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Thursday, 31 October 2019

College Football Week 10 Picks 2019 (October 31-November 2)

I have to say I have been very frustrated with the way my College Football Picks have gone in the last few weeks with some big leads being blown and backdoor covers really going against me.

Last week was more of the same after Navy became the latest to throw away a 24 point lead and then win by a Field Goal in a game I had been looking for them to win by at least four points.

Other Picks were disappointing in what has become four losing weeks in a row and I have to find a way to be better over the remaining month of the regular season.

Next week we are going to get the first of the College Football PlayOff Rankings and it is going to be one that highlights the issues Conferences like the Big 12 and Pac-12 are going to have to get a team invited into the final four.

While I don't anticipate their first four teams selected to be the same as how it will break down by the end of the season, I do think it is going to give us a good indication of what they are thinking.

For me if the College Football PlayOff list had been released this week I would have Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and LSU as my top four teams. There are other unbeaten teams in the Power 5 Conferences who might argue against that, while in Week 11 we are going to have some separation of the SEC teams when the Crimson Tide play the Tigers, but I would be stunned in three of those I have picked do not end up making the PlayOffs.

In saying that we have seen enough upsets to know nothing can be taken for granted and teams like the Baylor Bears and Penn State Nittany Lions will have a real chance to push into those spots. Both are unbeaten and will know running the table gives them every chance of being selected in the top four spots, although the schedules make it difficult to believe they can do that.

Other one loss teams will also still be playing with belief that their outlook could change in the weeks ahead, but the four teams I have mentioned control their own destiny and I think they would be deserving of making the PlayOffs... At least at this moment anyway.

2019 might be proving to be a difficult season for the College Football Picks, but there is time to get things turned back around. The regular season and Championship Games are going to be played over the next five weeks and then we will head into Bowl Season.

I do want to begin the turnaround this week though and my selections begin on Thursday night.

I have also updated the Season Totals and will add any Picks to this thread for Week 10 of the 2019 season.

West Virginia Mountaineers @ Baylor Bears Pick: After losing three straight times to the West Virginia Mountaineers, revenge should be in the air on Thursday evening when the Baylor Bears host this Big 12 Conference game. It is no surprise that Baylor, who are the only unbeaten team in the Big 12, are big favourites to put a win on the board in Week 10 and especially as they are facing a Mountaineers team who are 3-4 for the season and coming off three straight Conference losses.

At this moment of the season, Matt Rhule's Baylor team control their own destiny and the feeling is if they can win their remaining games they are very likely to be invited into the College Football PlayOffs. It will be dangerous for Baylor to look too far ahead considering they have to play both Oklahoma and Texas before a Big 12 Championship Game, but the Bears will be encouraged as they are almost certainly going to make another improvement under a Head Coach whose reputation is increasing by the day.

Both teams should be well prepared for this game coming off a Bye Week and it is a big one for Neal Brown and his Mountaineers team too. They need three more wins to become Bowl eligible and they should be looking at this as a winnable contest even though West Virginia have suffered some blow out defeats already this season.

It was always looking like it could be a difficult year for West Virginia considering long-time Head Coach Dana Holgerson had moved on and starting Quarter Back Will Grier also completed his time here. Austin Kendall hasn't played badly in that position for the Mountaineers, but there has been a lot of pressure on him with West Virginia struggling to run the ball.

West Virginia have been averaging just 2.9 yards per carry for the season, but that has dropped to 2.3 yards per carry in their three game losing run to Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma. They are unlikely to have a lot of success against this Baylor Defensive Line and that leaves Kendall having to throw from third and long spots.

It won't be an easy game for Kendall because Baylor have not only been strong at controlling the run, but they have a fierce pass rush which are likely going to put him under immense pressure. That has led to Quarter Backs making mistakes when throwing into this Secondary, and Kendall has not been too far away from pitching an Interception or two.

Extra possessions are key for Baylor if they are going to cover this big number, but I do like their chances of scoring enough points to be in a position to do so. Charlie Brewer may receive a lot of the plaudits for the way the Bears have played, but he has been backed up by the Offensive Line which has paved the way for big plays on the ground and I fully expect Baylor to be able to manage their drives with plenty of balance between throwing and rushing the ball.

Injuries have been hurting West Virginia too and Hakeem Bailey is suspended for the first half of this one which should leave holes for Brewer to exploit through the air. The Quarter Back has helped Baylor average over 300 passing yards per game and I do think he should find the time to make his plays with the team likely to be in third and manageable spots throughout the sixty minutes played.

The home team has a 5-1 record against the spread in the last six between these teams while West Virginia are 1-9 against the spread as road underdogs of more than 4 points when facing an opponent who will want revenge. There is no doubt this is a very big number, but the Mountaineers have lost by margins of 31, 9, 24 and 38 this season and Baylor can win this one by around 20 points.

Navy Midshipmen @ Connecticut Huskies Pick: Last week I backed the Navy Midshipmen to win and cover in a big Conference game against the Tulane Green Wave and was disappointed to see them blow a 24 point lead and only just come away with a win. They won't care about whether they covered or not as Navy improved to 6-1 to become Bowl eligible just a season after finishing 3-10 while they remain in contention in the American Athletic West Division.

The game with the SMU Mustangs might be the key one in determining which way this Division goes, but Navy will also be aware that it will mean nothing if they are upset by the Connecticut Huskies in Week 10. The Huskies will be heading into the game with a little bit of confidence having knocked off an FBS opponent for the first time in twenty-two tries in Week 9 and they also played the Houston Cougars very close in Week 8.

However it has been a long time since the Huskies were able to win a Conference game and that is going to be a big challenge for them against what looks to be one of the stronger teams in the American Athletic.

Kevin Mensah is going to be key for Connecticut if they are going to make this a close contest and he comes off a very big outing when securing over 160 yards on the ground and also earning five Touchdowns. He has been part of a Running Back committee that have gotten something going in their last three games which has seen the Huskies being more competitive, but establishing the run against the Navy Defensive Line has been far from straight-forward.

