Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (November 25-27)

The penultimate round of the Champions League/Europa League Group Stage is when a lot of the permutations in the Groups are cleared up and sides can book their places in the Last 16/32 of their respective competitions.

Securing the top spot in the Champions League Groups are especially important to avoid the big tests in the Last 16 as Arsenal have found out to their cost in recent seasons and that should maintain some interest for teams going into the final two rounds.

CSKA Moscow v Roma Pick: As solid as the two results against Manchester City were, I can't help but feel CSKA Moscow have been afforded too much respect from them and I do think Roma can secure a vital three points that will put them on the brink of qualification.

In fact, Roma will be through with a win as long as Bayern Munich avoid defeat at Manchester City and that motivation could see the Italian side win in one of the early kick offs on Tuesday afternoon.

It has to be remembered that CSKA Moscow have lost to Bayern Munich at home this season and should have been beaten by Manchester City who had a 0-2 lead in that game before inexplicably crumbling to a draw. That stopped a run of 3 consecutive home losses in the Champions League for CSKA Moscow, who also head into this one having been beaten in 3 of their last 4 games in all competitions including their last one at home.

Roma haven't travelled well in European competition in recent years and haven't won either away game this season, while the side snapped a run of 5 games away from home without a win by beating Atlanta this past weekend. However, I don't think it is an under-estimation of CSKA Moscow to say away games at Manchester City and Bayern Munich in the Champions League and at Juventus (1st Serie A), Sampdoria (4th Serie A) and Napoli (3rd Serie A) are tougher than this one and Roma might be a little under-rated to win here.

It won't be an easy game for the Italians, but they have less pressure on them having beaten CSKA Moscow 5-1 at home and I think they are going to be too strong for the Russian team that have been out of form recently and I like Roma to win this game and put one foot into the Last 16.

BATE Borisov v Porto Pick: BATE Borisov are in pole position for a place in the Europa League having already been knocked out of the Champions League, but their losses in the Group so far have all been by embarrassing margins. In fact, BATE have failed to score and conceded a mammoth 18 goals in their three losses in the Group outside of the 2-1 win here over Athletic Bilbao that leaves them in 3rd place.

Now they face a Porto team that are going to be desperate to win the Group and who can qualify as winners of the section if they win and Shakhtar fail to do the same later in the evening against Athletic Bilbao.

BATE have struggled once they have got into the Group Stage of the Champions League, although they have also surprised the likes of Bayern Munich and Milan in the section. However, for the most part they have found the best teams too good and they have lost 3 of their last 4 home games in the Group with 2 of those losses coming by two or more goals.

This Porto team has pace to burn in the forward positions and a striker in Jackson Martinez that is capable of scoring at the highest level and this may end up being another fairly comfortable home loss for BATE. Porto haven't been the best travellers in the Champions League in recent seasons, but they will have confidence from beating BATE 6-0 at home and I think they will come close to matching the 0-2 win they had at Athletic Bilbao in the last round of games.

APOEL v Barcelona Pick: A lot of people may look at this game on first glance and expect Barcelona to win by a hatful of goals against APOEL, but the Cypriot side have been anything but an easy three points in the Group this season and in general on home soil in the Champions League.

This is a team that reached the Quarter Final of the Champions League just three seasons ago and APOEL have shown their desire and work rate in close losses in all of their Champions League Group games bar the 1-1 draw with Ajax. The three losses to Paris Saint-Germain (twice) and Barcelona have all come by the same 1-0 scoreline and that looks a big player in this one despite the strong attack that Barcelona can field.

The lack of goals in the APOEL side may be a concern for them in trying to earn a result in this one and they may be better placed to defend deep and try and hit Barcelona on the counter-attack or try and play out a goalless draw. They were minutes away from doing that against Paris Saint-Germain at home, but the fact they have failed to score in 3 in a row in all competitions and 3 of their last 5 at home is going to make it tough to secure a result in this one.

I would expect Barcelona to produce a bit of magic and win another away game in the Champions League which has been a problem as they have won just 3 of their last 10 on their travels in this competition. However, Barcelona's high possession game has meant they have won their last 5 away games in the Champions League when earning a clean sheet and I think that is the call for this game.

Schalke v Chelsea Pick: It has been a strong season for Chelsea in the Premier League, although it has to be said that the competition in that Division won't come up to some of the standards they will be seeing in the Champions League this season. However, I do feel that Schalke are not to that level either and a win for Chelsea looks to be the most probable result in this game.

I do have to credit Schalke for their record at home through the season and the fact they have won 4 in a row in front of their own fans, but this is a team that hasn't performed that well in the Champions League. They could only manage a draw with Maribor and needed a late goal to beat Sporting Lisbon despite the latter playing with ten men for much of that game and I think Chelsea are playing too well for them at the moment.

The away side are creating chances and they have a striker in Diego Costa who doesn't seem to need too much invitation to put his name on the scoresheet. The concern would be the lack of clean sheets that Chelsea have managed away from home with a number of late goals conceded in those games, but they had enough chances to beat both Sporting and Maribor on their travels in this Group and will enjoy playing an open Schalke side that will be on the front foot.

If Chelsea take the chances that are expected to come their way, they can make Jose Mourinho's wish come true and not only qualify for the Last 16, but also win the Group by securing the three points in this game.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Athletic Bilbao Pick: Shakhtar Donetsk might not be playing in their official home these days due to the issues that have gripped the Ukraine over the last few months, but they can beat Athletic Bilbao and remain in contention to win this Group.

Athletic Bilbao remind me very much of their Basque neighbours Real Sociedad in that they were unable to maintain the form that took them into the Champions League while balancing their League commitments with the competition. Like Real Sociedad, Bilbao came through impressively in the qualifiers to reach the Group, but have struggled in that section and are already out of the Champions League.

I don't know to what extent they would want to slip into the Europa League, but Athletic Bilbao have definitely been improving in La Liga, although still found themselves in losses to Porto in the last back to back games. Now they travel to a Shakhtar Donetsk team that have rattled in 12 goals in 2 games against BATE Borisov and who crushed Real Sociedad in both Champions League games last season.

There is so much pace in the Shakhtar forward positions which are going to be very tough for Athletic Bilbao to deal with, especially as they showed they were susceptible to that in the games with Porto. The focus might not be there either with the League the priority now and Bilbao might find themselves in a tough position in this game as Shakhtar go in search of more goals. Shakhtar have only won 2 of their last 7 home games in the Champions League, but they were unfortunate not to beat Porto having led 2-0 until the final three minutes of that game and I do expect them to win this game.

Atletico Madrid v Olympiacos Pick: Since the start of last season, Atletico Madrid have pushed themselves to the forefront of European football which culminated in an appearance in the Champions League Final just a few days after winning the Spanish Primera Division. They are no longer flying under the radar, but remain a team that can earn the big wins and another on Wednesday will send them through to the Last 16 of the Champions League.

They will be expected to see off an Olympiacos side that have lost 4 in a row on their travels in the Champions League although the Greek side will be respected having already beaten Atletico Madrid in the Group. Olympiacos will also have gotten teams to sit up and take notice considering their performance in Juventus although I do think the visit to Atletico Madrid is much tougher than going to Turin at this moment of time.

Atletico Madrid have been flying at home with 6 straight wins coming into this game, while they have also won 7 of their last 8 home games in the Champions League. A lot of these wins have come with Atletico Madrid scoring a few goals and being too strong for opponents and I think that shows up here.

With Olympiacos conceding at least twice in their last 4 away games in the Champions League and Atletico Madrid winning 5 of their last 6 at home by two or more goals, I expect there to be a margin of at least two goals between the teams in this one.

Basel v Real Madrid Pick: Basel are one of these teams that have so much European competition as they are seemingly in the Champions League every season, but have also had deep runs in the Europa League when they have exited this competition at an early stage. With that experience, they have become a tougher and tougher team to visit and that has resulted in a number of big name teams falling to surprise losses here.

It still seems a stretch to think Real Madrid will fall into that trap considering their 14 game winning run that they bring into this one and the fact they will likely start with James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo in the forward positions.

Those three players can make it very difficult for any team in Europe and it is no surprise that Real Madrid have been scoring as many goals as they have. They are averaging 4 goals per game in their last 8 away games in all competitions, although Real Madrid surprisingly struggled against Ludogorets where they needed to come from a goal behind to beat the Bulgarian Champions.

You have to feel Ronaldo will be particularly motivated after seeing what Lionel Messi did on Tuesday night and that could be bad news for Basel. As much as I do respect a team that has given so many problems on their own patch in recent seasons, this Real Madrid are playing at a very high level and should prove too strong.

Basel won't be out of the competition with a loss, but Real Madrid will be going through with top spot 100% secured and I think the reigning European Champions win this by a couple of goals at least.

MY PICKS: Roma @ 2.50 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Porto - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Barcelona Win to Nil @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Shakhtar Donetsk @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)

November Update10-13, - 3.21 Units (43 Units, - 7.47% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/1528-58, - 36.99 Units (139 Units Staked, - 26.61% 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, 21 November 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (November 22-24)

The international break has brought more misery on the injury front for Louis Van Gaal and Manchester United as news broke of Daley Blind, David De Gea and Angel Di Maria all returning to training with separate issues. The Blind injury seems to be the one shrouded in most mystery as it was initially reported he will be missing for six months, but later clarified by Van Gaal that it shouldn't be as long as that although there is no real timetable set for the Dutch international to return to the squad.

