Weekend Predictions: Georgia bounces back, Tech and Falcons lose again

Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart talks about his offense as his team prepares for Kentucky. (Video by Chip Towers/AJC)

Things are bad for the Falcons, but at least they are catching the Rams at a good time. Los Angeles has lost three consecutive games. Three defensive starters are out with injuries and running back Todd Gurley is ailing. The Rams’ passing game has been mediocre, so the Falcons may have a chance to ...

What’s that? The Rams just traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey? The back injury that materialized at the same time Ramsey wanted out of Jacksonville now seems fine? Never mind.

Pretty much everyone except coach Kirby Smart seems to think Georgia should try more downfield passes after the Bulldogs played it safe in a loss to South Carolina. Smart sidestepped questions about the performance of offensive coordinator James Coley (salary: $950,000) but did criticize his offensive line (salary: $0). Smart (salary: $7 million) also said he had "no doubts" about his game management at the end of regulation, which is another thing that only he seems to believe.

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» MORE: Georgia Tech-Miami TV, online, radio information

» MORE: Georgia-Kentucky TV, online, radio information

Weekend Predictions has no problem publicly admitting to mistakes. I’m coming off my first losing week of the season. But I’ve still correctly picked the winner against the spread 59 percent of the time in 90 games this season. I have no doubts about my picks this week, which could mean I’ve also learned nothing from my mistakes.

Rams (-3) at Falcons 

The Rams sent away two first-round picks for Ramsey and still have holes along both lines. Maybe they consulted the Falcons. To be fair, last offseason the Falcons (1-5) heavily invested in their offensive line and paid pass rusher Vic Beasley $13 million. Sure, they rank last in the NFL sacks per pass attempt and 29th in percentage of runs that go for no gain or a loss, but let the process play out before passing judgment. Rams cover.

Kentucky (+25) at No. 10 Georgia 

Coley is taking heat, but Smart is the head coach, so the grind-it-out style is what he wants. It works for Georgia, until it doesn’t. I was surprised to see South Carolina getting traction by running straight at Georgia’s defensive front. Kentucky can do that, too, so I’ll take the Wildcats and the points.

Georgia Tech (+18) at Miami 

Last weekend at Duke, the Yellow Jackets scored on their opening drive for the first time this season. Then they had three consecutive three-and-outs, a turnover on downs, and another three-and-out followed by a blocked punt for a touchdown. Miami is even better than Duke on defense, and Tech doesn’t have the option of opening things up. I’ll take the Hurricanes and give the points.

Army (-6½) at Georgia State 

Tech fans reminiscing about the triple-option can go watch former Jackets assistant and Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken run his version for West Point. NJ Advance Media columnist James Kratch recently advocated for Rutgers to hire Monken. That makes sense considering the more-with-less results of the triple-option, but if Rutgers goes that route, be prepared to stick with it forever or eventually undergo the same painful process as Tech. Army covers.

Other college games of interest 

No. 9 Florida (-5½) at South Carolina 

Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp and Smart took turns being ultra-conservative and waiting for the other guy’s team to mess up. That’s usually not a good approach for the underdog, but maybe Muschamp calculated that his old teammate knows only one way to coach. That style won’t work as well against the Gators, who cover.

Tennessee (+34½) at No. 1 Alabama 

Tennessee barely gets time to enjoy its victory against Mississippi State, the first in five tries against FBS opponents, before facing the reality of another big loss to Alabama. Former Vols coach Butch Jones still works at Alabama as an offensive analyst while collecting buyout money from Tennessee. During his teleconference this week, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Jones is “a great person and a great guy to have in your organization” which I guess is easy to say when you are paying him just $35,000. Vols cover.

No. 2 LSU (-18½) at Mississippi State 

A Rivals.com headline asks: “Is rolling LSU on upset alert vs. Mississippi State?” I didn’t read the story, but I’m assuming it simply says: “No.” Ed Orgeron decided to modernize his team’s passing game and allow his talented QB, Joe Burrow, to let it fly. The result is the most dynamic LSU offense in years and a Heisman Trophy bid for Burrow. I’m just saying. LSU covers.

No. 3 Clemson (-24) at Louisville 

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this year’s Louisville team is the “polar opposite” of the squad that lost by an average margin of 36.3 points over the final seven games of 2018. Before last year’s meeting Swinney said the Cardinals were the “best 2-6 team I’ve ever seen” and Clemson won 77-16. Swinney is being honest this time. The Cardinals are solid, so I’ll take them as a big home ’dog even though the Tigers looked back on track while routing Florida State last weekend.

No. 16 Michigan (+9) at No. 7 Penn State 

NFL team owners looking for a new coach will be circling around Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, who had a good run as 49ers head coach before returning to his alma mater. Those owners should be hoping for a Penn Sate victory so the Wolverines will be essentially finished in the Big Ten/College Football Playoff race. Penn State’s offense stalled against the two good defensive teams it has faced, and Michigan’s group probably is best of all. I like the Wolverines with the points.

No. 12 Oregon (-3) at No. 25 Washington 

The Pac-12 hasn’t sent a team to the College Football Playoff Championship game since Oregon lost to Ohio State in the first one. A loss at Washington would be a big blow to Oregon’s bid to return to the CFP for another defeat. I’ll take Washington and the points.

No. 17 Arizona State (+ 13½) at No. 13 Utah 

I admittedly wrote off Herm Edwards after his bizarre introductory news conference as Arizona State head coach and some subsequent strange comments. Now that Edwards has his young team in contention to win the Pac-12 South, I may revisit my skepticism about his contention that the problem with society is “we don’t huddle anymore.” Arizona State covers.

Other NFL games of interest 

Saints (+3) Bears 

The Saints are winning with backup QB Teddy Bridgewater while the Falcons lose with Matt Ryan. The Saints are playing respectable defense while the Falcons are, um, not. At least the Falcons still have the better stadium named for a car company. I’ll take the Bears and give the points.

49ers (-9½) at Washington 

Coach Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers (5-0) are the only undefeated team in the NFC. At this rate, when the Falcons go to San Francisco in Week 15, we can look forward to stories about how Shanahan was the real force behind the Falcons going to the Super Bowl. That’s just lazy, though. I’ll write my Shanahan story way before then. San Francisco covers.

Last week: 6-8 (51-36-3 season)