Georgia Tech (+16) at Virginia
The Yellow Jackets are 2-6 ATS. There’s been real defensive improvement, but it’s hard to pick them with the offense struggling to find its footing. The two wins required a great defensive effort (vs. South Florida) and two short missed field-goal attempts plus a fake-punt TD (at Miami). I’ll take Virginia and give the points.
Georgia State (-2½) at Louisiana-Monroe
After winning only two games in 2018, Georgia State already is bowl-eligible and is in the race for the Sun Belt East title. The Nov. 16 home game against division leader Appalachian State was moved to a prime time ESPNU game. Good things are happening for the Panthers. I finally got on the right side by backing them as home favorites against Troy. I learned my lesson so well that I’ll even take the Panthers as a road favorite.
Falcons (+13) at Saints
Saints coach Sean Payton on the series vs. the Falcons: “(I)f you just go back through the history, regardless of records, it’s always been a one-possession game, or a one-score game, overtime or a field goal.” True except for the last time they played. New Orleans won at home by two touchdowns despite Drew Brees doing little. The Falcons are worse, and the Saints are better. New Orleans covers.
Other college games of interest
No. 2 LSU (+6½) at No. 3 Alabama
It’s weird that Alabama has a losing record ATS (40-41-1) since 2008, when Nick Saban got things rolling. But CBS SportsLine notes that LSU is 13-3 ATS in its past 16 away games against teams with a winning home record. And Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (ankle) may be limited. Those are reasons to ignore Alabama’s 7-2 record ATS in its last nine games after a bye and do what my heart desires: back the quality underdog.
No. 4 Penn State (-7) at No. 17 Minnesota
Minnesota (8-0) is the lowest-ranked undefeated team in the CFP poll. The Gophers are behind six teams with two losses. Minnesota’s schedule has been relatively easy, but the Gophers have dominated four straight opponents. I can’t resist a quality ‘dog at home. Minnesota covers.
No. 5 Clemson (-32½) at North Carolina State
If you think the Gophers aren’t getting respect, look at Clemson. The Tigers are all the way down at No. 5 in the CFP rankings. That’s despite an undefeated record in the worst Power 5 conference. I suspect this line is inflated by the notion that the Tigers will be extra-motivated. A team this good is always motivated. Clemson just hasn’t always been sharp. I’ll take N.C. State to cover.
Iowa State (+14½) at No. 9 Oklahoma
If you think the CFP committee insulted Clemson and Minnesota, check out Oklahoma. The Sooners are ninth in the rankings even though their only misstep is losing as a 23½-point ’dog at Kansas State. I imagine Sooners fans are torn between criticizing coach Lincoln Riley and hushing their mouths so he doesn’t bolt for the NFL. I like Iowa State with the points.
No. 12 Baylor (-2½) at TCU
Two TCU quarterbacks transferred within a week and injuries to two QBs forced them to leave the last game. Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, TCU coach Gary Patterson didn’t like all the media questions about the situation: “We’re trying to win a ballgame, and all you guys want to know (is) whether you can sell papers or not.” I’m sure newspaper sales in the Fort Worth area are boosted by articles about the QBs for Patterson’s 4-4 team. Baylor covers.
Other NFL games of interest
Panthers (+5½) at Packers
The Panthers placed QB Cam Newton (foot) on injured reserve. The Panthers are 5-1 with QB Kyle Allen as the starter. Newton would be eligible to return if the Panthers qualify for the playoffs. That would mean the Panthers might have to tell the best QB they’ve ever had that they are going with his replacement. Carolina is hoping to avoid that choice until the offseason. Packers cover.
Cardinals (+4½) at Buccaneers
The Bucs are 2-6, but QB Jameis Winston is trying to look at the bright side. At least, I think that’s what Winston was doing when he told media in Tampa Bay: "The glass is always full. It might be half-full with water, it’s still full with air. So, we’ve got to keep that glass full." I’m not clear on whether it’s better for the glass to be full of air or water, but I’m taking the Cardinals and the points.
Seahawks (+6) at 49ers
Gregg Bell of the The News Tribune writes that the Seahawks lost their “attitude and commitment” during the 2017 season but got them back in 2018, after Richard Sherman left. Sherman once famously flipped off Seattle’s sideline after suffering an Achilles injury because the team didn’t give him a new contract. Sherman is healthy and playing like a shut-down cornerback again and Seattle (7-2) has outscored opponents by just 18 points. I’ll take the 49ers and give the points.
Ravens (-10) at Bengals
Everybody ridicules the Dolphins, Jets and Washington, but the Bengals are dark-horse contenders for worst-run NFL franchise. By contrast, the Ravens are among the best-run franchises. That’s why they drafted unconventional QB Lamar Jackson and built their offense around his unique abilities. Granted, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh has better job security than almost every coach. But keeping him around through some lean years also was a smart call. Ravens cover.
Last week: 7-5-1 (72-52-4 season)