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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Friday, 29 September 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (September 30-October 1)

Over the last couple of days we have heard about the international squads that have been announced for the final set of World Cup Qualifiers where the majority of the nations making up the Finals in Russia next summer will be confirmed.

In November there will still be some Play Off ties to be completed, but for most this will be the end of a fourteen month Qualifying run to get to the World Cup Finals. Most of the big nations are set to confirm their places over the next ten days or so, but there will be some like Italy and Portugal and perhaps even the Netherlands who are waiting for their Play Off ties to be drawn.

At the Euro 2016 Finals, Great Britain and Ireland were represented by all the nations around these parts except Scotland, but Russia may be a little more bare. Northern Ireland, Wales, Republic of Ireland and Scotland may all need Play Off berths at the very best this time around and even then there is no guarantee they won't draw one of the tougher nations I have mentioned.

England are almost there though and a win next Thursday over Slovenia will confirm the place in Russia even if the hype for the success of the national team is not what it once was.

The World Cup Qualifiers are for another day though and the focus at the moment is on the final round of domestic fixtures which take place this weekend. There is the big Premier League game between Chelsea and Manchester City which comes on Saturday afternoon and that is the kind of fixture which will give people a chance to determine who they 'fancy' for the title, even at this early stage of the season.

Sergio Aguero won't be playing in that fixture after the news that he had been riding in a taxi which had a crash in Amsterdam. A broken rib has been confirmed, but it will be interesting to see how long Aguero is out for considering how important he has seemingly become for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

I might not be a City fan, but I do respect Aguero so thankfully the incident wasn't any worse than what has come out.

The picks will be focused on the Premier League alone this weekend and hopefully it will be a good end to the month.

Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The first live game of the Premier League weekend is an interesting one and we are likely to learn plenty about what Huddersfield Town are capable of achieving this season. Their early fixture list has not been the most taxing considering Huddersfield Town have not played a team who finished in the top seven, but this weekend they take on an in-form Tottenham Hotspur.

Beating those in the top seven won't be where Huddersfield Town find the points to help them avoid relegation, but David Wagner will want his players to show they can compete at this level. The next month sees Huddersfield Town's fixtures really pick up in terms of strength of opponent and losing on Saturday may knock some of the belief from the players.

Much is based on a solid defensive foundation and pressing from the front and Huddersfield Town have been playing better at home than on their travels. That defence is going to be tested by a Tottenham Hotspur team who will likely have Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen back alongside Harry Kane this weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur have scored at least twice in all 4 away games played this season and they have also scored at least three times in 5 of their last 6 including the last 3 in succession. That is serious firepower being produced and I think Tottenham Hotspur will be able to break down a tough Huddersfield Town team who have yet to face quality of this standard in their early Premier League games.

Goals have been a problem for Huddersfield Town and that is another reason, along with Tottenham Hotspur's strong away form, which makes me believe the North London club can cover the Asian Handicap here.

All credit has to be given to Huddersfield Town for the start made to the 2017/18 season, but this feels like a fixture that Tottenham Hotspur should be capable of winning on current form. With the goals they have been scoring, I expect the return of Alli and Eriksen to see Tottenham Hotspur create enough chances to win this one and I think Huddersfield Town may struggle to keep up with their lack of goals.

Bournemouth v Leicester City Pick: When you think of the way Bournemouth and Leicester City approach their football, it may be something of a surprise that they have been involved in fixtures against one another which have tended to be very tight.

That may have something to do with the fact that both clubs would view the other as one they need to finish above in their bid to avoid relegation to the Championship and so risks are avoided. It may be a simplistic way to look at things with Bournemouth and Leicester City both having expectations of finishing much higher than 17th in the League table, but this fixture is also coming at a time where both have struggled.

I do think Leicester City have not been helped by a very difficult opening set of fixtures, while Eddie Howe at Bournemouth has to be suggesting the same thing. With a bit more luck they would have had more points on the board and I do think this will be a competitive fixture on Saturday.

There is plenty of attacking talent who should take the field to make it a more entertaining one in terms of goals than we have seen over the last couple of years. All 4 Premier League games between Bournemouth and Leicester City have ended with two or fewer goals in that time, but neither team looks capable of too many clean sheets at the moment.

Josh King, Jermain Defoe, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez all have ability to change matches in the final third and I think the two defences will be tested.

Bournemouth have yet to keep a clean sheet this season in the Premier League and have conceded at least once in each of their last 5 home League games. Leicester City's sole clean sheet came against Brighton at home, but they have had just 1 in their last 17 away games in all competitions and I wouldn't be surprised if both teams score in this one.

Whether someone is capable of finding a winner is harder to judge as the point may be seen as a positive result on current form, but Bournemouth will push and that should mean Leicester City have their chances on the counter attack too. I will look for these teams to find a little more composure in the final third in this game than they have in recent matches against one another and will look for three goals to be shared out on the day.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Pick: The Manchester United credentials are going to be tested in between the next couple of international breaks when they face Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the Premier League and also Benfica in the Champions League. However the focus is to take some momentum into the international break upcoming by beating Crystal Palace and Manchester United look set to do that.

While the home team are settled and look focused to overcome injuries they are dealing with, Crystal Palace have yet to really fire under Roy Hodgson. Injuries to Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke are a huge blow for a side that have been lacking goals and now they face a Manchester United team who have been used to shutting teams out at Old Trafford.

