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Friday, 1 December 2017

College Football Week 14 Picks 2017 (December 1-2)

The College Football regular season has ended for most teams in the nation, but there are some huge games with major implications to come in Week 14 as the Conference Championship Games are played.

That leaves a lot on the line for the teams competing, but also for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide who are going to be watching the SEC Championship Game at home after losing in the Iron Bowl in Week 13.

No one has secured a College Football Play Off berth yet and those top four places will be decided over these two days in early December.

And for a number of teams competing there is everything on the line for this one game left.

Some issues are easier to understand than others- the SEC Champion will be decided between the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs and the winner will be into the Play Off. Also the ACC Champions is decided in a straight game between the Clemson Tigers and Miami Hurricanes with the winner likely confirmed as one of the top four next week.

However the Big Ten Championship Game and the Big 12 Championship Game has plenty on the line.

Wins for Wisconsin and Oklahoma might be the easiest path for the Committee to run as both teams would then complete the top four without much fuss. It is if one, or God forbid, both teams were to lose to the Ohio State Buckeyes and TCU Horned Frogs in their Championship Games.

A Wisconsin loss would likely open the door for the Alabama Crimson Tide to finish in the top four as long as Oklahoma win. The same can be said if the Sooners were to lose and the Badgers were to win, but wins for Ohio State and TCU will really see the Committee tested having put so much stock into head to head games.

Why? Because Oklahoma beat Ohio State and both would then have two losses on the schedule, but the Buckeyes would be Big Ten Champions and the Sooners would not.

Maybe in that case TCU would overtake both teams having avenged one of their two losses from the regular season and becoming Big 12 Champions.

It is messier still when you think where Clemson could potentially stand if they were to lose to Miami, yet hold a win over the potential SEC Champion Auburn.

Trust me when I say the Committee would likely love to see the top four teams win this weekend, but at worst only see one of them lose. Otherwise there are going to be some big decisions to be made and plenty of explaining to be done afterwards!

Now onto the Week 14 Picks as the Championship Games take centre stage.

USC Trojans vs Stanford Cardinal Pick: The College Football Play Off final four is going to be decided at the end of this week's Championship Games, but the Pac-12 looks to be one of the Power 5 Conferences who will be looking through the window while the others likely have a representative in the Play Off.

It should have been the USC Trojans who had a chance to represent the Pac-12, but the losses to the Washington State Cougars and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have not looked any better during the course of the season. Four straight wins since the loss to the Fighting Irish at least has given the Trojans a chance to win the Conference, which is a big achievement, and Sam Darnold will know there are plenty on eyes on him with many considering him a high NFL Draft Pick at Quarter Back.

While the Trojans have not surprised anyone by getting into the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Stanford Cardinal are a more surprising entrant. They have won three games in a row with the key one being the upset of the Washington Huskies and last week they earned another upset when beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

That should mean Stanford are comfortable in their position as the dogs in the Pac-12 Championship Game but they will have to show what they have learned from the blow out loss to the USC Trojans back in September. This game is at least played on neutral field, but that also meant I was a little surprised that the Trojans are being asked to cover the same number as they were in their home win.

Both teams have improved since that early meeting, but I do think the Trojans are still the better of the two and I was expecting this line to be a little higher for them to cover.

Stanford do have a new Quarter Back starting now instead of Keller Chryst and KJ Costello has played well since coming into the line up. He has been well backed by a strong running game, but that is where Costello could have to shoulder more of the game if Bryce Love is still not at 100% at running back.

Love is also going against a USC Defensive Line that have shown improvement in recent games compared to the rest of the season. While they have not played a team who can run the ball as well as Stanford in recent games, USC have held them to 3.9 yards per carry over the last three and being able to keep Love in some kind of check will put the Trojans in a decent position.

Costello should be able to make some plays against the Trojans Secondary who have given up some big numbers, but he will have to make sure he looks after the ball with turnovers proving to be something the Trojans thrive upon. He will have to be aware of the pressure USC get up front with their pass rush though, especially if throwing from third and long and obvious passing downs. That pressure could force Costello into mistakes he hasn't been making, but this will be a big challenge for him.

