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Friday, 25 November 2016

College Football Week 13 Picks 2016 (November 25-26)

This is 'Rivalry Week' in the College Football regular season as the majority of schools finish their regular season and await whether they have done enough to earn a Bowl bid. For plenty of others the motivation to affect how a rival views their own season is going to provide lots of motivation as well as the race to get into the Conference Championship Games that will be played next week.

With the Thanksgiving weekend the games from Week 13 are separated over three days with the majority of the picks coming from the Friday and Saturday games.

Week 12 proved to be an 'almost' week for the picks as a couple of losing ones could easily have gone the other way which would have produced another winning week. There are still two weeks of the regular season left before we get into the Bowl Games which begin on Saturday 17th December and so I am looking for some momentum to take in the final weeks of the season.

The picks will come out over the next couple of days beginning with the Friday games and through to Saturday evening.

Houston Cougars @ Memphis Tigers Pick: The Houston Cougars can't get to the American Athletic Conference Championship Game having lost the head to head to the Navy Midshipmen, but there are still some big goals in place. They won the Conference last year, but a win on Friday will give them a chance to have won double digit games in back to back seasons under Tom Herman having lost won at least 10 games in 2011.

There is no doubt that Herman's stock in College Football has been trending upwards in his second season with the Cougars to the extent that he is the favourite to become the next LSU Tigers Head Coach. This could potentially be his final game as Houston Head Coach and he has helped this team beat the likes of Oklahoma and Louisville this season which should mean the players bring their best effort despite the rumours about the Head Coach.

It won't be an easy task for Houston who are facing a Memphis Tigers team that have perhaps been better than expected in their first season with Mike Norvell as Head Coach and having lost Paxton Lynch to the NFL at the end of last season. However it is the Cougars who have gotten the better of the Tigers having won six in a row in the series and going 4-2 against the spread in that time.

The question for Memphis might be whether they can get a consistent Offensive game plan together to challenge Houston. One issue is becoming one-dimensional and that is what the Houston Cougars Defensive Line have tried to do all season by shutting down the yards teams have been able to gain on the ground.

Doing that here will put either Riley Ferguson or Jason Stewart in a difficult position at Quarter Back to make the necessary throws against a tough Secondary. The Cougars Defensive Line hasn't just been shutting down the run, but they have been swarming the opposition Quarter Back which has stalled drives and also made it difficult to find time to throw the ball into this Secondary.

I do think Memphis might struggle to run the ball, but that has been an issue for the Houston Cougars Offensively this season and it might show up again despite the Tigers Defensive Line issues. Greg Ward Jr is capable of moving the chains with his legs as well as his arm from Quarter Back, but he will be relying on the latter more than the former in this one.

Interceptions might be an issue for Ward, but he is spreading the ball around his Receivers which will make it tough for a strong Memphis Secondary to always be aware of where the ball is going. Ward has to be aware of the turnovers the Tigers have feasted on through this season, but I do think Houston have plenty of motivation here to produce another big game for Head Coach Tom Herman before it is likely announced that he is moving on.

It feels like this is a game that will come down to deep into the Fourth Quarter, but I like the Houston Cougars making a few more plays Defensively and Greg Ward having more success than whichever Quarter Back Memphis decide to go with. There won't be a lot between them but the Houston Cougars can win this one by a Touchdown on the road to move to 10-2 on the season.

Washington Huskies @ Washington State Cougars Pick: It has been a long, long time since the Apple Cup was going to be such an important game on a national level as it is this year when the Washington State Cougars host the Washington Huskies. The winner of this game will be moving on to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game next week, but it might actually be an even bigger game for the Conference as a whole.

Both the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars are 7-1 in the Conference, but the former are 10-1 overall and have to be considered close to a certainty to make the National Championship Play Offs if they win out. That is huge for a Conference that missed out on a Play Off representative last season and that courtesy is unlikely to be given to a Conference Champion with two or three losses like the Washington State Cougars already have.

Now I am not suggesting there will be shady officiating, but Washington State have to be using that as a motivation to really spoil a rival's season and have a shot at winning the Conference despite a really poor start to the season. They have been an improving team under Head Coach Mike Leach having reached 9 wins last season and one away from matching that number, but it is hard to think how far the Washington State team have come since losing to Eastern Washington in Week 1.

