Weekend Predictions: Defeats for Falcons, Georgia Tech

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan confer in the final minutes against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan confer in the final minutes against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

I blame Mark Stoops. The Kentucky coach upset the natural order of the point-spread universe by not surrendering last weekend in Athens. Yeah, I know: Stoops was trying to improve his team, get his players’ repetitions and all the other stuff coaches say when they’re trying to make the final margin look a little better for the boosters.

But what about me?

Kentucky executed a 22-play drive over 11-plus minutes to score a touchdown with four seconds left. That ended up costing Weekend Predictions a second winning mark in seven tries this season. I had to settle for a 5-5 record against the spread.

Treading water doesn’t help me. I need to start swimming fast, or I’ll sink to my first losing season in four years. Like Stoops, I refuse to give up against insurmountable odds. Unlike Stoops, I can openly admit that beating the spread is my goal.

Falcons (-2½) at Dolphins

The Falcons haven’t been a road favorite since Oct. 13, 2019, at Arizona. They lost that game 34-33 after Matt Bryant missed an extra-point attempt to tie with less than two minutes left. That was the fourth loss in what ended up being a six-game skid to a 1-7 record. The Falcons rallied to finish 7-9, coach Dan Quinn kept his job and, well, you know the rest.

Arthur Smith is trying to pick up the pieces. According to the Football Outsiders efficiency metric, his Falcons (2-3) are the worst team in the NFL by a significant margin. The Dolphins (1-5) rank four spots higher because their defense has been better, and they’ve played a much tougher schedule. When teams appear evenly matched, I usually side with the home underdog. In this case, I’ve got Miami winning straight up.

Georgia Tech (+7) at Virginia

I’ve been at two Yellow Jackets games this season, and they won both: vs. North Carolina and at Duke. I won’t be in Charlottesville for this game. If Tech loses, my absence will be the reason. That’s just math. Now I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing for Tech that I can’t do with my picks.

The Jackets (3-3, 2-2 ACC) have had some good weeks but are seeking consistency. (Aren’t we all?) Virginia (5-2, 3-2) has scored a lot of points (36.1 per game), but also surrendered 33 or more to Wake Forest, North Carolina and Louisville. I doubt the Jackets can keep up. Virginia covers.

Texas State (+10½) at Georgia State

Georgia State (2-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) had a bye week after winning big at Louisiana-Monroe, which might have the worst offense in FBS. Texas State (2-4, 1-1) also is a challenger for that title. I picked GSU as a home favorite vs. Army in the opener, and they lost 43-10. I trust the Panthers will be better this time, so they’re the pick.

Other college games of interest

Tennessee (+25) at No. 4 Alabama

Nick Saban’s carefully curated image as a football android took a hit this week. The Alabama coach had a funny response to a reporter holding a baby while asking him a question on a Zoom call: “Well, I have a question for you first of all: Did I finally get to meet the boss? This is the best behavior I’ve seen you on since I’ve been here.” That’s a solid roasting. I’m taking Bama and giving the points because that’s my safe space when I’m scuffling.

LSU (+9) at No. 12 Ole Miss

Lane Kiffin gave a legendary performance after winning last weekend in Knoxville, where they still hate him for abandoning the Volunteers. The Ole Miss coach one-hand snatched a water bottle someone threw from the stands as his police escorts ducked, tossed his visor into the crowd and then trolled Vols fans in the postgame news conference. The cherry on top: Kiffin came out looking good because so many Tennessee fans behaved like idiots. I’ll take Ole Miss and more Kiffin antics.

South Carolina (+21) at No. 17 Texas A&M

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters he plans on “fulfilling this contract” instead of angling for the LSU job. Must be a tough decision on whether to stay at the place paying him $9 million per year guaranteed through 2031 so he can strive for second place in the SEC West. There’s more to this job speculation than most — Fisher was an assistant at LSU and the current athletic director there hired him at Texas A&M — but, come on. Gamecocks cover.

Clemson (+3) at Pittsburgh

Dabo Swinney also told reporters he has no interest in the LSU job: “This is the only ‘Death Valley’ I’m concerned with right here.” Swinney had plenty of time to come up with a good a line, and that’s the best he could do. Even my jokes aren’t that lame. The Tigers are 0-6 ATS this season. They’ll be 0-7 after this one.

Other NFL games of interest

Bears (+12½) at Buccaneers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers ran for a TD during a win at Chicago last weekend, then shouted at Bears fans: “I still own you!” Bucs QB Tom Brady piled on during a Sirius XM interview this week: “Obviously he’s a great quarterback, but I guess he’s now a shareholder of the Bears.” Wrote Scott Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago: “The joke would’ve been funnier if we hadn’t heard it a dozen times already.” Actually, it’s a pretty good joke made better by the saltiness of Bears fans. Bucs cover.

Panthers (-3) at Giants

The Panthers have lost three consecutive games after starting 3-0. Carolina’s very good defense has been dragged down by a bad offense that’s missing star running back Christian McCaffrey (hamstring). Coach Matt Rhule’s solution, per NFL.com: “We’re gonna redefine who we are, and we’re gonna run the football, and we’re gonna protect our quarterback, and we’re not gonna turn the ball over anymore.” Oh, is that all? Giants are the pick.

Saints (-4½) at Seahawks

For years, Geno Smith has had the great job of backup NFL QB. Make good money with few hits absorbed and no blame for losses. But the gig can be up once a backup must prove he can actually play. Now Smith will make his second start in place of Seattle’s Russell Wilson (hand). That explains why the Seahawks are home ‘dogs, but Smith was pretty good during an overtime loss at Pittsburgh last week. I like Seattle with the points.

Last week: 5-5 (28-42 season)