they need the win to become Bowl eligible and the team hasn't seemed to have given up on Brady Hoke despite the Head Coach most likely on the way out after this one. The Wolverines could have a chance to run the ball effectively and that can bleed the clock and perhaps keep this game closer than the layers believe it will be.

The Buckeyes should win, and I expect they will win, but I am taking the points that are set at almost three Touchdowns.

Cincinnati Bearcats @ Temple Owls Pick: This is one of those classic Defense v Offense games that can be tough to call, but I do think the Cincinnati Bearcats are playing a little too well for the Temple Owls to keep with them.

The Bearcats have won 5 straight games in pretty dominating fashion which is a clear contrast to Temple who have been outgained in their last 5 games. As long as Cincinnati can steer clear of the mistakes that lead to turnovers, they should be too good for Temple.

Cincinnati have gone 9-4 against the spread as the favourite of more than a Field Goal and up to 10 points and they have also gone 3-0 against the spread as the road favourite. I like the Bearcats to win this one by at least a Touchdown.

Mississippi State Bulldogs @ Mississippi Rebels Pick: The Egg Bowl is going to be decided with a potential Play Off spot on the line for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, although I am not convinced that they will be invited into the final four if they don't win the SEC West and subsequently the SEC Championship Game.

They won't worry about that at the moment with the Alabama Crimson Tide playing later in the evening, although Ole Miss would love to upset them and guarantee Mississippi State are out of contention.

The Rebels have now lost their last 3 SEC games including being shut out by Arkansas last week with 'bad' Bo Wallace playing, but the Quarter Back may bounce back against a Bulldogs Secondary that has had a hard time all season.

However, you have to like the hunger that Mississippi State have shown all season and Dak Prescott can underline his Heisman credentials by leading them to a win over a very good Rebels Defense. The last few weeks have seen Ole Miss taking some real big body shots and I think they will give their all but ultimately come up short against a Bulldogs team with so much motivation behind them.

If Bo Wallace plays as well as he can, Mississippi could spring the surprise, but I will look for the Bulldogs to create a couple of turnovers and come through. The Bulldogs are 5-2 against the spread when set as a small favourite or underdog and I like Mississippi State to win by a Field Goal.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ USC Trojans Pick: The season has been something of a disappointment for both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans despite opening with such promise. While Notre Dame have been on a poor run of results, it will be interesting to see how the Trojans can pick themselves up from yet another defeat to rivals UCLA.

Both teams should have success throwing the ball and both Cody Kessler and Everett Golson should have a big day, but mistakes have seen their teams lose games they perhaps shouldn't have.

USC haven't been a great favourite to back though and that would be a concern laying a Touchdown in terms of points in this one. They have to also pick themselves up from their disappointment from last week and Notre Dame are 7-4 against the spread as the underdog over the last three seasons.

Minnesota Golden Gophers @ Wisconsin Badgers Pick: This is a game to decide which of these teams will be playing in the Big Ten Championship next week and I am looking for a better all around performance from the Wisconsin Badgers in this one.

The Badgers have dominated the recent games in the series and will look for their big Offensive Line to dominate and open the running lanes for Melvin Gordon in this one. Wisconsin did struggle to slow down Iowa last week once they got into a big lead, but they should be stronger in the trenches in this one and I don't believe Minnesota can match the passing that Jake Rudock put together for the Hawkeyes under pressure.

It will be really tough for Minnesota to hold down Wisconsin and I can only say the same I did last week that the Badgers will eventually wear down the Golden Gophers with their power running. That should see them pull away in this Big Ten West decider and the fact that this game is at home is another key for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin are 6-3 against the spread when set as a big favourite between 10.5 and 21 points and I think they are going to prove too big and powerful for Minnesota.

Baylor Bears @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: Do you think the Baylor Bears might have seen the impressive TCU Horned Frogs win over the Texas Longhorns on Thanksgiving Day? That would have given TCU plenty of style points to impress the voters and the Horned Frogs admitted that was on their mind at the end of the game.

So how can Baylor respond? In all honesty, they won't have too many better chances to put up points against a Texas Tech Defense that has struggled stopping the run or the pass and had 82 points put on them by the Horned Frogs.

I do think Texas Tech's Air Raid Offense scores points too, but they have also made mistakes and that can only give Baylor the chance to put together a really big win in this one.

Baylor beat Texas Tech by 29 at home last season and will look to match that margin at least and there is no doubt they will look to run up the score if they possibly can in this one. I expect the Defense to make a few plays to perhaps pick up extra possessions and Baylor should win this game fairly comfortably.

The Bears are 5-1 against the spread when favoured by more than 21.5 points and not as many as 31.5 points in the last three seasons and they are playing a Texas Tech team that are surprisingly 0-2 against the spread with that many points as the underdog over the same time.

Michigan State Spartans @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: The Michigan State Spartans have shown the character they have built in their football programme by not feeling sorry for themselves after losing to Ohio State.

The loss to the Buckeyes has ended Michigan State's chances of winning the Big Ten East and their place in the College Football Play Off, but the Spartans have won back to back games since then and won those games by 22 points and then 42 points so this team clearly wants to end the season on a high.

