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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (November 21-23)

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Saturday, 21 November 2020

College Football Week 12 Picks 2020 (November 21st)

The College Football regular season has been hit with a number of postponements and plans have begun to be made about the PlayOffs and whether they are going to have to be rescheduled from their current place in the calendar.

Those things have to be considered at all times, but there looks to be time to make sure games are completed, although we will see how the end of the regular season looks first.

More postponements have been confirmed for Week 12, but there are plenty of big games to come. Pivotal games that could impact the PlayOff picture are being played and the majority of the SEC are back having seen their Week 11 schedule decimated by Covid-19 concerns.


Indiana Hoosiers @ Ohio State Buckeyes Pick: The Big Ten East looks to be a two horse race for a place in the Championship Game scheduled for next month and those two teams will be lining up against each other on Saturday. The Indiana Hoosiers lead the Division with a surprising 4-0 record and they are coming off an impressive blow out of the Michigan State Spartans having already beaten the likes of the Penn State Nittany Lions and Michigan Wolverines as an underdog this season.

Now they face their biggest challenge when they take on a rested Ohio State Buckeyes team who are 3-0 in 2020 and one of the favourites to win the National Championship. An unbeaten run in the Big Ten would certainly give Ohio State one of the four College Football PlayOff places, but they can't take anything for granted in this game and they won't want to think too much about the huge spread they are being asked to cover as favourites.

The line has raised some eyebrows and the Hoosiers are certainly well aware of the chances that Vegas believe they have in upsetting another Divisional rival. It is bulletin board material for Indiana, but Tom Allen is not going to allow his players to feel like they are second best to their more illustrious opponents.

At the end of the day Indiana will know they are playing on a level playing field and I do think Michael Penix Jr and the Offense will feel they can do much better than in their blow out loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2019.

It won't be easy against the Buckeyes Defense which is reliant on a strong Defensive Line to clamp down on the run and force teams to become a little one-dimensional against them. They have allowed 4.2 yards per carry so far this season, but I am not sure Indiana have the Offensive Line to really believe they are going to have great success on the ground.

The Offensive Line have been better in pass protection though and they are going to need to be if they are going to give Penix Jr time against a fierce Ohio State pass rush. Even if the Quarter Back is given time, he has to be aware that the Buckeyes Secondary have played well enough to make some plays and slow down the Indiana passing game.

Leaning on the Defensive unit might be the best way Indiana can at least produce some short fields, but I am not sure the Hoosiers are going to find a way to slow down Justin Fields who looks the clear Number 2 selection in the next NFL Draft behind Trevor Lawrence. The passing game is averaging over 300 yards per game in the early going and Fields has been very efficient with only 11 passes missed all season.

He will be going up against an Indiana Secondary which has held their last three opponents to an average of 200 passing yards per game. The Hoosiers Defensive Line can also have a big impact on the passing game with their ability to get to the Quarter Back and it does have to be said that protecting Justin Fields has perhaps been the biggest issue Ohio State have faced this season so there is hope for Indiana.

The Defensive Line has also clamped down on the run and the team who wins the line of scrimmage on this side of the ball are likely to come out with a successful result. The Buckeyes Offensive Line may not have been the best in pass protection, but they have opened holes to produce 4.8 yards per carry and if they can do that against Indiana they are likely to win and win well.

I do believe the Indiana Hoosiers will be highly motivated to 'prove it' as a big underdog though and I think they can play well enough to keep this one relatively close. Tom Allen has Indiana playing hard and they are 6-0 against the spread in their last six as the road underdog.

Ohio State have some very strong trends which need to be respected, but Indiana are 7-2 against the spread in the last nine in this series. They did not cover last season, but the Hoosiers will be motivated to show how far they have come in the last twelve months with the experience behind them now and I will take the points here.


Illinois Fighting Illini @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: Quarter Backs making their first starts for the Illinois Fighting Illini and Nebraska Cornhuskers must be wondering what all the fuss is about at the College Football level having led those teams to first wins of the season. Isaiah Williams and Luke McCaffrey will head into Week 12 with a bit more confidence and both are going to feel they can back up their last successes with strong performances here.