It is hard to imagine that changing here despite Crystal Palace creating some chances at Manchester City last weekend. Even the likely absence of Phil Jones should not be a real problem for Manchester United in this fixture with Benteke out of action and I would imagine the majority of the attacking play with be done by the home team.

At the moment Crystal Palace look like a team who are lacking belief in what they are doing and they capitulated once they conceded at Manchester City last weekend. Something similar could happen here with Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku likely to be employed in the final third.

All of those players have been in fine form for Manchester United and this is a fixture they have been comfortable in in recent years. They have beaten Crystal Palace the last 4 times they have visited Old Trafford and 3 of those wins have come by a couple of goals which should be the least Manchester United get out of this.

I think it may end up being a little more comfortable than that if Manchester United can break through in the first half. They are returning from a long trip from Russia and perhaps would have had a little more time to prepare, but it was a good trip to Moscow and I expect Manchester United fire in the final third in this fixture.

Backing Manchester United to cover the Asian Handicap should at least return the stake if they win by a couple of goals, but I think Manchester United are too good for an unconfident Crystal Palace team and expect the margin to be a little wider.

West Brom v Watford Pick: The exciting football that West Brom were playing at times last season looks to be well behind them now and this is a team that once again will look to be tough to beat and exploit their limited chances when going forward.

That is a harsh assessment when you think how well they did start in the 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night, but West Brom have struggled for goals which is holding them back. Defensively they remain a force, but September has been a difficult month for Tony Pulis who may begin to feel some pressure from the stands.

Now they face a tough test in Watford who have won all 3 away Premier League games this season and scored at least twice in each game. You would have to think it would be very difficult for West Brom to match their visitors if that trend continues, but Pulis will feel his team are defensively more sound than Bournemouth, Southampton and Swansea City even if many would dispute that statement.

Even with that in mind, Watford have shown defensive strength under Silva outside of that game with Manchester City and they will feel they can get a result here. They won't give much away even if losing Nathaniel Chalobah to an injury is a big blow for the squad, and this does feel like a game where the two teams will perhaps cancel one another out.

I did consider backing Watford with the start on the Asian Handicap, but I think West Brom have been tough to play at The Hawthorns and it took a late goal to help Watford win at Swansea City last weekend. This one is not likely to feature a lot of goals, as has been seen from the layers prices, and I will have a small interest in the teams sharing the points and going into the international break with an extra point on the board in the Premier League.

West Ham United v Swansea City Pick: If you take the first twenty minutes and the final twenty minutes of West Ham United's game against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, you would have been impressed with some of the performances produced. However they were really poor between those times which saw them go down 0-3 before a late fightback and it is hard to know exactly what to expect from West Ham United on a game by game basis.

They have been better at the London Stadium in recent games going back to the end of last season, and the West Ham United losses to Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have come against the better teams in the Premier League. The Hammers did beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 at home earlier this month and they have had a strong record against Swansea City which will give them confidence.

West Ham United played well enough at times to believe they have every chance of winning this fixture, but they have to give Swansea City full respect going into this weekend.

Paul Clement has made Swansea City tougher to play against away from home and that has shown up with clean sheets in each of their 3 away League games this season. That includes a goalless draw at Wembley Stadium against Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City had the same result at St Mary's against Southampton.

I think they will look to make things hard for West Ham United, but the home team have been better at the London Stadium and I think that may give them the slight edge. I can't have more than the minimum unit on West Ham United simply because of how well Swansea City have been playing on their travels, but I think The Hammers may have the slight edge and a play can be made on them here.

Chelsea v Manchester City Pick: If you gave most people the opportunity to pick three teams as potential Premier League winners, you have to think Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea would be the names you hear the most. Two of those teams meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon in a game that will be much anticipated by all football fans in England.

Both Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola will be very happy with the form their teams have shown coming into this weekend.

Chelsea are off arguably the best English club performance away from home in the Champions League for a long time as they were deserved winners over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. They came from behind that day to show the belief and determination this group of players have, while the return of Eden Hazard and the production from Alvaro Morata is huge for The Blues.

The home team will be confident, but so will Manchester City who have won 7 straight games in all competitions and have been scoring at a rate that has to be intimidating to any club they face. The attacking options Guardiola has means Manchester City can run over any team they face if at their best, but there are still some questions for them to answer at the back.

Teams have had chances against them and Chelsea are unlikely to be as generous with the opportunities being missed that the likes of Watford, Crystal Palace and Shakhtar Donetsk have created.

On the other hand Manchester City will create chances as they did in both games against Chelsea in the League last season and this has all the makings of a classic Premier League encounter, and certainly the most important of the season to date.

Both will want to lay down a marker for the season and I am not sure they will be cancelling one another out as the styles of football seem to mesh well. While Manchester City will want to dominate possession, Chelsea will be happy to hit them on the break with the pace they have in the final third and so an entertaining game looks to be in the making.

I was very tempted to back Chelsea to win considering how well they have played at Stamford Bridge over the last twelve months. It won't be often they will be set as the home underdog and I think out of principle that is a price that I feel can't be ignored.

However this Manchester City team have been playing really well of late and might feel they owe Chelsea one having perhaps been the better team in both League games they lost last season. That is enough to make me step back from backing Chelsea, but instead focusing on another fixture between these clubs ending with at least three goals shared out.

Both League games last season did that with both teams scoring in each of those two games, and the attacking talent on show is likely to have the edge over the defensive elements. Chelsea do look a little more solid at the back, but stopping this Manchester City team scoring won't be easy, and instead it may be the counter attack that helps the home team earn the success.

