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Saturday, 12 September 2015

College Football Week 2 Picks 2015 (September 12th)

It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love American Football and it is pleasing to have something to fill my Saturday and Sunday evenings the foreseeable few months. Obviously Saturday noon time kick offs in the College Football schedule are harder to make time for, but the 'big' games are kept for the evening in the United Kingdom and it's great to be able to settle down and catch some great coverage that we do get here.

The chance to see the stars of the future also makes appeal and College Football is just as much fun as the NFL, although there are a few more mental mistakes which has to be accepted. You have to remember these players are essentially kids growing into men before our eyes and mistakes will be made, while others won't ever surpass their achievements at this level and so it has to be enjoyed for what it is.

There weren't too many surprising results in the first week of the season as not many Conference games are played, while the few big games of the week saw the favourite come through. The one big surprise was the Stanford Cardinal going down to the Northwestern Wildcats as I really believed Stanford were a legitimate National Championship contender before a pretty horrific performance all around.

They do have time to make up for their mistakes, especially if they can recover and win the Pac-12 Conference because this defeat will then likely be forgotten, but it was a terrible start for Stanford.

This week certainly feels we are going to get perhaps a couple of moves in the National Championship pecking order as Michigan State host Oregon in a huge game, while the LSU Tigers travel to Mississippi State. Those are games involving teams that are perhaps on the periphery of making the Play Offs and certainly the winner of those two contests may feel they can ride the momentum through the rest of the season.

All four of the teams have another in the Conference that will be favoured to beat them at this moment, but Ohio State proved last year that momentum can change things and so those are two huge games to be played on Saturday evening.

My updated Play Off Rankings after Week 1 of the season is in the books are below:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes- dominated Virginia Tech on the road and earned revenge for their sole loss in 2014. Reigning Champions have set a marker and have a very negotiable schedule to play.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide- every year Alabama send a fair few players to the NFL and every year Nick Saban reloads them. The SEC West has every team in the Division ranked in the top 25 this week which just goes to show how difficult Alabama's path is going to be this season.

3. USC Trojans- they beat up on a patsy last week, but Cody Kessler looked good and the Trojans are the team to beat in the Pac-12 Conference.

4. TCU Horned Frogs- it wasn't the dominant performance expected, and TCU have lost four starters on a Defensive unit that only returned five from last season. A really tough Big 12 schedule is going to seriously test this team and its character.

LOOKING IN: Georgia Bulldogs, Michigan State Spartans, Oregon Ducks, LSU Tigers, Baylor Bears, UCLA Bruins, Florida State Seminoles.

Week 2 Picks
Oregon State Beavers @ Michigan Wolverines Pick: I think the Big House is going to produce a rabid atmosphere on Saturday as Jim Harbaugh takes charge of the Michigan Wolverines for the first time as Head Coach at home. Michigan made a couple of big mistakes last week in their loss to the Utah Utes on the road that eventually cost them a narrow loss, but there were enough positive signs to think they can get back to 0.500 this week.

You can't read too much into Gary Anderson's debut as Head Coach for Oregon State as they played an overmatched opponent and this team is expected to go through a transitional period in 2015. Not many have tipped them to make too much noise in the Pac-12 this season and a first road game for an inexperienced roster in this kind of atmosphere is tough.

It says all you need to know that Oregon State are going to split reps between two Quarter Backs in this game as they have a different goal in mind than Michigan who have to win this game. Of course the Beavers want to win, but they are preparing for the future and having two Quarter Backs will little experience challenge a very under-rated Michigan Defense is going to be a big challenge.

Even relying on a running game won't be easy against this Defensive Line so the young Quarter Backs are in a difficult position where mistakes can be made.

Talking about mistakes, Jake Rudock has to avoid the errors that effectively cost Michigan last week as his three Interceptions hurt, especially the last one which was taken back to the house and gave Utan an unassailable 14 point lead at the time. Harbaugh is still confident he has picked the right starter and I expect a steadier performance as long as he gets some support from the running game.

There was enough in the performance from Michigan in Week 1 to suggest they are going to be better than their 5-7 record from 2014 and I think they can put a big win on the board in this one. The spread is essentially a three-score spread, but I like the Wolverines to find their way to a big win behind an emotional crowd who won't take too much to get into the game and rattle the young Oregon State Quarter Backs.

Jim Harbaugh has regularly been a Head Coach that has his team perform very well as the home favourite and I like them in this spot.

Georgia Bulldogs @ Vanderbilt Commodores Pick: The Georgia Bulldogs might be the best team in the SEC East and they have a chance to lay a marker down for the season by beating what many consider to be the weakest team in the Division. The Vanderbilt Commodores were unfortunate losers against the West Kentucky Hilltoppers last week as they outgained them in terms of yards, but the challenge goes up a few levels in this one.

