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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (September 30th)

It was a mixed start to the picks from the week as one player won, one player lost, and one was leading before her opponent pulled out with an injury. Retirements in matches are more common at this time of the season when players have had a lot of months of tennis in the body and perhaps are beginning to look ahead to the 2016 season.

There are players who will really reduce the schedule following the US Open if their main goals have been achieved, although most of the big names are out in Wuhan this week for one of the big events left this season.

With only seven weeks left of the season, the 2015 season is quickly winding down and the focus is on seeing which players confirm their places in Singapore and London for the End of Year Finals and there is still some interesting matches to be played as players look to set a marker down for the 2016 season.

Venus Williams - 4.5 games v Carla Suarez Navarro: When you look at the way both Venus Williams and Carla Suarez Navarro approach matches, I am stunned to see it is the Spaniard that has the winning record in their head to head matches. I would have thought Venus' power would prove too much for Suarez Navarro to handle, but it hasn't been the case so far clearly.

A couple of the Suarez Navarro wins have come on a hard court, but she has been in terrible form over the last three months and confidence is simply not in a great place. When you are having to work hard for whatever you earn on a tennis court, lacking confidence just means hitting the ball a little shorter than you would like, or perhaps not going for the winners that you might do when feeling a lot better about your game.

It affects shot selection and Venus Williams is directly opposite to Suarez Navarro having produced some solid wins in recent weeks. Williams had a great run at the US Open before finding younger sister Serena a little too good in a fascinating Quarter Final, but Venus has bounced back with solid wins over Agnieszka Radwanska and Julia Goerges this week in Wuhan.

Suarez Navarro is just 6-9 since reaching the Final in Rome back in May and I think Venus Williams gets some revenge for her loss to the Spaniard in Miami. I like Venus Williams to come through 63, 64 and move into the Quarter Finals.

Camila Giorgi + 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: It was a tougher match than I expected for Angelique Kerber when she beat Jelena Jankovic in three sets, but importantly the German has maintained her recent form. She should be too good for the erratic Camila Giorgi who has been very inconsistent since winning the title in Hertogenbosch back in June.

Giorgi had a battling win in the First Round against Tsvetana Pironkova and benefited from Belinda Bencic retiring after the first set on Tuesday. She has plenty of talent, but she doesn't always know the best way to control the power she has and her shot making can go down the toilet when under pressure.

The serve is also as much a weapon as it is a hindrance- while she will secure a lot more cheaper points than Angelique Kerber, the second serve Giorgi possesses is a real liability with plenty of double faults never that far away.

Someone like Kerber certainly has the defensive skills to frustrate Giorgi and earn plenty of unforced errors out of her game. However, I like the Italian as someone who builds confidence and can become very dangerous the longer she goes in a tournament and her one and half wins will aid that confidence.

When she releases the pressure and play on instinct, Giorgi is a real handful for any player on the WTA Tour and I think she can give Kerber plenty to think about it with this number of games in the pocket.

Tommy Robredo - 5.5 games v Hiroki Moriya: You don't want to underestimate a player that has come through the qualifiers and then won a main draw match like Hiroki Moriya has, but Tommy Robredo should have a considerable edge in the match.

The Spaniard can't always be trusted to cover big spreads because his service games can be described sloppy at best when he is slightly below par. However, he is playing an opponent that is not exactly going to be able to hit through him consistently and I think Robredo has had enough time to recover from travelling here from Russia.

Robredo did show some solid form in St Petersburg, but this is a big number being asked of him to cover, one that he isn't too used to doing in recent weeks. However, he is playing against an opponent who has rarely managed to get to this level with the majority of his time spent on the Challenger circuit and I think Moriya could be surprised by the amount of balls Robredo is able to return back to the court.

While he has had some wins on the hard courts, Moriya has suffered a number of heavy defeats on the surface and I will look for Robredo to wear him down 64, 62 in this one.

Jeremy Chardy - 3.5 games v Benjamin Becker: A Quarter Final place is up for grabs in Kuala Lumpur and Jeremy Chardy certainly has been playing well enough over the last couple of months to think he can take it ahead of Benjamin Becker.

Chardy had to dig deep to beat the young and talented Alexander Zverev in the First Round, but he looked to be getting stronger as that match went on. He has a decent serve, when it is working, and Chardy should also have the better of Becker when it comes to the extended rallies and I do really believe the Frenchman is capable of covering this number which I think is at least a game short of where it should be.

I have respect for the Benjamin Becker win over Sam Groth, but that has been a rare high point in the last few months and he is actually 4-9 since pulling out at the French Open. Confidence issues and perhaps some physical issues haven't helped Becker reversing his form and now facing a player that is feeling really good about his game is tough to overcome.

If Becker serves at his very best, he can make this competitive and perhaps even steal a set, but I think Chardy wins the match. If Becker is slightly under par, the Frenchman should win 63, 64 and it would take a serious turnaround in form from Becker to prevent that happening.

MY PICKS: Venus Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Camila Giorgi + 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.18 Units (4 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Midweek Football Picks 2015 (September 29-October 1)

Match Day 2 of the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage takes centre stage during the week and it is a chance for the English teams to bounce back from what was an embarrassing set of results on Match Day 1 to not put too fine a point on it.

With those results, it has become common knowledge that the Premier League is perhaps getting close to dangerous territory when it comes to potentially losing the fourth Champions League spot to Italy whose clubs certainly take the Europa League more seriously than their English counterparts.

The lack of excitement around the Europa League doesn't look like changing in England, but fans of those clubs challenging for the Champions League places might be concerned if Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino continue to show such a lackadaisical attitude towards the Europa League as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur managers.

The irony is of course that both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are desperate to get back into the Champions League consistently, but not taking the Europa League seriously makes that task more difficult if England are reduced to just three clubs in the Champions League going forward.

To be fair to both of those clubs, they have made positive starts to their Groups in the Europa League compared with Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United in the Champions League. All three of those teams have a chance of bouncing back in the Champions League this week, while the rest of the favourites to win this competition all made positive starts on Match Day 1.

Before I get on with the picks for the games to be played over the next three days, I have put down a few thoughts out of the weekend domestic and European action which can be read here.

Arsenal v Olympiacos PickBeating Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City will have given Arsenal the kind of positive momentum they would want to run through to the international break. There are two big games for Arsenal this week at The Emirates Stadium and they will be looking to earn the three points to get their Champions League back on track.

A hugely disappointing loss in Dinamo Zagreb is unlikely to be fatal to Arsenal's chances of progressing to the Last 16, but finishing top of the Group looks beyond them already. I can't see Bayern Munich slipping up, but Arsene Wenger has to keep the team focused on earning the three points in this one or they might find qualifying for the Second Round beginning to become a problem.

The results over the last seven days has given them the impetus to get that win and Arsenal have seen the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all score confidence boosting goals over the weekend. This is a team that thrives on playing with confidence and Arsenal should be far too good for Olympiacos who looked out of sorts against Bayern Munich and have travelled poorly in European competition.