The De Gea and Di Maria knocks should not keep them out of the side, but defensive injuries remain and the surprise move for Radamel Falcao before the transfer deadline has not worked out so far with the Colombian out for at least another two weeks. The busy festive period where games come thick and fast don't exactly fill me with the expectation that Falcao will be able to take part too often and the gamble may not have paid off despite how highly I rate the forward.

I am no longer sure what is ailing Phil Jones and Jonny Evans to the extent that neither player seems ready to return this weekend, while Marcos Rojo might not return before Christmas.

One piece of good news for United is that they haven't fallen too far from the top four places, although I would dearly love to see them string together a run of wins in an inconsistent season to this point. Louis Van Gaal may have changed his mind about being judged in three months, but I am looking for improvements from the club now even if they have to come through a horrific string of injuries.

Talking about injuries, avoiding them was one of the main reasons that Liverpool, along with the lack of participating in any competition in Europe, that they were able to mount such a strong title challenge last season. Losing Luis Suarez was always going to be a big problem, but the injury to Daniel Sturridge which has restricted him to three Premier League games has arguably been more important to highlight their problems this season.

Sturridge has been ruled out until the New Year and the signings made by Brendan Rodgers have failed to fill the void left by losing their two top scorers from last season. That has seen Liverpool drop down the table and struggle in the Champions League and even a top four place may be slipping from their grasp after all the positives the fans had going into this campaign.

I was convinced they missed their best chance to win the top flight title last season since they last won it in 1990 and I think there is an awful long road ahead for Liverpool to get into such a position again with the last campaign almost being a 'perfect storm' for them.

The best news coming out of the international break was the fact that there will be no more until March 2015.

Chelsea v West Brom Pick: After coming from behind to beat Liverpool at Anfield in their last League game, Chelsea have hardened as favourites to win the Premier League title this season, but don't expect Jose Mourinho to be congratulating his side just yet.

The manager won't want his men to take their foot off the pedal and will expect Chelsea to add another three points to the board, even though they have an important Champions League game coming up during the week. Mourinho won't worry about that just yet with Chelsea in a strong position in the Group, and it would be a real surprise if Chelsea don't play a full strength team in this one.

West Brom have been a mixed bag recently with some impressive performances mixed in with some really poor ones and they are a hard team to get a full read on. There seems to be a real reliance on the pace of the forward players to help Alan Irvine's men surprise teams, but Chelsea have been playing very well this season and I don't believe there will be much of a surprise this weekend.

Goals haven't been a problem for Chelsea and it is hard to imagine how West Brom will keep up if the home side are firing on all cylinders. The international break does ruin some of the momentum that is picked up and can be tough for teams to 'get up' with players returning from far off destinations, but Chelsea have a deep squad and have had the benefit of seeing the likes of John Terry, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa getting vital rest over the last two weeks.

While West Brom have made it surprisingly difficult for Chelsea in recent visits to Stamford Bridge with a couple of close losses before the draw last season, this Chelsea team is full of confidence and I would expect to see them win by a couple of goals at least.

Everton v West Ham United Pick: I have a lot of respect for the performances that West Ham United have produced on a regular basis this season and they have the forward players to give Everton a lot of problems in this one. However, I also believe Everton are a side on the up and this should be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend which should produce goals at both ends of the pitch.

West Ham United have scored and conceded in every away games they have played this season as their attacking performances have finally got the fans fully behind Sam Allardyce, although that always seems to be a tense relationship on the brink of breaking up.

Those performances are likely to continue as they look to expose some of the defensive problems that Everton have been having for much of the season. Those have improved recently with three straight clean sheets at Goodison Park, but West Ham have the pace and an eye for goal that should see them penetrate an injury hit defence that Roberto Martinez has.

On the other hand, West Ham have conceded at least twice in 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League and Everton certainly have the firepower to become the latest side to do that. Take away the goalless draw with Swansea and Everton have scored at least twice in every other home game they have played this season, while reaching three goals in 4 of their last 5 here.

As I said, I would be surprised if this isn't one of the more entertaining games of the weekend and I would expect both Everton and West Ham United to score at least once. However, I think Everton's success against West Ham can see them win for the fifth time in a row against them and I believe there is some worth in backing the home side to win a a game in which both teams score at least once.

Manchester City v Swansea Pick: The last set of games between the international breaks were vastly disappointing for Manchester City and a similar run of poor form between now and March will surely end the reign of Manuel Pellegrini as manager of the club. Even with a hugely important Champions League game against Bayern Munich to come on Tuesday, Pellegrini can't afford for his side to slip further behind Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title this weekend.

The expectation will be that Chelsea will beat West Brom at home which means anything less than a win for Manchester City might already be too big a gap to bridge for the Champions of England. A returning David Silva would provide a big boost for the side, although will Pellegrini risk the Spanish playmaker or save him for the game with Bayern on Tuesday?

I'd be extremely surprised if Pellegrini was to under-estimate Swansea who have already been to Manchester and won this season so I would expect a very strong line up to be picked in a bid to secure a morale boosting victory. It won't come easy against Swansea, but Manchester City will at least know that their visitors are a team that likes playing their football so there could be some spaces to exploit.

The pace in forward areas for Swansea could cause a lot of problems for Manchester City who have looked nervous at times in recent games, especially if Vincent Kompany cannot be passed fit, but I also think Manchester City are a better team than they have showed of late.

The form might not be great, but Pellegrini has had two weeks to try and tinker with things and I expect Manchester City can win this game and build confidence for the big game against Bayern Munich in a few days time. Swansea should have some chances to cause a surprise, but Manchester City might have too much and continue their dominance of their visitors at home by securing a win by a couple of goals or more.

Arsenal v Manchester United Pick: Both Arsenal and Manchester United will see the other as a real rival in the bid to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and neither will want to slip up in this game. In recent games, Arsene Wenger has definitely asked his team to play with more caution than you would normally expect and I think that has contributed to the fact that Arsenal have failed to win any of their last 6 against Manchester United.

Even when the teams met during the David Moyes era last season, Arsenal definitely played within themselves in two games against United and they didn't deserve more than the one point they earned in those games.

With the way that both defences have played in recent games and the injuries that both teams have in that area of the pitch, there might be a feeling that both Wenger and Louis Van Gaal will play with more caution, but that is hard to do with the attacking talent on display.

Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria were the two big time recruits brought in by these two clubs and the former Barcelona and Real Madrid stars are likely to provide the key in producing a winner in this game. Both have made very good starts to life in the Premier League and might be in for special attention from the opposition managers, but both have shown they are capable of producing the bit of magic to inspire their teams.

It could also mean that both Wenger and Van Gaal decide attack is the best form of defence in a game like this and it could produce an open encounter that the top clubs have been a part of in recent seasons. A draw could be considered a good result for both teams and I do think both managers would accept that if offered to them now, but I would still be surprised if we see a game that doesn't produce chances.

Recent games between the teams have seen the last three games produce two goals or fewer, while the 3 of the last 4 at the Emirates Stadium have seen a surprising lack of goals too. However, I would be surprised if those trends continue with the mistakes both teams have made in defence and the injuries that both are dealing with and I believe there could be at least three goals scored, while the 2-2 scoreline has proved popular in the Premier League all season and has every chance of hitting here.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool Pick: Goals have been something of a problem for Liverpool in recent weeks and they won't have seen the mood improved when hearing that Daniel Sturridge is going to be missing until the New Year. With big games ahead, Brendan Rodgers has to find a way for his team to be more competitive at both ends of the field as they return to Selhurst Park where things went spectacularly wrong at the end of last season.

On that occasion, Crystal Palace fought back from 0-3 down in the final fifteen minutes to earn a 3-3 draw and effectively end Liverpool's chances of winning the Premier League title. Liverpool haven't played up to the level that saw them go 0-3 up in that game, but defensively they have looked vulnerable and Crystal Palace have to feel they can cause some problems.

However, the Eagles didn't go into the international break with much confidence having lost 4 of their last 5 Premier League games including back to back home losses. Goals haven't been much of an issue for Palace at home in the Premier League, but they have been conceding far too many when faced with better teams and Liverpool will certainly feel they should be included in that category.

I would be surprised if both managers don't set their teams up to have a go in this one and this could be a lively Super Sunday game. An early goal could really open the game up and I am surprised that the layers feel it is odds against that we will see at least three goals in this one.

Hull City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Emmanuel Adebayor insists he was misquoted about Tottenham Hotspur enjoying playing away from White Hart Lane more than they do at home, but there is no doubt results have been more positive on their travels of late. Mauricio Pochettino had already criticised the lack of width at home this season and there is a genuine feeling that Tottenham Hotspur would rather play away than at home.

They have a chance to prove that on Sunday as they visit Hull City who are dealing with a long injury list and have also been out of form heading into the international break. That has seen Hull City drop down the League table and Spurs will feel they have the pace and creativity to cause more problems for Hull in this one.

At home, Tottenham are asked to push a lot more than they seem to be comfortable with and that is unlikely to be the case this weekend with the onus on Hull to attack. Steve Bruce may also feel there are some vulnerabilities that can be exposed in the Tottenham team considering the form of the North London club and that might produce a surprisingly entertaining game.

Both teams will want to get forward and cause problems for the other and there hasn't been too much of a shortage of goals in games involving Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur this season. The home/away games respectively are averaging 3 goals per game and I don't think either manager will lack belief in their own side securing three important points this weekend.

That should produce a lively game that may end up with at least three goals shared by the sides and I will back that to happen in the second live game on Sunday afternoon.

