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Saturday, 11 November 2017

College Football Week 11 Picks 2017 (November 11th)

There wasn't any change in the immediate College Football Play Off Rankings with the top four from Week 10 still occupying the same positions they had, but there was some movement behind those places.

The Big Ten is going to need the Wisconsin Badgers to run the table and win the Championship Game if they are going to have a representative in the final four having seen the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions both go down in Week 10 and in a manner that will be impossible for the Committee to ignore with three weeks left of the regular season.

Michigan State Spartans have a couple of losses behind them which suggests they would be passed by if they were to win the Big Ten Championship, and so the Conference hopes rest with the currently unbeaten Badgers.

The big winners were the Big 12 who have both the Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs immediately behind the top four teams. Those two teams play each other this week and you would have to think the winner will be given enough credit to move into the top four as well as likely one half of the Big 12 Championship Game in December.

Week 11 also pits the Notre Dame Fighting Irish up against the Miami Hurricanes in another game between two top seven teams that will have a big impact in the standings next week. The Fighting Irish are still hoping their win over the USC Trojans and possibly the win over the Michigan State Spartans are against Conference Champions to boost their chances of a top four finish. Another helpful factor would be the sole loss against the Georgia Bulldogs being rubber stamped by the Bulldogs winning the SEC Championship having already secured their spot in the Championship Game.

With three weeks left, there are likely going to be some big moves in the Rankings still to come even if things stayed pat this week. It all makes for an interesting time for the players and the fans.


Michigan State Spartans @ Ohio State Buckeyes Pick: The Ohio State Buckeyes were expected to be the team to represent the Big Ten in the College Football Play Offs once again this season, especially when they narrowly beat the Penn State Nittany Lions a couple of weeks ago. However a stunning defeat to the Iowa Hawkeyes means the best the Buckeyes can really hope for is reaching the Big Ten Championship Game and hoping others collapse at the very top of the nation.

It is a long shot to say the least and the Buckeyes can't overlook their Week 11 opponent when the host the Michigan State Spartans, a team who have the same 5-1 record as the Buckeyes in the Division. In fact the winner of this one will be in pole position to represent the Big Ten East in the Championship Game as they will be a game clear of all of the chasing pack and with the tie-breaker advantage with two games left to play.

That makes it a very big game in Columbus and the momentum has to be with the Michigan State Spartans who beat Penn State in Week 10.

However the Buckeyes will be playing with the motivation of trying to show they are much better than the blow out loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes suggested. Trying to bounce back from a loss and playing at home should get the best out of Ohio State, but they have had plenty of troubles with Michigan State in recent years including last season when the Spartans finished with a 3-9 record.

The outcome of this one is going to be decided which of these much vaunted Defensive units is going to step up the best having had some recent troubles with stronger opposition. Both have played Penn State recently and had issues and I think both Ohio State and Michigan State will be confident in their Offensive units to think they can expose holes in the other's Defense.

Both Defensive Lines have shown strength which suggests it will be a tough day for either team to establish the run. With the Offenses on show, it would be a surprise if those running lanes are completely shut down, but the holes in the Secondary of both teams has to be where JT Barrett and Brian Lewerke are focusing from the Quarter Back position.

After throwing for over 400 yards against Penn State, Lewerke will take aim at a Ohio State Secondary that has allowed 261 passing yards per game over their last three. The limited pressure will mean Lewerke has time to make his plays and the confidence shown suggests he will be able to keep the Spartans moving.

The key has been how well Lewerke has looked after the ball, but the same cannot be said for JT Barrett who has thrown a couple of big Interceptions. Last week Barrett really struggled against the Hawkeyes Secondary and he has to be aware of the Spartans Defensive Backs who have been able to get their hands on the ball.

Barrett should still be able to have a big game though and I can understand why the Buckeyes are favoured to win. I just get my head around how points they are being asked to cover when you think the last five games in this series have been decided by a total of twenty-seven points.