This is likely to become something of a shoot out because of the injuries the Huskies have on the Defensive side of the ball and coming up against arguably one of the most potent Offenses in College Football. The Air Raid Offense means the Running Backs are a Secondary thought for the Cougars, but they have been very effective on the ground although that is one area where Washington have stood up against their injuries.

It might be much more difficult stopping Luke Falk throwing the ball as the Washington Secondary have begun to give up more big plays and the Quarter Back is very well protected behind his Offensive Line. Losing Joe Mathis has taken away some of the pass rush pressure from the Washington Huskies and giving Falk time has shown to be a bad move while injuries in the Secondary also means the Cougars should feel they can make some big plays in this one.

That will shift the pressure onto Jake Browning to keep Washington in this game and I do think he has a favourable match up in this one too which suggests we will see a high-scoring game. He will have the benefit of being able to hand the ball to Myles Gaskin at Running Back who should be able to establish the run and keep the Washington Offense in third and manageable spots through this game.

It should mean Browning is able to make some big plays against this Cougars Secondary which has given up some big numbers but have also been effective at turning the ball over. As long as Browning can avoid those mistakes, the Washington Huskies have a chance of winning here and moving onto the Championship Game, but these 'Rivalry Week' games can be tough and I do like the underdog Washington State who have far less to lose.

Yes they can miss the Championship Game, but Washington have a chance to play for the National Championship if they win out and that can be tough to deal with from a mental point of view. While the Huskies can move the chains and score points, I do think Washington State can match them too and so getting the points looks important to me. The Cougars lost in Week 12, but I do think they can bounce back and will take the points with the home underdog.

Toledo Rockets @ Western Michigan Broncos Pick: They might be 11-0 overall and 7-0 in the MAC Conference, but the Western Michigan Broncos haven't done anything yet and Head Coach PJ Fleck will be the first to tell you that. They have improved in each of his three years in charge of the Broncos, but winning out is the only reward that the Head Coach is looking for.

Winning out means playing in the MAC Championship Game and then perhaps being rewarded with one of the big Bowl Games perhaps even in the New Year. However the Western Michigan Broncos cannot afford to look too far ahead as a loss to the Toledo Rockets in Week 13 will actually mean Toledo win the MAC West Division on the head to head with the Broncos.

No one will be overlooking the Rockets who have already won 9 games this season which means they have achieved that mark in 5 of their last 6 seasons. That is the kind of consistency that the Broncos would like to build for their school and any team that has a 6-1 record over their last seven games have to be respected.

Toledo have also won on their last three visits to the Broncos and twice they have done that as the underdog. Logan Woodside has been one of the better Quarter Backs in this Conference and Toledo have to have faith that he can help lead them to an upset here but the first port of call for Woodside may be to turn around and hand the ball off to Kareem Hunt at Running Back who should have a good match up.

Hunt is having a huge season and has to like his chances against a Western Michigan Defensive Line that has just had some problems shutting down the run for much of the season. It has been a particular worry for the Broncos in their recent games and Hunt should be able to make some big plays as long as Toledo remain within a score or two of their hosts.

That is key for Woodside because his gaudy numbers will be tested by this Secondary that have played well all season. Some of that is down to the fact that teams have been able to run against the Broncos, but even when teams have been chasing games they have found it difficult to throw the ball. Woodside is playing with a very good Offense which should have success, but this is arguably the toughest match up he has had this season.

There are some similarities on the other side of the ball especially when it comes to Western Michigan handing the ball to Running Back Jarvion Franklin who should be able to add to his big season. Franklin is back to the level that saw him win Offensive Player of the Year in the MAC in 2014 and his up against a Toledo Defensive Line which has allowed 4.4 yards per carry in their recent games and that is going to be music to the ears of Zach Terrell at Quarter Back.

Unlike Toledo and Woodside, Terrell has to like his chances against this Secondary which has given up 278 yards per game in their recent games through the air. Terrell has been looking after the ball and should find the spaces to make his throws a little more easily than Woodside with Toledo and that could be the major difference maker in this entire contest.

I really like how both teams have played this season, but I do think Western Michigan are slightly better on both sides of the ball and that can show up. The spread has been moving down all week and I think it might just be at a reasonable position now as I look for the home Broncos to win this by around ten points and move onto the MAC Championship Game next week.