If they can run the ball the Huskies will be in a very good position to move the ball and keep drives from stalling. Anything else will mean having to protect the Quarter Back from a powerful Navy pass rush which has found a way to get into the backfield and force mistakes from opponents all season. It has been a fluid situation for Connecticut as far as the Quarter Back has gone, but much of the foundation for their success will be down to winning the fight in the trenches with the Navy Defensive Line.

Much of the same can be said for when Navy have the ball, but it is much more difficult to believe that the Huskies can slow down the run as much as the Midshipmen should be able to do. In recent games the Midshipmen have been even better and I do think it is going to be difficult to stop them on the ground despite Connecticut and everyone else knowing what Navy want to do.

This is a huge number in all honesty, but the favourite has covered in the last four in the series between these teams. The game will be shortened with both teams looking to run the ball, but I think the Navy Defensive unit can make the bigger plays and the more consistent rushing Offense can lead the Midshipmen to a big win.

TCU Horned Frogs @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: Two teams off unexpected wins in Week 9 will be looking to back that up when they face one another in Stillwater on Saturday. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are one game away from being Bowl eligible yet again under Mike Gundy, but they are only 2-3 in the Big 12 and that is thanks to an upset win on the road at the Iowa State Cyclones.

They will be hosting the TCU Horned Frogs who are now at 4-3 thanks to a win over the Texas Longhorns. They do look in a stronger position than the Cowboys as far as competing for a Championship is concerned in the Big 12, but at 2-2 the Horned Frogs have very little room for error.

The Horned Frogs will feel they do have control of their own destiny with games against the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears to come before they end the regulation season too. However TCU will be well aware that they need to make sure they keep their eye on the ball on Saturday and not allow themselves to look too far ahead.

It should not be the case with the Horned Frogs a slight underdog on the day, and Max Duggan is likely going to be needed to have another big game for the team if they are going to upset the odds here. Duggan is proving to be a dual-threat Quarter Back which teams have struggled to deal with and it might be more of the same for the Cowboys despite their big performance at the Cyclones last week.

Duggan should be able to help establish the run against a Cowboys Defensive Line which has allowed 4.9 yards per carry in their last three games. The TCU Offensive Line has felt very comfortable when it comes to trying to pave the way for their Quarter Back or Runnings Backs given a chance to run the ball and I do think they will be able to do that in this game.

It will be good news for Duggan who knows his Offensive Line has not been as comfortable when it comes to pass protection, but being in third and manageable should mean the Quarter Back is able to get the ball out of his hands quick enough. That should ease the Cowboys pass rush, while Duggan is also in a position where he is going to be throwing into a Secondary which has given up some big yards on the season and the feeling is that TCU will score a fair few points in this one.

The same can be said of Oklahoma State who have a young, inexperienced Quarter Back Spencer Sanders who is showing that he is developing the more snaps he is given. Chuba Hubbard continues to churn out plenty of yards on the ground which is also hugely beneficial for Sanders and I do think the top rusher in College Football can have a big game against this Horned Frogs Defensive Line too.

Like their opponents, Oklahoma State should be able to sustain drives with Sanders able to exploit holes in the Secondary from third and manageable spots.

The key to the game might be which of the teams is going to win the turnover battle as both will believe they can move the ball throughout much of the game. The slight edge in that is with the Horned Frogs who have looked after the ball and created more takeaways than Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys had a big week last time out and playing at home might just balance that out.

Oklahoma State are 5-1 against the spread in their last six at home, while the home team is 5-2 against the spread in the last seven in this series. There really isn't much between these teams, but the home advantage could be the difference maker on the day and I will back the Cowboys to cover.

Pittsburgh Panthers @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: One of the main reasons the Clemson Tigers have been dropping in the College Football Rankings is that they are playing in the ACC which is one of the weaker Power 5 Conferences. It has impacted the strength of the schedule that Clemson are playing and that whole issue is underlined by the ACC Coastal Division which is going to provide one of the teams in the Championship Game.

Every team in this Division has lost at least two Conference games already and there is little consistency from the teams within it. Two of those are facing off in Week 10 when the Pittsburgh Panthers visit the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as the winner will be looking to stay alive in the Division while the losing team will be wondering what might have been.

In all honesty the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets always knew 2019 was going to be something of a transitional season for them as they moved from the triple option Offense into a pro style one. The win over the Miami Hurricanes two weeks ago snapped a four game losing run for the Yellow Jackets, although they still need four more wins to become Bowl eligible which will mean running the table over the next month while also upsetting at least three of the four teams they will face.

First up is the Panthers who are 5-3 overall and just half a game behind the Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels in the Division. They can't afford to slip up here before heading into the Bye Week especially with games with the Tar Heels and Virginia Tech Hokies coming up and the Panthers are also trying to bounce back from a disappointing home defeat to the Miami Hurricanes in a game they had statistically dominated.

Kenny Pickett is an experienced Quarter Back, but he had a terrible game against the Hurricanes and it was the main reason the Panthers were on the wrong side of the scoreline. He is going to need some support from a rushing attack which has been struggling in recent games and leaving Pickett to make plays from third and long which has not been ideal behind this Offensive Line that has struggled both in run blocking and pass protection.

If Pickett is given some time, he should be able to make some plays through the air against the Yellow Jackets Secondary. Interceptions have been something of an issue for Pickett, but I do think he will be asked to manage this game and allow the Panthers strong Defensive unit to win the field position battle on the day.

Jordan Mason was the key player for the Yellow Jackets two weeks ago and the team are going to need the Running Back to find a way to establish the ground game in this one too. This might not be the Georgia Tech we are used to seeing, but the Offensive Line is still very happy when it comes to run blocking and they have been successful on the ground. However being able to do that against the Pittsburgh Defensive Line is a whole different challenge with the Panthers allowing just 2.2 yards per carry in their last three games and restricting teams to 2.6 yards per carry for the season.