Backing at least three goals shared out looks the best way to approach this really good looking football match, and that is still a decent enough price to go that way.

Arsenal v Brighton Pick: The last weeks schedule did not impress Arsene Wenger as Arsenal have been asked to play on Monday, Thursday and now Sunday ahead of the two week international break. The full squad has been utilised in that time and Arsenal are in line to make it three wins from three over that time period if they can secure the three points on Sunday afternoon.

There have been some encouraging performances from Arsenal who have the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez returning to the first time action. The wins put together in September has seen Arsenal make progress in all the competitions they have entered so far and The Gunners are playing with confidence.

It would be a surprise if they are not too good for Brighton who have not played that well away from home this season. They have not faced one of the better teams in the Premier League in that time either and this will be a big test for Chris Hughton's men.

The majority of the play is likely to come from Arsenal and I do think they will be too strong on the day. The layers feel the same as they are being asked to cover a big Asian Handicap, although you can back Arsenal at around 1.76 to win by two goals or more which is a tempting angle to go.

However I want to focus on an improving defence which is perhaps going to get the better of a shot-shy Brighton team. Brighton losing Tomer Hemed is a blow to their attacking threat in the final third and Arsenal have had 3 clean sheets from their last 4 games at the Emirates Stadium.

I can't imagine Arsenal not scoring at least one in this fixture and that may be enough for them to earn the three points. They were very lucky to earn a clean sheet against West Brom on Monday, but Brighton may not have that much of a threat away from home and I will look for The Gunners to blunt the firepower of the visitors and earn a win with another clean sheet to add to their collection.

Newcastle United v Liverpool Pick: There have already been some suggestions from Liverpool fans that bringing back Rafa Benitez as manager may help the club progress more than they are doing under Jurgen Klopp. Those suggestions may get a little louder if Newcastle United are able to beat Liverpool in the final Premier League game of the weekend.

This has been a fixture that Newcastle United have enjoyed in recent years and there may be added motivation after news that former Chairman Freddy Shepherd passed away this week. Shepherd wasn't always the fan's favourite, but he was clearly very passionate about Newcastle United and you have to think the whole club would want to put on a performance for him.

That alone isn't going to be enough for Newcastle United who have won their last couple of League games at St James' Park. This is a squad that has played better at home and Newcastle United will be dangerous if they can produce the effective defensive discipline that Benitez will look to set them up to do.

Against Tottenham Hotspur it was frustrating their visitors before Jonjo Shelvey lost his cool and I do think Newcastle United can make life difficult for Liverpool. The job will be a lot easier if Liverpool continue to produce the inconsistent finishing they have in recent games which has seen them drop points both in the Premier League and Champions League.

Liverpool have a fearsome looking attack, but so far the build up has been brilliant and the end product has not been up to scratch. The chances that have been missed in games against Burnley, Leicester City (in the League Cup) and both Sevilla and Spartak Moscow have to worry Jurgen Klopp, although the return of Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho should give the manager a real boost in confidence that the lack of goals will change.

The problem has been exasperated by a defence that hasn't been able to keep clean sheets and I do think the focus on that side of their game has been covering the issues in the final third. The 1-1 draws with Burnley and Spartak Moscow have come because Liverpool have not finished off the chances they created rather than the goals conceded, but this has perhaps been lost on most.

The chances created will at least give Liverpool some confidence they can turn things around after a difficult September. It won't be easy at Newcastle United who have thrived from set pieces, a real achilles heel for Liverpool, and who can defend very well under Benitez.

It does feel like this game will go in two ways- either Liverpool will score early enough to take control of the match or Newcastle United will score first and earn a positive result here. I simply can't see Liverpool coming from behind to win having drawn with Watford, Burnley and Spartak Moscow from losing positions but not having enough to win those games.

However I do think Liverpool are due a big performance and the chances they have been creating should mean they are able to win here. The 2-3 win at Leicester City last weekend and what should have been a comfortable win at Spartak Moscow are the kind of performances that may be too much for Newcastle United to deal with despite winning their last 2 home League games.

Newcastle United do have a very strong recent home record against Liverpool, but I think The Reds will be too strong on Sunday and I think they win here. It'll keep them in touch with the leading Premier League teams ahead of the next game which comes in under two weeks time against Manchester United at Anfield.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.96 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.88 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom-Watford Draw @ 3.25 Bet365 (1 Unit)
West Ham United @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Chelsea-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Arsenal Win to Nil @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.93 Bet365 (2 Units)

September Update: 24-26-3, - 0.88 Units (101 Units Staked, - 0.01% Yield)

College Football Week 5 Picks 2017 (September 30th)

There have been a number of games scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Week 5 of the College Football 2017 season, but none of those really appealed once I broke them down and that means the picks all come from the Saturday selection of games.

Last week could not have gone much better with the picks finishing 8-1 for the week and that gives me something to try and build on after what has been a tough opening three weeks of the season.

The games I've picked from will be played throughout Saturday and putting together back to back winning weeks will be a success, although I will need a little bit of luck on my side for that to happen.

Houston Cougars @ Temple Owls Pick: This was supposed to be one of the top games of be played in the American Athletic Conference this season and many would have considered the Temple Owls and the Houston Cougars as the leading teams to play in the Championship Game later this year.

The feeling has slightly changed all around after seeing the Houston Cougars go down as the home favourite last weekend. At least that was against a non-Conference opponent, but defending American Athletic Champions Temple were blown out from start to finish by the South Florida Bulls and the latter now have the inside path to the Championship Game that the Owls prevented them playing in last season.

