It is the time of the season when one defeat could be fatal to teams and that is how the Ohio State Buckeyes have to feel after losing at home to the Michigan State Spartans which is almost certainly ending their chances of defending their National Championship.
The Big 12 has a couple of big weeks too with their top teams in danger of cannibalising themselves, although they would have received a big boost when the Oklahoma Sooners were placed in the top four by the committee last week. However, they have a big game against rivals Oklahoma State this week and a defeat in that might see the Big 12 overlooked for a Play Off place for the second season in a row.
One team that might be upset are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who were knocked out of the top four, but they can put together an impressive resume by beating Stanford this week. That would mean wins over Stanford, USC, and Navy this season with the sole loss to Clemson, by a mere two points, not looking at all bad if the Tigers were to win the ACC without losing a game.
So what are my current Play Off Rankings, meaning which four teams do I think will make up the National Championship Play Off:
1) Clemson Tigers- an unbeaten ACC Champion won't be overlooked.
2) Alabama Crimson Tide- one loss SEC Champion who have won some big games since the surprise defeat to the Mississippi Rebels.
3) Oklahoma Sooners- the defeat to the Texas Longhorns seems to be forgotten and this team is flying especially if they can beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys on the road this week.
4) Notre Dame Fighting Irish- if they win at Stanford, the one loss Notre Dame team is going to be tough to ignore... Especially when you think the one loss came against the only unbeaten team in the nation.
Looking In- Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels, Stanford Cardinal.
Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Texas Longhorns Pick: It has been a disappointing season for the Texas Longhorns and one that is coming to an end with a losing record regardless of how this game goes down. They come off the bye week looking to at least give Charlie Strong some breathing room in the off-season, but the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks a tough one on paper.
This is a series that the Longhorns have dominated in recent years, but the spread has moved from Texas being a small favourite into a small underdog. I would have loved to have taken Texas Tech as the underdog, but I still like them in this spot.
Texas Tech should have enough balance on Offense to give Texas plenty to think about, while the latter are going to be using back ups at Running Back which might give the former a chance to slow them down.
Both Defenses will have their problems, but I think the balance on the Offensive side of the ball gives Texas Tech the edge and I think they can end a six year losing run in the series by winning this game on Thanksgiving Day.
Troy Trojans @ Georgia State Panthers Pick: This is the last home game of the season for the Georgia State Panthers and they have surpassed expectations already this season. However the Panthers could easily be looking ahead to a big game with Georgia Southern next week although the public don't care and are heavily behind a small home favourite.
I am being contrary though and I think the Troy Trojans can come off their bye and win here having been competitive in recent games prior to that break.
Troy have won beaten Georgia State the last couple of years and the Trojans look like they match up with their opponents pretty effectively on both sides of the ball. The balance on the Offensive side of the ball should mean Troy are able to move the chains more effectively than the high-octane passing Offense of Georgia State who are facing a pretty good Secondary.
The Trojans are 4-1 against the spread on the road this season and Georgia State are 0-2 against the spread as the home favourite over the last couple of years.
Oregon State Beavers @ Oregon Ducks Pick: Gary Andersen has a proven record as a Head Coach but it was a surprise he decided to leave Wisconsin to take over at Oregon State. To say it has been a tough season for the Beavers is an under-statement and now they take on rivals Oregon who have won five in a row.
Even with that in mind, the Ducks look like they are being asked to cover a very big spread even if this game is being played in Eugene. UCLA, Washington and Arizona have all blown out Oregon State to such an extent that they would have covered this huge spread, but you have to think the Beavers are motivated to perform against Oregon.
Oregon State have managed to do that and make things somewhat difficult for Oregon and they haven't been beaten by a bigger number than this spread since 2005. Andersen's style means the Beavers will look to run the clock with their running game and they can keep Oregon's Offense on the sidelines although the quick-strike Ducks Offense can score very quickly to give them a chance to cover in this one.
Of course the Ducks will win, but this still looks too many points and I look for Oregon State to make their rivals at least work for the win.
Baylor Bears @ TCU Horned Frogs Pick: At the start of the season, this looked to be the game that was going to decide the Big 12. However injuries have played their part for both teams to drop at least one game and both Baylor and TCU look to be on the outside of the National Championship Play Off this season.
Neither team is using their starting Quarter Back with Baylor down to third choice Chris Johnson who had been playing as a Wide Receiver while TCU will go with Bram Kohlhausen.
Both players showed they are more than a little capable with big performances in Week 12 and this is going to be a close game. The spread shows that too, but I do like the Horned Frogs to put in one huge effort in their final home game of the season and earn some revenge for their defeat at Baylor last season which cost them a National Championship Play Off berth.
