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Saturday, 4 November 2017

College Football Week 10 Picks 2017 (November 4th)

The first College Football Rankings of the 2017 have been released this past week and I am not the only one who was surprised to see the Georgia Bulldogs Ranked above the Alabama Crimson Tide.

If both teams win out and make the SEC Championship Game, there is every chance that they could both be involved in the Play Off with the way things are panning out.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have to feel they can overcome the fact they don't get to play in a Championship Game by winning out, but the biggest surprise may have been the one loss Clemson Tigers being picked at Number 4 above the Oklahoma Sooners and, my choice, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

It is only Week 10 though and there is every chance that three of the four teams won't be in the top four at the end of the season. However it has given us a little insight as to how the College Football Play Off Committee are seeing things when they kept the Sooners above the Buckeyes because of the head to head win they have over Oho State.

Again things can change with both of those teams already having a loss on the board and that makes every passing Week that much more important. There are more big games this week which will have another impact on the Rankings and that is why none of the top Head Coaches around the nation are going to be too worried about current placings but instead focusing on making sure they can stay keep winning games and put themselves into contention by December.


Penn State Nittany Lions @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: A narrow loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes means the Penn State Nittany Lions are going to need some fortune to get back to the Big Ten Championship Game. The chances of reaching the College Football Play Off will be gone if they are not able to beat out the Buckeyes to the Championship Game, even though that was not good enough for Penn State last season.

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions won't be thinking long term but have to take it game by game as they look to get back in contention. Losing to the Michigan State Spartans would likely end any lingering hope for Penn State, but they are not the only team coming into Week 10 off a loss.

The Spartans have beaten the Michigan Wolverines and looked to be going into a back to back with Penn State and Ohio State with an unbeaten record in the Conference, but they slipped to a loss to the Northwestern Wildcats. Michigan State have already made sure they are Bowl eligible after a difficult 2016, but they won't be afraid of playing spoiler for the Nittany Lions or the Buckeyes.

There won't be much chance of an upset for Michigan State if they continue giving away the ball through fumbles as they have been with another last week being costly. They have to be careful against a Nittany Lions team that loves to take the ball away and the pressure is on the Spartans against one of the best Defensive units in the Big Ten.

They didn't have a lot of success against Michigan when they played them earlier this season and Michigan State have to accept that they are going to have a tough time moving the chains in this one. The Penn State Defensive Line will keep the Spartans in third and long for much of the afternoon, while that will only mean the pass rush is unleashed to put pressure on Brian Lewerke.

Penn State do have a couple of holes in the Secondary, but they will be ready to prove themselves after the game with Ohio State last week and Michigan State can't hope to have consistent drives in this one.

It will be a tough game for the Penn State Offensive unit themselves as they may find Saquon Barkley bottled up for a second week in a row. That didn't prevent them finding a way to get Barkley out in the open field as he returned a kick off for a Touchdown, but the Offense itself is going to rest in Trace McSorley's hands.

McSorley should be able to make some decent plays for Penn State though as the Michigan State Secondary has just stepped back in recent games as the competition has ramped up. While the Offensive Line needs improving, Michigan State have not been able to produce a sustained pass rush which has not helped their Secondary and McSorley could make enough plays through the air to help the Nittany Lions pull away.

The favourite is 6-0 against the spread in this series and you have to respect how well Michigan State have played as the home underdog. However I do like the Nittany Lions to bounce back from their Week 9 loss and they can cover the spread in the process.


Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Virginia Cavaliers Pick: It will take something a little crazy to happen for either the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or the Virginia Cavaliers to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. However there is still plenty on the line for both teams who are looking to bounce back from losses and move a step closer to becoming Bowl eligible.

Virginia are just a game away from doing that while the Yellow Jackets need two more wins and there is no doubting the importance of trying to get those wins on the board as soon as possible. It eases the pressure which will continue to build in each passing week that a team have not confirmed their eligibility for a Bowl Game, and Virginia may be feeling that more than most having lost their opportunity to reach six wins in each of their last two games.

It is hard to see where Virginia would be able to pick up that win if they were to lose in Week 10 and that means there is some real pressure on the home team. On the other hand Georgia Tech are trying to recover from yet another loss to the Clemson Tigers and it has to be noted that they have lost the week after facing the Tigers in each of the last two seasons.