That means both Coaches have to pick up their players from disappointment, but this spread still seems off the mark with Temple being given almost two converted Touchdowns a start on the handicap. Any time a home team is given that kind of start you have to have a deeper look as to why, especially as Temple were given only 3.5 points more as the road underdog in South Florida in Week 4.

It feels like an overreaction to that loss against what many consider to be the best team outside of the Power 5 Conferences and I am looking for Temple to show they are better than the blow out suggested. It won't be easy against this Houston team who will also be playing with a point to prove as they open Conference play, but being at home should give Temple every chance of making this competitive.

There is no doubt that Temple have underperformed Offensively so far this season, but there has to be more to come from them. The struggles to establish the run is a concern, but there is a chance they find more room in this one especially as Logan Marchi has played better as the Quarter Back at home than on the road.

Marchi has faced two big road challenges and this Cougars Secondary have given up some big plays with the lack of pressure they have been able to generate up front. Temple's Offensive Line have also been stronger in pass protection than run blocking so far this season and they should give Marchi the time to do better than in previous weeks.

This is a game where the Temple Defensive unit have to step up to help their Offense and the Houston Offense is not as powerful as many expected despite returning 8 starters from 2016. The Cougars have continued to have their issues running the ball and that is where Temple will feel they can at least force their visitors to have to throw from third and long, an area of real problems for Houston.

One of the big criticisms of transfer Quarter Back Kyle Allen is the 4 Interceptions he has thrown to go along with his 4 Touchdown passes. The key to the game and ultimately the spread is whether Allen will get time to make his plays and avoid the mistakes that have blighted him as he faces a Temple Defense which has given up the passing yards through the air, but who have been able to get in and around the Quarter Back effectively with the pass rush.

Sacks can stall drives and help create turnovers and that is where Temple may have a chance to at least keep this competitive. The number really does feel out of whack even though the Owls have not been at their best in 2017 and that is simply because I am not sure that Houston can score enough points to be able to cover it.

One concern has to be the fact that Houston have dominated Temple by winning five in a row against them, but Temple are 8-3 against the spread as the home underdog over the last four years. This is a new Head Coach facing this spot for the first time, but the Owls have to show more than they did last week and the extra preparation time may give them enough time to at least make this one close.

Both teams have something to prove, but I like Temple with the points in what feels like it will be a low scoring game.

Baylor Bears @ Kansas State Wildcats Pick: When this spread came out at the beginning of the week, the Baylor Bears were closer to three Touchdown underdogs, but the sharps have been able to take a couple of points out of that number in the past few days.

The Kansas State Wildcats are coming in off a bye and off an upset loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores, a result that really doesn't stand up when the Commodores were blasted 59-0 at home by Alabama in Week 4. They now come into Conference play with a rough stretch in front of them, but Bill Snyder has shown he can get the best out of his players and I would expect the Wildcats to be more than simply competitive.

They now face a Baylor Bears team who are heading into a bye week following this one and who played really hard in Norman last week as they were narrowly beaten by the Oklahoma Sooners. Playing a Ranked opponent and favourite for the Conference that hard has to have taken a toll on the Bears and I am a little wary of a let down performance from them.

Baylor do have the motivation of revenge after being blown out by the Wildcats at home last season, but the 0-4 start to Matt Rhule's tenure as Head Coach is a real disappointment. Last week may then be a shot in the arm of the Bears players that they can perform rather than a disappointment they came up short and I do think Baylor can keep this game competitive.

A new Head Coach always brings in some teething problems at any level of American Football and that has been the issue for Baylor. The Offensive Line are getting used to a new system but have so far struggled to run the ball with any consistency despite Baylor being one of the better yards per carry teams out there in recent years. Running the ball against Kansas State is always tough so the Offense is likely to rest on Zach Smith's shoulders have thrown 7 Touchdown passes and 4 Interceptions this season.

This isn't an easy Secondary to throw against, but Smith has been given time in the pocket for the most part. That is impressive considering they have not established the run and that time should mean Baylor are able to make enough plays to keep the chains moving.

Keeping the chains moving was a real problem for Kansas State two weeks ago and they will be hoping that Jesse Ertz will have removed some of the doubts he may have had. Ertz is an experienced Quarter Back, but he has thrown 4 Touchdown passes and 2 Interceptions this season and under 200 passing yards per game.

Some of the issues may have been the problems running the ball outside of the Quarter Back who is leading the rushing numbers after three games. With the pressure Baylor have been able to generate up front, Ertz may not be able to find that much running room, although the Wildcats in general may have their best effort on the ground against a Baylor Defensive Line giving up 5.4 yards per carry.

Matt Rhule's Temple Owls Defensive Line was a strength of that team, so it is a surprise to see Baylor struggling although the new Head Coach issues have risen. That is expected to change as the team gets used to what Rhule expects of them but it may be an area where the Kansas State Wildcats are able to earn the edge to win the game.

Turnovers are likely to play a huge part of the game too and may prove to be the difference between a cover and non-cover. I like the fact that Matt Rhule coached teams are 12-5 against the spread as the road underdog over their last seventeen in that spot and I do think he will get a tune out of Baylor who will want revenge for being blown out at home by the Wildcats in 2016.