Arizona State Sun Devils @ Arizona Wildcats Pick: Neither team is going to look back on the 2016 season with any fondness, but there is a rivalry on the line when the Arizona Wildcats host the Arizona State Sun Devils in what is definitely the last game of the season for the Wildcats. There is some motivation on their side as they can prevent the Sun Devils making it to a Bowl Game by winning this one, while Arizona are trying their best to avoid going winless in the Pac-12 having played in the Championship Game in 2014.

Of course there is motivation on the other side of the Field with the Sun Devils hoping to get to 6-6 with a win but both teams have been in awful form of late. Arizona State have lost five games in a row and have been outgained in terms of yards in eight in a row. On the other hand Arizona have lost eight in a row and this could come down to which of the teams can erase recent performances from their memories in the most productive way.

One of the important aspects for the Wildcats is going to be to run the ball effectively and they should have a chance to do that which can give them a chance of earning an upset. Their passing game has really struggled but Brandon Dawkins is back at Quarter Back and has shown he can make some plays, although it will all begin by establishing the run.

Dawkins played pretty well in Week 12 after coming back from a concussion and I do think he will be able to make plays against this Secondary from third and manageable spots. The Wildcats don't have the most eye-catching passing game, but Dawkins makes them stronger and this Sun Devils Secondary have been allowing big plays all season.

That might give Arizona more balance than the Arizona State Sun Devils can hope for when it comes to the Offensive plays as they haven't been able to run the ball at all this season. It has been a big problem for the Sun Devils in recent weeks, but they should find some room to take on the Wildcats Defensive Line even though the Arizona State Offensive Line has been having a hard time.

They've not protected the Quarter Back at all well but I am not sure Arizona have the pass rush to take advantage and their own Secondary have struggled. Manny Wilkens didn't have a great game for Arizona State last week, but the Washington Huskies are considerably better than the Arizona Secondary which has allowed 317 yards per game through the air in their last three games.

It does seem that both teams will have their success with the ball in their hands in this one, but the motivation on the side of the Arizona State Sun Devils could see them get the better of their rivals Arizona. The Sun Devils have improved to 5-2 against the spread in the last seven games against Arizona and the confidence in the home team has to be sapped after losing every Conference game so far.

While this will be a game that sees both teams go up and down the field, I think Arizona State make a few more big plays and are able to come away with a win by around a Touchdown on the road.

Virginia Cavaliers @ Virginia Tech Hokies Pick: There is nothing much on the line for the Virginia Cavaliers when it comes to what a win would give them, not unless you don't count pride and the chance to hurt a rival as 'nothing much'. I fully expect Bronco Mendenhall to be preaching to his team how important this could be for Virginia going forward as he begins to turn this programme around, and being able to spend the next few months knowing they kept the Virginia Tech Hokies out of the ACC Championship Game will be huge for a school that hasn't had more than five wins in any of their last five seasons.

All of the pressure has to be on the Hokies who can win the Coastal Division with a win on Saturday, although they might have secured the Division if North Carolina fail to beat North Carolina State on Friday. Either way, the Virginia Tech Hokies are expected to blow out their rivals and that on its own brings pressure with the expectation of the fanbase on their shoulders.

Much of the reason that the Cavaliers haven't been blown out too often is because of the strong Defensive unit they have been able to put on the field. Mendenhall is an influential Head Coach who can get the best out of his players too, but that Defensive unit have been very good and should be able to at least make the Hokies a little one-dimensional in this one. The Hokies have not been able to run the ball that effectively all season with Quarter Back Jerod Evans their leading rusher, and I think Virginia can at least keep them in third and long from time to time and force Evans to make plays with his arm.

It does have to be noted that Evans has been making a few mistakes down the stretch which almost saw Virginia Tech head into Week 13 on a two game losing run. He has some solid numbers, but Evans is facing a Secondary which has shown some improvement down the stretch and also have been able to get some pressure up front which is a concern behind this Offensive Line.

Ultimately Virginia Tech will be able to make some big plays Offensively and the key for this spread is how much can the Cavaliers do on the other side of the ball. Running the ball has been a problem for Virginia this season too, but Taquan Mizzell is playing his last game for the Cavaliers and has shown improvement in recent games while he is also coming up against a Virginia Tech Defensive Line that might feel a little worn down at this stage of the season.

