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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Boxing Picks 2019- Errol Spence Jr vs Shawn Porter (September 28th)

We are now entering the final three months of the 2019 calendar year and in Boxing terms that does mean the 'second half' of the season when the cards come thick and fast weekend after weekend.

The really big cards begin on the final Saturday of September with a Unification fight in the loaded Welterweight Division as Errol Spence Jr and Shawn Porter look to put themselves just two belts from being Undisputed in a very tough Division.

The third of those belts is held by Manny Pacquiao and him being an in-house fighter means we are very likely to be in a position to see the winner of Spence Jr-Porter taking on the the Filipino legend in the early part of 2020. Personally I don't think Pacquiao really wants anything to do with Spence Jr, but it might be the only avenue for him without dropping the belt and hopefully in twelve months time we will be looking forward to Terence Crawford taking on the winner of this mini-tournament.

With Boxing I won't hold my breath, but for now I am looking forward to a decent looking card coming from Los Angeles.

The Boxing Picks have not been as strong as 2018 thanks to a poor run of form and the last selection was Sergey Kovalev beating Anthony Yarde on points. It got close before Yarde ran out of steam having emptied his tank to almost stop the Champion and he was eventually stopped in the Eleventh Round.

I have a very slight profit for the 2019 season, but it has been tough sledging of late and I am looking for much better in the 'second half' of the year.

Josesito Lopez vs John Molina Jr
Just take a look through some of the names in the 147 Division and you will see how difficult it is going to be for people to get into a position to win World Titles considering the Champions in the Welterweight Division.

This is something of a crossroads fight for Josesito Lopez and John Molina Jr as the two friends put that aside and look to move into a position to have one more really big bout.

Both Lopez and Molina have won thirty plus fights in their careers while also suffering eight defeats as they have just found a ceiling to their talent. The losses have come against some top level names, but Lopez has been given another chance after getting very close to stopping Keith Thurman back in January which would have derailed the then unbeaten Champion from his big fight with Manny Pacquiao.

John Molina Jr was beaten the next month by Omar Figueroa and you have to believe the losing fighter is going to have to contemplate retirement. Neither is a young fighter in terms of age or miles on the clock and I don't think either is going to be the same out of this Ten Rounder in which I expect both Molina and Lopez to stand in the middle of the ring and refuse to take a backwards step.

There is a lot on the line for both with the winner potentially being moved back into a position to fight for a World Title. For some veterans it might mean being a little more cautious to make sure you can put the win on the board, but I think Lopez and Molina Jr can only really fight one way and they are looking to entertain the fans.

I think it will be a tough fight and both have shown they can hold their own, but they have faced some stoppages too. Whether the other hits hard enough to do the same in this one is not clear, but I do think Molina Jr in particular might have lost some of the punch resistance and I am favouring Lopez to win the fight.

However I can't completely dismiss Molina Jr's chances because he does have a big shot in the locker that can change the fight in his direction. He might have some early successes, but I think Josesito Lopez will begin to wear him down and start finding some openings with both hands being let go.

The smart play has to be the favourite winning this one on the cards in the shortened Ten Rounder, but I think Lopez might be able to put a flurry together to get this done within the distance. Both won't have to go looking for the other and I think Lopez can put enough together in the second half of the fight to get the referee or the corner to jump in for a tough Molina Jr who will want to end this by going out on his shield.

Mario Barrios vs Batyr Akhmedov
If you judge on prices alone, this is the most competitive fight at the Staples Center on Saturday as Mario Barrios and Batyr Akhmedov put unbeaten records on the line to win a vacant World Title in the 140 pound Division.

The winning fighter will be in a position to go into some huge fights in the months ahead in a loaded Division that is going to have a clear Number 1 when the Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor bout is completed at the end of October.

Barrios has moved up the Divisions and the decision has looked a good one as he seems to have brought some power up to the Light Welterweight ranks. The American has stopped the last eight opponents he has faced, but this is a different sort of test against someone who has amateur experience and a team that clearly feels Akhmedov is ready to take the next step in his career as he goes in for a Title in his eighth professional fight.

Both have a couple of good looking wins on the resume which has to be respected, but I have to really like the way Barrios was able to beat Juan Jose Velasco. He stopped Velasco in the Second Round which is six Rounds quicker than Regis Prograis was able to do it and Barrios clearly has some pop.

The fact that Akhmedov has been put down has to be a concern too and Barrios has the height and length to really work his way into a strong position in this fight. I expect there will be some caution early on, but Barrios may begin to turn the screw the deeper we get into this fight and it might be a step too much at this stage of his career for the Russian.

I do always have to have respect for Eastern European fighters who have a decent amateur career when they head into the pro ranks, especially those who seem to be comfortable going in for World honours very early on in their careers. The team clearly believes in Akhmedov and this is the 'easiest' way to win a World Title when facing off for a vacant belt, but I think Mario Barrios is set to keep his good times rolling and be in line for some big fights in the next twelve months.

A small interest in Barrios being able to close the show inside the distance is the play and I see that coming in the second half of this fight as his length begins to judge the distances better between him and Akhmedov. A late stoppage from the ref or the corner is the play.

Anthony Dirrell vs David Benavidez
This was a World Title that David Benavidez held before being stripped of it after using recreational drugs, but he can return to the ranks of World Champion by beating current holder Anthony Dirrell.

The Champion was perhaps a little fortunate to get away with the Title in his hands in the win over Avni Yildirim which saw the fight ending on a Technical Decision after Dirrell received a cut. He looked to be tiring in that fight and it was very close on the cards at the time of referee going to the cards.

Talk of retirement is never a good thing for a Boxer and I do wonder if the veteran has enough to hold off a young, hungry fighter in David Benavidez. The fact this is for a Title that he did not lose in the ring should be motivation enough as Benavidez looks to move towards the top of the Super Middleweight Division which has some quality operators involved in it.

Anthony Dirrell is on a five fight winning run which has to be respected and I do think he is a tougher fighter than his brother. Andre Dirrell is a slick Boxer, but I always felt he would look for a short way out of fights when the going got tough, but that is not the way Anthony Dirrell has operated and I do think he will give his all for as long as he is in the ring.

You don't want to judge a fighter by his last performance, but I do think Dirrell at 34 years old and with a single bout in eighteen months is ripe for the taking. He looked like he was doing just enough to beat Yildirim which suggests he may have concerns about his gas tank the longer this fight goes on and I do think David Benavidez is going to make him work and can wear down the veteran.

This is not a deep resume which makes it hard to know how much pop Benavidez has, but the stoppage of Rogelio Medina looks a good one considering he went the distance with James DeGale and Caleb Plant, the latter after he had already been stopped by Benavidez.