TCU haven't lost here since the end of the 2013 season when Baylor won here, so I do like them in the home underdog spot where they are 2-0 against the spread since 2013. Both teams will score plenty of points, but the Horned Frogs Defense showed they might be able to make enough stops to help the team come through.
Iowa State Cyclones @ West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: I made a point of mentioning that the West Virginia Mountaineers are not the best home favourite to back a couple of weeks ago when I picked them to cover against the Texas Longhorns. In fact I have backed West Virginia two weeks in a row and they have come through so you might think I will look to back them yet another time.
Actually no... This week I like the underdog Iowa State Cyclones to cover as they look to give Paul Rhoads the perfect send off having found out the Head Coach will be let go after this game. Rhoads is adamant he is leaving some tremendous talent for the Cyclones, although Iowa State have disappointed the last three years under his watch.
However the Cyclones have been largely competitive in their games and games between these teams have been tight the last three seasons. Both teams should move the chains effectively through the game and a turnover or two might make all the difference, but that effectiveness also means it looks like the Cyclones are getting too many points in this one.
If you look at the way they have performed against the schools they have both already faced in the Big 12, you can see the Cyclones are capable of surprising the Mountaineers. With the motivation to give Head Coach Rhoads a good send off, I like them to cover with the two Touchdown start.
Ohio State Buckeyes @ Michigan Wolverines Pick: The defence of the National Championship won last season was ended in disappointing fashion for the Ohio State Buckeyes who had at least two players declare for the NFL Draft. Ezekiel Elliot was not very complimentary on his way out of the door, but he can make amends in a huge rivalry game as the Ohio State Buckeyes head to 'The Big House' to take on the Michigan Wolverines.
Both teams will be thinking what might have been having lost in difficult circumstances to the Michigan State Spartans. This game could still have tremendous meaning if the Spartans were to lose to the Penn State Nittany Lions on the same day, but otherwise it is down to bragging rights which is still huge for both Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh.
The Defensive units are the key for both teams and that is an area where I feel the Buckeyes are playing better of the two taking to the field. Of course Michigan can raise their game having gotten over their loss to the Spartans with that defeat very fresh for Ohio State, but I think the Buckeyes are the better team and they have dominated this rivalry in recent years.
There looks to be a little more on both sides of the ball for the Buckeyes and they are 4-1 against the spread in their last five visits to Michigan. The public are completely split on the game, but I am going with the additional talent level on the side of the Ohio State Buckeyes to make the difference and win the game.
Maryland Terrapins @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick: The season can't end quick enough for the Maryland Terrapins who have lost eight in a row and will be employing a new Head Coach between seasons. Even then, Maryland have outgained three of their last five opponents and have had a couple of hard luck losses which makes it a big surprise they are the underdog getting almost a Field Goal worth of points.
They certainly shouldn't be dogged against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights who are banged up and who would be in a long losing run if not for having the Army Black Knights on the schedule last week.
Even that victory couldn't snap a run of seven straight games where Rutgers have been outgained and you simply can't keep getting away with that. Maryland do look a team that matches up well with them on both sides of the ball and that could be key here as I expect them to be able to move the chains and stall drives effectively.
Maryland will also play with revenge having been beaten at home by Rutgers last season and I will take the points on offer in this one.
Georgia Bulldogs @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: This is a big rivalry game but both Georgia and Georgia Tech would have hoped there would be more on the line than bragging rights. Neither team will look back at the 2015 season with too many positives, but the players should still want to end the season in the right way and not have to hear from the other over the next twelve months.
For Georgia it is perhaps more important having been beaten in overtime at home last season. The Bulldogs haven't had much luck in terms of injuries and Mark Richt is perhaps going to be out of the door as Head Coach after the season is completed, but they have played well to put together three wins in a row.
They also faced Georgia Southern last week so would have had good practice for the triple option run by Georgia Tech, especially one that might be run by the back up Quarter Back. Justin Thomas is banged up at least and the Yellow Jackets have had a miserable season with just one win in their last nine.
Georgia have to be careful as that one win came against a quality team like Florida State, but Georgia Tech have found too many ways to lose and I like the Bulldogs to win and cover. The road team is 10-1-1 against the spread in the series while Georgia are 7-0 against the spread in their last seven here so I like the Bulldogs to extend both trends.
Duke Blue Devils @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons Pick: The public are very much in love with the Duke Blue Devils winning and covering on the road this week, but the sharps have backed Wake Forest which has seen the spread shrink. I am little surprised the money is on the home team considering they have lost five in a row and rarely been competitive.
The Demon Deacons would have put in a huge effort to try and compete with the Clemson Tigers last week so it is hard to imagine them picking themselves up to play the Blue Devils outside of the State rivalry. However Wake Forest have been struggling Offensively and might not get a lot of joy from the Duke Defensive unit which does give a considerable edge to the road team.