MY PICKS: Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.76 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.75 Bwin (1 Unit)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.09 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.78 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Hull City-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

November Update5-12, - 11.04 Units (32 Units, - 34.5% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/1528-58, - 36.99 Units (139 Units Staked, - 26.61% 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)

Davis Cup Final Day 1 Picks 2014 (November 21)

Some of my friends can't really understand my fascination with tennis considering it is a sport that 'lacks characters and everyone seems to be friends with each other', but the end of the ATP World Tour Finals have provided some additional column inches that may not have been expected.

With the Davis Cup Final just days away, the story that Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka had a major falling out in their Semi Final threw the Switzerland preparation for this Final against France and was the main talking point in the lead up to this tie.

It has seemed that Wawrinka's problem may have been with the vocal support that Federer's wife, Mirka, had been offering during the Semi Final with one Swiss newspaper claiming that she had been heckling him for whinging. Apparently Federer and Wawrinka have been close, but clearly Federer's wife doesn't like the fact that Stan the Man has dared to challenge for the position as the Number 1 in Switzerland.

Both men have claimed that it is all water under the bridge and a 'heat of the moment' incident, but I for one can't wait to see the next time these two play one another.

Federer pulled out of the World Tour Finals following the win over Wawrinka, but he has managed to get through practice and will be in the second rubber of the day.

The big question still remains as to how the Switzerland team will get on over the next three days as they look to make history for their nation by winning the Davis Cup for the first time. I can see Stan Wawrinka being fired up and perhaps looking to make a point by being the player to lead them to the successful title win, but there is no doubt that Roger Federer needs to be healthy to see off an impressive French team.

I also do think the French side of the net are going to be very happy hearing about the Swiss problems and letting the media concentrate on that and allow them to get on with perfecting a game plan to win the title. I wasn't convinced the indoor clay courts would make the best use of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, but both thrive when performing in front of their own fans and they have also enjoyed success at Roland Garros in recent years to believe they can at least earn a split on Day One, if not take both rubbers.

At the start of the Davis Cup, I recommended Switzerland to win the title and they are going into this final as the favourites- some may feel the issues surrounding their team has to be taken on and will look to back France, but I still believe the Swiss find a way to take this one, even on away soil.

Stan Wawrinka win 3-2 v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The opening rubber of the Davis Cup Final could be the most vital one of the whole tie because I really feel this will go into a deciding set which could end up going either way.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has a decent record on the clay courts in the best of five matches and he will have been preparing for this match for a while as Stan Wawrinka has been concentrating on the indoor hard court season to end his 2014 campaign.

These two have previous for going the distance too- all five previous matches, which are lead 3-2 by Tsonga, have gone the distance and four of those matches have been on clay courts. Of those matches, these two have split them 2-2 and they are also 1-1 at Roland Garros with each having a five set win over the other.

Stan Wawrinka has more competitive tennis under his legs which may prove to be a difference, but it won't be easy against an opponent inspired by the home crowd. However, I just feel Wawrinka has enough of an edge on the backhand wing that will see him come through a very tough examination and set the Swiss up for a big weekend. A key to the match will be if Wawrinka can get enough first serves in play to back Tsonga up, but I think he also returns better than the Frenchman and can use that to find a five set win.

Roger Federer win 3-1 v Gael Monfils: So we will get the answer to how bad Roger Federer's back is very early in this second rubber, although I am of the belief that it might be an issue that has been exaggerated to take away from the issues with Stan Wawrinka at the World Tour Finals.

The match up with Gael Monfils is going to be an exciting one after the way Monfils pushed Federer at the US Open when he perhaps should have beaten the World Number 2.

Their three previous matches at the French Open have all ended in routine wins for Federer, but I do think Monfils has played well enough through 2014 to find himself with at least a set on the board in this one. The back is a big concern for Federer if it restricts him from serving properly, but I think he will put in his all in the hope that one rubber from him is enough to help Switzerland win this tie.

Monfils has been serving pretty well all season and that will give him every chance of winning this match if he is fully invested in it, but I do think Federer is the better player although is likely to drop a set if the Frenchman is inspired by the home fans. It might be a rare situation for Federer being the villain in the match, but I think he will be the one receiving a standing reception at the end of the day.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka Win 3-2 @ 6.50 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Roger Federer Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Season 2014+ 39.55 Units (1581.5 Units Staked, + 2.50% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Thursday, 20 November 2014

NFL Week 12 Picks 2014 (November 20-24)

Week 11 Thoughts
The AFC North continues to beat on the NFC South: These two Divisions have been paired up in the inter-Conference games this season and the fact that the every team in the AFC North has a winning record and every team in the NFC South has a losing one only highlights the fact that those teams in the AFC have dominated these games so far.

Last week the Cincinnati Bengals walked into the SuperDome and knocked off the New Orleans Saints meaning teams from the AFC North are now 8-1-1 against teams from the NFC South. The likes of the Baltimore Ravens actually have a losing record against AFC teams but are powering their push for the Play Offs by beating on the NFC South, while the Atlanta Falcons are only leading the South Division because they are unbeaten in Divisional play but lost every game other game.

I would never have expected this kind of record in the pre-season and it is a real surprise to see the New Orleans Saints losing to teams like Cleveland and Cincinnati, but I also think it has said a lot more about the NFC South and how poor it is than how good the AFC North may be.

Team with a losing record making the Play Offs: It has only been four seasons since the first ever team with a losing record made the NFL Play Offs, but talk about the NFC South leads me to the situation where that could be matched. It is ironic that the New Orleans Saints were beaten by the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the Play Offs in January 2011 as they are still the favourites to come out of the NFC South and may have a chance to avenge that loss this season, except as the team with the losing record.

With the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons leading the way, the chance of the NFC South having a Division winner with a sub 8-8 record has grown ever more likely- the team with the best schedule left is the Saints, but they haven't shown enough to think they will go 4-2 down the stretch and I would rule that out if they lose on Monday Night Football to the Baltimore Ravens.

It will see many writers re-visit the suggestion that the Play Offs should be re-seeded once they have been decided and that a Division winner should not have the right to host a Play Off game, although I still disagree with that sentiment. Winning the Division has to bring with it some benefit, even if it is the terrible NFC South this season and home advantage can be critical as the Seattle Seahawks showed in January 2011 despite finishing the season with a 7-9 record.

New Orleans have a very strong home field advantage (well they did before this season anyway) and they would feel they can beat anyone in the SuperDome which could make them a very dangerous opponent for a Wild Card team. But it doesn't take away from how bad things have been for teams in the NFC South this season that their Division winner is likely to have a losing record for the season.

Mark Sanchez is not good enough to start in the NFL: Those were essentially the headlines around the NFL following Philadelphia's crushing loss to the Green Bay Packers, but I don't buy them just yet.

There were a couple of terrible throws from Sanchez, particularly the Interception to Julius Peppers, but his Receivers also dropped a couple of passes they should have and he was perhaps a little flustered with a couple of overthrows after a fumble led to another Green Bay Touchdown.

It was always going to be a difficult test for Sanchez when Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as he is and I think a lot of teams would struggle to keep up- plus the point has been made that Sanchez doesn't play Defense or Special Teams which is where the Eagles were killed through the day.

I still think Sanchez is a decent fit for the Chip Kelly Offense and I think he will have a bounce back week against the Tennessee Titans who put in an awful lot before coming up short on Monday Night Football. Of course the doubters won't be silenced unless Sanchez can lead the Eagles into Dallas on Thanksgiving Day next week and leave with the victory.

Green Bay Packers best team in the NFL right now: Right now is the key- right now really doesn't matter all that much and the Super Bowl has really been won by teams who can get hot around December and ride that momentum to the title.

We have seen the Giants (twice) and the Baltimore Ravens do that in recent years so Green Bay fans shouldn't be getting carried away and must hope Aaron Rodgers isn't using his best form of the season in November and unable to sustain that through December and January.

Rodgers is my favourite Quarter Back and I love how he is playing, but Green Bay are not running away with the NFC North just yet and there are lots of big tests ahead if the Packers are to get back to the Super Bowl this season.

The New England Patriots will certainly feel they deserve this title too (and they are still the Number 1 team for me) and I think that has every chance of being the Super Bowl we see in Arizona this season. However, both have some significant hurdles to overcome which can be eased if both can wrap up the Number 1 Seed in their respective Conferences.

Top Ten
1) New England Patriots (8-2): Been Number 1 in my list since beating the Denver Broncos and have followed that with a road win at the Indianapolis Colts which makes the Patriots the team to beat in the AFC.

2) Green Bay Packers (7-3): Done enough to overtake Arizona by putting up another 50 plus points and look the best team in the NFC.

3) Arizona Cardinals (9-1): A three game lead in the NFC West and a two game lead in the NFC means all roads to the Super Bowl in Arizona will have to go through Arizona in this Conference.

4) Dallas Cowboys (7-3): A bye week to get healthier and seeing their nearest rivals Philadelphia blown out at Lambeau Field made Week 11 a good one for the Cowboys.

5) Denver Broncos (7-3): Injuries hurt Denver in their loss at St Louis, but that's two bad performances in three games for the pre-season Super Bowl favourites.

6) Kansas City Chiefs (7-3): They keep winning, but Kansas City will have a chance to prove they are for real in next two weeks after this one when they face Denver and Arizona.

7) Philadelphia Eagles (7-3): Losing in Lambeau Field is no disgrace, but the manner of the loss would have bothered Chip Kelly.