However they do look like they match up well with the Cavaliers with Georgia Tech's triple option likely to be a real problem for the home team. The Yellow Jackets are unsurprisingly one of the better teams on the ground and they will be encouraged to have seen the Cavaliers Defensive Line struggle in recent games as they have averaged giving up over 200 yards per game in each of their last three games.

With the Yellow Jackets likely able to move the ball effectively throughout the afternoon and being able to give their Defensive unit a chance to rest, it may be tough for Virginia to keep up with them here. A fresh team may be able to take advantage of what has been a struggling Virginia Offensive Line who have not been able to establish the run or protect their Quarter Back with much success in recent games.

I do think Virginia will have success at times against this Georgia Tech Defensive unit which is not one of the strongest in the ACC, but there will be pressure on them to keep up with the Yellow Jackets. The visitors should be able to control the clock and the ball for long periods which may see Virginia force things as Kurt Benkert has been guilty of throwing a couple of Interceptions and those could prove to be costly in this one.

Georgia Tech have a terrible recent record in Virginia which is a concern, but I do think they are the superior team. They should be able to run the ball effectively and Georgia Tech have bounced back from losses to go 5-0 against the spread in the last five times they have been in that situation. I like the Yellow Jackets to find a win by double digits against the Cavaliers who have suffered back to back blow outs.


Clemson Tigers @ NC State Wolfpack Pick: The ACC Atlantic Division is on the line when the Clemson Tigers and the NC State Wolfpack meet in Raleigh in Week 10. It is a big moment for both teams as the Clemson Tigers are currently Ranked in the top four of the College Football Play Off Rankings, but already have suffered a loss.

For the Wolfpack the season is going to be defined in this game as a win would almost certainly mean they are representing the Atlantic in the ACC Championship Game. However they are coming off a loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the two big wins over Louisville and Florida State have lost some of the respect they would have earned at the time which means NC State have to prove themselves again.

The Clemson Tigers are also looking to get back to winning ways after the loss to the Syracuse Orange which was really unexpected. They did beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last week though and importantly the Tigers are getting healthier which is also encouraging for Dabo Swinney as he feels his team are ready to get into a position to defend the National Championship they won last season.

Kelly Bryant is back at Quarter Back and Travis Etienne is back at Running Back after injuries which is going to give Clemson plenty of confidence. Etienne should have a decent day on the ground having seen the Wolfpack Defensive Line just have a few more difficulties to stop the run in recent weeks and that should set the Tigers up to be in a position to move the chains for much of the afternoon.

Bryant should then have the time to make his throws and the balance that Clemson can produce on Offense should keep the Wolfpack off balance in this one. They are capable of calling plays through the air or on the ground to open up other ways to move the chains and that makes the Tigers dangerous for NC State here.

It might be more difficult for the Wolfpack to keep the chains moving themselves, especially if Nyheim Hines, the leading Running Back, is ruled out for the game. Hines might be restricted at best anyway as he was dealing with an ankle injury that forced him out of the loss at Notre Dame last week and running the ball against the Clemson Defensive Line has proven to be a challenge which will shift the pressure onto Ryan Finley at Quarter Back.

Finley has played really well this season, but this might be the biggest challenge he would have faced with a Clemson Secondary who have been performing at a high level. I do think Finley will have some success, but it will be difficult to keep moving the chains from third and long and that is where I think the Wolfpack will fall down for a second week in a row.

The road team is 13-4 against the spread in the last seventeen in the series and the Clemson Tigers are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight in Raleigh. I will look for the Tigers to win and cover here and get their ACC Championship bid back on track.


Iowa State Cyclones @ West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: This has already been a seen of overachievement from the Iowa State Cyclones who have reached Bowl eligibility for the first time in five years. No one expected this from the Cyclones except perhaps themselves, but now the bigger picture for the Cyclones is finding their way to the Big 12 Championship Game.

Wins over the Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs gives the Cyclones the inside track to the Championship Game, although they have been beaten twice this season which means they would not likely be considered for any Play Off berth. In that regard the Big 12 would likely want to see Iowa State miss the Championship Game to give them the best shot of having a representative in the College Football Play Off.

None of that matters to the Cyclones who are the underdog again in Week 10 as they get set to visit the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Mountaineers still need a win to ensure they are eligible to go Bowling, and this may be seen as a good a shot to get that despite how well Iowa State have been playing.

West Virginia need to bounce back from the heavy loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys when they gave up 50 points and they can't afford to be so lose Defensively when facing what is statistically the best Defense in the Big 12. The Cyclones Defensive Line have managed to shut teams down on the ground which has forced them to throw into a Secondary that have been performing to a high level which will be a test for Will Grier at Quarter Back.