Getting the better of Sam Darnold would certainly raise the reputation of Costello, but the USC Quarter Back has been playing well this season and showing why he could be a Number 1 Draft Pick in the NFL. Darnold has sparked a strong passing game for the Trojans, but his life could be made even easier by the way the Trojans have been able to run the ball for much of the season.

Ronald Jones has taken over as the Number 1 Running Back for the USC Trojans and there has been no step back from the way they have been able to go behind this Offensive Line. I would expect USC to win their battles at the line of scrimmage against a Stanford Defensive Line which has not been able to stop the run consistently this season and keeping USC in manageable downs and distance will only make it more comfortable for Darnold to make his plays.

USC snapped a run of three consecutive failures to cover against Stanford with their blow out win in September and I think they can work their way to a cover again. My concern is that USC have not played well on neutral sites recently with a 0-5 record against the spread, but I will look for Darnold to produce a show and help the Trojans win the Pac-12 Championship with a win by around a Touchdown.

Memphis Tigers @ UCF Knights Pick: The American Athletic Conference will see the Memphis Tigers and the UCF Knights meet for the second time this season. On the first occasion it was the UCF Knights who dominated the Tigers and they produced a big win, but since then the Memphis Tigers have won seven straight games as they take aim at the Knights again.

The challenge remains the same though as the UCF Knights are still unbeaten having won a wild one against the South Florida Bulls last week to earn their spot in the Championship Game. That means a big New Year's Day Bowl is on the line for the Knights, although the players have to remain focused despite Head Coach being linked with the vacant job at the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Frost has long ties with the Cornhuskers and he has not hidden his pride at being linked with the vacant job. However there is still plenty to gain at the Knights and Frost will be reminding his players of that after guiding this school back to relevance after taking over a team that finished 0-12 the season before he came in as Head Coach.

UCF have home advantage in the Championship Game which has to give them more confidence, but the Knights have to return to the Defensive performances that have helped them get to this position. In recent games they have struggled a little more to stop teams and the Memphis Tigers Offensive unit is capable of putting up some big numbers.

Riley Ferguson has played really well since being picked off three times in the loss to the UCF Knights and he will be encouraged by the 300 passing yards per game UCF have given up in the last three games they have played. That is many more yards than their overall season record, but Ferguson has to continue to look after the ball as he has been against a ball-hawking Secondary that are capable of making some big plays despite the numbers.

Ferguson will be expected to better his 2016 numbers in this game, but he should be ably supported by Darrell Henderson as the Memphis Offensive Line has been in great run blocking form in recent games. With the UCF Knights Defensive Line having a few problems stopping the run of late as they try and protect against the pass, I can see Memphis having plenty of success in the Championship Game to give themselves a chance for the upset.

Even with the way Memphis have been playing, the UCF Knights are favourites with home advantage behind them and it will be difficult for Memphis to slow them down Offensively too. With a mobile Quarter Back, the Knights have found a way to get the run established which has just opened things up for the passing game and I would expect UCF to get the better of the Memphis Defensive Line.

That only makes things easier for McKenzie Milton at Quarter Back who has already had a big season with over 3300 passing yards behind him as well as the threat to run the ball that he possesses. He has been well protected for the most part with the scrambling ability behind him and the only concern for Milton will be the same as Ferguson in needing to look after the ball when he throws.

So far that hasn't been an issue for Milton, but like the UCF Secondary the Memphis Tigers have made plays to turn the ball over and the Quarter Back who looks after the ball best may win this game.

It looks like both teams will be able to move the ball with consistency and turnovers may prove critical to the outcome of the game. UCF blew out Memphis here earlier in the season, but I like the way the Tigers have been playing and the revenge factor can't be underplayed.