8) Indianapolis Colts (6-4): Might be more of a battle to win the AFC South than they would have though, but the Colts should still win out with Andrew Luck leading the charge.

9) Detroit Lions (7-3): Disappointing loss in Arizona because the Offense couldn't move the ball and use what the Defense had given them by holding the Cardinals to 14 points.

10) Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1): As long as they don't play on national television, Cincinnati may be alright and can win the AFC North.

Bottom Five
32) Oakland Raiders (0-10): Closing in on matching the St Louis Rams for third longest losing run in NFL history.

31) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9): Had a bye week but now prepare for a big game against an Indianapolis team coming off a big home loss.

30) Tennessee Titans (2-8): Showed heart in a close loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it is another loss.

29) New York Giants (3-7): The Giants continue to find creative ways to lose games.

28) Carolina Panthers (3-7-1): They needed this bye week desperately after losing 5 games in a row, although the Panthers are still very much in contention in the awful NFC South.

Week 12 Picks
It was another week with a positive trend for the picks, but I was still able to be mad with myself for changing units from two games- which two games? The Seattle and Denver ones! Some might say that is easy to say in hindsight, but I have never hidden my results or my picks so you will have to take me at face value when I say both games I had as one unit picks, but upgraded them at the last minute and I am not entirely sure why.

I was a bit annoyed with the Seattle pick considering they were stuffed on Fourth and One on two separate occasions, once underneath the Kansas City goalposts when a Field Goal would have given them the cover and every chance of getting the ball back with the chance to win the game with another Field Goal.

Denver had no chance when Julius Thomas and then Emmanuel Sanders were knocked from the game, but I won't complain too much about a winning week. Hopefully the management is better in Week 12 and I can continue the positives since an awful Week 8 with a slate of games that is only missing two teams completing the end of the 'bye' process for the season.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders Pick: Thursday Night Football has produced a number of lopsided wins during this season and there is every chance the Kansas City Chiefs can continue that trend against Divisional rivals the Oakland Raiders.

Some have mentioned the poor scheduling spot for Kansas City, but they have plenty of time to prepare for the next game against the Denver Broncos and won't want to lose momentum heading into that vital game that could determine the winner of the AFC West. The short week also should give them an advantage as the better team has generally prevailed in these Thursday Night games and Oakland did spend a lot of energy in coming up short against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

The problem I see for Oakland is I am not sure how they are going to be able to move the chains on Offense with consistency and also how they are going to slow down Jamaal Charles who has been flying on late. The Raiders have struggled to run the ball, which is the weakness of the Kansas City Defense, and Derek Carr is likely to be under immense pressure from the Chiefs pass rush which has given them one of the top pass Defenses in the NFL.

Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles should make enough plays to keep the Chiefs moving and this looks a big task for Oakland to stay with Kansas City. The Raiders Defense has actually played pretty decently considering, but the Chiefs are a methodical bunch that should make the right plays to keep the team moving forward.

Kansas City beat Oakland easily in both games last season and I do like them to win this one going away.

Tennessee Titans @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: There was a loud thud as many people jumped off the Mark Sanchez and Philadelphia Eagles bandwagon following their blow out loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 11, but I think they can bounce back in this home game.

One concern is that the Eagles are going into Dallas to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in just four days time, but they can't afford to drop any games at the moment and Chip Kelly is a Head Coach that preaches taking things one game at a time.

LeSean McCoy may finally have a really big game for Philadelphia if he can pick up where Le'Veon Bell left off on Monday Night Football and that would aid Sanchez if the Eagles can establish the run. However, the Secondary is a bit of problem for the Titans and I would still think Sanchez can have enough success downfield in this Offense that loves to take big shots.

I would also expect the Philadelphia Defense to come out and try and prove the loss to Green Bay and having 50 points hung on them was something of an anomaly and I think the pressure the Eagles get up front will be a problem for Zach Mettenberger to deal with. Tennessee also put in a huge effort on Monday Night Football and they are 1-3 against the spread as a double digit underdog over the last three seasons so may not have the required energy levels to keep this competitive.

While the game with Dallas is looming, Philadelphia can't afford to overlook Tennessee and I think they win this one big.

Detroit Lions @ New England Patriots Pick: This really isn't that important a game for the New England Patriots all things considering, but I don't think Bill Belichick is going to risk seeing the Miami Dolphins get a little closer to them in the AFC East considering the Dolphins have beaten them already this season.

They are also facing a Detroit Lions team that lost a big game agains NFC rivals Arizona in Week 11 and who have to host the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day and so it can be argued that this game is perhaps one that the Lions would rather not play.

It is a tough game for the Lions who have struggled to run the ball and Matt Stafford may see Calvin Johnson blanketed by Darrelle Revis for much of the day. Stafford has shown some stubbornness to force the ball to Megatron which could be an issue against New England who are always well prepared for games and Detroit may have a few issues moving the chains consistently.

One thing going in their favour though is the fact that the Lions can get a lot of pressure up front on Tom Brady without taking more players out of coverage. With Detroit's ability to stop the run, that pressure could make it much more difficult for New England to have a strong Offensive showing too which does make this amount of points to lay look a lot.

However, the Detroit Secondary will have a tough job slowing down Rob Gronkowski who is healthy and making some outstanding plays, while Brady will also look to get the ball out of his hands quickly and could challenge the Lions.

Detroit haven't been a great road underdog in recent seasons and New England are also 7-1 against the spread when favoured by between 3.5 and 7 points over the last three seasons. I'm liking the Patriots to ride their momentum to a double digit win in this one.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: The Green Bay Packers have put up 50 points in back to back games and they have become the third team to do that in the NFL- the last two teams have gone 1-1 against the spread and I look for Green Bay to make that 2-1 this week.

The Packers have been playing so well and it is hard to see how Minnesota are going to slow them down in this one with the balance shown on Offense. Green Bay should have success throwing and running the ball in this one and while they won't get to 50 points, they should reach at least 30 with the way they have been playing.

So the question shifts to whether Minnesota can find enough points to keep up with the Packers and it would be a surprise if they can do that with Teddy Bridgewater not really being asked to take too many risks. This Packers Defense isn't really one you want to throw against all too often either with the added pressure they have gotten up front in recent games which has seen the Secondary turn the ball over.

Extra possessions for Aaron Rodgers won't be a good thing for the Vikings and they might not be able to rely on the run either if Minnesota find themselves in a big hole in this one.

Green Bay are 12-5 against the spread against NFC North rivals over the last three seasons and they have enjoyed being a favourite over between 3.5 and 9.5 points, going 12-6 against the spread in that same time frame. I like the Packers to find a double digit win in this one.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a loss and Andrew Luck has generally bounced back in the best way as he has helped the Colts go 11-1 against the spread in that spot and I think there is every chance they can cover this big number.

Andrew Luck will need to be leading the Colts in this one as he will have to make do without Ahmad Bradshaw for the rest of the season and I am not sure Trent Richardson will ever prove he was worth a First Round pick. However, Luck should be fine throwing against this Secondary and I do think the Colts can score plenty of points.

It'll be tough for Blake Bortles to keep up, while there is every chance that he will offer up some extra possessions with turnovers being a problem for him. Bortles hasn't been helped by a porous Offensive Line which has seen him throwing under pressure, but he could rely on Denard Robinson to run the ball as long as this game doesn't get out of hand.

It is a big number as I have mentioned but the Colts have dominated Divisional rivals though and they are 12-2 against the spread in those games over the last three seasons. The Jaguars are also just 2-3 against the spread as the road underdog being given between 10.5 and 14 points and Indianapolis have won the last 4 games by an average of 24.5 points per game and I will look for the Colts to have a big win in this one too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Chicago Bears Pick: I have little doubt that both of these Offenses will be heavily reliant on the big Receivers that will take the field as Vincent Jackson/Mike Evans of Tampa Bay take on Alshon Jeffrey/Brandon Marshall of Chicago.

The added intrigue comes from the fact that Lovie Smith returns to Chicago, where he did have a lot of success as the Head Coach, along with Josh McCown who played so well in relief of Jay Cutler last season.

That additional motivation along with the importance of the game for Tampa Bay who still challenge in the NFC South could give the Buccaneers the edge in this game and I do like the amount of points they are being given.

I backed Chicago to beat Minnesota in Week 11, but the Bears were a small favourite in that instance and they haven't been as good when asked to lay bigger numbers. In fact the Bears are just 2-5 against the spread when set as the home favourite of between 3.5 and 7 points over the last three seasons and they are also just 5-14 against the spread at home in that same period.

Tampa Bay have also been an effective road team this season, including both straight up wins, and they are 4-1 against the spread on their travels. All the money in Vegas seems to be pouring on the home team after their dominating win over Minnesota in Week 11, but I think this Buccaneers team is capable of making this a very competitive game and have a real shot at winning it too.

Miami Dolphins @ Denver Broncos Pick: When the spread was initially released at the start of the week, I wasn't going to have anything to do with this game because I thought giving up more than a Touchdown was perhaps too much for Denver to cover. Some will obviously be interested in backing the Dolphins in the current form of both of these teams, but I also didn't want to go against Peyton Manning looking to bounce back from a loss.

Since then, the sharp money has seen the spread come down below a Touchdown and I think now is the time to back the Broncos who may have Emmanuel Sanders and possibly Julius Thomas in the activated numbers.

I am super impressed with the way the Miami Defense has played, but Ryan Tannehill trying to keep up with Peyton Manning on the road in these conditions looks a big ask. This is a Denver team that has gone 5-0 against the spread in the last three seasons when favoured by more than a Field Goal up to a Touchdown at home and I think Manning is going to have something to prove.