It was the loss in Malmo last season that cost Olympiacos a chance to qualify for the Second Round and this is a team that has lost five straight games on their travels in the Champions League. Olympiacos have conceded at least two goals in each game and that is not going to get it done here when Arsenal have begun to bang in the goals.

Changes in personnel over the summer might not affect the Olympiacos domestic challenge, but bridging the gap to the Champions League is much harder. I fancy Arsenal will be too good and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap while putting up the first three points in the Group to recover from the debacle of Zagreb.

Bayern Munich v Dinamo Zagreb Pick: Credit to Dinamo Zagreb for taking advantage of the sloppy Arsenal performance to win their first Group game in 15 attempts in the Champions League, but it would be a real surprise if Bayern Munich are as in generous mood.

The win for Dinamo Zagreb over Arsenal means they are going to be given full respect from Bayern Munich who have just motored into very good form over the last couple of weeks. As impressive as Dinamo Zagreb's win was on Match Day 1, I think it is arguable that Bayern Munich's was perhaps more impressive as they won in Olympiacos where so many teams have not just failed to win, but have lost in recent Champions League games.

The last two Champions League Runners Up both lost in Olympiacos last season and so the Bayern Munich performance and margin of victory has to be admired. Bayern Munich have since crushed Darmstadt, Wolfsburg and Mainz and all four of those wins have come by at least three goals, while Bayern Munich have also won 9 in a row in all competitions since losing the German Super Cup on penalties.

More stats point to a fairly routine night for Bayern Munich as they have won 6 in a row here in the Champions League and had won 3 in a row by at least three goals before the 3-2 win over Barcelona in the Semi Final Second Leg. With the goals flowing, Dinamo Zagreb are going to find it very hard to resist the home team especially as they lost all 3 away games in the Europa League last season.

The move up to the Champions League Group Stage hasn't always worked out for Dinamo Zagreb either and recent seasons did see them lose by at least three goals at Ajax, Real Madrid, Porto and Paris Saint-Germain in the Group Stage.

Dinamo Zagreb are already ahead of the curve when it comes to expected points in the Group and the double header against Olympiacos might determine if they are good enough to qualify for the Last 16. However, on this night I am expecting Bayern Munich to prepare for their Bundesliga game against Borussia Dortmund by recording a thumping home win.

Porto v Chelsea PickBoth Porto and Chelsea will be confident they are going to have enough to get out of this Group in the Champions League, but the games between them matter when it comes to potentially deciding who wins the Group. Porto have to look at this game as one they can prove that the Quarter Final appearance last season was not a fluke, especially with Chelsea still looking vulnerable defensively.

That coupled with the fact that Porto have won 17 home games in all competition and beat both Basel and Bayern Munich with strong performances in that run has to give the home team confidence.

Porto are a team that can score goals at home despite selling Jackson Martinez in the summer and Chelsea simply don't look like they are going to keep too many clean sheets at the moment. However, Chelsea showed they have plenty of character when coming back to draw with Newcastle United and Jose Mourinho will want his team to perform on his return to Porto.

The layers can't really split the teams, which is not a surprise considering the form that both teams have shown, although I do think Porto are a tempting price to win.

They also don't seem to be expecting goals, but Chelsea's last 7 away games in all competitions have seen at least three goals produced as they have still shown an attacking presence but struggled at the back. Porto's home games in the Champions League last season saw 4 out of 5 produce at least three goals and the other was a 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk after first place in the Group had been secured.

At a big price, I think the chance of goals in this game look under-rated and backing there being at least three shared looks the way to go.

Zenit St Petersburg v Gent Pick: Zenit St Petersburg always seem to land on their feet when it comes to the Champions League Group Stage draw and they have reached the Last 16 on a couple of occasions. This is a team who once moved through to the Second Round with the lowest points total in the Champions League in the Group Stage format, but their luck ran out a little last season when knocked out at this Stage.

This season was expected to be a little different with Zenit St Petersburg as one of the top Seeds having won the Russian title last season and the 2-3 win at Valencia on Match Day 1 has given them a real foothold in the Group. Backing that up with another win is going to be the expectation for Zenit St Petersburg and I think they can flourish by doing that.

I don't always trust Zenit St Petersburg considering they have won 1 of their last 8 home games in the Champions League which doesn't include any Qualifiers. The standard in the competition has usually proved a little too much for Zenit St Petersburg, but Gent are not a team that has that much experience and the Russian Champions have to take advantage.

It was already a surprise to see Gent in the Group Stage having somehow won the Belgium title last season and that was unexpected considering the club hadn't even qualified for a European competition the year prior. A 1-1 home draw with Lyon on Match Day 1 will have given Gent some confidence, and they did end a 5 game away run without a victory in their last game on their travels.

New rules in Russia means Zenit St Petersburg are going to be a changing squad over the next couple of years, but they beat the likes of PSV Eindhoven and Torino in the Europa League at home and Gent should be a team they can beat while covering the Asian Handicap.

Atletico Madrid v Benfica Pick: When it comes to picking a dark horse to win the Champions League, Atletico Madrid have to be one of the top choices out there. This is a team with the magical players in forward positions that can win a game, while they are secure defensively which will always make them tough beat and Atletico Madrid are expected to dominate this Group.

Benfica were considered one of the weaker of the top Seeds that teams were looking to draw and Atletico Madrid will be confident they can make it two wins out of two. These two teams are likely to be the top two in the Group, but Benfica have failed to progress beyond the Group Stage of the Champions League in their last three seasons since reaching the Quarter Final in 2012.

This is a team that has gone through a number of changes in the off-season and Benfica's win over Astana on Match Day 1 was an expected result with this being a much bigger challenge. They have lost 4 of their last 6 away games in the Champions League and Benfica have lost both away games played in the League this season by the same 1-0 scoreline.

There is every chance Atletico Madrid can increase their run to 8 games without conceding a home goal in the Champions League and they have had clean sheets in 9 of their last 10 here in this competition. Atletico Madrid have kept clean sheets in their last 8 games at the Vicente Calderon if you ignore two games against Barcelona and I think they win this one with a clean sheet to take control of the Group.

Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City PickIf this game is played a month ago, Manchester City are doing all the winning and Borussia Monchengladbach would have been doing a lot of losing. However, that form has flipped around going into this Champions League game and it is Monchengladbach who have a 2 game winning run behind them while Manchester City have lost 3 of their last 4 games.

The match is a big one for both teams having lost their opening Champions League game and you would have to start second guessing the losing team and whether they have the ability to progress to the Second Round.

Borussia Monchengladbach have Europa League experience in recent years, but Manchester City certainly have the edge when it comes to Champions League experiences. Anything Manchester City might not know about their opponents could be changed by asking new signing Kevin De Bruyne who was playing in the Bundesliga last season and I think this is a tougher match to call than the layers.

The layers have set Manchester City as a odds on favourite to win here and that seems strange considering they have won 1 of their last 5 away games in the Champions League. Granted three of those games come against either Barcelona or Bayern Munich, but CSKA Moscow earned a 2-2 home draw with Manchester City last season in the Group Stage.

