November 4, 2017
There are 3 picks today.
#1: Take NC State +7.5 spread against Clemson for 3% of the bankroll.
This is an extremely important matchup as the winner places themselves firmly in the driver's seat for the ACC Title game, while the loser is essentially on the outside looking in. What that means for Clemson is a loss here will not only take them out of the ACC Championship race, but will also take them out of the conversation for the College Football Playoffs.
The NC State Wolfpack are coming off a somewhat poor performance against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend. The Wolfpack managed to keep things close in the early going, but the ground game of Notre Dame proven too much for the defensive line of NC State to contain for the full 4 quarters. Their inability to slow down the ground game in that contest will surely be a point that head coach Dan Doeren has focused on over the past week. Clemson has a potent ground game and while many may believe that NC State was caught looking ahead to this matchup with Clemson, the Wolfpack will need to shore up the holes on their defensive front to give them a shot at pulling off the upset in this contest.
The Wolfpack gave the Tigers all they could handle a season ago in Death Valley. That game was on the road and the Tigers also had Heisman QB Deshaun Watson under center in that contest. Kelly Bryant has proven to be a suitable replacement to Watson, but this is still a different Clemson team that the one the Wolfpack faced a year ago. On the same token, this NC State team is a bit better than they were a season ago and have already been shown the blueprint on what it takes to defeat Clemson.
This is the unquestioned strength of NC State’s defense. Led by senior end Bradley Chubb, the Wolfpack own one of the nation’s top defensive lines and limit opponents to just 119.6 rushing yards per game. Notre Dame’s offense was the first team to eclipse more than 135 rushing yards against this unit in 2017. Additionally, this line has helped NC State rank fifth in the ACC in sacks generated (20) and seventh in tackles for a loss (55). As expected, Chubb (7.5 sacks) is the top pass rusher. However, a pair of 300-pound tackles – seniors B.J. Hill and Justin Jones – are an underrated cog in the success of this defense. Kentavius Street and Darian Roseboro have combined for 3.5 sacks and are an effective duo opposite of Chubb off the edge. Clemson’s offensive line has allowed 18 sacks in 2017 but 14 of them came in ACC play. While this unit certainly hasn’t been awful, it has been vulnerable at times in pass protection. In Football Outsiders’ offensive line statistics, the Tigers rank 110th in adjusted sack rate, 108th in standard downs sack rate and 81st in passing downs sack rate.
For NC State’s offense to have success moving the ball, it must win the battles in the trenches against a stout Clemson defense. However, the catalyst for this attack remains quarterback Ryan Finley. The Boise State transfer has a quick release and is accurate to the perimeter with quick passes. Through eight games, he’s passed for 2,181 yards and 12 touchdowns to just one interception. Additionally, the junior is completing 66.3 percent of his passes. Finley will also take some chances downfield, and he’s got plenty of talent on the outside to deliver. Samuels leads the team with 56 grabs, and sophomore Kelvin Harmon isn’t too far behind with 43 catches for 644 yards. Stephen Louis, Jakobi Meyers and C.J. Riley are a few of the other key targets for Finley, as NC State will look to utilize their size and speed to attack the outside and take a few shots downfield.
As mentioned above, Clemson has no margin for error if it wants to reach the CFB Playoff. For NC State, its playoff hopes are over, but the Atlantic Division title is within reach which will motivate them in this contest. We believe that the Wolfpack defense will create some problems for Bryant and the Tigers’ offense. When NC State’s offense has the ball, Finley, Hines, and Samuels are more than enough to give headaches to Brent Venables and his staff. The home crowd advantage should help the Wolfpack’s upset bid in the early going and whether they can actually pull off the upset or not is yet to be seen. Even if they fall short however, we believe it will be a closely competitive contest as it was a season ago in which the points will prove to be valuable at the end.
#2: Take Texas +7 spread against TCU for 3% of the bankroll.
A disastrous opening game home blowout loss against Maryland likely skewed the perception of this Texas team right from the start, but Texas has quietly one of the best bets in college football this season, going 6-1-1 against the spread. They have not been winning many games, however, they have been kind to their backers, especially when getting points.