The Knights have covered in the last five home games against Memphis, but I do think the Tigers will be more rested having not had the same time of hardship as the Knights faced in a tough win over South Florida in rivalry week. UCF have been outgained in terms of yards in each of the last couple of games and I think this is a game that will come down to the wire which means Memphis could have every chance of a backdoor cover in this one.

I like the way Riley Ferguson has bounced back from the loss to the UCF Knights and I expect a much better performance from the Memphis Tigers than when being blown out here back in September. The Knights also look like they could have been worn down to make this a much closer game and getting as many points the Memphis Tigers are have to be taken in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game.

North Texas Mean Green @ Florida Atlantic Owls Pick: The Florida Atlantic Owls and the North Texas Mean Green have both overachieved this season with neither expected to take part in the Conference-USA Championship Game. Lane Kiffin took over as Head Coach of the Owls in preparation for this season, but he has not only enhanced his reputation but also has found favour with the fans with some brilliant social media posting.

The players also clearly have time for him as Kiffin has led Florida Atlantic to their first winning season since 2007 after the school had gone 9-27 under Charlie Partridge in the last three seasons. This was supposed to be a work in progress at Florida Atlantic, but Kiffin has helped the Owls overachieve with an 8-0 Conference record and a chance to win the Championship.

They may not have the same level of attention after the splash hire made by the Owls, but the North Texas Mean Green making the Play Offs is a huge achievement having gone just 8-16 in Conference play since their 6-2 record in the first season in the CUSA. North Texas made a Bowl Game last year with five wins because of a lack of six win teams, but they have made no mistake this time around having gone 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the Conference.

The one loss? That came against the Florida Atlantic Owls here in mid-October.

The pressure of trying to win a Championship could make this a closer game than when the Florida Atlantic Owls won by thirty-eight points earlier in the regular season, but even with that in mind I like the chances of Kiffin's team covering the spread. His focus should be fully on earning a Conference Championship despite some linking his name with bigger Coaching jobs that have popped up in the nation, and I do think the Owls have been playing a little better than North Texas.

The line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will be very important in this game and I do think the Owls can have the edge on either side that can put them in a strong position to win the Championship. The Owls have been particularly stout against the run in recent games and being able to slow down North Texas would be a huge achievement as it can open up the pass rush to make the big plays to give Florida Atlantic the edge.

Jeffrey Wilson should have his moments in what has been a big season for him, but I can see the Owls finding a way to at least force North Texas in a couple of third and longs when the pass rush should be able to affect the Mason Fine throw from Quarter Back. Fine will have some holes in the Secondary to exploit and he has looked after the ball a little better in recent games, but he will have to be careful as the Owls have found a way to turn the ball over during the course of the season.

The question for North Texas will be whether or not they can find a way to slow down the Florida Atlantic Offense on the ground as I imagine the Owls will be able to do to the Mean Green at times. The Mean Green Defensive Line have found it difficult to do that throughout the season and it is hard to imagine they can begin against a Florida Atlantic team who have a mobile Quarter Back and who have been averaging 5.9 yards per carry over their last three games which isn't far removed from their 6 yards per carry average over the course of the season.

There have been holes up front for North Texas and I think the Owls will be looking to keep things on the ground for much of the afternoon to set them up for the win. Moving the chains on the ground opens things up for play-action passes and Jason Driskel has thrived since taking over as the starting Quarter Back. I expect he will have some success throwing the ball as well as running it in this one and I like the Owls to win the Championship Game in front of their own fans.

The home team is now 4-0 against the spread in the last four in this series and my only concern is that this is a much bigger spread than when these teams first met. However I think Florida Atlantic are playing better than North Texas and look more likely to move the chains with consistency, while they are 4-1 against the spread in their last five home games and home field should be all important for Florida Atlantic to record a win by closer to three Touchdowns than two.

Oklahoma Sooners vs TCU Horned Frogs Pick: A place in the College Football Play Off is on the line for the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 Conference Championship Game which was reintroduced after Oklahoma miss out on the final four a year ago. It had become clear that not having a definite Champion would hurt the Big 12, but the irony is that in the first year of the Conference Championship Game returning is the one where it could potentially hurt the Big 12.