Ohio State have been very strong at bouncing back after a straight up loss, but the underdog is 6-0 against the spread in the last six in this series. Michigan State love being the underdog too as they are 11-3 against the spread in the last fourteen as a dog either at home or on the road and I will take the points in this one and hope for another big Brian Lewerke day in the office.


Indiana Hoosiers @ Illinois Fighting Illini Pick: The Indiana Hoosiers and the Illinois Fighting Illini are both 0-6 in Big Ten Conference play which means they are almost certainly going to be finishing in the basement of their respective Divisions. One of the two teams can at least give themselves a chance to avoid that fate by winning in Week 11 and looking for momentum through the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Indiana Hoosiers also have the motivation to win out and at least reach six wins for the season which will give them a chance to be invited into a Bowl Game. That is not something the Fighting Illini can do as they dropped to 2-7 overall, but they should still have the motivation to improve on their 3-9 record from 2016 in Lovie Smith's second season as Head Coach.

Indiana have been playing the better football of late of these two teams, but that won't mean anything going into Week 11. They do have three winnable games left on the schedule which gives the Hoosiers every chance to win out and reach the six win mark, and Richard Lagow will be given another start at Quarter Back this week with Peyton Ramsay injured.

Lagow hasn't played badly, but this is going to be a challenge for the Quarter Back against an under-rated Illinois Defensive unit. Some of the issues the Fighting Illini have had is being put in poor field position which would be difficult for any team to defend on a consistent basis, but they can make plays in the Secondary and that is what Lagow has to be careful of.

The Hoosiers will need their Quarter Back at their best because they have not been able to run the ball with any consistency at all in recent weeks. That has been a problem for Indiana for much of the season anyway and will mean Lagow is counted on more than they would perhaps like as balance can be so important to any American Football team.

Lovie Smith can't be too disappointed with the way his Defensive unit have performed, but the bigger problems have come on the other side of the ball. Illinois have only scored more than 17 points once in their last six games and it is tough to see how the Fighting Illini are going to be able to change things in this one.

Cam Thomas has taken over at Quarter Back for the ineffectual Jeff George, but it is unlikely that this Offensive unit will suddenly transform into a potent one. Half of the issue for the Fighting Illini has been the inability to run the ball and they won't find a lot of room up front against the Indiana Defensive Line barring a few big runs from Thomas out of the Quarter Back position.

Being left in third and long is not what Illinois are built to convert especially as the Offensive Line has had problems in pass protection. That is what the Indiana Hoosiers Defensive Line has really come into their own with the pressure up front meaning they have been able to get to the Quarter Back and stall drives.

It has also seen the Indiana Secondary play very well and Thomas could throw a couple of balls that Indiana will be expecting to pick off in this one. The Hoosiers certainly look the stronger team on the day and the motivation to reach a Bowl Game should keep the players focused in what is a tough road game.

However the lack of points being scored by Illinois has to be a real concern and Indiana's Defensive unit have played well enough to keep that going. The favourite is 5-2 against the spread in the last seven in this series and I will look for Indiana to keep that trend going.

Illinois are just 4-11 against the spread in their last fifteen home games and while Indiana have been far from a covering machine this season, I think they can get the better of this number on the road in Week 11.


Texas Tech Red Raiders v Baylor Bears Pick: This is the latest Big 12 game that will be played in Dallas as the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Baylor Bears meet in Week 11. Both teams have really struggled in Conference play this season as their 1-5 records would indicate, but for the Baylor Bears it has been a generally tough season as they are 1-8 overall.

On the other hand the Texas Tech Red Raiders are two games away from reaching the six wins which would make them Bowl eligible and this is a big game for them. The Red Raiders end the season with the TCU Horned Frogs and Texas Longhorns and while they may think they can earn one upset, earning two to reach six wins might be beyond them which makes this a 'must win' game for them.

For Baylor it is trying to find the motivation to get the best out of the players in what has been a really poor 2017. While not expecting to challenge in the Big 12, Baylor were not expected to be as bad as they have been although they did snap their eight game losing run last time out.

After some difficult games, the Red Raiders have to feel much happier facing an opponent like Baylor. The Offensive unit have continued earning their numbers, but now they face one of the weakest Defenses in the College Football ranks and that should mean Nik Shimonek and the Red Raiders are able to have a really big day in the office.