That is going to be an issue for young Quarter Back James Graham who has managed the game but not been as efficient throwing the ball as the team would like. He will be under intense pressure from the pass rush that Pittsburgh produce whenever Graham is dropping back from third and long spots and that pressure has also helped the Panthers restrict teams to under 200 passing yards per game in their recent games.

I am looking for that Defensive unit to make some big plays for the Pittsburgh Panthers and that should see them pull away for the win in this one. The underdog has been strong in the recent games in this series, but I love the way Pittsburgh have responded to defeats with their 38-18-1 record against the spread in that situation.

The Panthers have been better on the road than at home and I will back them to win and cover in this Week 10 game and get back on track as far as it goes in challenging for the Division title.

Northwestern Wildcats @ Indiana Hoosiers Pick: It has now been twelve seasons since the Indiana Hoosiers last had a winning season, but Head Coach Tom Allen has felt his team have been very close having finished with 5-7 records in each of the first two seasons under his watch. An upset win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Week 9 has moved the Hoosiers to 6-2 and they will have their first winning season since 2007 if they can win one of their remaining four regular season games.

The Hoosiers are only 3-2 in the Conference and they are playing in the Big Ten East which is one of the more loaded Divisions in College Football. That does mean Indiana are unlikely to be playing in the Championship Game barring a lot of unexpected things going their way and this is arguably their best chance of getting to seven wins in the regular season with games against Michigan and Penn State coming out of their Bye Week.

They are hosting the Northwestern Wildcats this season who are 1-6 in 2019 and have already seen their run of four successive winning seasons looking like it will come to an end. It is going to take the Wildcats to sweep their remaining five games in the regular season to get back into a Bowl Game and they would have to win that too if they are going to make if five winning seasons in a row, but it looks a long shot for them and five losses in a row have put them in a very poor spot.

In 2018 Northwestern reached the Big Ten Championship Game so this is some fall from that level as they have struggled Offensively all season. The Wildcats have struggled to run the ball as teams have dared them to throw the ball against them and I don't foresee the Northwestern Offensive Line to have much consistent success on the ground in this one either.

Indiana are likely going to be stout up front and follow the blueprint of asking Aidan Smith and Hunter Johnson to try and beat them from the Quarter Back spot. Northwestern have struggled to protect the Quarter Back when they have stepped back to throw and they are averaging an awful 126 passing yards per game through 2019 which is not going to get things done against this Hoosiers Secondary who have played well.

Interceptions have hurt Smith and Johnson too and it does feel like Northwestern will struggle to score a lot of points as they average just under 11 points per game in 2019.

The Wildcats Defensive unit have played well though and that is the only reason they have been somewhat competitive in a couple of losses. However there have been one or two signs that they are wearing down as they are being asked to play too many minutes with opponents having the edge in time of possession thanks to the Offensive struggles Northwestern continue to have.

Teams are beginning to find it a little easier to establish the run against the Wildcats Defensive Line and Stevie Scott has become more and more comfortable at Running Back for Indiana. The Offensive Line have been strong in run blocking and I think Scott is going to be able to put the team in a position where either Peyton Ramsey or Michael Penix can thrive at Quarter Back.

It was Ramsey who led the Hoosiers to the road upset of Nebraska in Week 9, but Penix remains the starter at Quarter Back as long as he is healthy. That status remains uncertain, but whoever begins in that position will have time to make their plays through the air and can keep the chains moving in this one.

I think that Offensive balance will be the key for Indiana who also have the Defensive unit to at least limit the Northwestern Wildcats as most opponents have this season. The home team is 5-2 against the spread in the last seven in the series and Indiana have some very positive numbers at home.

It might not be a blow out, but I do think the Hoosiers will make the plays to eventually begin to pull away and they should be good enough to secure their first winning season since 2007 with a strong win on the day.

MY PICKS: Baylor Bears - 18.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Navy Midshipmen - 27 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Panthers - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Indiana Hoosiers - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Week 9: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.43% Yield)
Week 8: 4-4-1, - 0.47 Units (9 Units Staked, - 5.22% Yield)
Week 7: 3-3, - 0.24 Units (6 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 6: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.42% Yield)
Week 5: 6-1, + 4.40 Units (7 Units Staked, + 62.86% Yield)
Week 4: 3-2, + 0.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 3: 3-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 2: 5-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 1: 3-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 2019: 31-34-1, - 6.02 Units (66 Units Staked, - 9.12% Yield)

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

WTA Finals Tennis Picks 2019 (October 30th)

This might not have been exactly the kind of season that Naomi Osaka would have wanted, but she did win another Grand Slam title and made the WTA Finals. Unfortunately Osaka has not been able to conclude her season with a maiden success at the Finals having pulled out of the tournament prior to her second match at the tournament.

Kiki Bertens stepped in to beat Ashleigh Barty in her stead and that does mean that all four players competing in this Group can still earn their place in the final four. Belinda Bencic recovered from dropping the second set to beat Petra Kvitova meaning the top three players all have one win each and the Czech southpaw has lost both matches.

Petra Kvitova will take on Bertens on Thursday and Ashleigh Barty and Belinda Bencic will meet in the other Group match which will determine one of the Semi Finalists.

On Wednesday we have the second set of matches to be played in the Purple Group as the two winners and two losing players from Monday's matches face each other. As was the case on Tuesday, you have to feel that the winner of the Elina Svitolina versus Simona Halep match will be through to the Semi Final while both Bianca Andreescu and Karolina Pliskova are looking to bounce back from losses.

Elina Svitolina v Simona Halep: There has been a similar level of form that both Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep have displayed since the beginning of the US Open. Both players have perhaps not been as dominant as they would like, but both Svitolina and Halep have won their opening Group match which has put them in a strong position to move through to the Semi Final.

There is every chance of the winner of this match moving through to the Semi Final and so I expect to see everything put on the line in this one to avoid the stress of having a must win match later this week.

I have to give Svitolina a slight edge in the match considering the head to head between these two on the hard courts. Simona Halep won a tight match earlier this year in Dubai over Svitolina, but the Ukrainian was a touch unlucky on the day and the numbers between these players do favour Svitolina on the hard courts.