Stopping Anthony Dirrell won't be easy and I am not sure Benavidez will do it with a pure Knock Out- however I can see a situation where the younger and more motivated fighter is putting too much on the veteran where the referee or the corner perhaps steps in with the fight getting away from their man.

There were times in the bout with Yildirim where it felt like the younger man was getting a lot of pressure on Anthony Dirrell and I think that will be key to the outcome of this fight. David Benavidez will be looking to take his title with  statement win and I will back him to win this in the second half of the fight as he wears down a Boxer who has retirement firmly on the mind.

Errol Spence Jr vs Shawn Porter
This might not be the fight that most Boxing fans want to see in the Welterweight Division the most, but I do think there is plenty to like about Errol Spence Jr versus Shawn Porter. It is a Unification for starters and we will get that much closer to a potentially Undisputed fight in one of the glamour Divisions in Boxing over the next twelve months.

I am very high on Errol Spence Jr and I honestly feel he is the best fighter in the Division- the shut out of Mikey Garcia might have been against an ultimately overmatched opponent, but there were plenty of voices out there that thought Garcia would win and Spence Jr ended up winning pretty much every Round and was one or two punches away from stopping a durable and tough fighter.

Some may have questioned the power Spence Jr possesses having failed to stop an opponent who came up a couple of Divisions for the challenge, but I am not one of those. Mikey Garcia was in survival mode from very early on and he is a savvy enough Boxer to know how to get through the Rounds without being hurt, although even then he was close to being pulled out.

Shawn Porter seems like a genuinely nice bloke so I can always root for someone like that, but I can't help feel he is overmatched in almost every department. This is a fighter who has been used to taking on bigger men than himself, but Porter has never really come close to being stopped and his amateur experience can't be disregarded, but I don't see which tactics he can employ to hold off a Boxer that I consider to be elite.

Errol Spence Jr has the size and the power to either box his way to a Decision or to go on and stop a Porter trying to close the gap. The favourite has suggested he is going to push for a statement stoppage, but I do think the most sensible outcome to predict is backing Spence Jr to win on points.

However I do tend to believe that a stoppage could come for Spence Jr in this one if Porter does really believe he has a chance to win this fight. Unlike Garcia, I am expecting Porter to try and close the gap and find a way to turn the tide on the momentum of the fight and doing that will give the southpaw Spence Jr the chance to time him coming in and hurt Porter.

I think that is something we will see in the final three or four Rounds and Spence Jr will be looking to close the show in spectacular style. Shawn Porter is good enough to make it interesting early as he tries to rough up Errol Spence Jr, but I expect the latter to begin to warm to his task around the halfway stage and then he will push on and begin to really settle into his punches.

The toughness of Porter can't be underestimate at all and he has given many opponents fits when he is at his best. I just feel there are some miles on the clock and Spence Jr might be the biggest puncher he has faced and I am looking for a small interest in the IBF Champion to pick up both belts on the line and really make a statement to everyone at 147 and 154 about his intentions.

MY PICKS: Josesito Lopez Win Between 6-10 @ 5.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Mario Barrios Win Between 7-12 @ 5.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
David Benavidez Win Between 7-12 @ 3.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Errol Spence Jr Win Between 7-12 @ 5.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Boxing 2019: 19-37, + 0.87 Units (87 Units Staked, + 1% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (September 28-30)

We might only be eight days away from the next international break of the 2019/20 season, but for the top Premier League clubs it is a big eight days which covers two rounds of Premier League fixtures as well as Match Day 2 of the Champions League and Europa League.

Big games need big performances so there is pressure on teams to deliver especially at the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United where negative headlines have been written by clubs who were beaten in the Premier League last weekend and then struggled massively in the League Cup during the week as they were taken to Penalties by teams from the lower Leagues.

At least Manchester United managed to earn their place in the next Round of the League Cup, but Tottenham Hotspur losing on Penalties to Colchester United has just kept the questions going about whether something is seriously wrong in that part of North East London.

My deeper thoughts on Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be read here.

We move into the next Round of Premier League fixtures- this thread is concentrated on selections to be made from the games to be played from Saturday through to Monday Night Football, but I will then have a thread for the Midweek Champions League and Europa League games before rounding off the week with another set of Picks from the Premier League as well as Fantasy Football talk going into GW8.

It is GW7 this week and there look to be some big decisions that need to be made in terms of who to select as Captain, but I will get to those after the Premier League Picks from this weekend which can be seen below.

Sheffield United v Liverpool Pick: The early kick off in the Premier League comes from Bramall Lane as Sheffield United host Liverpool and the layers can only see one team winning.

It would be a surprise if Liverpool were to drop their first points of the season in this fixture when you think of the lack of goals that Sheffield United seemingly have in the side. I know they scored twice last weekend, but Sheffield United had only one shot on target which underlines some of the problems they are having at this level.

That has been particularly evident at home where Sheffield United have failed to score in their last two games against Southampton and Sunderland. They did create chances against Southampton, but this Liverpool defence is considerably better than the one The Saints send to the field even in the absence of Alisson.

Alisson has been a big miss if judging by the lack of clean sheets Liverpool are producing, but they have been a little unlucky in a couple of games. That was not the case last week at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea created the better of the openings, but there is a belief about Liverpool at the moment and the front three they can send out onto the field should be able to cause Sheffield United some big problems.

In the early away games played this season, teams have created good chances against Liverpool so there is an opportunity for Sheffield United if they can get things right in the final third. The problem for Chris Wilder's team will be finding the balance between attack and defence, especially at home, and I do think that will ultimately be too much to figure out against one of the two best teams in England.

I expect a lot of hard work and energy put in by the Sheffield United players, but Liverpool have scored at least twice in 7 away Premier League games in a row and that may be enough for them to cover this Asian Handicap.

Aston Villa v Burnley Pick: This is the kind of fixture that Burnley have made it their business to earn a result which will eventually lead to safety in the Premier League. Last weekend they beat newly promoted Norwich City comfortably at Turf Moor and Burnley have shown enough resilience away from home to believe they can cause all sorts of problems for Aston Villa.

The home team have played well this season but Aston Villa are finding it hard to strike the balance between attack and defence at Villa Park. Dean Smith has some talented players at his disposal, but Aston Villa have not created a lot of chances in the last couple of games here and they struggled to impose themselves on West Ham United when the latter were reduced to ten men.

I expect Burnley will look to come here and make things as tight as possible, but Sean Dyche will also want to see some defensive improvements from the last Premier League away game. Brighton should have beaten Burnley that day, but this tough, hard working Premier League club were much better against the Norwich City attackers last week and I really don't think there is much between the clubs.

The layers are expecting goals and an Aston Villa win judging by the odds being offered. I actually feel the opposite is more likely in both markets with Burnley and the start on the Asian Handicap appealing.