The Michigan State Defense is a very good unit and they know Penn State have been a little predictable when it comes to their Offense and so it may be tough for the Nittany Lions to move the chains consistently in this one.

However, Penn State have been competitive in most of their games this season which is a concern in backing Michigan State in this one. On the other hand, the Nittany Lions are just 1-5 against the spread in Conference games and they are facing a Michigan State team that has a 7-3 record against the spread as the favourite. Penn State are a tough team to knock off, but the Spartans are playing too well at the moment.

Florida Gators @ Florida State Seminoles Pick: No one is that convinced about the Florida State Seminoles and the last time they hosted the Florida Gators they were beaten by 11 points in 2012, but I like going against the public in this one and looking for the Seminoles to get passed their last big test before the Play Off.

Florida's players showed their support for fired Will Muschamp who is done as Head Coach at the end of the season by whipping Eastern Kentucky last week, but that was an overmatched team and the Seminoles are a different challenge completely.

I just feel Florida State's Jameis Winston makes the big plays in this one that lead the Seminoles to the most impressive win of the season and I am not sure Florida can keep up if this becomes an Offensive battle. The Gators Defense is for real, but Winston helped his team score 37 points against them last season and I think the Seminoles win this by double digits on Saturday.

This is a statement game for Florida State and I do think they come through with a big, important win.

Auburn Tigers @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: As one of the big rivalries in College Football, it is fitting that so much is on the line when the Alabama Crimson Tide host the Auburn Tigers in this final SEC regular season game. The Crimson Tide have so much to gain by beating their rivals who would love nothing more than to play spoiler against Alabama's National Championship ambitions.

This is a legitimate revenge game for Alabama after the way the 'kick six' went down against them last season and they have been very good the last two times they have been in this spot against Auburn. In those two games off a loss to the Tigers, Alabama have won by 36 and 28 points.

I do feel Alabama are the better team and they have been playing the better football than Auburn coming into this one, although the sheer fact this is a rivalry should see an improved performance from the Tigers. However, I think the Crimson Tide Defense will make more plays than their Tigers counterparts and that should allow Alabama to pull clear.

Alabama have not been a great favourite to back but they would have covered against Mississippi State if not for a Touchdown thrown with 15 seconds left and I believe they leave this game with less doubt than that one.

Oregon Ducks @ Oregon State Beavers Pick: This is a vital game for both teams for different reasons as the Oregon Ducks know one more loss would likely knock them out of the College Football Play Off and the Oregon State Beavers are still trying to make themselves Bowl eligible. That should make the Civil War great viewing for the fans with both teams likely able to air the ball out through the game.

Big difference between the teams could be Oregon's ability to run the ball and a more effective pass rush that may stall the Beavers drives and that is why I believe the Oregon Ducks cover a big number.

Oregon have won 6 straight games since their sole loss this season and have covered the number in each of those games, while the Ducks have won three road games at Oregon State by large margins.

Marcus Mariota can improve his chances of landing the Heisman in this game and also lead Oregon into the Pac-12 Championship Game with another big performance. The Ducks are now 9-3 against the spread as the road favourite over the last three seasons, while Oregon State are just 1-4 against the spread as the underdog this season.

It does seem Oregon have far more to lose than Oregon State and they have definitely been focused in winning games impressively and I think they add the Beavers to that list in Week 14.

Washington Huskies @ Washington State Cougars Pick: The Washington State Cougars have lost 4 of their last 5 games in the series with the Washington Huskies and they are unlikely to improve that record of recent years. The Cougars did win the last time they hosted Washington, but it is a big ask for them to do that again in this one.

Washington State will have their success throwing the ball, as any Mike Leach run Offense will do, but they struggle to run the ball and will be under pressure from the pass rush that Washington can generate.

On the other hand, Washington will be able to run the ball and then make plays against a Secondary that allows 300 passing yards per game.

The Huskies are 5-1 against the spread in the last three years when the spread is up to three points in either favourite or underdog situation. Washington State are 0-2 against the spread as the home underdog of 3 points or less over the same time span and the Huskies might just be too good for them again in Week 14.

MY PICKS: TCU Horned Frogs - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 21 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
East Carolina Pirates - 17.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines + 20.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bearcats - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Mississippi State Bulldogs - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish + 7 Points @ 1.85 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 14.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears - 26.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans - 13.5 Points @ 1.92 Stan James (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 8.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 19 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Washington Huskies - 3 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Week 13: 7-6, + 0.37 Units (13 Units Staked, + 2.85% Yield)
Week 127-5, + 1.40 Units (12 Units Staked, + 11.67% Yield)
Week 119-4, + 4.34 Units (13 Units Staked, + 33.38% Yield)
Week 106-7, - 1.51 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.62% Yield)
Week 94-9-1, - 5.31 Units (14 Units Staked, - 37.93% Yield)
Week 85-7, - 2.26 Units (12 Units Staked, - 18.83% Yield)
Week 73-8, - 5.31 Units (11 Units Staked, - 48.27% Yield)
Week 62-7, - 5.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 57% Yield)
Week 54-5, - 1.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 12.56% Yield)
Week 46-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)
Week 33-7-1, - 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 201461-73-2, - 17.55 Units (149 Units Staked, - 11.78% 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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