If it wasn't for this game to be played, the Oklahoma Sooners would have been all but guaranteed a berth in the final four. Now the pressure is on the Sooners because they won't make it if they lose this game, while the TCU Horned Frogs have plenty of motivation to win the Conference even if their own chances of making the Play Offs are extremely unlikely.

That may not have been the case if the Horned Frogs had not lost to the eventual 7-5 Iowa State Cyclones as they would have been in a position to avenge what ended up being the other loss on their schedule at the Oklahoma Sooners. On the other hand the Sooners are a one loss team with a win over potential Big Ten Champions Ohio State on the road, but a defeat will not look good for the Committee and there is plenty of pressure for the Big 12 to be dealing with in this Championship Game played in Dallas.

The first meeting between these teams came three weeks ago and took place in Norman as the Sooners eventually prevailed by eighteen points. The Horned Frogs bounced back with consecutive wins to reach the Championship Game, but it will be interesting to see the kind of adjustments they are able to make.

TCU have gotten this far thanks to their Defensive play and while they are trying to shift all the pressure onto Oklahoma, there is no doubt how important this game is for them too. Over the course of the season the Horned Frogs Defensive Line have been one of the strongest looking ones in the nation, but they were absolutely hammered by the Sooners in Norman and TCU know they have to do better up front to have any chance to win this one.

If the Sooners are able to make some big plays on the ground, Baker Mayfield can underline his credentials as favourite for the Heisman Trophy with another big performance against the best Defense in the Big 12. Mayfield had three Touchdown passes in the first meeting between these teams and Oklahoma running the ball should mean the TCU pass rush is slowed down and Mayfield is given time to break a Secondary he has torched already this season.

With a team that has been built on the foundation of Defensive success, the TCU Horned Frogs don't want a repeat of the first game and have to make the adjustments to try and slow down an Offensive unit who more than doubled the season average of points allowed by the Horned Frogs.

It has been much harder for the Horned Frogs on the other side of the ball although they are still a team that will deserve their respect. Kenny Hill at Quarter Back has had a much better season than in 2016, but he isn't going to take this game on his shoulders like Mayfield will for the Sooners, while the Oklahoma Defensive unit are under-rated.

That all begins up front for the Sooners with the Defensive Line likely to leave TCU in a few third and longs over the course of this game and force Hill to beat them through the air. The Sooners Defensive Line have played the run very well throughout the season and being able to put the clamps on the TCU rushing Offense here.

Making plays through the air won't be easy for Hill either with the Sooners whole Defensive unit taking a backseat to the powerful Offense but playing just as efficiently. The Sooners can make the big plays in this one which will give them every chance to win the game and I do think if Mayfield is able to reproduce anything close to what he did in Norman against the Horned Frogs then the Sooners win this game fairly comfortably.

The Horned Frogs are just 3-7 against the spread in their last ten against a team with a winning record. On the other hand Oklahoma have thrived in this spot with a 16-5 record against the spread in their last twenty-one against a team with a winning record and I do like the Sooners to cover this spread and win the Big 12 Championship while also securing a College Football Play Off berth.

Georgia Bulldogs vs Auburn Tigers Pick: There are a number of Championship Games being played in Week 14 which are repeats of regular season games, but the biggest looks to come from the SEC Championship Game between the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs. For both teams things have become simple- win and you can call yourself the SEC Champion playing in the College Football Play Offs, but lose and those hopes go up in dust at the same time.

It means plenty of tension for both teams as the Auburn Tigers look for yet another big win over the last month. In that time the Tigers have beaten the Number 1 Ranked Georgia Bulldogs in a blow out at home and then beat the Number 1 Ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl in Week 13 to earn their place in the SEC Championship Game.

