Alabama will likely need the SEC West to see the likes of the LSU Tigers and Ole Miss Rebels fall off to have their chance to make the final four, but running the table will give them every chance if the other Conferences don't have one loss or fewer teams to make it.
My updated Play Off Ranking is below:
1) Ohio State Buckeyes- many have jumped off the bandwagon, but I think the Buckeyes have plenty in the tank and are the best team in the Big Ten.
2) TCU Horned Frogs- barely hanging on ahead of the Baylor Bears because of a tougher schedule negotiated, but I am looking forward to seeing how the Bears handle the Texas Tech Red Raiders this week.
3) Florida State Seminoles- barely got the ACC defending Champion ahead of the USC Trojans because they remain unbeaten and that should be enough to see them edge a one loss Pac-12 Champion.
4) LSU Tigers- The Ole Miss Rebels have the better win over the LSU Tigers, but I still think the latter are the better team.
Looking In- Ole Miss Rebels, Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, Baylor Bears, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Michigan State Spartans, Clemson Tigers.
As you can see, there are going to be some moves in this list after Week 5 with a couple of teams perhaps falling off the 'Looking In' list and every chance that my top four changes depending how teams perform this week. It all doesn't matter too much at the moment with plenty of weeks to go before the end of the regular season and Championship Games to be set, but it is going to be fun finding out which four teams are left standing at the end of the season.
That is very positive, but maintaining that run won't be easy although I am trying to stay with the methods that have worked effectively so far, while also getting a touch of luck on my side as the Florida Gators pick against the Tennessee Volunteers proved last week.
Miami Hurricanes @ Cincinnati Bearcats Pick: This is a revenge game for the Cincinnati Bearcats who were blown out at the Miami Hurricanes last season and now they get them at home. However, Gunner Kiel is missing at Quarter Back and the Miami Hurricanes are coming off a bye so should be well prepared to improve their 3-0 record ahead of the big game against the Florida State Seminoles.
There is the potential for them to look ahead in this one, but that game is ten days away so I don't think it is as 'in the face' as it would be if this game was played on Saturday.
Miami have scored at least 36 points in all three games they have played this season and I fully expect the Offense to continue rolling against the Bearcats Defense. The Hurricanes will be able to run the ball effectively and that should just make life that much more comfortable for Brad Kaaya who is one of the better Quarter Backs in College Football.
The question for Cincinnati is whether they can keep up without their star Quarter Back, although it didn't affect them in a shoot-out against the Memphis Tigers last week. A defeat to a Conference rival is a disappointment, but Hayden Moore was a revelation at Quarter Back and Cincinnati will get their points against this Miami Defense that almost fell apart against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fourth Quarter two weeks ago.
Establishing a running game is important for Cincinnati as the Miami Hurricanes Secondary has played well outside of that Fourth Quarter meltdown. The Hurricanes can get to the Quarter Back with pressure from the front seven, which has also led to crucial Interceptions in the Secondary and an extra possession or two could be vital in a potentially high-scoring game.
The Hurricanes are just 3-2 against the spread ahead of the game with Florida State over the last five years and Cincinnati can be a very good home underdog. However, I like Miami to win this by a Touchdown or more as they earn a couple more turnovers, while I think their Offense will be very difficult for the Bearcats to stop as they found against Memphis last week.
South Carolina Gamecocks @ Missouri Tigers Pick: The Missouri Tigers have won the SEC East two seasons in a row, but a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats last week has put them in a difficult spot in the Division. Another defeat would likely end their chances of a three-peat in the SEC East and they are facing a desperate South Carolina Gamecocks team who have lost two Conference games already this season.
It is unlikely that either team is going to be involved in the SEC East hunt this time around, but another blow to the Missouri Tigers has to be the suspension of starting Quarter Back Maty Mauk. Drew Lock is the back up who will take over for the Tigers as he looks to spark an Offense that has struggled this season although they aren't exactly facing the usual Defense that the South Carolina team would put on the field.
