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Midweek Football Picks 2018 (September 18-20)

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Friday, 27 October 2017

College Football Week 9 Picks 2017 (October 28th)

Last week we saw the Pac-12 and Big 12 Conferences see their chances of having a representative in the College Football Play Offs take a hit after the Notre Dame Fighting Irish knocked off the USC Trojans.

It was a hit but it was not a fatal one for either Conference although the top teams with fewer than two losses have to find a way to run the table and also hope the Fighting Irish slip up again.

At this stage of the season the importance of the games being played continue to increase in magnitude in each passing week. Week 8 has the big highlight of the Ohio State Buckeyes hosting the Penn State Nittany Lions which will determine which of those teams is most likely going to reach the Big Ten Championship Game and thus have an inside track to the Play Offs if they can run the table.

Other teams are trying to get back in business with most accepting that a two loss team is unlikely to make it through to the final four.

At the end of this Week's games we will also see the first College Football Ranking of the season. Right now I have to say my four teams would be Alabama Crimson Tide, TCU Horned Frogs, Ohio State Buckeyes and the Miami Hurricanes but that could quickly change and is likely to be a different feel as we get through the remainder of the regular season and then get into the Championship Games.

Week 8 Picks come from the host of games to be played on Saturday 28th October.


Miami Hurricanes @ North Carolina Tar Heels Pick: Sometimes you can throw the records of teams out of the window when it comes to these Conference games and that is what the North Carolina Tar Heels will be hoping to do in Week 8. Any hope of reaching a Bowl Game is beginning to run out on a weekly basis and the Tar Heels are 0-5 in ACC play, but this is Homecoming and North Carolina would love to become the first team to beat the Miami Hurricanes.

There is also the issue of the Hurricanes having to face the Virginia Tech Hokies in Week 9 which may take some of the focus off this game, but 2016 will mean the Miami players are not taking anything for granted in this one.

Last season Miami were beaten at home by North Carolina and it is clear that many have not forgotten about that as they get set to go on the road for this one. Injuries have crushed the Tar Heels in 2017 and been a big contributory factor in their 1-7 record, and I think those injuries will ensure Larry Fedora is not fired as Head Coach.

Three of the last four losses North Carolina have suffered have been by at least twenty-three points and they have been heavily outgained in terms of yards in recent games. That is what happens when the injuries pile up at the College Football level as players perhaps are not as motivated as in the professional ranks to pick themselves up and that might be part of the reason the Tar Heels have struggled.

Offensively North Carolina have been a mess and there is little reason to think they can get things going against the Miami Hurricanes in Week 8. Struggling to run the ball has been matched by an inability to throw the ball and it is tough to see that changing for the Tar Heels this week. That has also seen their Quarter Back put under pressure behind an ineffectual Offensive Line while the turnovers have to be a real concern now they are throwing in this ball-hawking Miami Secondary.

Keeping drives going is going to be a problem for the Tar Heels and punching in Touchdowns instead of Field Goals also will be an issue for them.

Unlike the home team, the Miami Hurricanes have been able to run the ball even without Mark Walton who went down with an injury earlier in the season. Travis Homer will get the majority of the carries this week and he has to feel good against a North Carolina Defensive Line which has given up almost 225 yards per game on the ground, which should help the Hurricanes keep the chains moving in this one.

It will likely ease any pressure on Malik Rosier despite how well he has been throwing the ball. While the Tar Heels Secondary have some decent numbers in recent weeks, that might have a lot to do with the fact that the Offense have forced them to defend short fields, while the running game being so productive against North Carolina means teams don't air the ball out as much.

The Hurricanes are 1-5 against the spread in their last six road games at North Carolina. However the Tar Heels have not covered in their last seven against Conference teams, while they have not covered any of their last five at home overall. I will look for the Hurricanes to keep those trends going and gain revenge for their 2016 home loss to North Carolina with a big win to ruin Homecoming.


Texas Longhorns @ Baylor Bears Pick: You can see how close the Texas Longhorns have come to a really special win in 2017, but Tom Herman's side have fallen short just once too often. Two Overtime losses and a narrow defeat to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game have hurt the Longhorns, but Herman may feel it is going to give his team character in the years ahead.

After a really tough slate of games, the Longhorns go into Week 8 as a big road favourite at the Baylor Bears. This is not an ideal spot for Texas which reduces some of my enthusiasm for them as they face the TCU Horned Frogs next week which could be a huge game in the Big 12 for their rivals.

