Monday, 1 September 2014

US Open Day 8 Picks 2014 (September 1st)

The women's draw has been decimated in the first week of the US Open with many of the top ten players already out of the draw before the Quarter Final and there were more surprise results on Sunday with Lucie Safarova and, especially, Maria Sharapova exiting the event.

It seems to have left the path clear for Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam title of the season having failed to really get going at any of the previous Majors this campaign. Of course, Williams is dealing with the pressure of equalling the likes of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova at 18 Grand Slam titles.

Over the last year, it has become more and more clear that Margaret Court's 24 Slam titles and Steffi Graf's 22 Slam titles might be beyond the reach of Williams, but the American will probably go into next season as favourite at every Grand Slam too, although she is still a very vulnerable favourite in my opinion.

The picks could have had a much stronger day if not for a couple of matches going slightly wrong- for the life of me, I have no idea how Grigor Dimitrov was bagelled by David Goffin, yet then dominated the rest of the match.

Still, I can't complain too much and hopefully the second week of the Slam will be as successful as the first turned out to be.

Andy Murray win 3-1 v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: There is a real belief from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that he is capable of becoming the latest top player to knock off Andy Murray and he has spoken of there being a 'lack of fear' of matching up with the two time Grand Slam Champion.

But he also showed some fragility in those comments when backing it up with he prefers a best of three set match and I think Murray has said his fitness is not an issue so I would expect the Brit to have the edge in a long match.

As well as Tsonga did to beat Murray in Toronto, the latter missed an opportunity when leading by a break in the decider and he actually won more points, although Murray will have to serve better to win this match.

There have been a lot of close matches played by these players in the past and I would be surprised if either of them run away with the match in straight sets. I do give the edge to Murray who can return enough balls to keep Tsonga off balance and I like him to win his first really big match since the Wimbledon 2013 Final and come through in four sets.

Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Tommy Robredo: It isn't always a real benefit for a player to come through a Grand Slam round without taking to the court as that player can then be undercooked when it comes to the latter stages.

You don't want to be caught cold when the competition ramps up, but that is what Stan Wawrinka has to do as he takes on Tommy Robredo in an intriguing Fourth Round match.

Robredo had a strong run here last season and has a strong head to head against Wawrinka, but the latter beat Robredo in straight sets at the Australian Open earlier this season although their hard court matches have been split 2-2.

The Spaniard has been a little fortunate to come through to the Fourth Round, but he has a deep battling mentality that will be tough for Wawrinka to overcome, but the better shot-making and hard court pedigree should be on the side of the latter. As long as Wawrinka can remain mentally focused, I do think he wins this match 63, 46, 76, 64.

Milos Raonic v Kei Nishikori: Milos Raonic had to dig deep to come through his Third Round match, but he can use that battling display to somehow see off Kei Nishikori for the second time in consecutive Grand Slam events.

The serve should give Raonic the chance to dictate points, but I also think he will have to work less hard than Nishikori will to make sure he holds serve and that is where the Japanese player may struggle.

Nishikori will be very happy to see that this match won't be taking place until the evening session considering the humid conditions in New York, although that might not be enough to see him overcome Raonic.

I have to say that Nishikori has been in better form over the last week of the two players, but Raonic might have a little too much power for him in this one and come through in four or five tough sets.

Flavia Pennetta - 4.5 games v Casey Dellacqua: This has been a wonderful season for Casey Dellacqua who has won more matches on the main Tour than in the last four seasons combined. That confidence can't be under-estimated, but she is going against an experienced campaigner in Flavia Pennetta who must see a real chance to move into contention for a Grand Slam title after seeds continue to fall from the women's draw.

Pennetta reached the Quarter Final at the Australian Open in 2014 and she can reach that stage in another Major by winning this match, while the Italian also won the title at Indian Wells showing her ability to win on the hard courts.

Dellacqua was a Fourth Round and Quarter Finalist at those two events so her form can't be discounted, although I think Pennetta can match the power she brings and is also a little more consistent of the two players.

Out of the two players, Pennetta has at least shown some more form in the summer hard court events and I think she has enough in her locker to come through 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray Win 3-1 @ 4.33 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Milos Raonic @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Flavia Pennetta - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)

US Open Update: 12-9, + 8.66 Units (38 Units Staked, + 22.79% Yield)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

US Open Day 7 Picks 2014 (August 31st)

It just seems like the week is flying past as we have reached the Fourth Round of the women's event at the US Open and the conclusion of the Third Round of the men's event.