Some have pointed to Miami's record as an underdog in recent seasons, but they are just 2-3 against the spread in that spot this season, while the Dolphins have struggled coming off a Divisional game. In fact, they are 4-8 against the spread in their next game over the last three seasons, going just 1-4 in that time when winning a Divisional game.

Oh and about Peyton Manning off a loss? Denver have covered their next game 5 times in a row since the beginning of last season when losing the previous game straight up.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Pick: Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week or so, you will know the extreme weather that has gripped Buffalo has meant this game had to be moved to a neutral site. The big question has to be how the Buffalo players have been able to prepare and focus on the New York Jets with the problems that have been affecting their homes and families?

Both teams wouldn't normally be expected to run the ball that effectively against the Defenses they are facing, but the faster track on the indoor turf in Detroit may actually assist in ripping off some yards on the ground.

Neither team will want to leave Michael Vick or Kyle Orton in third and long situations considering the pass rush the Bills and Jets have gotten and the poor Offensive Lines that both are playing behind. Of the two teams, the Bills have the better Secondary, but the Jets have had the better preparation coming into the game and I think they have a real chance of upsetting the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo are just 1-4 against the spread as the favourite this season and I can't help but feel all of the distractions of the last week are going to be too much for players to overcome. Before all of the events during the week, I loved the Jets with a 4.5 point head start, but I still like them getting the points albeit for a small interest.

Baltimore Ravens @ New Orleans Saints Pick: It hasn't been that long since backing the New Orleans Saints in the SuperDome was an automatic good choice from a slate of games, but this season has proven to be much different.

In fact, the Saints are looking to avoid a third straight home loss although they should have a real opportunity to get back to winning ways against the Baltimore Ravens. Losing Brandin Cooks is a disappointment, as is Drew Brees' play, but the Baltimore Secondary has been struggling with injuries and the Saints are capable of hitting the deep ball.

The Ravens can get pressure up front and Brees has made some stunning mistakes at Quarter Back, but New Orleans should be able to pass the ball on Baltimore. On the other hand, Joe Flacco and the Ravens Offense is likely to have plenty of success themselves with New Orleans Secondary being in disarray for much of the season.

Flacco should find the likes of Steve Smith and Torrey Smith downfield, while Baltimore should be able to establish Justin Forsett which is more than what will be expected of Mark Ingram.

The AFC North has dominated the NFC South too including Cleveland beating Atlanta on Sunday and that is another reason I am a little wary of backing New Orleans.

However, I think this is a Saints team that can generally play better at home and who are 4-0 against the spread when favoured by three or fewer points in the SuperDome over the last three seasons. The Ravens are just 2-4 against the spread when set as the road underdog of three points or less over the same period and a think a small interest in New Orleans is warranted to take the sole lead in the NFC South.

0 Unit Picks: Cleveland Browns + 3 Points, Cincinnati Bengals + 1.5 Points, Arizona Cardinals + 7 Points, San Diego Chargers - 5 Points, San Francisco 49ers - 8.5 Points, New York Giants + 3.5 Points

MY PICKS: Kansas City Chiefs - 7 Points @ 1.85 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Philadelphia Eagles - 11 Points @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 7 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 13.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers + 5.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
New York Jets + 2.5 Points @ 2.05 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
New Orleans Saints - 3 Points @ 2.05 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Week 11: 5-4, + 1.20 Units
Week 104-2, + 3.90 Units
Week 94-3, + 1.42 Units
Week 81-8, - 13 Units
Week 78-1, + 11.20 Units
Week 62-3-1, - 2.46 Units
Week 53-4-1, + 0.84 Units
Week 44-4, + 0.02 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.82 Units
Week 25-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 201447-40-2, + 11.26 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

College Football Week 13 Picks 2014 (November 20-22)

After a week in which Alabama underlined their position as the Number 1 team in the country, according to Vegas, by beating the team that had been Ranked Number 1 according to the Committee, the newest Rankings haven't really produced any surprises at the very top.

The Crimson Tide might only have beaten Mississippi State by 5 points on the scoreboard, but the Bulldogs made that score respectable with a Touchdown pass from Dak Prescott that came with 15 seconds left on the clock. For the majority of the game, Alabama dominated and they were rightly placed as the Number 1 team and they will be in the Play Off if they can win out.

Oregon were on a bye week, but Florida State needed to produce a big comeback to escape with a road win at the Miami Hurricanes, although the Seminoles failed to impress again and remain behind the Ducks in the Rankings. It seems impossible to me that Florida State will fall out of the top four unless they are surprised with a loss in the final three weeks of the season, but Miami looked their biggest test and I think they have escaped all of their close calls that they are going to have.

Losing to Florida in the final week would make things interesting because Florida State would still be a likely ACC Champion, but I think a defeat to the struggling Gators would also be enough to knock them out.

The biggest question mark remains on the fourth place team as Oregon would be in by winning the Pac-12 Championship without another loss and that final place is going to come down to four teams as far as I am concerned. Mississippi State probably need the most help of those four teams because I am almost convinced the Committee would rather have Champions from difference Conferences rather than two SEC teams and the Bulldogs are on the outside now hoping for either an Alabama loss and winning out, or hoping the other three teams chasing fourth place all falter.

Ohio State are a very interesting team to me as they look bang in form at the moment, although they would have been helped by not making the mistakes to keep the win over Minnesota as close as it was. Turnovers cost them 21 points in a 7 point win on the road and the Buckeyes missed out their chance to impress the Committee, although they could benefit from Wisconsin's improved form by beating the Badgers for the Big Ten Championship.

The final two teams chasing that fourth place are both from the Big 12- despite the bad performance in beating Kansas on the road, TCU remain ahead of an idle Baylor, but I still think that will change down the stretch. Not having a Championship Game might be the reason both of those teams miss out if Ohio State win out, but Baylor have the better chance to impress the Committee with a home game against Kansas State and the tie-breaker over TCU.

It isn't the most eye-catching slate of games considering how little of the regular season is left, but Week 13 is important for teams that are positioning themselves to get into their Championship Games. Next week will see a lot of rivalry games and should be much more enjoyable for the neutrals that want to get their fix of College Football during and following Thanksgiving.

Kansas State Wildcats @ West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: The Big 12 might already be out of the reach for the West Virginia Mountaineers, but this is the final home game for their Seniors which should bring the best out of them. On the other hand, Kansas State have every chance to still take a share of the title if they can win out and the TCU Horned Frogs can drop another game.

That makes this a fascinating Thursday night game and while I have mainly steered clear of these midweek games, I do love the Kansas State Wildcats in the role of an underdog and I think they can keep this close if not win outright and will take the small points on offer.

The Wildcats will be able to run the ball more effectively than West Virginia and I love the coaching job Bill Snyder does as his team won't make the mistakes that others do. Clint Trickett has thrown a few Interceptions this season which could be fatal to West Virginia's chances of winning this game and he might be the Quarter Back under more pressure throwing out of third and long than Jake Waters whose help in the running game should set him up in third and manageable spots.

Both teams are also coming off a bye and this has been more favourable to Kansas State who are 7-1 against the spread following a bye over the last three seasons. In that same time period, the Mountaineers are 0-6 against the spread.

Also, Kansas State have enjoyed being a small road underdog with their record standing at 8-1 against the spread since 1992, while they are 7-3 against the spread over the last three seasons as an underdog. West Virginia haven't flourished as the favourite, going 5-14 against the spread in the last three seasons, and I do think the Wildcats have the trends and the better rushing Offense which should help them keep this very close at least.

Marshall Thundering Herd @ UAB Blazers Pick: The Marshall Thundering Herd have been very strong all season and have been surpassing the number set for them in Vegas for most of it too- I expect they will be able to do the same in their final regular season game although the UAB Blazers are not to be under-estimated.

However, the problem for the Blazers is that their biggest weapon Jordan Howard may be negated somewhat by a strong Marshall Defensive front and that may lead to mistakes from the Quarter Back who could be forced to throw to keep UAB in the game.

On the other hand, Marshall should be able to establish a running game that can rip off big gains through the game and Rakeem Cato could then be able to do what he likes throwing the ball.

Marshall have been strong as the road favourite this season with a 4-1 record against the spread and they are also 4-0 against the spread when asked to cover between 10.5 and 21 points. UAB are home and are desperate to become Bowl eligible so I expect a good fight out of them, but Marshall should pull away late and win this by at least three Touchdowns.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: This is a big number that the Michigan State Spartans need to cover and they haven't been that successful doing that in the past, but I think they can control much of this game and the Defense can come up big with some turnovers and three and outs.

Michigan State should be able to rip off big gains thanks to Jeremy Langford at the Running Back position which will make it easier for Connor Cook to also make plays from Quarter Back and I think Rutgers will do well to stop the Spartans scoring points consistently.

The Scarlet Knights have lost big to Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin and they only covered in one of those games, that coming thanks to a late fumble from the Cornhuskers in an otherwise dominating display. As long as the Spartans Defense plays up to the level they can, Michigan State should be able to dominate Rutgers and win this one going away.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs @ Old Dominion Monarchs Pick: The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have been very good in Conference-USA play this season and they are set to play in the Championship Game so they won't want to lose momentum at this late stage.

Both teams actually will have success moving the chains in this one, but a key to the game and cover could be the fact that the Bulldogs have a stronger run Defense and are also more likely to turn the ball over and give their Offense extra possessions.

