2017 – Week 4 Picks

We went 5-5 straight up and 5-5 against the spread last week last week.  Decidedly average.  There were so many upsets last week and of course we didn't pick one of them as our upset of the week.  We went with Clemson going down to Louisville.  I think Clemson is on a mission this year showing that they are one of the big time programs now that reloads every year.

Some intriguing match ups this week with some conference play starting to heat up.  Let's just get right to it.

Teams on bye:  Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas, Oregon State, Ole Miss, BYU, Marshall, Southern Miss, Northern Illinois, Colorado State, Fresno State

   #8 Michigan

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   Purdue (+10)

This is another interesting matchup of a perennial favorite versus a young team with a ton of hype. Conventional wisdom says for Purdue to pull the upset, the Boilermakers are going to have to keep quarterback David Blough upright. This is a tough task against a Wolverine D that has carried a suspect offense on its shoulders the first three weeks of the season.

For Purdue to pull the upset, they need to keep the home crowd in the game. A capacity or near-capacity crowd will be on hand, and while temperatures will be at near-record levels, the Boilermakers will need to feed off the crowd's energy to have a chance to pull the upset. It has been nine years (2009 vs. Ohio State) since Purdue has been a double-digit home underdog and won, but it will need help from the crowd and maybe some Michigan mistakes to get it done.

Michigan once again will be carried by its defense in this game, and a game that should have been closer will become a blowout due to Purdue turnovers.

PICK: Michigan 45, Purdue 20

  #5 USC

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   Cal (+16.5)

USC is recovering from, quite possibly, the best game of the year against Texas.  USC seems like that team that plays up or down to their opponent’s talent.  On the flip side, turns out that Cal is way better than most expected, don’t think that this will be a cake walk for USC whatsoever.  One of the best sneaky hires of the year was Cal grabbing Eastern Washington’s HC to be their OC, for those that don’t know about E. Wash….think Oregon offense when Chip Kelly was in charge but in the FCS.  Scores by the bunches when needed.

USC obviously has the talent everywhere, as is the case since the beginning of time.  This year QB Sam Darnold was the Heisman front runner at the start…gonna be hard to get that trophy with a 7:6 TD to INT ratio.  Let’s face it, USC is suspect once again.  The defense is having trouble stopping the run and the turnovers are a becoming an issue.  They’ve managed to pull it off thus far, it’s only a matter of time before someone takes full advantage and shoves the pts in USC’s face.  Their schedule isn’t all that brutal but someone from the PAC12 will rise up and ruin things unless Darnold wakes up along with that shotty defense.

Cal is 3-0 thus far, absolutely no one predicted that….if you look at the coaching it’s not ALL that surprising, but the defense is super astonishing up to this point.  I don’t think Cal fans knew what a 3 and out was until this season.  They’re used to 67-66 games instead of pts in the mid-late 30s and giving up less than 40 per game.  Not to mention holding Ole Miss to 16 pts and only scoring 27 pts last week.  They’re key has been stopping the run and being opportunistic with TOs….forcing 4 fumbles and 4 INTs in 3 games is unheard of in Berkeley.  This is a new era of Cal football if they can keep the coaches together and I’m impressed thus far.  Be careful if your teams play these guys this year…they might just win 7-8 games.

The line started at 14.5 in favor of USC and it (surprisely grew) to 17 at the time of writing this…I’ll take Cal with the pts all day long.  Hell, Cal might make this interesting until the end like Texas did last week.  In the end USC wins again, but the media starts to question their overall ability.

PICK: USC 30, Cal 24

  #16 TCU

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   #6 Oklahoma St. (-11.5)

In the last couple of weeks we found out that both these teams are “for real” in terms of matching up well against legitimate opponents.  This week we watch strength against strength…OK St brings in the best offense in the land against a revitalized defense of TCU.  OSU made Pitt look stupid on D through abd through, even after reeling back a bit in the 2nd half.  Imagine what will happen if they decided to go full out all game.  TCU’s defense will be, by far, their best test….you still can’t convince me that TCU waved a magic wand that can stop the Pokes offense after what we witnessed in 2016.  The Pokes, absolutely, move the ball at will.  Sure, there might be a few 3 and outs for OSU, I still expect OSU to surpass 40 pts in this game.  The Pokes are averaging 54 pts per game and holding opponents to 17 thus far….granted that is against weaker teams, on the other hand, in previous years OSU would still give up 30 or so pts on defense no matter their opponent.  Anyone else smell a Playoff contender?  As long as they take care of this game they can look forward to the monster matchup at home against the Sooners.  We get to find out if the new Big 12 conference game is a hinderence or advantage for the conference….IMO the championship game depends on too many variables to predict whether it helps get a Big 12 into the Playoff until we’re at that point.  Just slow your roll and enjoy the glory until then.

