Expert Football Picks for the Weekend from Handicapper Ivey Walters
by Ivey Walters - 11/13/2014
The ACC Coastal Division race finds itself in a peculiar situation as we approach the final stages of the college football regular season with the Duke Blue Devils leading the pack for the second year in a row. With hopes of heading to a consecutive ACC Championship Game, Duke takes on a Virginia Tech team that finds itself in an extremely unfamiliar spot, the bottom of the Coastal Division standings. Duke controls its own destiny with three home games left and a one-game lead in the loss column over Georgia Tech, while the Hokies are just trying to find a way to become bowl eligible. Then on Sunday night, the stage doesn’t get any bigger when two premiere quarterbacks square off in a fight for bragging rights and major playoff implications. Can Andrew Luck unseat Tom Brady and the Patriots atop the AFC throne? Will it be in with the new and out with Brady? We examine these two matchups to find out what will happen in the ACC and just exactly where the state of the AFC truly stands as the Colts and Patriots decide things on the field.
4* College Football Game of the Week: Duke -5
Duke just continues to win games and, more importantly, cover the spread under head coach, David Cutcliffe. The Blue Demons find themselves atop the ACC Coastal Division at 8-1 SU and 6-2-1 ATS this season. The last two years, Duke is an astounding 17-5-1 against the number and now faces a critical game against a Virginia Tech team that has been reeling as of late. The Hokies are in unusual territory under Frank Beamer, at the bottom of the standings, and their usual, reliable defense has been torched for 832 yards rushing in their last three games. That doesn’t bode well for the Virginia Tech defense that will face a Duke team that averages over 190 yards rushing per game and 5.4 yards per carry, which ranks them 19th nationally in that category. The Hokies defense has been decimated by injuries, which has caused them to use an influx of young and inexperienced players on that side of the ball. This is another big advantage for the Blue Devils, who are a veteran group that plays smart, tough football and doesn’t beat themselves. They take great care of the football as quarterback Anthony Boone has thrown only four picks all season after tossing 13 a year ago.This cerebral Duke squad is 11th in the nation in turnover margin, first in sacks allowed, and 35th in the nation in penalties per game. The Hokies, on the other hand, have been giving up big plays in bunches and turning the ball over frequently as they rank 95th in the nation in turnover margin. I just feel this is a great spot for a cheap chalk cover because we get Duke at home, in a big game, which is essentially for first place in the division against a team that is struggling and depleted by injuries. They will start a Division III transfer at right tackle for the first time, and this guy began the season on the depth chart as a back-up defensive lineman. I’ll take the more steady, reliable, and healthy team at home in what I call a max effort situation where they will play their hearts out,which has become the cornerstone of Cutcliffe-coached teams in Durham. Duke wins by at least a touchdown.
4* NFL Game of the Week: New England Patriots +3
This is a sheer value play in my opinion. I love to take points, especially in the NFL, and even more so when I feel I am getting the better team. That’s what I’m getting here. I get the better coach and yes, still the better quarterback in Tom Brady. I think public perception of how well Andrew Luck has played this year has inflated this line as I have New England rated as a one-point favorite in this game. There has been multiple media experts singing the praises of Luck and rightfully so, but to say he is three points better than Brady and this very strong Patriots squad is just absurd. I’m always looking to capitalize on the misconceptions of the public, and that’s what I’m doing here by taking the points with the better all-around team. More importantly, I get Belichick and Brady off a bye in a game where I expect them to have a chip on their shoulder with all the hype about how good Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts are. The genius and the field general are not ready to pass the torch in the AFC to the Colts just yet. I expect this Patriots team to play with great energy and passion in prime time Sunday night football, where they have thrived over the years. The extra time to prepare for Belichick and Brady spells trouble for this young Colts team. With all his recent success, it seems that people have forgotten how Luck has struggled in his two games against the Patriots, a 2012 regular-season loss and last year’s playoff game where the Patriots thumped the Colts 43-22. In those two games, Luck threw seven interceptions and completed just 51 percent of his passes. Brady, on the other hand, posted a passer rating of 106.9 in those same two games. Not only am I getting points with the better team, better quarterback, better coach, but also the better defense. The Patriots held Peyton Manning to a season-low 80.9 passer rating, proving they can disrupt the league’s top QBs. The Colts, on the other hand, struggled mightily against the best passers they have faced in Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. The Colts coughed up 82 points, over 1,000 total yards, and nine touchdown passes in those two games. Those numbers have got to worry a defense facing Brady with a healthy Rob Gronkowski, who has been torching defenses over the Patriots last five games. He has 36 receptions, 516 yards, and five touchdowns in that span. Throw in the fact that the Colts are the 27th-ranked pass defense in the NFL and I think it could be a long night for a Colts secondary facing the red-hot Brady and company. I will certainly take the field goal in this matchup as the Patriots win this one outright and maintain control of the AFC.
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