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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (December 16-18)

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Friday, 4 November 2016

College Football Week 10 Picks 2016 (November 5th)

Last week was a really poor one for my picks from the College Football Week 9 and I was a little frustrated with the way things went down. Teams losing when they win the battle in terms of yardage will do that, while I had a couple of backdoor covers go against me which didn't help the mood.

These things happen, but I do want to turn around that form in Week 10 having made my shortlist and eventually finished with the teams I have picked below.

The first Play Off bracket of the season was released this past week too and it wasn't a surprise that two SEC teams had been picked in the top four. The Alabama Crimson Tide are unlikely to be knocked out of those spots, but I find it hard to imagine the Texas A&M Aggies are able to keep hold of their position.

The Big 12 Conference effectively killed itself by losing both unbeaten teams in Week 9, but the Washington Huskies shouldn't panic as an unbeaten season and winning the Pac-12 Championship Game will surely be enough to move them up. It is Clemson and Michigan who hold the the middle two positions of the four teams and both would likely be comfortable Play Off teams if they can win their respective Conferences with unbeaten records.

The Tigers look in a position to do that having won at Florida State in a tight one in Week 9 and previously knocked off the Louisville Cardinals, but the Michigan road still has one huge test in the Ohio State Buckeyes to come. There are plenty of twists and turns to come before those Play Off Rankings are confirmed for the Bowl Games at the end of the year, so teams should be concentrating on each game as they come and try and earn some style points for those who are just outside the top four positions.

In my opinion any team that wins a Conference Championship Game and remains unbeaten will be in, especially from the Power 5 Conferences, so Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington are in complete control of their own destinies.


Navy Midshipmen v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: The Navy Midshipmen are in a position to play in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game but this week they are in non-Conference action. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are simply trying to earn a Bowl bid in what has been an underachieving year and they need three wins from their final four games to be in a position to do that.

Failing to make a Bowl would be a real blow for Brian Kelly and his team that were expected to perhaps even challenge for a Play Off spot. The schedule is always going to be difficult as an Independent, but a 3-5 record would not have been expected at all going into Week 10, but they still have four winnable games on slate to make sure they are playing in December.

The Fighting Irish have dominated the head to head between these teams with five straight wins in the series and their win over the Miami Hurricanes last week when they barely held on might give them some confidence. The opponent this week marks a chance for Notre Dame to record back to back wins for the first time in the 2016 season, but they have to find a way to slow the triple option.

To that end the Notre Dame Defensive Line have played well and they should have some success limiting the damage Navy are able to do on the ground. When you face a team like Navy, limiting the ground attack is about the best you can hope to do and then force them into unfamiliar systems where they need to throw the ball although Will Worth showed last week that he is capable of doing that.

Unfortunately for Worth, he is not facing the UCF Knights this week but a Notre Dame Secondary who have show improvement as the year has gone on and who played relatively well against Brad Kaaya last week. The Navy passing Offense has been inconsistent and you would think the Fighting Irish can make some big stops at key moments to give themselves a chance of the win and of the cover.

One of the issues the Fighting Irish have had this season is DeShone Kizer at Quarter Back who has perhaps not looked after the ball in the manner they would have liked. He didn't throw a pick last week though and Kizer can build on that against a Navy Secondary that has allowed over 300 passing yards per game in their last three games.

The key to the whole outcome of this game could be getting Josh Adams established running the ball as that has been an issue for Notre Dame all season. The Navy Defensive Line has allowed some big gaps as they have perhaps focused on stopping teams throwing all over them and that will be important for Notre Dame to slow down the pass rush and keep Kizer in a position to make plays without forcing it from third and long.

I do think Notre Dame can move the ball effectively in this one, while the spot might not be a good one for Navy. No one overlooks a storied team like the Fighting Irish, but there is no doubt that Navy's game against Tulsa next week is far more important when it comes to who will be representing the American Athletic West Division in the Championship Game with Navy at 4-1 in the Division and Tulsa at 3-1.

Schools like Navy are very disciplined which means I don't expect too many mistakes, but they are also human and there is no doubt next week is the bigger game. Notre Dame certainly look the team who can move the ball with more consistency and I think they can win this one by a Touchdown at least with four of their last five wins over Navy coming by ten points or more.


Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ North Carolina Tar Heels Pick: The North Carolina Tar Heels have real ambitions of playing in the ACC Championship Game but they need help having lost the tiebreaker to the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets might be 2-3 in the Conference, but they play both the leaders of the Coastal Division and they are still searching for one more win to make them Bowl eligible for the season.

