Weekend Predictions is back and, frankly, I’m feeling a little cocky. After a good 2018 regular season picking football games against the spread, I did even better in the postseason. This is how you know I’m not from Atlanta.
(Stand down, Atlanta United supporters. Trust me, crushing disappointment will come with age.)
I was right on 55.7 percent of my picks against the spread during the 2018 season. I committed to picking every single bowl game ATS, not just those I liked, before any had been played and still got 60.5 percent of them right. In 241 total games picked in 2018-19, I had the right side 56.4 percent of the time.
I lied when I said that’s a good record. To be honest, it’s great.
I won’t mention my record picking games straight up in the AJC’s contest in 2018. We won’t be doing that contest this season, by the way. Sorry to disappoint those readers who sent me emails asking about it. I say that even though I suspect they were eager to humiliate me again.
I’m wrong a lot, so give me some leeway to talk trash about my picks. I know this good run won’t last. Picking games ATS is hard. That’s why you should never pay those touts who boast about some ridiculous record. Instead, you should pay me.
Anyway, it’s a new season. Time to prove myself again.
Georgia Tech (+37) at No. 1 Clemson
This Thursday night game may be over by the time you read this. Pretty much everyone thinks it’s over before it starts. That doesn’t include the Yellow Jackets, who say they have no fear. I like the Yellow Jackets because new coach Geoff Collins is the kind of guy who will have his team loose and take some chances. Also, I’m admittedly biased toward underdogs, and I just can’t resist a Power 5 team getting all those points.
No. 3 Georgia (-21½) at Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt as a big home ‘dog is tempting. Coach Derek Mason has done as well as can reasonably be expected at Vandy. The ’Dores could put up some points behind their talented trio of skill players. But Georgia racked up 560 yards in this game last season, and Vandy’s defense lost a bunch of starters. I’ll take UGA and give the points.
SEC games of interest
No. 11 Oregon (+3½) vs. No. 16 Auburn (Arlington, Texas)
For Auburn it’s always about the schedule. There’s the SEC West slate and the annual game against Georgia. This year the Tigers also go to Florida. Auburn starts with Oregon, which still has QB Justin Herbert after he declined to enter the NFL draft. But, like always, Auburn has a strong defense. The Tigers cover the spread and give coach Gus Malzahn some breathing room before they go to Texas A&M in Week 4.
Duke (+35) vs. No. 2 Alabama (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
The Crimson Tide are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 season openers. Bookmakers and the betting public keep inflating the lines, and Nick Saban’s teams keep covering them. So, naturally, I’m taking Duke because I just can’t stay away from ’dogs. What is wrong with me.
Georgia State (+26) at Tennessee
Georgia State lost a lot of talent after winning its first bowl game in 2017, so there was no way the Panthers would be as good in 2018. They ended up being bad. Georgia State might be better now after a lot of young players got experience. It’s still hard to trust the Volunteers in coach Jeremy Pruitt’s second season, so I’ll take the Panthers with the points.
Georgia Southern (+27½) at No. 6 LSU
GSU had the biggest turnaround in FBS in 2018 by improving from two victories to 10. Chad Lunsford, who took over as interim coach in 2017, earned a contract extension. GSU’s option is the great equalizer, but it becomes a burden when there’s a significant deficit. LSU now has the kind of offense to build big leads, so I’ll take the Tigers and give the points.
South Carolina (-11) vs. North Carolina (Charlotte)
Via the Tar Heel Blog, I learned that North Carolina has lost 21 consecutive opening games against Power 5 opponents. Mack Brown was the coach when they beat Indiana in 1997. Brown is back at UNC after it seemed as if he had retired. Our strange timeline means it wouldn’t be shocking to see Mack fail upwards and win this one, but he’s starting a freshman QB, so I’m taking the Gamecocks to cover.
Ole Miss (+5½) at Memphis
I somehow didn’t notice that Rich Rodriguez ended up at Ole Miss as offensive coordinator after Arizona fired him. That’s probably because I just don’t have the energy to think about the West beyond Bama, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Good luck, Rich Rod. Memphis covers.
ACC games of interest
Boise State (+6½) at Florida State
I’ve seen some analysts identify FSU as a turnaround candidate after finishing 5-7 in coach Willie Taggart’s first season. Maybe that’s right, but it feels to me like people are just desperate for any ACC team to seriously challenge Clemson. The approach of Hurricane Dorian forced this game to be relocated from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, but the line moved two points to FSU, so I still like Boise State to cover.
No. 9 Notre Dame (-20) at Louisville
Louisville coach Scott Satterfield left Appalachian State for the challenge of cleaning up Bobby Petrino’s latest mess. The only reason Satterfield doesn’t have the toughest first game in the nation is because the Cardinals are at home while Tech’s Collins is on the road. Then again, that means Satterfield will have more of his fans on hand to witness this Labor Day beat down. Fighting Irish cover.
Virginia Tech (-4½) at Boston College
It’s kind of impressive Virginia Tech won six games in 2018 considering all of the injuries and transfers. Coordinator Bud Foster’s defense is healthier and experienced, so I’m trusting the Hokies to cover as a road favorite.
Virginia (-2½) at Pittsburgh
Fourth-year Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall appears on his way to duplicating the steady, respectable success he had over 11 years at BYU. Pitt junior quarterback Kenny Pickett is a good piece for new coordinator Mark Whipple, but I think Virginia rides good defense to cover.
Last season: (136-105-5)
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