However I would need a Burnley win for a full payout and I am not completely in belief they can earn that. Instead I am going to back at least one of the teams to fail to score which might not have hit in any Burnley away game so far, but would have been a winner in the last two at Villa Park.

Neither team creates a lot of chances in home/away games respectively and the biggest threat to my selection is likely going to be set pieces. Aston Villa are better than what they have shown at Villa Park so far this season, but Burnley have the know how of the Premier League to limit them here, while they simply don't offer as much going forward on their travels as they may do at Turf Moor.

An early goal will shift the dynamics of this one, but if we can get through the first half hour at 0-0 the possibility of just one goal being enough to settle this increases massively. I will back at least one of the teams not to score in the fixture at a very big looking price.

Bournemouth v West Ham United Pick: The layers look to have a good feel for this game with the very short odds on there being goals between two attacking teams.

Both Bournemouth and West Ham United used much changed teams in the League Cup during the week and both were upset by League One opponents away from home. That shouldn't have dented the confidence of the players too much considering the majority of those involved on Saturday did not play, but the defeats are still disappointing.

My lean is towards Bournemouth using home advantage to earn the three points, but this is a tough fixture to pick considering the improvements West Ham United have made. They have shown some resiliency away from home which makes me lean towards Bournemouth too slight for me to play this game with better options out there as far as I can read right now.

Chelsea v Brighton Pick: Frank Lampard will feel a sense of relief that Chelsea have finally won at Stamford Bridge under his watch even if it was against an overmatched lower League club in the League Cup.

After defeats to Valencia and Liverpool in games Chelsea deserved more than they got, Lampard has to be pleased the squad was utilised in the fashion it was and the return of Callum Hudson-Odoi is a huge bonus for the club.

Hudson-Odoi is unlikely to be risked from the start on Saturday, but Chelsea will be big favourites to win their first League game at home. They have created a host of chances in their last couple of games here without reward, but I think the players have some belief in what the manager wants from them and I do think they are going to be a little too good for Brighton.

I am not disrespecting Brighton when I say that as I have been impressed with the changes Graham Potter has already made at the club. They are attacking with verve and slightly better finishing would have resulted in a lot more points earned than they have on the board right now.

Not many teams would try and take the game to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium as Brighton did, but that openness has perhaps left them a little vulnerable at the back. I don't think Potter will change his methods so I do think Brighton can potentially hurt a Chelsea team that don't seem to deal in clean sheets any more, but I also believe that we will see Chelsea continue to create a lot of chances at Stamford Bridge.

It could be a fun game to watch for the neutrals, but my feeling is that Chelsea's extra quality in the final third will be telling by the end of this one. They did blow a 2-0 lead over Sheffield United here so it is not easy to back Chelsea, but I believe they win their first League game at Stamford Bridge under Frank Lampard and can cover the Asian Handicap in the process.

Crystal Palace v Norwich City Pick: I am only going to make one point about this game- if Crystal Palace had been a better home team over the last couple of years they would have been very much worth backing to win this game at odds against.

No Premier League team should be odds against to beat Norwich City at home on the current form shown by Daniel Farke's men away from Carrow Road. Last weekend they were beaten comfortably at Burnley who created a host of chances against them, but Crystal Palace are much tougher to trust at Selhurst Park.

I do think Crystal Palace win and they came close to being picked, but ultimately it would not be a massive surprise to me if Norwich City did earn something here. When you think like that, I do think it is hard to back a team at the price Crystal Palace are and I will move on.

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Pick: There is a bit of unrest at Tottenham Hotspur and the defeat to Colchester United in the League Cup Third Round has only compounded the darkness that is beginning to engulf this club.

Mauricio Pochettino does not seem to be very happy and there are a number of players who have their futures clouded which is perhaps disrupting the harmony inside the squad. It has led to inconsistent results and performances and that makes this is a very big game for Tottenham Hotspur and the manager on Saturday.

They can't expect an easy ride against a Southampton team who have won 4 away games in a row in all competitions and just come off a crushing of rivals Portsmouth at Fratton Park. The goals for Danny Ings will have helped the confidence of a striker for a team who have perhaps not been as clinical in the final third as they would have liked and it certainly means Southampton will arrive in North East London with a spring in their step.

The Saints have not enjoyed recent visits to Tottenham Hotspur with 3 straight losses here and the last two have come by wide margins. As bad as it feels things are at Tottenham Hotspur, they have won 2 of their 3 home games in the Premier League and scored at least three goals in both wins and I do think we will see a reaction from the home team.

It may only be a slight relief from the pressure that is building and I do think Southampton might be able to play a part here considering the defensive issues at Tottenham Hotspur. However I do think Southampton have been riding their luck to 4 away clean sheets in a row and I will look to back Tottenham Hotspur to remind the fans they are still on the same page from manager to player with a good looking win on Saturday.

I will look for Tottenham Hotspur to cover the Asian Handicap in this one.

Wolves v Watford Pick: What can you say about this game? Wolves have looked like they are troubled with the commitments they have to make to the Europa League alongside the Premier League and have not put too many wins on the board in recent weeks and nothing domestically that makes them hard to trust at odds on.

On the other hand Watford have produced two contrasting performances under Quique Sanchez Flores. In the first game they battled back from 0-2 down to draw with Arsenal at Vicarage Road and arguably deserved more than they got, but then last week Watford lost 8-0 at Manchester City.

I would expect The Hornets to have a much stronger sting this week and they did win at Molineux last week, but I can make a case for either of these teams bouncing back from some poor form. I'll keep a watching brief on this one.

Everton v Manchester City Pick: There are some big expectations at Everton and this was a club that many thought would challenge the top six from last season after further investments were made in the summer. Marco Silva's men had a strong end to the 2018/19 season which increased hopes and the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all look vulnerable.

However Everton have not been able to take advantage of what looked a good opening set of fixtures and the 0-2 home defeat to Sheffield United last weekend has really put some pressure on the manager.

A win over Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup will have helped soothe some of the unrest at Goodison Park, but Marco Silva might have wished for almost any other opponent rather than the Champions. Manchester City have been scoring goals for fun all season and rested some of their biggest names in the League Cup win at Preston North End during the week, while Pep Guardiola learned plenty of lessons from his first visit as manager to this ground.

Manchester City have won back to back games here and were the last team to win a Premier League game at Goodison Park before Sheffield United managed to match their result last weekend. With the goals in the squad I do think Manchester City will erase memories of their last Premier League away game at Norwich City and I think Everton are still on the edge of complete mutiny against the manager.