Grier has produced some huge numbers this season, but the challenge here will be to make consistent plays from third and long without giving away the Interceptions which have hurt him. The fact of the matter is that the Cyclones have turned the ball over in the Secondary too and so gaining a few extra possessions never hurts a team.

The Mountaineers were pounded on the ground by the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Week 10, but it would be a surprise if the Cyclones are able to have the same joy. Offensively Iowa State have been a little inconsistent although they will be able to lean on David Montgomery who averages just under 90 yards per game on the ground himself.

That number is a good one, but Montgomery doesn't rip off a lot of big gains as Iowa State are simply looking to control the clock and use three downs to get a First Down where possible. Iowa State will pound the rock as much as possible, but they are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry over their last three games and may need the Mountaineers Defensive Line to be as loose with their effort as they were last week.

Kyle Kempt has yet to lose since taking over at Quarter Back for the Cyclones and he has done well to look after the ball in his time marshalling this Offense. He should have a few more holes to exploit in the West Virginia Secondary if Montgomery can get the ball going on the ground and Kempt may at least move the chains to keep the Cyclones in with a chance of another upset.

The Mountaineers are 4-1 against the spread in the last five in the series, but the road team is also 4-1 against the spread. West Virginia are just 4-9 against the spread in their last thirteen after a loss though and I think they would have been really disappointed with the defeat last week. Iowa State can use the fact that no one seems to believe in them just yet as a big motivator in this one and I will take the points with the road team here.


Wake Forest Demon Deacons @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have opened up in the top four of the College Football Play Off Rankings, but they know there is a lot of work for them to do if they are to finish in one of those places. The first task is winning out and perhaps hoping the Georgia Bulldogs and Miami Hurricanes win their Conference Championships which would significantly improve the Notre Dame schedule.

They can't afford to drop a game to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons if the Fighting Irish want to earn a spot in the Play Offs and the way Notre Dame have been playing it is no surprise that they are big favourites to win this game at home.

The Demon Deacons snapped a run of three losses in a row and Wake Forest were the underdog when beating Louisville last week. They also covered in a loss at the Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame may be looking at this game as a chance to prove they can compete with the best teams by beating Wake Forest by a larger margin than the Tigers did.

Wake Forest have a chance to become Bowl eligible with a win so motivation should not be a factor in this one. The problem for the Demon Deacons is that they have not been able to run the ball effectively and now they have to take on a Notre Dame Defensive Line which has really stood up against the run.

John Wolford has been playing well for Wake Forest which makes them dangerous as Notre Dame has had some troubles in the Secondary. However asking Wolford to keep completing passes from third and long against the Fighting Irish is not a recipe for success for Wake Forest especially as the Notre Dame pass rush is likely to find some pressure on the Quarter Back.

A key for Wake Forest is how well Wolford has looked after the ball when throwing, but it can be a challenge for anyone if the Demon Deacons are playing from behind and having to throw from tough downs and distances.

Running the ball is going to be an issue for the Wake Forest Offense, but the same cannot be said for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The run has been the key to their successes this season and now they are facing a Wake Forest Defensive Line who have allowed 5.2 yards per carry as their competition has ramped up.

Josh Adams and Brandom Wimbush have been huge on the ground for the Fighting Irish and they should be able to rip off some big gains on the ground which should keep the Notre Dame Fighting Irish moving the chains. It may also ease the Wake Forest pass rush which has been very strong, although the Demon Deacons will believe they can earn the upset if they can stop the run.

That looks unlikely and it feels like the Fighting Irish are going to record another big win on Saturday in Week 10. The Fighting Irish beat Wake Forest by 38 points in 2012 and 21 points in 2015 and they have covered in their last six games overall. I expect Notre Dame to make the bigger plays on both sides of the ball and I will back them to cover the spread in this one.


Oklahoma Sooners @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: We usually have to wait until closer to the end of the season before Bedlam, but the big game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Oklahoma Sooners comes from Stillwater in Week 10. With both teams at 4-1, the winner has every chance of competing in the Big 12 Championship Game and thus earning a spot in the Play Off, but the losing team will be out of contention in the Conference and the College Football Play Off Ranking.

That hasn't been lost on either team with the Sooners coming in as the Number 5 Ranked team and the Oklahoma Sooners at Number 11.