Establishing the run has been a little more difficult for Texas Tech in recent games, but they have played tougher Defensive Lines than the one they will see here. The run is used to just keep teams guessing what they are going to do, but Texas Tech have been happy to lean on Shimonek who has thrown at least four Touchdown passes in back to back games even though both came in losing efforts.

The Quarter Back should be able to continue from where he left off when he faces the Baylor Bears in Week 11 and the biggest fear has to be throwing an Interception or two which may be the only way to slow down Texas Tech drives. For the most part this should be a strong day for Shimonek as he will likely force the Bears into a shoot out if Baylor want to have a chance of the upset.

The Bears are capable of scoring plenty of points themselves but they are starting an inexperienced Quarter Back for just the second time in his career. Charlie Brewer played well in his first start as he led the Bears to a win over Kansas, but the pressure of a shoot out can do funny things to a Quarter Back that may not be used to dealing with it.

Baylor have struggled to offer any kind of consistent rushing Offense this season as the Offensive Line has struggled and they may not be able to take advantage of some of the issues Texas Tech have had on their Defensive Line. Brewer may also be put under more pressure from the Red Raiders pass rush while also throwing into a Secondary who have been able to create turnovers despite the big statistical numbers allowed.

That could be the key to this game with Shimonek's experience likely to lead to a shoot out win for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in this one. One concern is that Texas Tech have not been favoured in this game for some time and how the players deal with that is going to be so important, but I do think they can win this game and cover the spread.

Texas Tech should be able to ride their experience at Quarter Back and make a few big plays in the Secondary which gives them the win and cover.


Florida State Seminoles @ Clemson Tigers Pick: In recent years the ACC Atlantic Division has come down to a direct match up between the Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers and the winner has gone on to reach the College Football Play Off. In recent years both the Seminoles and Tigers have won the National Championship but this time around only Clemson have any real shot of being involved in the College Football Play Off.

The defending National Champions are in control of the Division and in an ideal spot to make the ACC Championship Game after knocking off the NC State Wolfpack in Week 10. That win kept Clemson in the top four of the latest College Football Play Off Rankings, but another loss would likely end their chances of making the top four.

That puts some pressure on the Clemson Tigers especially as the Florida State Seminoles will be desperate to play spoiler. There were some huge expectations in Tallahassee this season but an early injury to starting Quarter Back Deondre Francois in Week 1 immediately put the Seminoles behind the black ball.

Even then, most would have expected much better than a 3-5 record going into this Week which means Florida State have to win out to even make a Bowl Game. They kept their hopes alive with a narrow win over Syracuse at home last week, but Florida State are a big underdog going into Week 11 and it is hard to see how a team who were hammered at Boston College can be competitive in this one.

The challenge for Florida State is finding a way to get enough of the Offense to at least remain competitive against this Clemson team. The Tigers might not have been beating down teams, but they have a strong Defensive team and they can shut down the inexperienced Florida State Offense which has struggled.

Running the ball is going to be tough for the Seminoles against the Clemson Defensive Line which is also going to be a disruptive force when James Blackman steps back to throw from Quarter Back. Blackman has thrown 8 Touchdown passes and 7 Interceptions this season but he is going to be throwing into a Secondary which has performed at a high level for much of the season.

Interceptions could be a problem for Blackman, but avoiding mistakes is critical for Florida State as it will give their Defensive unit a chance to step up and fuel a potential upset. The Seminoles Defense is still one of the better ones out there, but they have lost some heart thanks to the Offensive problems and avoiding mistakes in this big rivalry game should keep them focused throughout Week 11.

The Seminoles Defensive Line has found itself being worn down by the Louisville Cardinal and Boston College Eagles in recent games and now faces a Clemson team who will look to run the ball as much as possible. Kelly Bryant is able to run the ball from the Quarter Back position and is well backed up by skill players at Running Back that should help keep Clemson in strong down and distance through much of the afternoon.