Both teams have put some solid wins on the board but the North Carolina Tar Heels definitely have the 'better' wins behind them. That won't mean anything in Week 10 when they come up against the triple option being run by Georgia Tech which should give the Yellow Jackets chances to make plays.

The Tar Heels do face the option every season being in the same Division as the Yellow Jackets so they should be familiar with what they are going to see. The Defensive unit have picked up their play in recent games as the Tar Heels look to keep up with the Virginia Tech Hokies and that has made life a little more comfortable for Mitch Trubisky at Quarter Back who is getting some admiring glances from NFL scouts to the point that he could easily be a First Round Draft Pick.

The Defensive unit has held teams to 13.5 points per game in their last two games since the loss to the Hokies and it is the Defensive Line which has picked up their play to hold teams to 3.1 yards per carry. That will be tested by Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets who are coming in off a huge day Offensively against the Duke Blue Devils and who have scored at least 34 points in their last three games.

With an Offense like the one Georgia Tech will run, Thomas will get his numbers, but it won't be as easy as it seemed to be against the Blue Devils. The North Carolina Secondary have given up less than 150 passing yards per game in their last three games despite facing Virginia Tech and Miami and they can at least slow down the Yellow Jackets and give the Offense a chance to score enough points to win this game,

Trubisky is the star of the Tar Heels Offense, but it might be Elijah Hood who has the big day statistically as he should find some running lanes against this Defensive Line. The Yellow Jackets have allowed almost 5 yards per carry in their last three games and Hood is coming off a solid performance and can keep the team in manageable down and distance.

Georgia Tech have been able to generate limited pressure on the Quarter Back anyway, so running the ball effectively should mean Trubisky has time to make plays against this Secondary. It should also mean North Carolina can get back to some of the higher scoring they produced earlier in the season as they face a team allowing 35 points or more in three of their last four games.

This is a big number when you think the Yellow Jackets might be able to control the time of possession and keep the clock rolling. However I think North Carolina are playing well enough Defensively to make some big plays which gives the ball back to their Offense who should have a solid outing.

North Carolina are off a bye so should have had the time to prepare for the triple option and I am backing them to come out with a win by two Touchdowns and keep the pressure on the Hokies in the Division.


Oregon State Beavers @ Stanford Cardinal Pick: For a team that has won at least eleven games in four of the five years under Head Coach David Shaw, this has to be seen as a really disappointing season for the Stanford Cardinal. There won't be any pressure on Shaw to lose his job, but Stanford are only 3-3 in the Conference and even winning every game for the remainder of the season would see Stanford get up to ten wins.

Now for most schools a double digit win season would be seen as a big success, but Stanford have raised expectations in recent seasons and would have been looking to try and earn a spot in the Play Offs. Instead they can become Bowl eligible this week with a victory over the Oregon State Beavers who have a chance to surpass last season's two wins in Gary Andersen's second year as Head Coach.

The Beavers can certainly test the Stanford Defensive Line which has not been as stout as in recent years, especially with Ryan Nall back after injury. He has helped the Beavers average 5.5 yards per carry and Andersen is a run first Head Coach which should see Oregon State in favourable down and distance in this game.

You have to think that most teams know this is the way Oregon State want to get their Offense going, so I expect Stanford will look to load the line of scrimmage and force the Beavers to try and beat them through the air. That has been more difficult even if Nall is a decent pass catcher out of the backfield, and Marcus McMaryion is going to have a real test on his hands against this Secondary which has allowed 135 passing yards per game in their last three as they have looked to clamp down on Offenses.

The Cardinal generate a fierce pass rush too so McMaryion will need the Beavers to run the ball effectively or find himself in some trouble when it comes to obvious passing situations.

Stanford themselves will be focused in getting the ball to Christian McCaffrey as much as possible after the banged up Running Back looked healthier than he has in weeks last time out. He is the key to the entire Stanford Offense as he is capable running the ball as well as lining up in Receiving positions and making plays there.

It will be his running skills that are on show on Saturday against an Oregon State Defensive Line which has allowed 5.2 yards per carry on the season. Being able to run the ball is all important for Stanford who have had inconsistent performances from the Quarter Back position with Keller Chryst expected to have his second start in a row this week.