This is also a ground where Borussia Monchengladbach have been pretty strong in recent European games and they had been unbeaten in 7 before losing 2-3 to Sevilla in the Europa League.

Guessing a winner just becomes murky when you look at the season and the recent form of both teams, but one thing that is standing out is the prospect for goals. All 3 of Borussia Monchengladbach's home games this season have produced at least three goals, while 5 of their last 6 in European competition at home have also reached that number.

Recent games have seen Manchester City look threatening going forward, but vulnerable at the back and it would not be a big surprise if they conceded at least once here. Both teams will be looking for a positive result so I expect to see plenty of attacking football and goals might be the conclusion to make.

Malmo v Real Madrid PickOn another day Real Madrid would have beaten Malaga by a wide margin, but it was one of those days when they just didn't get the breaks in front of goal on Saturday. It would take a monumental effort from Malmo to prevent Real Madrid getting on the scoreboard in this one, although the home team can use all of the experience they had in the competition last season to challenge their more illustrious visitors.

Both Atletico Madrid and Juventus played in Malmo last season and both recorded the same 0-2 win here and I think it is a huge ask of the Swedish team to get anything from this game. Rafa Benitez continues to get the defensive shape right though and I can see Real Madrid matching those results from last season.

The layers seem to think Real Madrid can go better than both Atletico Madrid and Juventus, but I can't really pick that to happen because they have been a little hit and miss in front of goal. While I don't think Malmo can get the same defensive performances that Sporting Gijon and Malaga did in finding clean sheets against Real Madrid, they might still make life difficult.

At odds against, it might pay to stick with Real Madrid winning this game with a clean sheet at odds against with the way they have played defensively this season. The 0-2 scoreline looks the most likely result, but odds against on Real Madrid winning with a clean sheet is generous enough.

Manchester United v Wolfsburg PickBeing back on top of the League has to be a great feeling for Manchester United fans everywhere, although if they are still there at the end of October it will make me genuinely believe in the possibilities this squad has.

The Premier League matter can be put on the backburner for now though as Manchester United try and get their Champions League Group back on track following the surprising and unfortunate loss in Eindhoven. There is no way Manchester United should have lost that game, and I am expecting a bit more luck for the side from this second game.

I always had a feeling that Wolfsburg might be the biggest threat in the Group when it comes to finishing top of the section and their 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow. Even the loss of Kevin De Bruyne might not be a huge blow if they can keep Julian Draxler fit and Wolfsburg are a dangerous team for Manchester United to play when they are desperate for the win.

You have to expect Wolfsburg will allow Manchester United to have the ball and hit them on the break, but this is a team that doesn't really do clean sheets away from home. Wolfsburg only earned 2 clean sheets in their 6 away games in European competition last season and this was a team that visited England in the Europa League and were thumped 4-1 by Everton.

I'd be surprised if Manchester United won that easily, but I do expect them to win. Manchester United have found their shooting boots with at least three goals scored in three straight at Old Trafford, but teams are still creating chances so Wolfsburg could play their part in the game.

As I mentioned, I expect Manchester United to win, but they look a short price and the bigger one offered for at least three goals looks more appealing. Manchester United would have covered that by themselves in 4 of their last 5 games at Old Trafford, and their last 7 games overall have hit that total at the least.

It wouldn't surprise me if both teams scored in this one and backing goals looks a tempting option.

Monaco v Tottenham Hotspur PickThe Europa League can be a competition where many teams decide to rest players in anticipation of bigger games in the League which take place just a couple of days later. It has especially been the case for teams from England and Tottenham Hotspur will be unlikely to change that policy ahead of a tough game at Swansea City on Sunday.

Monaco are looking to get their season turned around after some recent results have gone against them, but the big feature has to be the number of goals both scored and conceded in those results.

The last three games Monaco have played have resulted in sixteen total goals and they have conceded three goals in each of those games. But Monaco have also scored at least two goals in each game so the layers might have underestimated the chance of there being at least three goals shared by the teams in this one.

With a changed side, Tottenham Hotspur might be vulnerable defensively, but they have to find better cohesion going forward. The last couple of games have been positive on that front, but the changed team can mean they need time to adjust their attacking tactics and gel together.

However, I think Tottenham Hotspur will have their chances to score with the way Monaco have been defending of late and I think there has to be a small interest on goals to come out of this match.

Basel v Lech Poznan PickBasel have perhaps overcome the biggest challenge they are going to face in the Group by winning at Fiorentina and they will be expected to go on and qualify for the Last 32.

They will know all about Lech Poznan having beaten them in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round in both Legs and Basel will be confident they can frank that form in the Group. Lech Poznan haven't exactly recovered from a poor start to the season as defending Champions and they have regularly travelled poorly in European competition and it is tough to see how they turn that around here.

Basel have scored at least twice in all but one home game this season, that being the 1-0 win over Lech Poznan in the Champions League, and they do look a team that has too much firepower for their opponent. With the win in Florence behind them, I expect Basel will be confident and expect to put up another three points and I expect this victory over Lech Poznan will be by a little wider margin than the one in the Champions League.

In that game Basel were protecting a 1-3 lead from the First Leg and were under no pressure to go forward, but that has changed with the points to be earned in the Group. I will be looking for them to have a much more positive approach to the fixture and come through by a couple of goals.

Schalke v Asteras Tripolis PickSchalke are fairly big favourites to win this game and I have little doubt that they are going to show the difference in quality on the pitch against Asteras Tripolis. The German side have struggled to win home games in Europe in recent games, but those came in the Champions League against much better teams than Asteras Tripolis.

Schalke can make home advantage count against a team that has lost 4 of their last 7 away games in European football including a thumping 5-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur last season.

Goals haven't been a problem for Schalke and I think they will have enough in their side to cover the Asian Handicap and win this one by a couple of goals.

Villarreal v Viktoria Plzen PickYou can completely understand why the layers have tabbed Villarreal as the favourites for this match considering the form they have shown in Spain and the bounce back they have made from the 2-1 loss at Rapid Vienna. Unlike the English teams, Spanish teams have taken the Europa League seriously and I fully expect Villarreal to play a strong team and win the three points on offer.

It won't be an easy test against Viktoria Plzen who have only lost 1 of their last 5 away games in European competition and who have won 8 in a row in all competitions.

That kind of confidence can be tough to shake, although Villarreal are top of the Spanish Primera Division and so won't be short of that themselves.

Villarreal will create chances and score goals, but I wouldn't be surprised if Viktoria Plzen play their part in this Group game. While I do favour Villarreal to win, I think backing at least three goals to be scored looks a more attractive price in this match.

The last 11 Villarreal home games in the Europa League have featured at least three goals and they have looked a team that might concede, but will give plenty in the attacking third.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bayern Munich - 2 English Handicap @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Porto-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Zenit St Petersburg - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid Win to Nil @ 2.50 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Borussia Monchengladbach-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Real Madrid Win to Nil @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United-Wolfsburg Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Monaco-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Betway (2 Units)
Basel - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Schalke - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Villarreal-Viktoria Plzen Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)

September Update22-25-3, - 0.22 Units (93.5 Units Staked, - 0% Yield)

August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1616-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Monday, 28 September 2015

Weekend Football Thoughts 2015 (September 26-28)

We have just about got through the first two months of the 2015/16 season and the domestic League tables are beginning to make sense now.

