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Thursday, 20 October 2016

College Football Week 8 Picks 2016 (October 20-22)

The College Football season has been a little inconsistent for my picks but I am still in a decent position to start putting this season back into the black as we reach Week 8.

Seriously, has the College Football season really got through two months already? It feels like you wait so long for the season to begin and we are already over half way through the regular season already.

It does mean the big games are fast approaching as teams try to position themselves in favourable Bowl Games as well as pushing for Play Off berths.

This week I am beginning my picks from Thursday as I do like the look of a couple of games during the midweek selection in Week 8. I will add the rest of the picks through the next couple of days in time for the full Saturday slate of games.

Miami Hurricanes @ Virginia Tech Hokies Pick: The ACC Atlantic is a much clearer picture than the ACC Coastal, but both the Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies know the winner's chances in the Division will remain, but the loser will simply be looking to become Bowl eligible.

That would be a mighty blow for the Hurricanes who came so close to beating Florida State at home but then followed that up with a disappointing loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels. It means one more Conference loss would likely be curtains for the Hurricanes, although the Virginia Tech Hokies are going to be feeling sick after losing a silly Conference game at Syracuse Orange last week.

Virginia Tech do hold a tie-breaker over the North Carolina Tar Heels but they can't afford a loss to this Miami team and it makes for a big game on Thursday night.

On the face of it I immediately thought Miami are getting too many points, but they need to find their Offensive groove having just struggled the last couple of weeks. They are playing one of the better Defensive units in the ACC, but Miami would have been encouraged with the way Syracuse got things going and they still have some top playmakers in Brad Kaaya, Mark Walton and Joe Yearby who would have picked up something from the 561 total Offensive yards the Orange produced.

It is easy to imagine the Hokies overlooked Syracuse in Week 7 and I expect the Defense to come out with more to prove this week which will make it difficult for Miami. However the Hurricanes can still point to their own Defensive unit which has been a strength of the team as a way of keeping with the Virginia Tech Hokies in this one.

Jerod Evans could be huge for the Hokies as a mobile Quarter Back that can try and keep the Hurricanes off balance. However, I think Miami have gotten some experience dealing with mobile Quarter Backs their last two games and the Hurricanes played very well Defensively in the second half of their loss to the Tar Heels to think they can make plays in this one.

The difference between these teams looks to be the plays of the Secondary units and that is where I think Miami have the edge. If the Hurricanes can make enough plays back there, they could turn the ball over and at least keep the Offense in the game and I think getting almost a Touchdown of points looks too many for the Virginia Tech Hokies to cover.

Texas Longhorns @ Kansas State Wildcats Pick: When this spread came out early last week, I had Texas Longhorns down on my shortlist especially while they were getting three points. The spread has since come down to the current number, but I still think the Longhorns can potentially win outright in Kansas State this weekend.

Neither team really has much hope in the Big 12 Conference having slipped to 1-2 from their opening three Conference games but the winner will take a big step towards becoming Bowl eligible at 4-3 overall. I don't think they can overlook the opponent this week either as the losing team is going to be under pressure to find three wins from their remaining schedules as they are.

Charlie Strong needs to end the season strong to show the Longhorns that they can stick with him as Head Coach and is under more pressure than Bill Snyder for the wins. Strong took over the Defensive side of the ball a couple of weeks ago and last week got a big response from that unit in shutting down the Iowa State Cyclones and holding them to just six points.

Trying to back that up is going to be a big challenge for Texas, but I do think they potentially match up very well with the Kansas State Offense. That could be the key to the entire game as the Longhorns have been stout against the run which is so important for the Wildcats to get their entire Offensive unit going.

A mobile Quarter Back has helped and Jesse Ertz is expected to play despite sitting out the second half of the defeat to Oklahoma. He has joined Charles Jones and Dalvin Warmack in helping Kansas State establish the run and Ertz has not exactly been asked to make a lot of big time throws.

If the Longhorns can continue to be solid enough against the ground game, they will force Kansas State to have to drop back and pass more than they are used to. The Longhorns Secondary has been a big weakness, but they do get considerable pressure up front and putting Ertz under pressure may lead to mistakes and the possibility of knocking the Quarter Back out of a second game in a row

The big match up on the other side of the ball also involves the line of scrimmage and Kansas State are hoping their Defensive Line can continue their strong play and try and shut down the much vaunted Texas running game. That is going to be a huge part of this game as Texas do like to establish the run too, but the key difference to the two Offenses has to be the balance that Texas have found from their Quarter Back throwing the ball compared with Kansas State.