The Wildcats have their own issues to resolve and they are just 3-6 against the spread as the home favourite over the last couple of years. Backing the underdog in the Kansas State home games would be 9-4 against the spread in that time and I think there are enough points here for Baylor to at least keep this one close.

Georgia Bulldogs @ Tennessee Volunteers Pick: One Hail Mary is the difference between the Tennessee Volunteers being 4-0 and 3-1, but there are real concerns with how the Offense have played. Butch Jones is beginning to feel his seat warm up as Head Coach, especially after a lack of effort was blamed for their near huge upset loss at home against Massachusetts last week.

Being back in SEC play should be plenty of motivation enough as Tennessee play at home before heading off to a bye. Offensive struggles don't bode well against this Georgia Bulldogs team who are 4-0 and fresh off a throttling of the Mississippi State Bulldogs which caught out many.

Any team that returns 10 starters on one side of the ball are going to be dangerous, but the Georgia Defensive unit have dominated through their first four games. That is a big test for the Volunteers to face with criticisms about vanilla play calling being thrown at Jones, and will be the key to decide any chance of Tennessee making this competitive.

Simply put, Tennessee have to find a way to consistently move the chains against a team who have allowed just 11.5 points per game so far in 2017.

It all has begun up front for Georgia who have been able to shut down the run and force teams to try and pick up yards from third and long spots which is not easy. The Bulldogs were strong against the run last year, but now they have experience on that Defensive Line, although this may be the biggest test they have faced in the 2017 season.

The strength of the Tennessee Offense is being able to pick up yards on the ground and John Kelly has been able to make plays from behind the line of scrimmage. The control of this line of scrimmage is going to be a deciding factor between these teams, but I do think the Volunteers can challenge Georgia more than their previous four opponents have been able to do.

That will be so important to Tennessee who have been getting erratic Quarter Back play and they are not expected to make too many big plays against a solid Georgia Secondary. However the Volunteers can make this a competitive game if they are able to use their powerful Offensive Line to get Kelly on track for another 100 yard rushing game and we will know very early on whether the Volunteers are capable of that.

Running the ball doesn't figure to be much of a problem for Georgia in this one as they returned both Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel despite the former looking a lock to join the NFL. Both players have had big years already and now face a Tennessee Defensive Line that have continued to struggle to stop the run as they have picked up from where they left off in 2016.

There hasn't been a team who have shown they can shut down Georgia running the ball which has made life easier for Jake Fromm who is the freshman Quarter Back playing in place of injured Jacob Eason. Fromm has thrown 7 Touchdown passes and just a single Interception which has allowed Georgia to flourish as he has managed the game behind his two strong Running Backs and the Bulldogs will be looking for their Quarter Back to do the same here.

The Tennessee Secondary have some decent numbers, but I am not sure how much of that is down to the fact that teams have been able to run the ball against them. With play-action and bootlegs in the Georgia locker, I do think they will have successes in this one and can understand why they are favoured on the road.

However I am also of the belief that Tennessee simply had a bad game in Week 4 as that one was sandwiched between Florida and Georgia, the two leading contenders in the SEC East. I expect their Offensive Line to give the Bulldogs the biggest challenge they have faced this season and I think the Volunteers will earn their points in this one and keep things close.

The Volunteers are 4-2 against the spread as the home favourite under Butch Jones and they will have heard how bad they are for a whole week which should provoke a reaction. Being a road favourite in the SEC is a big challenge for this Georgia team who have much bigger expectations a week after dismantling Mississippi State and that can be difficult to manage despite the experience they have.

Tennessee have won two straight against Georgia overall, and they have covered as the home underdog twice in a row against the too. I am looking for a big day from the Volunteers to prove they are still in contention for the SEC East title as well as proving they are behind their beleaguered Head Coach Butch Jones and I will take the points with the home team.

Arizona State Sun Devils @ Stanford Cardinal Pick: The public are seemingly behind the Arizona State Sun Devils this week as the road underdog after they came through with the upset of the Oregon Ducks in Week 4. I might have been behind the Sun Devils with the points a week ago, but this time around I am looking to oppose them and join the sharps who have helped this spread move a couple more points in favour of the Stanford Cardinal.

Both teams have had big Pac-12 wins already in 2017, so it is a surprise that neither is Ranked although that says a lot about the way things have gone. Stanford and Arizona State are both 2-2 and this game could already determine the losing team is out of contention in the Conference with the teams in two Divisions with a clear favourite.

It feels like a bigger game for Stanford who were blown out by the USC Trojans in Week 2 before doing the same to the UCLA Bruins in Week 4. They can't afford to be 1-2 in the Conference after three games whereas the Arizona State Sun Devils still have to face their leading teams in their own Division and are 1-0 in Conference play.

Stanford will look to run the ball this week and make sure their Defensive unit, which has underperformed despite bringing back 8 starters from 2016. To that extent the Cardinal should have success with the Offensive Line backing up preseason expectations of potentially being one of the best in College Football.

Bryce Love has been able to pick up from where Christian McCaffrey left off when he moved into the NFL and much of the Offensive play will come through the Running Back. He is helping the Cardinal move the chains at 8 yards per carry on the season and it is going to be a huge test for the Sun Devils to slow them down considering they have given up 4.7 yards per carry in 2017.

The Sun Devils have been a team you can run the ball against over the last thirteen months and that has continued through their first four games. That is key for Stanford who may be missing Keller Chryst at Quarter Back after he suffered a concussion in the win over UCLA.