Louisiana Tech have been much better against the number than Old Dominion through the season and they are a decent 6-2 against the spread as the road favourite over the last three seasons. As long as the Bulldogs can avoid the turnovers that have been a problem for them in the last three games, they should win this by a couple of Touchdowns.

Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Iowa State Cyclones Pick: This could be a high-scoring Big 12 game as two teams that have perhaps underachieved meet one another. The Texas Tech Red Raiders could have Davis Webb back at Quarter Back, although scoring points hasn't been much of a problem for them.

Instead it has been a porous Defense which has led to suggestions that former Defensive Co-Ordinator, Matt Wallerstedt, has been giving away signals to teams that have then exploited them. While that argument rumbles on, you have to think changes have been made and they will only be helped by an Iowa State Offense that hasn't exactly pulled up trees this season.

Texas Tech should have their way Offensively and they have been more competitive in Conference play than Iowa State. Even a bye week might not be enough for the Cyclones who are just 1-4 against the spread coming off a bye in the last three seasons and I do think the wrong team is being favoured in this one.

Maryland Terrapins @ Michigan Wolverines Pick: I don't know if Brady Hoke is going to be the Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines after this season is completed as the team have underachieved yet again and a move in a new direction in terms of an Athletic Director has already been made. Offensively Michigan have been a real disappointment, but they have won 3 of their last 4 games thanks to their Defensive performances and will want to roll into their game with Ohio State with momentum behind them.

The Defense will definitely feel they can shut down the Maryland Offense to most extents and purposes and Michigan should also be able to run the ball effectively to help get over the number they are being asked to do this week.

Turnovers have been a big problem for Maryland and CJ Brown may be pulled as the starting Quarter Back and I think Michigan may 'want' this game more to become Bowl eligible and not be faced with all the pressure of the game with Ohio State. In an ideal world, all the pressure will be on the Buckeyes as Michigan can concentrate on playing spoiler by winning this game.

Michigan haven't been a great favourite but the Wolverines can use a heavy dose on running the ball and a strong Defense to come through.

Mississippi Rebels @ Arkansas Razorbacks Pick: Alabama's win over Mississippi State has given the Mississippi Rebels an outside chance of winning the SEC West, but I think those hopes could officially come to an end at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks this week.

Arkansas have played most of their opponents very tough this season and I do like them with more than a Field Goal head start against a Rebels team that may already be looking ahead to the Egg Bowl and spoiling rivals Mississippi State's season.

Bo Wallace has shown his good side more than his bad side this season, but the loss of Laquon Treadwell is a devastating blow to the Rebels. Arkansas are fresh off snapping their long losing run in the SEC and they will be confident they can wear down Mississippi with their strong run game.

The Razorbacks are 5-1 against the spread at home this season and they have been getting things done against teams with winning records as they have gone 6-1 against the spread in that spot. With over a Field Goal in terms of points, I like the Razorbacks to get close to another SEC win.

Wisconsin Badgers @ Iowa Hawkeyes Pick: The big question for the Iowa Hawkeyes this week is how do you stop Melvin Gordon and the impressive Wisconsin Badgers running game and secure the upset? After seeing Minnesota run all over the Hawkeyes two weeks ago, Wisconsin have the personnel to do the same and rip off big gains as they have been doing in their five game winning run and wear down Iowa for another big win.

It all begins and ends with Wisconsin being able to run the ball and I don't think Iowa have shown enough on the season to think they can slow that down with both Indiana and Minnesota, two heavy run first teams, hurting them badly on the ground.

To make matters worse for the Hawkeyes will be the limited rest their Defensive unit is going to get with Offensive drives likely to be stalled by a strong Badgers Defense. Jake Rudock will be under pressure to throw from third and long too often for his liking and limited rest against a bruising team that wants to pound the ball down your throat is going to lead to lots of big gains.

Wisconsin have gone 6-3 against the spread as the road favourite over the last three seasons and Iowa are just 6-13 against the spread in home games during that same time frame. With Melvin Gordon likely having another big game, the Badgers should take another step towards booking their place in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Arizona Wildcats @ Utah Utes Pick: This might be taking place in a venue where things get colder than a desert team like Arizona may expect, but the Utah Utes have been outgained in their last 8 games and I like the Wildcats with the points on offer.

It is going to be tough for Arizona who won't be able to rip off big gains on the ground and are facing a pass rush that could rattle Anu Solomon, but the Secondary have still given up pretty big numbers and that is where the Quarter Back can have success.

I haven't been that convinced with Travis Wilson at the Utes Offense though and I think this has the makings of a tight, tough game that can be decided by a Field Goal either way and that makes the points given to the Wildcats look valuable. Any team that has been consistently outgained as Utah have in terms of yardage look a vulnerable favourite and they have had a bit of luck going their way to build the record they have.

As long as the Wildcats aren't looking ahead to the big game with rivals Arizona State, they should have a real shot at earning the upset in this game.

Colorado Buffaloes @ Oregon Ducks Pick: There isn't much to say about this game except that it might be even tougher for the Colorado Buffaloes if starting Quarter Back Sefo Liufau is limited or unable to suit up for this game.

Liufau has been doubtful heading into this game with concussion symptoms and Colorado are facing an Oregon team that will want to underline their place in the College Play Off places.

The Ducks have been getting healthier and that has helped Marcus Mariota stamp his Heisman credentials, while Oregon have a decent 4-2 record against the spread coming off a bye over the last three seasons. Colorado are 0-3 against the spread in the same time frame and they are also 0-3 against the spread when dogged by more than 31 points in that period.

There is a danger that Oregon allow a backdoor cover by bringing in the back ups, but they should be clear by then and Mark Helfrich will have taken note of how teams have seen positions changed if the style points aren't up to par.

Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Baylor Bears Pick: There is no doubt that this is a huge number to cover for the Baylor Bears and it is a shame that the line has moved above the four Touchdown mark, but I still think the Bears are going to be able to surpass the line.

Baylor will have seen how the Committee has looked down on the TCU Horned Frogs for a struggling win and this is a good chance to build their own position with the Horned Frogs on a bye week. The Oklahoma State Cowboys have also been beaten by an average of 28 points per game during their four game losing run.

The key games will have been the TCU and Kansas State ones which saw Baylor's main rivals for the Big 12 Championship both crush Oklahoma State by more than 31 points each and the Bears will definitely look to close on those numbers.

Bryce Petty should have a big game against a Secondary that has struggled all season and Daxx Garman is likely to be limited against a Baylor Defense that has been surprisingly effective.

Add in Baylor's record of going 14-3 against the spread at home over the last three seasons and they are 5-3 against the spread coming off a bye in that time frame only backs up my belief that the Bears cover. Oklahoma State have been an awful 1-4 against the spread as the road underdog this season and may be looking forward to getting into their bye and preparing for the huge rivalry game with the Oklahoma Sooners.

Missouri Tigers @ Tennessee Volunteers Pick: Far from me to be disrespecting what the layers in Vegas think considering the size of the casinos they manage to build every year, but I am extremely surprised that the Missouri Tigers are being dogged by over a Field Goal in this one.

The Tigers Defense is definitely for real and I can see them having enough success to give their Offense the chance to win the game outright and this should be a competitive game throughout. Tennessee have been playing well, but their two recent wins have come against teams not up to the level of Missouri in my opinion and it won't be easy for Joshua Dobbs to replicate the numbers he has had against South Carolina and Kentucky.

Missouri should also be able to control the clock with their running game and Maty Mauk now has the reliable Darius White back at Receiver, a player he trusts to make the big catch.

It also has to be said that Missouri are 5-0 against the spread when dogged on the road by between 3.5 and 7 points and they are also 12-2 against the spread in their road games over the last three seasons. Tennessee have been a strong favourite so far in the 2014 season, but this is a position they have struggled in prior to this season in recent years and the Volunteers are also just 0-3 against the spread over the last three seasons when winning back to back games.

Like I say, Vegas rarely get things wrong, but I just can't understand why Missouri are being handed so many points and hope that I don't find out this weekend.

USC Trojans @ UCLA Bruins Pick: This game has all the makings of a shoot-out which makes the points that USC are being given that much more attractive, especially as the line has stayed above a Field Goal in terms of points.

Both USC and UCLA will feel their Quarter Back can make the big plays to win the game for their school and this should be a battle to the end- the Bruins should have more success slowing the run game, but the USC Trojans have been more successful turning the ball over and this should be a great game to watch.

Jim Mora has been very good at preparing his team off a bye and you have to appreciate the fact that UCLA are 5-1 against the spread off a bye week in the last three seasons. However, I do think this has all the makings of a game that could be decided by the team that has the ball last and a three point win margin either way wouldn't surprise me.

UCLA have been playing some really strong football during their four game winning run and they are the more likely winners in my opinion, but I like taking the points in this one and will look for USC to play them tough and earn the cover.