Herman will not be expecting his players to overlook any opponent in the tough Conference they play in, but sometimes it is only natural for players to want to gear up for the big games on the schedule. However the Longhorns only have three wins so far this season which means they can't afford to drop these kind of games if they are going to make it to a Bowl Game.

Life has been much tougher for the Baylor Bears who have lost all seven games played this season and who were beaten on Homecoming last week. The Bears have to be respected considering how well they have competed, but a Quarter Back controversy is brewing in Baylor.

Sam Ehlinger may not be available this week for the Longhorns, but that means original starter Shane Buechele can come back into the team. Texas will be hoping they can get the running game back on track having had difficulties in their last three games to get much going on the ground, but that is not necessarily an easy task with Ehlinger being a key part of their running in those games.

It should still be a chance for the Longhorns against this Baylor Defensive Line which has not defended the run as well as they would have liked. There are also some significant holes in the Secondary which Buechele should be able to exploit as Baylor have struggled to get much pressure on the Quarter Back and this should mean Texas are able to move the chains effectively throughout this one.

Regardless of who starts at Quarter Back for the Baylor Bears, I do think they can move the chains in this one too and that will give them a chance of the upset. However there won't be as much balance to the way they can approach this game Offensively and that has to be a bigger concern for Baylor.

Running the ball against this Texas Defensive Line has proved difficult for other teams with superior running games to Baylor. While there are some problems in the Secondary that Baylor will expose, the Texas pass rush has been very effective and they should be able to put pressure on the Quarter Back which can lead to mistakes with turnovers a real worry for the home team.

That is enough of a reason to think the Longhorns can find their way to pull away from Baylor in this one. I expect Texas to win the turnover battle which should lead to a win by two scores. The road team is 13-6 against the spread in the last nineteen in this series and I will look for the road team to cover here too.


Wisconsin Badgers @ Illinois Fighting Illini Pick: The Wisconsin Badgers are in the Big Ten West and that means they are in pole position to make it to the Championship Game having won all seven games played this season. They are also 4-0 in the Conference which gives them a two game lead over other teams in this Division.

The Division looks a much 'easier' won to negotiate for the Badgers than the Big Ten East which has three teams with a 4-0 record and much to play for. The schedule does not look the most daunting for Wisconsin who could work their way into Play Off contention if they can win the Conference.

The Badgers have been very strong this season and deserve their record and they will be looking to make a statement against the Illinois Fighting Illini who have been blown out by Iowa and South Florida this season. Both of those games came on the road and this is Homecoming for Illinois, but the Badgers should still be able to show their superiority in this one.

Wisconsin will feel they can shut down the Illinois Offensive unit in this one which will likely set up short fields and they could also win the turnover battle to put the Fighting Illini in a difficult position. Running the ball against the Badgers Defensive Line would be a challenge for the best teams, but Illinois have had their issues setting up their run blocking which will put all the pressure on the Quarter Back to move the chains.

Cam Thomas may be making his first start at Quarter Back for Illinois this week and he showed that he has some wheels in his first appearance last week. However that is not going to be easy against the Badgers who are strong up front and will likely be able to set the edge against this Offensive Line which prevent Thomas from getting outside for big runs.

The Secondary have been tough to throw against if Illinois are in obvious passing down and distance, while the ball-hawking nature of the Badgers will only make it more difficult for an inexperienced Quarter Back.

The line of scrimmage can be so important in games and Wisconsin should have the edge on both sides of the ball. Jonathan Taylor is building a big reputation at Running Back for the Badgers and he should be able to have a huge game against an Illinois Defensive Line allowing 5.4 yards per carry over their last three games which have not come against a team as strong as the one they see in Week 9.

Running the ball will be good news for Alex Hornibrook who has not looked after the ball as well as he could at Quarter Back. That could be a problem when the Championship Game comes around, but for now Hornibrook should be under little pressure when he drops back to throw and should help the Badgers put up a big number.

Playing on the road as a big favourite can be difficult but Wisconsin are 4-1 against the spread in the last five games in this series overall. Wisconsin are also 8-0 against the spread in their last eight road games and they are 10-4-1 against the spread in the last fifteen in Conference play.