TCU HC Gary Patterson seems to be forever unsatisfied no matter who they beat or by how much, he claimed that they should’ve won by 80 pts against SMU after being down almost the entire 1st half.  TCU QB Kenny Hill is doing his job with 8 TDs and 2 INTs…there is still this little dark cloud out there (that’s in my head) just waiting for Kenny to screw it up.  He’s known for forcing the issue and losing the game in crunch time, give credit where its due…he’s done very well up until this point, just waiting for that other shoe to drop.  I cannot get away from that dark cloud (in my head) of Kenny Hill, the storm is coming and I think it rolls in this week while TCU is down a couple of TDs.  Get ready for the INTs TCU fans!!  TCUs D is ridiculous against the run in 2017 (allowing only 2.69 yds/rush) and slightly vulnerable against the passing game (that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E this week)…most teams need to rely on both aspects of the offense to get the W, not so much with OSU.  TCU can take away the run and still get smoked by the Pokes if they throw the ball 60 times.  Mr. Patterson will have plenty of excuses to be red-faced for the entirety of this game.

If I were you, I would put a reminder on your phone for the start of this game, it has huge implications on the Big 12 race and the early Playoff situation.  Whichever team comes out on top will be launch into the immdeiate Playoff discussion.  I’ve seen plenty of the Pokes this season and they look the part.  TCU have been more than impressive compared to expectations, I just have too many doubts in Kenny Hill to take them this week and to rely on them to continue success every week.  OSU has a bit of trouble in the 1st half but comes out alive and await the big matchup with the Sooners later in the year. 

PICK: Oklahoma State 42, TCU 34

   Toledo

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   #14 Miami (-13.5)

Unfortunately for Miami, they have been dealing with the hurricane and its after effects.  So they have not played a game since September 2nd.  And it's hard to know what they have since they only played Bethune-Cookman.  We think they have an outstanding defensive front this year.  We think that the offense will take a step forward in year 2 of Mark Richt's coaching regime.  We just don't know for sure yet.

Miami gets to take on a very explosive Toledo team.  That is tough to take on after a 3 week layoff.  Toledo is 10th in the nation in total offense and is top 20 in long scrimmage plays this year.  They are averaging over 7 yards per play.  All that is going to say, they are going to be tough to stop.

I think Miami will be out of rhythm to start the game, but eventually they will re acclimate to game speed.  The game is close the first half, but Miami pulls away at home to close out the game.

PICK: Miami 34, Toledo 24

   #17 Mississippi St.

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   #11 Georgia (-6.5)

This might be the match up between the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the SEC.  Georgia is the supposed front runner in the east division.  And after demolishing Mississippi State, the Bulldogs are the current flavor of the week to challenge the Tide in the west.

Georgia is at home and that defense is playing tough this year.  They can get that crowd whipped into a frenzy and make it difficult for dynamic Bulldog QB Nick Fitzgerald to communicate with the offense.  There could be a lot of plays breaking down, but Fitzgerald is a wizard at scrambling and extending plays.  Georgia is going to try to pound the rock with their stable of running backs.

I don't think Mississippi State has a rerun of a few seasons ago where they surprisingly vaulted to the top of the polls.  Georgia holds serve at home and continues its March to Atlanta. 

PICK: Georgia 38, Mississippi State 31

   #4 Penn St.

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   Iowa (+12.5)

The biggest question I have going into this game is, how isn't the spread 21 points or more? The Nittany Lions are 3-0 both outright and against the spread in their last three meetings with the Iowa Hawkeyes, including a dominating victory/cover last season. Penn State once again looks like a college football playoff team. Iowa, well Iowa looks like Iowa. A disappointing offense, and a brand of football that puts you to sleep.

This game is never close. Penn State takes the crowd out early, and completely overwhelms a second tier team with no offensive chops. Why am I even writing about this game? Get to Vegas and bet your house on the Nittany Lions!

PICK: Penn St. 52, Iowa 17

   #20 Florida

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   Kentucky (+3)

Florida is riding a 30 year winning streak over Kentucky, will this be the year?  Maybe. On a side note; has anyone else noticed that the SEC is hard to watch now?  Minus Bama the SEC is kind of terrible compared to years in the past.  Florida, in particular, can make games thoroughly tough to stomach, until the 4th quarter as of lately.  The QB play is horrible beyond anyone’s expectations….the O-Line can look lost at times in pass protection.  Florida is already a one dimensional team, relying completely on the run game unless it’s the final second of the game and they need a hail mary to win.  Turns out that Kentucky’s strong suit on defense is stopping the run (alllowing 57 yds per game), they’re also fantastic at taking the ball away.  All of these signs point to low scoring game….I’ll go ahead and watch reruns of Golden Girls until the 4th quarter shows up.