The results for the picks have improved as the week has moved on and it was another successful day on Saturday, but that doesn't mean I can be complacent and expect another strong Grand Slam performance without the necessary research.

Hopefully Sunday will provide another move upwards for the tournament with the following picks.

Marin Cilic win 3-1 v Kevin Anderson: This is a battle of big-servers but I expect Marin Cilic to have too much off the ground to win this match, although he might need four sets to get the job done.

Cilic is the more aggressive returner off both first and second serve and he may be able to push Anderson back a little despite the big serve the South African has.

In the longer rallies I would fancy Cilic to have the more consistency, but the Anderson serve means he is likely to take a set either with a late break of serve or through a tie-break.

However, the Croatian should be too strong when the match is said and done and should move into the Fourth Round.

Gael Monfils - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: The battle of two Frenchmen who perhaps should be making a grander impact in the Grand Slam events takes place on Sunday and I think Gael Monfils gets the better of Richard Gasquet.

They have had many close matches in the past and Monfils is leading the head to head thanks to wins in their last two matches and also has a win over Gasquet at the US Open.

I believe the extra athleticism that Monfils has causes Gasquet some problems as he forces him to look closer to the lines and there should also be plenty of breaks of serves both ways in this exciting match.

At the end of it, I expect Monfils has a little extra in the locker and can see off Gasquet, possibly after four tough sets.

Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 games v David Goffin: Grigor Dimitrov is one of the more recognised faces on the men's Tour these days, but he is quietly making his way through the draw at the US Open.

He has been in impressive form when you consider five of the six sets he has won has come by a 62 or better scoreline and I expect he is going to have a little too much for David Goffin too.

It has been an impressive summer for Goffin who has won plenty of matches and is set to re-enter the World Top 50 in the Rankings, but Dimitrov should be the one controlling the rallies in this match and I expect the Bulgarian will have the edge in the match.

There is a real belief that Dimitrov is capable of winning a Slam now and I think he comes through this one with a 63, 64, 64 win.

Sara Errani - 3.5 games v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: Sara Errani came through a tough Third Round match against Venus Williams and I think she is going to be able to back that up against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni who has already caused two big surprises during this tournament.

Lucic-Baroni beat Garbine Muguruza in the First Round and then stunned one of the favourites for the title by beating Simona Halep in the Third Round.

I expect someone like Errani to try and bamboozle Lucic-Baroni by forcing the latter into more and more shots and then trying to extract errors from her game. Lucic-Baroni had lost 7 matches in a row prior to her run at the US Open where the confidence has come from coming through the qualifiers and then winning three main Round matches.

This might be a step too far and I think Errani comes through 64, 64.

Maria Sharapova - 2.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: I have been a big critic of Caroline Wozniacki over the last few seasons, but I have to admit I have been very impressed with her since she split from Rory McIlroy.

It seems to have revitalised a career that was seemingly stuck in neutral and Wozniacki is a big threat to win even the biggest of tournaments, something I didn't really consider her even when she reached World Number 1 in the Rankings.

The match with Maria Sharapova is a fascinating Fourth Round encounter, and I think there is a chance that this goes to three sets. However, I think Sharapova is mentally hardened to deal with what Wozniacki throws at her and has dominated the head to head between them.

As I said, I do think Wozniacki is improved recently, but Sharapova can win this one 63, 46 64.

Lucie Safarova - 2.5 games v Shuai Peng: After reaching the Wimbledon Semi Final earlier in the season, Lucie Safarova must feel she has the making of a Grand Slam Champion, and I do expect her to be too good for Shuai Peng.

It has shown from Safarova's three set wins in the last two Rounds that she has a new found belief in her game, although Peng has been impressive with two straight wins against higher Ranked players to build her own confidence.

I can see both players having their success in this one after they played a tight battle in Doha earlier this season, but Safarova should be able to pick up the cheaper points behind her lefty serve.

Another match that might go three sets, I fancy Safarova to come through 62, 36, 64

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Gael Monfils - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sara Errani - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

US Open Update: 9-6, + 7.86 Units (27 Units Staked, + 29.11% Yield)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

US Open Day 6 Picks 2014 (August 30th)

More positives came out of Day 5 and I will be hoping to ride this positive trend through the Third Round matches that have been scheduled in New York today.