It is the spark the Clemson Tigers will need on Offense as the Florida State Secondary is one of the stronger ones out there. They don't give up a lot of big passing plays and Bryant has been more comfortable with the team running the ball effectively than dropping back and throwing the ball fifty times a game. If the Florida State Defensive Line cannot step up, it could be a long day for them and make it tough for Blackman and the Florida State Offense to keep up.

Clemson are 8-2 against the spread in the last ten home games against the Florida State Seminoles although they won't have seen spreads like this. The Tigers have won two in a row and those have come by a combined 13 points which makes this number look very big, but goes to how much Florida State have struggled in 2017.

The Florida State Seminoles are 0-2 against the spread as the underdog this season, although they didn't get as many points as they are in this one. The rivalry should see them produce their ultimate best effort, but I still think that may not be enough and I can see a turnover or two helping the Clemson Tigers record a big win at home and move towards another ACC Championship Game and potentially the College Football Play Off.


Georgia Bulldogs @ Auburn Tigers Pick: The SEC has two teams currently occupying half of the College Football Play Off Rankings, but the Auburn Tigers could play massive spoilers over the remaining three weeks of the season. The Tigers are 7-2 overall, but they are only a game behind the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC West and Auburn will be hosting them in the final game of the regular season.

First they host the Georgia Bulldogs who are Ranked as the Number 1 team in the nation and the Bulldogs have already secured their spot in the SEC Championship Game having won the SEC East. There may even be a case for the Auburn Tigers to occupy one of the top four spots in the nation if they are able to knock off both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide and then go on and win the SEC Championship.

A two loss team still has every chance of making the College Football Play Offs with the way things have gone up and down the nation in the last ten weeks. And not many would have a better resume than the Auburn Tigers if they were to win out from here considering who they would have to beat in those four games including taking home the SEC Championship.

As well as Georgia have played to be in the position they are in, I would think this is the biggest test they have faced this season even though they have narrowly beaten the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. They won that one on the road, but now have to prove themselves again and have been set as a narrow favourite to do that.

Expect to see plenty of Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel in this one as the Georgia Bulldogs look to dominate the line of scrimmage and get the run established. They have every chance to do that as Auburn's Defensive Line has seen a few more running lanes develop against them with the better competition they have faced, but Georgia may need more out of their Quarter Back than they are used to.

Jake Fromm has overcome any challenges he has faced since taking over at Quarter Back from Jacob Eason and the young Quarter Back also led the win at the Fighting Irish. Fromm has a difficult match up against an Auburn Secondary who have been very good against the pass throughout the season and the Quarter Back could face plenty of pressure if the running game is not as consistent as it has been throughout 2017.

Fromm has looked after the ball though and Georgia will at least make Auburn beat them than giving things up with mistakes of their own.

The Tigers are good enough to do that but Auburn have to look to finish this game stronger than they did in their two losses at Clemson and LSU. The latter loss was a real disappointment as Auburn dominated the first half before crumbling in the second, but they will feel they can challenge the Bulldogs who have dominated the weaker SEC East over the last five weeks.

A key to this game is how well the Auburn Offensive Line can impose themselves on the Clemson Defensive Line with the balance the Tigers show on Offense the key to their successes this season. If the Tigers do establish the run, they will really keep things open for Jarrett Stidham who has made confident passes from the Quarter Back position.

At home and with the way they have been playing Offensively, I have to like the Auburn Tigers as the home underdog here. The Georgia Bulldogs have played well, but this might be the toughest opponent they have faced since Notre Dame and they barely escaped that day with a one point win.

The Tigers were 2-0 against the spread as the home underdog in 2016 and while Georgia have dominated the recent series, I do think Auburn are capable of playing them very close in this one. The outright upset has a chance of coming off, but I will take the points with the Auburn Tigers who might be a touch under-rated at home.


Alabama Crimson Tide @ Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick: The Alabama Crimson Tide may have beaten the LSU Tigers in Week 10 and remained in the top four of the College Football Play Off Rankings, but injuries are beginning to rack up. Two more key Linebackers were lost last week and Alabama have now got a few doubters about their chances of winning the SEC Championship and playing in the Play Offs.