The layers are not finding it easy to separate the players, which is understandable, but I do think Elina Svitolina deserves to be a narrow favourite. Instead you can back her to win this match at odds against and that looks to be the play for me here.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

WTA Finals Update: 0-1, - 2 Units (2 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

WTA Finals Tennis Picks 2019 (October 29th)

I've had a few weeks off from making the Tennis Picks as I tend to do once the US Open is completed, but there is a big run of tournaments over the next six weeks which will culminate with the conclusion of the season and the first running of the new look Davis Cup.

At the end of this month the WTA Finals are going to be played and then in mid-November we have the ATP Finals which are played in London for just two more editions of the tournament that will conclude a thirteen year stay at the O2 Arena before moving to Turin.

Since the last of the Tennis Picks at the US Open, Andy Murray is not only back in action, but has won his first Masters match since Madrid in 2017.

It is great to see Murray back on the Tour and also winning matches as he looks to make the retirement videos offered by the Australian Open back in January seem as premature as he thought they were when they were being played. Andy Murray is almost certainly going to be playing in Melbourne in January as long as he can get through the off-season and the next few weeks feeling as he has been and I do think Murray is going to find his way back into the top 20 within a few months if he can work his way back to full health. That might be underselling him somewhat with the chance of Murray returning to the top ten looking good with some of the performances he has found over the last few weeks.

The 2019 season has been a very strong one for the Tennis Picks even if the last couple of months have not been as positive as the majority of the season. Finishing up with a winning record at the US Open at least pushed the numbers back in the direction I would have wanted, but hopefully some momentum behind the selections in the next few weeks can put an exclamation point on 2019 which has followed up a solid 2018.

The WTA Finals are played this week and we are into the second round robin of Group matches. Also this week we have the Paris Masters as the battle for the year end Number 1 spot on the ATP Tour heats up ahead of the ATP Finals being played in London which begins in a little under two weeks time.

I have some selections from the matches to be played which can be read below. I have also updated the 2019 totals for the Tennis season.

Naomi Osaka v Ashleigh Barty: Three of the first four matches played at the WTA Finals have ended in three sets including both played in this Group. Naomi Osaka just about edged out Petra Kvitova and Ashleigh Barty came from behind to beat Belinda Bencic which means the winner in this match can go a long way to securing a spot in the Semi Final this week.

Neither will be taking that win for granted and I anticipate another close match between these two players having seen that in Beijing when Osaka came from a set down to beat the Australian World Number 1.

That wins should give Osaka a mental edge in the match and I do think she is a worthy favourite to win this one. She has been looking like she is close to her best tennis since the US Open and the win over Kvitova was the eleventh in a row during which time Osaka has won two more titles.

Ashleigh Barty has been in good form too, but she has just found herself coming up short at the business end of tournaments. That includes the defeat mentioned to Osaka and I do think the superior returning that Osaka has been displaying will prove to be a key for her to come out on top in the contest.

Returning serve against Barty has not seen Naomi Osaka at her best so I would not be surprised if she needs three sets to get this done. However while Osaka has won 38% of return points played against Barty in their two previous hard court matches, her serve is the bigger weapon of the two players and I think that will be the outcome of this one too.

Simply backing Osaka to win looks the play here.

MY PICKS: Naomi Osaka @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Season 2019: + 97.43 Units (1615 Units Staked, + 6.03% Yield) 

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Boxing Picks 2019- Regis Prograis vs Josh Taylor (October 26th)

We all love and Boxing and when you do you can't help but feel a little broken when a story like Patrick Day's comes along.

In Boxing it is rare to find someone about whom no one seems to have a bad word for and I think that makes digesting his passing that much tougher for fans, fighters and promoters alike. It's always hard to be honest and another reminder of what everyone is risking when they step between the ropes.

All of these competitors should be respected and not ridiculed for trying to better themselves or pursuing the passions they have. Some will become the superstars they are dreaming of becoming, while others will fall short, but we shouldn't forget what these men and women are willing to do for our entertainment and as fans of a wonderful sport I do hope people can sympathise a little more when corners decide to pull their fighters from taking unnecessary punishment and also when referees edge towards a cautious approach to stoppages rather than allowing things to go too far.

RIP Patrick Day.

I needed a couple of weeks to really digest the news and warriors like Patrick Day won't be soon forgotten. There is no way that Day himself would have wanted the Boxing world to grind to a halt and instead we have to look forward to what is coming up without forgetting those who have paved the way before.

Some of my biggest heroes have come from this sport and there are plenty of Boxers out there who will inspire the next generation with many becoming real role models to show there are paths to success out there for those willing to put in the hard graft.

A new superstar is likely to be made by the end of this weekend when the first of the Season Two World Boxing Super Series Finals is concluded at the O2 Arena in London. It is the main event of a stacked card which I am focusing on for the Boxing Picks this week with four big fights on the night of interest.

You can read my thoughts below on those as well as the Boxing 2019 update at the bottom of the thread.

Yves Ngabu vs Lawrence Okolie
The latest step up in the career of Lawrence Okolie takes place on Saturday night in one of the early fights on the loaded card at the O2 Arena in London.

He is pushing to become European Champion in only his fourteenth professional fight and Okolie continues to learn on the job. He has experience as an amateur, but it is not a deep experience and some of this fights have been worse than watching paint dry, but you can't deny the raw tools he has at his disposal.

There is clearly some pop there and his height and range is going to make things very tricky for Cruiserweight opponents even if Okolie still feels some way short of the elite of the Division that we have seen in the World Boxing Super Series. He isn't miles away from those fighters and Okolie is moving up the World Rankings with a couple of the organisations out there, but I do think The Sauce still has to get through a few more fights to learn his craft before kicking on to World level.

We are going to see a tough fight for Okolie on Saturday when he takes on an unbeaten Champion in Yves Ngabu who has been talking up his own chances. I do have to say that there is not a deep resume to look at with the Belgian fighter, but Ngabu is in the top 15 of the World Rankings and he has shown some heavy hands in his career too.