Illinois have some really tough numbers to overcome and I think the Badgers win this one by close to thirty points and I will look for them to cover the spread. They should dominate both lines of scrimmage and I expect Wisconsin to turn the ball over two or three times and finish most drives with Touchdowns rather than Field Goals which should lead to a big win for the Wisconsin Badgers.


TCU Horned Frogs @ Iowa State Cyclones Pick: At the start of the season the Iowa State Cyclones were expected to be one of the weaker teams in the Big 12 Conference, but a win over the Oklahoma Sooners on the road has changed the mindset. The Cyclones have backed that win up with other impressive wins and now they are 3-1 in the Conference as they get set to host the leading team.

The TCU Horned Frogs are 4-0 in the Conference and 7-0 overall and look in pole position to make it to the first Big 12 Championship Game. A win for the Cyclones would give them the edge in a competitive Conference, but I am not sure the Big 12 will be impressed if another of their top teams go down as their place in the College Football Play Offs are fragile enough as it is.

Both the Horned Frogs and the Cyclones have looked for their Defensive units to fuel their performances so far this season and it will come down to which of those units performs best which will decide this game.

Kenny Hill has improved at Quarter Back by simply looking after the ball much better than he did in 2016 and that has allowed the Horned Frogs to allow their Defense to do what they do best. Hill will have time to make his plays against this Iowa State Secondary which has been over-performing in recent weeks and that should give the TCU Horned Frogs the balance to get the rushing Offense going.

They won't be moving the ball up and down the field all day, but the TCU Offensive unit can make enough plays to put up points behind one of the best scoring teams in the College Football ranks.

On the other side of the ball TCU will feel they can show their strength on the line of scrimmage which can set them up for the win on the road. The TCU Defensive Line have been almost impregnable this season as they have held teams to 2.4 yards per carry over the season, but improved that to 1.9 yards per carry over the last three games. With the Cyclones struggling to run the ball with any consistency, the Horned Frogs can take away the balance they should have on the Offensive side of the ball and that can make a big difference to how drives are sustained by the two teams.

Kyle Kempt has been very good since coming in as Quarter Back for the Cyclones, but this may be the biggest challenge he has faced. The Horned Frogs can generate enough pressure up front to force teams to rush throwing the ball and Kempt has to be aware at how well the TCU Secondary have played. That has something to do with shutting down the run and making it third and long for teams to keep the chains moving, but the same challenge will be faced by Iowa State.

The Cyclones are playing with confidence, but this is the best Defensive team they have faced and I like the TCU Horned Frogs to win the field position battles and Kenny Hill to make a few bigger plays at Quarter Back. You have to respect the overachieving results the Cyclones have produced, but the Horned Frogs have covered in five road games in a row and I do think they win this by around 10 points.


Penn State Nittany Lions @ Ohio State Buckeyes Pick: It is a little over twelve months to the day when the Penn State Nittany Lions managed to earn a home upset over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten East. That win gave the Nittany Lions the inside track to the Big Ten Championship Game and they went on to beat the Wisconsin Badgers to take home the title.

Once again the Nittany Lions are in a position to go all the way in the Big Ten, but this time they would be expecting to be given a Play Off berth in the College Football final four. Last season that spot was still given to the Buckeyes as the Nittany Lions had two losses during the regular season, but this time around both teams come into this huge Conference game with everything on the line.

In fact this time it is the Nittany Lions who are unbeaten and the Ohio State Buckeyes have dropped a game to the Oklahoma Sooners. A defeat for the Buckeyes would not be forgiven by the College Football committee as it was last season, but the same can be said for the Nittany Lions who likely would not be invited in if they lose this one and are not able to win the Big Ten.

That means there is some immense pressure on the two teams with the Offenses facing off against legitimately tough Defensive units. Ohio State have been crushing teams since their loss to the Sooners, while the Nittany Lions escaped a defeat at the Iowa Hawkeyes and have been improving ever since which culminated in a blowout of the Michigan Wolverines last week.

It feels like dominating the line of scrimmage is going to be the key to this one as two high powered running teams face off against really strong Defensive Lines. Those battles between the Offensive Lines and Defensive Lines are going to be the key to the outcome of this one and I am giving Ohio State the narrow edge.

The Buckeyes have the slightly superior Defensive Line and the slightly superior Offensive Line which should prove to be a key in seeing Ohio State make a few big runs than the Penn State Nittany Lions. Saquon Barkley is the bigger name at Running Back, but that isn't enough and I think the Buckeyes will be able to be in a better position on both sides of the ball more often than not.

