Mike Check

Michael Cunningham’s ramblings from the world of sports
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Weekend Predictions: Bulldogs win at LSU, Duke upsets Jackets, Falcons find way to beat Bucs 

Georgia is undefeated and hasn’t really been tested, yet I sense angst among Bulldogs backers. That’s probably because they are judging their team against that juggernaut down I-20. If the Bulldogs survive the gauntlet of LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn, then the Crimson Tide apocalypse awaits. 

» Week 7: College football TV, streaming schedule

Weekend Predictions understands. I’ve been on a nice little roll with my picks, but I can’t really enjoy it. A long track record of being bad at predicting games is my personal Crimson Tide, an unstoppable force that will crush me just as soon as I start feeling good about my chances. 

Georgia (minus-8) at LSU 

UGAWire.com got some ex-Bulldogs to predict the game. Ty Frix, a former long snapper, said he had “no clue” so his prediction is listed as: “Not sure.” It seems Frix, now a UGA lecturer, may be over-thinking an exercise designed solely for ex-players to confidently declare a W for their Bulldogs. 

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To be fair, I know how Frix feels. LSU has the first elite defense that the Bulldogs will face. Its offense may be able to grind out first downs against UGA’s defense, same as Missouri. Unfortunately, I can’t go with “Not sure” so I’m picking Georgia to win, but taking LSU with the points. 

Duke (plus-3) at Georgia Tech 

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson praised Duke’s success under coach David Cutcliffe, noting that “they’ve poured a lot of resources into their program.” Johnson said Tech AD Todd Stansbury is “trying to get the thing right” but needs time. Too bad Johnson isn’t on the November ballot because that’s some fine politicking. 

The Yellow Jackets are feeling good after clowning Louisville, but Duke actually plays some defense. The Blue Devils were crushed by Virginia Tech in their last game. Cutcliffe gave them a day off practice because he sensed they were mentally drained, disappointing authoritarian coaches everywhere. I’m taking Duke to win outright as a ’dog. 

Buccaneers (plus-3) at Falcons 

Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are on injured reserve, but at least they can find a silver lining. Actually, it’s the green that will line their pockets when it comes time to negotiate their next contract. They can just play video of the 2018 Falcons defense and wish the team luck without them. 

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston is back from a three-game suspension for groping a woman. The Bucs are promoting him in a video this week, which is gross, but they shouldn’t face blow back so as long as Winston doesn’t do anything really offensive like kneel during the national anthem. Tampa’s defense is bad, too, but the Bucs score enough to lose by less than a field goal. 

NFC South  

Carolina (plus-1) at Washington 

Panthers QB Cam Newton on Josh Norman: “He gets into your personal bubble, like when you're talking face-to-face. And I don't like that.” The ex-teammates are good friends, which I guess explains why Newton was smiling when Norman once tried to punch him out during a practice. Washington wins and covers.  

Other NFL games of interest 

Chiefs (plus-3.5) at Patriots 

It turns out Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City’s star QB, has a personal connection to Alex Rodriguez, the former insufferable baseball player. Mahomes keeps mentioning this connection, interfering with my desire to unequivocally root for him to beat the Evil Empire. I’m taking the Chiefs and the points. 

Chargers (plus-1) at Browns 

The Browns are no longer loveable losers, so it’s only a matter of time before everyone remembers that QB Baker Mayfield is kind of a jerk. Coach Hue Jackson took some of the heat off Mayfield by dissing Snoop Dogg as a bandwagon fan, which he totally is, but come on it’s Snoop. Chargers cover. 

Bears (minus-3.5) at Dolphins 

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky carved up the Bucs while wearing an arm sleeve. His teammates are insisting that he wear it again, a sign that they also can’t think of any rational explanation for why Trubisky played so well. Dolphins cover. 

Ravens (minus-2.5) at Titans 

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said his wife gave him grief for appearing so disinterested when he lines up at wide receiver in a package that features Lamar Jackson at QB. Flacco is so committed to selling it that, asked if he would catch a pass this season, Flacco said: “I sure hope not.” Baltimore covers. 

SEC games of interest 

Florida (minus-7) at Vanderbilt 

The Gators are a lot better on offense with Dan Mullen as coach. Now they are sitting there just waiting to ruin Georgia’s easy march to the SEC East title. Vandy could do the Bulldogs a favor here, but the ’Dores have lost nine of their past 10 league games. I’m taking the Gators and giving the points. 

Texas A&M (minus-2.5) at South Carolina 

Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher, who severely restricts media access to his players, said he longs for the days when media “dig in and do a week-long report on a player and get the actual facts.” Fact is Fisher is a bully and hypocrite who is trying to play the victim, but that plays well with his constituents. Aggies cover. 

Missouri (plus-28) at Alabama 

The conversation in Tuscaloosa this week is whether Bama should stop scoring so fast, so the defense will have time to rest. Those are the kind of stories you get when a team plays Terminator football. Thanks to a back-door cover by Arkansas last week, I’ve won three consecutive picking big ’dogs against Alabama, and I’m pressing my luck again. Mizzou covers. 

ACC games of interest 

Miami (minus-6.5) at Virginia 

Miami rallied from 20 points down in the third quarter to beat Florida State last weekend. ’Canes coach Mark Richt said it “was at least tied for first as far as feeling awesome after a game.” He didn’t say which game it tied with, and Richt had so many big wins at Georgia to choose from. But I’m going with the landmark triumph over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Virginia keeps it close and covers. 

Louisville (plus-13.5) at Boston College 

While in Las Vegas over the summer I nearly bought a ticket for Louisville under seven wins, but it felt like bad karma to bet on my Cardinals to fail. That was a dumb because I could have at least cashed in on this debacle. What was it Gordon Gekko said? “Don’t get emotional about bets.” Or something like that. BC covers. 

National games of interest 

Washington (minus-3) at Oregon 

Washington’s Chris Petersen is doing that annoying coach thing where he says this isn’t a big rivalry game, while doing everything to indicate it’s a big rivalry game. The Huskies need this victory to have any hope of crashing the College Football Playoff because Auburn isn’t going to help them out. Huskies cover. 

Wisconsin (plus-9.5) at Michigan 

Michigan is starting to look like a legit threat to win the Big Ten, which means it’s about time for Jim Harbaugh to lose a big game. But that won’t come until next week at Michigan State. Wolverines cover.  

Last week 

Against the spread: 11-5-1 (45-35-2 season) 

AJC pick ’em (straight up): 7-8 (54-34 season)

About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. 

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