In both of those games the Tigers were the home underdog so it is something of a surprise to see them as the favourite to beat the Bulldogs on a neutral field. Of course the blow out at home will have had something to do with that, but I still expected the Georgia Bulldogs to be set as the narrow favourite and with that in mind I think there is a reason to back the underdog in the SEC Championship Game.

Revenge has to be on the minds of the Bulldogs players who wanted to rematch with the Auburn Tigers believing they needed to right the wrongs of three weeks ago. It wasn't a good day in the office for the Bulldogs, but they have since bounced back with a couple of strong wins and I do think they can run the ball better than they showed when visiting Auburn.

This time it will feel like Georgia have home field with the game being played in Atlanta and they have to believe having had a look at the Auburn Tigers will give them a chance for a much better effort Offensively. Despite being one of the best Offensive Lines in the nation and having not one, but two premier Running Backs, Georgia were not able to run the ball in Auburn but I think they will have learnt from that game and can have a little more success this week.

They are also facing a Auburn team who just had a battle in the Iron Bowl and I have to think that would have worn on the Defensive Line with yet another big challenge up front. This time I do expect better from the Georgia Bulldogs with the fans behind them.

Failing to do that and I am struggling to see how the Georgia Bulldogs win this game as Jake Fromm just won't be able to make consistent plays with the pass rush he would face and against a tough Secondary. However if Fromm is put into third and manageable spots, I do think the Quarter Back will have learned from a tough experience in Auburn to have a much better showing in the SEC Championship Game.

Adjustments should also be made on the Georgia Defensive Line who have been strong up front, but who were bullied by Auburn's Offensive Line when these teams met. That saw the Tigers make some huge plays on the ground on their way to a big win and Georgia have to show they are stronger up front this time. That task may be helped by the fact that Kerryon Johnson is banged up at Running Back for the Tigers, although I doubt he sits this game out.

If the holes are opened up front as they were in the regular season, Auburn may be able to use another Running Back and still have success, but Georgia will have plenty to prove here. They will want to get some pressure on Jarrett Stidham by getting the Tigers into obvious passing downs and seeing if the Quarter Back can make the big plays on a consistent basis.

Stidham has played well for the Tigers as their starting Quarter Back but it would be a much more difficult day for him in third and long than third and manageable considering how well the Bulldogs Secondary have played. The numbers all season have been good looking, but Georgia have to be better at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to win this game.

I think they can do that and this spread looks to have made a huge move. If the game on November 11th had been played on a neutral field, Georgia would have been 5.5 point favourites, but instead they are coming in as a 2 point underdog and I think that is putting too much stock into the defeat the Bulldogs suffered on the road at Auburn.

Georgia said they wanted to this game ever since that loss and I think the team will use the loss as a chip on their shoulders as well as suddenly being the underdog. While the Tigers have come out of the tougher looking SEC West, I do think those games accumulate the wear and tear and coming off a tough Iron Bowl win might leave them ripe for the upset.

With what will feel like home field advantage, I am going to take the points here with the Bulldogs who will be looking for revenge. I expect them to be a lot better than they were in the loss in Auburn and I can see the Bulldogs winning this one outright so I will take the points here with a team that would have been favoured in this situation just three weeks ago.

Troy Trojans @ Arkansas State Red Wolves Pick: The Sun Belt Conference may not have a Championship Game, but this is between two of the top three teams in the Conference and has major implications. The winner of the game will have at least a share of the Championship, but would be an outright winner if Appalachian State have not won their final regular season game earlier in the day.

Both of these teams have lived up to the preseason hype with many calling this final regular season game as having the potential to decide the Sun Belt Conference Champion. Both teams are already Bowl eligible, but the winner of this won't only have a share of the Championship in this Conference, but they will also match last season's win total as Troy have put together a 9-2 record so far and the Arkansas State Red Wolves are at 7-3.

Confidence shouldn't be a problem for the Trojans or the Red Wolves with a winning run heading into the final regular season game. Home advantage saw Arkansas State open this week as a narrow favourite, but the money has come in for Troy and the spread has flipped a couple of points to make the Trojans favourites instead and I do like them to win here.

