Week 4 proved to be a very good week, although it could have been a lot better if some of the later games had come back in my favour. I won't get too greedy though and will simply be hoping I can build on the momentum of Week 4 and take that into Week 5 which I am beginning with a pick from the Friday game between Stanford and Washington.
Stanford Cardinal @ Washington Huskies Pick: When you look at the Pac-12 North, you have to think these two teams are the pick of the Division and the winner of this game will be favourite to play in the Championship Game in December. Home field advantage has seen the Washington Huskies come into this game as the favourite, but I do have to say I am leaning towards the Stanford Cardinal earning a big win on the road.
For my pick they don't even have to win though as Stanford are being given more than a Field Goal worth of points in this one who are 3-1-1 against the spread under David Shaw.
Stanford are very heavily reliant on Christian McCaffrey who is the key to so much that they want to do Offensively. He can run the ball, but is also effective coming out of the backfield or lining up as a Receiver and every team in the nation knows they need to keep tabs on this kid, but struggle to do that.
This might be the first big test the Washington Defensive Line have to face this season, but this was always expected to be the strength of the Defensive unit and McCaffrey will have a tough night in the office. That will only heap the pressure on Ryan Burns at Quarter Back as teams have not respected the pass but he has been protected by this Offensive Line.
The key for the Cardinal is going to be their own Defensive unit which has played very well to open the season despite facing Kansas State, USC and UCLA. The numbers have still been good though and Stanford will believe they can give Jake Browning and his two Running Backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman their most difficult test of the season too.
Stanford have only allowed 3.1 yards per carry and keeping Washington in third and long spots will make it difficult for Browning to convert those. The Quarter Back will have seen some of the holes in the Cardinal Secondary, but he has not been protected the best by this Offensive Line and could be under siege if the Running Backs are not able to keep the Huskies in third and manageable situations.
I do think Browning makes some big plays too, but McCaffrey can do the same for Stanford to keep this game close. The Cardinal have gotten the better of Washington in recent years, but this might be the best Huskies team in that time so I can understand why they are favoured. However I do think Stanford will feel disrespected as a rare underdog in Conference play after winning the Pac-12 in two of the last three seasons and I will take more than Field Goal worth of points in this one.
Texas Longhorns @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: The Big 12 Conference play has gotten underway and both the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State Cowboys were hoping to be amongst the leading contenders in the Conference. That is still the case for Texas, but the Cowboys were beaten by the Baylor Bears last week and the two losses on the season means they are only one more away from matching the number of losses from the whole of 2015.
This is going to be another close match in a Conference where many of the teams seem evenly matched, although none of them look likely to be a contender for a Play Off position this time around. There have been some big losses suffered by teams from the Conference and both Texas and Oklahoma State have lost to non-Conference opponents this season.
The Longhorns were looking a real threat at the top of the Big 12, but their defeat to California coupled with their best win over Notre Dame not looking as strong after four weeks raises questions for Charlie Strong as Head Coach. A lot of what Texas want to do begins by running the ball effectively, but that might not be easy for them this week against a team allowing just 3.6 yards per play on the ground.
Shane Buechele has played well for Texas at Quarter Back and much of this game might be resting on his arm against an Oklahoma State Secondary that has struggled. However it might be more difficult from third and long situations for a young Quarter Back especially as he is expected to face some pressure up front from the Cowboys pass rush.
Overall Texas are happy with the way the Offense has produced, but they have been less impressed with a Defensive unit that has given up at least 43 points in two of their three games this season. Strong is going to making some changes to the Defense in the bye week, but it will be tested by Mason Rudolph and a powerful Oklahoma State passing game.
Where the Longhorns will expect to have success is by stopping the run and also putting pressure on Randolph at the Quarter Back position which might lead to some mistakes. Turnovers are going to be key for Oklahoma State who have had nine in their favour, but given away eight and it was turnovers that prevented them from beating Baylor on the road last week.