Neither team is going to challenge for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but the Illinois Fighting Illini and Nebraska Cornhuskers will be looking to finish with a flourish over the next month and perhaps earn a Bowl spot somewhere. At this stage of the season we are still not sure how the Bowl season will look compared with normal, but the players for these two teams can't worry about that and instead want to get out and win Football games.

There is going to be a similarity with the way both Illinois and Nebraska are going to want to play this game as they look to control the clock and wear down the opponent's Defensive Line.

You do have to factor in the level of opponent that Nebraska have played compared with Illinois, and so the numbers might not be as bad when the Cornhuskers begin to get into a weaker portion of their schedule. Even then the Defensive Line will be a little concerned with amount of yards they have given up on the ground in their first three games and a team like Illinois with Williams at Quarter Back have shown they can have success on the ground.

The Fighting Illini Offensive Line has helped the team produce 232 yards per game on average in their last three and that kind of push may at least give the underdog an opportunity to keep this one close. Isaiah Williams was not asked to throw the ball too often in his first start and I think the game plan will be the same barring Illinois falling into a very big hole in this one.

As long as Illinois are in front of the chains Williams should be able to make some plays with his arm, but I think the key for the underdog is keep the ball on the ground and drain the clock while wearing down the Nebraska Defensive Line.

I have mentioned above that Nebraska are likely to have the same approach with Luke McCaffrey at Quarter Back who has taken over from Adrian Martinez. Like Illinois, the Nebraska Offensive Line is likely going to open some big holes against the Illinois Defensive Line which has allowed 4.9 yards per carry and I do think the Cornhuskers will be able to establish the run with confidence.

There has to be more confidence in McCaffey to make plays through the air too after his first performance compared with Williams for Illinois. It feels like there are some real holes in the Fighting Illini Secondary which Luke McCaffrey can take advantage of and I think that balance is a real good reason to have the Cornhuskers as a strong favourite.

He should be well protected for the main too and I do think the home team are more likely to win the game, but my feeling is that Illinois can make enough plays on the ground to keep this one close. Getting more than two Touchdowns on the handicap is a big advantage and Illinois are 4-1 against the spread in their last five as the road underdog.

There was a time when Nebraska would have been a good team to back, but they are 4-9 against the spread in their last thirteen as the home favourite. They might also be coming down from the high of recent opponents to 'only' playing Illinois this week which may mean they are taking things for granted and Illinois may have enough about them to find the plays to get within this number.


Wisconsin Badgers @ Northwestern Wildcats Pick: Covid-19 postponements in College Football have had a real effect on how the season is going to end and the Big Ten have been dealing with plenty of those. It did mean the Wisconsin Badgers have only played twice this season and have had a considerable gap between games, but it did not prevent them from crushing the Michigan Wolverines and moving to 2-0.

They are up against the Northwestern Wildcats who have a 4-0 record and who are leading the Big Ten West and this game could be a real difference between the teams when it comes to the representative in the Championship Game.

The Wildcats have had a decent schedule to negotiate, although they have perhaps played games closer than they would have hoped. However the credit has to be given to a team who have won four games already this season to match the win record from 2019, although it will be interesting to see how Northwestern cope with the standards that the Wisconsin Badgers have shown in their two wins.

It would be fair to say that Wisconsin have not exactly beaten two powerhouses with their wins coming against teams who have a combined 2-6 record in 2020. However the Badgers have been dominant in those wins and they do look to have the balance on the Offensive side of the ball which will give Wisconsin a chance to have another strong showing.

The team have dominated Illinois and Michigan and won by margins of at least 38 points in back to back Conference games for the first time in over a hundred years. The Offensive Line has once again shown they can dominate the line of scrimmage and young Quarter Back Graham Mertz is capable of making plays through the air.

