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Friday, 18 October 2019

College Football Week 8 Picks (October 18-19)

It was a mixed week for the College Football Picks in Week 7 with a couple of late Touchdowns preventing this being a winning one for the selections.

At least it wasn't a really bad week and I am hoping for much better in Week 8 where the selections begin on Friday. I have not had a week where I could have offered full analysis for all of my picks, but all can be seen below.

The season totals have been updated too.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Northwestern Wildcats Pick: With the way things shaped up in Week 7 of the College Football season while the Ohio State Buckeyes were on their Bye Week, an unbeaten Champion in the Big Ten would very likely be given the chance to earn one of the four College Football PlayOff berths that will be decided later this year.

There are currently four unbeaten teams in this Conference with two residing in the Big Ten East and two in the Big Ten West. On Friday night the Buckeyes will head to the road to take on the Northwestern Wildcats who are just 1-4 for the season and have dropped all three Conference games played against the Michigan State Spartans, Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Like their opponents, the Wildcats are coming in off a Bye Week and I have to respect Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald who has a very strong record as the underdog in charge of Northwestern. They are also a good home underdog to back, although the Wildcats were blown out by 21 points when facing the Michigan State Spartans here and comparing their performances against the same opponents suggest it is going to be a very long day in the office for the home underdog.

It is going to take an upset or two for the Wildcats to even be in a position to extend their run of Bowl appearances to five years in a row and Northwestern have no more Bye Weeks to reset to come. They have a winning record playing with rest when it comes to the spread, but Fitzgerald will be hoping that the Offensive unit can pick up their play and give their Defense a chance to keep this game competitive.

As Northwestern have moved into Conference play, they have continued to run the ball very poorly and that looks to have little sign of being turned around. It certainly would be a huge surprise if the Wildcats Offensive Line can get on track against the Ohio State Defensive Line which has allowed just 2.4 yards per carry in 2019 and look to be so much more comfortable with the system compared with 2018.

Northwestern will have to continue to try to run the ball as the Quarter Back play has not been good enough at all. Replacing a Quarter Back that was selected in the NFL Draft was not going to be easy, but Hunter Johnson and Aidan Smith have had issues and are in for a challenging time with both expected to take snaps during the course of the game.

With the Defensive Line being as stout as they are against the run, the Buckeyes have been able to generate a ton of pass rush pressure and I think either Johnson or Smith will find it hard to get the time they need to make their throws. I am looking for the Buckeyes to be dominant and control the field with their Defensive unit and the overall pressure to crack the Northwestern unit.

Turnovers will also be key for the Buckeyes when it comes to covering this huge spread and I think they will create those for the extra possessions required. That is important because the Wildcats Defense has actually played well for the majority of the season and it won't be easy for Ohio State to dominate the whole sixty minutes of this game.

The Buckeyes can run the ball very well and in Justin Fields they have a confident Quarter Back, but Northwestern are only allowing 3.4 yards per carry in their last three games which came against the Conference opponents I have mentioned. However I do think none of Michigan State, Wisconsin or Nebraska have the same kind of balance on the Offensive side of the ball and that is going to be very helpful for Ohio State to find their way to scoring enough points to cover a very big spread.

I expect Ohio State to continue to try and pound the ball and they can crack out a couple of big runs, but it will be the play from Fields at Quarter Back that can just open up those running lanes a little more. He should have time to attack a good Secondary, and that time should see the Buckeyes win enough of their duels with their Receivers to keep the ball moving and score the points they will need in this one.

I am not going to worry about the rumours about the length of the grass at Ryan Field and I am going to back the Buckeyes. Friday night games are rarely that appealing to me, but like the Oregon Ducks in Week 7, I do think the Buckeyes can make a big statement with a strong road win that surpasses the margins produced by the three Conference teams who have already played and beaten the Northwestern Wildcats.

