Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story said this is the biggest game in the history of Kentucky's stadium, which opened in 1973. Georgia coach Kirby Smart tried to convince everyone that this Kentucky team has played in lots of big games, so the Bulldogs don't really have an advantage in that regard. Maybe he was talking about basketball?
Forgive me for making the easy joke, but, come on. In the past four seasons, Kentucky was 2-7 against ranked opponents. The Wildcats are 2-0 in such games this year, with victories over Florida and Mississippi State. Kentucky has avoided its usual late-season collapse thanks to a great defense, but the Wildcats won’t score enough to keep up with Georgia. I’ll take the Bulldogs and give the points.
Georgia Tech (minus-6) at North Carolina
Last week the Yellow Jackets blew out Virginia Tech on the road with backup quarterback Tobias Oliver. That prompted some Tech backers to call on Johnson to play Oliver ahead of TaQuon Marshall, who not long ago led the Jackets to a zillion yards at Louisville. It’s good to see Tech football fans still care enough to offer irrational, knee-jerk opinions.
Speaking of which, I picked the Jackets to lose big in Blacksburg after they flopped against Duke. That makes me 0-1 fading them as road underdogs. I’ll take Tech and give the points this time, but don’t worry: I’m much better picking them to win as road favorites, by which I mean I’m 1-2.
Falcons (plus-1.5) at Washington
Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post is picking the home team to cover because, according to his calculations, the line should be seven points. But Greenberg is 9-11-1 this season despite only picking games in which he believes the odds are in his favor. At least I provide mediocre jokes with my hubris.
Greenberg is correct that the Falcons’ defense is terrible. The question is whether Captain Checkdown, QB Alex Smith, can take advantage. I’m also not convinced Washington’s defense is as good as the standard stats suggest. I’ll take the Falcons to win as a road ’dog.
SEC games of interest
Alabama (minus-14.5) at LSU
Alabama players threw Nick Saban a 67th birthday party that paid homage to the coach’s favorite band, the Eagles. Saban smiled and danced, so don’t be surprised if Hell Freezes Over. It’s always nice to see a human face put on the emotionless automaton of destruction that is Alabama football. I’m taking LSU and the points with full knowledge that I will regret it.
Missouri (plus-6) at Florida
Missouri blew an 11-point lead to Kentucky in the final six minutes, the second time this season they squandered a win in the final moments. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Mizzou offensive coordinator Derek Dooley's mantra is F.I.D.O., which means "Forget It, Drive On." I'm not sure invoking dogs is a good move for a team that's 0-4 in the SEC. Gators cover.
ACC games of interest
Louisville (plus-39.5) at Clemson
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on Louisville: "They're the best 2-6 team I've seen. . . . Their record is not indicative of the players that they have." I love the versatility of this quote. It is generic coachspeak, yes, but it's also Swinney talking up an opponent before destroying them to impress the CFP committee and an indictment of Bobby Petrino's coaching. I'll take the Cardinals and the points not because of my rooting interest bias, but because of my underdog bias, thank you very much.
Florida State (plus-9) at NC State
Clemson pummeled the Seminoles last week, but coach Willie Taggart seems to be in that sweet spot where FSU fans still are blaming Fisher for leaving a mess. That might change if Florida State doesn't win two more games and sees its NCAA record bowl streak end at 36 years. But it's not an official record because of vacated victories, so Taggart could blame that on someone else too. 'Noles cover.
National games of interest
Penn State (plus-10.5) at Michigan
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said defensive end Rashan Gary didn't suit up last week after practicing because "he didn't feel like he could play" with an injury. Gary's mother took to Facebook to say that her son won't play until he's fully recovered. Harbaugh apologized and took full responsibility for ... haha, no, he blamed media for correctly interpreting his remarks as a shot at Gary and portrayed himself as the victim. I'll take Penn State and the points.
Notre Dame (minus-9.5) at Northwestern
Matt Brown of The Athletic dug up a newspaper clipping from an 1889 Notre-Dame Northwestern game. The article said the Notre Dame quarterback "dropped a row of teeth and fractured his jaw" and a teammate lost "large patch of his face" but, thankfully, "nobody was badly hurt" in the Fighting Irish victory. Irish cover, and their quarterback keeps all his teeth because society has become so soft.
Buccaneers (plus-6.5) at Panthers
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has benched QB Jameis Winston in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Koetter got his job because he supposedly developed Winston, but he's not going to lose it by sticking with Winston when he's clearly a bust. It sure is sad to see the Bucs falling apart after they promoted Winston as the face of the franchise following his suspension for groping a woman. Panthers cover.
Rams (plus-1.5) at Saints
I admit the Saints are better than I thought. Of course, I have little choice but to admit it when I keep picking against them and they consistently stick it to me. Now the Saints will face the NFC’s best team, so naturally I’m picking New Orleans to win and cover.
NFL games of interest
Packers (plus-5.5) at Patriots
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says Pats counterpart Tom Brady is the greatest of all time because "he's got five championships." I know Rodgers can't say he'd have more than one ring if not for inept Packers management and coaching, but did he really have to give legitimacy to one of the worst sports arguments? I'll take the Pats and give the points.
Lions (plus-4.5) at Vikings
The Lions traded wide receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles before Tuesday's deadline. You may think it's easier for the Vikings to face the Lions without Tate, but Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said the trade makes preparation "difficult" because so much of their plan centered on stopping him. I guess he's got his lame excuse ready, just in case. Lions cover.
Chargers (plus-1.5) at Seahawks
The Seahawks have an elite defense again despite using eight new starters from a year ago. This is an unfortunate development for the Falcons, who would benefit if Seattle fades in the wild-card race. It's a great development for anyone who missed the Seahawks and their grating fans whining about a lack of respect. Seattle covers.
Against the spread: 5-8-1 (69-53-4 season)
AJC pick 'em (straight up): 8-7 (83-50 season)