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Saturday, 17 November 2018

College Football Week 12 Picks 2018 (November 17th)

The final two weeks of the College Football regular season can be very intense with big games scheduled all around and that intensity is only ramped up with the College Football Play Off that has been introduced in recent years.

The Championship Games are vitally important of course, but it does feel that some of the Conferences are loaded in one Division which means the regular season games remaining are that much more important.

The Big Ten is a case in point- in Week 13 the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes will meet with the winner progressing to the Championship Game. There is no doubt that is essentially a Play Off game with the loser eliminated and the winner expected to go on and represent the Conference in the post-season.

We know there are four places up for grabs in the Play Off and three teams very much have their own destiny firmly in their grip. Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame likely are invited as long as they win out and in the case of the first of those teams I even think one loss isn't going to stop anyone asking them to compete for the National Championship they won last season.

One loss for the latter two will really shake things up and I think the Big 12 Champion and potentially the Pac-12 Champion could be involved (Washington State Cougars have to be the one loss Pac-12 Champion for that to happen), but the College Football season has shown you can never be overconfident in knowing what is coming next.

Penn State Nittany Lions @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick: There were some big hopes in the 2018 season for the Penn State Nittany Lions who have won at least eleven games in back to back years under James Franklin. Two years ago they won the Big Ten Conference but were not invited into the Play Offs, and the hope was that they could get into the final four this time around.

Playing in the Big Ten East Division is a tough test for any team with three legitimate contenders to make the Play Offs all involved in the Division. Unfortunately for Penn State they are the ones that have come up short although the goal now is to try and win out and reach double digit number of wins for a third year in a row.

They can move one step closer when they visit the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Week 12 who are missing out on the Bowls again this season. They have not managed to win more than four games in any of their last four seasons and the Scarlet Knights head into this one having been blown out by the Michigan Wolverines at home last week.

A final home game should offer some motivation for the Scarlet Knights but they have lost by 39 points and 33 points in the last couple of years in this spot.

Offensively it has been a tough season for Rutgers but they could have some success running the ball as long as this game is competitive. Isaih Pacheco had a memorable run against the Michigan Wolverines in Week 11 and the Running Back could have some success against a Penn State Defensive Line which has struggled to stop the run for much of the season.

Those issues have been highlighted by the better teams Penn State have played in the 2018 season, but they will know they can clamp down on the run and force the Scarlet Knights to try and beat them through the air. The Nittany Lions should be able to contain Artur Sitkowski and they can get some pressure up front if they are able to slow down the rush which would make it very difficult for the Quarter Back to move the chains.

Week 12 is the chance for Trace McSorley to break the Penn State record for number of wins by a starting Quarter Back and he should be able to lead the Nittany Lions to success as long as the Defensive unit have shut down the Scarlet Knights as expected.

It may not be down to the Quarter Back anyway as the Nittany Lions are likely to give the ball to Miles Sanders and look for the Running Back to pick up from where he left off last week. Sanders reached 1000 rushing yards in the win over the Wisconsin Badgers last week and he figures to have a big game against this Rutgers Defensive Line which has allowed 5.6 yards per carry through the season.

That should open things up for McSorley to make plays through the air when he is needed, and I think the Penn State Nittany Lions will be too good for the Scarlet Knights.

Covering a big spread is not going to be easy, but Penn State have been worth backing in Conference games and they are 9-4 against the spread in their last thirteen road games. Their last three wins over Rutgers have all come by at least 25 points and they can find some big runs on the ground to hand the Scarlet Knights a tenth straight loss in 2018.

Syracuse Orange v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are likely just a couple of wins away from making sure they remain unbeaten and earn a spot in the College Football Play Offs. I can't see a situation where an unbeaten Notre Dame would miss out at this stage of the season, but one loss would mean a lack of a Conference Championship would knock the Fighting Irish out.

Essentially they are already in Play Off mode and this may be the toughest of the two games left for Notre Dame who finish the season with a trip to the USC Trojans. At the start of the 2018 season not many would have predicted that, but the Syracuse Orange have already won their most games in a single season since 2012.