Home advantage is one thing in favour of the Cowboys, but the Sooners have plenty of experience of playing in big games especially Baker Mayfield. This is a player who has played up to the level of competition for the most part and much will depend on him in this one if the Oklahoma Sooners are going earn the upset.

The key is how well the Oklahoma State Defensive Line can hold up against the Sooners Offensive Line when it comes to running the ball. If Oklahoma can find a way to get that established, Mayfield will have a much easier day in the office, although the Quarter Back is someone who truly believes he is capable of winning games through the air with all the pressure on his shoulders.

The expectation is that the Sooners will be able to run the ball and at least give Mayfield reasonable downs and distances to manage. Mayfield should be able to make some plays through the air too, but he has to be careful with the Interceptions that the Cowboys Secondary have thrived upon.

Out of the two teams it does feel like Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Offense will have a little more balance to play with which makes them very dangerous. The Sooners have been unable to stop the run effectively in recent games and Justice Hill has to be confident he can establish the run.

That will make things a little easier for Rudolph to get his connection to James Washington going like the Oklahoma State Offensive unit would like to do. Rudolph is well protected and should be able to make some big plays for the Cowboys and the raw numbers suggest the Cowboys can win this game.

The 'x' factor has to be how well Mayfield and the Sooners have played as he has gone 10-0 in real road games in the Big 12. This is a team who have won on the road at the Ohio State Buckeyes and Oklahoma are also 9-3 against the spread in the last twelve Bedlam games and 5-1 against the spread in their last six in Stillwater.

Oklahoma are 8-1 against the spread in the last nine against a team with a winning record and I think they will be highly motivated as the underdog. The Sooners really believe in themselves and perhaps more than the Cowboys will in those tight moments and I will look for the road underdog to come through this one.


LSU Tigers @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: The College Football Play Off Rankings certainly gave everyone a surprise by placing the Alabama Crimson Tide as the Number 2 team in the nation. Nick Saban is not going to be too concerned about that in early November, especially as the Number 1 team the Georgia Bulldogs are likely to come up against the Crimson Tide if both teams reach the SEC Championship Game as expected.

Motivation for the Crimson Tide won't be hard to find this week as they take on a big rival in the LSU Tigers after being Ranked Number 2. They will want to come out with a point to prove against the improving Tigers who have won three in a row after their shocking loss to the Troy Trojans.

That loss is a hard one to shake with the Tigers though and they head to Alabama as a big underdog. The 30 point loss at the Mississippi State Bulldogs would have contributed to that number, but the bigger factor may be how well Alabama have played and the Crimson Tide have blown out many of the SEC teams they have faced.

A big concern for LSU has to be the way the Defensive Line has played and I am sure the Alabama Offensive Line is going to dominate at the line of scrimmage when they have the ball. The Crimson Tide should be able to get the run going in this one which will help them control the clock as well as negate the LSU pass rush and that is important for the whole Offense to get going.

There is talent in the Tigers locker room though and their Secondary is good enough to prevent Alabama from having too much success through the air. The key for the Tigers is getting the Defensive Line working so they can prevent Alabama from keeping the Offense in third and short situations, but it will be difficult for them to do that through the entire game and I like the Crimson Tide getting their points as they have in other SEC games.

On the other side of the ball the Tigers will try to disrupt the Alabama Defensive Line which has been incredibly stout against the run this season. While LSU have had their success behind their Offensive Line, it is difficult to move the chains against Alabama on the ground and that could easily shut down everything LSU want to do in this one.

LSU certainly won't want Danny Etling to be forced to step back and throw the ball from third and long. The Tigers Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection and the Alabama Crimson Tide have basically spent their entire time in the opposition backfield which is going to make it very difficult for Etling to make his throws.

The passing game has been a struggle for LSU this season too and they won't find much room to exploit against this Alabama Secondary. Etling being forced to throw out of third and long would be considered to be a loss for the LSU Tigers in this one and give Alabama a chance to record a big win.

A rivalry game can see the perceived weaker team really raise their game and that has to be the only reason LSU are able to keep this close. However Alabama are 4-0 against the spread in the last four in this series although they would not have been asked to cover this kind of number in that time.

Alabama are also 4-0 against the spread in their last four off a bye and I think being Ranked Number 2 would have been the motivation they need to record another big Conference win here. I will look for the Crimson Tide to do that in front of their own fans.

MY PICKS: Penn State Nittany Lions - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 7 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Iowa State Cyclones + 3 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 14 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 21 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

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