I also think the Offensive Line for the Ohio State Buckeyes will be able to offer the Quarter Back a little more protection than the Penn State Nittany Lions. That should mean JT Barrett is able to make a few more throws or runs than Trace McSorley and I am going to back the Buckeyes to get revenge for the loss in 2016.

The public are very much behind the Penn State Nittany Lions in this one but I like the home team to get the better of them this time around. Ohio State are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine home games against Penn State while the home team has covered in four games in a row.

I think the Buckeyes will be able to win this one by around a Touchdown in what is a fascinating Conference game and I will back them to cover the number.


NC State Wolfpack @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: The ACC Atlantic Division was expected to be run by the likes of the Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles or Louisville Cardinal, but injuries and surprise losses have changed things around. It is the 6-1 NC State Wolfpack who have gone 4-0 in the Conference and they come out of their bye week looking to keep the momentum going.

Any time you face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish it is a big game, but the Wolfpack might not be completely focused on this one despite coming out of a bye. Next week they will host the Clemson Tigers on Homecoming in a game that may decide the ACC Atlantic Division and that is clearly the bigger game.

However if the Wolfpack want to make it to the College Football Play Offs then they can't afford to drop this game as a two loss Conference Champion wouldn't really hold a lot of hope of being selected as one of the final four. The same can be said for the Fighting Irish who have some big wins on their schedule and the one loss to the Georgia Bulldogs is not a bad one at all.

Another defeat would end the Fighting Irish's chances of making the Play Offs, but a win could potentially put another Conference Champion on their list of defeated teams. Notre Dame blew out the USC Trojans in Week 8 and they will be looking for revenge over the NC State Wolfpack after being beaten by them in terrible conditions in 2016.

The key for Notre Dame will be on the line of scrimmage as they try and impose their strong running game on the Wolfpack Defensive Line which has played at a high level. It is so important for Notre Dame to run the ball as they have yet to really allow Brandon Wimbush to use his arm at Quarter Back rather than his legs. Wimbush has asked for more throws, but getting the run established will be the best way to allow the Quarter Back to attempt to make some plays down the field.

As strong as the Wolfpack have been up front, they have some issues in the Secondary which can be exposed and Wimbush may have his best game through the air in 2017.

Running the ball will also be a test for NC State who have a balanced Offensive unit which has helped them beat both Florida State and Louisville already. The Wolfpack should have some success, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been able to stem the performances on the ground which has given their Secondary chances to make big plays.

Ryan Finley has been very good at Quarter Back for the Wolfpack and he should be able to have another decent showing for his team. He doesn't miss a lot of passes and looking after the ball has been important for Finley to prevent his team shooting themselves in the foot. Being able to play with the space and time the Offensive Line have provided will be put to the test by a fierce Notre Dame pass rush, but the Wolfpack are well rested and should be able to give Finley enough room for success.

The game with Clemson on deck might be a distraction for NC State though and I think the Fighting Irish are playing with some momentum. The bye week would have helped the NC State Wolfpack to get healthier, but I think the Fighting Irish are the superior team and I will be looking for them to find some big plays on the ground to lead them to a ten point win.


Georgia Bulldogs v Florida Gators Pick: The 'World's Largest Cocktail Party' has not been as much fun for the Georgia Bulldogs as it has for the Florida Gators in recent years and this does feel like the biggest obstacle in front of the Bulldogs before any potential SEC Championship Game. Remaining unbeaten would give Georgia a big chance to make it to the College Football Play Off and they are coming in off a bye to prepare for this game, but it is the Florida Gators who have won three in a row.

That success has led to some very confident statements from the Florida Gators who can get back into contention in the SEC East with a win having gone 3-2 in Conference play so far. Confidence can be misplaced at times, but it is clearly some mind games at work when some Florida players suggest that Georgia know they can't beat them.

Florida are also off a bye and they are coming into this one after back to back losses to the LSU Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies. They are now facing a superior team in the Georgia Bulldogs than the ones they have been beaten by, but this is such a big rivalry game that the Florida Gators will not be worrying too much about their form.

A lot of the Georgia success can be seen on the Offensive side of the ball as that is what the highlights will focus on, but the Defensive unit have been very strong. The Defensive Line has been very strong for the Georgia Bulldogs and they will be looking to clamp down on the Florida rushing Offense which is going to be a key to the outcome of the Florida drives more often than not.