Flavia Pennetta - 4.5 games v Nicole Gibbs: This time last year, Flavia Pennetta crushed Nicole Gibbs in the First Round at this tournament, but I would be surprised if this isn't a more competitive match, although I still believe the Italian will come through.

Pennetta has beaten the likes of Shelby Rogers and Taylor Townsend this summer, the former in the Second Round at the US Open, so taking on another young American hope won't put any additional pressure on her, or so you would think.

She is going up against a player that has had two surprising wins already, but Gibbs has played a lot of tennis this week to get to the Third Round and she hasn't had a lot of experience of the top WTA level.

With hours spent on court, Gibbs may struggle to contain Pennetta who has heavy groundstrokes and I expect the latter can use those to punish the American and eventually come through 64, 63.

Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: You have to respect Leonardo Mayer who has shown he is more than a clay court specialist this season with a strong run at Wimbledon and he is in the midst of a career season.

Of course, Mayer is still most comfortable on clay where he won the title in Hamburg this summer and I think Kei Nishikori is going to wear him down and eventually prove too strong.

The first set should be very close, but I think Nishikori will be very difficult to pull back if he can take that set and should then move away from Mayer.

Nishikori can't take the match for granted though and must continue working hard as Mayer does have a decent serve that can set up the easy points, but I think this one ends 76, 64, 63 for the Japanese star.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Sam Querrey: On first glance, I though this spread was giving up too many games in favour of the big serving American Sam Querrey, but Novak Djokovic has the weapons to nullify that serve and then move forward.

In the last four meetings between these players, Djokovic has won almost half the sets (5/11) with either a bagel or a 61 scoreline and doing that again will give him every chance of surpassing this number.

Djokovic looks a man on a mission this week as he looks to add another Grand Slam title to the one he won at Wimbledon in July and I don't think he will be taking this match lightly. Querrey remains dangerous, especially if he builds some steam, but Djokovic should force the American to play enough balls to extract real errors from him as he goes closer and closer to the lines.

I will be looking for Djokovic to come through with a 75, 61, 63 win.

John Isner Win 3-1 v Philipp Kohlschreiber: These two players have had some incredibly close battles through the last few years, but I think John Isner gets a measure of revenge over Philipp Kohlschreiber for losses in the last 2 US Opens.

Isner has won all 4 other matches they have competed against one another, but this will be anything but straight-forward and a straight sets win would be a big surprise.

Expect tie-breaks and one break of serve could win any set, but I think the American will have learnt from the last two experiences and this time turn it around against Kohlschreiber.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Blaz Kavcic: Stan Wawrinka has struggled for consistency since winning the Australian Open, but he can still move safely into the Fourth Round as long as he can maintain his focus going into this match.

This is the kind of match that a Grand Slam Champion should be dominating as Kavcic doesn't have any particular overwhelming weapon.

Any player that has won a couple of matches in a Slam has to be respected though, although Kavcic suffered comfortable losses to Nicolas Mahut and Benjamin Becker this summer, while Wawrinka is another level higher than those players.

As long as he keeps his focus, which has been a issue for Wawrinka, I would imagine he can come through 64, 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Flavia Pennetta - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
John Isner Win 3-1 @ 4.33 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)

US Open Update: 6-5, + 3.34 Units (20 Units Staked, + 16.7% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (August 30-31)

The final weekend of August is the final round of Premier League games before the first international games of the new season and it is a big one for the likes of Manchester United who need a win desperately.

The first month has been as bad as last season to this point, but with this last weekend to try and redeem things and I am hopeful that these picks can get things continuing in the right direction.

Burnley v Manchester United Pick: I know Burnley have made a poor start to the new season, but I don't know who will be backing Manchester United to win at short odds considering their own poor start to the new season. The defending has been diabolical at times with a 3-5-2 system that is unfamiliar to the players causing some issues.

However, there should be a boost this weekend with Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria giving Manchester United a sprinkling of Argentinian toughness that has been missing from the first three games. Even with those arrivals, United have taken the Liverpool line of being priced by 'name' rather than 'form' and there is no way I would feel comfortable backing them to win at Turf Moor this weekend.

Manchester United have found the net in both League games though and I do think they are capable of scoring at Turf Moor with Di Maria, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie providing some real attacking options.