If Manchester City take the lead here I do think the home fans might show plenty of discontent which will make it difficult for the Everton players to make the kind of impact they would want. The defensive issues at Manchester City does raise some questions, but I think they have played very well at Goodison Park in the last couple of visits and mentally the players will be more prepared than they were for the trip to Carrow Road.

Plenty of the top names got a rest during the week and Manchester City have scored two or more goals in 6 straight away games in all competitions. Everton will have their moments, but I think Manchester City will be too strong for an opponent who are quickly going to lose confidence if they fall behind.

As long as Manchester City play a clean game defensively and avoid the big mistakes they made at Norwich City, I think they can win and cover the Asian Handicap here too.

Leicester City v Newcastle United Pick: This is a big game for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City to show they are ready to compete for places higher up the Premier League standings. It is one thing beating Tottenham Hotspur as an underdog, but dealing with opponents like Newcastle United with a huge sense of expectation behind them is the next step in the development of Rodgers' team.

They look set to be without James Maddison this weekend which is a big blow and the only team to win at the King Power Stadium since Brendan Rodgers was appointed are the visitors this weekend.

Leicester City have shown they are capable of creating chances, but they will miss Maddison's creativity against a Newcastle United team who are going to sit back and look to constrict spaces. That will make it tough for Jamie Vardy, but Newcastle United are a team that will offer chances for Leicester City and Steve Bruce is yet to really get the fans onboard with his decisions.

At least Bruce can point to the win at Tottenham Hotspur as a sign of how his team can be successful here, but the goals conceded at Norwich City and Liverpool is a concern. Newcastle United looked short of ideas for long periods against Brighton last week and I do think this Leicester City have shown strong enough defensive shape to be able to contain their opponents.

We might not see the most free-flowing of games on Sunday in front of the television cameras as both teams might struggle to break down their opponent. However you have to give the slight edge to Leicester City even without James Maddison and I think they can win a tight game that features fewer than four goals on the day.

At the prices it is more appealing than asking Leicester City to cover the Asian Handicap and win by two or more clear goals. I don't think Leicester City have shown enough to think they can score three or more goals here which means that any win is going to fail to surpass the number of goals I have set here.

With that in mind my selection at odds against looks to be the call.

Manchester United v Arsenal Pick: Two teams who only just missed out on a top four finish last season meet on Monday Night Football this week and the pressure is on Manchester United to get back to winning ways.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not want his side to begin to lose touch with the teams chasing the Champions League places with the season yet to roll into the third month of the 2019/20 campaign. He admitted as much after the win over Leicester City earlier this month, but once again Manchester United are going to have to dig deep to earn a result.

Losing Marcus Rashford to injury means United could be down to Mason Greenwood as the only recognised striker they can call upon. Anthony Martial is hoping to be passed fit to return, but otherwise it is going to be up to the 17 year old who has scored in his last two starts at Old Trafford.

A teenage striker has made an impact for an injury hit Manchester United team against Arsenal before when Marcus Rashford really announced himself to the fans with two goals in a 3-2 win over them in 2016. It is still asking a lot for Mason Greenwood to do the same even if Arsenal have defensive issues, especially as Manchester United have displayed a real lack of creativity in recent games.

Arsenal are scoring plenty of goals at the moment which is going to have a lot of people looking to back the underdog to win at Old Trafford. I can't blame the thinking, but Arsenal have not been very creative in recent away games and I do think Manchester United have defended well enough to at least limit what the visitors can do.

It just feels like the makings of a much tighter game than the layers are expecting and this may be another opportunity to back less than three goals being shared out as I did when Manchester United hosted Leicester City. Outside of a penalty little was created that day, and even the defensive issues that Arsenal clearly have may not be fully exploited in this fixture.

3 of the last 5 between these clubs at Old Trafford have ended with at least three goals shared out so history suggests I am barking up the wrong tree here. However, looking at the early performances of the two clubs and I can see a game being played out with some caution by both with two under pressure managers not looking to concede too much ground.

Defensively Manchester United have looked the stronger, but I am not sure they have enough attacking thrust to score twice here. Arsenal will feel they have the goals and creativity to win here and score the goals needed to do that, but they haven't been as good on their travels and I am going to back under 2.5 goals being shared out on the day.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa-Burnley Both Teams to Score- No @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.05 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester United-Arsenal Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September 2019/20: 10-5-1, + 8.42 Units (32 Units Staked, + 26.31% Yield)
August 2019/20: 14-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football (GameWeek 7)
Like many Fantasy managers last week, Pep Guardiola's decision to rest Raheem Sterling hurt all the more when you think Manchester City scored eight goals against Watford.

He was my selection for Captain and that meant Sadio Mane took over the double points portion of the game.

Other than that decision from Guardiola which infuriated a lot of managers out there, it was a very good week in the most part for the GW6 team that was selected. A return of 68 points was almost 20 points more than the average for the week and it was Bernardo Silva's hat-trick that was the key contribution as my faith in sticking with the midfielder was rewarded.

Andy Robertson, John Lundstram (who came in because Sterling did not play), James Tarkowski and Ederson were the other big contributors as I saw a bunch of green arrows beside my team as we all aim for every week.

In GW7 I am looking to only make the one transfer and it is finally the right time to move out Che Adams who has had some big chances, but has not had the confidence to score the goals he perhaps should have. I am still convinced Adams will be ok at this level, but he needs that first goal to just get back on track mentally.

However Southampton are about to hit a difficult patch of their schedule and there is no point holding onto someone who is not producing the points needed.

There were four strikers that really appealed with the money I have in the bank and those are Teemu Pukki, Ashley Barnes, Tammy Abraham and Sebastian Haller.

All of those players are affordable and ready to enter a decent portion of their schedule, but you will have to have a read of my GW7 team to see which one of those I have selected.

Thanks to some misinformation about the availability of a midfield player, I also made the decision to take my first four point hit of the season. It is my mistake as I usually wait until after the Friday press conferences before making transfers, especially when having injuries in the squad, but the downgrade I saw on Thursday evening on Manuel Lanzini's status meant I wanted to change him.

Hopefully that decision does not come back to haunt me in the weeks ahead.

Picking a Captain is not easy this week with the main contenders away from home, so it is actually a new signing that will take the armband for my squad in GW7.

GameWeek 7 Team
Ederson- a tough away game at Everton, but I remain a one goalkeeper team.

Andrew Robertson- started to produce the returns on the attacking side of the field even though Liverpool have struggled for clean sheets.

James Tarkowski- Burnley have not had an away clean sheet, but I think they have a chance of potentially getting from the visit to Villa Park.

Caglar Soyuncu- Leicester City are facing a goal-shy Newcastle United and have looked pretty good defensively for the most part this season.

Youri Tielemans- James Maddison might be missing for Leicester City so it will be up to Youri Tielemans to find the creativity to unlock what is likely going to be a stubborn Newcastle United.