This week we will see a number of teams turn their attention back to the Champions League before what looks like a very big weekend of Premier League football and a true 'Super Sunday' for the neutrals to enjoy.

On with the stories that have come out of the weekend football.

Time for an Expanded Video Replay System?
I am sure I am not the only football fan out there that has been enjoying the Rugby World Cup which is currently taking place and it is a sport that has embraced technology to help get the decisions right.

I am not a big fan of going to the video for almost every little detail, I think the referees have to keep the human element in the game, especially as some of the rugby matches seem to last an eternity when the video is employed constantly.

So I don't think I would want technology to ruin the flow of a football game going forward with everything being checked, but it might be time for 'offside' decisions to be reviewed.

The three decisions in the Tottenham Hotspur-Manchester City game that the linesmen got wrong were almost inexcusable, with or without the video technology. Even if it was employed at the moment, the above image saw the linesman directly in line with Kyle Walker yet he still missed it which makes me wonder what exactly he was doing/watching and that has nothing to do with the video technology.

It's not close enough to give the linesman the benefit of the doubt like the Kevin De Bruyne could be argued for, and the later decision allowing Harry Kane's goal to stand was almost as baffling considering he was inside the box and the rest of the players, bar the goalkeeper, were clearly standing outside of the 18 yard line.

Some people will use the 'speed of the game' as an excuse, but the Kane goal came from a direct free kick so there was no 'speed' that could have affected the linesman decision, while the above decision was simply ridiculous.

My biggest concern with video technology has to be slowing down the game and just killing the flow that makes football exciting. Maybe a challenge system like that employed in the NFL or the professional tennis tours can be put into football, especially for these matter of fact incidents like an offside or a goal being scored but anything more than that and you know the Premier League will change a ninety minute game into one that lasts much, much longer.

Manchester United Finally Back on Top of the Premier League
Ever since the formation of the Premier League, Manchester United have been considered a title challenger or a team that will certainly spend time at the top of the Premier League. The earlier result at White Hart Lane on Saturday gave the club the chance to reach the summit of the Premier League for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson departed in May 2013.

Manchester United weren't going to miss that opportunity against Sunderland and a 3-0 win saw them move to a position fans were very familiar in seeing the side under Sir Alex Ferguson.

I can't deny that it was exciting to see the League table with Manchester United leading the way, but there is a long way to go for a title challenge to really develop.

Firstly I think Manchester United are perhaps a point short in what they should have earned from the opening set of fixtures, the two points dropped against Newcastle United the key. Of course teams will drop points in a competitive League like the Premier League so that isn't a big concern and it is all about finishing above 19 other teams no matter how the points are earned.

Second, I am looking forward to seeing where Manchester United are come November 1st.

Why? The next four Premier League games before that date sees Manchester United travelling to Arsenal, Everton and Crystal Palace while hosting Manchester City and it will give everyone a much truer picture of whether Louis Van Gaal can put a title challenge together.

If Manchester United are still on top of the Premier League on that date in a little over a months time, I will truly begin to believe they can win the title this season.

The Return of Daniel Sturridge comes at a Crucial Time for Brendan Rodgers
After a really positive start to the Premier League season, recent results had left Brendan Rodgers under serious pressure as Liverpool manager with rumours racing that they are looking for his replacement.

Injuries and poor signings haven't helped the cause, but the return of Daniel Sturridge might have come at a critical time for Liverpool and Rodgers.

It was Sturridge who scored twice to help the side beat Aston Villa 3-2 at Anfield on Saturday and finally having someone at the end of the creativity should have Liverpool moving in a positive direction. Sturridge is the best fit up front for what Rodgers is trying to do with Liverpool and his goals might have eased the pressure on the manager, but he has missed chunks of the last twelve months.

Keeping Sturridge fit might be the big link between Rodgers being in or out of the dugout at Anfield in the foreseeable future and I can bet the manager has no intention of making his striker available for the England European Qualifiers that are played in a couple of weeks.

This was always seen as a big week for Rodgers with the Merseyside derby ending it before the international break and Sturridge might just be the man to earn him a reprieve if the rumours of an imminent sacking were to be believed.

Callum Wilson's Injury could be a Major Blow to Bournemouth
When teams come up from the Championship, the hardest task might be finding a player that can consistently score the goals at the Premier League level that can help them avoid relegation.

It doesn't always work as Queens Park Rangers found out despite having Charlie Austin up front, but it is still a huge help for these promoted teams to have someone who they can rely upon.

Bournemouth looked to have their striker in Callum Wilson with some suggesting he might be in line for an England call-up, but unfortunately he suffered what looks like a long-term knee injury on Saturday.

Missing Wilson for considerable time will be a big blow to Eddie Howe and the next two months are critical for Bournemouth to find a way to keep churning out the results in his absence. Glenn Murray has experience at the Premier League level, but he doesn't have the pace of Wilson nor is he a player that wants to get behind the last line of defence by playing on the shoulders of defenders and so Bournemouth have to make some big adjustments.

The winter months are approaching and it could be some dark times for Bournemouth who have a difficult portion of their fixture list upcoming following the game with Watford next weekend. Losing Wilson through those months might be the catalyst to The Cherries slipping into the relegation zone and it will be a big task for Eddie Howe to get them out of trouble barring huge investments in the January transfer window.

I do enjoy the football Bournemouth try to produce, but that isn't enough to survive in the Premier League if there isn't much of an end product there without Wilson.

Can Barcelona Overcome Lionel Messi's Two Month Injury?
Unlike the Premier League in England, the Spanish Primera Division doesn't have the same level of competitiveness and that means any downturn in form from the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid gives the other a distinct chance to win the title.

Atletico Madrid might have something to say about that considering they were Champions just two seasons ago, but really most people expect either Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the title in Spain.

Losing Lionel Messi for up to two months could be a huge dent for Barcelona despite the form they ended last season. They have struggled to match that to open this season with Lionel Messi and having to do without their talisman might give Real Madrid the impetus to create a lead in the Division that will be tough to overturn in the second half of the season.

Real Madrid haven't exactly been in flying form themselves with injuries to key players in their squad perhaps hindering them from picking up momentum, but this is a great chance for Rafa Benitez to pull away from Barcelona. There is just one point separating Barcelona from Real Madrid and it will be interesting to see where that stands when Messi returns in early December.

Tennis Picks 2015 (September 29th)

It was a very good week for the tennis picks last week and I hope to continue with the moment as we move onto the tournaments taking place this week. I didn't make any picks from the matches in the first couple of days this week, but I am interested in three Second Round matches in Wuhan which will take place in the early hours of the morning UK time.

Suffice to say I won't be doing much watching of the tennis at the moment because of the time differences, but I try and keep as much information together from various avenues to find out how players have played. Using that coupled with other factors means I can continue making the tennis picks as I would for other tournaments even if I don't get to see much of the action at all.