The Cardinal have only thrown for 135 yards per game in their last three games as they have looked for the Defensive unit to keep them in games. Stanford have allowed 30 points in their last three games combined, but the return of McCaffrey gives them an Offensive output which can see them pull away from Oregon State in the second half.

Stanford have covered in their last six games against Oregon State and are facing a team off an emotional loss in Week 9 on Homecoming. I can see them using their strong Defensive showings of late to help come through with a win by around 17 points in this one and I will back the Cardinal to cover.


Florida Gators @ Arkansas Razorbacks Pick: The SEC East looks significantly weaker than the SEC West, but one of these teams has to make it through to the Conference Championship Game and the Florida Gators are in prime spot to do that. Their one loss on the season to Tennessee won't matter unless they are to lose both of their remaining games in the Conference and a win this week might be enough to book their plane tickets in December.

The Gators don't want to be looking too far ahead though as they face an Arkansas Razorbacks squad that are going to be desperate to make up for their humiliation against the Auburn Tigers. The Razorbacks have been on a bye week so have had time to stew on things and this is not an easy place to visit as the Alabama Crimson Tide would testify.

Importantly for Arkansas they should have Austin Allen available at Quarter Back but this is going to be a significant challenge for him against this Florida Defensive unit which has been strong all season. Even the recent issues against the run shouldn't be an issue for Florida because the Razorbacks have not been able to produce the same kind of stuff that Alex Collins could so it might be down to Allen to make the plays with his arm.

Being banged up doesn't help the Quarter Back when you think of the pass rush pressure he is going to face in this one although Arkansas will have had the bye week to try and fix the issues on the Offensive Line. That might not matter much with Florida being very strong against the pass and it is the Gators Defensive unit that can set them up for a big day.

Running the ball is not likely to be a big issue for the Florida Gators with both Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson capable of setting them up against this Arkansas Defensive Line. The bye week might have given the Razorbacks the chance to rest some weary bodies which had allowed 7.8 yards per carry in their last three games, but stopping the run has been a problem all season for them.

That should give Luke Del Rio the chance to manage the game out of third and short situations and I do think the Gators are going to have more success moving the chains in this one. Del Rio has been well protected and Arkansas haven't really been able to get to the Quarter Back thanks to issues defending the run and it could be a tough day for them.

A key for the Gators is to avoid losing the turnover battle as that can give any team life in a game. If they can do that I think they will be too good for Arkansas and can win by a Touchdown at least against a school they have beaten four times in a row.


Missouri Tigers @ South Carolina Gamecocks Pick: When you have a Head Coach as long as Gary Pinkel was in charge of the Missouri Tigers, it is perhaps no surprise that there has been a slip in the way they have played this season. Missouri reached the SEC Championship Game in 2013 and 2014 but they slipped to a losing record in 2015 and they need to win all four games remaining in 2016 if they are going to be Bowl eligible.

Over the last two years they are now 1-11 in SEC games and it is no surprise that the public are backing the South Carolina Gamecocks to beat them and cover this weekend. Will Muschamp has come in and got the team playing better than expected and they are just two wins from returning to a Bowl game having missed out last season and deciding to part ways with Steve Spurrier.

All credit has to be given to Muschamp who has been known for his Defensive work and his Gamecocks have not allowed more than 28 points in any game this season. It happened four times in 2015 and has been a key to their 4-4 record with the Offensive side of the ball still a work in progress.

Rico Dowdle had a good game running the ball for the Gamecocks in Week 9 and he has a good match up against the Missouri Defensive Line which has struggled all season. They've regressed in recent games as teams have managed to produce over 320 yards per game on the ground alone, and even the Gamecocks might be able to make hay with those ugly numbers for Missouri to deal with.

That should ease any pressure on Quarter Back Jake Bentley who has played well in his two starts for South Carolina including in the upset win over Tennessee last week. The Offensive Line has had some issues in pass protection, but Bentley might be kept in third and manageable spots thanks to Dowdle's numbers on the ground and that is key for South Carolina to find a way to keep the chains moving even through the inconsistent performances from the Offense.

For all the plaudits I have to give Muschamp for the turnaround for South Carolina, one aspect he will clearly be looking to improve is the rushing numbers against his team. That is going to be tested to the absolute fullest in Week 10 because the Missouri Tigers have begun to run the ball effectively through Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter and there should be some lanes for them to penetrate against a South Carolina Defensive Line that has allowed over 200 yards per game on the ground over their last three games.