Houston Cougars @ Connecticut Huskies Pick: There has been plenty of controversy with the decisions made by the Houston Cougars to 'redshirt' a couple of key players to bring them back in 2020. Since D'Eriq King decided he would be one of those, the starting Quarter Back position has not really been as productive as the Cougars would have wanted and one of the pre-season favourites to win the American Athletic Conference are going to have to dig deep to find the four more wins they need to become Bowl eligible.

Last week the Cougars were beaten by the Cincinnati Bearcats to fall to 0-2 in the Conference and in most situations I would want nothing to do with a road favourite that is clearly building for 2020. However this is not most situations for the Cougars who are visiting the Connecticut Huskies, a team who finished 1-11 last season and who have shown little sign of improvement in 2019.

The Huskies were considered a work in progress as Randy Edsall entered his third year as Head Coach in his second time around with the school. He would have hoped his team were going to be more competitive, but five losses in a row against FBS opponents in 2019 and largely by wide margins have seen the team struggle for confidence.

Connecticut have really struggled to get things going Offensively and I do think that will always give them issues of covering the spread. This week might be a bit different as the Cougars have struggled on the Defensive side of the ball, but you can't be massively confident that the Huskies are going to get things right on the day.

The Offensive Line has struggled to open holes up front which means the Huskies have been forced to play out of third and long spots far too many times. Mike Beaudry should have some opportunities to produce one of his better games at Quarter Back with some signs that he is getting on top of the plays being called, but he has to make sure he avoids big Interceptions.

Those signs have seen the Huskies begin to score more points, but the challenge for the team remains on the Defensive side of the ball. The Huskies have allowed at least 38 points in each of their last four games and each of those losses have come by at least a 22 point margin.

Losing a dual threat Quarter Back has hurt the Cougars, but they have continued to run the ball very well. In the last three games the Huskies Defensive Line has given up 6.8 yards per carry and I would fully expect the Houston Cougars to use Kyle Porter and Patrick Carr to strong effect this week.

Clayton Tune has taken over at Quarter Back, but he has struggled massively since becoming the starter. At the moment Tune is still the player the Cougars will turn to, but I think he will need to show something against a Connecticut Secondary which has had massive issues slowing down the pass considering the balance most Offenses can put together against them.

Connecticut have not only been losing games, but they have been having massive issues in being competitive against the spread. I expect the Houston Cougars to be able to dominate the trenches on both sides of the ball and that should see them pull clear in this one.

You would worry about the fact the Cougars are not exactly focused on 2019, but they should be far too strong for the Huskies even now.

Oregon State Beavers @ California Golden Bears Pick: A 4-0 start to the season is fading in the rearview mirror for the California Golden Bears who have dropped back to back Conference games. Justin Wilcox will be desperate to find two more wins to get the Golden Bears back into a Bowl Game, but they look out of contention in the Pac-12 North as they look to get back to 0.500 in the Conference.

Most were calling for the Golden Bears to be a lot more competitive in 2020 anyway, but the 4-0 start was always going to raise expectations to unrealistic levels. The bottom line is that California have had less yards than their last five opponents and they have been struggling Offensively for much of the season.

Now they face the Oregon State Beavers who had won two of three games before being blown out by the Utah Utes. They are another team who are rebuilding and not expected to be that competitive in 2019, but the signs had been positive before the loss to Utah and Jonathan Smith has to be happy that his team are in a position to surpass the two wins they secured in his first season as Head Coach here.

Artavis Pierce and Jake Luton are going to be huge for the Beavers if they are going to earn the upset on the road, but they have to believe that the California Defensive unit is not going to be up to the level they showed early in the season. As soon as they moved into Conference play, the Golden Bears Defense has been a little more vulnerable and I think the Oregon State Offensive unit can find the balance to at least be productive.

Luton has been strong at Quarter Back and has thrown 14 Touchdowns with just a single Interception for the season. He is throwing into a Secondary which has given up almost 250 passing yards per game in their last three games and I do think the Quarter Back will have a strong outing in this one too.