The Missouri Defense remains a strength for the team and has been the foundation for their success in the last couple of years, and I think they give South Carolina some problems. However two Offenses that might struggle means a low-scoring game is likely and so the points being given to South Carolina could be a key.
South Carolina have been a solid road underdog under Steve Spurrier down the years even if they were blown out by the Georgia Bulldogs. The key for the Defense is to rattle the inexperienced Lock at Quarter Back and the Gamecocks will want revenge for a one point home loss to Missouri in the 2014 season.
The last two games have been won by a combined four points and the road team has won both- I think South Carolina have a chance to win their first Conference game here and I will back them with the points to keep it close. The public are on the home team but the spread has come down which suggests the sharp side might be on the road team too and I am comfortable with that.
Michigan Wolverines @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: People should be aware that this game has been moved to a noon kick off rather than the 8pm scheduled start because of the threat of Hurricane Joaquin which is expected to hit the American East Coast at some point this weekend.
Michigan were beaten by the Utah Utes in the opening game of the season and first game under Jim Harbaugh, but how good does that loss look now? The Wolverines were unfortunate losers against a team that blew out Oregon on the road and is potentially going for the Pac-12 title and Michigan have responded to that loss by winning three games very easily.
They play with revenge this week after being beaten by Maryland in the Big House last season and the Terrapins have been inconsistent at best this season. Two big wins have been matched by two heavy losses for Maryland and now they face an under-rated Defense that could be amongst the very best in the nation.
Maryland called a players-only meeting after being blow out by West Virginia in Week 4, but they need Caleb Rowe to not make the big errors which have blighted his game. Too many turnovers have cost the Terrapins and I am not sure they will be able to slow down De'Veon Smith.
The Terrapins are just 3-7 against the spread as the home underdog with Randy Edsall as Head Coach and Stanford were a solid road favourite in Jim Harbaugh's previous College Head Coach job. With Michigan likely able to shut down the Maryland Offense for much of the game, the Wolverines could be come the third team in four weeks that have beaten Maryland by a large number and I like them to cover this number.
Purdue Boilermakers @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: The Michigan State Spartans are a genuine National Championship contender, but their biggest win of the season against the Oregon Ducks took a hit with the way the latter were blown out last week. They have also failed to cover in any of their four games played this season as they pace themselves for bigger tests ahead, but they can't overlook the Purdue Boilermakers.
This has been a team that has given Michigan State some problems in the last couple of years despite Purdue only having won four games in total in that time. Both defeats to the Spartans have come by 14 points in those games and Purdue have made enough plays through the air to think they are being given too many points in this one.
Michigan State haven't beaten any team by more than 20 points this season so Purdue being given more than three Touchdowns worth of points has to be seen as a very big task for the home team. The Spartans are 8-15 against the spread as the home favourite over the last three and a bit seasons and they might have some time consuming drives as they should be able to run the ball effectively.
The Boilermakers may also have some key stops as they have an effective pass rush and Connor Cook's Offensive Line is banged up, while the Spartans Secondary are giving up too many yards at the moment. Michigan State themselves have a pass rush that could get to David Blough who is making his first road start at Quarter Back in a very tough environment which is a big concern for me.
All the public seems to be backing the Michigan State Spartans, but the spread has moved down from the opening line, although not far enough to put me off.
Ohio Bobcats @ Akron Zips Pick: The Ohio Bobcats have beaten the Akron Zips seven times in a row, have started the season at 3-1 and are 'only' needing to cover a small spread so no surprise the public are pounding them this week. But why hasn't the spread moved off and why do I like the Akron Zips to reverse that losing run and at least get within this number if they don't?
Ohio's close loss at the Minnesota Golden Gophers has been the most impressive performance either of these two teams has produced, but Akron winning as a big road underdog at the ULL Rajin' Cajuns in Week 4 was mightily impressive too.
The winner of this game could easily be playing for the MAC Championship at the end of the season and I like the fact that the Akron Defense is perhaps still a little under-rated by the majority of people. The Secondary might not be preventing teams completely from throwing the ball against them, but the Defensive Line has stopped the run and get pressure up front which can lead to mistakes.
