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Thursday, 22 October 2015

College Football Week 8 Picks 2015 (October 22-24)

This is the week when many College Football fans can 'take a breath' after an impressive first seven weeks of the season which have been filled with headlines and Play Off places shifting all over the place.

For the first time in a while, you can't really get over excited about the games on tap in Week 8 and that is shown by the prime time games that have been picked. It is not a complete waste of time, far from it, but this is certainly a week that would have been much better if certain teams have played up to the level we had been expecting.

Last week also saw a few more team lose their realistic chance of making the final four Play Off picture, while others will be looking for favours for the remainder of the regular season.

Last week I pointed out that Week 5 had been the first losing week for the picks of the season but Week 6 had been a bounce back week. Well Week 7 was something incredibly spectacular as the first ten picks I had made had all come in as winners by the time the evening games kicked off. Overall a couple of bad beats prevented it being the week of all weeks with both the USC Trojans and Arizona State Sun Devils going into the Fourth Quarter with the lead (I had backed both as the underdog with the points), while the Arizona Wildcats covered the final line, but not the one I had locked in on Friday.

I am not going to complain about that though as an 11-3 record means the season totals have been bolstered significantly. Week 8 might not have as many picks as that because, as I have mentioned, the slate of games doesn't look that appealing although I did manage to put together a short list from which I will make my picks.

I can't move on to my current Play Off Rankings without mentioning the end of the Michigan Wolverines-Michigan State Spartans game... Michigan were leading with fifteen seconds left and were simply looking to punt the ball deep which would have effectively ended the game barring some sort of miracle.

Well a miracle did happen!

The Punter mishandled the snap and the subsequent fumble was batted around before ending in the arms of the Michigan State Defender who rumbled to the house for the walk off Touchdown that saw the Spartans win the game as time expired.

It was incredible and it isn't the first time College Football has left me with my jaw dropped and that is why I love the sport at this level. I don't know how Michigan will handle that defeat which likely keeps them out of the Play Offs now, but Jim Harbaugh has to be excited about the potential his Wolverines team will have in the coming years to beat up on Michigan State.

My Final Four Play Off Ranking:

1) Ohio State Buckeyes- while the other teams are losing their minds, Ohio State keep winning and the change to JT Barrett as starting Quarter Back is the right move. Defending Champions still the team to beat and certainly in the final four if remaining unbeaten.

2) Baylor Bears- they have finally done it for me... I have held on with the TCU Horned Frogs for as long as possible, but Baylor's 'Leave No Doubt' approach to their games has convinced me they win the Big 12 and do it unbeaten.

3) LSU Tigers- still unbeaten in the SEC West and have the inside track to the Championship Game where they would certainly be favoured. One more game, then a bye and then the huge game against the Alabama Crimson Tide that decides it all.

4) Florida State Seminoles- some of the national writers finally mentioned Florida State as a potential final four Play Off team this week, but I have been high on them for a while. Quietly remaining unbeaten, the big test will be when they face the Clemson Tigers which will decide this Conference and potentially one spot in the final four.

Looking In- Utah Utes, Stanford Cardinal, Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators, Clemson Tigers, TCU Horned Frogs, Michigan State Spartans, Houston Cougars.

Week 8 Picks
I say every week that I am not always that keen on the midweek games of the College Football season because they seem to have a few more controversial calls.

That could easily be down to the fact that there usually are a couple of games on Thursday and a couple of Friday and so a lot more focus on those games which means call can be analysed more than other games. However, it is a mentally I have with some of the midweek games, a bit like trying to back the favourite on Monday Night Football in the NFL when that team is usually pounded by the public chasing the weekend losses.

In saying that, I am still making picks from the midweek games where I think the line is right to do so and last week it proved no bother with both a Thursday and a Friday pick coming in as a winner. Hopefully that will be the start for the Week 8 Picks too as I once again begin the picks with a Pac-12 Conference Game.

California Golden Bears @ UCLA Bruins Pick
: The UCLA Bruins are going to need some serious run of luck to get back into the Pac-12 Championship contention in what is turning into a disappointing season. A second consecutive loss to a Conference opponent last week against Stanford has left the Bruins on the edge in the Pac-12 South where they trail the Utah Utes by 2.5 games, but it would be curtains for sure if the California Golden Bears are winners here on Thursday.