They will be looking for better play at Quarter Back if Mizzell is being able to establish the run. Matt Johns made his first start of the season last week but had 3 Interceptions and this Hokies Secondary is one of the better ones in the ACC. The Offensive Line has had issues in protection which will have to be worked on, while Johns has to be careful with the ball and not allow Virginia Tech to have the extra possessions to pull away.

Even with that in mind this feels like a massive number to me when you consider Virginia have only lost one game by more than 18 points this season. They also have challenged Virginia Tech despite losing records the last four seasons and each loss in that time has come by 10 or fewer points.

The last few weeks has seen Virginia Tech tested much more than they have been earlier in the season and I do think this is going to be a close game because of the pressure the Hokies have been dealing with. There is no doubt that Virginia Tech are a better team, but the Cavaliers can make them earn everything they get in this one and I will take the points.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Georgia Bulldogs Pick: Both the Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have a 7-4 record and are Bowl eligible, but only one of the teams will look back at 2016 with some fondness. The Georgia Bulldogs have underachieved when you look at how erratic the SEC East has been this season, but they are in Kirby Smart's first season as Head Coach and some inconsistencies had to be expected.

The Bulldogs have won at least 10 games in four of the last five years under Mark Richt but they would be on the brink of having their lowest win total since 2010 unless they can win one of their last two games. On the other hand this has been a bounce back season for the Yellow Jackets who have more than doubled last season's win total as Paul Johnson kept his job as Head Coach.

This has become a traditional end to the regular season for Georgia Bulldogs over the last four years having missed out on the SEC Championship Game but it will be important to win a rivalry game and give Smart something to take into the Bowl Game and the 2017 season. Georgia have won three in a row to build momentum, but Georgia Tech have also been playing well with wins in four of their last five games.

Playing the triple option Offense is always a big challenge for teams and the Defensive Line have not played as well the last few games as they have over the course of the season. The Bulldogs do face this Georgia Tech Offense every season, and Smart's experience as Defensive Co-Ordinator with Alabama should keep them focused more one more big effort.

You have to believe that Justin Thomas, Marcus Marshall and Dedrick Miles to have some big plays in this one as the Georgia Defensive Line work out their assignments, but I do think the Bulldogs can win their fair share of these battles at the line of scrimmage. Much of the Offense is based on running the ball effectively and the Georgia Secondary just have to make sure they are not surprised by Thomas who is perhaps a better passer than most will recognise.

Running the ball won't just be the first port of call for the Yellow Jackets Offense though as it is a feeling that Georgia have gone back to basics which has sparked their winning run. Nick Chubb might not have the numbers he would have expected this season, but he is averaging almost 100 yards per game in the last three games and should find spaces easy to come by against this Georgia Tech Defensive Line.

Establishing the run will open things up for Jacob Eason at Quarter Back despite an inconsistent year for the Freshman Quarter Back. He wasn't helped by the play-calling earlier in the season, but running the ball has meant Eason has been given more time in the pocket to make plays and he should have a decent game against a Secondary that has allowed 296 passing yards per game over their last three games.

Avoiding turnovers will be key for Eason and I think that will spark Georgia to a win in this rivalry game. The Bulldogs are 4-1 against the spread in the last five games between these teams and I do think they can slow down the Georgia Tech running game more than the other way around. With Georgia also having more of a threat from the pass, I think the Bulldogs will eventually be able to make a few stops and come through with a win by around seven points in this one.

UCF Knights @ South Florida Bulls Pick: The Temple Owls are the team that are preventing both the UCF Knights and South Florida Bulls from playing in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. Both of these teams have lost to the Owls in the Conference this season but only the South Florida Bulls have a chance of making it to the Championship Game if they win this one and the Owls lose their own final game against the East Carolina Pirates.

It is unlikely but the Bulls won't want to end this season on a negative as they can win double digit amount of games for the first time. However the Knights have been one of the surprise packages of the season after bouncing back from a winless season and already becoming Bowl eligible with one game left to go.

The Defensive side of the ball has been the strength for the UCF Knights, but they will have to show some Offensive power to stay with the Bulls in this one. That has been something of an inconsistency for the Knights all season but they are facing a South Florida team that have had a few problems to solve.

With the Bulls allowing 5.5 yards per carry in recent games, you have to think the Knights will find some success on the ground even if they have not found a consistent Running Back. UCF should still be able to get the Offense into third and manageable spots and then hope Quarter Back McKenzie Milton can continue to show the improvement he has through the season and the experience which will stand him in good stead in 2017.