MY PICKS: Kansas State Wildcats + 2.5 Points @ 1.85 Coral (1 Unit)
Marshall Thundering Herd - 20 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans - 22 Points @ 1.92 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - 11.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Texas Tech Red Raiders + 1.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 5 Points @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Arkansas Razorbacks + 3.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 10 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Arizona Wildcats + 4.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 32.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears - 29.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Missouri Tigers + 4 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
USC Trojans + 4 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Week 12: 7-5, + 1.40 Units (12 Units Staked, + 11.67% Yield)
Week 119-4, + 4.34 Units (13 Units Staked, + 33.38% Yield)
Week 106-7, - 1.51 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.62% Yield)
Week 94-9-1, - 5.31 Units (14 Units Staked, - 37.93% Yield)
Week 85-7, - 2.26 Units (12 Units Staked, - 18.83% Yield)
Week 73-8, - 5.31 Units (11 Units Staked, - 48.27% Yield)
Week 62-7, - 5.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 57% Yield)
Week 54-5, - 1.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 12.56% Yield)
Week 46-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)
Week 33-7-1, - 4.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 38% Yield)
Week 25-6, - 1.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 10.72% Yield)
Week 16-4, + 1.77 Units (10 Units Staked, + 11.7% Yield)

Season 201454-67-2, - 17.92 Units (136 Units Staked, - 13.18% Yield)
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)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

ATP World Tour Finals Day 8 Pick- Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer (November 16)

After a pretty good ten and a bit months, the last singles match of the ATP tennis 2014 season will be played between the two players who most deserved it as Novak Djokovic gets set to face Roger Federer.

These two are finishing the year as the World Number 1 and 2 and, outside of Rafael Nadal who unfortunately missed three months from Wimbledon until the Asian swing, Djokovic and Federer have been in position to contest the major titles.

In saying that, it is interesting to note that Djokovic 'only' reached two Grand Slam Finals, winning one, and Roger Federer 'only' made the one Slam Final in which he was defeated by Djokovic at Wimbledon.

There is a feeling that other players on the Tour are capable of producing that magical match to beat these guys at the Majors as Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Ernests Gulbis and Marin Cilic showed at the Australian and US Opens.

Still, going into 2015, you'd have to expect Djokovic and Federer to be at the business end of tournaments with the way they have been playing for much of the season, although I am looking forward to seeing if Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov can build on the seasons they have produced. It will be nice to see Dimitrov make the World Tour Finals in twelve months time after he came so close to reaching London this season and he looks the next breakthrough player at the Slams that could potentially win one of the Majors in the coming season.

I do think Wimbledon will provide his best chance as Dimitrov has the game for the surface and grass remains a conundrum for so many other players, while another player I am looking forward to seeing is the returning Juan Martin Del Potro. The big Argentine has missed much of the 2014 season and seems to have delayed his return to the Tour so he can be fully fit and ready to go in 2015 and he has to have watched Wawrinka and Cilic win Grand Slam titles with some envy.

Since winning the US Open in 2009, there have been a couple of times that Del Potro has looked close to adding to his sole Grand Slam win, but he hasn't quite kicked on to become a regular feature in the top four of the World Rankings. Another wrist injury may mean we will have to wait a while before Del Potro can produce his very best again, which is a shame, but there are some exciting things to come in 2015.

Before that there is the small matter of completing the World Tour Finals, while the Davis Cup Final is set to begin next Friday in Lille, although the weather forecast isn't encouraging for an outdoor clay court.

Hopefully that is going to be a pretty special Final between France and Switzerland and I have to say I am looking forward to seeing if Roger Federer can add a trophy to his haul that he has yet to win.

Novak Djokovic - 3.5 games v Roger Federer: I picked Novak Djokovic to win this tournament at the start of the week and anyone following that might decide they don't want to back the Serb again, but I do believe this isn't enough games for Roger Federer in the Final.

I have a lot of respect for the fitness that Federer has displayed throughout his career, but he is still a 33 year old man that was pushed to his very limit on Saturday evening and will have had a lot less rest than his opponent in this Final. It wasn't just the physical battle, but the emotions of playing his compatriot Stan Wawrinka and having to dig deep to win the match after saving match points against him.

The match also went the absolute distance by being decided in the tie-breaker and I do remember Federer struggling in the Olympic Gold Medal game in 2012 after being pushed all the way by Juan Martin Del Potro in the Semi Final. That match was played with a day of rest between the Semi Finals and while the match with Wawrinka wasn't close to that in terms of time, Federer is also facing Djokovic in the peak of his form.

Djokovic has had one blip all week in the Semi Final against Kei Nishikori, but he could have won that in straight sets and I think he will be extra focused in underlining his place as World Number 1 against his closest rival on the season.

The Serb has also beaten Federer in the last two editions of this tournament in the Final and the conditions are definitely more to Djokovic's liking than Federer who would have preferred a quicker court. Federer might be extra aggressive in a bid to shorten points and that could lead to more mistakes than normal and play perfectly into Djokovic's hands who will be happy to extend rallies and take Federer into deep waters.

Federer actually has a 3-2 lead over Djokovic in the 2014 season, but I believe the Serb will tie up loose ends and win this match 63, 64 while confirming his place as the man to beat going into the 2015 season.

MY PICK: Novak Djokovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

World Tour Finals Update: 10-2, + 16.52 Units (24 Units Staked, + 68.83% Yield)

Saturday, 15 November 2014

College Football Week 12 Picks 2014 (November 15)

The latest Rankings sent out by the Committee for the Play Offs caused some surprise reactions through the nation, especially the fact that the Alabama Crimson Tide have been left out of the top four places.

Add in the drop for the Florida State Seminoles from Number 2 to Number 3 and TCU Horned Frogs being placed in the top four ahead of the Baylor Bears and there have been a lot of people stunned by the release of the latest Rankings.

Most would have expected Alabama to be the team to replace Auburn in the top four of the Rankings after the Tigers were beaten by the Texas A&M Aggies at home, while Baylor hold the tie-breaker against TCU in the Big 12 but that doesn't seem to be relevant at the moment.

I can't see that remaining the case if both TCU and Baylor win out, while Alabama won't be overly concerned knowing they can run the table and will be secured their place in the Play Off. The Oregon Ducks and Florida State Seminoles both have their destiny in their own hands and look almost certain to be on a collision course in the first Play Off Semi Final, while teams like the Mississippi State Bulldogs have a huge week coming up to see if they have a genuine chance of making the Play Off.

As we go on with the remainder of the regular season during this month, the final four situation will clear up and the Committee will be getting closer to making their final judgements.

Week 11 proved to be the best week I have had in the College Football season so far and it is one that I will be looking to build upon through the rest of the month. I finally got a bit of luck that I was looking for, which was highlighted by the Utah-Oregon game when Kaelin Clay dropped the ball short of the end zone when going in for an easy score. That was then taken the opposite way for an Oregon Touchdown and Utah never really got back into their groove and it was clearly a play that went my way.

You can't expect that kind of luck every week, but I have had some bad breaks and that did at least raise a smile and the feeling of 'finally' something 'crazy' going my way.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Pick: Coming off a big road win against the Michigan State Spartans is a tough position for the Ohio State Buckeyes to be in, but the fact that the Minnesota Golden Gophers are flying high should keep them focused on the task at hand.

If the Buckeyes are sore or feeling a little emotionally fatigued, it will be tough to stop Minnesota on the ground, but if Ohio State win that battle in the trenches, they will likely force mistakes from Mitch Leidner at Quarter Back if he is asked to throw to move the chains.

JT Barrett and Ezekiel Elliot should help the Buckeyes find a way to establish their own ground game in this one, despite Minnesota's positive run Defense, especially if they can match how the TCU Horned Frogs took advantage. Barrett's ability to throw the ball downfield means Minnesota have to have respect for the Ohio State passing Offense too and can't load the box and I think the Buckeyes will take control of the game.

They have dominated Minnesota in recent games in the series, including winning 12 straight on the road by 17 points per game. Ohio State are also looking for big wins to prove they belong in the College Football Play Off that is decided in the next few weeks and they have been dominant in their last 7 wins except for the road win at Penn State which ended up closer than it should have been.

The Buckeyes are 6-4 against the spread as the road favourite over the last three seasons and they have been playing at a very high level since the loss against Virginia Tech. I think that level is too high for Minnesota and Ohio State have a big cover.

Nevada Wolfpack @ Air Force Falcons Pick: The home team has won the last two games in the series between these teams, although this is a bigger game for the Nevada Wolfpack who lead the Mountain West West Division. The Air Force Falcons could get involved in the race for the Mountain West Mountain Division, but they have lost to a number of their rivals in that Division where Colorado State, Boise State and Utah State have all lost just 1 Conference game.

Boh teams will look to run the ball and I think Air Force will be the more consistent when it comes to that aspect of the game, although Nevada do have the better success throwing the ball. However, the Falcons have a Defense that has been decent against the run and get a lot of pressure through their pass rush and that could determine the game.

Nevada have been strong coming off a bye week and Air Force have not been a great favourite which does concern me, but the Falcons have been playing very well and I like their chances at home. The Wolfpack also face a huge game against the Fresno State Bulldogs next which can decide their Division and they could overlook this game a little.

TCU Horned Frogs @ Kansas Jayhawks Pick: After all the emotion of snapping their 8 game losing run in Big 12 play, Kansas fans might not be as full of joy once this game with the TCU Horned Frogs is completed. The last two games have been close ones, but the Horned Frogs are a much improved Offense these days with the new spread formation working perfectly to Trevone Boykin's strengths at Quarter Back.

Boykin and the Horned Frogs should punish Kansas on the ground and he will also make plenty of big throws and it will be tough for the Jayhawks to slow them down. With a reason to try and impress the Committee voting for the final four in the Play Offs, this isn't a game that TCU will want to take lightly and they will look for an impressive win to keep themselves ahead of the Baylor Bears.

Kansas did score 34 points, the most since their opening game, last week, but this TCU Defense is under-rated and they can shut down the run and force Michael Cummings to make plays from third and long. Cummings has played well at Quarter Back, but he will be dealing with a lot of pressure in his face and that has helped the TCU Secondary make plays and turn the ball over.