Sadio Mane- expected to overcome a knock suffered in the win over Chelsea and a big threat for Liverpool.

Raheem Sterling (VC)- it won't be easy at Everton, but Raheem Sterling should be fresh having only played 70 minutes at Preston North End over the last ten days.

Bernardo Silva- there is a potential ban incoming for Bernardo Silva after a poor decision to tweet 'banter', but his hat-trick last weekend should offer him another start here.

Todd Cantwell- I mentioned him very early in the season, but I had yet to make my move for him. Manuel Lanzini looked set to miss a few weeks so I had to take a hit here to move him out and bring in a player who has a good set of fixtures coming up. Remember kids, never make transfers before the full injury updates are available to us to avoid taking more hits in the future.

Josh King- a home game with West Ham United and Josh King is off an influential outing against Southampton.

Tammy Abraham (C)- Che Adams is moved out and Tammy Abraham was the player I felt most comfortable bringing in, even though his value has rocketed in the last few weeks. That price is not likely to come down if Abraham is able to score points during a run where Chelsea take on Brighton, Southampton, Newcastle United, Burnley, Watford and Crystal Palace.

Bench- Michael McGovern, John Lundstram (home against Liverpool), Fabian Delph (home against Manchester City), Xande Silva.

Friday, 27 September 2019

College Football Week 5 Picks 2019 (September 27-28)

After a couple of difficult weeks I did look through Week 4 of the College Football season and decided I would not take any teams that I was not completely confident about.

It did end with a winning record for the week, but I am sure you can imagine my irritation that the Picks only ended 3-2 rather than 4-1.

The team that hurt the most? Washington State who blew a 32 point lead against the UCLA Bruins and somehow managed to not only fail to cover, but actually lose the game outright. Coupled with the Utah Utes going down in Los Angeles to the USC Trojans, the Pac-12 Conference looks set to miss out of representation in the College Football PlayOffs again.

At this moment Alabama and Clemson are still on course for a return to the PlayOffs and I would suggest Oklahoma and either Wisconsin or Ohio State will make up the foursome to decide the National Championship. However it won't take too much to believe the SEC will have two representatives with both LSU and Georgia looking good, and I am looking forward to seeing the next set of games to see if we get any further clarification on the positions of the leading teams.

I am hoping for better luck with the College Football Picks having seen the UCLA Bruins recover and make one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the sport. Washington State basically blew the game with the six turnovers when completely in control and there really isn't much you can say about that.

At least it was a winning week, but I expect better than what has been returned in the first four weeks of the season beginning with Week 5 selections.

Duke Blue Devils @ Virginia Tech Hokies Pick: After finishing with a losing record in 2018, there is some pressure on Justin Fuente as Head Coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies. He can't afford a second losing season in a row and the Hokies have bounced back from a surprise defeat to the Boston College Eagles to win back to back games against overmatched opponents.

Losing the only Conference game played so far this season is still going to be on the minds of the players and Virginia Tech have to be wary of facing the Duke Blue Devils who have only had one losing record in the last six seasons. David Cutcliffe has shown himself to be a very strong Head Coach with the way he has revitalised the Duke Football programme, and his team have opened up with a 2-1 record having also bounced back from a Week 1 defeat.

A defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide can be forgiven and Duke have beaten two teams who they were favoured to get the better of. This is a different kind of test for the Duke Blue Devils, but this is a team who have played well coming out of a Bye Week and they have shown enough in the first three games of the 2019 season to believe they can secure an upset here.

Duke have not had a very good recent record against Virginia Tech, but they did win here in 2015 in Overtime.

A big test for the Head Coach was going to be tailoring the Offense to suit Quentin Harris instead of Daniel Jones who was Drafted to the New York Giants and who had a big first start in the NFL last Sunday. Harris is comfortable running and throwing the ball and he has been playing very well for the Blue Devils since a rough opener against the Crimson Tide.

That ability as a dual-threat Quarter Back has helped the Blue Devils move the ball on the ground along with Deon Jackson and the team should be able to establish the run in this one. They are facing a more experience Virginia Tech Defensive unit than the one that played in 2018, but the Hokies have given up 4.4 yards per carry on the Defensive Line to open the season and that is an area that the Blue Devils will look to exploit.

Keeping the team in third and manageable spots is the best chance for Harris to make some plays through the air against a Hokies Secondary that have looked good to open the season. Some of that may be down to teams being able to run the ball and not being forced to throw from tough positions, but I do think Virginia Tech will win if they are forcing Quentin Harris to play from third and long spots for much of the game.

The Hokies Defensive unit is going to have to step up if Ryan Willis continues to struggle from the Quarter Back as much as he has done. Willis played well in 2018 to think he was going to step up and show improvement in 2019, but he has already thrown four Interceptions compared with the nine throughout the whole of last season and the fans are getting on his back.

Virginia Tech have struggled to run the ball and I am not sure they are going to get a lot out of this Duke Defensive Line and that is going to put more pressure on Willis. I do think the Quarter Back is going to make some plays against the Duke Secondary, but he has not been protected by the Offensive Line as much as he would like and Willis is going to be facing a strong Blue Devils pass rush that might make the plays to give their team a chance to win.

It has not been a good match up for Duke in recent years, but the underdog is 5-1 against the spread in the last six in the series. Virginia Tech have been a strong home favourite under Justin Fuente, but they have failed to cover in that spot twice already this season and Duke are looking for revenge having lost to the Hokies last season.

The Blue Devils are 9-1 against the spread when playing on the road off a straight up win in a non-Conference game and playing with revenge behind them. David Cutcliffe's team have covered in their last four off a rest too and I am going to take the points on offer here in a game where the underdog should have an opportunity or two to perhaps earn the upset outright.

Penn State Nittany Lions @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: A new Head Coach at College Park is trying to help the Maryland Terrapins snap a run of four losing seasons in a row, and a 2-1 start to the season is a positive for Mike Locksley.

The defeat came two weeks ago against the Temple Owls and even getting to a Bowl Game will be a challenge for the Maryland Terrapins without a couple of upsets along the way. They will be looking for one of those on Friday when they host the Penn State Nittany Lions in what should be a special atmosphere at Maryland Stadium with the kids attending the school knowing classes are cancelled on Friday so they can get to the game nice and early.

Maryland are coming off a Bye Week to try and get the Offensive unit back on track after being restricted to 17 points last time out. The win over Syracuse might have raised expectations considering the Offensive output produced on the day, but the Terrapins will be well aware of the strength of the Nittany Lions who just about got to 3-0 two weeks ago when holding off rivals Pittsburgh at home.