On the other hand, I fully expect Burnley to be completely up for this live game and they created enough against Chelsea in the first home game to think Turf Moor can be a very tough place to visit this season. That is the only goal Burnley have scored in 3 games in all competitions this season, but I think Sean Dyche is smart enough to know that this is a vulnerable Manchester United team coming to town and he will want his men on the front foot.

The first game of the last Premier League weekend was a dud, but this should be much more fascinating and I won't be surprised at all if both teams score in an entertaining game that could go either way.

Manchester City v Stoke City Pick: Manchester City look to be a team playing with supreme belief that they will find a way to win matches and I think it is going to be difficult for Stoke City to do enough to earn a point.

The question then becomes how long can Stoke frustrate the home team in a bid to perhaps find a surprise result. Last season they lasted until the 70th minute before Yaya Toure broke the resistance, but Stoke City have struggled here recently and had lost 4 of their previous 5 games at the Etihad Stadium by the same 3-0 scoreline.

With the attacking talent at the disposal of Manual Pellegrini and the full strength available to the Chilean, I think this game is going to end more in line with recent fixtures and the 1-0 could be an aberration.

It will all depend on how long Stoke can hold out, but an early goal conceded could make this a long afternoon for Mark Hughes at a club where he managed and I think Manchester City are clinical enough to win this one comfortably.

Swansea v West Brom Pick: August can be a tough month to really make a profit simply because there isn't a lot of form to back up picks and you can only go with pre-season expectations. It is then easy to read too much into one result and expect a team to continue playing at that level and I am a little disappointed with the prices for a Swansea win in this game.

However, I do think the Swans are the more likely winners as I feel they have more players capable of creating/scoring a goal out of nothing compared with West Brom. The latter look set for a tough season in the Premier League and I do think they are going up against a confident Swansea team that will want to go into the international break off the back of four straight wins.

It certainly won't be an easy game for Swansea considering I don't fully trust this team to break down opponents that may come into the Liberty Stadium to soak up the pressure. They did manage to do that against Burnley last weekend and I do feel they will produce something special that separates the two teams.

West Brom ended last season with some real struggles on their travels and I believe Swansea inflict their first defeat of the new campaign on Saturday.

West Ham United v Southampton Pick: There is every chance that this could prove to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend as both West Ham United and Southampton have shown their ability to get the ball down and play some quality football in the early portion of the new season.

With a little more luck in front of goal, West Ham would have won all 3 games they have played this season, but penalties have been a particularly issue after the shoot-out defeat against Sheffield United. That followed Mark Noble's penalty miss against Tottenham Hotspur which would have given West Ham the lead against ten men, but the result at Crystal Palace should give them confidence.

As well as Southampton have played against Liverpool, the result against West Brom at home has to be a concern and I think they are a touch over-rated to be coming to West Ham as the favourites this weekend.

West Ham have shown they can get after teams in the early season form and I think they will give Southampton plenty to think about. There is every chance that West Ham make it three wins in a row over the Saints at Upton Park, especially if they keep creating the chances they have so far this season and a small interest on the underdog is advisable.

Everton v Chelsea Pick: Everton threw away two points last week with their inexplicable collapse from 2-0 up against Arsenal with less than ten minutes to play. Now they have to pick themselves up to face one of the favourites for the Premier League title.

Chelsea have made a solid start to the new season but this is the toughest test they will have faced by some distance and the Blues could be missing Diego Costa this week.

They also have a poor record at Goodison Park to say the least in recent seasons and anything less than a A performance could see the Chelsea 100% come to a screeching halt.

We have seen so many teams come to this ground and fail to win the game if they are not at their very best and Chelsea may need Didier Drogba to lead the line if Costa can't go. The midfield will create chances but Everton will also be attacking at will and I think these teams may need to split the points this week.

Leicester City v Arsenal Pick: There have been some signs that Arsenal are getting better going forward, although they still look like they need someone to lead the line with Olivier Giroud missing out for the foreseeable future.

However, a concern for Arsene Wenger will be how vulnerable they look defensively and there was an element of fortune in the last few minutes against Besiktas that they didn't concede the goal that would have knocked them out.

They are now going up against a Leicester City team that have conceded twice in each of the first two matches in the Premier League and I do think Arsenal are capable of getting to that number again. On the other hand, Nigel Pearson would have seen enough going forward in those two League games to believe they can also cause Arsenal plenty of problems and I expect this Super Sunday contest may feature some goals.