There really isn't a lot between these teams and I do think that the winning team is going to be the one that either has the ball last or wins the turnover battle. I'd be surprised if either team is able to pull away, but I do have to point out the road team has dominated the series in recent years.
The Longhorns have not been a good road underdog to back with Charlie Strong as Head Coach, but I think he has had enough time to prepare for this game which can make a difference. Both teams should have success moving the ball, but I think the Texas Defensive pass rush can force Randolph into a couple more mistakes and I like the Longhorns with the points in this one.
Miami Hurricanes @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: I really do like the look of this Miami Hurricanes team this season and I think they will be too strong for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as they begin their ACC Conference play this season. The Yellow Jackets have already had one Conference game when handled at home by the Clemson Tigers and they will want to show there is much more about them following their 3-9 2015 season.
The numbers don't look too bad for Georgia Tech over the course of four games, but they have struggled mightily when facing the better teams on their schedule. Georgia Tech were outgained by 82 yards in a win over Boston College and then 318 yards in their loss to Clemson and Miami are much closer to the latter than the former.
One area in which Georgia Tech might feel they can at least compete with Miami will be in the trenches as they look to slow down a rushing Offense that have averaged 7.7 yards per carry. Of course the Hurricanes have been playing a soft part of their schedule but Mark Walton has been running the ball effectively with the other two Running Backs on the depth chart who helped the Hurricanes punish their first two opponents.
They haven't needed Brad Kaaya much so far this season even if he had a big game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers two weeks ago. Kaaya has been well protected by this Offensive Line and the Yellow Jackets don't exactly have a fierce pass rush which should mean the Quarter Back who has thrown for over 3000 yards in each of the last two seasons has a chance of making some big plays downfield. That will especially be the case if Georgia Tech try to stack the box to stop the run and I think the Hurricanes will move the chains consistently through this game.
I am also not sure how Georgia Tech will get enough Offense of their own to keep up with the Hurricanes. We all know that Paul Johnson is going to run the triple option Offense, but Miami have had two weeks to prepare for this and their Defensive Line have been brilliant so far with just 1.8 yards per play against them when rushing the ball.
Most of the teams aren't really up to the standard of Georgia Tech that Miami have shut down, but they played well against Appalachian State and the Hurricanes are getting a lot of penetration up front. The Yellow Jackets have not run the ball as well as they would have liked and that has not been helped by Justin Thomas struggling to throw the ball from Quarter Back.
While the option is the first call for Thomas, he has to provide a threat throwing the ball to open up the running lanes and that hasn't happened so far. The Hurricanes Secondary haven't given up many yards with the pressure they are getting up front and Georgia Tech could have a hard time maintaining drives in this one.
The Yellow Jackets are just 3-7 against the spread as the home underdog with Paul Johnson as Head Coach and I don't think they are doing enough Offensively to stay with Miami in this one. I will back the Hurricanes to cover a big number on the road and move onto the huge home game with Florida State next week.
Navy Midshipmen @ Air Force Falcons Pick: The Navy Midshipmen have suffered some big injuries to open the season but that has not slowed them down although this is the biggest test they would have faced in the 2016 season. Navy are unbeaten, but so are the Air Force Falcons who opened up Conference play with a win last week and are looking to go 4-0 themselves for the first time since 2003.
No one will be surprised by what we are going to see in this one as both teams will look to run the ball and control the clock. The layers are very much behind the Falcons because their rushing Defense has been much stronger than Navy's so far, but I like the Midshipmen having had a couple of weeks to prepare for this game.
While they were resting, the Falcons had a really tough win at Utah State last week and that might show up here. The key for Air Force might be how well the Defensive Line has shown up so far to stop the run compared with the Navy's Defensive Line that have given up 4.2 yards per carry.
If Air Force can slow down Navy they might have a chance to not only win the game, but to actually go on and win handily, but I think the bye week is huge for the Midshipmen. I also think Will Worth is a better passer than he has shown for Navy so far and the Air Force Secondary have had a hard time which could see the Midshipmen make some big plays through the air.