Shane Buechele has been really good for Texas and is facing a Secondary that have allowed almost 400 passing yards per game in their last three games. Interceptions are still an issue for Buechele, but he should have some big numbers with limited pressure likely to reach him even if Texas are in third and long spots as expected.

It is the expectation of Texas moving the chains via two methods compared with Kansas State trying to ram the ball down their throat which makes me believe the Longhorns earn the upset on Saturday. Texas have lost on their last three visits to Manhattan, but I think they have the quality to snap that run.

Bill Snyder's Wildcats have thrived when set as the underdog, but they are now just 1-5 against the spread as the home favourite and I like the Longhorns again this week.

Indiana Hoosiers @ Northwestern Wildcats Pick: One team might be looking ahead to a tough couple of weeks as the Northwestern Wildcats take on Ohio State and Wisconsin following this game. However the other may easily be licking some wounds after some big battles over the last three weeks when the Indiana Hoosiers had to take on Michigan State, Ohio State and Nebraska.

Both teams are at 3-3 overall as they chase Bowl eligibility, but Northwestern's 2-1 Conference record means they have a shot at playing in the Big Ten Championship Game in December. It has the makings of a really important game for both teams and the layers think it will be close.

The Hoosiers have been using two different Quarter Backs in their games to keep teams off-balance with one a better passer and the other a little more mobile. Richard Lagow should have the majority of snaps as the better passer on the team especially as the Wildcats have been strong at the line of scrimmage and held teams to 140 yards per game on the ground.

It could mean Zander Diamont is used at Quarter Back to help open up the running lanes with his abilities to move the chains with his legs, but I don't think Indiana will shy away from throwing into a Secondary that have allowed over 275 passing yards per game. Lagow should be able to have a big day statistically but he will also be under some pressure from the pass rush Northwestern have been able to generate while he has also been guilty of throwing Interceptions.

Having extra possessions would make Northwestern very dangerous who have improved after losing their first two games. The defeat to Western Michigan doesn't look half as bad as it did after Week 1, but the loss to Illinois State is unforgivable especially if Northwestern miss out on a Bowl by a game. Northwestern may thank Justin Jackson for their improvement as the Running Back has been able to pound the rock and keep the Offense in positive yardage and I think he will be able to do that against Indiana's Defensive Line which has had some tough games of late.

Getting things going on the ground makes the Wildcats very effective and eases the pressure on Clayton Thorson at Quarter Back with play-action becoming a serious weapon. Keeping the team in third and manageable also means Jackson has helped in pass protection for Thorson who is capable of making some plays in this one against a Secondary that has been able to turn the ball over.

It does have the feeling of a close game and I don't think there will be much in it going into the Fourth Quarter. However I think ultimately the Wildcats can make the bigger plays on the Defensive side of the ball than Indiana who have got to be feeling a little worn out after three tough games in a row where they have come up short twice.

Northwestern look to have some momentum behind them after scoring 92 points in their last two wins and I like the Wildcats to win this one thanks to a late Interception to close the show.

Eastern Michigan Eagles @ Western Michigan Broncos Pick: The MAC Conference probably hasn't received this much attention through eight weeks of the regular season for a few years since Northern Illinois looked to be threatening for a place at the top table of the NCAAF.

This feels different though as there was no real threat from Northern Illinois to play for the National Championship, but the Western Michigan Broncos could easily be invited into the Play Offs if they can run the table and win the Conference Championship Game. They might already have ticked off the level of competition accusation that some might point to as a reason for their unbeaten record by winning in Northwestern and Illinois already this season.

All of the headlines are being grabbed by Western Michigan, but Eastern Michigan deserve a lot of respect for coming into the game at 5-2. They are 2-1 in the Conference and a win on Saturday would mean having the inside track to the Championship Game while ruining the Broncos hopes of making it to the 'final four' in College Football. The 5-2 record is even more impressive when you think Eastern Michigan have finished 2-10 or 1-11 in each of the last four seasons.

The Eagles do have to step up again in this one though as the Broncos look the team to beat in the MAC Conference. They should have some success keeping the Western Michigan Offense on the sidelines as the establish the run, but Eastern Michigan will be throwing in a Secondary that have allowed just 207 passing yards per game and whose overall Defensive unit only allow 333 total yards per game.

Brogan Roback has been playing really well for Eastern Michigan and will come in with some confidence, but he could find himself under more duress than usual with the Broncos pass rush setting things up for the Secondary. This has all the makings of a career year for Roback who has helped the Eagles get to a win of becoming Bowl eligible, but the challenge against this Western Michigan Defensive unit is a big one for him.