That is perhaps where Nick Saban likes his team to be as the motivation and focus should be at a very high level heading into the penultimate SEC Conference Game they will play in the regular season. Alabama do have a couple of tough road games to negotiate in the Conference at the Auburn Tigers and first at the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs are having a bounce back season having finished 6-7 in 2016 for the first losing season since 2009. They are 7-2 this season, although Mississippi State need a lot of luck to represent the SEC West in the Championship Game having gone 3-2 in the Conference.

Mississippi State have won their last four games in a row to give them some momentum to take into this Week 11 home game. Despite the injuries Alabama have suffered, it will still be a big test for the Bulldogs to get the run established in this one which is such a key to the way their Offensive unit operates.

Nick Fitzgerald is the Quarter Back for the Mississippi State Bulldogs and he is a keen runner which has helped the Bulldogs become one of the top rushing teams in the nation. The Quarter Back is definitely more of a threat on the ground than passing the ball and Alabama have been caught out by these players in the past which has to be a concern for Saban.

However I think the likes of Johnny Manziel showed more ability passing through the air and that is not something that will overly concern the Crimson Tide in this one. Fitzgerald has thrown 13 Touchdown passes, but also has 10 Interceptions and now faces an Alabama Defensive unit that will want to step up for their injured comrades and who have shown an ability to shut down teams both on the ground and through the air.

The ability to move the ball with his legs means Mississippi State's Offensive Line has been helped when it comes to pass protection. This will be tested to the full by the Crimson Tide especially if they are able to keep the Bulldogs in third and long by shutting them down on the ground.

It will be up to the Mississippi State Defensive unit to step up their play and give their team the best chance to earn the upset. However this is a team who were blown out by both the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs already this season and now have to take on the power of the Crimson Tide which has worn teams down by running behind a strong Offensive Line.

Alabama should be able to get a run game established in this one, but they will also need Jalen Hurts step up and make some plays through the air. Hurts has helped the run numbers with his ability to scramble for gains on the ground, but the Bulldogs will be able to get some pressure up front which could cause problems for Alabama if they are not able to run the ball as well as they should be able to.

Interceptions have been a huge part of the Bulldogs successes this season, but Hurts has been very careful with the ball. The Alabama Quarter Back has thrown a single Interception in his last 175 throws and Hurts knows that his job is to make sure he doesn't lose the game for Alabama and has been successful in that regards.

It is Alabama who have won the last nine in a row in this series and the last two wins have been blow out wins by 20 plus points. As well as Mississippi State have played, the Alabama Crimson Tide will be looking to silence some of the doubters that have come out of the woodwork with the injuries they have suffered and Alabama will feel they can match the kind of blow out wins the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers have produced over the Bulldogs.

Playing at home is a different feel for Mississippi State with both losses to Georgia and Auburn coming on the road. However I like the Crimson Tide to find their way to a big win in Week 11 and come through one of their last obstacles on the way to the SEC West title and I think they can make some big plays Defensively to help them overcome this number.


New Mexico Lobos @ Texas A&M Aggies Pick: Just one more win is needed by the Texas A&M Aggies to get into a position to be Bowl eligible this season, but a run of three losses in four games have put Kevin Sumlin firmly on the hot seat. Rumours persist that Sumlin will be fired as Head Coach at the end of this season and we may get a good idea of how much he means to the players when they play their final non-Conference game of the season.

This is also the final home game of the season for the Aggies which means the fans will have their say about Sumlin's position as Head Coach of Texas A&M going forward. Empty stands will be a clear indicator for the school to consider making changes, and overall it has been another disappointing year for the Aggies.

The Aggies should have far too much for the New Mexico Lobos who have lost their last four games in a row and three times failed to score more than 10 points. New Mexico have struggled in their Division in the Mountain West Conference and now have to take a considerable step up when facing off against a team from the SEC which should show up in Week 11.