I honestly do think both managers will feel they can win this game and there should be chances at both ends. At the end of the day, Arsenal should be the more clinical with the talent they can call upon, but they haven't been that good in either of their first two away games this season and I will pick this game to feature at least three goals.

MY PICKS: Burnley-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Swansea @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 3.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Everton-Chelsea Draw @ 3.40 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Leicester City-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)

August Update7-17, - 13.76 Units (41 Units Staked, - 33.56% Yield)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 29 August 2014

US Open Day 5 Picks 2014 (August 29th)

After a poor start to the tournament, there has been an improvement in each of the last three days to move the week back into a positive, although that doesn't mean I am any less fed up of these retirements.

One of the three landed in my favour, but both Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori looked in great positions to win their matches comfortably before opponents decided to pull out. Now both Marcos Baghdatis and Pablo Andujar probably had fine reasons to do so, but that won't help me feel any better when players fail to cover in situations where they should and I feel some profit has been left out there.

Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 games v Johanna Larsson: Johanna Larsson is coming off a big win over home hope Sloane Stephens, but all she has really done is put an exclamation point on the poor season that Stephens has been having.

Facing Jelena Jankovic should prove to be an altogether more difficult prospect for Larsson, especially considering she has been comfortably beaten in their last two matches.

Jankovic has been having a decent, if not a spectacular year and she has every chance of surpassing the 46 wins she achieved in 2013 with a couple of decent runs. The match up looks a good one with the consistent Serb able to extract errors from the Larsson game and I am not that surprised that the latter has won just six games from four sets that they have played against one another.

I would imagine the Larsson win over Stephens has boosted confidence to make this a closer match between these two than the last two matches, but I still believe Jankovic comes through 75, 62.

Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 games v Dudi Sela: Grigor Dimitrov barely came through a sloppy second set against Ryan Harrison but was still a comfortable First Round winner and I would be surprised if he can't back that up against Dudi Sela.

Sela... The bane of my life earlier this hard court season with a couple of decent runs and surprise wins, but it is asking a lot of him to knock off a confident player like Dimitrov who truly believes he should be at the business end of every tournament he competes in.

I would expect Dimitrov to have a lot more joy attacking the second serve of Sela than he did against Harrison, and I also believe his ability to make a number of balls is going to extract errors and give Dimitrov the chance to dictate things in this match.

The last time they met ended in a close three set win for Dimitrov, but I would say he has improved a lot since that 2012 meeting and expect this one to be a little more routine.

David Ferrer - 5.5 games v Bernard Tomic: You know I haven't really gone near a David Ferrer match since the French Open as it has seemed he is not quite himself and a number of his results since then have confirmed my doubts.

However, I still think he has the mental fortitude to take care of Bernard Tomic in this Second Round match as his ability to make balls is surely going to frustrate the young Australian. It hasn't been a great season for Tomic who suffered an injury that kept him out earlier in the year, but he has won a title on the hard courts during this summer.

That came in Bogota against limited opposition to say the least and Tomic has not been very consistent since then. Ferrer has had some strange results too in that time, including dropping sets in the most bizarre fashion and that would concern me in this match.

However, I think mentally Ferrer is still as good as ever and that is the factor that could see him come through while covering this number of games in four sets.

Ivo Karlovic win 3-1 v Marcel Granollers: I was looking at a couple of ways to back Ivo Karlovic in this match, but I have settled on him coming through in four sets against a Marcel Granollers who has had a poor 2014 season.

Ivo Karlovic still has the monster serve that made him so dangerous to play, although it is not the all-conquering weapon it had been at the peak of his powers. Nowadays, more and more opponents begin to get a good feel for what Karlovic brings, but an unconfident Granollers is perhaps not the man to take advantage.

However, the fact that more and more players are getting into the Karlovic service game means there is every chance that Granollers can win at least a set, especially with the lottery of the tie-break to get through too.

I do think Karlovic, despite a generally poor record in Grand Slams, will be too strong for the Spaniard when it is all said and done, but a small interest on a 3-1 win is the call.

MY PICKS: Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic Win 3-1 @ 4.20 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

US Open Update: 4-4, + 0.54 Units (15 Units Staked, + 3.6% Yield)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

College Football Week 1 Picks 2014 (August 28-31)

Last season proved to be a very successful one for the picks from College Football and the NFL, although I would have dearly loved to have had a much stronger Bowl Season when the profit from the season was almost cut in half.

