Weekend Predictions: Huge opportunity for Jackets but they lose again

The Braves won the World Series. The Georgia Bulldogs appear destined to win the College Football Playoff championship. Maybe the decline of Weekend Predictions is the price that must be paid for those teams to recapture their faded glory. If so, I would like a different arrangement please.

My picks were 3-7 against the spread last weekend. That’s two consecutive losing weeks after two winning weeks in a row. Four favorites that I backed lost straight-up, including Georgia Tech, and three underdogs that I picked won. Those developments are not deterring me from picking a lot of big favorites this week because ... well, I don’t know why, which has become a theme for me.

There is no consensus betting line for Georgia’s game Saturday against Charleston Southern of the FCS. I miss the days of Paul Johnson wryly noting that Mark Richt started scheduling opponents for this week who ran the triple-option because his Yellow Jackets had become a problem for Georgia. Now the only intrigue is seeing whether Charleston Southern can score against Georgia’s backups.

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Georgia Tech (+17½) at Notre Dame

This is a huge game for the Yellow Jackets. With a victory, they’ll spare everyone another year of seeing Notre Dame take up a spot in the CFP only to get blown out. A win also would give Tech a week to feel good before the Bulldogs invade Bobby Dodd Stadium and name their score.

The Jackets won 33-3 at South Bend in 2007 with coach Chan Gailey. They scored two touchdowns in the final minute of a 30-22 loss at Notre Dame in 2015. Year 3 of the Geoff Collins era has fizzled, with six consecutive losses as the likely outcome. I want to pick the Jackets because Notre Dame is just an OK passing team, but Tech tends to make OK passing teams look great. Notre Dame covers.

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Patriots (-6½) at Falcons (Thursday night)

I took the Falcons and the points at the Cowboys last weekend on the theory that Matt Ryan would play well. Then I watched Ryan get swallowed up by the pass rush and try to force balls to receivers who couldn’t get open. Sadly, those things were low on the list of what went wrong for the Falcons in that train wreck.

Unlike New Orleans, the Cowboys had a quarterback (Dak Prescott) who could take advantage of the Falcons’ inability to generate a pass rush or defend wide receivers. Normally, a rookie quarterback would offer a chance to bounce back, but New England’s Mac Jones has found his footing. The Patriots have won and covered the spread in four consecutive games. Make it five in a row.

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Arkansas State (+16½) at Georgia State

Georgia State’s victory at Coastal Carolina last week was the program’s first against a ranked opponent. The Panthers (5-5, 4-2 Sun Belt) started the season 1-4 but now need one victory over the final two games to become bowl eligible for the third consecutive season. Maybe they can teach me how to rally from a terrible start. GSU is the pick.

Other college games of interest

No. 21 Arkansas (+21) at No. 2 Alabama

Alabama coach Nick Saban wasn’t happy with Wednesday’s practice: “We got a lot of guys who had the ‘poor me’s’, whatever that means. So you get into your feelings, you don’t do things the way you need to do them to have success, and that way you don’t create good habits.” Bama’s players should follow the lead of their coach, who never gets in his feelings and throws tantrums on the sideline. Bama is the pick.

No. 3 Oregon (+3) at No. 23 Utah

Like Tech, Utah can do the nation a favor by knocking off a team that no one wants to see in the CFP. Oregon last made it to the playoff during the 2014 season, when it lost to Ohio State in the national championship game. At least that Ducks team had Heisman Trophy quarterback Marcus Mariota. This one is a relatively mediocre group that’s still living off its victory at Ohio State in Week 2. Utah covers.

No. 7 Michigan State (+19) at No. 4 Ohio State

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said he has a “destination job.” That’s the thing for Tucker to say when, according to the Detroit Free Press, he’s on the verge of receiving a 10-year, $95 million contract. I didn’t have Michigan State winning the pool for the school being more willing than Texas A&M to throw money at a coach for one good season. I’ll take the Buckeyes and give the points.

SMU (+11½) at No. 5 Cincinnati

You can’t say the CFP committee hasn’t been fair to Cincinnati. The Bearcats have had some unimpressive victories against mediocre competition and yet the committee still is pretending as if it might let them in the playoff. Cincy is the pick.

No. 9 Oklahoma State (-10) at Texas Tech

After one of his players criticized him last year for wearing a T-shirt promoting an anti-Black propaganda channel, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy took a $1 million pay cut and reduced his contract from five years to four. Oklahoma State recently rewarded Gundy with a “perpetual five-year contract” for producing mediocre results and embarrassing the school. Texas Tech covers.

No. 10 Wake Forest (+4½) at Clemson

Dabo Swinney said he didn’t vote in the coaches’ poll this season because of the backlash he received for ranking Ohio State No. 11 in the final poll of 2020 before the Buckeyes beat the Tigers in the CFP. “That was just a distraction for my team,” Swinney said of the situation he created. “Don’t matter anyway. Who cares,” Swinney said, before showing how little he cares by whining about Clemson not getting any votes in the latest AP poll. Tigers cover.

Other NFL games of interest

Saints (+1½) at Eagles

Here’s a nugget for Falcons fans looking for some solace after the wipeout at Dallas: New Orleans is in jeopardy of losing three consecutive games in a season for the first time since 2016. Saints running back Alvin Kamara (knee) is practicing this week after sitting out last weekend’s loss at Tennessee. New Orleans has been surprisingly vulnerable against the pass but still is stout at stopping the run. That’s the formula to cover at Philly.

Washington Football Team (+3½) at Panthers

The Panthers ran off Ron Rivera not long before they parted ways with quarterback Cam Newton. Now Newton has reunited with Carolina, and Rivera will coach WFT in Charlotte. Said Rivera: “There is no bitterness. If there is anything, it’s just miss the folks and the friends we had in Charlotte.” That’s a mature, levelheaded perspective that ruined my chance to make a joke about some drama. Newton is set to start after he played nine snaps at Arizona last weekend and had a touchdown both throwing and running. I’m taking WFT and the points.

Last week: 3-7 (50-58 season)

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