The key on this side of the ball is whether Anthony McFarland Jr can find a way to help the Terrapins establish the run in the game. He has been huge for Maryland this season, but the Nittany Lions have held teams to 1.9 yards per carry so far in 2019 and Penn State have to be looking to test the mentality of Josh Jackson at Quarter Back who is coming in off a very poor outing against Temple.

Jackson might be encouraged by some of the numbers Penn State have allowed through the air. Two Defensive Backs were Drafted into the NFL and Penn State have not defended the pass as they would have liked in the early weeks of the season, but on the other hand the Nittany Lions have a pass rush that will be looking to feast on an Offensive Line that allowed four Sacks last time out.

I still expect Maryland to have some success moving the chains and they will feel good about their chances of earning an upset if they can rattle Sean Clifford who did not have the best outing two weeks ago against Pittsburgh. Losing a starting Quarter Back is always difficult for teams playing in the College ranks as you have to rebuild the experience at a key position, but Clifford should be able to have a good game as long as he gets a little bit of help from the skill players around him.

One element for success will be imposing the running game on the Maryland Defensive Line which has impressed in the early goings. They are surpassing expectations so far, but this is a big test for the Terrapins agains the strength of the Penn State team and the Offensive Line which has been able to open up big holes up front.

If they can do that here the Nittany Lions should have enough talent to get past this difficult team and I do think James Franklin would have been working on just getting a few kinks out of the Offensive unit over the last two weeks. He has been strong in bringing teams out of a Bye Week and Penn State had a big road win on a Friday night in Conference play in 2018 to show they can handle the tough occasions.

Penn State have won the last three between these Conference rivals very easily and Franklin's 11-6 record against the spread coming out of a rest with the Nittany Lions is impressive.

On the other hand Maryland are 3-10 against the spread in their last thirteen games out of a Bye Week and are also 6-15 against the spread in their last twenty-one when playing a team with a winning record. I think this might be close through three quarters, but I expect Penn State's talent to come to the fore and I will back the Nittany Lions to earn the win and the cover on the day.

Northern Illinois Huskies @ Vanderbilt Commodores Pick: It was always looking like a big task for the Vanderbilt Commodores to compete with the LSU Tigers in Week 4 and they are looking to bounce back from what has been a tough start to the 2019 season. Derek Mason is yet to have guided Vanderbilt to a winning record as he enters his sixth season as Head Coach and falling into a 0-3 start suggests that is a record that is unlikely to change.

To be fair to Mason no one would have expected much out of games against Georgia, Purdue and LSU with two of those teams chasing a spot in the College Football PlayOffs. Over the next four weeks Vanderbilt have much better looking games before the second Bye Week of the 2019 season and the Commodores will be looking to head into that break at 3-4 at the very least.

First up is this non-Conference game against the Northern Illinois Huskies who are coming out of a Bye Week having started the season with a 1-2 record. Two weeks ago the Huskies were blown out by the Nebraska Cornhuskers and they have also been beaten by the Utah Utes, but Thomas Hammock will point out to his players that Vanderbilt are not up to the same level as those Power 5 teams.

Getting the ground game working will be important for the Huskies who begin Conference play in Week 6 and there is a chance they can do that against the Commodores who have been struggling. While Northern Illinois have only picked up 2.5 yards per carry so far in 2019, Vanderbilt have been gashed by the powerful teams they have faced and they are going to have show considerable improvement to make sure they are not allowing Northern Illinois to dominate the clock and extend drives.

Ross Bowers has made a very good start to the season for Northern Illinois at Quarter Back and he is facing an opponent who have issues in the Secondary. A lot of the better players from 2018 have moved on and Vanderbilt have allowed 361 passing yards per game so expect to see Bowers having some strong numbers even behind an Offensive Line that have struggled again having done the same in 2018.

Establishing the run has also been a problem for the Vanderbilt Commodores and it is an area that Mason wants to see improving if his team is going to get anywhere near the 6 wins they managed last season. There have been flashes of success, but nothing as consistent as the Head Coach would want, but Vanderbilt can get on track in Week 5 against a Huskies Defensive Line allowing almost 5 yards per carry on the year.

Running the ball with some consistency will be a big help for the Quarter Back Riley Neal who has only produced three Touchdowns through the air for Vanderbilt since transferring from the Ball State Cardinals. He will be hoping his new team and the superior talent can help him get the better of the Huskies having played in the same Conference as them during this time with the Cardinals, but Neal also has to be a little better himself if he is going to produce better numbers than he has so far.

The accuracy has been a bit of a problem, but this week he is not facing a Power 5 Conference Secondary, but the Huskies one that has allowed 230 passing yards per game and who have had little pass rush pressure to speak of. As long as there is some support on the ground, I think Neal will have a very good day too and he can lead the Commodores to a first win of the season as they try and get their season back on track.

Northern Illinois are 4-10 against the spread as the road underdog in their last fourteen in that spot. There are plenty of ugly trends involving the Vanderbilt Commodores, but they have covered in their last four home games as the favourite of less than 16 points and when coming off back to back losses.

Vanderbilt have also covered in their last six as the home favourite of less than 14 points when playing a non-Conference opponent. They are also 5-1 against the spread as a favourite of a straight up loss and I think the Commodores will show they are better than their opening three games by winning this one and covering the spread.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders @ Iowa Hawkeyes Pick: There will be a belief in Iowa City that the Iowa Hawkeyes can challenge for a spot in the College Football PlayOffs and perhaps even the National Championship. Winning the Big Ten Conference with an unbeaten record will put the Hawkeyes in the conversation to take part in the final four, and Iowa have opened 2019 with a 3-0 record and have already won their first Conference games.

A narrow win over rivals Iowa State two weeks have kept Iowa unbeaten and the only real concern I would have for the Hawkeyes in this game is that they are overlooking the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and instead focused on the big games with Michigan and Penn State which arrive in Week 6 and Week 7 respectively.

Coming out of the Bye Week should mean the players are a little more focused and this game is not the meat in an Iowa State-Michigan sandwich. That break can see the players put the Iowa State rivalry to the back of the mind now and Iowa should be considerably stronger than the 1-2 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders who are also out of a Bye Week, but who are not a Power 5 Conference team.

Losses to the Michigan Wolverines and Duke Blue Devils by 19 and 23 points respectively highlight the difference in level between the Blue Raiders and the Hawkeyes and I do think that will show up on the scoreboard in this one.

The Bye Week was a chance for the Blue Raiders to try and strengthen a Defensive unit that has not really played to a level they would have liked, but we might not seen any of the improvement until they enter Conference play. Slowing down the run will be important for the Blue Raiders Defensive Line, but I am not sure they are going to have much joy doing that and especially not when they will also been keen on stopping Nate Stanley at Quarter Back from throwing all over the field.