That challenge will only increase if the Broncos are able to move the chains and end drives with Touchdowns as I think they will be able to do. Western Michigan have a nice balance on the Offense and importantly have not been turning the ball over which makes them tough to defend and I think the Eastern Michigan Eagles are in for a tough afternoon.

Jarvion Franklin has been able to establish the run for the Broncos and there have been signs in recent games that the Eagles Defensive Line is just struggling in that regards. While their season stats are not bad, recently Eastern Michigan have been allowing quite a significant number higher in yards per carry and I expect Franklin to be able to rip off some big gains.

That should open the door for Zach Terrell to be able to make his plays against an Eagles Defensive Line that hasn't really been able to pressurise the Quarter Back as they may have liked. Terrell has looked after the ball when he has been throwing it and I think the Broncos are going to be tough to contain with Franklin likely ripping off some huge runs in the Third and Fourth Quarter after some tiredness sets in for the Eagles.

Western Michigan have won the last two games in the series by at least 30 points per game and while I respect the improvement made by Eastern Michigan, I think the Broncos secure another big win in Week 8.

Texas A&M Aggies @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: The SEC West looks to be a straight shoot-out between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas A&M Aggies although both the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers are still within striking range of the lead. This is a great Division in the NCAAF and there are some huge games to come in the final few weeks of the regular season with this one between two unbeaten teams taking place in Week 8.

The Aggies are coming in off a bye after a narrow escape in beating the Tennessee Volunteers in Week 6. Alabama picked the bones of the Volunteers last week in a beat down in Nashville and the Crimson Tide are a healthy favourite to make it 8-0 for the season and 5-0 in the SEC since winning the National Championship last January.

There is so much to like about this Alabama team who have found a really nice balance on the Offensive side of the ball. Jalen Hurts was expected to be a big time Quarter Back for the Crimson Tide, but not until next season at the earliest and he has come in a really helped give them the balance that Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin love.

I do think the Aggies have overachieved so far and that they are perhaps not as good as their record may indicate. They've had a couple of Overtime wins in which they actually had less yardage than both UCLA and Tennessee and I think the Defensive unit has given up a few big plays which is problematic against Alabama.

At least they have had a week to prepare the team and get them ready for this game. It might be the kind of rest they would have needed as the Defensive Line had just started to give up some big numbers on the ground and that is not good news when facing an Alabama Offensive unit that puts up over 250 yards per game on the ground and who look to be improving in each passing week despite the level of competition improving too.

That only opens things up for Hurts who should be able to have a strong day throwing against this Aggies Secondary which has had some problems against the pass and the Crimson Tide might actually find some consistency moving the chains.

The question is then posed to Trevor Knight and the Aggies Offense as to whether they can keep up with the Crimson Tide if Alabama are rolling like they could be. While the Aggies have shown some balance on the Offensive side of the ball, they won't have come across too many Defensive units as powerful as the one that Alabama have who have 11 Touchdowns from their Defensive and Special Teams this season.

Knight is a mobile Quarter Back, although Alabama have begun to deal with those since Johnny Manziel ripped them apart, and Knight was also the MVP of the Sugar Bowl when Quarter Backing Oklahoma to a big win over the Crimson Tide in 2014. That experience should give him confidence but he has to avoid the big turnovers and Knight is also likely to be swarmed by a fierce pass rush even when he tries to make plays with his legs.

Alabama have been giving up next to nothing on the ground which suggests Trayveon Williams is in for his most difficult game at Running Back for the Aggies and I am struggling to see how Texas A&M find consistent scoring drives outside of creating turnovers.

Doing that will give the Aggies a chance, but this Alabama team looks better than the one that won the National Championship and I think they are stronger than Texas A&M on both sides of the ball. I wouldn't be surprised to see Trevor Knight make some big plays for the Aggies, but eventually they will be worn down and he will be under pressure which should lead to some mistakes.

The Crimson Tide have been able to pull away and dominate the Aggies the last two times they have met and I think the Aggies might be a little overrated in this one as an unbeaten team. I will back Alabama to go into their bye week in complete control of the SEC West and I am looking for them to pull away for the cover in the second half.

Tulane Green Wave @ Tulsa Golden Hurricane Pick: These two teams are not likely to be challenging in the American Athletic Conference but both the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and Tulane Green Wave have a chance of at least reaching Bowl eligibility. That makes a game like this very important for both teams although more so for the Golden Hurricane who do think they can get back into their Division race despite being dropped to 1-1 in the Conference.

It is an interesting match up between one team that relies on their Defensive unit (Tulane) playing one who has a high powered Offense (Tulsa) and the winner is going to be the one that can impose their will on the other. Both teams are coming off tough, close losses in Week 7 and Tulsa also have to make sure they don't overlook Tulane with Memphis next on deck which is a game they have to win.