However the Knock Outs have slowed down as he has stepped up his level and he did go beyond Eight Rounds for the first time in his last fight when defending this Title for the second time. I do think his tactics will be to try and get in close and rough up Okolie, but the British fighter has shown he can spoil very quickly and I think he is going to begin to pick off someone charging into his space.

You do have to question whether Okolie begins to get bogged down with his work the longer he has to be in the ring. Only one fighter who has heard the bell for the Fifth Round has been stopped by Okolie, while the other three in that situation have all managed to get to the cards and much of this one is going to depend on how much resistance Ngabu has early in the contest.

Once he has felt the power and dealt with it, Ngabu could make this a very rough outing for Okolie although I do think it will be very difficult to win a decision in London against the home fighter even as the Champion. This might not be a very good watch in the second half of the fight as Lawrence Okolie perhaps gets into a situation where he is making sure he is putting Rounds in the bank without taking big risks.

Backing Okolie to win on the cards is my call here at a decent price.

Lee Selby vs Ricky Burns
A few months ago we had James DeGale vs Chris Eubank Jr which was billed as something of a 'retirement fight' with the loser really struggling to have anywhere to go. On that day DeGale was beaten pretty comfortably and duly announced his retirement in the following days and I would not be surprised if we see that happening with the losing fighter in this one too.

Both Ricky Burns and Lee Selby are the wrong side of 30 years old and both have had solid careers. Overall you definitely have to give the edge to Ricky Burns for the achievements he has had, while many are questioning why Selby kept trying to make 126 for as long as he did when he was clearly struggling to get down to weight.

It was a surprise to hear Selby say he had one or two issues getting down to 135, but I think that might be a few mind games at work. What I do know is that Selby looked pretty average in his debut at this weight and is now facing someone who is clearly the bigger man, although not someone with a huge punch.

Ricky Burns did stop Scott Cardle eleven months ago, but that says more about the lack of punch resistance Cardle has than the power of the Scotsman. His last two big fights have both resulted in Decision defeats and I do think Burns is still resilient enough to get to the cards which means Selby is going to have to outwork him to win this one.

Any time I have watched Selby I do get the feeling of someone doing just enough to win his fights, but he is going to be made to work very hard in this one with the way Burns takes to his task. I am not sure that is appealing to Selby and I can see Burns pushing forward and landing enough to take this one.

Omar Douglas made the 'Welsh Mayweather' look pretty ordinary in the last fight Selby had back in February and I am not sure there is as much desire in Lee Selby as Ricky Burns even though he is the younger man. Lee Selby is a decent Boxer and I do think he will have his moments in this one, but I am looking for Burns to just outwork him and as the underdog I think he is worth backing.

Dereck Chisora vs David Price
This all British fight is another where the winner might move on to a big fight or two, while the loser is going to struggle to find a new path in their career.

It feels like David Price has been in that situation for a while now, but even through losses the Liverpudlian keeps finding a way to bounce back and re-motivate himself to reach the World stage he believes he belongs at. A defeat to David Allen would have been very hard to move past though and Price produced a very strong performance to see off a limited opponent who had some momentum behind him.

I can imagine the tactics are going to be similar in this one as Price looks to use his superior Boxing skills to break down another pressure fighter. However Dereck Chisora is a couple of levels above someone like David Allen and if he is focused he is certainly capable of closing the gap and forcing Price to work much more than Allen did.

David Price has twenty-five wins in his professional career, but the win over Allen is only the second time he has won a fight that has gone beyond the Sixth Round. A predictable Allen did not tax Price in the same way others have to empty the gas tank of the big man, but I would be stunned if that is the case when Chisora is in the ring with him.

Personally I am not a huge fan of Chisora- he has been involved in some entertaining fights in his career, but for me he is well promoted which makes people believe he is much better than he is. There is definitely a ceiling with Chisora, but I am not convinced Price is above that and as long as the former is motivated enough with this replacement he should be capable of breaking down the bigger man.

Dereck Chisora still has some solid punch resistance so should be able to get through the most dangerous portion of the fight which is the first four Rounds. As long as he makes Price work like Kash Ali did even though the Midlands fighter let himself down by deciding to bite in a fight that might have been going his way at that point.

I do think Chisora will have cleverer pressure than Allen and his movement and punching power is beyond the level that Allen can produce. If he gets through the first four Rounds, I think Chisora will be taking over the fight and it is worth backing him to earn a Stoppage between the Fifth and Eighth Round.

Regis Prograis vs Josh Taylor
I have been pretty high on Josh Taylor and his capabilities for some time now- this is a fighter as good as any at 140 and also has the size to move into the loaded Welterweight Division.

The best way to move up to that killer of a Division is to win this fight and be a Unified Champion which would make him a bona fide superstar. It will open the door to some huge outings with Taylor likely to be the next British fighter to head Stateside and with a huge following behind him.

All of that is going to be set on the foundation of winning the World Boxing Super Series Light Welterweight Final on Saturday.

And doing that won't be easy at all.

Regis Prograis is considered the next big breakout fighter in the United States and the unbeaten Champion is someone I've really begun to like more and more as his profile has built. He is someone you can root for and it makes it easier for me to make a prediction on the fight because I don't think I am letting my heart rule my head here.

I have felt for some time that Taylor can win this fight and that despite some of the suggestions that he might not be making 140 as easily as he would like. Josh Taylor was good on the scales on Friday and it was actually Prograis who needed to strip off to get under the 140 limit, although I don't think he looked like he was struggling either.

Both are quality fighters and I do think they will gel together quite well- Prograis is perhaps the slightly superior defender, but I think Taylor might have the slight edge when it comes to the power. It makes for a fascinating fight and I do think there will be some really close Rounds with Taylor perhaps on the front foot and Prograis picking his punches.

I would not be surprised if this comes down to what the judges like on the day, but we do need to find a winner and a fourth referee is in operation in this one. One Knock Down for either fighter could be huge on the day and I think there is every chance there will be some controversy attached to the outcome.