Navy have won three of the last four in the series and getting a Touchdown worth of points looks like too many for the Midshipmen in this one.
Tennessee Volunteers @ Georgia Bulldogs Pick: The Tennessee Volunteers are yet to really produce a solid game from the First Quarter through to the end of the game, but they have remained unbeaten through the first four weeks of the season. They were the consensus pick to win the SEC East and will be in a very strong position to do that already if they can beat the Georgia Bulldogs on the road on Saturday.
The Volunteers snapped a long losing run against the Florida Gators last week having come back from a big deficit at the end of the first half with some huge plays in the second. After struggling to put away the Appalachian State Mountaineers and Ohio Bobcats plus needing a big second half to overturn a deficit to Virginia Tech, there will still be questions about the Volunteers but I see a team that is going to be improving in each passing week.
They haven't won in Georgia since 2006, but they are facing a Bulldogs squad that were beaten easily at the Mississippi Rebels last week and who barely got by the Missouri Tigers prior to that. Now they could be going into this one without their best Offensive player in Nick Chubb and I think Tennessee can get a stranglehold on the Division by beating another of the leading contenders.
Last week Georgia were criticised for their poor tackling and that won't cut it against Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd this week. Tennessee should be able to establish Hurd in this one against the Bulldogs Defensive Line which is giving up 4.4 yards per carry and doing that will open up the passing lanes for Dobbs who has to limit the mistakes to make sure the Volunteers can achieve all they expect this season.
Dobbs has started slowly in some games before picking up his play, but he should be able to have a decent game both running and passing if Hurd is running the ball as he should be able to. The Georgia Secondary has also struggled and Tennessee should be able to move the ball effectively throughout this contest.
The Tennessee Defensive Line has also shown improvement this season as expected and I am struggling to see how Georgia will be able to run the ball consistently without Chubb. The Bulldogs still should have some success when handing the ball to Sony Michel and Brian Herrien but Tennessee should be able to force Georgia into enough third and long situations to force Jacob Eason to make some big plays to keep them in the game.
Eason will be much happier playing at home after struggling massively on the road at Mississippi last week. He hasn't been protected as well as he would like, but the Tennessee pass rush has not been as effective as they would have wanted and that is the one knock against the Volunteers. However the Secondary has played well without turning the ball over and I think the Defensive unit will make it very difficult for Georgia to score enough points to stay with Tennessee in this one.
You might think Georgia would be a team that thrives when being written off, especially at home, but they are just 0-2-1 against the spread in this spot over the last few years. This is the first true road game for Tennessee which can make things difficult, but I like the experience of the Volunteers who are also 3-1 against the spread as the road favourite under Butch Jones. It might be close for a while, but I expect some big plays in the second half to help Tennessee pull away in this one and I will back them to cover on the road.
North Carolina Tar Heels @ Florida State Seminoles Pick: If someone wanted me to pick the highest scoring game of the week, I might be tempted to go with the Florida State Seminoles hosting the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both Offenses look like they are going to have a fairly comfortable time moving the chains in this one so some might be surprised that I think the Seminoles are still going to be able to cover a double digit spread.
That is partly because I really do think the Seminoles Defensive unit are underachieving and they are better than what they have shown so far this season. They are in for a big test against the Tar Heels who have very strong balance on the Offensive side of the ball, but who need to bounce back from a poor day rushing the ball in Week 4.
Before that the North Carolina rushing attack had produced some big numbers including against the Georgia Bulldogs from the SEC against whom they averaged 8.4 yards per carry. However, the Tar Heels were shockingly held to just 18 total rushing yards by the Pittsburgh Panthers last week although this looks a bounce back opportunity with Florida State giving up 5 yards per carry themselves.
Mitch Trubisky is the Quarter Back and no one was worried about Marquise Williams moving on at the end of last season with the experience that Trubisky has earned the last couple of seasons. He has shown he is more than capable by helping the team average over 330 yards per game through the air and Trubisky has over 1300 passing yards already.