It won't be a game that goes completely the way the Aggies would like as they are preparing to face the triple option Offense of the New Mexico Lobos. That can be difficult, but it might be a little more troubling for the Aggies whose Defensive Line has been worn down in the SEC and struggled to stop the run.

Overall you would think the Aggies are able to make the plays to at least force New Mexico to try and throw the ball from uncomfortable down and distance. In recent games turnovers have really hurt the Lobos and that has to be a concern when facing a team from the SEC where players tend to be a little faster and more athletic than those who play outside the Power 5 Conferences.

Like the Lobos, Texas A&M will be looking for the run game to establish their entire Offense in this one and they should have success doing that. This is a week when they are not facing a SEC Defensive Line and the Aggies should be able to hand the ball off for some big gains, especially if Trayveon Williams is running as hard as he was in Week 10.

That should make life a little easier for Nick Starkel who will be starting at Quarter Back with the limited experiences he has had as a Freshman. The Aggies have to hope Starkel can spark the passing game which has really been struggling, although New Mexico have been solid enough in the Secondary to make life tough for the young man.

The turnovers that have blighted New Mexico in recent weeks could prove to be a decisive factor in this one when it comes to covering the spread. This is a big number for the Aggies considering how they have been playing of late, but a final home game should inspire a solid enough performance from them to at least put Texas A&M in a position to cover the number.

New Mexico are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games against non-Conference opponents and I will be looking for Texas A&M to finish their home schedule with a good performance and the cover of the spread.


Purdue Boilermakers @ Northwestern Wildcats Pick: It will need something special to happen for the Northwestern Wildcats to win the Big Ten West Division as they trail the Wisconsin Badgers by two games. They have also lost the tie-breaker with the Badgers with only three games left to play in the regular season, but Northwestern have become Bowl eligible during their four game winning run.

Three of those wins in succession have come in Overtime and that has to give the Wildcats plenty of confidence to take in their final three games. Winning out will give Northwestern a chance for another ten win season and they are a win away from securing yet another winning record for a season.

There has to be a belief that that win can be secured at the first time of asking when Northwestern host the Purdue Boilermakers in Week 11. The Boilermakers did snap a three game losing run with a win last week and there will be plenty of motivation for Purdue who can become Bowl eligible by winning two of their last three games.

It still looks a tall task for the Boilermakers with the games left on the schedule and they will likely need a couple of upsets to reach the six win mark. David Blough was the starting Quarter Back for Purdue but an injury last week has ended his season prematurely and that means it is a challenge for the Boilermakers to expose the holes that Northwestern have in their Secondary.

Elijah Sindelar will take over as Quarter Back for the Boilermakers but he has struggled whenever he has come into the game for Purdue over the last couple of years. Interceptions have blighted his performances and Sindelar has to be careful when you think Purdue will feel there are holes to exploit in the Secondary, but also have to respect the fact the Wildcats have been able to turn the ball over.

A change in Quarter Back, especially an enforced one like this is, would usually mean a team leans on a running game more than usual. The Boilermakers will be no different but they will have some troubles establishing the run against a Northwestern Defensive Line which has been stout up front for much of the season.

If turnovers rear up in this one, it could be very difficult for Purdue as those extra possessions could come in handy for the Wildcats who may have some Offensive problems of their own. Like Purdue, it may be difficult for Northwestern to establish the run in this one which will put pressure on Clayton Thorson at Quarter Back.

Thorson didn't play as well as he would have liked last week, but he has been solid enough overall from the Quarter Back position to help Northwestern produce the wins in recent weeks. Turnovers can be an issue for the Quarter Back too, but he should find more passing lanes against a Purdue Secondary which should help the Wildcats continue their winning ways.

Northwestern have won three in a row in the series and all of those wins have come by at least 7 points each time. Both teams have some strong numbers but the more consistent play from the Quarter Back should come from the Wildcats and a turnover or two in their favour should be enough for the Wildcats to cover the spread.

MY PICKS: Michigan State Spartans + 17 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Indiana Hoosiers - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Texas Tech Red Raiders - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 16.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Auburn Tigers + 2 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 13 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies - 17.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Northwestern Wildcats - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)

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