The Defensive Lines have been strong for both the Trojans and the Red Wolves and it is going to be tough for either team to establish the run. Out of the two I do give Troy a little more chance to do that and that is mainly down to the fact their Secondary have performed better than Arkansas State's and so they may be able to commit one or two men more to stop the run than the Red Wolves will be able to do.

Justice Hansen has produced some huge numbers for Arkansas State from the Quarter Back position, but his protection could have some problems against the fierce Troy pass rush which produced DeMarcus Ware. The Trojans have been penetrating the backfield and getting to the Quarter Back for much of the season, but have ramped that up in their most recent games and they could force Hansen to throw from some tough positions which will only give the ball-hawking Secondary a chance to make some big plays.

Passing the ball against Troy has not been easy with that pass rush coupled with a strong Defensive Line that has held teams to 112 yards per game on the ground at a very good 3 yards per carry. Despite the strong season Hansen has put together, I do think the Troy Defensive unit can make the plays to give them a chance to win this game.

While Troy themselves will have some troubles running the ball, I do expect them to have more success than Arkansas State. That should only make things easier for Brandon Silvers at Quarter Back who has picked up his play in recent weeks as his confidence has grown.

Silvers has been protected better than Hansen has at Arkansas State and giving him a little more time should see him exploit the Red Wolves Secondary which has given up some big plays. The Quarter Back has also looked after the ball a little better than Hansen and I think that gives Troy the chance to win this game and take at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

Arkansas State have won four in a row in this series which will be a mental obstacle Troy have to overcome, but I think the Trojans are the better team this season. The Red Wolves can be a tough out at home, but I believe Troy can find the bigger plays in this one on both sides of the ball and I like them to win and cover.

Fresno State Bulldogs @ Boise State Broncos Pick: The Mountain West Conference Championship Game was already set in stone in Week 13, but a quirk in the schedule meant the Fresno State Bulldogs and Boise State Broncos met in Fresno. Not many would have picked the Bulldogs to be in a position to make the Championship Game having gone 1-11 last season and having a losing record in the three seasons since Derek Carr was Drafted by the Oakland Raiders.

It was a homecoming for Jeff Tedford in his first year as the Head Coach for the Bulldogs and the team and fans responded as Fresno State would have wanted.

Boise State have been a much more consistent performer in recent years and they make the Mountain West Championship Game for the first time since 2014 despite having at least nine wins in each of the last three seasons. They have reached that number again in 2017 and Boise State can match the ten wins of 2016 with a victory on their home turf and earning revenge for the defeat to Fresno State last week.

It was a close game, but the Bulldogs win by eleven points means they are getting only a couple more points on the spread than they were given as the home underdog in Week 13. I do wonder if the Broncos held something back in that game to make sure they have something to surprise Fresno State in the Championship Game and that does make Boise State dangerous in this one.

With that in mind I still think this is too many points for the confident Bulldogs to be getting as they look for a fifth straight win. The Fresno State Defensive unit have picked up their play this season to spark the successes the Bulldogs have had, especially when it came to playing their Conference schedule.

Stopping the run has been a key part of the Defense of the Bulldogs and they were able to slow down the Boise State Broncos last week and kept their Offensive unit in third and long enough times to make some stops. Brett Rypien should still be able to make his plays from the Quarter Back position but it is always tougher to do that when a team is not able to run the ball and that will be the key for Fresno State again this week.

Running the ball was an issue for the Bulldogs in Week 13 too, but Marcus McMaryion had another strong day at Quarter Back. I do think McMaryion can have success again this week but dealing with the hostile atmosphere will be so important if Fresno State are going to have a chance of the upset.

I do think both teams will make the adjustments from Week 13 to make this another competitive game and with that in mind it feels like Fresno State are receiving too many points here. The underdog has now covered in the last four games in this series, while Boise State are 3-12 against the spread in the last fifteen home games.