It feels like only yesterday that the Florida State Seminoles were winning the National Championship, but eight months on and we are ready for the new College Play Off system as Week One gets ready to go. Unlike the NFL, there are usually more drastic changes in the College game with players concluding their time in school, while others make the early jump to the professional ranks.

This time we do see the 'big names' all being spoken about as potential National Champions, but the regular season does feel more important than ever. Even so, it would be a surprise if the winner of the SEC, Pac-12 Conferences are not making up two of the teams in the College Play Off with the other expected to be Florida State who should win the ACC.

That would mean either the Big Ten Champion or the Big 12 Champion being forced to sit out the inaugural Play Off system, which would bring its own questions if those two teams are unbeaten, or if there are three or more teams all with just one loss for the year.

I am interested to see how things play out this season as the College game gets set to begin a week before the start of the NFL season. The next nine months are expected to be fascinating all around as fans and players just want to see some live, meaningful action (I am not a fan of the NFL pre-season games at all).

Even fans on this side of the Atlantic are getting in on College Football this season with Ireland hosting the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF on the first weekend of the season and it seems fans on this side of the pond can't get enough of American Football these days. Of course the NFL will be sending three games to Wembley Stadium during the course of the regular season too and it is simply time to start tossing the pigskin all around the field.

After a really disappointing 2012 season, the picks returned to the land of profit in 2013, but I am still hopeful of avoiding those weeks where 'everything' seems to go wrong. The 2012 season started horrifically with a number of backdoor covers as the 'big teams' rested players with scores in hand.

It is a long season so even a poor start isn't the end of the world, but let's face facts for a moment- it always feels good to get ahead of the curve and try to build momentum for another strong year.

Texas A&M Aggies @ South Carolina Gamecocks Pick: The College Football season kicks off with a huge SEC game between two teams that have lost a number of big Draft picks as well as some top names in both offensive and defensive positions.

The spread has come down since the opening lines with South Carolina favoured by less than double digits, but I was most interested in the total points and feel the 59.5 points offered at William Hill could be considered a touch low.

Both teams will feel their offenses are capable of putting up plenty of points and I think both Offensive Lines will feel they can win the war in the trenches that should set up the teams to move up and down the field.

Out of the two of them, it is South Carolina that are projected to have a bigger season, possibly even getting into the Play Offs at the end of the season and they should have prepared well enough to win the game. However, that may come while the total points are surpassed and I feel better about that than picking a team to cover the spread.

Tulane Green Wave @ Tulsa Golden Hurricane Pick: The two teams may both be moving into the American Atlantic Conference this season, but they are familiar with one another and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane are looking for a bit of revenge for an upset loss last season.

The experience for the coming season lands on the side of Tulsa and there is more expectation of them compared with Tulane in the move to a better Conference.

While Tulsa are expected to improve, Tulane are not expected to earn another winning record this time around after a number of upsets assisted them 7 wins in 2013. The Green Wave also have an awful record when travelling to Oklahoma having lost their last 4 visits and those have come at an average of 37 points per game.

Even in the Green Wave win last season, they were actually outgained in terms of yards but won the turnover battle and I am expecting the Golden Hurricane to win this one by a touchdown at least.

UTSA Roadrunners @ Houston Cougars Pick: A quick look at the rosters will show that these two teams are returning a vast majority of the starters from last season and both are expected to be amongst the favourites to win their respective Conferences.

The edge in the contest goes to Houston for a couple of reasons as they opening their brand new home and have an experienced John O'Korn starting under Center for this game.

The scoreline from last season may suggest Houston won easily, but they basically won the turnover battle and were outgained in terms of yards in that game. Eric Soza has left UTSA now so a new Quarter Back has to be broken in and I think there might be a few more troubles in the turnover department in this one.

Houston have a 12-5 record against the spread as the home favourite over the last three years and I will look for them to cover the double-digit spread.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Navy Midshipmen Pick: Braxton Miller is gone for the season so the Ohio State Buckeyes have been hurt badly in their bid for a place in the Play Offs after previously being favourites to do so.

However, this line seems to be a little over-reaction considering the difference in talent options for both teams, although Navy are very capable having brought back a lot of players with a lot experience.