Being closer to home might be key for Taylor in a close fight and I do think both have the kinds of resumes that have to be respected. Regis Prograis might have the superior record on the face of things, but it isn't overwhelmingly in his favour and I am also not convinced he has the better chin of the two fighters either.

This is going to be an absolute beast of a fight, but I think Taylor might edge it with the judges favouring his style on the night. Regis Prograis will have his moments and Josh Taylor will have to ride out some difficult times, but I think he has shown he can do that and adjust within a fight and that should be key for him here.

Don't be surprised if we get to see this again next year, but in the United States, as Taylor gets the nod in a close one.

MY PICKS: Lawrence Okolie to Win by Decision/Technical Decision @ 2.87 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Ricky Burns to Win @ 2.50 William Hill (2 Units)
Dereck Chisora to Win Between 5-8 @ 3.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Josh Taylor to Win @ 2.37 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Boxing 2019: 21-43, + 0.87 Units (98 Units Staked, + 1% Yield)

Friday, 25 October 2019

College Football Week 9 Picks 2019 (October 26th)

Week 8 proved to be another mixed bag for the College Football Picks, but I am still in a position to really get this regular season going in the direction I would want.

The selections are all being played on Saturday this week and I have written out the analysis for a few of the Picks while adding a couple to the 'MY PICKS' section below. I have also updated the season totals at the bottom of this thread.

Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Iowa State Cyclones Pick: There is always a worry that the Big 12 is so competitive in its current format that even a Conference Champion is not guaranteed of a place in the College Football PlayOffs. The addition of the Championship Game was to strengthen the position of that team, but I do think we will eventually see Divisions in the Big 12 as we do in the other Power 5 Conferences.

There are four teams who currently sit at 3-1 or better in the Conference and two remain unbeaten. One of those at 3-1 is the Iowa State Cyclones who will be hosting the underachieving Oklahoma State Cowboys in Week 9 of the 2019 season and hoping to stay relevant going into the Bye Week.

Even if the Cyclones went on and won the Big 12 Championship Game it is unlikely that they are going to be invited into the College Football PlayOff, but Matt Campbell won't be worrying about that and instead will focus on trying to make sure the Cyclones can improve their record from the last two seasons which have both finished 8-5.

Four more wins will do that for Iowa State and they should be favoured in four of their remaining five regular season games before heading into a Bowl Game. First up they will be looking to maintain their spot in the Conference which sees them a game behind the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma Sooners and the Cyclones will likely be playing in the Championship Game if they can win their remaining five games.

Next up on deck is the Oklahoma Sooners, but that is in two weeks time so I am not going to worry about a potential 'look-ahead' spot for the home team. The team have talented Running Backs that should be able to establish the ground game in this Week 9 game and that is going to give the Cyclones a big chance to win this game by a comfortable margin.

Iowa State should be able to rip off some big gains against the Cowboys Defensive Line which has given up 4.9 yards per carry in their last three games having lost back to back games to drop back to 4-3 for the season. Running the ball effectively will make the Cyclones very dangerous as it should open things up for Brock Purdy at Quarter Back who has the best passing yards in the Big 12 which is also including Heisman chasing Jalen Hurts.

Purdy has been well protected and there are some decent Receivers who can exploit the holes in the Oklahoma State Secondary. With the team likely going to have a comfortable day moving the chains, the Cyclones should score plenty of points and maintain the average of 40 points per game over their last three games which have all resulted in wins.

Mike Gundy will make the Cowboys competitive as he always does, but this is clearly not one of the better teams Oklahoma State have had in recent years. They finished 7-6 last season and there is every chance they can at least have a winning season again in 2019, but they look short of the quality of the Big 12 and are only 1-3 in Conference play.

Chuba Hubbard is going to have to try and establish the run against one of the best Defensive Lines in the Big 12 and I do think that might be a challenge beyond the young Running Back. There is no doubting the talent Hubbard has and the Cowboys Offensive Line have opened some big holes for him, but even as the competition has ramped up the Cyclones have held teams to 3.3 yards per carry.

You have to believe the focus for the Cyclones will be to try and contain the run and then unleash the pass rush against a Cowboys Offensive Line which has struggled to protect Spencer Sanders. The inexperience of the Quarter Back has shown up at times with mistakes made via Interceptions not uncommon for players like Sanders who are learning on the job.

While the Iowa State Secondary have not been able to turn the ball over as they would have liked, they have been strong defending the pass and they can stall some drives with the quality in the Defensive unit.

This is a big number, but the Cyclones can find the stops to get in front of it with their balanced Offensive unit likely going to be a difference maker for them. The Defense is as good as any in the Big 12 and the Cyclones have momentum behind them which they can ride to a strong looking win.

The Cyclones are 5-2 against the spread in the last seven at home against Oklahoma State, while they have been strong at home and in Conference play. I do respect Mike Gundy and the Cowboys, but the Cyclones can be good enough to put a statement win on the board.

Tulane Green Wave @ Navy Midshipmen Pick: The two teams meeting in Week 9 of the College Football season have genuine ambitions of playing in the American Athletic Championship Game, but are facing what is effectively an elimination game on Saturday. The team to beat in the American Athletic West Division looks to be the SMU Mustangs who have improved to 8-0 for the season and 4-0 within the Conference, but both the Tulave Green Wave and Navy Midshipmen have winning records on the season to this stage too.

In each of Willie Fritz' seasons in charge of the Green Wave they have improved their season totals from 4 wins to 5 and then to 7 last season when they made a Bowl Game. Tulane are already at 5-2 for the 2019 season so improving again has to be the minimum of what Fritz will be expecting now, but they did drop their first Conference game last week in a defeat to the Memphis Tigers to fall to 2-1 within the American Athletic Conference.

While the Green Wave were losing in Week 8, the Navy Midshipmen were winning for a third game in a row and they have improved to 5-1. Like Tulane, Navy have suffered a Conference loss, but they stand at 3-1 and the winner will believe they can chase the Mustangs while the losing team is going to find it too difficult to make up two games.