The Golden Hurricane have really gotten going Offensively once they have got into Conference play having needed to play the Ohio State Buckeyes on the road in non-Conference play in Week 2. Playing teams more of their own level has seen Tulsa improve their Offensive stats and this is a team that has pretty good balance on the Offensive side of the ball.

They have been able to run and throw the ball, but it might be more difficult to establish the run against a Tulane team that have already played Navy but yet still only allow 3.7 yards per carry on the season. The Green Wave will feel they can at least force Tulsa into a few third and long spots which is going to be key to unleash their strong pass rush against the Golden Hurricanes Offensive Line which has struggled to protect Dane Evans.

Evans has still played well at Quarter Back having already surpassed 1500 passing yards for the season after throwing over 4300 yards last season. However he has been hit a fair bit and the pressure up front has led to some Interceptions, an area Tulane will look to impress in and try and create extra possessions.

The question for Tulane is whether they can get enough Offensive output to at least keep up with Tulsa who will likely score points even when some drives are shut down. The triple option Offense has not been churning out as many yards on the ground as they would have wanted but the Tulsa team have had some difficulty slowing down the run already and will be seeing the triple option for the first time.

Glen Cuiellete has been able to make some plays with his arm, but Tulane won't want him to have to do too much. The triple option makes the Green Wave dangerous if Tulsa are perhaps thinking about the big game with Memphis next week having come off the big game with the Houston Cougars.

The Green Wave Defensive unit are capable of making enough plays to keep their team in this one and Tulsa are just 4-9 against the spread as the home favourite. I am looking for Tulane to surprise and keep this game within double digits.

Michigan State Spartans @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: When the Michigan State Spartans knocked off the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it looked like the kind of win that could spark them to have a real go in the Big Ten Conference. It has all gone wrong since that win, which also doesn't look as strong as it once did thanks to poor Notre Dame performances, and Michigan State head into Week 8 with a 0-3 record in the Conference and 4 losses in a row.

The Spartans need four wins to become Bowl eligible this season and they are under some pressure to do that when you look at the remaining schedule which includes hosting Michigan and Ohio State. It is the Michigan Wolverines next up on deck for Michigan State and I do wonder if they can focus on the Maryland Terrapins.

Losing this week would make it impossible for Michigan State to make a Bowl game without an upset or two in their remaining games and that has put the pressure on. They have been poor Offensively after losing Connor Cook, which was to be expected, but some of the performances from the Defensive unit have been particularly worrying.

Michigan State have not confirmed who they will be starting at Quarter Back with both Tyler O'Connor and Brian Lewerke having struggled when they have been given their opportunities. Their cause has not been helped by a lack of a running game and Michigan State might have a difficult time establishing the run this week too.

That is down to how they have played rather than who they are playing as the Maryland Defensive Line have just begun to get worn down and been giving up a few big plays. In saying that, they might load the box and dare Michigan State to beat them through the air which is going to be very difficult against a Secondary that have been playing well.

Some of that is down to Maryland not being able to stop the run so not tested through the air, but they do bring a strong pass rush and will expect to hit both O'Connor or Lewerke depending on who is starting.

Maryland might also be given a boost by the returning Perry Hills at Quarter Back who missed the game against Minnesota last week. Hills is a mobile Quarter Back and can join Lorenzo Harrison in being able to not only establish the run, but make sure their Quarter Back is left in third and manageable spots as they look to move the chains. Maryland will be confident they can move the chains on the ground after seeing Northwestern create big holes against the Spartans Defensive Line who have not been very good over the last month.

The Terrapins have to avoid big turnovers but they have every chance of upsetting Michigan State who might be looking ahead to the game with the Wolverines as a chance to play spoiler for a really big rival. Maryland have played well enough on both sides of the ball to have enough successes in this one and I like them in the home underdog spot against a team that has been battered around and looked uncomfortable over the last few weeks.

That look ahead spot for Michigan State is too hard to ignore and I will take the points with Maryland in Week 8.

Oklahoma Sooners @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: The best chance for the Big 12 to have a representative in the Play Offs this season is if the Oklahoma Sooners are not the unbeaten team in the Conference. Their losses to Ohio State and particularly Houston are likely to hold back Oklahoma without a Conference Championship Game, but the Sooners are very alive in the Big 12 where they have a 3-0 record.

The Sooners visit the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Week 8 after this team fell to 1-2 in the Conference with their blow out loss to the unbeaten West Virginia Mountaineers. It doesn't get any easier for Kliff Kingsbury this week either as his high-scoring team have struggled Defensively through the season.