KJ Costello came in and impressed for Stanford in relief of Chryst and there is much expected of him, but David Shaw is likely to lean on Bryce and sustain long drives to wear out the Arizona State Defensive Line and eventually crack through for some big plays.

You have to expect Arizona State will have their moments in this one as they are pumped up off the home upset of the Oregon Ducks. However they have to get themselves involved in a shoot out here with the Defense unlikely to stand up to the Stanford Offensive Line and long waits on the sidelines may make the Arizona State Offense a little edgy to keep up.

They should have their successes though because the Stanford Defensive unit have been underachieving in 2017, and this Arizona State Offense is a potent one. Manny Wilkens experience at Quarter Back was shown last week in the win over Oregon, although the question for him is whether he will get the time to make his plays down the field.

One area where Stanford have been strong is rushing the passer and the Arizona State Offensive Line have been having their problems both in protection and run blocking. The Sun Devils have to establish a run against a team who have given up 5 yards per carry, but I am not sure they are able to do that after seeing the performances this season and that puts plenty of pressure on Wilkens and the passing game to move the chains.

I do think Wilkens will have his moments, but Arizona State are on the road this week and that is a tough environment to back up their upset from Week 4. They have struggled in Stanford anyway having gone 1-6 in their last seven visits and the Cardinal are playing with revenge after losing to this team in 2016.

Arizona State also lost all five road Conference games by 22 points per game in 2016 and I can see Stanford dominating the line of scrimmage Offensively which will wear down the Sun Devils Defense. A couple of mistakes Offensively from Arizona State will also give Stanford the chance to pull away against a team who are 5-10 against the spread as the road underdog under Todd Graham.

Stanford were a terrible home favourite to back last season, but they blew out UCLA here last week and I will look for them to cover a big number in Week 5.

Eastern Michigan Eagles @ Kentucky Wildcats Pick: The Kentucky Wildcats have to be kicking themselves that they are not 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC East after losing by a single point to Florida in Week 4. It is important for the Wildcats to not allow the disappointment from that defeat to linger and they do look like having the perfect chance to bounce back.

That is no disrespect to the Eastern Michigan Eagles who have a 2-1 record and have already won on the road against a Power 5 Conference team when knocking off the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. However the Eagles are also off a loss and facing the challenge of a decent SEC team is a big task for Eastern Michigan to deal with.

Both teams have plenty of experience to call upon from 2016, but the better talent should be on the Kentucky side of the ball and I would expect that to show up during the course of this game. There is also a chance that Eastern Michigan are looking ahead to their big game at the Toledo Rockets in Week 6 which is an important Conference game for the Eagles.

It is hard to know how the Eagles will be able to run the ball against a Defensive Line who have been strong in 2017 and generally been competing at a higher level. Eastern Michigan have had their issues in run blocking anyway and it will be very difficult for Shaq Vann to find a way to break through for some big runs.

That means the pressure is likely to be on Brogan Roback who has been able to make some big plays with his arm, but who is also just 2-2 in Touchdown to Interception ration. Roback may feel there is room in this Secondary to make his passes, especially with the Wildcats not able to produce a really effective pass rush, but it is a big ask when in third and long constantly.

Being able to shut down the run has given Kentucky the chance to make plays in the Secondary despite the yardage allowed and it would not be a big surprise if they can snag a couple of Interceptions and keep the foot down on the Eagles.

Kentucky themselves have not run the ball as well as they would have liked, but those numbers are not helped by facing two SEC Defensive Lines already. Benny Snell has still played well enough at Running Back and I think Kentucky have room to improve on the Offensive Line which may begin to show up here against an Eagles Defensive Line who have given up 4.2 yards per carry.

Last season it was the Wildcats Offensive Line paving the way for 234 yards per game on the ground that fuelled their winning season. They haven't matched those numbers yet, and are probably unlikely to do so, but this experience Line will be able to open holes for Snell which is going to make Stephen Johnson's life all the more comfortable at Quarter Back.

Johnson had nine starts last season at Quarter Back and he has thrown 5 Touchdown passes and just a single Interception which has helped Kentucky go 3-1 through their first four games. He doesn't have the gaudy numbers, but Johnson should be able to make plays against the Eastern Michigan Secondary with the time he is likely to have if Snell is running the ball effectively.

Eastern Michigan's Defensive unit have shown improvement again this season with an experienced group back, but slowing down Kentucky may be tough especially if the Offensive unit are not able to sustain drives on the other side of the ball. Johnson will have to be aware of the ball-hawking Secondary the Eagles do have, but overall I expect Kentucky to be much more consistent Offensively and that should lead to a fairly comfortable win.

The Eagles have lost all 9 previous games against an SEC opponent by an average of 36 points per game and I think the focus on the Toledo Rockets game may come into play. Kentucky should be able to make enough Defensive plays to eventually pull away in this one and I will look for the Wildcats to have their best margin of victory so far in 2017.

Texas State Bobcats @ Wyoming Cowboys Pick: Conference play has already gotten underway for the Wyoming Cowboys as they moved to 1-0 in the Mountain West, but they have to complete their non-Conference portion of their schedule before heading into a bye week. Big expectations are on the shoulders of Wyoming having won the Mountain Division in the Conference in 2016 and the fact they have as many returning starters as they do.

Even with that mind, Wyoming have perhaps had a few more difficulties Offensively than they would have been expecting especially as Josh Allen has not kicked on as much as they would have liked. Allen has faced the Iowa Hawkeyes and Oregon Ducks from the Power 5 Conferences which may have affected the numbers so facing the Texas State Bobcats is a chance to show why some have tipped him up as having First Round NFL Draft potential.