Let us just hope for another positive week to get the season totals moving back into the black and making it another season with a winning record, although I am clearly disappointed that the majority of the hard work was wiped out in the space of six weeks.

Ana Ivanovic - 4.5 games v Madison Brengle: One of the most inconsistent players on the WTA Tour has to be Ana Ivanovic who can go from looking like a top five player to one who has barely picked up a racquet before in the blink of an eye. I think that has been a major factor in her inability to put more tournament wins on the board, while I really think she struggles to control her emotional state when things get difficult on the court.

Ivanovic is not the best at making the adjustments she needs to and her serve goes all over the place when under duress... However, I don't think she should be feeling the pressure when facing Madison Brengle and I think Ivanovic can prove too good in this Second Round match.

It has been a good season for Brengle who is up to Number 38 in the World Rankings, while she earned a very positive win over an in-form Dominika Cibulkova in the First Round. The American has decent movement around the court, but Ivanovic should wear her down with the power she possesses and the top players have generally been too good for Brengle.

Ivanovic had a very strong win in the First Round and it is hard for her to maintain that level. I don't think this will be as straight-forward with service breaks for both players, but I still believe Ivanovic will be just a little too much physically and that should see her move through 64, 63.

Angelique Kerber - 3.5 games v Jelena Jankovic: Angelique Kerber has fallen out of the World's Top Ten in the Rankings, but the second half of the season has been much more positive than the first half. I fully expect the German to move back up into the Top Ten in the coming months as she will have little to defend in the first six months of 2016 and she can certainly end 2015 on a high note.

I do think Kerber will be too strong for Jelena Jankovic at this stage of the career, especially as the Serb's consistency is not at the same level as when she reached World Number 1. Her movement is also a little slower than it used to be and that means her defensive skills have just eroded a little, but all of that makes a big difference at this level of tennis.

Jankovic did win a title last week so will be confident, but that also means fatigue can play a part as she was forced to play three sets to beat Heather Watson in the last Round. The increase in competition is fairly high in this one as I think Kerber is unlikely to give too much away for nothing and is a better player than Jankovic these days.

The German has won the last two matches between the two including a thumping win on the grass of Birmingham and Jankovic does find it harder to back up big weeks on the Tour these days. After a tight first set, Kerber might just pull away in this one and move through 75, 63.

Johanna Konta + 5.5 games v Victoria Azarenka: I never doubted that Johanna Konta had the talent to be much higher in the World Rankings than outside the top 100 and it feels good to see her fulfilling her potential.

She will officially become the Great Britain Number 1 female player next week at the end of this tournament and once again has shown she is unafraid of those at the higher level. Coming through the Qualifiers was an achievement in Wuhan, but beating Andrea Petkovic for the second time in four weeks shows Konta's level of confidence.

Now she is facing another level up from Petkovic as she goes against Victoria Azarenka who should be more aware of the Konta game after her run to the US Open Fourth Round. Azarenka has struggled for the consistency to bring her Ranking back up to the pre-injury level, and this is a match that Konta has half a chance if she serves well and puts the pressure on Azarenka.

We have seen Azarenka is not always the best emotionally this season when it comes to pressurised situations and Konta is the kind of solid, level player that might not give too much away. The British player should not be overawed having given Petra Kvitova plenty to think about at the US Open and beating the likes of Petkovic and Garbine Muguruza and this looks like a lot of games for her to be given, one she should stay within even in a losing effort.

MY PICKS: Ana Ivanovic - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Johanna Konta + 5.5 Games @ 1.85 Betway (2 Units)

Weekly Final10-4, + 10.22 Units (28 Units Staked, + 36.5% Yield)

Season 2015- 3.55 Units (1580 Units Staked, - 0% Yield)

Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (September 27th)

After some tough stretches, this has been a good week for the tennis picks regardless of how the last one of the week goes, although I am hoping for the week to end with one more positive result of course.

That pick will come from the Final in Metz as the tournaments this week draw to a close and those in Kuala Lumpur, Shenzhen and Wuhan begin.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 games v Gilles Simon: Both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon have both the title in Metz on two occasions so the winner this week will become the first three time former winner here. They are both comfortable playing on the indoor courts in France, although Simon has had the better path through the draw.

Simon has won all three matches without dropping a set, while Tsonga had to battle through in three sets in the first two matches before beating Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Semi Final.

It is Tsonga who has dominated the head to head with seven wins to two, and Tsonga has never lost to Simon off a clay court. Tsonga has a couple of indoor hard court wins over Simon too and while they haven't played for a couple of years, there are still aspects of their games that gives Tsonga the edge.

He has the bigger serve which sets up the cheaper points and Tsonga's shots also will get more penetration through the court on the faster surfaces. I think Tsonga will know that he is going to have time to get his shots going because Simon will naturally play a more defensive game and giving Tsonga the momentum is only going to end the same way as previous matches between the two.

I can see Simon giving Tsonga some problems with his defensive skills and movement, but Tsonga should still create the most break point opportunities and can win the title after a 64, 75 win.

MY PICKS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 10-3, + 12.22 Units (26 Units Staked, + 47% Yield)

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (September 26th)

This season looked to be heading in a very positive direction for my picks up until the middle of July.

From then until the end of the US Open, the picks went on a terrible run of form and ensured that I am going to be having my worst tennis season. All of the records are there to see and I don't hide the results because you have to take the rough with the smooth and I would be wary of anyone who says they have a set of results where they only allow a 'sample' to be seen.

I will make changes as to how I display the results from next season and am thinking about whether those will be effective, but that is something I will decide in the off season in the six weeks the 2015 concludes and the 2016 season begins.

This week has been a very good one and might just do enough to drag the season record back into the black after some rough weeks. For the second time in three days the picks saw a positive sweep come through and that has provided plenty of pluses for the week.

Hopefully the last couple of days from the events this week won't see a poor turn in form and ensure a decent week before the next set of tournaments begin later this weekend.

Belinda Bencic - 1.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: It is funny to think that a little over twelve months ago, a 17 year old Belinda Bencic was being given a humbling loss by Caroline Wozniacki as she failed to win a game in that match. Since then Bencic's rise up the World Rankings has seen her build the confidence to beat some of the biggest names on the Tour, while she has won all three matches against Wozniacki since that loss in Istanbul.

One of those wins came via an early retirement from Wozniacki, but Bencic also won in straight sets at big events in Indian Wells and Toronto which are very good wins. She has the confidence of taking on anyone, but I think the match up with Wozniacki is not one that worries Bencic because it is unlikely the Dane is going to blow any player off the court.

Wozniacki allows Bencic to build her rhythm from the back of the court and I think the new 'Swiss Miss' has a little more penetration in her shots which can see her break down the Number 1 Seed. I also believe Bencic has a little more out of the serve rather than Wozniacki who uses it as a rally-starter more than a weapon that can get he a lot of cheap points.

Both players should be confident having reached the Semi Final, but I think Bencic will want to continue putting some distance between herself and the double bagel loss to Wozniacki from a mental standpoint. It will be two tight sets, but I like Bencic to come through and cover the number.