Samaje Perene is out this week which is a huge blow to the Sooners Offense, although it will still take some effort from the Red Raiders Defensive Line to stop Oklahoma establishing the run. The Red Raiders have given up over 200 yards per game on the ground and Joe Mixon is a capable back up to Perene having averaged 6 yards per carry this season and almost putting up 500 yards on the ground.

It is a big weekend for Quarter Back Baker Mayfield who actually started his College career at Texas Tech and he could have a huge game if Mixon gets the running game going. The Texas Tech Secondary have struggled all year and they have not been able to get to the Quarter Back up front which has only increased the time the Secondary need to keep Receivers covered.

While Oklahoma should have a balanced Offense, Texas Tech should have some chance of keeping up with them with Patrick Mahomes one of the better Quarter Backs in the Big 12. He has been put under some pressure and likely will have to avoid the Oklahoma pass rush, but Mahomes will be throwing into a Secondary which has allowed over 275 passing yards per game which should mean keeping Texas Tech somewhat in a shoot out.

The problem for Mahomes is that he is not likely to be helped by much run support and that means having the challenge to consistently make throws from third and long. That is a problem for a Quarter Back who hasn't been given as much time by the Offensive Line as he would have liked, while Mahomes is also carrying a couple of knocks having been banged around.

It feels like this could develop into a shoot out but the Sooners have gotten the better of Texas Tech in recent games and have blown them out in three of the last four. Despite what Bob Stoops may say, I can imagine Oklahoma are more fired up for their Quarter Back Mayfield in his return to Texas Tech and I think that will motivate the Sooners to produce a strong game.

Having more balance on the Offensive side of the ball should prove to be a game breaker and I like the Sooners to come through with a win by around seventeen points in Week 8.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: The Penn State Nittany Lions have already been blown out by the Michigan Wolverines this season, but they have another chance to take on the elite of the Big Ten Conference. This time they get to host the Ohio State Buckeyes and I think the Nittany Lions can make this a much more competitive game than the layers believe.

The public are buying the number with the money pouring in on the Buckeyes, but I like the number of points being given to Penn State and being able to oppose the public on this pick works for me too.

Ezekiel Elliot might be tearing things up for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, but the Ohio State Buckeyes have not missed a trick when it comes to running the ball. Mike Weber has helped the Buckeyes average 300 yards per game on the ground along with mobile Quarter Back JT Barrett and you have to think the Buckeyes are going to have a strong day running the ball in this one.

That is partly due to how good they are and also the fact that it has been possible to run against the Nittany Lions this season. Penn State's Defensive Line had question marks before the season began thanks to the experienced players that had left at the end of the 2015 season and they have struggled to hold worse teams than the Buckeyes when it comes to stopping the run.

Penn State's Secondary have played well but that is partly down to teams not needing to throw against them. However they do have a solid pass rush and Penn State might feel they can stop some Ohio State drives if they can make a couple of big plays up front.

Making plays against this Ohio State Defense is going to be very difficult for Trace McSorley unless Penn State can run the ball as effectively as they did last week. Saquon Barkley has not been able to find the holes behind this Offensive Line that he would have liked through the season, but he had a huge game in Week 7 and confidence should be high.

It does have to be noted that the Buckeyes have struggled in road games at Oklahoma and Wisconsin when it comes to stopping the run, but they should win at the line of scrimmage more often than not. Penn State will need Barkley and McSorley to work in tandem and try and keep the Ohio State Offense on the sidelines by working the clock behind their Offensive Line.

Ultimately the Buckeyes are going to be too strong, but Penn State won't be a walkover and they are coming in off a bye week which should have given James Franklin the time to put together a strong game plan. Franklin has a decent record as the home underdog as a Head Coach and I think Penn State are going to be able to put together a late score that should keep them within this number.

MY PICKS: Miami Hurricanes + 6 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Northwestern Wildcats - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Western Michigan Broncos - 23.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 17.5 Points @ 1.91 Stan James (1 Unit)
Tulane Green Wave + 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
Maryland Terrapins + 3 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 14 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions + 19.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Week 7: 4-5, - 1.28 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.22% Yield)
Week 67-1-1, + 5.35 Units (9 Units Staked, + 59.44% Yield)
Week 52-7-1, - 5.14 Units (10 Units Staked, - 51.40% Yield)
Week 46-3, + 2.59 Units (9 Units Staked, + 28.78% Yield)
Week 34-6, - 2.23 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
Week 24-5, - 1.32 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.67% Yield)
Week 16-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)

Season 201633-32-2, - 1.45 Units (67 Units Staked, - 2.16% Yield)

Season 201587-77-2, + 2.77 Units (166 Units Staked, + 1.67% 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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