He wasn't needed much last week and the Badgers will be looking to grind down the Northwestern Defensive Line with their ground game to make things easier for the Quarter Back. It won't be easy but the rhythm Wisconsin had last week suggests they can rip off some big gains on the ground which should mean Mertz has the time to attack this Secondary which has also been playing well.

There are still one or two areas that can be exploited though and Graham Mertz has to make sure he is looking after the ball to avoid allowing the Wildcats to get a feel of this game.

Wisconsin will also feel very confident in the way their own Defensive unit have been playing and they are facing a Northwestern Offense which has not really been very consistent even if the team are winning games. Peyton Ramsey has been playing well at Quarter Back for the Wildcats, but turnovers have been an issue for him and this Badgers team have made some big plays when it comes to protecting the pass.

It is unlikely that Ramsey is going to have a really strong outing and the key is making sure he protects the ball as much as possible. Turnovers could be a difference maker in this game and those could certainly be the reason one of these teams are able to get away from the other and pull clear for the win.

The Badgers look more likely to create those as they are capable of putting Peyton Ramsey in third and long spots and forcing the Quarter Back to take risks. It feels like they have a similar approach to the way they want to play Football, but the talent looks to be with Wisconsin and I think they can win and win well.

Northwestern do have a strong home record against Wisconsin and beat them when last hosting them in 2018, while the Wildcats are 5-1 against the spread in the last six at home against Wisconsin too. That has to be respected, but this Wisconsin team may be one of the stronger ones they have faced in recent seasons and I do think Northwestern are not as good as their record may indicate.

The Wildcats are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games as the underdog and they are 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five as the home underdog. Add in the fact that Wisconsin are 14-4 against the spread in their last eighteen as the road favourite and I will look for the fresher Badgers to pick up from where they left off in their demolition of Michigan in the Big House and I will look for the visitors to cover here and take control of this Division.


Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Oklahoma Sooners Pick: Bedlam is set for Week 12 and there is plenty on the line for the Oklahoma Sooners and the Oklahoma State Cowboys despite the fact that neither is expected to be invited into the College Football PlayOff. That won't be a major concern for the players in Week 12 and the focus is to win this game and make sure there is a Big 12 Championship Game to look forward to later in the season at the very least.

The Sooners are 4-2 in the Big 12 this season and the Cowboys are 4-1 which underlines the importance of the 2020 Bedlam rivalry game. It feels like only one, at most, of these teams will earn their spot in the Championship Game and both teams are going to be relying on relatively inexperienced Quarter Backs going up against underrated Defenses in this one.

Spencer Rattler is the Oklahoma Quarter Back and he looks to have a very bright future with his school, although he has only be thrown in earlier this season when guiding the Sooners to a win over the Texas Longhorns. That has sparked a four game winning run for the Sooners and I do think they are playing with confidence having suffered narrow losses to Kansas State and Iowa State earlier this season, two of the three teams who are head of Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings and which makes the importance of winning this game even more than the sole fact the Sooners want bragging rights over their rivals.

The Sooners have to be encouraged by the recent performances of the Oklahoma State Defensive Line which has not been able to stop their last three opponents from piling up the yards on the ground. Over the course of the season the Line has been stronger, but Oklahoma should be able to get things moving on the ground which should only ease the pressure on their young Quarter Back.

I expect Spencer Rattler to be well protected, but he is throwing against a Secondary which has made big plays for much of the season. Of course the Sooners will point out their passing attack is the best the Cowboys Secondary will have seen this season, but Spencer Rattler is inexperienced and has to make sure he does not lose the game.

His opening performances suggest that will be the case, but the same pressure will be on Spencer Sanders who will go in as Quarter Back for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Turnovers have been an issue for Sanders and he is going to be facing a Secondary that has thrived on making big plays and that could be a key to the outcome of Bedlam in 2020.

The focus may be on Spencer Sanders because the Cowboys have struggled to establish the run in recent games and the Oklahoma Defensive Line have been stout up front. Building big leads in recent games have also meant teams have had to take to the air to keep up with the Sooners and the fear for the underdog is that they are made a little predictable in their play-calling.