The Broncos are also 4-10 against the spread in their last fourteen games against a team with a winning record, while Fresno State 10-1 against the spread in the last eleven against a team with a winning record. The Bulldogs have been money at the betting window over the last couple of seasons despite them having a poor straight up record in 2016, and I will take the points on offer in this one.

Clemson Tigers vs Miami Hurricanes Pick: The ACC Championship is on the line and also a place in the College Football Play Off when the Clemson Tigers and the Miami Hurricanes meet on Saturday in North Carolina. It would be hard to make a case for the losing team to earn a spot in the top four barring something calamitous happening throughout the Championship Games, and that means there will be some tension for the teams to deal with.

Historically the Miami Hurricanes have been the bigger name, but they are playing in the first ACC Championship Game since joining the League in 2003 which has to be a surprise to their fanbase. On the other hand Clemson have become a team not only contending for Conference Championships, but one that is amongst the favourites to win the National Championship.

The defending National Champions will likely be the favourites if they are able to make the College Football Play Off having already secured a win over the Auburn Tigers who could be the SEC Champions. The Clemson Tigers have won their last five games and mostly in dominating fashion which is the reason they are big favourites to beat Miami who were surprisingly beaten by the Pittsburgh Panthers in Week 13 to end their unbeaten run in the 2017 season.

Clemson have won the ACC Conference Championship Game twice in a row and have also played in the National Championship two seasons in a row with one win and one loss. The Tigers definitely look like they have the edge in this one with the experience a big plus over the Miami Hurricanes.

The Tigers will look to show their dominance immediately by trying to run the ball against the Miami Defensive Line which has been the foundation for the successes the Hurricanes have had this season. It won't be easy for Clemson but they could open up the running lanes with their ability to throw the ball, although the Tigers won't want Kelly Bryant left in third and long too often.

That will allow Miami to unleash their pass rush which has effectively rattled Quarter Backs to the point of creating many turnovers, but it will be interesting to see if they can rattle Bryant. His protection hasn't always stepped up, but Bryant has been good at limiting the turnovers and that may be enough for the Tigers who have to feel their own Defensive unit can make the plays to stop Miami as long as they are not dealing with short fields.

Bryant has played well in recent games and there have been a few more holes in the Miami Secondary, but he has to play mistake free football.

Doing that will mean Clemson won't lose out on the field position battle and force Miami to make plays with their Offense rather than thriving on mistakes made by opponents. There are some big questions about the Hurricanes on the Offensive side of the ball which will be tested by the Clemson Tigers who have one of the better Defensive units in the whole of College Football.

Miami have been able to run the ball effectively even without injured Mark Walton, but Clemson may focus on stopping them up front and force Malik Rosier to beat them through the air. The Tigers Defensive Line has been stout throughout the season, but the decision to commit to stopping the run may also be influenced by the fact that the Miami Receiving corps have been banged up.

The Clemson Secondary have played really well too and facing an inexperienced Receiving corps should mean they can handle things in one on one coverage and allow the Safeties to look to stop the run. Keeping Miami in third and long would make it difficult for this Offense to move the chains with any consistency and this is also a Tigers Secondary that can make plays through the air to turn the ball over.

It has to be said that Miami will be playing with a lot of revenge considering the manner in which Clemson humiliated them in the regular season in 2016. However they don't have the big game know how of the Clemson Tigers and the Hurricanes are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven when playing on a neutral ground.

Clemson are 9-1 against the spread in their last ten on neutral field and I will look for them to shut down the Miami Offense and make enough plays on the other side of the ball to cover a big spread. It won't be easy considering how well the Hurricanes Defensive unit have played, but I can see them being worn down as the game goes and Clemson can extend the lead late in the game to ensure a College Football Play Off spot is secured with a double digit win in the Championship Game.

MY PICKS: USC Trojans - 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Memphis Tigers + 7 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Florida Atlantic Owls - 11.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 7 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Troy Trojans - 1 Point @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Fresno State Bulldogs + 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 9 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

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