Dominika Cibulkova + 3.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: I have a lot of respect for the form that Agnieszka Radwanska has displayed this week and I think she might have enough to snap her run of losses to Dominika Cibulkova.

It has to be pointed out that these two players haven't played for eighteen months and Cibulkova was on a high when she beat Radwanska in the Australian Open Semi Final in 2014 and then at the Miami Masters two months later. 2015 has been a lot more difficult for Cibulkova with injury meaning she missed considerable time during the middle of the year.

However, Cibulkova has shown some good form in recent weeks and once again beat Ana Ivanovic having done the same at the US Open before the Quarter Final here.

Both of these players were perhaps disappointed with how their US Open tournaments ended as they would have expected to beat Madison Keys and Eugenie Bouchard, but Radwanska and Cibulkova have not allowed that disappointment to linger. I think both players will have their big moments in this one and I can't ignore the match up has been a good one for Cibulkova since a crushing double bagel was handed to her by Radwanska in 2013.

I expect Cibulkova can battle in this one and I expect it to be a closely run Semi Final which makes the games the Slovakian is getting in this one look very intriguing. It could go three sets and I think Cibulkova may have every chance of securing the upset in this one too.

Dominic Thiem - 3.5 games v Joao Sousa: I have backed Dominic Thiem to win and cover in the last two Rounds and he hasn't disappointed as he continues to produce his best hard court tennis indoors. I don't see a reason to get off the bandwagon just yet even if Joao Sousa is a dangerous player once his confidence is up at the back end of tournaments.

Putting together wins makes Sousa a very confident player and he clearly performs a lot better with that behind him. Yes, most players will do that, but Sousa can get down on himself when he isn't playing well which seems him fall off in matches, but that won't be the case in the Semi Final.

The match between these two on the indoor hard courts in Marseille was very close, but it was Thiem's ability to dominate the points off the Sousa second serve that effectively proved to be the difference. Joao Sousa's first serve doesn't offer up the cheap points like Thiem's does and it is these small elements that should see the Austrian come through.

I can see him winning a single break of serve more than Sousa in each set and Thiem moving into another ATP Final behind a 64, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Belinda Bencic - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-1, + 14.40 Units (20 Units Staked, + 72% Yield)

Friday, 25 September 2015

College Football Week 4 Picks 2015 (September 26th)

It was one special week in College Football in Week 3 filled with headlines as some of the big schools were upset and the results also meant a change in my own Play Off picture.

However, the Play Off at the end of the season does make things a little more interesting to teams that may be upset as one loss teams are still going to have a great chance to make that Play Off from the Power 5 Conferences.

Losing a Conference game, for instance, is not the end of the world in the top Conferences excluding the Big 12 because of the Championship Game at the end of the regular season. The Alabama Crimson Tide showed that last season as their one loss to the Mississippi Rebels didn't prevent them making the Play Offs as they still went on to win the SEC Championship and the Crimson Tide will be looking for history to repeat.

Can a one loss team from one of the other Conferences make it to the Play Offs? I wouldn't exclude it because of the points a team can pick up from winning a Conference, but I would suggest the SEC is perhaps the only Conference that could potentially send a team to the final four Play Off which doesn't win the Championship.

It would take some set of results for that too happen, but if Week 3 is any indication then who knows what the College Football season is yet to give us.

My Play Off Ranking going into Week 4 and then I will get on with the picks for the week:

1) Ohio State Buckeyes- The Buckeyes overcame some really sloppy play to barely beat the Northern Illinois Huskies and there is some similarities with their performances as the ones that then defending Champions Florida State Seminoles produced last season.

2) TCU Horned Frogs- The Defense is all banged up and running the Big 12 schedule is going to be tough, but I have the TCU Horned Frogs just above the Baylor Bears.

3) Florida State Seminoles- An unbeaten ACC Champion will likely oust the one loss USC Trojans who I still make the favourites to win the Pac-12 despite a loss to Stanford last week.

4) LSU Tigers- Picking a winner in the SEC is difficult and many have called the Mississippi Rebels the best team in the nation after winning in Tuscaloosa, but I do like how the LSU Tigers are quietly going about their business.

Looking In- Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi Rebels, USC Trojans, Michigan State Spartans, Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Oregon Ducks.

Week 4 Picks
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Duke Blue Devils Pick: Losing to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will have been a big disappointment to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but they begin Conference play this week and will be looking for revenge having been beaten by the Duke Blue Devils last season.

The last two seasons have been a special time for Duke who have 19 games in that time, but they are not expected to be a real force in the ACC this time around. They reached the ACC Championship Game in 2013 and only just missed out on a repeat last season, but Duke have lost some considerable talent since and their early season results hasn't exactly encouraged any thoughts more positive than the pre-season.

Duke do see the triple-option Georgia Tech run on a regular basis to know what to expect this weekend but they were heavily pounded on the ground last weekend by Northwestern and I do wonder if the Defensive Line has suffered some physical setbacks. The Blue Devils have played the run well all season, but Georgia Tech excel at moving the chains on the ground, while Justin Thomas is a better passer than Quarter Backs for the Yellow Jackets may expect to be.

I fully expect to see Duke have some success running the ball themselves, but Georgia Tech had their number before last season with 7 straight wins by 21 points per game. They won here in 2013 by over twenty points and Georgia Tech have been a decent road favourite to back even though they failed in that spot last week.

Both teams have bounced back efficiently from straight up losses in recent seasons, but I think Georgia Tech are the right team standing at the end of this one and will cover a spread that has been taken down by the sharps.

New Mexico Lobos @ Wyoming Cowboys Pick: Two teams that are expected to be fighting to avoid the basement in the Mountain West Conference Mountain Division meet in Week 4. It is a big game for the Wyoming Cowboys who are looking for a revenge win over the New Mexico Lobos after hammering them in terms of yards gained last season but still falling into a six point loss on the road.

Despite a couple of games they were expected to lose, New Mexico have managed to run the ball effectively and they should have room to do that against Wyoming in Week 4. Extending the drives on the ground will keep the Cowboys off-balance, while New Mexico are not the sole triple option running Offense of the last few years and will be able to pass against this porous Defense that has allowed 262 yards per game through the air.

Of course the first option for the Lobos will be to run the ball effectively and they should be able to do that. Craig Bohl's Wyoming are a little inexperienced and that has shown up in the first three weeks of the season on both sides of the ball.

The New Mexico Lobos have played the run effectively by holding teams to 3.4 yards per carry in their first three games and they have also brought an effective pass rush that could hurt this Offensive Line. Wyoming have struggled in pass protection, although the altitude they play in can be an advantage if they are running the ball effectively to gas the opponent's Defense.

Unfortunately I think that might happen to them this week and New Mexico are 1-0-1 against the spread when favoured on the road in Bob Davie's time as Head Coach. On the other hand, Wyoming were 1-3 against the spread as the home underdog last season and are facing a Lobos team that has gone 10-5-1 against the spread when coming in off a loss over the last two seasons.

Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Texas Longhorns Pick: The Texas Longhorns covered against the California Golden Bears last week by scoring 20 unanswered Fourth Quarter points, but I think they are perhaps being over-rated going into Week 4. There is no doubting that Jerrod Heard has given them a spark on the Offensive side of the ball, but Defensively the Longhorns haven't looked right in the first three weeks.

Now they begin Big 12 play against teams that have the kind of Offensive output that will really take advantage of the Defensive problems Texas have experienced and that is why I like the Oklahoma State Cowboys to win on the road and cover the spread.

The Cowboys are going to be able to run the ball effectively in this game and that should only make things that much easier for Mason Randolph at Quarter Back. With Oklahoma State in third and short, Randolph should have his way against a Defense that has struggled for an effective pass rush and give up over 270 yards per game through the air.

As I mentioned, Heard has sparked Texas, but this is arguably the best Defense he has faced and will also be under more pressure from the Cowboys pass rush who should win the battles against the Offensive Line. Unlike his counterpart, Heard might not have an established running game to help him here, although he is capable of doing that himself, and that means the Quarter Back will be under some pressure to help keep the Longhorns in this one.

It does feel Texas might have exerted quite a lot of effort in trying to come back against California last week in the Fourth Quarter, an effort that hurts more when it comes up short. They are 2-3 against the spread as the home underdog under Charlie Strong and the home team has lost the last six in the series by 18 points per game.

Tennessee Volunteers @ Florida Gators Pick: It seems the sharps are very much backing the Tennessee Volunteers to end their long losing run of 10 games to the Florida Gators. That has seen the spread shrink, while the public are also favouring the Volunteers to get it done this week, but I think the value has now shifted onto the home team.

While neither team has really pulled up any trees with what they have been able to with the ball in their hands, I think the Florida Gators Defense is legit and will be able to make enough plays to give their team the chance to win.

The feeling is that the Florida Gators will be able to run the ball more effectively of the two teams and that will give Will Grier every chance of making enough plays at Quarter Back to win this game.

Florida have the better pass rush as well as the better Defensive Line, one that is giving up just 2 yards per rush so far this season. Tennessee have been able to run the ball, but they might not have the same room as they have had in their first three games and the Gators are maybe a little more battle hardened having come through a tough one against Kentucky last week.

Home field is another advantage for Florida and they have won the last ten games in the series by 14 points per game and I like the Gators to cover as the underdog.

Appalachian State Mountaineers @ Old Dominion Monarchs Pick: The Appalachian State Mountaineers might be the best team in the Sun Belt Conference and they are coming off a bye so should be well prepared to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs.

Some might look at the 31 point loss to Clemson as some sort of yardstick to beat the Mountaineers with, but they were only outgained by 94 yards in that game and I like them to bounce back after the bye.

Appalachian State should be able to run the ball very effectively against this Old Dominion team that have been outgained in two of their three games and are giving up 5 yards per carry. The Mountaineers might not have to throw the ball that much if they can get close to the 5.7 yards per game they have churned out so far this season, but being kept in third and short means there are options for them and it will be tough for the Monarchs to get off the field.

More impressive from the Mountaineers has to be the way they played the run against Clemson in a game they only gave up 392 total yards to a Power 5 Conference team. They limited the Tigers to 3.2 yards per carry and will feel they can slow down Old Dominion just enough to force them to throw from third and long situations.

That is where the Appalachian State pass rush can begin to take over the game against a team that doesn't like to throw the ball that much. My one concern for the Mountaineers is that they haven't been a road favourite before, but they did win their last three road games last season by 21 points per game and I like them to get through this difficult looking test.

ULM Warhawks @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: You are going to hear a lot about the ULM Warhawks last visit to Tuscaloosa when they stunned the Alabama Crimson Tide by winning outright despite being set as 24 points underdogs back in 2007.

There is no doubting that the Alabama team are much improved since then and I have little doubt they win this game- however, backing the ULM Warhawks with the huge spread looks the way to go.

Some will think Alabama are going to be a 'pissed off' squad after the home loss to the Mississippi Rebels last week, but this is the meat in an Ole Miss and Georgia sandwich for the Crimson Tide and the spot is one where Nick Saban could easily pull his starters by the Third Quarter.

That makes the backdoor cover very much a part of this game, while it has to be noted that Alabama are 3-9 against the spread when playing non-Power 5 teams at home over the last four years. They are 1-6 against the spread in those games which have come between two SEC games as this one is and it just looks a lot of points for the Crimson Tide to cover when I am not sure their focus hasn't already turned to the Georgia Bulldogs.

TCU Horned Frogs @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: The Big 12 Conference kicks off with the kind of game that underlines what the Conference is about, namely lots of high-scoring and competitive games.

One True Champion is the motto of the Conference, but it is so tough for that to occur in the current format without a Championship Game and the Big 12 organisers have to consider a change in that regards.

For now the fans get to enjoy a huge Conference game as Kliff Kingsbury looks for the second win in a row against a team that perhaps embarrassed his Texas Tech team last season. Kingsbury was clearly unimpressed with comments coming out of the Arkansas Razorbacks camp this off-season and Texas Tech avenged their home loss to them by beating on the road.

Last season the TCU Horned Frogs tagged the Red Raiders with 82 points in a blowout home win and Kingsbury has to try and get a big emotional effort out of his team for the second week in a row. That is tough, but Texas Tech face a banged up Defense that is missing 7 of the projected starters from pre-season.

You have to think this Texas Tech Offense will produce their numbers, especially at home, when facing a banged up Defense but the little things that can make the difference are the TCU pass rush which can create pressure. The Horned Frogs have also played the run pretty well for much of the season, although the Texas Tech Offense have excelled in that regards, but there is enough to think they can be slowed down somewhat.

It is not so easy to see that when the TCU Horned Frogs have the ball themselves as they should be able to do what they want on the ground against a team that is giving up 5.7 yards per carry. Trevone Boykin and the passing Offense will also give the Texas Tech Red Raiders the toughest test they have faced all season and being able to do that off play-action or third and short situations should see TCU have the edge in the game.

Texas Tech are an impressive home underdog since Kliff Kingsbury came in as Head Coach, but I think they might struggle to pick themselves emotionally for a second week in a row. They wanted the win in Arkansas badly and now have another big game and it can be hard to back that up so I will be backing TCU Horned Frogs to cover.

Akron Zips @ ULL Rajin' Cajuns Pick: The Louisiana Rajin' Cajuns are coming out of a bye and I expect they are going to be too much for the Akron Zips who might easily be looking ahead to their game against State rivals Ohio next week. Akron have lost 7 in a row to Ohio and that game could easily be considered the more important one compared with this one against the Rajin' Cajuns especially as the game against the Bobcats is a Divisional one too.

Akron have the capabilities of giving the Rajin' Cajins something to think about as they run the ball effectively, but Louisiana are out of a bye and have to have prepared the Defensive Line for that. The first two games have seen ULL beaten down on the ground, but limiting Akron can at least give them a chance to get their pass rush going against this Offensive Line.