Stanley has had a good opening to the season and he has been well protected by the Offensive Line which bodes well for him and good result in his best game of the 2019 season. He will be aided by Iowa being able to establish the run and I think the Hawkeyes will be able to move the chains up and down the field at will throughout the sixty minutes to be played in Week 5.

While the Blue Raiders can have some successes of their own, we have seen their Offensive output struggle when facing the two Power 5 Conference teams they have played. Middle Tennessee will use Chaton Mobley and Asher O'Hara to try and get the run established against a tough Iowa Defensive Line, but one that is not expected to be as good as the 2018 version.

Asher O'Hara in particular has shown off some talent that was perhaps not expected from him as far as being a passer is concerned, but the Quarter Back is a dual-threat. He didn't thrown an Interception in the loss to Duke two weeks ago and I think O'Hara is going to at least play a clean enough game to give Middle Tennessee a chance to stay with Iowa for a little while.

Ultimately it is a big test for the Blue Raiders on both sides of the ball and they could easily begin to think about the big game with Marshall in Week 6 which is a big game in the CUSA-East Division. If the Hawkeyes begin to pull away that is a concern for the road team and I do like Iowa to cover what looks a very big number on paper.

Iowa also have the big game in Michigan on deck which could just take away some of the focus, and Middle Tennessee would have covered this number in the losses to Michigan and Duke. However I think Iowa will have a little too much on both sides of the ball and the Hawkeyes should control the clock on the way to the cover.

Iowa State Cyclones @ Baylor Bears Pick: The Big 12 has long been a Conference that has perhaps not helped itself as much as the schools competing in it would have liked when it comes to putting themselves in a position to make the College Football PlayOffs. In recent years a Championship Game has been put in place to help, but not being divided into a couple of Divisions does mean the schedules can be very tough to deal with.

It has not prevented the Oklahoma Sooners from making the PlayOffs but a competitive Conference means every game is a big one in the Big 12 and this week we have the Baylor Bears and the Iowa State Cyclones facing off.

The Bears are 3-0 after narrowly holding off the Rice Owls in Week 4, while the Cyclones have bounced back from the heartbreaking one point loss to rivals Iowa Hawkeyes and head into the weekend at 2-1. Iowa State crushed ULM Warhawks in Week 4, and I do think both of these teams will be thinking about the momentum they can pick up by winning this game.

Matt Campbell has led the Cyclones to back to back 8-5 seasons, but the turnaround Matt Rhule produced with Baylor in 2018 was more impressive. After finishing 1-11 in his first season as Head Coach here, Rhule took Baylor to a Bowl Game in 2018 and the 3-0 start means the Bears have to be looking to try and reach the most wins in a single season since 2015.

Both teams have significant number of starters returning from 2018 and that would have meant big ambitions going into the season. The battle in the trenches is going to be very important on both sides of the ball with the strengths of the teams going against each other and the weaknesses doing the same.

The Bears will be looking to continue to use a committee at Running Back to put the Offensive unit in a strong position and the 6.8 yards per carry will be something the Offensive Line prides itself on. Running the ball against the Cyclones Defensive Line is going to be a challenge with many thinking this could be the best Line in the Big 12 and it will be important to try and set up Charlie Brewer to be in a position to make the plays needed from Quarter Back.

Brewer has made a very good start to 2019 and has produced 7 Touchdown passes with zero Interceptions blighting the numbers. He will be able to have some joy throwing against the Iowa State Secondary, but much of the success of the Offense will be down to the Bears at least keeping the Quarter Back in third and manageable spots where he is not being asked to force things. I do think Charlie Brewer will have time behind the Offensive Line as long as Baylor are not stuck in third and long spots and I like the Bears moving the ball in this one.

I do think Iowa State will have their own efficient drives and in the early part of the season they look to have found a way to replace David Montgomery who now plays in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. Having a dual-threat Quarter Back in Brock Purdy is a big plus for the Cyclones and Baylor have to make sure they have someone spying him if they are going to find a way to maintain their Defensive Line's 3.4 yards per carry being given up.

Purdy has really impressed throwing the ball too, but he is going to be throwing into an improving Baylor Secondary who have held teams to under 150 passing yards per game despite forcing opponents into having to throw to keep up with them. The Iowa State Quarter Back has opened the season in good form though so I expect this to be the biggest test for the Bears.

Both teams will feel pretty good about their chances in this game, but I am surprised we are getting as many points with the Bears as the home underdog. Baylor are 7-0 against the spread when playing a Conference opponent off a non-Conference game.

The Bears are also 7-1 against the spread when set as the underdog off a straight up win and Baylor are playing with double revenge. The underdog is 3-1-1 against the spread in the last five in the series between these two teams on the football field too and I am going to take the points on offer in what should be a close and competitive game.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: When Urban Meyer retired and left Ryan Day as the new Head Coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes there was a feeling of change in the air in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes had won the last two Conference Championships, but Dwayne Haskins also left for the NFL having been Drafted by the Washington Redskins and the team were coming back with 4 starters on the Offensive side of the ball.

It led to many tipping a new Big Ten East Division winner, but the Michigan Wolverines have looked very disappointing to open 2019 and it is Ohio State who are the only team in the Conference at 4-0 so far. The Buckeyes play a couple more games before they head into the first Bye Week of 2019 and they will be looking to put a second Conference road win on the board.

That is not going to be straight-forward when they face the Nebraska Cornhuskers who are expected to bounce back from consecutive 4-8 seasons. Scott Frost's team held off the Illinois Fighting Illini in Week 4, but they are still surprisingly only 3-1 having lost to the Colorado Buffaloes for a second season in a row.

Nebraska have looked better the last two weeks and they are 1-0 in the Conference, while the chance to host this game is going to pump up the fans. This is certainly a team on course for a return to a Bowl Game, but Nebraska fans will be heading to Memorial Stadium looking for the biggest win since beating Oregon in the early weeks of the 2016 season.

Adrian Martinez will have something to prove at Quarter Back for the Cornhuskers with new headlines coming out this week that Ohio State were not convinced enough to want to recruit him despite thinking about it. This is a dual-threat Quarter Back, but Martinez and the Cornhuskers are not going to find it easy to establish the run against the Ohio State Defensive Line that is holding teams to 1.7 yards per carry.

Last season the Buckeyes Defensive Line struggled to stop the run, but the feeling was that they were going to be much improved in 2019 and that strength up front is going to be key to force Martinez to try and beat them through the air. Adrian Martinez has shown enough passing skills to believe he can have success throwing the ball, but being in third and long will mean facing an intense Ohio State pass rush and behind an Offensive Line that has struggled to protect him.