McKenzie is likely to feel some pass rush pressure and has to be wary of a South Florida Secondary that have created Interceptions and look to give their Offense extra possessions. However he should also make some plays against a team that have allowed 350 passing yards per game over their last three contests which should help the Knights have a chance in this one.

The whole key of the game for the UCF Knights is showing Defense wins Championships and trying to shut down the potent South Florida Offense. Over the course of the season the Knights have been very good, but they have just been worn down on the Defensive Line which has seen bigger numbers given up in recent weeks than they would have liked. It is a bigger problem when facing Marlon Mack who has helped South Florida average over 8 yards per carry in their last three games and Mack could establish the run to open things up for the Bulls.

The Knights Secondary has not been tested as much in recent games because of the yards they have been allowing on the ground, but Quinton Flowers won't shy away from throwing the ball at Quarter Back. Flowers should be given time with the team in third and short spots and play action also being a key for him, but he has to be wary of throwing any Interceptions that keeps UCF in this one.

I do think Flowers and Mack are going to put a lot of pressure on UCF to try and keep up on the scoreboard and I like the Bulls in this one. It is a big number but the favourite is 5-2 against the spread in the last seven in this series and I think South Florida will make a few plays against the inconsistent UCF Knights Offense which can see them pull away from this big number.

Those stops or turnovers can see South Florida come through with a win by a couple of Touchdowns and I will back them to cover the number.

Duke Blue Devils @ Miami Hurricanes Pick: There were big expectations in Mark Richt's first season as Head Coach of the Miami Hurricanes but they have fallen short of those and will not be playing in the ACC Championship Game. It wasn't the most testing of Divisions for the Hurricanes, but Richt will feel it is a decent first year as Head Coach here and winning their last two games will set the Hurricanes for the second nine win season in the last seven years.

Another team that has perhaps underachieved are the Duke Blue Devils who have been more known for their basketball teams rather than their football one over the years. However this Blue Devils programme had won 10, 9 and 8 games in the last three years but they won't be making a Bowl Game for the first time since 2011 this time around.

David Cutcliffe will be given time having turned this programme right around and Duke have remained competitive for much of this season despite holding just four wins. That changed last week when they were blown out by the Pittsburgh Panthers on the road and a second consecutive road game is very difficult.

It will be a test for the Duke Offense because they are facing a tough Defense that have shown improvement after a slight blip in the middle of the season. The Hurricanes have prided themselves on shutting down the run and Miami will believe they can make Duke one-dimensional even if Daniel Jones decides to tuck the ball and run from the Quarter Back position.

That will put the pressure on Jones to make the necessary plays with his arm and that will be difficult for the Quarter Back with the expected pass rush pressure Miami should get around him. The Hurricanes Secondary have also played well thanks to that pressure although Jones has at least avoided big mistakes to make sure Duke don't beat themselves.

While the Miami Hurricanes have improved on the Defensive line of scrimmage, they have also got back to their early season form on the Offensive line of scrimmage. After struggling to run the ball against the likes of Florida State and Virginia Tech, Miami have got back to doing that effectively behind Mark Walton and they should be able to establish the run in this one against a Duke Defensive Line which has allowed 179 yards per game on the ground over their last three games.

With Walton running the ball, Brad Kaaya should have the time to make some big plays at Quarter Back. Kaaya should be well protected in third and short spots and Duke's inability to stop the run has meant more one on one coverage in the Secondary which Kaaya can expose. The Blue Devils have used Interceptions to stay in games, but I think Kaaya has looked after the ball very effectively in recent games and can set Miami up for a big win.

You know the Blue Devils aren't going to give this game away, but I do think the Hurricanes are stronger on both sides of the ball which can see them pull away. Miami are 4-1 against the spread in the last five games between these teams and I do believe the Hurricanes will put a big win on the board in this final game of the regular season and cover a big number at home.

I've had a few things to do this Friday which means I'm adding four more picks to the Saturday selections in Week 13 which can be found below.

MY PICKS: Houston Cougars - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Washington State Cougars + 6 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Western Michigan Broncos - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Arizona State Sun Devils - 1 Point @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Virginia Cavaliers + 18.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
South Florida Bulls - 10 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes - 15 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
USC Trojans - 17.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 18 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Mississippi Rebels - 9.5 Points @ 2.00 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Tennessee Volunteers - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)

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