That is where Florida State will feel they can win some battles though as their Secondary hasn't played badly thanks to the pressure they have been able to get up front. Being able to somehow limit the rushing Offense will give Florida State the chance to slow down drives and perhaps hold North Carolina to Field Goals rather than Touchdowns which is important when it comes to covering this number.
After the blowout to the Louisville Cardinals, Florida State bounced back to beat a solid South Florida team on the road. They should be capable of running the ball effectively against a North Carolina team that gave up almost 300 rushing yards to the Pittsburgh Panthers last week and Dalvin Cook looked back to his best last week and I expect him to have a big game this week.
Cook running the ball effectively will be a big boost for Deondre Francois at Quarter Back with the young man not playing badly in 2016. He has looked after the ball and keeping him in third and short will allow him to make plays with his legs as well as being able to move the chains behind an Offensive Line that hasn't been as good in pass protection as they have in paving the way with the rushing lanes.
It does have to be said that the North Carolina Secondary is one of the better ones in the ACC and they have played well. But if the Tar Heels can't stop the Florida State rushing attack it is going to be a long day for them and I can see the Seminoles converting more drives into Touchdowns than the Tar Heels will.
That should see them move away in the second half as long as they are not overlooking North Carolina at the big game at Miami next week. After losing to Louisville in the manner they did, Florida State should remain focused and the Tar Heels are just 4-7 against the spread as the road underdog under Larry Fedora.
North Carolina lost by 9 points to Georgia in Week 1 and I think they might not be able to stay with Florida State in this one as I look for the latter to cover the double digit spread.
Wisconsin Badgers @ Michigan Wolverines Pick: Jim Harbaugh came back to alma mater in a bid to restore the Michigan Wolverines and they look a team that could challenge for the National title this season. They were much improved last year and have started with four straight wins in dominating fashion, although there is the small matter of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Division who might have something to say about any National title aspirations the Wolverines have.
This might also be the first real test for the Michigan Wolverines as they host the Wisconsin Badgers, another unbeaten team, on Saturday. Wisconsin have the better wins on paper with a victory over the LSU Tigers followed by one at Michigan State last week, but I am not sure if either of those teams were a little overrated going into the game with the Badgers.
I am much more confident about the Michigan Wolverines and I think they can put together a statement win and give them confidence to take into the rest of the season. I do think Harbaugh already pumps his team up to believe in themselves and he looks a perfect fit for College Football where his personality is rubbing off on new players far quicker than it would in the NFL, although Harbaugh had plenty of success with San Francisco too.
Michigan have relied on a committee at Running Back this season but it has worked for them as they are averaging 5.4 yards per carry, but they are facing a really strong Defensive Line. The Badgers have shown that by slowing down the rushing Offense of both Michigan State and LSU already and it might mean Michigan are looking for more out of Wilton Speight than they have needed so far.
Speight has only thrown for 875 passing yards this season for Michigan but he should be given time to throw against this Wisconsin Secondary. It looks a tough unit to play though as the Badgers are allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game even if they are less experienced than 2015 and the Wolverines will be looking for their own Defensive unit to give their Offense good field position and get into a position to win this game.
There hasn't been a lot of room to score points against the Michigan Wolverines because they have been very effective at stopping the run. That is the start for any good Defensive unit and Wisconsin don't look like they will be able to establish a strong running game in this one.
The difference between the Defenses on display is that Michigan's Secondary have been well protected by a fierce pass rush that the front seven have generated. The Wisconsin Offensive Line has a couple of injuries which may make it even more difficult to keep the Wolverines off of Alex Hornibrook who has been asked to look after the ball at Quarter Back and rely on his Defense to help him win games.
Hornibrook has made some solid plays, but the Michigan Defensive unit might be the best he has faced and I think they are going to be able to create a couple of turnovers which will help them pull away from the Badgers. I think Wisconsin have overachieved and I am not completely sold on them just yet, while Michigan have improved to 7-3 against the spread as the home favourite since Harbaugh took over as Head Coach.