Navy finished 3-10 in 2018 so this turnaround is impressive, although the Midshipmen have long been a team that won't be involved in consecutive down seasons.

Much of this game is going to come down to the battle in the trenches between the Navy Offensive Line and the Tulane Defensive Line. Everyone knows the triple option is going to be huge for Navy and that has been the main way Malcolm Perry has been moving the ball at Quarter Back for the Midshipmen.

Perry has been nothing like as comfortable when being asked to throw and he won't want to be behind the chains in this one and be forced to go to the air. The Tulane pass rush has been strong all season, but I do think Navy have shown enough on the ground to believe they can hurt Tulane who give up 142 yards per game on the ground over the course of 2019. There has been some improvements up front by the Green Wave Defensive Line, but Navy will believe in what they are doing and they can at least keep the chains moving.

It will be a challenge for the Midshipmen to run the ball, but Tulane are not going to have it much easier and establishing the run is important to their whole approach. One concern for the Green Wave is both Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine are banged up and certainly won't be at 100% for this game even if both are suited up and ready to go.

The second issue is that the Navy Midshipmen have restricted teams to 3 yards per carry in the last three games which is a slight improvement on the overall 3.1 yards per carry number allowed for the 2019 season. That means the pressure could be on Justin McMillan to bounce back from a poor showing at Quarter Back agains the Memphis Tigers, although I am sure McMillan won't have forgotten his strong performance which helped Tulane beat Navy by a single point at home last season.

McMillan has had a decent season at Quarter Back, but he will be like Malcolm Perry in needing the run game to support him and keep him in third and manageable spots. Anything third and long and McMillan will have to deal with the Navy pass rush which is significantly better than 2018 and that could lead to the kind of mistakes we saw last week.

There are a couple of trends that are going against Navy here which is a concern, but they have won the last four home games against Tulane. I do think this could be a close game, but I feel the Navy Defense is going to make a big play that gives them a chance of an extra possession which can be the difference between a cover and a non-cover.

With revenge following the very close last season to motivate them, I like Navy here.

Penn State Nittany Lions @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: There was a real feeling that the Michigan State Spartans were a big player in the Big Ten Conference with 17 returning starters going into the 2019 season. They finished with a winning record in 2018 and Ohio State did not look to be as strong as previous years, but pre-season expectations are now up in smoke.

The Spartans are a disappointing 4-3 in 2018 and just 2-2 in Big Ten games and while that leaves them firmly in a position to return to the Bowl season, it also means they are likely out of the equation as far as the College Football PlayOffs as well as the Big Ten Championship Game.

They come out of their Bye Week off back to back beat downs from the Buckeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers and the Spartans will be heading into another Bye as soon as this game is over. Michigan State will play spoiler for teams in the Big Ten down the stretch with a game against rivals Michigan and this one against Penn State most pressing especially as the Spartans should find two wins from the other three games on their remaining schedule.

It will be playing spoiler if they can beat the Nittany Lions who are 7-0 in 2019 and who are in a position to win double digit games in a single season for the third time in four years. This game is coming in at the end of a difficult stretch for Penn State who have beaten Iowa and Michigan in their last two games and will be looking to remain unbeaten going into a Bye Week before big games with unbeaten Minnesota and Ohio State.

There isn't much chance that Penn State will overlook Michigan State though considering they were beaten by them in each of the last two seasons as a big favourite. This season the spread is much tighter, but the Nittany Lions are favoured and that has very much to do with having an Offensive unit that has shown a lot more life than Michigan State's.

Having a Bye Week to try and fix things is important for Michigan State, but they are not getting enough from experienced players. Brian Lewerke has struggled massively at Quarter Back when the level has picked up and his was actually taken out of the defeat to the Badgers in the Fourth Quarter, although expected to start here.

Lewerke has not been helped much by the lack of any running game and I don't think that is going to change much in this one against a Penn State Defensive Line which has given up just 2 yards per carry over their last three games. And that is despite going up against better Quarter Backs than Lewerke so I imagine the Michigan State Offense is going to have to be run by the Quarter Back's arm.

Much is going to depend on how the protection holds up for Brian Lewerke, but you wouldn't expect him to have a lot of time. The Penn State pass rush has been very good at getting to the Quarter Back all season and the Spartans Offensive Line is giving up plenty of hits on Lewerke in the backfield. Being in third and long should only accentuate the issue and I think the Nittany Lions can at least keep Michigan State from really having a big day Offensively.

There will be one or two issues for the Penn State Offense too though because they have struggled for consistency and the Spartans do have one of the better Defensive units in the College Football ranks. However there have been some problems in slowing down the run in recent games so the Nittany Lions might at least be in a position for Sean Clifford to throw from third and manageable rather than third and long which should aid in his completion rate.

Clifford has done what he has needed to in order to help the Nittany Lions win their recent games and maintain their run. He will need to manage this one well too, but there is a chance that Penn State can establish the run a little better in this game which should also be a huge boost for the Quarter Back.

Big plays helped Penn State beat Michigan in Week 8 and Clifford should be able to hit some of those in this game too. It might be the difference in what is expected to be another tight game, but one that Penn State can pull away with some big plays and with another strong Defensive performance.

The favourite is 6-2 against the spread in this series, but I have already mentioned that Michigan State have covered as the underdog in each of the last two seasons. It is a big challenge to win on the road, but the Spartans have not covered in any of their last four against a team with a winning record and they are 1-5 against the spread in the last six at home.

Penn State have a very strong record against teams with winning records and I think they can do enough to get over this number although it might be nip and tuck until the Fourth Quarter.

Indiana Hoosiers @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: The Penn State game at Michigan State has some serious Big Ten Championship and possibly College Football PlayOff implications, but this one is still very important to the two teams involved. Last season the Indiana Hoosiers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers both finished with losing records, but they look capable of much better in 2019 when they get to meet each other in Week 9.