Allen has to feel good about taking on one of the weaker teams from the Sun Belt Conference even if the Bobcats Defensive numbers haven't looked bad so far. However they were blown out last week and now the Bobcats are travelling on the road.

This game does feel like a chance for the Wyoming Offensive Line to produce one of their better games of the season and that is likely going to help Quarter Back Allen no end. Some of his struggles have come because of a lack of help on the ground, but getting a few more third and manageable spots should allow Allen to showcase his talent and move the chains against a Bobcats Secondary that has been attacked.

The bigger problems have come for Texas State on the Offensive side of the ball as they have continued to have their issues in pass protection. That hasn't been helped by a limited rushing Offense who are now facing a much improved Wyoming Defensive Line who have only allowed 4 yards per carry on the season.

That is a decent number considering who the Cowboys have faced and being unable to establish the run will mean Damian Williams is once again scrambling around and hoping to make plays down the field. Even that is a challenge considering how an experienced Wyoming Secondary have been playing and the bigger problems for Williams may be trying to avoid the turnovers.

It does feel like this could be one of the more complete efforts from Wyoming on both sides of the ball even if Texas State have been a tough road underdog to cover the spread against. The Cowboys have been a little hit and miss when looking to cover as the home favourite, but this looks the perfect chance to take some momentum and feel-good factor into the bye week and I am looking for Wyoming to cover.

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: It would be a huge upset if the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were knocked off by the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, and this is one of the rare weaker teams you will see on the Notre Dame schedule. That might sound like something the Redhawks can use to motivate themselves, as well as the fact that there isn't a lot of distance between the schools in terms of miles, but it is a big ask for Miami to win here.

This year's Fighting Irish were considered to be one of the dark horses to make the Play Offs and being 3-1 won't hinder them when you look at the schedule still to come. The loss to the Georgia Bulldogs may continue to look a 'good' one on paper especially if they keep winning and Notre Dame are able to knock off the likes of the USC Trojans, Miami (FL) Hurricanes and Stanford Cardinal.

Brian Kelly won't want to overlook any team they face and that means focusing first on the Redhawks who visit South Bend for the first time on Saturday. A defensive unit that has played well so far this season is going to be tested like it hasn't in 2017 and this is a chance for the Redhawks to show what they are made of.

While the Redhawks have stopped the run effectively, they won't have faced an Offensive Line anywhere near as good as the one they will see in Notre Dame. The expectation was that this would be one of the more improved Lines in College Football, but Notre Dame are playing way above expectations as they have averaged 6.8 yards per carry and I simply can't see Miami being able to live with them for sixty minutes.

Brandon Wimbush at Quarter Back has been a duel threat and Josh Adams has been running the ball very hard which has sparked the Fighting Irish Offense and they should be able to move the chains throughout the game on Saturday. The questions for Wimbush still come about his ability to make plays with his arm, but that will come with experience as he does have a gun there and Week 5 may be the first time when he is allowed to open up a little bit.

Notre Dame will have to be careful though as they are facing Chuck Martin for the first time who worked with Brian Kelly during the run to the National Championship Game five years ago. Martin and Kelly are close and the Miami Head Coach should know what is coming, but obviously the talent differences make it much harder for Martin to actually do something about it.

While the Fighting Irish look capable of moving the chains at will, it is a much tougher task for Miami who have not been able to run the ball. Those games against lower level teams than Notre Dame does not bode well for their chances to do that this week and Notre Dame have shown they can limit the damage they allow on the ground. Giving up just 3.9 yards per carry despite having faced Georgia and Boston College is a good return and Notre Dame should be leaving Miami in third and long spots for much of the afternoon.

Gus Ragland hasn't been playing badly at Quarter Back with 8 Touchdown passes and 2 Interceptions and I can see him making a few nice plays. The problem with not being able to run the ball is that Notre Dame can pin back their ears and allow their pass rush to flourish, with first year Defensive Co-Ordinator Mike Elko already having an impact on a unit who could not generate a pass rush a year ago.

This year Notre Dame have gotten pressure up front so it may be difficult for Ragland to make plays when he is not supported by much of a running game. That could lead to a couple of critical mistakes which allows the Fighting Irish to pull away here.

The relationship between the Head Coaches should mean Kelly does not want to blow out Miami and the Redhawks are 13-5 against the spread as the road underdog since Chuck Martin took over as Head Coach. That may put some doubts in my mind about the home team covering the spread, but I think Notre Dame need to keep winning big to show they should be a Play Off team consideration and they have all the tools to do that here.

Notre Dame can be an overrated favourite with the public keen to back them, but I will look for them to win this one by closer to a four Touchdown margin and that can see them cover this number.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick: When you think of how easily the Ohio State Buckeyes have dismissed the challenge of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in each of the last three seasons, you have to say this does not look a big spread. It might surprise you, but I am actually going against the trend of the Buckeyes winning by at least 39 points each time and increasing that margin from 39 to 42 to 58 over each of their last three games against one another.

The public would likely have backed Ohio State regardless of the number at play, but the sharps are on the Scarlet Knights which has seen this point spread come down by a point since it opened. That's not a huge move, but it is a move and I am going to back the Rutgers Defensive unit to give their team a chance of the cover.

I simply don't see Ohio State losing this game outright though.