One concern for the Rajin' Cajuns has to be the Defensive Line they are facing- Akron might have one of the stronger Defensive Lines in the nation, let alone the MAC Conference, and they have shown that in their opening games. The Zips are giving up just 2.7 yards per game on the ground although they will be tested by this Rajin' Cajuns rushing Offense that averages almost 7 yards per carry.

I do think the Akron Defense will give them problems up front, but the Secondary hasn't been as effective as the Defensive Line and the looming game with Ohio should take away some of the focus. Coming out of the bye week means Louisiana are well prepared and I like them to cover.

Colorado State Rams @ UTSA Roadrunners Pick: The one big concern in picking the Colorado State Rams is wondering how they can pick themselves up from back to back losses in Overtime. The first was to the Minnesota Golden Gophers but the second was to State rivals the Colorado Buffaloes and it was a game that Colorado State should have won having earned 155 more total yards during the game.

The emotional question mark has to be placed around the Rams, but there are also some questions about the inexperienced UTSA Roadrunners who had just 6 returning starters from last season. However, you can't really judge what they are about this season from their first three games as the Roadrunners scheduled Arizona, Kansas State and Oklahoma State and expectedly lost all three games.

In this game it does look like the Rams will be able to have their way on the Offensive side of the ball and I do expect Colorado State to be in a position to score plenty of points. They should have the capabilities to both run and throw the ball, but turnovers have blighted them with mistakes including Interceptions and Fumbles costing Colorado State a stronger record.

They have the Defensive Line that can limit what UTSA Roadrunners can do on the ground in this one and I like the pass rush to get after Blake Bogenschutz at Quarter Back. The Rams' Secondary have actually played well too and I like the fact that new Head Coaches at this level, who have never coached in the FBS before, have done really well in their first road game.

That is where Mike Bobo of the Colorado State Rams will be this week, while the team are 4-1 against the spread as the road favourite in the last couple of years. The Roadrunners have a big game against Conference and State rivals UTEP next week too and I like the Rams to win this one big.

UCLA Bruins @ Arizona Wildcats Pick: Losing Myles Jack for the season is a big blow for the UCLA Bruins Defense, and a personal one for Jack who looked to be one of the top Draft Picks likely to come out this season. The Arizona Wildcats might be getting back a big Defensive piece in Scooby Wright this week and there are some out there calling for the upset in this Pac-12 South encounter.

UCLA escaped with their unbeaten start to the season last week against the under-rated BYU Cougars, but they are still unbeaten and they have won 3 in a row against the Wildcats. Josh Rosen has played like a Quarter Back with a lot more experience and I think he will be the key to the game because the Wildcats Secondary has struggled in coverage.

Paul Perkins will certainly test the Defensive Line that has played well, but the key is going to be Rosen and whether he is able to make the plays that he has in the first three games.

Without a doubt the biggest question is how the UCLA Defense will play without Myles Jack, but they have been solid so far this season. Losing the inspirational leader in the Linebacker unit is going to be tough to replace, but I like the Bruins to find a way to slow down the Arizona Offense in this one.

I do respect the fact that Arizona have gone 4-0 against the spread as the home underdog since Rich Rodriguez took over the programme, but I think the UCLA Bruins are the better team and can win here.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors @ Wisconsin Badgers Pick: The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are not really the same team when they come off the island and hit the mainland and this is a big game for them against another tough team from the Big Ten. Hawaii were battered at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes earlier this season and they have a big Conference game on deck at the Boise State Broncos which makes me wonder how much motivation they have here.

Facing a Wisconsin Badgers team that will also begin Conference play next week might look a good spot with that focus perhaps not there. However, the Badgers have bounced back from their opening loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and they have won two games in a row by wide margins.

The Defensive unit is one of the best in the nation and they should have enough to shut down what the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are going to try and bring. You have to also think Hawaii won't want to give the Boise State Broncos too much video of any tricks they will be saving for next week and I like the Badgers to limit them on that side of the ball.

I don't think anyone out there is going to confuse the Wisconsin Badgers with an Offensive powerhouse, but they will wear down Hawaii and that looming game against Boise State simply cannot be ignored. Hawaii have also done a little too much travelling over the last three weeks which can wear on players mentally and I think Wisconsin will win this and cover.

Georgia Southern Eagles @ Idaho Vandals Pick: The Sun Belt Conference game between the Georgia Southern Eagles and Idaho Vandals looks a mismatch in Week 4 and I like the favourites to come through and win this one big.

The triple option run by the Eagles is tough to prepare for, although Idaho would have seen it last season and perhaps more aware than some teams might be. It might not matter though as the Vandals have given up 6.8 yards per carry this season on the ground and I imagine the Eagles will have their way on the Offensive side of the ball without the need to throw the ball around too much.

Idaho will have some success of their own when they have the ball in their hands, but I expect Georgia Southern will wear down the Defensive Line and start picking up huge gains as the game develops. Playing catch up might not work too well for the Vandals either as they have given the ball away a little too much while the Offensive Line hasn't protected Matt Linehan as they would have liked.

You can't underestimate the Idaho Vandals who showed some improvement last season despite their 1-10 record, but I think the Georgia Southern Eagles have too much from the triple option and pull away on the road.

USC Trojans @ Arizona State Sun Devils Pick: Last week I picked the Stanford Cardinal to keep things close against the USC Trojans, but I couldn't have predicted they would actually knock off the Pac-12 favourites.

This is a must win game for both the Trojans and the Arizona State Sun Devils who have also dropped a game this season with the loser likely out of the race for the College Football Play Offs.

USC will be playing with revenge having somehow lost to the Sun Devils last season despite having a nine point lead and under three minutes to go in that game. It was a Hail Mary pass at the end of that game with no time remaining that helped Arizona State earn the win and you have to think this USC Trojans team will have had something to prove prior to the Stanford loss which gives them double motivation.

It was the Defensive unit that let USC down last week, but I think they are better than their Arizona State counterparts and I fully expect the Trojans to bounce back. Arizona State might be 2-1, but they were beaten easily by the Texas A&M Aggies and haven't looked that good against overmatched opponents, while the USC Trojans are 3-1 against the spread off a straight up loss.

The Trojans are also 12-1 in their last thirteen opening road games and I think they bounce back from the Stanford loss by showing they are still very much in the mix for a Play Off berth at the end of the season. Unless Arizona State have found something special in the last week, they just haven't looked like they are playing well enough to win this game and I think even the cover looks beyond them.

MY PICKS: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Betway (1 Unit)
New Mexico Lobos - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys - 3 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Florida Gators + 1.5 Points @ 1.85 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Appalachian State Mountaineers - 8 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
ULM Warhawks + 38 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
ULL Rajin' Cajuns - 8 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Colorado State Rams - 10 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 24.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Georgia Southern Eagles - 15.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
USC Trojans - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Week 3: 6-4, + 1.57 Units (10 Units Staked, + 15.70% Yield)
Week 25-4-1, + 0.68 Units (10 Units Staked, + 6.80% Yield)
Week 17-6, + 0.48 Units (13 Units Staked, + 3.69% Yield

Season 201518-14-1, + 2.73 Units (33 Units Staked, + 8.27% Yield)
Season 201475-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% 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)