The Hoosiers have finished with 5-7 records in each of the last two seasons, but they have already matched that number in 2019 and need one more win to be Bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. On the other side the Cornhuskers have had back to back four win seasons and have matched that number already in 2019, although two heavy losses in their last three games has just slowed down any momentum they had picked up.

Injuries are hurting Nebraska although they are hoping Adrian Martinez is going to be passed healthy to return at Quarter Back. His backup was hurt in the defeat to the Golden Gophers, but the Bye Week should have given Nebraska time to get Martinez ready to compete.

They are going to need him to be after Maurice Washington was indefinitely suspended meaning going down the Running Back depth chart. It wouldn't have been easy for Washington to help establish the run, but it looks even more difficult without him against a Hoosiers Defensive Line which has held teams to 3.8 yards per carry over their last three games as they look to move into a position to finish with a winning record.

Adrian Martinez can help with his ability on the ground, but if he is not back at 100% then I think we are going to see someone who is prepared to try and be a pocket passer. That won't be ideal if the Cornhuskers see their running game clamped down on because the Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection and Indiana do have the players to get to Martinez if he is a little more than a statue in the backfield.

Wan'Dale Robinson being banged up at Receiver is not helping the Cornhuskers and I think they are going to struggle to move the chains for long drives.

Indiana might be another team missing a key starter with Michael Penix expected to miss out at Quarter Back. In usual years you would say being down a starting Quarter Back is a huge blow, but Peyton Ramsey is still on the roster and he proved in 2018 he can be a very effective dual-threat from the position having had almost 3000 passing yards and 350 rushing yards that season.

Ramsey's experience could be vital, but importantly he is likely going to have a strong running game to support him here. Stevie Scott has been improving at Running Back and will be going behind an Offensive Line which has produced 5.5 yards per carry in the last three games. The Indiana Offensive Line will face a Nebraska Defensive Line which has allowed 6 yards per carry in their last three games and I do like the approach Indiana can have to this game which gives them a chance of the upset.

Neither team really has the best record against the spread at home/road respectively, but I do think Indiana are playing the better Football of the two in recent weeks. Nebraska might have a big opportunity out of the Bye Week, but I can't help feel the public are overrating them here and Indiana can be backed with the points in Week 9.

Virginia Cavaliers @ Louisville Cardinals Pick: No one ever doubted that Bronco Mendenhall would be a success as Head Coach of the Virginia Cavaliers and the winning season in 2018 was the first since 2011. The Head Coach is in his fourth year with the Cavaliers and Mendenhall and his team could be ready to surpass the eight wins secured in 2018 having begun the 2019 season with a 5-2 record.

They are heading up the ACC Coastal Division with a 3-1 record within the Conference and Virginia will be looking to take the next step by not overlooking the overachieving Louisville Cardinals. The Week 1 win over Pittsburgh could be a huge tie-breaker in the Division which could lead to the ACC Championship Game, but Mendenhall won't want the Cavaliers to be complacent going into Week 8.

The Cavaliers blew out the Duke Blue Devils to beat another Divisional rival in Week 8, but now they get set to take on the Louisville Cardinals who are 4-3 and have doubled the win total from 2018 already. Scott Satterfield is in his first year as Head Coach of Louisville and so the improvement from a 2-10 2018 season is quite surprising, although Satterfield himself won't be satisfied until he sees how the season plays out.

Even now there is no guarantee that Louisville will earn the two wins they need to become Bowl eligible, but an upset is not off the table in this one. They won in that position on the road at the Wake Forest Demon Deacons so the Cardinals players should head into this game with plenty of belief in their abilities even off the blow out loss to the Clemson Tigers.

The Cardinals will be looking to run the ball against a strong Virginia Defensive Line which will set things up for the Quarter Backs to make the plays they want to through the air. We saw against the Clemson Tigers that Louisville can perform against some of the best Defensive Lines in College Football so they will believe they can at least get something going against a Virginia team allowing just 3.9 yards per carry in their most recent games.

Malik Cunningham and Evan Conley are going to need a strong running game to aid them in Week 9 because they are playing against a Virginia Secondary which has played the pass very well. They have a pass rush which can get to the Quarter Back and Louisville have not been strong in pass protection, and I do think the Cardinals will have some problems moving the ball consistently in this one which will put pressure on the Defensive unit to get things right.

They actually might not match up too badly with Virginia on that side of the ball because the Cavaliers have not been able to run the ball very well and that might make it difficult to expose the Louisville Defensive Line. The Cardinals have allowed 6.3 yards per carry up front in their last three games, but Bryce Perkins has proved to be much better throwing the ball than running it this season.

Perkins did have three Touchdowns on the ground against Duke last week which may be a sign that things are turning around for Virginia and they will need him again this week. Establishing the run will just ease things in every area for Perkins including playing behind an Offensive Line which has had its issues in pass protection.

There are some big holes in the Louisville Secondary which can be exposed though and I expect Perkins to have a big game. He will need the Defensive unit to step up and I think turnovers are going to be a big part of this one in Week 9 with the feeling that Virginia can win in that category too.

The Cavaliers are 4-1 against the spread in the last five against Louisville and it is Virginia who the stronger trends in recent games. With the momentum behind the road team, I think they can do enough to pull away and clear this number narrowly as the favourite.

Bryce Perkins has to make sure he limits his mistakes and allow his Defensive unit to set him up for the win ahead of what could be the one stumbling block on the way to the ACC Championship Game.

MY PICKS: Iowa State Cyclones - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Navy Midshipmen - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions - 5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Indiana Hoosiers + 2 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Virginia Cavaliers - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 1 Point @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Boston College Eagles + 35 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Week 8: 4-4-1, - 0.47 Units (9 Units Staked, - 5.22% Yield)
Week 7: 3-3, - 0.24 Units (6 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 6: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.42% Yield)
Week 5: 6-1, + 4.40 Units (7 Units Staked, + 62.86% Yield)
Week 4: 3-2, + 0.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 3: 3-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 2: 5-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 1: 3-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 2019: 29-29-1, - 2.84 Units (59 Units Staked, - 4.81% Yield)