Rutgers really struggled in Chris Ash's first year as Head Coach and it looks another difficult season is ahead of them as they are 1-3 through their non-Conference stretch. Ash had worked as co-Defensive Co-Ordinator at Ohio State, but that didn't help him in 2016 as Rutgers barely put any Offensive drives together.

It is difficult to see them moving the chains with any consistency in this one too and I am a little concerned in picking them if they can't at least show some power on the other side of the ball. There have been some issues for Ohio State in the Secondary but I do wonder if Kyle Bolin can get things on track when he has thrown 3 Touchdown passes to 6 Interceptions on the season.

The hope has to be that Rutgers can find a way to run the ball behind a more experienced Offensive Line and at least give Bolin the chance.

It may be a good time for Rutgers to face Ohio State who haven't looked completely at ease since their stunning home loss to Oklahoma in Week 2. While clearly the more talented team on the field, they have not covered big spreads in each of the last two weeks in winning efforts, and now are facing a Defensive unit that have performed well and given their team a chance for success.

Up front will be the key for the Scarlet Knights who suffered a big injury in the Secondary last week when Blessuan Austin went down. That should mean JT Barrett is able to have a big day throwing the ball, but if Rutgers can slow down Ohio State up front they may have a chance to stay in this one.

Ash will want to show the improvements the Defensive unit have made and Rutgers haven't been blown out this season despite facing Washington and Nebraska. Ohio State are better than both, but they are perhaps still rebuilding confidence after the loss to Oklahoma and even Rutgers getting up to 14 points might be enough with the way the Defensive unit is playing.

Enough for the cover rather than any potential upset, but I am going to take Rutgers here. At the moment the Buckeyes are doing enough to win games and I think they will be happy to do that again here, where even a win by a four Touchdown margin will not be enough for the cover.

Rutgers can give it their all going into the bye week, and I will take the points and look for something of a surprisingly competitive game.

South Carolina Gamecocks @ Texas A&M Aggies Pick: Both the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Texas A&M Aggies have had tough losses in the 2017 season, but at least the latter are still unbeaten in the SEC. It would take something special for either of these teams to be playing in the SEC Championship Game in December and the loser of this one may just about it call of their chances of doing that.

It is a pressure which makes this an interesting game, one in which the Aggies are favoured to win. They beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in Overtime in Week 4 to move to 3-1 for the season and it is the Aggies who have won the last three between themselves and South Carolina.

The question for the Aggies is whether they match up as well with the Gamecocks Defensive unit as it feels the the latter do on the other side of the ball. The strength for Texas A&M has been to run the ball and make a few plays in the air, but they may need to come out of their comfort zone in this one.

Trayveon Williams has been huge for the Aggies with his ability to run the ball, but he is running up against a South Caroline Defensive Line that has looked much improved from 2016. You may be able to question the Offensive Lines they have faced so far with the Aggies one looking the best by a distance, but Will Muschamp is going to focus to try and take Williams away and force the Aggies to go to the air where they may not feel as comfortable.

Kellen Mond hasn't played badly at Quarter Back at all, but he is helped massively when always in manageable down and distance. It will be a different feel for him if Williams is not allowed to rip off big gains on the ground especially as the Offensive Line have struggled when it comes down to pass protection. South Carolina may not be able to take full advantage of those issues, but they should have something on the Defensive side of the ball which allows them to at least hold the Aggies to Field Goals rather than giving up too many Touchdowns.

All the Gamecocks can ask is they give their Offensive unit a chance to keep things tight in this one. With the Defensive unit expected to make some plays, South Carolina should be able to do that against an Aggies Defense that has had some real problems to deal with in the Secondary.

The Defensive Line has been strong up front, but that will be matched up against the South Carolina team who have been much happier throwing the football. Ty'Son Williams has made some plays for South Carolina from Running Back, but the key for the Gamecocks has to be Jake Bentley at Quarter Back.

Bentley has some nice numbers throwing the ball although the 4 Interceptions don't look great with just four games played. He is going up against a Secondary who have allowed over 300 passing yards per game, although the Aggies will feel the pass rush pressure will be capable of giving them an Interception or two to feast upon.

Turnovers can be a killer for teams, but I do think South Carolina can keep this one close as long as they don't force Bentley to try things that he is still learning to do. Bentley has played well enough to make the throws down the field and I think he can help the Gamecocks at least keep things close against an Aggies team who are 7-13-1 against the spread as the home favourite in recent seasons.

Muschamp's South Carolina were not an effective road underdog to back last season, but they have covered (and won outright) in Missouri in that spot this season. His Florida team went 6-2 against the spread as the road underdog after a 0-2 first season in that spot and I think the Gamecocks are playing well enough Defensively to make enough plays to keep this one competitive.

The Gamecocks have covered as the underdog twice in a row against Texas A&M and I will back them to do that here.

MY PICKS: Temple Owls + 13 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears + 16 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Tennessee Volunteers + 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Stanford Cardinal - 17.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Kentucky Wildcats - 14.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Wyoming Cowboys - 16.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 21 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights + 29.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
South Carolina Gamecocks + 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Week 4: 8-1, + 6.27 Units (9 Units Staked, + 69.67% Yield)
Week 32-6-1, - 4.14 Units (9 Units Staked, - 46% Yield)
Week 22-3, - 1.09 Units (5 Units Staked, - 21.80% Yield)
Week 11-3, - 2.09 Units (4 Units Staked, - 52.25% Yield)

Season 201713-13-1, - 1.05 Units (27 Units Staked, - 3.89% Yield)