Missouri have established the run effectively which does give them a shot in this one despite the point spread offered by Vegas. Drew Lock has to play smartly at Quarter Back as he throws into a Secondary that hasn't given up big numbers of late and who also have turned the ball over, but doing that from third and manageable down and distance could give Lock the chance to have a solid outing.

Lock has been well protected so I think he can help move the chains even when they are not doing that with their rushing Offense. That should give the Tigers opportunities here and they have beaten South Carolina the last two times they have played including as a 6.5 point underdog in their last visit to Columbia. I am going to back them with the same number of points in Week 10 and look for Missouri to do enough damage with their running game to keep this one close.

Despite the public money on the home favourite, the spread has actually come down from the key number 7, but I still like the Tigers in this spot.


Florida State Seminoles @ NC State Wolfpack Pick: Instead of challenging the Clemson Tigers for a place in the ACC Championship Game, this has been a really difficult season for the Florida State Seminoles who are just 2-3 in Conference games. They are coming in off a narrow loss to the Clemson Tigers at home after it looked like they were going to knock their opponents from the ranks of the unbeatens, but now the Seminoles have to pick themselves up for the remainder of the season.

In Week 10 Florida State head to the NC State Wolfpack who have had three really tough weeks and dropped all three games against Clemson, Louisville and Boston College. Playing at home against Florida State will give the Wolfpack plenty of motivation while they still need two more wins to earn a Bowl bid.

The Seminoles haven't had too many issues on the Offensive side of the ball and you have to think they will be able to score points in this one. Deondre Francois was beaten up at Quarter Back last week which is a concern when you think of the pass rush the Wolfpack have been able to generate even during their tough three game stretch, but Francois is also throwing into a Secondary which have still given up over 325 yards per game through the air in that stretch.

Francois also has the benefit of playing with one of the best Running Backs in College Football as Dalvin Cook has shown he can rip off big gains even against the stoutest of Defensive Lines. The Wolfpack do have a very good Defensive Line, but that might not be enough against Cook and that will only set up Francois to make some big plays from Quarter Back against the NC State Defense.

With the Offense likely able to make some solid plays in this game, the question is whether the Defensive unit can continue to make the improvements after starting off pretty badly. The Seminoles have begun to make life very difficult to run the ball against them and might become the latest team to shut down Matthew Dayes who has struggled the last two weeks.

Keeping NC State in third and long will at least put some pressure on Ryan Finley at Quarter Back and give the Florida State pass rush a chance to pin back their ears and get after him. That has been a problem for Finley in the last three games as the opposition have strengthened compared with earlier in the season and has also led to mistakes from the Quarter Back.

Finley has thrown two picks in each of his last three games and giving Florida State extra possessions is not going to be productive for the Wolfpack. The Seminoles have given up some big numbers through the air, but they have a penchant for turning the ball over too in recent weeks which could be a key to this game.

Coming off a close loss to the Clemson Tigers might be an emotional blow for Florida State, but they have faced NC State in the game immediately after the Tigers the last three seasons and won each by at least 15 points per game. That includes blowing them out last season when losing to the Clemson Tigers on the road, and I think the Seminoles can earn a couple of Interceptions which helps them pull away from the Wolfpack and win this one by at least seven points.


Oregon Ducks @ USC Trojans Pick: The USC Trojans are not likely to have enough to get into the College Football Play Off bracket even if they win the Pac-12 Championship Game, but they do have a chance to get into that game and win the Conference. The Trojans hold the tiebreaker over the Colorado Buffaloes who have been exceeding any expectations by leading the Pac-12 South, but they do need Colorado to drop a game and also to run the table.

That looks a big ask for the Trojans who follow this game with the Oregon Ducks by visiting the Washington Huskies and UCLA Bruins in back to back weeks. The Ducks might be the 'easiest' team they face in that run as Oregon have slipped again under Mark Helfrich who might be on the hot seat going forward.

Last season saw Oregon snap a run of 7 seasons with at least double digit wins and this year they are struggling to make it to a Bowl game with their current 3-5 record. Oregon did snap a 5 game losing run in Week 9 and they might be catching the USC Trojans perhaps not completely focused on them with those big games to come.

It looks like the Trojans will keep out Justin Davis who has been banged up at Running Back, but that hasn't bothered USC who should have another strong outing behind this Offensive Line this week. Ronald Jones will once again have the bulk of the carries, and he is going up against an Oregon Defensive Line that has been worn down and giving up over 275 yards per game on the ground in recent weeks at a horrible 6 yards per carry.