The Golden Bears are off a bye having barely been knocked out of the ranks of the unbeaten by the Utah Utes last time out. Jared Goff was picked off five times in that game yet the Golden Bears were downed by just six points and I love what Sonny Dykes has done with this team.

I am expecting Goff and the Offense to bounce back against a UCLA team that has been decimated by injuries on the Defensive side of the ball and barely showed any life when trying to stop the Stanford Cardinal Offense last week. This California Offense is much better than the Stanford one and I am expecting the Golden Bears to run and pass the ball easily enough.

That isn't to say that Josh Rosen and the UCLA Offense won't have their own success too because they clearly will, especially if Paul Perkins establishes the run as effectively as the Utah Utes did. Like California, I am fully expecting the Bruins to be able to move the chains both through the air and on the ground.

The key for the pick for me is clear- I don't think there is much between these teams yet the California Golden Bears are getting more than a Field Goal in terms of a points start. That looks too much for a team that will be looking for revenge having controversially been beaten by UCLA last season and the Golden Bears have also covered the last six times they have been set as the underdog.

It will be high-scoring and a turnover here and there might make all the difference, but I'll take the points on offer in this one.

Kansas State Wildcats @ Texas Longhorns Pick: Since Bill Synder returned as Kansas State Head Coach, it has almost been a given to back his team in an underdog spot where they have gone 24-10 against the spread. However, the Wildcats were blasted as a home underdog last week by the Oklahoma Sooners, although that should get them fired up for their Head Coach in a fourth consecutive game as the underdog.

They had been 2-0 against the spread prior to the Sooners defeat, which is the largest Synder as suffered as a Head Coach here, and Defensively they have lost a number of starters.

In saying all that, I am not sure I am ready to give the Texas Longhorns almost a Touchdown to cover with Charlie Strong still trying to turn around some of the inconsistencies. They were fantastic in beating the Sooners two weeks ago and have had a bye to get ready for this game, although it still looks a let down spot for them.

It is a revenge game for the Longhorns too having been shut out by Kansas State last season, but Texas are just 1-2 against the spread as the home favourite under Charlie Strong and I am looking for a big bounce back performance from the Wildcats who go into a bye following this game.

There is every chance this spread moves to seven points before kick off, but I will take what looks too many points already.

Clemson Tigers @ Miami Hurricanes Pick: This is a big ACC game that could potentially decide whether this Conference will be able to send a team to the final four Play Offs this season. If the Clemson Tigers were to fall, only one team would have a realistic chance of making the Play Off from this Conference so it is a huge game for the visiting Tigers.

However, I can't help but feel that has contributed to what looks a very big spread for the home team here, especially as the Miami Hurricanes are 4-1 against the spread as the home underdog under Al Golden. The Head Coach might be under pressure after back to back losses to Cincinnati and Florida State, but Miami bounced back by beating Virginia Tech here and are a better team than their record may suggest.

The key will be to try and find holes in a Clemson Defense that has performed very well all season, especially as the Miami Defense doesn't match up to them. But as well as Clemson have played, it has to be remembered this is a true road game and they are 0-4 against the spread as the road favourite including 0-1 this season.

I am looking for Brad Kaaya to make enough plays at Quarter Back to keep the Hurricanes competitive in this one and getting more than a Touchdown start looks very generous.

Houston Cougars @ UCF Knights Pick: This was supposed to be a top game in the American Athletic Conference that could potentially have been repeated in the first ever Conference Championship Game. However, the UCF Knights have more than a slight disappointment this season and the Houston Cougars come to town as a big favourite to beat them.

I can't argue against that to be honest with this being another revenge game for the Cougars following last week's revenge blow out of the Tulane Green Wave. That helped move Houston to 6-0 against the spread as the road favourite and they look a balanced Offense that should be able to move the chains effectively.

It is a big number though to cover and my reason is that UCF simply haven't looked right Offensively all season and I am not sure how many points they can score in this one. They won't be able to run the ball and this Houston Secondary has a 'bend, don't break' way of playing that has produced turnovers and a fierce pass rush.

Houston have had an extra day to get ready for the game and the Knights were blown out by Connecticut as the home underdog a couple of weeks ago. It might be difficult for them to keep up in this one too and I like the Cougars to win big.