In saying that I do think Sanders will have some success throwing the ball, although a lack of running game could mean he is under siege. The Oklahoma Sooners have generated a huge pass rush in recent games and the Oklahoma State Offensive Line have not only struggled to open holes for the run, but they have not protected their Quarter Back as they would like.

It will mean Spender Sanders is having to force throws and that could lead to turnovers which helps the Sooners pull away.

I do like Oklahoma with their four wins in a row building the confidence of the entire team, and the Sooners have covered the mark in each of those wins. Mike Gundy as an underdog has a very good record with Oklahoma State and his team needs to be respected, but I am looking for the bigger Defensive plays to come from the Sooners which may lead to a double digit win.

Both teams should be well rested and well prepared, but I like the home team here.


Michigan Wolverines @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights Pick: It feels like the end if nigh for Jim Harbaugh as Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines as they suffered a third defeat in a row. He came in with high expectations to help the Wolverines not only become the dominant team in the Big Ten, but also with National Championship aspirations.

However the Wolverines have fallen far below those and the 1-3 record in 2020 with a defeat to rivals Michigan State and blow out losses to Indiana and Wisconsin means there are some major questions as to the direction this school are heading. It is not good enough and the only benefit of the pandemic is that the fans have not been in the Big House to voice their displeasure in person to the Coaching staff.

They are a big favourite on the road in Week 12, but Michigan do feel hard to trust despite the fact they are facing a 1-3 Rutgers Scarlet Knights team. Even that may not be enough for me to believe the Wolverines are capable of winning here as they have lost to a Spartans team who were beaten by Rutgers earlier this season.

The triangle theory is far from foolproof, but the Wolverines have Penn State Nittany Lions on deck on Thanksgiving Weekend and I do think the team may not be focused on putting in a full effort for the current Coaching staff. Inconsistent play at Quarter Back is also not very encouraging for those backing Michigan, although they are facing a Defensive unit which has struggled to contain Offenses.

In recent games Michigan have struggled to run the ball which has put pressure on whoever is taking the ball behind Center, although the Wolverines may find more space on the ground against the Scarlet Knights Defensive Line. That will help whoever is chosen at Quarter Back and there are some holes in the Rutgers Secondary which will give the Wolverines a real chance to end their run of losses as long as they can avoid making the mistakes which have blighted them in their three game losing run.

Rutgers have also lost three in a row, but Greg Schiano's team will be looking for a response against a Michigan Defensive unit which has been struggling massively. Noah Vedral will retain the support of his Head Coach at Quarter Back, but he will be looking for the Scarlet Knights running game to get going in this one to make things a little more comfortable when he does decide to throw into the Secondary.

Noah Vedral has made too many mistakes, but the Wolverines Secondary have not really been able to make the plays they would like as the Defensive Line can't stop the run. That has meant teams have been able to burn them in play-action and the Wolverines have also generated little pressure on the Quarter Back which should only aid Vedral all the more.

I am not sure he has enough to pull the upset, but Rutgers look to be getting too many points here and I think they are worth backing. We may see Michigan play with a freedom having lost three in a row, but they might also have quit on the Head Coach and instead look to win the big rivalry game with Penn State in Week 13 rather than taking on a 'weak' Rutgers team.

The Wolverines are 3-9 against the spread in their last twelve games following a huge blow out loss at home. Rutgers are not exactly trustworthy as a team that has a 2-5 record against the spread as the home underdog, but I do think they can score enough points to stay with Michigan here.

If Jim Harbaugh is going to be fired at the end of this season, the players may not have a full effort for him and covering double digits does not look like something Michigan are capable of doing.

MY PICKS: Indiana Hoosiers + 20.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Illinois Fighting Illini + 16.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights + 12.5 Points @ 1.90 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Arizona Wildcats + 12.5 Points @ 1.83 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

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