The Bulldogs first game was cut short in Week 1 due to some poor weather in the south, but Georgia will have been happy with what they saw out of Greyson Lambert at Quarter Back. Lambert won't be asked to do a lot more than manage the game for the outstanding Running Back Nick Chubb, but he showed flashes of being able to pus it himself if he needs to.

Chubb should have room to run the ball once he gets pumping and I think the Vanderbilt Offense won't have an easy time scoring points. While they have a decent home record against Georgia in recent years, Vanderbilt were 0-8 in the Conference last year and they weren't the most effective home underdog despite being given plenty of points in those games.

This is a big number, but Georgia have played well as a road favourite in recent seasons and they look too strong on both sides of the ball and I expect them to control the line of scrimmage in this one. Covering three Touchdowns is never easy, but I expect the Bulldogs to wear down Vanderbilt and pull away in the second half for a 28 point win.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Virginia Cavaliers Pick: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish destroyed the Texas Longhorns at home, while the Virginia Cavaliers were blown out at the UCLA Bruins. So you can understand why the spread has moved so much in favour of Notre Dame and I guess they are the obvious pick for this Week 2 game?

Not so fast my friend, I think Virginia are in a decent spot to give Notre Dame something to think about, especially as the Fighting Irish could easily overlook this game at the big one against Georgia Tech next week.

I know the Fighting Irish will have their backers simply after seeing what Freshman Josh Rosen did to the Cavaliers pass Defense in his first ever start at this level. Malik Zaire had a very strong game for Notre Dame against a pretty good Texas Longhorns Defense so there is a chance he can back that up.

The Fighting Irish are a genuine team that can get involved in the College Play Offs at the end of the season, but they haven't really played well as the road favourite under Brian Kelly. They are 4-7 against the spread in that spot and I think Virginia play much better than last week as they don't face a long trip out west this time around.

The Cavaliers might not be a threat to win the ACC, but they have performed well as a home underdog under Mike London and they are 5-2-1 against the spread in that spot over the last two seasons. Being back at home should produce a much stronger effort, while they are 6-3 against the spread in their last 9 games against non-Conference teams.

The spread looks an overreaction to last week and the game is the filler in a tough sandwich for the Fighting Irish so this might be closer than people think.

Toledo Rockets @ Arkansas Razorbacks Pick: The Arkansas Razorbacks hit a low point in 2013, but Bret Bielema has this team turned around and going in the right direction and I think they are a threat in the SEC West. Not quite enough to actually win the Division which is loaded with talent, but enough to play an effective spoiler through the campaign.

They won their first game of the season convincingly and while they are now taking on one of the top teams in the MAC Conference, I still expect the Razorbacks to come through and cover a big spread.

Arkansas have covered the spread in their last 6 games against non-Conference games and they have also covered their last 4 games as the home favourite. They can run the ball very effectively, although they have to be careful about a Toledo Rockets team that has a lot of experience and is a very good road underdog when it comes to the spread.

I expect the Razorbacks can make enough plays Defensively to set up their Offense in this one and Arkansas have won their 3 previous games against MAC teams by 25 points per game.

I will say that the Razorbacks haven't been as good when they have played in Little Rock, but they should be too good for Toledo in this one as the game wears on. It is a big number, but I like Arkansas to cover.

San Diego State Aztecs @ California Golden Bears Pick: The California Golden Bears are going to be a real threat in the Pac-12 North with Jared Goff at Quarter Back and I do like their chances of knocking off the San Diego State Aztecs despite the latter looking like one of the better teams in the Mountain West Conference.

It was a devastating display from California against an overmatched team in Week 1, but San Diego State are not going to roll over like Grambling State did and that makes this a much more intriguing game. I do like Sonny Dykes in his third year at California and the key is the experience they have on the Defensive Line.

We all know that the San Diego State Aztecs will look to run the ball down the throat of California, but this Defensive Line allowed just 4 yards per carry last season and look stronger this. If they can at least force a few third and longs, the Golden Bears will feel they have won the line of scrimmage and Jared Goff is going to get his numbers.

I love Goff and I think he is going to be a real player at the next level with his prototypical Quarter Back build, although this Aztecs Secondary can't be underestimated either. California haven't been a great favourite at home under Dykes just yet, but I am looking for a turn in that trend and I think Goff makes enough big plays to put the Golden Bears in a position to cover.

Oklahoma Sooners @ Tennessee Volunteers Pick: There are some big games this week in College Football and these two schools are a couple that want to fly under the radar and get into a position to perhaps surprise in their Conferences.

Out of the two schools, there does seem to be more excitement in the Tennessee Volunteers camp coming into the season. However, some of that might have dissipated when the Volunteers allowed Bowling Green to pile up the yardage last week although the quality difference saw them come through easily enough.

It is completely different to take on this Oklahoma Sooners team who are looking like they could be a dangerous one even if the win over Akron came in expected fashion. Baker Mayfield didn't have a lot to do last week, but he would have seen the huge amounts of passing yardage picked up by Bowling Green and he could have a huge game for Oklahoma to ease any fears about him at Quarter Back.