Dropping 6 points off the original line does cover the Miller absence, but I think the Buckeyes will be well prepared for the triple option Navy run and I think they play with attitude to prove Ohio State is more than an injured Quarter Back. It won't be easy against a well disciplined Navy team, but a little over two touchdowns to cover should give the Buckeyes a chance to do so.

Alabama Crimson Tide v West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: There are some connections between the teams and there are doubts about what to expect from the Alabama Quarter Back situation, but the talent differential should lead to a fairly routine win for an annual National Championship favourite.

The neutral venue bring some more intrigue, as well as Alabama coming into the game having lost their last 2 games last season, but the Crimson Tide still have the best Receiving corps and Running Back corps and I think they wear down a Mountaineers team that is far off the recent heights of the Geno Smith era.

Alabama have won their last 2 opening games by an average of 26 points per game and the Mountaineers were beaten by 26 points the last time they met an SEC team. West Virginia are 1-6 against the spread in their last 7 non-Conference games and the Crimson Tide could make a big statement.

Florida Atlantic Owls @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: As much as Bo Pelini may say that he is not interested in the 'revenge' angle for his brother Carl, it may make him a little more hesitant to call off the dogs even if Nebraska get into a big lead.

They should have the talent edges in the game and I expect the Cornhuskers are going to be dominate with their running game and be able to score a few Touchdowns in this one.

At this time of the year, teams can decide to rest starters when the game is in hand, but I think Nebraska keep them in a little longer, while the Cornhuskers were surprised with a home loss to Wyoming last season which should keep the focus together.

Florida Atlantic do battle hard, but Nebraska should see enough of the ball to cover.

California Golden Bears @ Northwestern Wildcats Pick: Out of these two teams, there is a real feeling that Northwestern are going to have a breakout season and really cause some problems for teams in the Big Ten and I think they will prove to be too strong for a California Golden Bears team that should be a lot better than last season even if the record might not reflect that.

I expect Northwestern will have more success with the ball in their hands and might win the turnover battle again that could see them pull away from the Golden Bears in a similar manner to last season.

Sonny Dykes will be hoping California can throw the ball with more consistency, but that could potentially be going up against the strength of the Northwestern Defense and might also lead to those killer turnovers.

It is a big number, but one that Northwestern can cover.

Georgia Bulldogs v Clemson Tigers Pick: The winner of this game is going to be a real contender in the National Championship discussion, although both Georgia and Clemson are in Divisions with a real powerhouse that is expected to reach the final four.

They can't worry about that for now as they get set to meet in a neutral venue, but one that should have more Georgia fans in the building.

There is a little more solidity behind the Georgia team in my opinion thanks to Todd Gurley, although this Offensive Line has to use all of their experience that they have gathered against a fierce Clemson Defensive Line.

However, I did think the Bulldogs would be more than a 7.5 point favourite and I like them to win and cover.

Florida State Seminoles v Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: Florida State are the National Champions and they have every chance to back that up this season with Jameis Winston still at Quarter Back.

This looks a big spread to cover in Jerry's World, but the Seminoles have the experience and might only be affected by lack of effort if they feel they just need to come in and think the Oklahoma State Cowboys are going to roll over.

The Cowboys have only brought back 8 starters and it is a big task to take on the National Champions and I think the Seminoles go into the game with the ability to really crack on and show why they are such a favourite to repeat.

LSU Tigers v Wisconsin Badgers Pick: Simple reason for this pick to be honest- SEC over Big Ten and I do think the LSU Tigers are better than some will think too.

The Tigers have lost key pieces of their team, but they have more returning starters than the Wisconsin Badgers.

Both teams have their doubts as you just don't know what inexperience will bring to the table, but SEC over Big Ten is a comfortable position for me in what looks like a small squad.

MY PICKS: South Carolina Gamecocks-Texas A&M Aggies Over 59.5 Total Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Tulsa Golden Hurricane - 6 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 10 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 14.5 Points @ 1.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 23.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 21.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Northwestern Wildcats - 10 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 10 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 19 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Season 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)
Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

US Open Day 4 Picks 2014 (August 28th)

So suffice to say that Day 3 at the US Open was a strange one for the picks with two of the matches ending in the void column thanks to retirements, while the two completed matches saw one find a way to lose when it looked like it would win and the other find a way to win when it looked like heading in a losing direction.

It does mean that Day 3 turned a positive number, but it was a long way to get to that point.