Kentucky was supposed to have this amazing offense and throw up a ton of points to become a serious contender in the SEC East.  Swing and miss on the offense part for the Wildcats, check the box on contenders…..hell, they win this game and their favorites to win the East alongside Georgia. Vegas started out giving Kentucky 4 pts….the gamblers have responsed by putting money on Kentucky, moving the line to +1.5 since opening. 

All signs point to the end of the 30 year losing streak.  I’ve been taught to follow the signs, so I’m going to take Kentucky to win outright….simply for the fact that this might be the best chance in a very long time for Kentucky and the fans will be going nuts.

PICK: Kentucky 20, Florida 16

   Notre Dame

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   Michigan St. (+4.5)

This game is my lock of the week. Bet the house on the Fighting Irish because there is no way they lose this one. The Spartans beat the Fighting Irish in an interesting 36-28 battle in South Bend last season, but this Irish team appears to have something. The offense has a spark again, it’s got an explosive element missing from past Kelly teams, and it appears to be past the funk of last season. Beat the Spartans, and with Miami University and North Carolina up next, it should be a 5-1 start before the showdown against USC.

Running against Georgia was a problem, but the Irish exploded to start the season against Temple with 433 yards and five scores, and ripped apart Boston College with 515 yards and seven touchdowns. This new-look offense under coordinator Chip Long is working. Michigan State’s defensive front has been fantastic so far, but it hasn’t faced anything remotely like this.

No, Michigan State doesn’t have the fun and exciting playmaking ability the Irish have shown, but it held on to the ball for an average of well over 35 minutes in the first two games. Don’t let the Irish blow up with the big run, own third downs, make Wimbush and company come through in the clutch. The Spartans can do that, but won’t. This game starts close and Notre Dame pulls away half way through the third.

PICK: Irish 38, Michigan State 27

   UCLA

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   Stanford (-7.5)

Both teams come into Week 4 limping after losses to SDSU and Memphis respectively.  The PAC12 has not shown to be so dominate against their “lesser” foes….I remember the days when these guys would win by 30 or more points playing teams like they did last week.  It just goes to show you that the talent is evening out over the entire FBS.  That’s why I love me some CFB! 

Anywho, UCLA was a couple of completed passes away to being 3-0.  Rosen has completely carried this team on his back to be the top QB through 3 weeks in all of CFB.  There is no disputing that, if he didn’t throw that last INT to end the game last week against Memphis he would be Mr. Heisman all the way to the bank.  As I’ve stated in the past, Rosen is everything for UCLA, without him they might not win a single game.  Granted, they have a ton of injuries all over the place (i.e. 5 deep on the RB chart already), that’s still no excuse for the defense to give up 5.81 yds per rush.  News flash: Stanford knows how to run the ball.

In the last couple of weeks Stanford lost to USC and SDSU, they were running the ball at will cutting up the clock and controlling the game….for whatever reason they decided to abandoned what worked best and start airing the ball out thus spiraling out of control into a loss.  I have a feeling that they’ll run the ball over 40 times this week, control UCLA all day and make Josh Rosen throw for 500 yds and 5 TDs to win the game.  I would be floored if UCLA wins this game the way Stanford can run the ball and the way UCLA has no idea how to stop the guys running up the middle with the rock.

I still think Rosen makes it interesting in the end but Stanford takes it home and gets back on track in the PAC12.

PICK: Stanford 36, UCLA 28

   #1 Alabama

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 Vanderbilt (+18.5)

Upset of the Week!!!

When Alabama and Vanderbilt take the field in the Tide’s SEC opener this Saturday, the nation’s top statistical defense be involved in what could easily become an old-school, ground-and-pound cage match. The game will feature the nation’s best pass defense, the top scoring defense, and the leader in total defense…only it’s not at all what you’re probably thinking. In this game, representing a stark break from the norm, it won’t be the Alabama D that is boasting those lofty credentials. Shockingly, those accolades all belong to the Vanderbilt defense.

That’s why I’m calling for the upset in this game. Yes, Vandy is an almost three touchdown underdog, but who cares. Have the tide really done anything this season? Yeah, they beat Florida State, but that wasn’t exactly impressive was it? They next played Fresno St. and Colorado St. the latter of which made that game more interesting that it should have been.

I believe in Derek Mason and what he’s done with a program that isn’t that far removed from one Mr. James Franklin. This is gonna be a brutal game at the lines, and in the end I think the Commodore’s do just enough to pull off the upset of the season.

PICK: Vandy 24, 'Bama 21

Season Record - Straight Up: 18-12

Season Record - Versus Spread: 14-16

Upset of the Week: 1-2

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