The Horned Frogs should dominate this game despite coming off a tough run and I think TCU blow out Kansas and look to match the 46 point win Baylor had over them at home.

Memphis Tigers @ Tulane Green Wave Pick: The Memphis Tigers can remain at the top of the American Athletic Conference with another Conference win over the Tulane Green Wave, a team they have beaten 7 times in a row by an average of 22 points per game.

The Tigers could find a way to slow down the Tulane Offense and they can turn the ball over with those extra possessions could prove to be the reason they are able to pull away for a big win.

Memphis have been dominating opponents in recent games and they should be able to run the ball fairly effectively which will open up the passing lanes and allow them continue their recent success against Tulane. The Tigers do see this as their biggest obstacle left in the AAC and I think they will remain focused and thus have a little too much quality on both sides of the ball.

Washington Huskies @ Arizona Wildcats Pick: The Washington Huskies have just hit the buffers in this 2014 season and they have dropped 4 of their last 6 games, while they have been beaten by the best teams in the Pac-12.

The Arizona Wildcats are certainly part of the mix and will look to emulate what UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford have done already over the last few weeks. Defeats to UCLA and USC have left Arizona outside of the Pac-12 South Division race, but they can at least keep up with the teams ahead of them if they slip up by winning this game.

Arizona will be expecting to have the more consistent success moving the chains and they should be able to punish a Washington Secondary that has lost some key players for discipline reasons and one that has already given up 278 passing yards per game.

There have been times the Wildcats haven't played that well on the Defensive side of the ball, but Washington have still been trying to find an identity Offensively and Arizona should prove too good and beat then Huskies for the fourth time in a row at home.

Mississippi State Bulldogs @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: This is a game that could decide which of these teams is going to play in the College Football Play Off later this season and this should be a really close and fascinating game.

Dak Prescott will be leading the way for the Heisman Trophy if he can lead Mississippi State to the win in this tough environment, but I think it will be difficult for the Quarter Back if the Alabama Defense is as strong as it has been.

There is the chance that Alabama have been worn down by the game by the LSU Tigers last week which could lead to a tired Defense that can't handle the pounding that Mississippi State will bring, but I still think the Crimson Tide will have too much success from their own Offense.

The Mississippi State Secondary has struggled in pass coverage and Blake Sims should have a big day linking with Amari Cooper through the air. That could only be helped by the powerful Alabama rushing Offense and that should help the Crimson Tide win this game and get into the top four for the first time this season.

Auburn Tigers @ Georgia Bulldogs Pick: I don't know how the Auburn Tigers are going to pick themselves from a devastating home loss against the Texas A&M Aggies when they fumbled twice in Aggies territory as the game was winding down. That has ended their chances of finishing in the Play Off places this time and I am not sure if the players will be feeling that great about being pounded by the returning Todd Gurley and the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs might not be making their push for a Play Off place, but they can still win the SEC East and getting into the Conference Championship Game.

Both Defenses have played the run effectively, but the Auburn Secondary has struggled to prevent the big play from occurring through the air and that might be the key to this one, even if Gurley is going to lead a strong running game for the Bulldogs.

The emotional factor is hard to ignore and I think the Bulldogs have enough motivation to beat Auburn even if the Tigers are the better team.

Texas Longhorns @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: The road team has won the last five games in the series and the Texas Longhorns can certainly have that trend continue and also make themselves Bowl eligible in Charlie Strong's first season as Head Coach.

The Longhorns have been playing far better than the Oklahoma State Cowboys in recent weeks and they can ride their Defense to another win this week. Texas have felt better with Tyrone Swoopes at Quarter Back as he has earned more experience through playing time over the last few weeks since David Ash decided to retire from football.

Texas may also have more success throwing the ball than they have experienced through the season especially against a Cowboys Secondary that has allowed a lot of big plays and I think Texas will be a little too good for Oklahoma State who have already reached six wins for the season.

LSU Tigers @ Arkansas Razorbacks Pick: Unsurprisingly, the majority of the public are backing the LSU Tigers after seeing how close they came to upsetting the Alabama Crimson Tide in Death Valley in Week 11. However, I think the Arkansas Razorbacks might not have too many better opportunities to snap their 17 game losing run in the SEC, especially with the conditions likely to suit them down to the ground.

Both teams have enjoyed running the ball, but the Arkansas Defense has been a little better than the LSU one in slowing down that aspect of an Offense. With snow expected, it might not be easy to throw the ball, but Anthony Jennings wouldn't exactly have the Razorbacks worrying too much about aerial plays and the Razorbacks can at least force some drives to be stalled.

On the other hand, I am not sure how a Defense that put in as much effort as the did in Week 11 will be able to deal with the pounding that Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins will be putting on them. Both players have helped Arkansas move the ball at 5.7 yards per clip and it could be a big ask for LSU to slow them down.

Add in the fact that the LSU Tigers would have put in a huge physical and emotional effort in their loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and that this game arguably means more to Arkansas and I like the home team to win and cover. Add in that LSU are just 3-6 against the spread in their road games over the last three seasons and I do believe the Razorbacks could upset the public perception.

Michigan State Spartans @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: The home loss against the Ohio State Buckeyes has ended Michigan State Spartan's chances of making it to the final four Play Off and it has also likely ended their chances of winning the Big Ten Conference.

They will have to pick themselves up from that devastating loss but I think the Spartans are a hard nosed team that will be too good for the Maryland Terrapins and look to set a marker for the next season. It isn't easy off a big loss, but Mark Dantonio and the Spartans are 3-2 against the spread off a Conference loss over the last three seasons.

Michigan State should be able to run and throw the ball against this Maryland Defense and that consistency could be tough to contain for the Terrapins.

The Terrapins can look at the blueprint that Ohio State set out last week in their win over Michigan State, but CJ Brown isn't as good as JT Barrett and Maryland have not been playing that well down the stretch to think they can cause a surprise. The Terrapins also haven't been that good off a bye where they are 3-11 since 2004 and have lost those games by 20 points per game.

I also expect the Spartans Defense to play in a bid to prove they are better than what Ohio State saw last week and I like Michigan State to cover.

Florida State Seminoles @ Miami Hurricanes Pick: I am really looking forward to this game on Saturday evening and I am not surprised that the layers are so down on the Florida State Seminoles considering some of their performances this season. This team is not as good as the 2013 edition and they have been fortunate to have had Jameis Winston at Quarter Back making some big plays to lead the Seminoles back from some games they could have easily lost.

The impressive form of the Miami Hurricanes with three straight wins and a bye week to prepare for this game has given them what looks a perfect storm for them to cause a surprise and upset the Number 3 Ranked team.

Brad Kaaya will make some big plays for Miami and the Hurricanes are 7-2 against the spread when that number is set between a Field Goal as an underdog and favourite. However, I still think the Seminoles have that winning mentality to find a way to win games they perhaps shouldn't and Jameis Winston has dragged his teammates through.

Jimbo Fisher would have drilled into his players the lack of respect Florida State have been given by being dropped in the Rankings and Winston is also sounding more focused after admitting his turnovers have hurt the team. Those two emotions combined could lead Florida State to their best performance of the season and I am not 100% convinced with this Miami Hurricanes team.

It's not a big spread which will tempt people in, but I do think the Seminoles win this game and put another step towards earning one of the four Play Off berths.

Arizona State Sun Devils @ Oregon State Beavers Pick: The Arizona State Sun Devils rode their luck a little to see off the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Week 11 and they can now be considered a team that could potentially crack the top four in the Play Off by winning the Pac-12.

This is a tough game against the Oregon State Beavers, but the Beavers have lost 4 in a row and 5 of their last 6 games and I think the Sun Devils will be able to run the ball very effectively which can set them up for a big road win.

Oregon State will struggle to establish their own ground game and Sean Mannion has struggled for consistency throwing the ball, especially as he has been faced with a lot of pressure from an Offensive Line that is having a hard time in protection. The Sun Devils should be able to do the same and force the Oregon State possessions to stall and give themselves a chance to go through and earn a big road win.

The Sun Devils are 6-2 against the spread as the road favourites over the last three seasons and they are playing an Oregon State team that are just 1-4 against the spread at home. Todd Graham went for style points against Notre Dame so I can't see him slowing down the Arizona State Offense either and I like them to win this one and cover.

MY PICKS: Ohio State Buckeyes - 13.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Air Force Falcons - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs - 28 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Memphis Tigers - 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Arizona Wildcats - 10 Points @ 1.95 Betway (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 8.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Arkansas Razorbacks - 1 Point @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans - 11 Points @ 1.85 Coral (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Arizona State Sun Devils - 7 Points @ 1.85 William Hill (1 Unit)

Week 11: 9-4, + 4.34 Units (13 Units Staked, + 33.38% Yield)
Week 106-7, - 1.51 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.62% Yield)
Week 94-9-1, - 5.31 Units (14 Units Staked, - 37.93% Yield)
Week 85-7, - 2.26 Units (12 Units Staked, - 18.83% Yield)
Week 73-8, - 5.31 Units (11 Units Staked, - 48.27% Yield)
Week 62-7, - 5.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 57% Yield)
Week 54-5, - 1.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 12.56% Yield)
Week 46-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)
Week 33-7-1, - 4.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 38% Yield)
Week 25-6, - 1.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 10.72% Yield)
Week 16-4, + 1.77 Units (10 Units Staked, + 11.7% Yield)

Season 201447-62-2, - 19.32 Units (124 Units Staked, - 15.58% Yield)
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)