Toledo Rockets @ Massachusetts Minutemen Pick: Another big road favourite I am taking this week are the Toledo Rockets who didn't let me down in Week 7 when blowing out Eastern Michigan at home. They will have ten days to prepare for their big MAC game against Northern Illinois so the Rockets should be fully focused on Massachusetts who have played Temple close but been blown out by the other two good teams they have run into.

I imagine the Toledo Offense will have their way both running and throwing the ball in this one and that balance is key for them to keep the Minutemen off balance. It will be tough for Massachusetts to get consistent stops and Toledo have scored thirty points or more in four of their last five games.

Add in the fact that both Bowling Green and Notre Dame bounce hung over sixty points on this Massachusetts Defense and I think the question becomes whether they can keep up on the scoreboard. That won't be easy against what looks the best Defense in the MAC Conference and playing catch up will just unleash a pass rush that should dominate the trenches.

My one concern has to be that Toledo haven't been a great road favourite under Matt Campbell's guidance, although they are 1-0 against the spread in that spot this season. With no look ahead in this one, I like the Rockets to propel themselves to another big win.

Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Oklahoma Sooners Pick: Usually I would have moved past this game which sees the home favourite fresh off a huge road win against a team that has already won as an underdog at an SEC foe as well as played one of the best teams in the Conference very close.

It is a lot of points for the Oklahoma Sooners to be giving up against a very good Offense too, but there is one factor that I think inspires the Sooners to really put in a top effort.

That factor is Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield played for Texas Tech originally but transferred to Oklahoma and the one team he always wanted to play for... That didn't go down well in Lubbock and so Texas Tech ensured Mayfield missed a year as his former school refused to sign a consent form regarding the transfer and it was subsequently decided by a court that a one year ineligibility stood.

Don't tell me that Mayfield isn't going to be wanting his team mates to help him run up a big score on Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury, who was blamed as the chief instigator of the ineligibility issue by Mayfield's father. Of course the Red Raiders might use his transfer as motivation, but I think the edge goes to the Sooners in that regards.

On the field the Sooners look better on both sides of the ball than Texas Tech and they can focus all of their attention on this game having an 'easy' game next on deck when they face Kansas. Games between these teams have been close in recent years, but this is one I expect the Sooners to have circled and to try and blow out the Red Raiders and I like them to do that.

Indiana Hoosiers @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: On a normal day, you could see why the Michigan State Spartans would have a chance of blowing out the Indiana Hoosiers considering the balance they are likely to have on Offense.

However, I am not sure how this team will be able to pick themselves up from the most emotional of wins over the Michigan Wolverines last week and this does look a prime let down spot for a Spartans team that are 1-6 against the spread this season.

Of course they are going into a bye so can focus completely on Indiana, but Michigan State have played down to the level of opposition they faced all season. Perhaps the win last week sparks a strong run of form to end the season, but I have a feeling the players might just want to get this game 'out of the way', get into the bye week and then look forward to a daunting final four games of the season.

Indiana have enough Offense to at least keep this game within three scores, although they are fresh off a loss in which they blew a huge lead against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That was a terrible loss and the Hoosiers were also blown out at Penn State.

However, they did play the Ohio State Buckeyes close at home and can take advantage here if Michigan State haven't come down from the way they beat Michigan last week. The Spartans are 8-16 against the spread as the home favourite since 2012 and that includes going 0-4 this season so I will take these points and look for Indiana to make it a real battle for them, perhaps even securing a late backdoor cover.

Texas A&M Aggies @ Mississippi Rebels Pick: The SEC West is going to star becoming a clearer Division in the next three weeks and this is a game that will start separating the pack. The Texas A&M Aggies are off a devastating home loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and will be hoping they can make a better recovery off a loss to Alabama than the Mississippi Rebels did off a win over the same team.

The Rebels have been a real disappointment having been blasted by the Florida Gators and then beaten by American Athletic Conference Memphis Tigers last week. A second Conference loss for either team will likely be curtains for their chances of making the SEC Championship Game barring something truly crazy happening so there will be plenty of tension in the air.