Their defense is much improved than in past seasons and they have ball-hawking players in the secondary that has specialized in creating turnovers which we believe is going to be key in this contest tonight. For much of the season, TCU has been atop of the Big 12 standings and a big reason for that has been their incredibly clean gameplay. Kenny Hill had been paying near-perfect football, which had not been his MO for much of his career. Hill had always been a questionable decision maker and was often careless with the football and we saw that type of Hill finally show up in the Horned Frogs loss last week against Iowa State. We had always believed that Hill had been overachieving this season, and it will be interesting to see how he responds now that the teams bubble has been burst. We expect Herman to bring lots of pressure to Hill in an attempt to rattle him in the pocket and force him into mistakes. We have already seen that Hill can become unraveled as the mistakes pile up, so that will likely be Texas’ best path to victory.
Tom Herman has been a master strategist when it comes to playing in the role of the underdog and that type of motivation has already shown its face in Texas. The Longhorns have battled tooth and nail in high profile contests against both the USC Trojans and Oklahoma Sooners this season, easily covering the spreads in the process. Texas' run defense has been surprisingly good and might be the area Herman has improved the most. Since giving up more than 175 yards against Maryland, the Horns have stuffed Baylor, Iowa State, and even Southern Cal. We don’t expect TCU to be able to get much going on the ground, so this game is going to rely heavily on Hill’s ability in the pocket.
We expect this to be an ugly type of football game, where it will become a battle of field position and explosive defensive plays. We believe this game will be decided by a critical turnover or explosive offensive play late and could come down to the final couple of possessions. This will be a closely contested battle through and we believe getting a touchdown with the visitors is simply too much cushion. While Texas may not pull off the outright upset, they should be able to stay within this generous number.
#3: Take Arizona +7.5 spread against USC for 3% of the bankroll.
Despite their current 4-game winning streak, the oddsmakers still have not given the respect to the Wildcats that we believe they deserve. Arizona was projected to occupy the basement of the Pac-12 this season and yet somehow, they have exceeded expectations and could find themselves in first place in the South with a win over USC tonight.
This is not the same Wildcats team as we have come accustomed to seeing over the past few seasons. This is a team that is on the rise and is about to turn a corner. Let's not forget, that they suffered two early losses and those losses came by a combined total of nine points. They had proven that they had a prolific offense, destroying Northern Arizona by 38, and crushing UTEP by 47, but were sitting still at 2-2. That is when things started to change for this team. They have scored at least 45 points in each of their last 4 games and a big reason for that has been the insertion of QB Kahlil Tate under center.
Tate has rushed for 926 yards and eight touchdowns the season, averaging an unbelievable 13.4 yards per carry off 69 attempts. In his six games he has average nearly 155 yards per game, and is unbelievably difficult to try to stop. He is elusive, he is quick, and very tough to tackle. Tate has more runs of 50-plus yards than all but five teams in college football and Arizona boasts the nation's fifth-best rushing offense. The only four teams with higher per-game production all run triple-option schemes.
Rich Rodriguez may not oversee a triple option, but Arizona's scheme does rely on a similarly multifaceted approach. IF you recall, the Triple-Option attack of Josh Adams and Notre Dame ran all over the Trojans two weeks ago, and Arizona runs a very similar style of attack to that of the Irish. Alongside Tate, three different Wildcat running backs have hit 100 yards in the last three games: Nick Wilson vs. UCLA on Oct. 14; Zach Green at Cal on Oct. 21; and J.J. Taylor last weekend vs. Washington State.
As good as Arizona's rushing attack is and how great Tate has been with his legs, the Arizona passing attack should not be overlooked. Tate has completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 784 yards and six touchdowns. So far, the Arizona quarterback has only been required to throw 67 passes, but he has looked good. Brandon Dawkins also sees time at the quarterback position, and he has fared well. Dawkins has thrown for 670 yards and five touchdowns, completing 62.3 percent of his passes as well.
The Trojans are an impressive team on both the offensive and defensive side of the football, however, they have been one of the more wildly inconsistent teams in the country. Sam Darnold has been a turnover machine this season and has thrown 10 interceptions in 9 games this season. Those critical turnovers have plagued the Trojans this season and caused this team to play in much closer than expected contests. They are just 2-7 against the spread on the season, and are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.
After the Trojans performance last week against Arizona State, there are many that likely believe this should be an easy contest for USC. We don't believe that will be the case. At the moment Arizona is simply playing better football and their offense is unstoppable. USC has an exceptional group at attacking the quarterback, but they have not faced one like the Wildcats have to offer. We believe this matchup could go either way. USC may win this game, but it won't be by 7.5 points.
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