The Falcons aren’t playing this weekend. That’s too bad for Weekend Predictions. I’ve been padding my record picking against them every week. The Falcons have become my guarantee game, except I don’t need to pay them to make me look good.
I posted an 8-4 record against the spread last weekend to end a two-week losing streak. Well, at least I used to consider two in a row to be a “streak.” After some thought, I changed my mind. Coincidentally, it’s now true that I’ve never had a losing streak.
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Atlanta United’s loss Wednesday leaves Georgia as the state’s best hope for a championship this year. The Bulldogs haven’t won it all since 1980, a fact that Florida coach Dan Mullen referenced when trolling them. Imagine how irritating Mullen will become if he actually beats the Bulldogs.
No. 8 Georgia (-6½) vs. No. 6 Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)
The Gators put away South Carolina on the road with touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. That’s more TDs than Georgia scored all game against the Gamecocks at home. Florida’s defense is better than USC’s and is healthier for this game. But I believe QB Jake Fromm when he says UGA’s offense has figured some things out, which probably makes me Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football. Georgia covers.
Pittsburgh (-7½) at Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are back from a bye week, so it’s time to resume my fruitless quest of trying to figure them out. Tech caught some breaks at Miami, but it was a hard-earned victory. Pitt has a very good defense, especially against the run. But so do the Hurricanes, and the Jackets found a way to run against them. I’m taking the Jackets to cover but lose, while bracing for the real possibility they’ll make me look silly again.
Other college games of interest
Ole Miss (+19½) at Auburn
Let’s check to see how things are going for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn after the Tigers lost by a field goal at LSU. QB Joey Gatewood announced he’s transferring, which prompted John Talty of AL.com to write: “Gus Malzahn isn’t good at managing the quarterback position.” Former (failed) NFL GM Michael Lombardi said of Malzahn: “He’s got a bad, bad offensive scheme. It’s horrible.” Remember when everyone gave Malzahn credit for developing Cam Newton and Nick Marshall? I’ll take Ole Miss and the points.
No. 7 Oregon (-4½) at USC
Oregon (7-1) still is in position to win the Pac-12 and get passed over for a College Football Playoff bid by a one-loss SEC team. USC coach Clay Helton still is in position to get fired despite the injury-plagued Trojans sitting tied for first in the South division with Utah, which it beat. I like USC with the points.
No. 9 Utah (-3½) at Washington
Utah also has a shot to be the Pac-12 champ left out of the CFP. The Utes have won four in a row since losing at USC. This is a rematch of the 2018 Pac-12 Championship game that no one remembers. The Huskies won that game on a crazy pick-six. Their defense isn’t as good this season, but they’ll score enough to cover.
No. 15 SMU (+6) at No. 24 Memphis
Win this game, and SMU (8-0) will have victories over two ranked opponents (it won at then-No. 25 TCU on Sept. 21). But the Mustangs will have no shot at a CFP berth even if they win out because they don’t play in a Power 5 conference. SMU will lose this game and leave one less undefeated Group of 5 team to expose that the CFP is more about money than competition. Memphis covers.
Virginia Tech (+17½) at No. 16 Notre Dame
Michigan did everyone a favor by beating the Fighting Irish so badly last weekend that the CFP committee couldn’t possibly give in to any urge to make Notre Dame the first two-loss team to get a bid. The only potential downside: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh now might stay in Ann Arbor instead of returning to the NFL, which is where he belongs. I like Virginia Tech to cover.
N.C. State (+7½) at No. 23 Wake Forest
Until losing to Louisville two weeks ago, Wake Forest was looking as if it could be a real threat to Clemson, or at least as much as any ACC team can be. The Deacons recovered last weekend and beat Florida State, which beat Louisville. But the Seminoles lost to Virginia, which lost to Louisville. The ACC’s parity is not the good kind. I’ll take N.C. State with the points.
NFL games of interest
Buccaneers (+5) at Seahawks
Bucs QB Jameis Winston is struggling, but ESPN’s Bill Barnwell predicts: “If he gets hot during the second half, the Bucs will likely give him something close to the five-year, $137.5 million deal the 49ers gave Jimmy Garoppolo before the 2018 season.” That’s plausible because the Bucs are committed to pretending Winston is going to work out. Seattle covers.
Titans (+3½) at Panthers
Cam Newton was on the Carolina sideline at San Francisco last weekend for the first time since suffering a foot injury. He showed up just in time to see Panthers QB Kyle Allen crash back to earth with a three-interception game during a blowout loss. Newton is out again, and Tennessee’s rush defense will put pressure on Allen to make plays. Titans cover.
Jets (-3) at Dolphins
This game has potential NFL draft implications for the Falcons. The Dolphins (0-7) are ahead of the Falcons (1-7) and the Jets (1-6) in the race for the No. 1 overall pick. The Dolphins are looking for a quarterback and the Jets aren’t, so it’s better for the Falcons if the Jets win this game and fall back in the draft standings. Jets QB Sam Darnold was terrible in his past two games and is dealing with a sore thumb, but the Dolphins are actively trying to lose. Jets cover.
Browns (-3½) at Broncos
The Browns (2-5) thought they had everything figured out when Baker Mayfield thrived over the last half of 2018 with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays. The Browns failed to account for the fact that they are the Browns, which means they never really figure anything out. Mayfield has been better at making commercials than playing QB and Kitchens had star wide receiver Odell Beckham questioning his game plan during a loss to the Pats. The Broncos (2-6) aren’t good, but there’s no way I’m trusting Cleveland as a road favorite.
Patriots (-3½) at Ravens
This Sunday night game is a rare matchup between two NFL teams that are good instead of just better than the many mediocre squads. The Ravens (5-2) earned that consideration with three consecutive victories since losing at home to the Browns. The Pats (8-0) are always good because they are the Evil Empire that just won’t end. Ravens cover.
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