Weekend Predictions: Alabama upsets Georgia, Falcons win at Jets

More losses than wins might be good enough for the NFC South championship. Weekend Predictions has higher standards. I’m wrapping up a second consecutive losing season on picks against the spread after three winning years in a row. That’s unacceptable.

Now that Georgia Tech is going to a bowl game, I’m the biggest loser in town. My only solace is knowing that the Falcons will regain that title when they inevitably blow their chance to win the sorry South.

Falcons (-1½) at Jets

Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is talking about playing again this season after he sustained a torn Achilles during the season opener. That would be a miracle of medical science, which notorious anti-vaxxer Rodgers apparently now believes in. Rodgers said his status depends on whether the Jets (4-7) are in playoff contention. You almost get the feeling that Rodgers is saying and doing dumb stuff just for the attention.

The line keeps creeping in the direction of the Jets, enticing me to take the Falcons (5-6) as road favorites. On the one hand, it’s hard to trust the Falcons in this position. They lost as favorites at Arizona and Tennessee this season. On the other hand, the Jets are terrible on offense. They do have a good defense, but that won’t be enough to prevent the Falcons from covering the spread.

SEC Championship game: No. 1 Georgia (-6) vs. No. 8 Alabama (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Reporters asked Nick Saban about Alabama’s rivalry with Georgia and, predictably, he gave the most boring answer possible. This rivalry would be a lot more fun if Saban and Kirby Smart didn’t sound like technocrats when discussing it. It’s like listening to the leaders of Microsoft and Apple share their mutual admiration for each other’s balance sheets.

This is going to be a tough game for the Bulldogs because they can’t count on their run defense anymore. From 2019-22, Georgia didn’t allow more than 2.9 yards per carry or eight rushing touchdowns during a season. This year it’s four yards per carry and 12 TDs in 12 games.

Smart said the Bulldogs have had problems defending “gap” runs, which feature linemen blocking “down” away from the direction of the play, usually with a guard pulling the other way.

“(They) are really hard to defend if you have a good quarterback and you can run the ball with (him),” Smart said after Georgia Tech gave the Bulldogs problems with those plays.

That describes Alabama’s Jalen Milroe. He ranks second among Power 5 quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns (12) and third in runs of 20-plus yards (nine) despite playing only 11 games. Milroe also is second nationally in yards per attempt (10.6) and tied for seventh in Power 5 with 25 completions of 30 yards or more.

Bulldogs defensive back Kamari Lassiter on Milroe: “We haven’t really faced anyone to his caliber like that this season, so he’s definitely more of a different guy in the things he’s able to do and the way that he’s able to play.”

The last time the Bulldogs were favored by six points or less also is the last time they faced Alabama. Georgia won the 2021 national championship game as a three-point favorite after losing to Bama as a six-point favorite in that year’s SEC Championship game. I’m taking the Crimson Tide and the points in the rubber match, but I expect them to win straight-up. Georgia fans should be happy about that because my picks are usually wrong nowadays.

Other college football conference championship games of interest

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan (-21½) vs. No. 16 Iowa (Indianapolis)

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is back from suspension. That’s the three-game ban to end the regular season for a sign-stealing scheme, not the three-game ban to begin the season for NCAA recruiting violations. I’m sure Harbaugh can’t wait to get back to the NFL. Then he won’t have to deal with that kind of stuff anymore, or if he can win like Bill Belichick, they’ll let him get away with it. I’m taking the Wolverines and giving the points because Iowa’s offense is awful.

Pac-12: No. 5 Oregon (-9½) vs. No. 3 Washington (Las Vegas)

It’s fitting that Vegas is the site for the final Pac-12 Championship game. Unbridled greed killed the unique character of Sin City, and it’s done the same thing to the once-great league of the West. Washington beat Oregon by a field goal at home in October. The Huskies will score enough points to cover in the rematch.

ACC: No. 14 Louisville (+2½) vs. No. 4 Florida State (Charlotte)

FSU quarterback Tate Rodemaker will have a lot of people cheering against him, but it’s nothing personal. If FSU loses because Rodemaker flops in his second start in place of Jordan Travis, that opens the door for other teams to make the CFP. Louisville is coming off a fifth consecutive loss to Kentucky. That was not ideal for my holiday weekend, nor for coach Jeff Brohm in his first rivalry game as coach. But Brohm has a history of following bad losses with big victories, so I’m taking the Cardinals and the points.

Big 12: No. 18 Oklahoma State (+15½) vs. No. 7 Texas (Arlington, Texas)

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was voted Big 12 coach of the year. His Cowboys lost three games, including a blowout at home versus South Alabama, while Steve Sarkisian has the Longhorns in position for their first-ever CFP bid. Related: Texas is leaving for the SEC (along with Oklahoma), and the Big 12 coaches vote on the award. I wish college football coaches would be more out in the open with their jealousy and pettiness because that would make the game more fun. Texas is the pick.

American Athletic: SMU (+3½) at No. 22 Tulane

Georgia Tech supporters should be pleased with Brent Key’s first full season as coach, especially after the Yellow Jackets made Georgia sweat for the first time in seven years. Still, Tech likely would have hired Tulane’s Willie Fritz if the timing were better. Fritz has the Green Wave aimed for a second consecutive trip to a New Year’s Six bowl game. I like SMU to cover.

Last week: 4-6 (42-52-4 season)

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