Harbaugh teams have always been a strong home favourite to back and they are now 34-20 against the spread in that spot since his time with the Stanford Cardinal. I think this game will be close for a while, especially on the spread, but I think the Michigan Defensive unit can make enough plays to put the Offense in a good position to come through with a big win on Saturday and perhaps move even higher in the current Rankings.
Illinois Fighting Illini @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: Last season the Nebraska Cornhuskers finished with a 6-7 record, but they lost so many games in heartbreaking fashion that big things were expected of them this time around. One of those tough losses came at the Illinois Fighting Illini, but this time around Nebraska are 4-0 and have had a tight win rather than a loss on their record.
The Cornhuskers have a very experienced Quarter Back in Tommy Armstrong Junior and he has shown that in four very good performances. His ability to run the ball coupled with a solid Running Back unit has helped the Nebraska Cornhuskers punish teams on the ground and the Illinois Defensive Line have not exactly been watertight.
Last time out they gave up 287 rushing yards to Western Michigan in a loss and you have to think Nebraska will be able to rip off some big gains although they will want to improve on their fumbling issues. Armstrong is capable of playing the read zone effectively and Nebraska should ensure the Quarter Back is not having to throw from third and long spots.
Been able to run the ball should slow down the Illinois pass rush which has been very effective in the early portion of the season. They are now facing a strong Offensive Line which has protected Armstrong and the Quarter Back will be able to make some big plays with his arm if Illinois are forced to play closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the Cornhuskers from running the ball as they should be capable of doing.
The bare statistics suggest Illinois should be able to have some success running the ball too against a Nebraska team that have given up 4.7 yards per carry. However they were held to just 3 total yards on the ground when losing to Western Michigan two weeks ago and Lovie Smith has to have worked out the kinks if the Fighting Illini are going to make this a competitive game.
It might be an idea for Nebraska to try and force Wes Lunt to beat them from the Quarter Back position as the Illinois Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection. The Cornhuskers have been able to get to the Quarter Back and keeping the Fighting Illini in third and long spots will be a win for them while also giving them a chance to earn Sacks and perhaps even Interceptions as Lunt is forced to throw into a Secondary that have turned the ball over.
Lunt is a capable Quarter Back, but being able to be effective consistently behind this Offensive Line will be difficult if Illinois are not able to run the ball. Turnovers are an issue and could allow the Cornhuskers to pull away in a game where I think they will be difficult to stop when they have the ball in their hands.
The Cornhuskers were a poor home favourite to back last season but they have gone 2-0-1 against the spread in that spot this season. Illinois are 4-13 against the spread as a road underdog in recent seasons while this is their first road game of the season which will make life tough for them. It is a huge number, but turnovers can see Nebraska push ahead and clear it in the second half and I will back them to cover this one.
Louisville Cardinals @ Clemson Tigers Pick: When you look at the schedule, a Louisville Cardinals win on Saturday would make them a big favourite to reach the final four Play Off. They have already beaten the Florida State Seminoles in what is arguably the best Division in College Football, but now the Louisville Cardinals go on the road to face the Clemson Tigers who barely came up short in a loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game last season.
All of the talk surrounds Lamar Jackson who has come on leaps and bounds from the 2015 season and is a leading contender to win the Heisman Trophy. It has been some start from Jackson who has 13 Touchdown passes and 12 Touchdown rushing in four games for Louisville and this is a team that have already played on the road this season so won't be overawed about heading to Clemson for the night game.
Jackson has combined with Brandon Radcliff to see Louisville average over 300 rushing yards per game this season, but they are going up against the best Defensive unit they have faced in 2016. The Tigers Defensive Line has prided itself on stopping the run and that looks to be a key battle in this game although they will have had added confidence after shutting down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last week.
The difference is that Jackson is going to be a threat in the passing game although the pass rush that Clemson have generated should mean they can put a spy on the Quarter Back and try and slow him down. Clemson haven't given up much at all on the Defensive side of the ball and have turned the ball over, but this is the hardest test they would have faced too.