It has been a great season for the Orange who had finished each of the last three seasons with just four wins per season. This season they have already produced eight wins, but it won't be enough to play for the Conference Championship as they are in the same Division as the Clemson Tigers who needed to produce their very best football to beat Syracuse earlier this season.

Straight away it does feel the points being given to the Orange in this neutral field game are too many and I am very much looking to back Syracuse here.

Syracuse have won four straight games since losing back to back games to Clemson and Pittsburgh and those two teams are set to play each other in the ACC Championship Game. It shows how well the Orange have been playing and they are going to need to keep the run game going as well as it has been to make sure they can stay competitive in this one.

Over the last few weeks there have been some signs that the Notre Dame Defensive Line is not as comfortable containing the run as they had been and Syracuse need to expose that. Last week they crushed Louisville on the ground, but the Orange will recognise it will be much more difficult this week even though I think it is entirely possible they can establish the run.

Eric Dungey is another who can run the ball effectively from the Quarter Back position and that ability could help the passing lanes open up. It has to be said the Fighting Irish Secondary have played well all season so throwing against them won't be easy which doubles down on the importance of establishing the run to have a chance in this one.

Notre Dame should have Ian Book back at Quarter Back this week, but they didn't miss the presence of the player who has taken over that position when they crushed Florida State in Week 11. Brandon Wimbush came in an excelled for the Fighting Irish last week, but Book has been a revelation for the team and made them much more consistent and balanced.

Book is going to have a tough time throwing the ball against the Syracuse Secondary which has been aided by the pass rush pressure generated, although they still do give up some big yards. Much will depend on whether the Notre Dame Offensive Line can get the better of the Syracuse Defensive Line and establish the run, but the latter have been showing improvement and have proven much tougher to run against them earlier in the season.

With Book back it is difficult to see Notre Dame slipping up here, but I do think Syracuse can give them something to think about as they have done for every opponent this season. That is generally highlighted by Syracuse's 9-3 record against the spread in their last twelve games against a team with a winning record and they have played well enough on neutral field to think they can keep this one competitive too.

Notre Dame did beat Syracuse by 17 points two years ago, but the Orange look much more competitive now and they can keep this one within the number.

USC Trojans @ UCLA Bruins Pick: There is still an outside chance for the USC Trojans to find their way into the Pac-12 Championship Game but they are going to need to win in Week 12 and also have a number of results go their way over the next couple of weeks. To say it is a long shot is an understatement and only someone who has their hands on Grays Sports Almanac would even think about backing the Trojans to be playing in the Championship Game.

This rivalry game could be more important for another reason as the Trojans have yet to secure their sixth win to become Bowl eligible for the 2018 season. They are playing a UCLA Bruins team who were expected to have some teething problems in the first year under new Head Coach Chip Kelly, but there should be plenty of motivation to play spoiler for the Trojans especially in front of their own fans.

Neither team can really point to great form going into Week 12 with the USC Trojans dropping three of their last four games and UCLA losing three in a row. The losses for the Trojans have left them in this tough position to make a Bowl Game and they must know this is their best chance to earn a sixth win as they are hosting the currently unbeaten and Play Off chasing Notre Dame Fighting Irish next week.

Pressure is on Clay Helton as Head Coach of the Trojans and that means anything less than a win may see a change made in the off-season. He will be confident in the Trojans chances if they can run the ball successfully and there is every chance Aca'Cedric Ware can make it three games in a row where he has reached 100 yards on the ground. The Trojans Offensive Line have opened some big holes for the Running Back and they are facing a UCLA Defensive Line which has struggled to stop the run all season.

If they can run the ball it may open things up for JT Daniels to have a reasonable game despite not really having the kind of season expected. I would think the Trojans are capable of running the ball well enough to give the Quarter Back a chance and I like USC's chances of scoring the points to win this game.

The challenge for the UCLA Bruins is trying to keep up with the Trojans if they are moving the ball as effectively as I believe they can. Wilton Speight almost led a drive to snap the losing run the Bruins have been on but this could be a tougher afternoon for the Quarter Back and the Bruins against a strong Defensive unit the USC Trojans have.