The Bulldogs Defensive Line have been able to show their strength up front and being able to slow down the Florida Gators on the ground should give Georgia a huge edge. While the Gators have been able to run the ball, Feleipe Franks has struggled at Quarter Back and he is unlikely to have much success against a Secondary who have allowed just 170 passing yards per game over the course of the 2017 season.

Florida's Offensive Line might have been strong in run blocking, but they are not so good when it comes to pass protection which has not helped Franks move the chains through the air. Franks has really struggled in the two losses prior to the bye week and I am not convinced he will have a lot more success in this one.

Running the ball is what the Georgia Offensive unit are all about and they too will be given a chance to show they are for real against a tough Florida Defensive Line. The Gators have been stronger against the run in recent games, but I don't think they will be able to completely take away Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and that is where I do give the Bulldogs the edge to find a way to break off some big runs on the ground.

The numbers will be tested as Georgia have rarely faced a Defensive Line of the quality of the Florida Gators, but the latter are just taking a couple of key injuries to the Defensive unit which could show up here. The LSU Tigers found a way to run the ball against Florida, although not consistently, and I do think the Georgia Bulldogs Offensive Line is superior and can do the same.

Jake Fromm has taken over as the starting Quarter Back for the Bulldogs and having a running game does open things up for him. This is a big test for the young man against the best Defensive unit he would have faced, but the injuries mentioned may make things a little easier for him.

The Quarter Back should be better protected than his counterpart Franks and I think the Bulldogs can cover a big number here with a slightly superior team on both sides of the ball. The Florida Secondary can force turnovers, but Georgia should keep them off balance with a strong rushing attack and I like them to snap their losing run to the Gators.

Florida are now 1-5-1 against the spread in their last seven games after a loss and I will look for the Bulldogs to prove a point. The Gators have been good out of a bye, but Georgia are the superior team and I will look for them to produce their best performance in this rivalry for a long time.


Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Clemson Tigers Pick: The Clemson Tigers suffered a loss in their last game before their bye, but this is a team who won the National Championship after a defeat in the regular season in 2016. That means there is everything to play for in this one as the Tigers look to stay on the coattails of the NC State Wolfpack who they face in what could be a Divisional decider in Week 10.

The bye will at least give the Tigers a chance to get healthier and also prepare for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets triple option. The Yellow Jackets are unlikely to make the ACC Championship Game after losing to the Miami Hurricanes, but this is a team that deserves plenty of respect with both defeats this season coming by a single point each time.

Much of the Georgia Tech Offensive output will come on the ground and while they have unsurprisingly run the ball very well, they are facing the Clemson Tigers Defensive Line which has been strong throughout much of 2017. Over recent seasons Clemson have been able to find the right answers to stop the run when they face the Tigers and now they have had time to prepare you have to feel they can do the same here.

The Clemson Defensive Line has not just been stout against the run but they have been able to produce plenty of pressure up front. That should see them penetrate into the backfield and make the Georgia Tech triple option Offense that much tougher to run with effective results.

Injuries might be the biggest problem for the Clemson Tigers in this one as Kelly Bryant has been banged up at Quarter Back. He has had two weeks to get healthier and should be able to play in this one, but Running Back Travis Etienne could be out.

That may not matter for a Clemson Offensive Line who have been able to pave the way for strong runs and they should be able to impose that on the Georgia Tech Defensive Line. The Tigers have not been as dominant on the ground in recent games as they have throughout the season, but I think that can change off the back of the bye and I will look for them to take some of the pressure off of Bryant at Quarter Back.

Bryant might not have a lot of time to throw the ball unless the Offensive Line can help the running game going, but doing that will ease the Georgia Tech pass rush. The Quarter Back will want to avoid the big hits which could knock him out of this game, but his presence should help open the running lanes. Bryant has also looked after the ball very well which should prevent this Georgia Tech from earning too many short fields in which to stay with the Tigers.

I do think this is a very strong bounce back spot for Clemson and I like them to cover a big number. They have dominated the Yellow Jackets in recent seasons, and the Tigers have covered in four games in a row against them.

Georgia Tech have been very good in 2017, but I think Clemson should be well prepared to shut down their Offense and that can lead to a big win for the Tigers.

MY PICKS: Miami Hurricanes - 20.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns - 9 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 26.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 7 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 14 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

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