He will be helped by the fact that the Oregon State Beavers should be able to establish the run against the California Defensive Line which has allowed 4.4 yards per carry in recent games. The Golden Bears are strong on this side of the ball, but a balanced Offensive unit like the Oregon State Beavers should be able to bounce back from their Week 7 performance and get the chains moving with some consistency in the game.

I like the Oregon State Beavers with the start on the spread and quite a lot of that is down to the fact that the Golden Bears Offense has been struggling throughout the season. California will be going with Devon Modster in place of their starting Quarter Back for a second game in a row, but it will be hard for him to really get into a rhythm if the Golden Bears continue to struggle to run the ball.

Christoper Brown Jr has not been able to get going in the last two losses the Golden Bears have suffered, while the team is only producing 3.4 yards per carry for the season. You would think they can have some success against the Oregon State Defensive Line, but I imagine the game plan for the visitors will be to be strong up front and force Modster to beat them through the air.

I do think the backup Quarter Back can have some success in this game, but any time Modster is left in third and long will be difficult to convert. The California Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection in recent games and Interceptions could be a turning point if the Beavers are able to secure extra possessions.

The Golden Bears have been good coming out of their Bye Week, but Oregon State are 9-1 against the spread when playing with revenge against a rested opponent. I think California are the more likely winners on the day, but they struggle to score a lot of points Offensively so the start being given to the visitors looks very appealing.

Oregon State have been scoring enough points in recent weeks to believe they can keep this close on the scoreboard and perhaps even pull the upset. I like the amount of points being given to the Beavers.

Kansas Jayhawks @ Texas Longhorns Pick: Losing the Red River Rivalry game against the Oklahoma Sooners would have been a bitter blow for the Texas Longhorns and anyone associated with them. It has dropped Texas to 4-2, but the season is far from over for Tom Herman and his team as they sit at 2-1 in the Big 12 and will believe running the table from here will give them a shot at winning the Championship.

There are some big tests ahead for the Longhorns with road games at TCU, Baylor and Iowa State to come before the regular season comes to an end and it is important they do not overlook the Kansas Jayhawks.

Les Miles surprisingly took over in Lawrence and his team are just one win from matching the number they secured in 2018. They have struggled to back up their first win over a Power 5 opponent though and Kansas have lost three straight Conference games while being blown out by the TCU Horned Frogs and Oklahoma Sooners in back to back games.

It has led to a move at Offensive Co-Ordinator for the Jayhawks and Brent Dearmon will be Coaching at this level for the first time. Les Miles is very high on the ability of Dearmon to do his job and there are some decent pieces on the Offensive side of the ball that could benefit greatly from a new direction that Dearmon is likely able to provide.

The Jayhawks will certainly feel confident going up against a Texas Defensive unit which has not played up to the level that some would have expected of them despite the obvious inexperience they entered the 2019 season with. Kansas are coming into the game off a Bye Week which will help and they should be able to establish the run and put Carter Stanley in a position to keep the chains moving at Quarter Back.

Stanley is capable of moving the ball with his legs, but he is also happy taking shots into a Secondary he faces. That should be more evident in Week 8 and I do think Stanley will have some successes against a Texas Secondary which has allowed almost 300 passing yards per game in recent games.

Carter Stanley has also been looking after the ball which is going to be key as Texas have thrived on creating turnovers. It should mean Kansas can have some Offensive successes in this one as they look to match the stunning upset the 2016 Jayhawks had over the Longhorns.

Texas will have their own strong Quarter Back heading out onto the field in Week 8 as Sam Ehlinger looks to help the team bounce back from the defeat to the Sooners. It was a game in which the Longhorns were dominated, but Ehlinger continues to display strong performances at Quarter Back and he should have some real successes in this one.