I am being a bit critical of some of the Defensive play of Tennessee last week, but they looked good Offensively and I think they give the Sooners plenty to think about. The Volunteers do thrive as the home underdog, but it has been said a fair bit that the Sooners aren't coming here with the expectation of being favoured.

The game last year was actually very close, much closer than the 24 point difference suggested, but I do think the Sooners win this one too.

Rice Owls @ Texas Longhorns Pick: The Texas Longhorns were embarrassed by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Week 1 and Charlie Strong made changes to try and spark the Offensive unit. It was a poor day for the Longhorns as they couldn't do anything right on both sides of the ball, but I expect a reaction from them this week.

Playing at home is a big difference maker for Texas and they should be outmatching the Rice Owls even if they are one of the better teams in the Conference USA.

There are big games to come, but the Texas Longhorns won't overlook Rice after the debacle in Notre Dame and that should see them get the better of their opponents. The Longhorns have been dominant in home openers in recent years having won 15 straight by 38 points per game.

I am expecting Charlie Strong to get a reaction from his team and I do rate him as a Head Coach. There is some pressure for Strong to get this Texas ship righted quickly after the manner of the loss in Week 1, but you don't want to overreact to one defeat and I like the Longhorns to cover this spread.

This Rice Owls team has lost a lot of experience since last season and have struggled in Austin over the years. They might exploit some nervousness in the Texas Offense early, but I like the Longhorns to work things out, make the adjustments and win this by around 17 points.

Oregon Ducks @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: This game has all sorts of National Championship implications for the rest of the season as two teams expected to challenge for their individual Conferences collide in a huge game.

The Michigan State Spartans play with legitimate revenge having lost a road game at Oregon last year and they will feel they can get this done with Marcus Mariota now playing in the NFL.

Mariota sparked a huge comeback in the second half of that game last year and without him, the Oregon Ducks have turned to Vernon Adams. The Quarter Back had a big day last week, but might be banged up some and the worry for the Ducks has to be the amount of yards they gave up last week against a Division II school.

Connor Cook is one of the top Quarter Backs in the nation and he would have enjoyed the tape of the first game and the Spartans look a better all around team this time around. The Spartans will be looking to Cook to help extend their 16 straight home opener wins, while this is a rare position for the Oregon Ducks to be in as a road underdog, the first time since 2011.

I'll be looking for Michigan State to get the better of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and that to lead to a win by a touchdown or more.

LSU Tigers @ Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick: The SEC West does look the best Division in College Football and the first big clash in that Division takes place in Week 2.

The LSU Tigers are considered a dark horse for the National Championship, but their Week 1 game was cancelled and not having that run out has been seen as a real detriment to them. Having to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a road game to open the season is difficult, particularly with Brandon Harris the new starting Quarter Back.

The jury is out on Harris with some expecting him become one of the best Quarter Backs in the SEC and others thinking the season might overawe the young player. I am not sure Harris will have to push too much to have an effective season as he is surrounded by some spectacular talent in all units which makes the Tigers so dangerous.

Visiting Starkville is never easy, but the LSU Tigers have won 7 straight games here and playing with revenge having been beaten at home by Mississippi State last year. Dak Prescott is going to get his numbers for the Bulldogs, but the talent level isn't up to the level of last year and I think the Tigers will be the stronger team on Saturday night once they get their feet under them from not having played a game yet this season.

My one other concern for the LSU Tigers has to be their poor recent record as a road favourite compared with the Bulldogs who are a decent home underdog. However, I will be looking for the Tigers to make a big statement in the SEC West and show their capabilities of being a factor in this Division and I like them to cover.

Boise State Broncos @ BYU Cougars Pick: The final pick from Week 2 comes from the BYU Cougars game when they host the Boise State Broncos and I think there might be something in backing the home underdog to spring a surprise.

The Cougars lost Taysom Hill for the season again, but Tanner Mangum showed why the Coaching staff are so high on him by leading the Cougars to a comeback victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers last week. Mangum threw the Hail Mary winning Touchdown with time running out on the clock and the Cougars feel he can be a good fit for them.

BYU have only been a home underdog once in the last four years and managed to cover the spread on that occasion and face a Boise State team that come off an emotional victory over former Head Coach Chris Petersen and his Washington Huskies.

There is a revenge factor in play after Boise State crushed the Cougars on the blue turf last season and I just think the home team might be a touch under-rated despite losing their main Offensive player. I think Mangum can come in and play at this level and I expect the Cougars to rally around and potentially come away with the upset.

MY PICKS: Michigan Wolverines - 14.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 21 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Virginia Cavaliers + 11.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Arkansas Razorbacks - 21.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
California Golden Bears - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 1 Point @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns - 14 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans - 4 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 4 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
BYU Cougars + 3 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Week 1 Final: 7-6, + 0.48 Units (13 Units Staked, + 3.69% Yield)

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