Once again, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is in position to do just enough to keep his job. In 2017, Malzahn leveraged a contract extension out of victories over Georgia and Alabama and a job opening at Arkansas. The Tigers have home games remaining against Georgia and Alabama, and the Arkansas job is open again. As much fun as it would be to see Malzahn stay ahead of the pitchforks, I’m taking Georgia and giving the points.
Virginia Tech (-5½) at Georgia Tech
I praised Georgia Tech’s defensive improvement before last weekend, so of course the Jackets gave up 33 points while losing at Virginia. Their offense showed a spark after doing little against Pitt, but an interception set up one of Virginia’s touchdowns. The Hokies beat then-No. 19 Wake Forest convincingly last weekend. They win again, but Georgia Tech covers.
No. 25 Appalachian State (-17) at Georgia State
In that grand Atlanta tradition, Georgia State's run to a championship has been complicated by things going wrong at the worst time. QB Dan Ellington won't play in this game after he suffered a knee injury during the loss at Louisiana-Monroe last weekend. The Panthers still can go from worst-to-first in the Sun Belt East by winning out. With Ellington out, I'm taking App State and giving the points.
Falcons (+5½) at Panthers
During the Falcons’ victory at the Panthers in December, Carolina QB Kyle Allen replaced injured starter Taylor Heinicke, who was subbing for injured starter Cam Newton. “I was just stoked to be in a uniform, honestly,” Allen told media in Charlotte. Now Allen is 5-2 as Panthers starter in place of Newton. He’s leaked oil lately, and Carolina’s run defense is atrocious, so I’ll take the Falcons to cover in a loss.
Other college games of interest
No. 1 LSU (-21) at Ole Miss
After LSU beat Alabama last weekend, a Tigers player posted a video to social media that showed coach Ed Orgeron taking a profane shot at Alabama during his locker room speech. Orgeron said the speech should have remained private. That's true, but I still wish someone would start a 24/7 live stream for one of the SEC's few fun coaches. Ole Miss doesn't have the offense to take advantage of LSU's suspect defense, so Tigers cover.
No. 2 Ohio State (-53) at Rutgers
This is the second and final game that Ohio State star Chase Young will miss because of a suspension. An NCAA investigation found that the organization would lose money if one of its more marketable stars sat out against Penn State and Michigan. The Buckeyes are the biggest road favorite since The Action Network started tracking betting lines in 2005. Rutgers is awful, but you already know I’m taking all those points.
Wake Forest (+34½) at No. 3 Clemson
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wake Forest counterpart Dave Clawson talked to him during the offseason about Clemson’s 63-3 victory last year in Winston-Salem. “It was kind of a weird deal,” Swinney said during a news conference this week. “He thanked me.” Maybe Clawson will send Swinney flowers if Clemson hangs 70 on his Deacons. I’ll take Clemson and give the points.
No. 5 Alabama (-17½) at Mississippi State
Joseph Goodman of AL.com sees a conspiracy in Georgia being ahead of Alabama in the CFP rankings. The CFP “has turned into the Alabama and Clemson Invitational Tournament” so excluding Alabama “might actually be good for business if your business is keeping everyone happy with a four-team playoff.” It takes some work to make Alabama football seem like a victim. Crimson Tide cover.
Arizona (+27) at No. 6 Oregon
Willie Taggart spent one season as Oregon coach before Florida State poached him. The Ducks promoted his assistant, Mario Cristobal, despite his 27-47 record as Florida International’s head coach. Oregon was 8-5 last season and now is in position for its first CFP berth since the 2014 season. Meanwhile, FSU already fired Taggart. Sometimes hiring coaches can seem like a crap shoot. I’ll take Arizona and the points.
No. 8 Minnesota (+3) at No. 20 Iowa
These are exciting times for Minnesota football. The Gophers have a real shot to win the Big Ten West and earn the chance to get blown out by Ohio State in the league title game. The Gophers passed their first real test by beating Penn State at home last weekend. I like them with the points in this one.
No. 10 Oklahoma (-10) at No. 13 Baylor
Baylor (9-0) won at TCU yet still dropped one spot in the CFP rankings. Mac Engel of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram writes that, because of money, the CFP committee will never pick a Big 12 team other than Oklahoma or Texas. Engel offers Baylor some advice: “don’t lose, and lawyer up.” Maybe he’s a Saints fan. Baylor covers.
Other NFL games of interest
Saints (-5½) at Buccaneers
New Orleans media were so shocked to see the Falcons’ pass rush overwhelm the Saints they tried to use left tackle Terron Armstead’s illness as an excuse. Said coach Sean Payton: “I’d love to be able to blame the way we played up front on someone's flu, but I can't do that.” Some egregious turnovers by Bucs QB Jameis Winston are just what the Saints need to feel better. New Orleans covers.
Texans (+4) at Ravens
This is a showcase game for two young, star QBs: Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. In the 2017 draft, the Bears took Mitchell Trubisky before Patrick Mahomes and Watson. Four QBs went before Jackson in the 2018 draft: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. All the smart NFL decision-makers can watch this game and learn absolutely nothing before drafting the next stiff with prototypical size, or a mediocre short one with all the intangibles. Ravens cover.
Last week: 8-5 (80-57-4 season)