The balance on the Duke Offense also gives them an edge I feel and I do think they are the better team even if they have lost four games in a row. That run was sparked by a controversial defeat suffered against the Miami Hurricanes when the officials cost Duke the victory having missed at least two penalties in the winning Touchdown.
Yes, Duke haven't played as well as they would have liked since then, but they have been too good for Wake Forest in their last three games too. I think the Blue Devils are too good on both sides of the ball which makes it difficult to see how Wake Forest can compete with them and I like Duke here.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Stanford Cardinal Pick: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were knocked out of the top four of the Play Offs last week in the latest released Rankings following a sloppy win over Boston College. They do have a chance to pick up some more votes this week if they can go to the Stanford Cardinal and beat them on the road, but Notre Dame are banged up some more having lost their starting Running Back and Corner Back last week.
It has been a season of injuries for Notre Dame and Brian Kelly might be left wondering what could have been if they are left out of the Play Offs. Their one loss to the Clemson Tigers remains a strong one with that team unbeaten, but the Fighting Irish are unlikely to overcome two losses which makes this game a big one.
Next man up has been the policy for Notre Dame this season and DeShone Kizar has to pick up his play if his school are going to win this game. Kizar was pretty terrible against Boston College last week but the Eagles have perhaps one of the best Defenses in the nation and I would expect a better performance from the Quarter Back this week.
Of course Stanford have their Pac-12 Championship Game next week having already lost twice this season which should keep them out of the National Championship Play Off. Winning this game might inspire some votes if other results go their way over the next two weeks, but it looks unlikely that Stanford would be invited in and I wonder if the focus is on the Championship Game instead.
The Cardinal do match up with the Notre Dame Defense and I can see Christian McCaffrey perhaps show why he is considered the best Running Back in the nation by his Head Coach David Shaw. McCaffrey should have a big game but this looks like one that is going to be decided by three points either way and that makes the points being offered to Notre Dame look attractive to me.
Notre Dame have covered in two in a row as the underdog and I am looking for them to make it three in a row this week and perhaps steal a win that could propel them back into the top four of the Play Offs.
Oklahoma Sooners @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: After losing to the Baylor Bears last week, you might think the Oklahoma State Cowboys are going to be feeling sorry for themselves this week. That loss is likely going to keep Oklahoma State out of the Play Offs this season, but they won't have missed the fact that rivals Oklahoma are in the top four and knocking them off would be a huge achievement for the Cowboys.
Revenge will also be on the mind for the Oklahoma Sooners who were beaten in Norman last season and know the importance of not dropping this game. However that created some nerves in their home win over the banged up TCU Horned Frogs last week and I think the Sooners are going to have a very difficult time this week.
The Sooners Defensive unit is the best in the Big 12 and that gives them an edge, but getting a Touchdown start for the home team is still hard to ignore. The underdog has covered three in a row in the series and Baker Mayfield might not be at 100% even though he has passed the concussion protocol.
Looking at the bare facts suggests the Sooners are the better team, but Oklahoma State will be highly motivated and at home and that is hard to ignore. The Cowboys don't have anything to lose at this moment but everything to gain and the Sooners did look nervous in their win last week when TCU began to make the comeback.
With the Touchdown start, the Cowboys should be able to keep this competitive and perhaps end Oklahoma's season by beating them and knocking them out of the National Championship Play Offs.
MY PICKS: Texas Tech Red Raiders - 1 Point @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Troy Trojans + 1 Point @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Oregon State Beavers + 35.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs + 1.5 Points @ 2.00 William Hill (1 Unit)
Iowa State Cyclones + 14 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 1 Point @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Maryland Terrapins + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 4 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Duke Blue Devils - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish + 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys + 7 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Week 11: 7-4, + 2.33 Units (11 Units Staked, + 21.18% Yield)
Week 10: 4-5, - 1.36 Units (9 Units Staked, - 15.11% Yield)
Week 9: 3-6, - 3.29 Units (9 Units Staked, - 36.56% Yield)
Week 8: 5-6, - 1.33 Units (11 Units Staked, - 12.09% Yield)
Week 7: 11-3, + 7.10 Units (14 Units Staked, + 50.71% Yield
Week 6: 8-5, + 2.49 Units (13 Units Staked, + 19.15% Yield)
Week 5: 6-7, - 1.50 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.54% Yield)
Week 4: 8-4-1, + 3.26 Units (13 Units Staked, + 25.08% Yield)
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: 73-61-2, + 6.33 Units (136 Units Staked, + 4.65% Yield)
Season 2014: 75-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% Yield)