Day 3 was also notable for a number of big name players exiting the draw as the heavy wind that usually accompanies the US Open were evident, especially earlier in the day. A couple of players escaped with final set wins and the Second Round will be concluded on Thursday as the tournament begins to pick up some pace.

Kei Nishikori - 6.5 games v Pablo Andujar: One of the top players in the men's game that I don't have full trust in is Kei Nishikori, especially when it comes to these big number of games to cover.

Nishikori's serve won't intimidate too many people and that means he has to work harder to hold on to that aspect of his game and I do think that has contributed to some of the health issues he has had. The Japanese star has to stay out on the court longer than necessary as he is forced to dig deep at times, but I do like the match up with Pablo Andujar.

Andujar also has a serve that needs protecting so Nishikori will have the chance to recover any breaks of serve, while I also feel the hard courts are going to favour the higher Ranked player. Andujar is just 7-17 on the hard courts over the last two seasons, and there is little doubt the Spaniard feels more comfortable on the clay courts.

That should give Nishikori enough of an edge to come through with a 76, 64, 62 win.

Sam Querrey win 3-1 v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: Once seen as the future of men's American tennis, Sam Querrey has struggled with injury and form and now lies just 57 in the World Rankings.

He struggled through in five sets in the First Round, but has been given time to recover from those exploits and Querrey has matched up well with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the past.

I was surprised to see Garcia-Lopez dismiss Yen-Hsun Lu so comfortably in the First Round, but he has lost all four matches against Querrey including in three sets in Winston Salem last week. The bigger serve and heavier shots lie with Querrey, although I have noted that the last three matches between the players have needed all gone the distance.

Those came in best of three set matches and it wouldn't surprise me if Querrey needs four sets to see off Garcia-Lopez here after splitting the first two sets played.

Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 games v Christina McHale: You'd have to be a fool to not recognise that we haven't seen the best of Victoria Azarenka since her injury issues at the start of 2014 and it is the main reason she has dropped to number 17 in the World Rankings.

She has struggled for consistency since returning to the Tour and made heavy weather of her First Round win, but I think Azarenka can find things a little more straight-forward against home hope Christina McHale on Thursday.

McHale has struggled against some of the better players she has faced in recent weeks, but she was inspired enough to take Ana Ivanovic to three sets twelve months ago here. However, McHale really had to battle deep within herself to win her First Round match and I am interested to know how much she left out there.

It was a double bagel for Azarenka when these players last met and, while I expect this will be much more competitive, I think she can move through with a 64, 63 win in this one.

Ekaterina Makarova - 5.5 games v Polona Hercog: Ekaterina Makarova was one of the more frustrating players on the WTA Tour as she seemed to have all the talent to perform better than she was. Outside of the Australian Open, Makarova made sporadic impacts on the Tour, but her recent form suggests that could be changing.

Only the biggest names on the WTA Tour have prevented Makarova from going all the way in tournaments during the summer hard court swing and her 23 hard court wins already this season has surpassed what she managed in each of the last two seasons.

This is a much more confident player in the midst of her best season on the Tour and I think Makarova can use her power to get past Polona Hercog in this Second Round match. Makarova dismissed her in the First Round twelve months ago and Hercog hasn't had much success on the hard courts coming into the US Open.

Hercog did surprise with her First Round win but it is unlikely that she can back that up here against an in-form Makarova ad I like the latter to come through 64, 62.

Eugenie Bouchard - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: I don't know whether we can read too much into Sorana Cirstea's First Round dismantling of Heather Watson as that was down to as much poor play from the Brit as quality stuff from Cirstea.

I think the Romanian will find a lot tougher against Eugenie Bouchard despite the struggles the latter has had in the summer hard court swing. It feels like Bouchard is finding it hard to motivate herself in the 'smaller' tournaments after her success in the Grand Slam events in 2014 and I am expecting another big showing.

Despite some of the terrible beatings Bouchard has suffered over the last six weeks, she still should have enough consistency to force Cirstea to search for a little more. I also feel Cirstea has struggled to back up wins all season and she hasn't done that since the French Open, while looking set for her fewest wins on the Tour since 2011.

Both are heavy hitters so the second serves could take some punishment in this Second Round match, but I do think Bouchard digs deep enough for a 75, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 6.5 Games @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sam Querrey Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 1-3, - 3.5 Units (8 Units Staked, - 43.75% Yield)