With 9 returning starters on the Defensive side of the ball, Ohio State look like they could be amongst the very best in the College Football ranks. They will certainly believe their Defense can at least limit the drives that the Cornhuskers are able to put together and Ohio State have shown they can turn the ball over too which may be a key to overcoming what looks a very big spread.

The feeling was that the Ohio State Defensive unit would be fine this season with a year of experience under the belt for many of the starters. Offensively was a different question, but so far the Buckeyes have shown they are going to be strong on that side of the ball too.

JK Dobbins had over 1000 yards on the ground in 2018 and he has almost 500 yards already in 2019 despite not even reaching the halfway mark of the season. It looks like the Offensive Line is going to be stronger in 2019 too to aid Dobbins and I do think they can challenge this Nebraska Defensive Line far more than the other four opponents the Cornhuskers have faced.

A part of the problem for Nebraska is their Secondary has not really played to the level they would have wanted and trying to slow Justin Fields at Quarter Back is going to be difficult enough. It might mean they can't focus on clamping down on the run and I do think Ohio State are going to strike the balance that will see them in a position to move the chains with some consistency throughout the game.

It should be the kind of consistency that helps the Buckeyes produce an eye-catching win in Week 5 and only improve their standings in the votes for the top teams in the nation. Justin Fields can make enough plays to open things up for Dobbins on the ground and I do think the Defense can make enough plays to force Nebraska drives to stall.

You would think Nebraska would be a powerful home underdog to back, but that is not the case in recent seasons and two years ago they were crushed by Ohio State here as a 24 point underdog. Ohio State are now 4-1 against the spread in the last five in the series between these teams and Nebraska are just 4-12 against the spread in their last sixteen home games.

Ohio State have some very strong trends that favour them and I just think they are going to be the more balanced Offensively which can see them sustain drives and eventually pull clear for a very good looking win.

Kentucky Wildcats @ South Carolina Gamecocks Pick: With the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs sitting in the SEC East it is no surprise that the Kentucky Wildcats and South Carolina Gamecocks don't have bigger ambitions than earning a Bowl bid in the 2019 season. Neither was picked as contenders in the SEC East in pre-season and both the Gamecocks and Wildcats have already dropped two Conference games in the first four weeks of the season.

That means South Carolina head into Week 5 with a 1-3 record and the Kentucky Wildcats are at 2-2 as they both try and move a little closer to the six wins needed to become Bowl eligible. Both schools are on three year runs of making the Bowl season, but this game could be an important one for the two teams in determining whether they can extend that run later this year.

It feels like a much bigger game for South Carolina who were upset by North Carolina in Week 1 of the season and have a difficult schedule remaining. Looking through it I already struggle to see where four more wins are coming from assuming they are able to win this game, and that might mean Will Muschamp is under some pressure as Head Coach if ending with a worse record for the third season in a row.

Mark Stoops has done a fantastic job with the Kentucky Wildcats, a school that are much more renowned for the Basketball team rather than the Football one. With two wins on the board, I think the Wildcats are going to be good enough to reach the six wins they need even if they drop this one, but Kentucky won't come into Week 5 with little belief considering they have had the better of the South Carolina Gamecocks five years in a row.

Four of those wins have come as the underdog so this situation won't bother Kentucky who are looking to bounce back from consecutive Conference losses as their hosts are. The more competitive losses have been the Kentucky ones so this is a team that may feel they are closer to turning a corner, but Muschamp has the more experienced team.

One element that does raise some doubts about which may this game is going to go is the fact that both teams are starting back up Quarter Backs now. Losing Jake Bentley was a blow for the South Carolina Gamecocks considering he threw for over 3000 yards in 2018, but Ryan Hilinski has come into the team and the Offensive output has not suffered as much as you may have expected.

Hilinski is inexperienced so you can't be too down on him for throwing 3 Interceptions, but he has 5 Touchdown passes and this is perhaps one of the easier SEC match ups he could be facing. The Kentucky Wildcats Defensive unit returned in 2019 with just 4 starters from last season and some of the better players moving to the NFL was always going to have an impact on them.

There has been an inability from the Defensive Line to slow down the run in the early part of the 2019 season and I do think South Carolina will have plenty of success running the ball straight at the Wildcats. That is important for their young Quarter Back as he can be placed in third and manageable spots and it will slow down the pass rush which has had an impact on the South Carolina Offensive Line.

With short yardage situations in front of him, Hilinski should be able to get the ball out of his hands quick enough to attack a Secondary that has allowed almost 250 passing yards per game in the first four weeks of 2019. That should give the Gamecocks a chance to move the chains at will throughout this SEC game and it will put pressure on the Kentucky Offense to try and keep up with them.

Terry Wilson might have offered big problems for the Gamecocks, but the dual-threat Quarter Back has been lost for the season. That means Sawyer Smith has been given the keys to the Offense for the Wildcats and he showed enough with the Troy Trojans in 2018 to believe he could prevent Kentucky from slipping too much.

The Wildcats have lost both games Smith has started at Quarter Back, and the 4 Touchdown passes along with 4 Interceptions is a bit of a concern. If the Gamecocks Defensive Line can get things right this week, the pressure may be on Smith to move the chains with South Carolina only allowing 3.7 yards per carry despite having Alabama and Missouri already in the books on the schedule.

It will be important for South Carolina to remain stout up front and while I expect them to be challenged by the Kentucky Offensive Line, I also think they can clamp down just enough to force Smith to beat them through the air. The Quarter Back might have success doing that considering the South Carolina Secondary has allowed 290 passing yards per game, but being in third and long spots will be the time for the Gamecocks to get after Smith and try and get the better of an Offensive Line that has been better in run blocking than pass protection.

Sawyer Smith will also have to be aware of turnovers, like Ryan Hilinski, and I do feel that is the 'x factor' that is going to decide the outcome of the game. Whichever team creates the turnovers out of the back up Quarter Backs is going to win the game, but that is where the South Carolina rushing Offense may just be putting Hilinski in the slightly stronger position.

Kentucky have seemingly matched up well with South Carolina in recent years, but this looks a very good chance for the Gamecocks to snap their run of losses.

The Wildcats are 0-10 against the spread when facing a Conference opponent who are coming in off a double digit loss like the South Carolina Gamecocks. Kentucky are also 8-21 against the spread in their last twenty-nine game off a straight up loss, while South Carolina are 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 in the same situation.

It will be a close and competitive game, but I will look for the Gamecocks to edge this and cover the spread in the process too.

MY PICKS: Duke Blue Devils + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Vanderbilt Commodores - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Iowa Hawkeyes - 23.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears + 3 Points @ 1.86 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 16.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
South Carolina Gamecocks - 3 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Week 4: 3-2, + 0.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 33-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 25-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 13-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 201914-16, - 3.35 Units (30 Units Staked, - 11.17% Yield)