December 3, 2016
There are two picks on Saturday.
#1: Take Virginia Tech +10 spread against Clemson for 3% of the bankroll.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the "old" Clemson Tigers finally resurfacing after their loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers three weeks ago. After that loss, they have posted back-to-back blowout wins over Wake Forest and South Carolina. While everyone is currently jumping back on the Clemson hype-train, we believe it may be a bit too premature. There is no question that Clemson is a quality team, however blowout wins over the like of Wake Forest and South Carolina hardly qualifies as the second-coming. Clemson was "expected" to blow those teams out, however this is a matchup with a red-hot Virginia Tech team in a championship game.
There is no question that Clemson's margin for error is zero after their loss to Pitt. A victory in this contest will undoubtedly punch their tickets once again to the College Football Playoff. That will likely put a ton of pressure on this team. Even though they are experienced, pressure to perform is still pressure and as we have seen, anything can happen on a neutral field. Clemson has arguably underperformed all season long and two blowout wins over lesser competition does not change any of that. We believe they felt the enormous pressure that was placed on them in the offseason and that effected their play on the field. We wouldn't be surprised if they regressed back to that mistake prone, less than dominant version of themselves in this contest.
Justin Fuentes taking over for Frank Beamer has been one of the most seamless coaching transitions in the modern error. Fuentes brought with him an out of the box offensive attack that has been missing from VT for some time. Being the smart coach that he is, he elected to keep Bud Foster and his defensive staff on his team and that has produced stellar results in his first season. Grabbing JUCO transfer Jerrod Evans was one of the best decisions he made in his first year. Evans is a dynamic player and has proven ability both on the ground and through the air. While he is not as polished as his counterpart Deshaun Watson, he has proven to be a dynamic playmaker that can alter the course of a game.
Evans will need to have a big game if Tech wants to pull off the outright upset, however we have yet to see all that this kid has to offer. If Evan doesn't try to (overly) do too much and simply takes what the Clemson defense gives him, then he should be able to move the football down the field. The Hokies defense will need to put pressure on Watson in the pocket and as we have seen many time this season, if they put pressure on Watson, he is prone to making mistakes. The Hokies defense has shown their ability to put pressure on the opposing QB as they sacked Miami's Brad Kaaya 8 times two weeks ago. If that defense shows up for this contest, it could certainly make things difficult on Watson in the pocket.
Clemson is (arguably) the better team in this contest, however being the better team does not always result in blowout victories. As mentioned, this is a championship game and there is no question that VT is not going to lay down and let Clemson walk all over them. They should be able to make plays in the passing game and also make plays on the defensive side of the ball. We believe that Clemson's experience will ultimately be the difference in the outcome of this game, however Tech will give them all they can handle and make them earn their spot in the playoffs. The points have value and will likely come into play in this contest.
#2: Take Penn State +3 spread against Wisconsin for 3% of the bankroll.
Even since defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes, The Penn State Nittany Lions have been the best team in the Big 10 and aren't nearly getting the respect that they deserve. Their defense has been one of the best in the conference and their offense has found their groove over the last couple of weeks as they have been averaging 40+ points per game since their defeat of the Buckeyes. While they haven't played a defense as stifling as the one they are about to face in the Wisconsin Badgers, we do believe this is simply a bad matchup for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has gotten to this point in the season with their smash mouth style of offense that centers around a hard-nosed ground game and a smothering defense. Their offense has been extremely predictable and against a stout Penn State rush defense, Wisconsin could have a tough time moving the football. Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook is questionable and even at that, the Badgers haven't had a ton of success moving the football through the air. If the Nittany Lions can stuff the run and force the Badgers to defeat them through the air, that has not been a recipe for success for the Badgers this season. As good as the Nittany Lions have been at containing the run, they have been even better at defending the pass. The Nittany Lions have been able to capitalize on mistakes in the passing game and with the Wisconsin signal callers less-than proficient with their aerial attack, that could be the opening that PSU needs to take an advantage in this contest.
Penn State has been a notoriously slow starting team and has often gone down on the scoreboards at the break. That being said, they have been (arguably) the best team in the country in the second half and unquestionably has the highest scoring differential not only in the conference but in the nation. Football games are won in the second half and so far, this season, there have been none better than the Nittany Lions. They may start out slow in this contest, but it is not difficult to figure out the game plan of this Wisconsin offense. At the break, the Penn State defense will tighten up and QB Trace McSorley will find his groove and begin to dissect this Badgers secondary.
Let's not forget that Penn St defeated Ohio State with a blocked field goal which set them up deep in their own zone and this is the type of game where a play like that could be the difference maker. This matchup has all the makings of a knock-down, drag-out, classic Big 10 battle. There will be haymakers thrown early but in the end, we expect Penn State to come out on top. In our opinion they are the better overall team and have all the momentum behind them. Even if they happen to fall short, we believe it will be by the narrowest of margins, in which case the points are likely to come into play.
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