I also believe Akron are going to be capable of running the ball in this one which should keep the team in third and manageable spots and I like the Zips being able to control the clock.
The Bobcats are 6-1 against the spread in the last seven in the series, but Akron won't have a better chance to beat them having come close last season and I will take on the public with the points.
FIU Golden Panthers @ Massachusetts Minutemen Pick: This is a non-Conference game between two teams from the Conferences that are perhaps less well known, but I am surprised the road team are being given as many as points as they are in this game. Yes, FIU are off a close Conference defeat to one of the top teams in the Conference-USA, but they have shown they can bounce back and be competitive off a loss.
They are also facing one of the weaker teams in College Football when they travel to the Massachusetts Minutemen who might also be focused on Conference play which opens up next week. The fact they are playing the current MAC East Division Champions Bowling Green is a further distraction for a team that have been a decent home favourite in the past.
Why do I like the road underdog in this one? I think the FIU Golden Panthers have the edge on the Defensive side of the ball and I think they are going to force more stops than Massachusetts in this game and that is a key factor at play.
The Golden Panthers and the Minutemen have been competitive in games and have some solid performances under their belt already this season. However Massachusetts have been outgained in terms of yards in every game, while the Golden Panthers have a big win at the UCF Knights which is the most impressive result either team has.
Getting a Field Goal start with the FIU Golden Panthers looks too many points in a game that should be tight, but one in which I like the road team to move the ball more consistently and improve their 6-3 record in their last nine games after a loss.
Alabama Crimson Tide @ Georgia Bulldogs Pick: It seems the public are behind the unbeaten Georgia Bulldogs and the experts are behind the one loss Alabama Crimson Tide... I am with the defending SEC Champions as the underdog too and I think they are going to make this a very competitive game if not win outright.
A loss to the Ole Miss Rebels is a blow to Alabama's chances of getting back into the National Championship Play Off, but they have certainly had the much tougher tests through their first four games compared with the Georgia Bulldogs. The question I ask is does anyone think the Bulldogs would still be unbeaten if they played the Wisconsin Badgers on a neutral field and the Rebels at home rather than a road game at Vanderbilt and a home game with South Carolina?
The underdog is actually 3-0 against the spread in the last three games in this series and I think the Crimson Tide Defense is easily the biggest test this new-look Georgia Offense has had to face.
It is going to be tough, it will be ugly and it will be a defensive battle, but Jake Coker might have enough experience at Quarter Back to avoid the big mistakes for the Crimson Tide compared with Greyson Lambert and I can't stop thinking the latter will commit a crucial turnover to lose this game.
The game undoubtedly means more to Alabama who can't afford another loss, whereas Georgia might be able to overcome the defeat by winning the SEC East and then the SEC Championship Game. Alabama have to feel disrespected after being set as the road underdog for the first time in SEVEN years (they covered at Georgia ironically in that game) and the Crimson Tide haven't lost more than one regular season game since 2010.
I am looking for the desperate Alabama Crimson Tide to come out and earn a statement win, but will take the points in a game that could literally come down to the final seconds.
North Carolina Tar Heels @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: I really expected Georgia Tech to bounce back from their loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish by beating the Duke Blue Devils in Week 4, but the team suffered another setback. Now they are being favoured by over a Touchdown against the North Carolina Tar Heels and I like another road underdog to get the job done this week.
This is the fifth road underdog I am backing and I know many out there will be expecting the Yellow Jackets to have a response to consecutive road losses. Georgia Tech simply don't lose many home game, but they are only 4-3 against the spread as the home favourite and face the Clemson Tigers in a big Conference game next week.
The Yellow Jackets have also beaten North Carolina in the last five in the series by an average of 11 points per game so it is understandable that they will be favoured by the public, albeit not with a big edge. Georgia Tech will be able to run the ball with their triple option Offense a big problem for the Tar Heels, but I also expect North Carolina to run the ball effectively and that shortens the game while it could develop into a shoot-out decided by the team that holds the ball last.