Texas A&M might feel they let themselves down in an eighteen point loss last weekend considering they threw THREE pick-sixes in the game. I think Kyle Allen can have a bounce back game this week though against a Rebels team that was punished through the air last week.

While that will be the case, I also think Mississippi can impose a solid running game onto the Aggies in this one and it does have the makings of a close game that might be decided by a turnover or two. Defensively Texas A&M didn't play too badly last week if you take away the twenty-one points scored on Interceptions from the Crimson Tide and I do think the road team might hold the edge.

So I am a little surprised they are being given as many points as they are and I like Texas A&M to keep this competitive and perhaps even win a third straight visit to Oxford outright.

Florida State Seminoles @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: Up until now, Florida State had been flying under the radar as a potential Play Off team, but they are firmly in the limelight now. Everett Golson has played much more like the Quarter Back that took Notre Dame to the National Championship Game rather than the one that had a huge number of turnovers last season and the Seminoles have been rolling.

I really like their chances of knocking off the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the road as a season filled with promise is now circling the drain. You can't ignore the fact that Georgia Tech have lost five games in a row, although they might be feeling disrespected as a rare home underdog.

It hasn't always been a good spot for them as they are 2-4 against the spread as the home underdog and this is a triple option that Florida State will have prepared for having seen Georgia Tech twice in the ACC Championship Game in the last two years.

The Seminoles are 7-4 against the spread as the road favourite too and I think they have been the better team on both sides of the ball. If Golson can continue his turnover-free performances, I am looking for the Florida State Offense to have enough balance to keep the chains moving as well as the Defense shutting down the triple option for long enough to see the cover come in.

Utah Utes @ USC Trojans Pick: The public are going to be pounding the unbeaten road underdog in this game, but I am going to oppose them and look for the USC Trojans to effectively end the Utah Utes hopes of reaching the National Championship Play Offs.

Both teams had contrasting fortunes last week- I have no idea how USC didn't cover in their game against Notre Dame let alone not win it outright, while Utah might have looked easy winners on the scoreboard but were down to Arizona State through the middle of the Fourth Quarter.

Turnovers have been the key for Utah and that is one concern for me considering Cody Kessler has suddenly started throwing Interceptions like they are going out of fashion. Extra possessions have sparked the Utes to success this season but this is the last really big game for USC, especially if they were to lose, while a win gets them back into contention in the Conference.

They are off two poor losses by the standards people expected of USC, but they remain a strong favourite at home and the line makers know they have underachieved and Utah have overachieved. I am just not sold on the Utes and I think the Trojans get revenge for a close loss in 2014 and win this one to ruine Utah's unbeaten season.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick: I know, I know, the Ohio State Buckeyes have been very average for much of the season, but I like the move they have made to JT Barrett as the starting Quarter Back.

They are still unbeaten on the road under Urban Meyer, but one concern has to be how close half of those games have been with half of their Big Ten road wins coming by seven points or fewer.

Now they are favoured by almost three Touchdowns to win in Rutgers so why do I like their chances to do that? Well I think the last two weeks they have begun to get uncoiled Offensively and having Barrett in as starting Quarter Back should spark that side of the ball even more.

The last two wins have come by at least twenty-one points each and Rutgers are off a game when they put in a huge effort to come back from twenty-five points behind to beat Indiana on the road. That emotional and physical effort might take its toll as this game wears on and I think the Buckeyes Defense doesn't give up too many big plays or long drives in this one.

I expect Ohio State to win the turnover battle too and I am looking at them to go into their bye week with a big win behind them and a warning to their remaining four opponents that the defending Champions are ready for another deep run.

MY PICKS: California Golden Bears + 3.5 Points @ 1.85 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Kansas State Wildcats + 6.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes + 7.5 Points @ 1.83 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 21.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Toledo Rockets - 14.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Indiana Hoosiers + 16.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies + 5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
USC Trojans - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 20.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)

Week 7: 11-3, + 7.10 Units (14 Units Staked, + 50.71% Yield
Week 68-5, + 2.49 Units (13 Units Staked, + 19.15% Yield)
Week 56-7, - 1.50 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.54% Yield)
Week 48-4-1, + 3.26 Units (13 Units Staked, + 25.08% Yield)
Week 36-4, + 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 201551-33-2, + 14.08 Units (86 Units Staked, + 16.37% 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)

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