A key to the game will be how well USC play up front and whether they can continue to get enough stops on the running game of opponents. They have been able to clamp down on the run and restrict teams to 4 yards per carry over their last three games and that is going to be important to force Speight to beat them through the air.

Speight should have some success, but this USC Secondary have been playing well despite the poor run of results. I expect the Quarter Back should be able to have some major plays against the Secondary, but the Trojans have a major pass rush that can have success if they are able to slow down the run and I like the Trojans as the narrow road favourite.

The Trojans have recovered from losses when it comes to cashing in at the window and they are 15-7 against the spread in their last twenty-two following a defeat. USC don't have a great record here against the spread, but the UCLA Bruins have struggled for much of the season and I like USC to come through with a win and cover as well as taking home all bragging rights.

Arizona Wildcats @ Washington State Cougars Pick: Mike Leach is unconcerned about what the Washington State Cougars need to do to be invited into the College Football Play Off. Instead his sole concern is to guide the Cougars to a Pac-12 North Division title over the next two games and then to win the Pac-12 Championship Game at the beginning of December.

The Cougars hold their own destiny in their hands knowing three wins would be enough to achieve all of the goals they would have set for themselves at the start of this season.

A big game with the Washington Huskies is on deck and ultimately that could be the game that decides the destiny of this Division, but Washington State fans will be heading to the Stadium hoping for a win this week to keep Play Off dreams alive.

Other goals remain for the Cougars who can win eleven games for the first time in the history of the school, but they can't underestimate an Arizona team who can still win their own Pac-12 South Division and reach the Championship Game.

The Wildcats have won two games in a row and they have a team that can run the ball very effectively which makes them a threat to the Cougars. The key for Arizona is controlling the clock and making sure the powerful Washington State Offense is left to cool down on the sidelines as long as possible, but the Cougars Defensive Line has played well and will feel they can at least make some plays up front.

Washington State have been particularly strong at stopping the run at home and it is going to be a vital part of this game. If they can get Arizona into obvious passing situations, the Cougars will allow the pass rush to take over and at least stall some drives while also getting the ball back for Gardner Minshew II and the powerful Offense.

The 'Air Raid' Offense is alive and well in Washington State and Minshew II is a big reason why they have been performing as well as they have. Minshew II is the number one passer in the country and he should be able to have success against the Arizona Secondary whenever he has the ball in his hands.

Much is down to Minshew II and the passing game with the Running Backs generally used to come out of the backfield and catch balls in space. James Williams already has the second most receptions from a Running Back in school history, but he will still be used to run the ball at times just to keep the Wildcats honest in this one.

It is a revenge game for the Cougars who were blown out by the Arizona Wildcats last season, and the last time they met here it ended with a strong win for Washington State. The Wildcats are also 4-14 against the spread in their last eighteen road games and the Washington State Cougars have been money at home.

This is a big spread and especially with the Division likely on the line next week, but Washington State are on a roll and I think they can have too much Offensive power for the Wildcats.

MY PICKS: Penn State Nittany Lions - 28 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Kentucky Wildcats - 16.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 14 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
NC State - 15.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
USC Trojans - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
West Virginia Mountaineers - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Washington State Cougars - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Week 11: 5-1, + 3.59 Units (6 Units Staked, + 59.83% Yield)
Week 10: 5-2, + 2.63 Units (7 Units Staked, + 37.57% Yield)
Week 95-3, + 1.73 Units (8 Units Staked, + 21.63% Yield)
Week 86-4, + 1.46 Units (10 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 75-5, - 0.45 Units (10 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)
Week 65-5, - 0.59 Units (10 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)
Week 55-3, + 1.55 Units (8 Units Staked, + 19.38% Yield)
Week 47-4, + 2.41 Units (11 Units Staked, + 21.91% Yield)
Week 35-5, - 0.55 Units (10 Units Staked, - 5.5% Yield)
Week 26-5, + 0.52 Units (11 Units Staked, + 4.73% Yield)

Season 201854-37, + 12.30 Units

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