One concern is that Ehlinger has not been protected by the Offensive Line as well as he would have liked, but there are holes in the Kansas Secondary which can be exploited. Those will look a lot bigger to the Quarter Back if the Longhorns are able to establish the run like they should be able to do so and it will also just slow the pass rush just a step which will be key to the Texas Longhorns having a strong Offensive showing on the day.

This is a big number when you think that Kansas should have some big Offensive drives, especially as it feels the Jayhawks continue to be written off by the layers more than they should be. However I do think Kansas will struggle to really put a stop to Texas drives and the Longhorns are capable of producing one or two extra possessions which should be key in pulling away in this one.

Texas are 8-3 against the spread following a loss under Tom Herman and I will look for them to cover the number here.

Tennessee Volunteers @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: Without being disrespectful to opponents to come in October, the Alabama Crimson Tide will be well aware that November will determine whether they make it back to the SEC Championship Game and then the College Football PlayOffs. Once again the Crimson Tide have been dominating opponents, but a home game against the LSU Tigers and a road game at the Auburn Tigers in November will be key to whether they can win their Division.

In Week 8 the Tennessee Volunteers head to Tuscaloosa, but this has been a difficult season for them. It was expected to be another difficult year for a school that finished with a 5-7 record in 2018 and in only the second year under Jeremy Pruitt, but the Volunteers did win their first Conference game in 2019 in Week 7 to move back to 2-4 for the season.

I do struggle to see the Volunteers earning the wins they need to become Bowl eligible having lost home games to Georgia State and BYU earlier in the season. Uncompetitive losses to the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs does not bode well for the Volunteers who have lost twelve games in a row against the Alabama Crimson Tide with each of the last three losses coming by at least 37 point margins.

Scoring enough points to stay within the current spread for this game looks a long shot for the Volunteers who have struggled to run the ball all season. We have yet to see the Crimson Tide Defensive Line at their very best, but it has always been difficult to establish the run against Alabama and I think it will be more of the same on Saturday.

Brian Maurer suffered an injury last week, but the Quarter Back is expected to be available in Week 8 having started back to back games. He might be a Freshman, but Maurer has impressed since being given the chance to take over as the Quarter Back, although facing the Alabama Defensive unit for the first time can be an eye-opening experience for most.

I would expect the Crimson Tide to put a decent enough pass rush together to trouble Maurer and Alabama can shut them down for the majority of the game.

The weather might be key for Tennessee with scattered showers suggesting the best way of slowing down the Alabama Crimson Tide on the other side of the ball is if the Offense has to be a little one-dimensional. I am clutching at straws to be honest with the Crimson Tide looking like they will have the Offensive balance to do whatever they like in Week 8.

Alabama should be able to run the ball with some big gains expected on the ground, especially as Tua Tagovailoa continues to light up the scoreboard with his arm. Tagovailoa is considered the most likely Quarter Back to go Number 1 in the next NFL Draft, and he has considered to plunder Defenses throughout 2019 as he looks to make up for the National Championship embarrassment suffered at the hands of the Clemson Tigers last year.

Tua Tagovailoa has been well protected behind his Offensive Line and the Volunteers pass rush should be slowed down by the effective establishment of the run. The Tennessee Secondary has struggled all season and Alabama should be able to do whatever they like when they have the ball in their hands.

This is a big spread even with that in mind and especially when you think of how quickly Alabama have pulled Tagovailoa when they have games in hand in 2019. However this is a game that Alabama have dominated in recent years and they have covered some big spreads against the Volunteers with the last three margins enough to cover the line as it is now.

MY PICKS: Ohio State Buckeyes - 26.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 22.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Oregon State Beavers + 11 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns - 21.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 34.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Boston College Eagles + 3.5 Points @ 1.85 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
North Carolina Tar Heels - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Indiana Hoosiers - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
USC Trojans - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

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: 25-25, - 2.37 Units (50 Units Staked, - 4.74% Yield)

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