Weekend Predictions: Another big win for Georgia over Georgia Tech

It’s Rivalry Week in college football. Time for Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Ohio State vs. Michigan and Weekend Predictions vs. Incapacitating Self-Doubt.

I’ve posted four consecutive losing weeks of picking games against the spread. My worst-ever run means I’m in danger of finishing with my first losing season in five. There’s still time left to get my record above break-even. All I need to do is be right on picks more than I’m wrong, which I haven’t done in a month.

I’m an underdog this week. I don’t blame you if you take Incapacitating Self-Doubt and give the points.

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Falcons (+4) at Commanders

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts suffered a knee injury that will require surgery. It’s been a disappointing second season for Pitts, who was selected earlier in the draft than any tight end in history. Coach Arthur Smith said Pitts has been dealing with injuries throughout the season. Said quarterback Marcus Mariota: “Everyone is dealing with something. It’s kind of the nature of playing football.” Well, all right, then.

The Falcons are mediocre. That might be good enough to win the NFC South this year. Smith has cobbled together an above-average offense that’s built on running the ball effectively to keep downs and distances manageable for passing. Washington’s good run defense will make that difficult. I’m picking the Falcons to cover while counting on Mariota to make enough plays to keep the chains moving.

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Georgia Tech (+35½) at No. 1 Georgia

Brent Key on playing Georgia: “Winning this game means everything, especially to a former player.” Key said that to the AJC in 2001. Back then Key was a Tech graduate assistant and one year removed from beating UGA three times in a row as a player. Georgia won the next seven meetings and is 17-3 in the series since Key played. Clearly, his departure is what led to Tech’s troubles against Georgia. It’s possible it also had something to do with Tech replacing coach George O’Leary with Chan Gailey.

Key is Tech’s interim head coach now. He’s done well in that role, including two victories against ranked opponents, but UGA isn’t Pitt or North Carolina. Ex-Tech coach Paul Johnson used to give the Bulldogs problems with his triple-option, but the tide was turning in the series even before Johnson retired. The point spread for this game keeps going up, and the Bulldogs keep covering it. I say they’ll do it again Saturday.

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Georgia State (+5½) at Marshall

My Georgia State pick was wrong last weekend. My Georgia State pick is almost always wrong. In my defense the betting markets also have been way off on the Panthers this season. Yeah, it’s a weak defense, but it’s all I’ve got. I’m picking Marshall to cover with the absolute lowest confidence level possible.

Other college games of interest

No. 3 Michigan (+7½) at No. 2 Ohio State

After Michigan ended its nine-game losing streak against Ohio State last season, coach Jim Harbaugh said: “Sometimes people are standing on third base, think they hit a triple, but they didn’t.” Harbaugh confirmed this week that he was taking a shot at Ohio State’s Ryan Day, who inherited a top-5 program from Urban Meyer. It’s good to see the Wolverines winning again so Harbaugh can be a proper villain. Michigan covers.

Iowa State (+10) at No. 4 TCU

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte tried to hire coach Sonny Dykes from SMU but was overruled by Longhorns boosters who preferred Steve Sarkisian. Now Dykes has TCU on track for the College Football Playoff. Those same Texas boosters will end up running Del Conte out of town unless Sarkisian produces much better results after starting 12-11. Meddling boosters forcing the AD to make a bad coaching hire makes Texas a good fit for the SEC. TCU is the pick.

No. 5 LSU (-10) at Texas A&M

The Aggies on Saturday ended a six-game losing streak, their longest since 1972. Hardly any fans stuck around Kyle Field after halftime to see them finish off Massachusetts. That made me wonder if Texas A&M would give $86 million to Jimbo Fisher to make him go away. They’ve already paid Fisher $19 million to go 12-11 over the past two seasons. Fisher is one of five active college football coaches to win a national championship, but he’s also a sunk cost for TAMU. LSU covers.

No. 15 Notre Dame (+5½) at No. 6 USC

While watching USC beat UCLA on Saturday, with neither team playing a lick of defense, I was thinking Georgia should hope to see the Trojans in the CFP. Facing Georgia would be a shock to them after they made it through the Pac-12 without seeing a defense better than pretty good. Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma offense scored 38 against Georgia in the 2018 Rose Bowl, but that was before Smart built an elite defense. Notre Dame can’t score points like UCLA, so I’m picking USC to cover.

Auburn (+22) at No. 7 Alabama

Thankfully, this boring Iron Bowl is being overshadowed by speculation about Auburn’s coaching position. WCBI-TV in Columbus, Miss., reported that Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is planning to leave for Auburn. Kiffin denied the report with a tweet, though he creates some confusion with cryptic emojis. Best to leave that to the kids, Coach. I’ll probably regret taking Auburn and the points, but Bama does tend to go through the motions when there’s no national championship as a carrot.

South Carolina (+14½) at No. 8 Clemson

Clemson fans don’t seem to be griping about a season that still could end up with an ACC championship and a bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl. The Tigers never will be an SEC-level program with that kind of attitude. A 13-1 season with, say, an Orange Bowl victory over Bama wouldn’t be so bad for the Tigers. This is just one of those years when they had to be perfect because the ACC is weak. Gamecocks cover.

NFL games of interest

Saints (+8½) at 49ers

Kyle Shanahan’s years-long project to replace Jimmy Garoppolo as quarterback has hit a snag. Garoppolo has played well with Shanahan’s hand-picked successor, Trey Lance, on injured reserve. Garoppolo will be a free agent after the season, and Lance has started only four games in two seasons. If the 49ers keep winning, Shanahan may be forced to admit he should have stuck with Garoppolo all along. I like the Saints with the points.

Buccaneers (-3½) at Browns

Tom Brady posted pictures of his kids to his Instagram account this week. One of them featured his 15-year-old son throwing passes at a Bucs practice. “My Inspiration,” Brady wrote in the caption. Another Brady in the football pipeline is a potential nightmare for the Falcons. Tom will retire only for his son to carry on the family tradition of owning them. Browns cover.

Last week: 2-6-1 (53-58-4 season)