Georgia Tech are 0-1 in the Conference so need to win if they are going to reach the ACC Championship Game for the third time in four years.
North Carolina have built some momentum after a disappointing opening game defeat to South Carolina, and they might be catching Georgia Tech at the right time with confidence at a low ebb. Their last two visits here have ended in 7 point and 8 point defeats, but I think North Carolina keep this one closer with a bye week to come so I expect a full effort from the Tar Heels to keep within the number.
Florida State Seminoles @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons Pick: Any time there is a big rivalry game on deck, you can be forgiven for thinking a team's attention might be distracted from the next game. The Florida State Seminoles do play the Miami Hurricanes next week in a big Conference game, but they can't overlook the Wake Forest Demon Deacons with Championship aspirations and Florida State had covered the week before the Miami game in four consecutive seasons before the 2014 season.
The Seminoles were struggling to cover most spreads as a big scalp thanks to being the defending National Champions in 2014, but a new look team has played well under the radar this time around. They improved to 7-3 against the spread in their last ten games as the road favourite by beating Boston College and now come off a bye to face a team they have dominated in recent years.
Florida State have won their last three games against Wake Forest by at least forty points per game, but this Demon Deacons Defense has played well in the early games. They are allowing fewer than 20 points per game, but the competition hasn't exactly been up to the standards of Florida State whose own Defense will expect to have a lot of success.
Kendall Hinton played at Quarter Back for Wake Forest last week as John Wolford continues to struggle with injury and that is a big problem. Florida State will get a lot of pressure on the inexperienced Quarter Back against this Offensive Line and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes some mistakes, while I also think the Seminoles Offense has had an extra week to get in sync with one another.
Wake Forest are 3-8 against the spread against Ranked opponents since upsetting Florida State in 2011 and they come off a disappointing Homecoming loss. It might be close for a while, but I expect Florida State to pull away and win this one by at least three Touchdowns.
Ohio State Buckeyes @ Indiana Hoosiers Pick: A lot of people seem to be jumping off the Ohio State Buckeyes bandwagon at the moment as the defending Champions have produced similarly poor performances as Florida State did as defending Champions in 2014. I am of the belief that the motivation hasn't been high in non-Conference games but I am expecting Big Ten play to inspire this team unless they are simply not good enough to defend their Championship.
A few uncertainties around the starting Quarter Back isn't helping while some are second guessing Urban Meyer's play-calling, but I think a game at the Indiana Hoosiers can get this team putting in their best performance since Week 1.
That win in Week 1 against the Virginia Tech Hokies is about as inspired as Ohio State have been as they earned revenge for their only loss in 2014. They will know that their 20 game winning run against Indiana doesn't mean anything considering how close some of the recent games have been although I expect the Buckeyes to be able to score plenty of points against this Defense.
While the Offense is yet to click, the Defense has certainly been in top form to open the season and they should be able to slow down Indiana's rushing attack. Nate Sudfeld is an experienced Quarter Back for the Hoosiers and I think he will have some success in this one, although now facing a pass rush that will give his Offensive Line some problems.
I have little doubt that Indiana will score points in this one too, but I just believe the Ohio State Defense knuckles down to allow their team to pull away and put up a victory that will remind people why they are the defending Champions. Indiana were blown out as a double digit home underdog by the Michigan State Spartans last season and I will back Ohio State to cover the points this week.
Georgia Southern Eagles @ ULM Warhawks Pick: I am pretty high on the Georgia Southern Eagles and I think the October 22nd game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers will determine the winner of the Sun Belt Conference. The Eagles battered the Idaho Vandals last week and I think they might be a little short in number of points being given to them by the ULM Warhawks.
I don't want to read too much into the statistics from the ULM Warhawks games considering two of their three games have been at the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide. However, the Defensive Line will have been battered around by those two SEC teams and now face a triple option Offense that could be the best in the Sun Belt Conference.
I fully expect Georgia Southern to have their success on the Offensive side of the ball while I also believe the Defense is under-rated. The Eagles dominate the clock with the way they run their Offense, and that means the Defense is well rested and able to make big plays on that side of the ball.
