Georgia head coach Kirby Smart catches up with Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt before an NCAA football game between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Tennessee Volunteers in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept., 29, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

Weekend Predictions: Falcons and Tech lose again, Georgia rolls Tennessee

Falcons coach Dan Quinn no longer is the betting favorite to become the first NFL coach to be fired. That honor now belongs to Washington coach Jay Gruden, whose team is 14-22 since the start of the 2017 season. Quinn’s Falcons are 18-18 since ... well, you know. 

A tough thing for Quinn is that the only way to avoid 28-3 as his coaching legacy is to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. That’s the highest bar possible, and the Falcons (1-3) are far from clearing it. Their sights are set much lower, like improving their 0-3 record against opponents that didn’t drop a game-winning touchdown pass. 

Quinn is a defensive guru with an unreliable defense that seems ill-equipped to play his style. His team’s star-laden offense is scoring 17.5 points per game. The rebuilt offensive line already is depleted by injuries. There is no T-shirt slogan that can improve things, so in order to win, the Falcons are going to have to go with Plan “B” and just play better. 

» RELATED: How to watch all 55 FBS games this weekend

This is a weird weekend for college football. The top two teams in the polls, Alabama and Clemson, are off. Georgia is favored by more than three touchdowns at Tennessee, an alleged rival. Auburn and Florida once were rivals, but this weekend will play for the second time since 2011. 

In these strange times, Weekend Predictions is here as source of stability and comfort. Another good week raised my winning percentage to 64 percent against the spread. That would be an even better record if I weren’t dumb enough to back the Falcons three times to cover. 

Falcons (+5) at Texans 

The Texans (2-2) are in a four-way tie for first in the AFC South, but coach Bill O’Brien’s job security is in question. He bungled game management during a home loss to the Panthers in Week 4. In its other home game, Houston had to survive a two-point attempt by the Jaguars to win. The Texans aren’t great, but the Falcons are just what they need to get their offense on track. I’ll take Houston and give the points. 

North Carolina (-10½) at Georgia Tech 

The consensus line in Las Vegas moved 2-1/2 points in UNC’s favor about 24 hours after posting, then another half-point Wednesday. Bookmakers keep giving the Jackets points, but it seems as if few are biting. I will, and not just because I’m addicted to ’dogs. Tech would have been competitive at Temple last weekend if not for bad luck on fumbles. Tar Heels win, and Tech covers. 

No. 3 Georgia (-24½) at Tennessee 

The Volunteers are 0-3 against FBS opponents. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, coach Jeremy Pruitt wondered if a police officer had to arrest one of his players “Just because he has a warrant?” Speculation that AD Phil Fulmer is angling to take Pruitt’s job reached a point that Fulmer had to say he doesn’t want to coach. Other than that, things are great in Rocky Top. I’ll take Georgia and give the points. 

Arkansas State (-7½) at Georgia State 

Georgia State (2-2) got some needed time off last week. GSU’s defense is among the worst in FBS. Now consider that Tennessee managed two field goals against GSU in the second half of its loss to Georgia State (not counting a garbage-time TD). Arkansas State has been better since getting shut out at Georgia, so I’ll take the Red Wolves to cover. 

Other college games of interest 

No. 7 Auburn (-3) at No. 10 Florida 

The Orlando Sentinel notes that former Auburn QB Patrick Nix, father of current Auburn QB Bo Nix, led the Tigers to the first victory by an SEC opponent against Steve Spurrier at The Swamp. Bo broke out last weekend against Mississippi State with 391 total yards and three TDs. But I don’t see the freshman repeating his father’s feat against this Florida defense, so give me the Gators and the points. 

No. 14 Iowa (+3½) at No. 19 Michigan 

Jim Harbaugh once seemed to be a perfect fit for Michigan. The ex-Wolverines QB played 14 years in the NFL and coached the 49ers to a Super Bowl. But Harbaugh’s Michigan teams have never finished higher than second in the Big Ten East and are 0-4 against Ohio State. After their bye week victory against Rutgers, this is a chance for the Wolverines to redeem themselves for the blowout loss to Wisconsin. They’ll do so by covering. 

No. 25 Michigan State (+20½) at No. 4 Ohio State 

That ugly loss to Wisconsin damaged Michigan’s national-championship hopes. Meanwhile Ohio State is thriving with ex-Georgia QB Justin Fields, erasing any hope for Michigan that the Buckeyes would be down after QB Dwayne Haskins went pro. The Buckeyes are legit, but I’m taking Michigan State because I am incapable of resisting a pretty good team getting that many points. 

NFC South  

Buccaneers (+3½) at Saints 

The Bucs, Koetter’s old team, have been much better on offense than the Falcons. That’s despite Tampa having less talent and not much of a running game. Koetter probably thought he was done with a turnover-prone QB, but Matt Ryan somehow has one more interception (six) than Jameis Winston. I still can’t trust the Bucs, so I’ll take the Saints and give the points. 

Jaguars (+3½) at Panthers 

The Charlotte Observer speculated that Panthers QB Cam Newton’s vegan diet may be “contributing factor to his two poor performances and recovery.” This prompted Fox Business to ask if the Panthers can “force a change” in Newton’s diet and sadly reported that, no, the employer cannot make the employee eat specific foods. Newton (foot) still is out. Backup Kyle Allen was pretty good at Houston last weekend, but Carolina is banged up, so I like the Jaguars to cover. 

Other NFL games of interest 

Packers (+3½) at Cowboys 

QB Aaron Rodgers cost the Packers in Week 4 with an interception at the goal line in the final minute of a loss to the Eagles. Now No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams may be out this week, which is a great development for those who never blame Rodgers when things go wrong. The Cowboys scored 10 points in a loss at the Saints, which is a great development for those who blame QB Dak Prescott when anything goes wrong. I like Dallas to cover. 

Cardinals (+3) at Bengals 

The Falcons play at Arizona in Week 6. That looked to be the only sure victory on their schedule in the first half of the season (the Rams and Seahawks are next). It won’t look so sure if the Falcons lose at Houston and Cardinals win at Cincinnati. I’m taking Arizona and the points. 

Colts (+11) at Chiefs 

The Colts were feeling good after beating the Falcons at home. A week later they got pushed around on their field by the Raiders, who aren’t good. From that we can gather that the Colts are mediocre at best. That’s why even I can’t back them getting all those points at the undefeated Chiefs. Kansas City covers. 

Last week: 8-4 (39-22-3 season)

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About the Author

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