With the Offense rolling, the Louisville Cardinals Defensive unit have been very good and been able to take their opportunities to harass opposition Quarter Backs. They played very well in beating the Florida State Seminoles, but now face Deshaun Watson who was expecting to be a Heisman contender this season too.
Watson has been strong throwing the ball and it might be up to him to make some big plays in this one if Clemson are going to win the game because the rushing Offense has not been in sync. They are unlikely to get things rolling against the Louisville Cardinals Defensive Line either and that means Watson will be having to make the plays with his arm to keep the chains moving.
That won't be easy for him but this is an Offensive unit that averaged almost 40 points per game last season and have 8 of the starters back. Watson has been well protected and keeping the fierce Louisville pass rush off him will be key for this Offensive Line in what could be more of a Defensive battle than some people may think.
I do think the Tigers have to be disrespected as the home underdog in this one with all the money siding with the Louisville Cardinals. I love how Louisville have been playing but Clemson were in the National Championship Game last season and have plenty of experience. Clemson haven't been a great home underdog to back, but I expect they will have been fired up for this one and they have won the last two games against Louisville in each of the last two seasons.
The home underdog should be backed in this one in what could be a decider as to which team makes the Play Offs in December.
Arizona State Sun Devils @ USC Trojans Pick: It has been a really disappointing start to the season for the USC Trojans who have been dropped to 1-3 and there is little to look forward to down the stretch. Even getting into the Pac-12 Championship Game looks to be beyond them having dropped to 0-2 in Conference play and I am not sure how anyone is backing them to cover double digits with any kind of confidence.
Then again not a lot of people are as they face the unbeaten Arizona State Sun Devils and the public seem to be siding with the Sun Devils. That does worry me especially when you consider how bad the Arizona State Secondary is and the chances of them giving up plenty of points in this one, but I do think the Sun Devils are ultimately the right side.
It hasn't been an issue for Arizona State to stop the run this season and that could be critical against a USC Offense that is led by a very inexperienced Quarter Back this week. Sam Darnold played well in his first start, but he won't have Justin Davis and Ronald Jones ripping off big yards and that means the pressure will be on the Freshman to make the plays with his arms to move the chains.
I do think Darnold can have a big game statistically against a Secondary that have allowed over 400 passing yards on average per game this season, but he will have to handle the pass rush that can be generated. It is also difficult for young players to always understand what they need to do when in third and long and needing a little more time to let Receivers get downfield might see the pass rush pressure get to him.
However, as I have said, I do think USC will be able to move the chains, but I also think the Arizona State Offense is able to have success in this one too.
The run Defense has really let the USC Trojans down through their first four games and Arizona State certainly have the Running Backs to take advantage. With USC giving up 4.7 yards per carry, Arizona State should find themselves in a position to move the chains consistently and it will also open things up for the play-action as Manny Wilkins has played well at Quarter Back once the run has been established.
He might not need to make a lot of throws, but Wilkins should be able to have some success even against this Secondary with USC likely to need more men at the line of scrimmage to stop the run. The Trojans have struggled to generate an effective pass rush too so Wilkins is expected to have time to make his plays and from third and manageable he should be able to keep the Sun Devils moving the chains and make this something of a shoot out.
There are still some kinks being worked out by the USC Trojans though at 1-3 and I would be surprised if they are able to see off Arizona State easily. This looks a lot of points for a Freshman Quarter Back to cover and especially with a team that might not win either line of scrimmage and I will take the points here.
MY PICKS: Stanford Cardinal + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes - 7 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
Navy Midshipmen + 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Tennessee Volunteers - 3 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 10.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 20 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Arizona State Sun Devils + 10 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Week 4: 6-3, + 2.59 Units (9 Units Staked, + 28.78% Yield)
Week 3: 4-6, - 2.23 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
Week 2: 4-5, - 1.32 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.67% Yield)
Week 1: 6-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)
Season 2016: 20-19, - 0.38 Units (39 Units Staked, - 0.01% Yield)
Season 2014: 75-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% Yield)