The ULM Defense is better than they have shown so far so they might have more success against the triple option than many, but it is going to be difficult having had those tiring games I mentioned. Georgia Southern are playing back to back road games which is tough, but the Warhawks haven't been the best home underdog and I like the Eagles to wear them down and win this one by a Touchdown at least.
Mississippi Rebels @ Florida Gators Pick: It was no surprise that Ole Miss had to battle past Vanderbilt the week after knocking off Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but importantly they won and can go again this week. The Florida Gators are coming in off a much more emotional victory over the Tennessee Volunteers and there is no doubt they could come out a little flat in this one.
Both teams are unbeaten this season and are 2-0 in Conference play which sees them lead the SEC East and West Divisions, although not many would have picked them to win either at the start of the season. Games between the schools have been close in recent meetings with the last four all decided by six points or fewer, but the Mississippi Defense might have the most success in this game and that can give them the edge.
Emotion should be on the Rebels side of the field too as they had a flat performance last week against Vanderbilt, a game they were heavily favoured to win and one sandwiched between road games at the Crimson Tide and the Gators. They should be ready while Florida have to try and pick themselves up from coming back from a large Fourth Quarter deficit to beat the Tennessee Volunteers who missed a last second Field Goal to win the game.
It can be difficult for these young kids to pick themselves up from that kind of victory and I do think the Rebels Offense has more consistent success. Florida also have a big game against the Missouri Tigers next week, while Ole Miss essentially go into a 'bye' with a non-Conference game scheduled against New Mexico, no disrespect to them.
Florida improved to 2-3 against the spread as the home underdog in their last five games, but the SEC West teams have proven a little too good for them in recent games. The Gators are 3-9 in games against SEC West teams recently and the last three have been lost by an average of 12 points per game.
I will look for Ole Miss to have a little more in the tank mentally and I like them to cover what looks a big spread on first glance.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Clemson Tigers Pick: I backed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as the home underdog against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and they look a generous underdog in this game in Clemson too.
Both teams are unbeaten and Clemson are coming off a bye, although Notre Dame didn't have to dig too deep to knock off the Massachusetts Minutemen last week. There is no doubting the Fighting Irish have had the tougher schedule to negotiate to get to 4-0 and both teams are genuinely challenging for one of the four Play Off places for the National Championship with the loser likely out of contention after this game.
This is one of three remaining games for the injury hit Notre Dame team where they might be underdogs, but win all of those and I expect them to run the table and perhaps be nominated as one of the four Play Off teams. Even through the injuries, Notre Dame haven't missed a step and their talent depth is better than Clemson's whose best win at the Louisville Cardinal hasn't stood up as well as the Fighting Irish's wins.
I would guess this is the hardest game that either has played this season, but I do think Notre Dame have the edge on both sides of the ball and so it is nice to be able to get them as the underdog. They are 10-6 against the spread as the underdog under Brian Kelly as Head Coach, while the Clemson Tigers are 3-4 against the spread when favoured by three or fewer points in recent years.
Home crowd will make this close, but Notre Dame are 10-4 against the spread against Ranked teams in recent seasons and I just think the better team is getting the points here and have to be backed.
MY PICKS: Miami Hurricanes - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
South Carolina + 3 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 15.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Purdue Boilermakers + 21.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
Akron Zips + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
FIU Golden Panthers + 3 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
North Carolina Tar Heels + 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 19.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 21.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Georgia Southern Eagles - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Betway (1 Unit)
Mississippi Rebels - 7 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Week 3: 6-4, + 1.57 Units (10 Units Staked, + 15.70% Yield)
Week 2: 5-4-1, + 0.68 Units (10 Units Staked, + 6.80% Yield)
Week 1: 7-6, + 0.48 Units (13 Units Staked, + 3.69% Yield
Season 2015: 26-18-2, + 5.99 Units (46 Units Staked, + 13.02% Yield)
Season 2014: 75-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% Yield)