This all means Sam Darnold can continue his progress at Quarter Back and he should be able to have a decent day against a Secondary that has really struggled to slow the pass. With little pressure around him, Darnold should be able to use the fact that the Trojans are running the ball effectively to have play-action passes down the field and USC should be able to score plenty of points.

The Oregon Ducks are being given a lot of points to start off and the feeling that the USC Trojans are going to score on most possessions might mean it is not enough. However the Oregon Ducks have also been able to move the ball effectively enough and even the improved Trojans Defensive unit is going to be challenged in this one.

The rare blowout loss to the Washington Huskies can be forgiven for Oregon who are facing a Defense that has also struggled to stop the run this week. The Trojans have not played to the level of the Huskies on that side of the ball and I think the Ducks can establish the run against a Defensive Line that has allowed 4.3 yards per carry.

It will be helpful enough for Justin Herbert who has been given the keys to the Offense at Quarter Back despite being a Freshman like Darnold. This could be invaluable experience for Herbert who is coming in off a huge game and could have some similar success in this one against a USC Secondary allowing 250 passing yards per game in the last three games. The importance for Herbert is to avoid the Interceptions which can be a killer in games like this one and that means facing up to the pass rush pressure and making plays.

Being helped by the run is very important for Herbert and I do think the Oregon Ducks can score points in this one. While USC need to keep winning, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if this is a tight game with the focus perhaps taken away by the upcoming game with the unbeaten Washington Huskies.

There seems to be enough points here for the Oregon Ducks to keep this one close although I don't like being on the same side as the public on this one. Oregon have been horrible against the spread this season, but I will back them here.


Alabama Crimson Tide @ LSU Tigers Pick: The Alabama Crimson Tide are the defending National Champions and their start to the 2016 season has seen them go unbeaten and unsurprisingly the Number 1 Seed in the first College Football Play Off bracket. With that in mind, it is no wonder the public are fully behind the Crimson Tide as they head to Death Valley for a night game against the LSU Tigers who can throw this SEC West Division wide open by winning at home.

A win would give the Tigers a chance to win the Division but this looks like being a big task for them, even at home, but I can't help think this is still too many points for the Crimson Tide to be covering.

Alabama are 6-2 against the spread this season and they have cashed the last three times they have faced SEC opponents as they continue progressing for a spot back in the Play Offs. They still have to face the improving Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl which is another issue for them, while they are facing a LSU team that has been much better since Ed Orgeron took over from Les Miles who had lost his way here.

Both Defensive units will feel they have the edge, although the Defensive Lines are facing some of the best run blocking teams in the nation. That is an area Alabama will feel they have an edge as they have found a way to limit what Leonard Fournette has been able to do against them in previous games despite Fournette looking like a player who is going to have a huge impact at the NFL level.

Things might be a little different this time with Orgeron capable of giving Defenses different looks than the predictable Les Miles Offense was offering. That might find Fournette have more room than usual, but running the ball against either of these Defensive Lines is a huge challenge.

Games like this could easily come down to which of the teams has more faith in their passing game and Danny Etling has looked more comfortable with Orgeron as Head Coach. However Jalen Hurts is not going to be in on the same kind of pressure that Etling will be facing when he is on the field and that can see the Freshman Alabama Quarter Back have some success throwing, although the LSU Secondary have been better than the Crimson Tide Secondary.

Hurts has to look after the ball though because turnovers are going to be huge in this game, while Etling has to be told that he doesn't need to force things when under pressure and 'punting' is not a loss in this game. It just feels like it is going to be a tight one with both teams more than capable of making the plays to win this game, although Alabama's experience and past success at shutting down Fournette likely means they have the edge.

Winning in Baton Rouge under the lights is very difficult for the road team and this has all the makings of a really tight game. Alabama have covered in four of their last five against the Tigers, but the last four games in Death Valley have been decided by seven points or fewer. LSU as the home underdog looks hard to ignore especially when getting more than a converted Touchdown worth of points and I like the Tigers in this spot.

MY PICKS: Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
North Carolina Tar Heels - 10 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Stanford Cardinal - 14.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Florida Gators - 4 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)

Missouri Tigers + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks + 17.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers + 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Week9: 3-8, - 5.23 Units (11 Units Staked, - 47.55% Yield)
Week 8: 4-5, - 1.27 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.11% Yield)
Week 74-5, - 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 201640-45-2, - 7.95 Units (87 Units Staked, - 3.57% 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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